Echelon, Hero Version?

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 Pre-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 Expert 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    
Level B X V H C P L E  Total CP
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 2 2 10
2 4 4 20
3 6 6 30
4 8 8 40
5 7 2 11 55
6 6 4 14 70
7 5 6 17 85
8 4 8 20 100
9 4 7 2 24 120
10 4 6 4 28 140
11 4 5 6 32 160
12 4 4 8 36 180
13 4 4 7 2 41 205
14 4 4 6 4 46 230
15 4 4 5 6 51 255
16 4 4 4 8 56 280
17 4 4 4 7 2 62 310
18 4 4 4 6 4 68 340
19 4 4 4 5 6 74 370
20 4 4 4 4 8 80 400
21 4 4 4 4 7 2 87 435
22 4 4 4 4 6 4 94 470
23 4 4 4 4 5 6 101 505
24 4 4 4 4 4 8 108 540
25 4 4 4 4 4 7 2 116 580
26 4 4 4 4 4 6 4 124 620
27 4 4 4 4 4 5 6 132 660
28 4 4 4 4 4 4 8 140 700
29 4 4 4 4 4 4 7 2 149 745
30 4 4 4 4 4 4 6 4 158 790
31 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 6 167 835
32 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 8 176 880
                     
Real 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40    
Active Cap 5 15 30 50 75 105 140 180    

That is, a ‘starting PC’ (defined as first level of Expert tier, ‘ninth-level’ in the table above) would have 4 pre-basic slots, 7 basic slots, and 2 expert 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 TypeTotal PointsMatching ComplicationsMax Points Per Complication Base PointsComplications
Standard Normal251515 1015
Skilled Normal502520 2525
Competent Normal1003020 7030
Standard Heroic1755025 12550
Powerful Heroic2255025 17550
Very Powerful Heroic2755030 22550
Low-Powered Superheroic3006035 24060
Standard Superheroic4007540 32575
High-Powered Superheroic5007540 42575
Very High-Powered Superheroic65010050 550100
Cosmically Powerful75010050 650100

Comparing the Base Points above (second column from the right; I’ll consider Complications in a minute), I see the following approximate matches:

LevelPF LevelEchelon TierCP Character TypeBase PointsComplications
1Basic10Standard Normal10+15
2Basic20 Skilled Normal25+25
3Basic30   
4Basic40   
5Expert55   
6Expert70 Competent Normal70+30
7Expert85   
8Exper100   
91Veteran120 Standard Heroic125+50
102Veteran140   
113Veteran160   
124Veteran180Powerful Heroic175+50
135Heroic205   
146Heroic230 Very Powerful Heroic225+50
157Heroic255Low-Powered Superheroic240+60
168Heroic280   
179Champion310Standard Superheroic325+75
1810Champion340   
1911Champion370   
2012Champion400   
2113Paragon435High-Powered Superheroic425+75
2214Paragon470   
2315Paragon505   
2416Paragon540Very High-Powered Superheroic550+100
2517Legendary580   
2618Legendary620   
2719Legendary660 Cosmically Powerful650+100
2820Legendary700   
29Epic745   
30Epic790   
31Epic835   
32Epic880   

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 ‘Basic’ 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 TypeCVDCActive PointsSkill RollDefrDef
Standard Normal1–41–65–358–113–51–2
Skilled Normal1–51–65–408–124–62–3
Competent Normal2–62–810–458–124–82–4
Standard Heroic3–73–815–508–136–103–5
Powerful Heroic4–84–920–608–136–103–5
Very Powerful Heroic5–95–1025–708–148–125–8
Low-Powered Superheroic6–116–1240–758–1412–156–10
Standard Superheroic7–136–1440–8011–1520–2512–18
High-Powered Superheroic8–1410–1650–9011–1625–3515–30
Very High-Powered Superheroic10–1612–2060–12012–1735–5025–40
Cosmically Powerful12+14+75+13+40+30+

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.

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