I had cause — procrastination, really, a man can only read so much about data warehouses and dimensional modeling in one sitting — to have another look at FantasyCraft. Specifically I reviewed the alignment system and the paths, and I found that they could be a very good fit for Echelon.
FantasyCraft presents alignments and paths as described below.
An ‘alignment’ is a philosophical ideal to which a character aligns (hence the name). These are not strictly defined in the game as they are in D&D or the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but can vary from campaign to campaign. You could replicate the nine-fold alignment system, or the three-fold alignment system of B/X, or have each alignment be an elemental power, constellation, deity, or something else entirely. A setting might have only one alignment model or several (or none!)
A character can only be aligned with one alignment at a time. The book describes how this might change, but I won’t go into that here. For my purposes I can see allowing multiple alignments; even if they end up conflicting that’s not my problem.
An alignment has a narrative element (that I won’t go into here, it’s setting-specific) and the following mechanical elements.
- Paths: 2-5 paths, very similar to domains, that represent the alignment.
- Alignment Skills: 4 skills that become class skills for those following the alignment. The book recommends not using skills that are class skills for the divine classes.
- Ritual Weapon: 1 specific weapon type (longsword, battle axe, etc.) wielded by devout followers of the alignment. Certain path abilities might depend on or make use of this ritual weapon.
- Avatar: a powerful creature that represents or is the incarnation of the alignment.
- Opposed Alignments (Optional): alignments that disagree — strongly, and possibly violently — with this alignment. This can affect how certain path abilities work.
Paths are very similar to domains in that they each provide benefits that are thematically related to a philosophical focus. The book presents paths that match many of the core domains, plus a few that don’t (and skip a few, come to that); they are disjoint sets.
That said, each path provides five ‘steps’ of ability. These align quite well with Echelon talents (Expert to Legendary), so I’m happy to see them split up like this already. Unlike domains there really aren’t ‘domain spells’, though. Each step might offer a new ability, potentially plus the option of casting one or two spells, but the spells are usually constrained by scene (encounter) rather than falling into a bin that can be selected from for the bonus domain slots.
As an example (that uses some FantasyCraft-specific terminology, don’t worry about that part), the Path of Air:
Path of Air
Air I: You gain Bang and Electrical Resistance equal to 3 times your Air Step.
Air II: You may convert damage inflicted by your melee and unarmed attacks to electrical damage. You may also cast Gust of Wind once per scene.
Air III: You may cast Air Walk and Wall of Wind once per scene.
Air IV: You may cast Call Lightning II and Control Weather III once per scene.
Air V: You may cast Deadly Draft II and Control Weather IV once per scene.
- resistance to sonic and electricity attacks (three points per ‘step’ along the Path of Air);
- convert melee and unarmed attack damage to electricity damage (no additional damage, but bypasses DR and might do additional damage to those vulnerable to electricity), and you can cast gust of wind once per encounter;
- you can cast air walk and wall of wind once each per encounter;
- you can cast call lightning II and control weather II once each per encounter;
- you can cast deadly draft II and control weather IV once each per encounter.
All in all, fairly manageable. I’d like to see a few more abilities that aren’t spell-oriented, but I still likely this more than the Air Domain.
I will note that FantasyCraft is very ‘tier-oriented’ in how it does things. Many spells scale by spell level, many feat chains come in three steps, many monster abilities come in multiple steps, and so on. This is another reason I like to look to FantasyCraft for ideas.
Implementing in Echelon, Using Advantage Dice System
It should be mostly pretty easy to convert alignments and paths to Echelon using the Advantage Dice System. It won’t be complete until I have a full grasp on how magic works, but for now even the knowledge of “cast this once per encounter” is clear enough.
Alignment narrative elements can be used basically as they are, since they have no mechanical basis… but even the mechanics adapt pretty easily as cornerstone talents.
- Cornerstone Die: adds a cornerstone die to various checks related to the alignment.
- Paths: You aren’t required to have an alignment to take a path, but the alignment’s cornerstone die is added to path checks. If there are ‘naked path checks’ (activating an item associated with the Path of Earth) the cornerstone die would apply, but it probably comes up more often if the character has the path in question.
- Alignment Skills: trivially handled, you apply the cornerstone die to checks made for those skills.
- Ritual Weapon: also trivial, you apply the cornerstone die when fighting with the ritual weapon (much as a martial tradition, but one weapon only).
- Avatar: out of scope for the moment, this is about characters.
- Opposed Alignments: obviously “these are your evil”, inasmuch as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are concerned. This is partly a roleplay element, but also ties into (D&D-style) alignment abilities.
- Allied Alignments: not present in FantasyCraft, these would obviously “be your good”. Allies are good, opposed are evil, everyone else is neutral (unaligned). Dead easy.
Next up, paths.
Paths are basically as easy. Each step grants an ability. Most ‘first steps’ grant a bonus to a certain skill and other abilities scale with step. In these cases it might be better to treat them as scaling from the start.
Unlike FantasyCraft, it is not necessary to take an alignment to gain a path. Paths are common talents, and add a common die to path-related checks.
Apart from having five steps, though, paths don’t have as much structure as alignments. They’ll need specific consideration. Let’s look at the Path of Air:
- Step I: “bang and electrical resistance equal to 3 times your Air Step” sounds like straight damage reduction.
- Simple thunder and lightning resistance, possibly scaled as above or adding an advantage die to resistance (my preference).
- Step II: “convert melee and unarmed attack damage to lightning” and “cast gust of wind once per encounter”. The change to damage type has almost incidental effect (‘change color’), so let’s have it also potentially add damage.
- Add common die to damage rolled as advantage; damage is lightning. That is, you add the common die as ‘lightning damage’ to your weapon, and take whichever die rolls higher.
- Cast gust of wind once per encounter.
- Step III: cast air walk and wall of wind once per encounter.
- ’nuff said.
- Step IV: cast call lightning II and control weather III once per encounter.
- ’nuff said.
- Step V: cast deadly draft II and control weather IV once per encounter.
- ’nuff said.
By the look of it, there are a few scalable abilities, and then some spells:
- Add common die as advantage to resist thunder and lightning damage.
- Add common die as advantage (lightning damage) when rolling damage with melee or unarmed attacks.
- Cast assorted spells once per encounter.
Seems simple enough. I think I’d like to find some more concrete abilities, but this is a good start. Remember that if you have an associated alignment you can include the cornerstone die on path checks (which include spell casting checks, but I haven’t decided about the damage roll… but I’m inclined to allow it).
This leads to:
- Common Advantage Resist thunder damage; resist lightning damage; melee or unarmed attack damage (as lightning damage), Fly checks.
- Cast message once per encounter.
- Cast obscuring mist and whispering wind once per encounter.
- Cast gaseous form and gust of wind once per encounter.
- Cast air walk and wall of wind once per encounter.
- Cast call lightning II and control weather III once per encounter.
- Cast deadly draft II and control weather IV once per encounter.
I added a few spells — three, two at Step I and one at Step II — so each step gives two spells per encounter. They might or might not be useful, but they are available.
‘Resist damage’ probably is an advantage die added to your armor or other defense against those energy types. The melee or unarmed attack advantage means that when you roll damage for melee or unarmed attacks you add a die for the tier you have the Path of Air talent (your lightning damage augments the physical damage) and take the higher of the two (or more). A veteran with the Path of Air and a longsword would thus do 2d6 damage with his attacks… and a paragon with a longsword would do d12 (lighting) + d6 (longsword) damage.
The spell casting is pretty self-explanatory. Because these are constrained by encounter I expect they would not spend magic points, but I think I still would include a casting check (Target Number 3 for Basic, TN 4 for Veteran, etc., same as usual — about 75% chance of success if you have just the path, about 90% if you have the path and a cornerstone or capstone — for your highest-tier options).
Actually, if I keep spell levels I might make the TN something like “spell level +2″… which means spells become slightly less likely to succeed (normally TN advances one per tier, using spell level would advance it two per tier) until you hit Legendary and ‘things get easy again’. I kind of like this because it does make higher-level spells harder to cast until you become an archmage, but I also like the simplicity and consistency of the TN scaling directly with tier.
Regarding ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’
One might expect that the Path of Air is opposed to the Path of Earth. Paths themselves do not necessarily oppose each other, but alignments (deities or whatever) often do. I just realized that as written there is nothing ‘alignment oriented’ in the path. This might or might not be important (air is itself neutral, sort of thing), but I admit I like the idea of having specifically positive and specifically negative aspects or effects of the path that would be applied to allies or enemies.
It occurs to me that if channeling is still a thing it might apply here.
In Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic™ there are alternate channeling options, things you can do with channeling besides heal the living and harm undead. These are not specifically domain-oriented but based on theme or portfolio. The list of options includes the one below.
Air/Sky/Wind: Heal—Creatures gain a channel bonus on Acrobatics and Fly checks, saving throws against wind effects, and effects with the air descriptor until the end of your next turn. Harm—Creatures are buffeted with wind until the end of your next turn; this wind gives them a channel penalty on ranged attacks, and their movement is halved if they move toward you.
… Fly check. Yeah, Path of Air could reasonable give a bonus to Fly checks.
I think channeling might be a way to ‘share path benefits’. Channeling the Path of Air could give a advantage (or bonus) to your allies’ Fly checks and disadvantage (or penalty) to your enemies’ Fly checks. It might apply also ranged attacks as the power guides or interferes with the missiles.
The alignments and paths from FantasyCraft look like they could be well suited to handling divine power. As FantasyCraft is a d20-based system there obviously would be some refitting needed, but by and large it looks pretty straightforward.
I suspect the approach taken here might be a good fit for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Instead of a bonus spell slot for each spell level, reduce clerical casting slots to be the same as wizard casting slots, then have the domains give the use of each spell once per day (or once per encounter).
If that’s too much, for either system, the frequency could be lowered to once per day, or it might itself be tiered so that, say, the top three spell levels (or two tiers) are usable once per day and anything below that once per encounter, and possibly one below that allowing at-will use. Whether these are steps of three spell levels (your top three spell levels are 1/day, next three 1/encounter, below that at-will) or by thirds (so top third are 1/day, second third 1/encounter, last third at-will) I don’t know.
Something to ponder.
I also clearly need to think about how channeling fits into this. I’d like it to, and I suspect it would be a way of applying the path to others (which appeals to me). I’m not sure exactly how the effects should be applied, but I suspect a straight bonus (+1 per tier? or +1 per 2 tiers? +1 is kind of a big deal) might be simplest. Granting advantage (common die most likely) works well when helping those who otherwise wouldn’t have the common die, but does little or nothing for those who do… and would be the ones most likely to benefit from it.
I don’t use straight numeric bonuses much in this system (I haven’t at all yet, in fact) and I’m a little bit reluctant to. I could make it a typeless advantage die, or add another type (mostly to limit stacking). Another thing to ponder.