Progress on the Echelon Reference Series continues, and is becoming coherent enough that I can start to see how pieces may fit together in Echelon. Looking over the class features, there are many options and often several ways to model them.
Talents by Likely Type
I’ll group the class feature by the type of talent they are likely to end up as.
Common talents are readily available. The don’t have prerequisites but may interact quite happily with cornerstone talents (such as the attack bonus from a martial tradition stacking with a combat style’s training bonus). In PRD terms many class features, even fairly iconic ones, might be common talents if more than one class has the feature or a feature may be taken more than once.
Other abilities might also be common talents, but this post focuses mostly on class abilities.
- Animal Companion is probably a common talent, likely one per companion (which scales by level; a Legendary Animal Companion should be a truly frightful thing, not just a brown bear + a bunch of Hit Dice). A character with a mob of similar companions probably has a ‘packmaster’ capstone talent.
- Domains are likely to be common talents. In PRD, each provides access to nine spells (one per level) and two abilities (one at first level, one at usually sixth or eighth). They are already pretty close to what I plan for casting talents, so I will probably expand on the spell lists slightly (up to three spells per level, say) and give them a caster training bonus. There are a couple of early runs at this in the Agents of Faith post from a while ago.
- Favored Enemy is almost certainly a common talent, especially since a character with favored enemies likely can have more than one. I am not hugely fond of the baseline implementation (more or less fixed bonus to certain rolls; I’d rather see enemy-appropriate abilities) but I know of abilities and feats that expand on the base implementation. Common talents are a good fit here.
A character has a more limited number of cornerstone talents (one per tier) and they tend to represent either fundamental aspects of a character or creature, or more involved or broader training. In PRD terms I expect that many iconic class features would become cornerstone talents, especially if only one class has that feature and the class generally has that feature only once.
- Barbarian Bloodline (introduced by Gunmetal Games: Class Options Vol 4: Brutal Barbarians!) would almost certainly be a cornerstone talent. As presented in Brutal Barbarians! a barbarian may have up to one bloodline, each of which has a number of rage powers the barbarian must taken when eligible. In exchange the barbarian gains some other benefits related to the bloodline.
- Cavalier Order (also Samurai Order, since they’re really the same thing) is similarly a cornerstone. Each provides training in some skill (make some skills class skills; I’m willing to equate this to ‘trained’), a Challenge ability, and order abilities at various levels. Each cavalier or samurai normally has only one, but again there are optional rules to have more. These are probably ‘martial traditions’ such as I have described before and would give a tradition bonus to attack rolls (thereby increasing Base Attack bonus, hit points, and so on).
- Oracle Mystery is probably also a cornerstone — both because it provides a collection of benefits, but also can be tied the associated curse each oracle has. The curse might be specifically associated to a mystery, or chosen character by character.
- Sorcerer Bloodline is likely to be a cornerstone talent instead. They give knowledge of a small number of spells, and some bloodline powers (at several levels). They are structurally similar to domains, except that almost all sorcerers have one and only one (there are options for mixed-blood bloodlines), which suggests they should instead be cornerstone talents.
- Witch Patron is probably a cornerstone talent. Again, it offers some spell knowledge, and there are hexes and feats available that have specific patrons as prerequisites — which means they could make good options for fleshing out the talents at each tier. Since a witch has only a single patron is is probably a cornerstone ability.
- Wizard Arcane School would pretty clearly be a cornerstone talent. I think I would actually replace the baseline ‘school-oriented’ specialist arrangement with something along the lines of caster traditions (as I have described in previous posts) that potentially span all schools, but the arcane schools could be a start.
I don’t expect base class abilities to generally be part of a capstone talent. Capstone talents are quite good at modeling prestige classes, and these capstones may be a good fit for prestige class abilities, but they are outside the scope of this post.
PRD-style capstone abilities (such as are gained at twentieth level in a base class) may well be candidates for inclusion in capstone talents at high tiers.
Not Independent Talents
Some features, especially ‘subfeatures’ such as individual rage powers or rogue talents, are likely to not be standalone talents at all. I expect I might use them primarily to further populate or flesh out other talents. In some cases where there is a natural progression (such as totem rage powers) they might form the base of a specific talent.
Where a feature allows a choice I might instead have the talent (or paired talent) do so instead. For instance, a barbarian-oriented cornerstone and a barbarian-oriented common talent might each offer appropriate-level rage powers as a benefit at each tier. That is, a character with a Heroic-tier common slot could take ‘barbarian rage power’ as a talent to get the choice of three rage powers available one per tier up to Heroic, as could a character with the matching cornerstone talent — and with both, the character could have a total of six rage powers, as a core rules barbarian of comparable level. I suspect I will in fact not do this, since I am generally trying to avoid secondary choices like this (I’d rather build packages of related abilities and work at that level) but I wanted to ensure I don’t forget the idea.
It seems I have more types of cornerstone talent than I’d previously expected. Fewer types of common talents coming out of class abilities than I expected, but that is mostly because so many classes have secondary choices. I have many pieces to choose from when constructing talents, which will then let me specify other talent types (such as ‘rage power’ talents and ‘rogue talent’… talents), but those are not necessarily inherent in the class feature structures themselves.
So… some cheap wins, others I’ll need to work for.
I do notice that over time the number of cornerstone talents might become a problem. I am pretty happy with the number of common talents, but having a cornerstone talent at each tier might result in characters that eventually spread across all areas. A character could have all of a cavalier order (for the attack bonus and hit points, and some extra martial mojo), wizard arcane school/magical tradition, sorcerer bloodline, race, and witch patron… concurrently. I do not yet know if this will be a problem per se, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
I have considered changing the rule (or making it an optional rule) that instead of gaining a cornerstone talent at each tier automatically, a character might be able to spend a common talent to gain a cornerstone. It might be necessary to say that the cornerstone costs a talent at each tier up to the tier of the cornerstone talent, both to limit the number of cornerstones taken and because cornerstones can be exceptionally useful because they potentially stack and interact well with common talents.