Ascension to godhood, apotheosis, is handled like other character development matters — using talents. The rules for this are inspired by those from Mongoose Press’ Classic Play: Book of Immortals.
Talent selection in Echelon is generally pretty freeform. As far as the rules are concerned, apart from the distinction between ‘upgrading’ and ‘adding’ talents each level and prerequisites for capstone talents, there is no particular restriction built into the rules as far as talent selection is concerned. It is entirely legitimate for there to be restrictions on talent selection based on campaign and setting assumptions and expectations — in an Expert-tier campaign there might be no humans with darkvision, natural armor, dangerous claws, or fiery breath, even if mechanically the abilities gained are reasonably balanced for the tier.
Talents typically place no direct restriction on how characters act or what they do. They may encourage certain actions by making things easy (if you are a master of the Anvil and Hammer combat style, many of your problems likely do look like nails… when you’re done) and may discourage certain actions by making things harder (while raging, certain actions may suffer penalties), but most talents are unlikely to cause direct restrictions.
Immortal talents are different in two ways.
First, Immortal talents have a achievement requirement. In order to gain an Immortal talent the character must succeed a mythic challenge suitable for the talent being gained. The definition of ‘mythic challenge’ is outside the scope of this post.
Second, Immortal talents involve some kind of inconvenience to the character, as described in the type of talent below.
Types of Immortal Talent
There are places that contain primal energy, fundamental powers of the universe. Fire, Death, Law, all might be considered primal powers. It is possible, under the correct circumstances, to tap that energy and form a permanent bond with it. This changes the character in some fundamental ways. In addition to the gift normally gained with an Immortal talent, Primal Taps provide a specific power and impose a limitation or liability on the character. For instance, a character who forms a Primal Tap on Law might be able to unerringly recognize lies, but find that he is no longer capable of lying or deceiving another, possibly to the point of being compelled to correct others’ lies or misinterpretations.
Not directly related to apotheosis — perhaps it is possible for characters not pursuing apotheosis to tap such power on a temporary basis. Probably pretty dangerous, but using certain abilities in Places of Power is a trope I encourage. Think about this later.
It is possible to establish an agreement with a powerful entity that grants power (an Immortal talent) in exchange for a service or sacrifice. The character gains power but must swear to perform a duty, make a (regular) sacrifice, or otherwise pay for the power gained. An ‘entity’, for this purpose, is a single powerful creature such as an actual god or demon prince, or possibly a group of individually weaker creatures such as a Fey Court, a city or nation, or possibly even a particularly large or powerful family. In addition to the explicit requirements of the covenant there is an implicit requirement that the patron of the covenant maintain the power needed to grant the covenant.
I do not recall at the moment if Covenants provide specific powers as Primal Taps do, or if the Immortal Gift gained as part of an Immortal talent is all. I’ll have to check.
“The hands of the King are the hands of a healer”: a true king, one who has earned and proven his right to the position, may hold a Covenant with his people to serve them in some fashion. As long as he remains a noble ruler, just and true, he maintains the benefit of this Covenant.
In addition to any abilities granted specifically by an Immortal talent, Immortal talents provide gifts. There are four primary types of gifts (and I”ll have to look up the actual names when I get back to the book): Artifacts, Numen, Changes, Powers. Each is likely to be implemented much as an Echelon talent, possibly using the same or similar format.
A physical object of power that is in fact an extension of the character’s being and will. Rules are provided in the book for these, but I am likely to revise them to better fit Echelon.
Numen are spirit gifts, the ability to call on creatures (often supernatural) to perform services or tasks for the character.
I’m pretty sure this name is wrong. These are changes to the physical or mental form of the character. Eternal Youth is a popular choice.
Where Abilities are internal to the character (though often externally evident; it’s hard to hide a chitinous exoskeleton), Powers are Immortal talents that allow the character to manipulate things externally. Immunity to fire might be a Change, the ability to breath fire would be a Power.
Many things presented in Classic Play: Book of Immortals are already available as regular talents. I expect I may do something like they did in The Primal Order, where immortal power (“primal” in that book) can be applied to abilities to allow it to easily defeat mortal power . A Champion-tier character may have an impressive fiery breath, but the Champion Immortal may have fiery breath that can (at least partially) overcome immunity to fire. I’ll need to think about this.
The Immortal capstone talent acknowledges advancement toward apotheosis. It directly and significantly affects the amount of Aura available for use and the range it may be applied (and felt), and will have some other effects I have not yet decided. A character with Immortal talents but no capstone is considered an Aspirant. Even an Aspirant with three Epic Immortal talents will have only 12 Aura. This may be enough to use an Immortal power to good effect, but not very many times.
This is the measure of progress toward apotheosis. The Immortal talents are prerequisites, but the capstone marks the actual progress toward ascension. When a character gains the Epic tier of Immortal capstone (“Transcended”) he is ready to enter godhood.
As I said, this system is inspired by Mongoose Press Classic Play: Book of Immortals supplement. That book requires twelve Victories (gaining taps or covenants) to achieve apotheosis, and four Great Challenges to reach Transcendence. Here I require three Immortal talents at Epic tier, which is twelve “units” of immortality. It is not necessary to visit each tier of apotheosis, you can skip the earlier capstones as long as you get the epic capstone, but even then it’s not a short process. Because of how the talent slots are gained, in order to get three Immortal talents at Epic tier one would have to be gained no later than 23rd level, upgraded somewhere in the Epic tier, and two others gained in the Epic tier, then the Epic capstone. This means that no fewer than six levels are needed to ascend at 28th level.
I will compress the powers somewhat. As printed in the book it can take up to nine Victories to totally master a wellspring (“Primal Tap” above) and a similar number for Covenants. I am likely to reduce this to four each, removing relatively dead levels and merging levels where one has a benefit and one a limitation.
I will get rid of the skill checks currently in the book. I don’t mind a character investing Aura in a gift to make it more useful (though I’m likely to just attach that to the granting talent — the Master-tier artifact sword you got with the Master Covenant gets upgraded to Champion-tier artifact sword when your Covenant is increased). The book gives one gift per Victory, though, so I might rethink this. I may want to have a gift for each Victory (where you gain a talent at whatever tier, including upgrading) but the gifts are paid for out of Aura. An Aspirant with eight Victories will have eight gifts, but has only eight Aura to spend on them — each one is a one-point gift. The ‘short-cut’ Immortal might have four gifts (one for the Legendary Immortal talent, one for the upgrade to Epic, two more for the new Epic Immortal talents — he is still an Aspirant with 12 Aura). Assuming Aura investment is limited by Immortal capstone he is limited to single point of Aura each (weak gifts) and even after he gains the Epic Immortal capstone and has 60 Aura he can only invest five points each, meaning he has 40 points of Aura he cannot invest. He’d have lots of ready Immortal power to fuel various abilities, but could not invest so much in his gifts and doesn’t have so many. He’s a relative crude demigod who tends to spam the same powers because he lacks other options.
Hmm. Short-sighted ascension causing limitations in his abilities when ascended. I like that.