Reconsidering Level Bonus: Talent Slots

In Reconsidering Level Bonus, I realized that the scheme I’ve been using for acquiring new talent slots will probably need to be changed.

At each level a character should gain no less than in previous levels, and ideally (given the nonlinear power curve) a little bit more.  The existing model does that (as shown below), but the change to Level Bonus I am considering invalidates this.  I’ll need to change how talent slots are gained.

As it happens, it looks like it won’t even be that difficult, and even supports a mechanism that can address character continuity issues identified to me by readers.

Existing Talent Slot Table

The current talent slot table is based on always getting ‘more than the previous level’ at each level.

  • Level 4n+1: two talent slots at the new tier, lose one slot from the previous tier
  • Level 4n+2: one talent slot at the current tier  and +1 Level Bonus (significant, but maybe less than a talent slot)
  • Level 4n+3: two talents at the current tier
  • Level 4n+4: one talent slot at the current tier, +1 Level Bonus, and a capstone talent

It is trivial to find values for “talent slot at the current tier”, “talent slot from the previous tier”, “+1 Level Bonus”, and “capstone talent” that will satisfy the condition that at each level you gain more than you did in the previous level.

Potential New Talent Slot Table

Changing Level Bonus to improve at every level would remove it from consideration in this equation.  A simple fix might be

  • Level 4n+1: two talent slots at the new tier, lose two from the previous tier
  • Level 4n+2: two talent slots at the current tier, lose one from the previous tier
  • Level 4n+3: two talent slots at the current tier
  • Level 4n+4: two talent slots at the current tier and a capstone talent

It should be evident that at each level you gain more than the previous level.  It also results in characters with two more top-tier talent slots, which I suspect is not a problem.

Continuity Improvement

For those disturbed by continuity issues in advancing a character (“he was a mighty swordsman, and suddenly he can cast high-level spells and doesn’t use a sword as well any more?”) you can even mandate that when you are called on to “lose a slot”, it is actually “forced upgrading”.  For instance, at ninth level (Heroic) you gain two Heroic slots but lose two Expert slots.  Pick two of the things you were already good at (had at Expert) and upgrade them, without backfill.  At tenth level you get two more Heroic slots, one of which is an upgrade, so upgrade (without backfill) one of your Expert talents and pick something else with the other slot (and that too can be an upgrade, with backfill this time).  At eleventh and twelfth level you get two talent slots each without losing anything from a lower tier, so put what you want there (new stuff, or upgrade and backfill).  This will provide increased continuity, but still allow a character to shift focus as he reaches higher levels.

Of course, a similar rule could be put in place for the existing acquisition scheme.  At levels 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21, when the character gains two slots at the new tier and loses one from the previous tier, he is simply required to upgrade one of his formerly top-tier talents to the new tier.  I think it might work better in the new scheme than the older one, though.

New Talent Slot Table

The change described here would change the talent slot table to look as shown below.

Level Level Bonus Tier Talent Slots Available Capstone
Basic Expert Heroic Master Champion Legendary
1 +1 Basic 2
2 +2 Basic 4
3 +3 Basic 6
4 +4 Basic 8 capstone
5 +5 Expert 6 2
6 +6 Expert 5 4
7 +7 Expert 5 6
8 +8 Expert 5 8 capstone
9 +9 Heroic 5 6 2
10 +10 Heroic 5 5 4
11 +11 Heroic 5 5 6
12 +12 Heroic 5 5 8 capstone
13 +13 Master 5 5 6 8
14 +14 Master 5 5 5 4
15 +15 Master 5 5 5 6
16 +16 Master 5 5 5 8 capstone
17 +17 Champion 5 5 5 6 2
18 +18 Champion 5 5 5 5 4
19 +19 Champion 5 5 5 5 6
20 +20 Champion 5 5 5 5 8 capstone
21 +21 Legendary 5 5 5 5 6 2
22 +22 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 4
23 +23 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 6
24 +24 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 8 capstone

The capstone benefit is gained at the top level of each tier but is not specifically defined as part of the core rules because the specific benefit could vary based on the game being designed.  Some options include

  • a +1 increase to all ability scores;
  • an additional talent slot of the tier being completed;
  • a talent slot that may be used for ‘capstone talents’, talents that may only be taken as capstones and presumably provide archetypal benefits rather than more generic ones;
  • an increase in the number or size of action dice (if Action Points are being used);


Closing Comments

There are other talent slot tables possible, but this is a simple one that maintains the desired relationship of always getting a little bit more than previous levels, at every level.  The continuity improvement might be an optional rule, but I think it will help address a concern that several people have shared with me.

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  3. Psychologically I think it would be a good idea to make the “upgrade” wording primary, and mention “you could also use the new slot for a different talent” as the secondary phrasing. Both ways of discussing it are basically equivalent from a logical standpoint, but using the above phrasing makes it that bit more obvious that you’re gaining something each time. So:

    1. 4n+1: upgrade two slots from the previous tier
    2. 4n+2: upgrade one slot from the previous tier, and gain one slot at the current tier
    3. 4n+3: gain two slots at the current tier
    4. 4n+4: gain two slots and one capstone slot, at the current tier

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