I was thinking the other day about how much I appreciate HERO System from an engineering standpoint. Pretty much everything mechanical is quantized, with explicit relationships between power and limitations, and character complications. I realized it might be a useful tool for designing Echelon talents, if things line up, so I decided to take a look.
Echelon talents nominally grow in value linearly with tier. That is, an Expert talent (third tier) is worth about three times as much as a Pre-Basic talent (first tier). Cornerstone and capstone talents are actually slightly better than common talents (cornerstone, common, and capstone talents stack between types, but multiple common talents providing similar effects don’t), but this a minor effect here. For this analysis I can treat them as being the same value.
If I want to map this to HERO System, let’s start with considering each talent to be worth five Character Points per tier (Pre-Basic is worth 5 Character Points, Expert is worth 10 Character Points, and Legendary is worth 35 Character Points). However, because power alone is a function of Active Cost, and I want to be able to get good powers (possibly heavily encumbered by limitations), let’s set the Active Cost cap for powers at a tier equal to five points per tier cumulative (that is, sum(1..tier)*5). A talent at the Basic tier can be worth 5 Character Points and have effects worth up to 5 Active Cost (1d6 Blast, say, or a 3-point Detect with a +1/2 advantage), a talent at the Veteran tier can be worth 15 Character Points but have effects worth up to 30 Active Cost ((1+2+3)*5; 6d6 Blast, or a 4d6 Blast with a +1/2 advantage) but will need -1 limitations to bring it down to 15 Real Cost, while a talent at the Legendary tier can be worth 35 Character Points and have effects worth up to 140 Active Cost (and thus will need at least -3 limitations). It is not necessary for the talent to grant only one effect, and there can be more than one thing at maximum Active Cost. For instance, at the Expert tier you could have two 30 Active Cost powers, one with -2 limitations (Real Cost 10) and one with -5 limitations (Real Cost 5).
This means that higher-tier powers can be more powerful (exponentially higher Active Cost) if they are more limited, or grow more linearly but be more reliable and/or available. This seems pretty good so far. Given the standard talent slot allocations (and equating cornerstone and capstone talents to common talents), this gives the table below.
|Talent Slots Gained|
That is, a ‘starting PC’ (defined as first level of Veteran tier, ‘ninth-level’ in the table above) would have 4 basic slots, 7 expert slots, and 2 veteran slots. This is worth a total of ’24 slot points’, and if each is slot point is worth 5 Character Points this would be a 120-point HERO character. These slots would have maximum Active Costs of 5, 15, and 30 points respectively.
Now, let’s see how this lines up with HERO System expectations.
From HERO System 6e book, the Character Types Guidelines Table:
|Character Type||Total Points||Matching Complications||Max Points Per Complication||Base Points||Complications|
|Very Powerful Heroic||275||50||30||225||50|
|Very High-Powered Superheroic||650||100||50||550||100|
Comparing the Base Points above (second column from the right; I’ll consider Complications in a minute), I see the following approximate matches:
|Level||PF Level||Echelon Tier||CP||Character Type||Base Points||Complications|
|14||6||Heroic||230||Very Powerful Heroic||225||+50|
|24||16||Paragon||540||Very High-Powered Superheroic||550||+100|
Closest-fit match actually isn’t all that bad, really. The closest-fit match is never more than 15 Character Points away from the baseline I had planned. The designations are somewhat different, but pretty close nonetheless. Normals all fit under Basic, which is okay, ‘Heroic’ overlaps the ‘Veteran’ range in Echelon, and upper Heroic and lower Superheroic overlap in the Echelon Heroic tier (which is what I’d expect, really — Captain America is in my opinion superhuman but not superheroic, compared to other superheroes), and after that Superheroic spans the Champion through Legendary tiers.
The Character Ability Guidelines Table
|Character Type||CV||DC||Active Points||Skill Roll||Def||rDef|
|Very Powerful Heroic||5–9||5–10||25–70||8–14||8–12||5–8|
|Very High-Powered Superheroic||10–16||12–20||60–120||12–17||35–50||25–40|
This is where things fall down a bit. The Active Point ranges shown here are almost always about one step higher than I’d estimated using the formula sum(1..tier)*5. It looks like that should usually range about one step higher — sum(1..tier+1)*5. I think I might find that Active Costs will usually land in that last step for the ‘most powerful’ abilities. Close enough, though.
Regarding complications, I think I’ll mostly associate those with the talents themselves, and they can scale with tier. For instance, a character with a tainted magical power might find that as he gains the higher tiers in that power he has increasingly Distinctive Features. Similarly, the Order of the Falcon has raised the ire of another group, and gains an increasingly vicious Hunted (from ‘watched, low frequency’ at lower tiers to ‘hunt and kill, high frequency’ at higher tiers). And so on. These could allow some talents to be ‘better’ (worth more Character Points) by bringing complications. Looking over some of the game constructs this might be needed in order to allow things that can’t take many limitations, such as martial arts (which need a certain number of points of maneuvers but don’t allow limitations; Active Cost is lower than allowed to the talent tier, but Real Cost is too high) or power frameworks.
Skill rolls appear to mostly top out at 10+tier; I’d be willing to simply give a bonus equal to the highest-tier talent related to the check, when making checks. It looks almost like base CV equal to tier, plus up to another tier’s worth, is a close approximation. Ditto for Damage Class, but that goes up about half again as much (base equal to twice the tier, plus up to a number equal to the tier more — or reverse, base equal to tier, plus up to twice as much more). Defenses seem to range quite a bit higher, I’ll need to look that over more closely.
All in all, this looks like it’s actually a pretty decent match, perhaps better than I could justifiably expect.