Reconsidering the Talent Slot Table

I have been reading Rule of Cool’s Legend and am starting to think that the baseline Talent Slot table may give too many talent slots to be practical.  Six top-tier talents plus five of each tier below that makes for a lot of talent slots to assign.

I think it either

  • Makes characters too powerful by letting them take too many good things.
  • Makes characters too homogenous because they run out of meaningful options.
  • Makes things way more detailed on the build than I really like.

In any case, I think it can be made simpler by granting fewer slots, and work better.

Current Talent Slot Table

I’ve had this table in mind for a while now.  I considered an alternative a while ago but never really went anywhere with it.

Level Level Bonus Tier Talent Slots Available Capstone
Basic Expert Heroic Master Champion Legendary
1 +0 Basic 2
2 +1 Basic 3
3 +1 Basic 5
4 +2 Basic 6 capstone
5 +2 Expert 5 2
6 +3 Expert 5 3
7 +3 Expert 5 5
8 +4 Expert 5 6 capstone
9 +4 Heroic 5 5 2
10 +5 Heroic 5 5 3
11 +5 Heroic 5 5 5
12 +6 Heroic 5 5 6 capstone
13 +6 Master 5 5 5 2
14 +7 Master 5 5 5 3
15 +7 Master 5 5 5 5
16 +8 Master 5 5 5 6 capstone
17 +8 Champion 5 5 5 5 2
18 +9 Champion 5 5 5 5 3
19 +9 Champion 5 5 5 5 5
20 +10 Champion 5 5 5 5 6 capstone
21 +10 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 2
22 +11 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 3
23 +11 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 5
24 +12 Legendary 5 5 5 5 5 6 capstone

Proposed New Talent Slot Table

I’m thinking of having more upgrades that straight adds.  This reduces the number of lower-tier slots (tidying things up somewhat) and makes it easier to maintain consistency as you grow.  You still have some room to switch away from previous character theme, but it takes more effort to make major changes).  I’d also like to add a ‘cornerstone’ talent to the first level of each tier (‘Tier Level 1’ — ‘TL 1’) that can be used for foundation abilities (such as race) or to mark intended direction of growth.

Level Level Bonus Tier Bonus Tier Talent Slots Available ‘Stone’
Basic Expert Heroic Master Champion Legendary
1 +0 +1 Basic 2 corner
2 +1 +1 Basic 3
3 +1 +1 Basic 5
4 +2 +1 Basic 6 cap
5 +2 +2 Expert 4 2 corner
6 +3 +2 Expert 4 3
7 +3 +2 Expert 3 5
8 +4 +2 Expert 3 6 cap
9 +4 +3 Heroic 3 4 2 corner
10 +5 +3 Heroic 3 4 3
11 +5 +3 Heroic 3 3 5
12 +6 +3 Heroic 3 3 6 cap
13 +6 +4 Master 3 3 4 2 corner
14 +7 +4 Master 3 3 4 3
15 +7 +4 Master 3 3 3 5
16 +8 +4 Master 3 3 3 6 cap
17 +8 +5 Champion 3 3 3 4 2 corner
18 +9 +5 Champion 3 3 3 4 3
19 +9 +5 Champion 3 3 3 3 5
20 +10 +5 Champion 3 3 3 3 6 cap
21 +10 +6 Legendary 3 3 3 3 4 2 corner
22 +11 +6 Legendary 3 3 3 3 4 3
23 +11 +6 Legendary 3 3 3 3 3 5
24 +12 +6 Legendary 3 3 3 3 3 6 cap

With the right weighting this should still satisfy the ‘always something more at each level’ nature of previous iterations.

  • TL 1: upgrade two previously top-tier talents, increase tier bonus, add cornerstone talent.
  • TL 2: add a new top-tier talent, and increase level bonus.
  • TL 3: upgrade one previously top-tier talent and add a new top-tier talent.
  • TL 4: add a new top tier talent, increase level bonus, and add a capstone talent.

We are left with 21 talents at 24th level, plus six cornerstones and six capstones.  This still makes for 33 talent slots to fill (rather than the previous 42) but they are now more weighted toward the top end where they should be, and the cornerstones and capstones look like they’ll serve a useful purpose.

If I felt the need to soften a level a little more, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to have another ugprade rather than new add (such as at TL 4).

Alternate New Talent Slot Table

Hmm.  Actually, according to this spreadsheet that doesn’t look bad at all.

  • TL 1: upgrade two, increase tier bonus, add cornerstone.
  • TL 2: add one, increase level bonus.
  • TL 3: upgrade one, add one.
  • TL 4: upgrade one, increase level bonus, add capstone.

Considering the big jump in hit points on changing tiers I don’t know if TL 4 needs to be softened quite that much, but since you do add a capstone it is functionally much the same as TL 3 plus improving level bonus.  This could work, and it changes the table only a little.

Level Level Bonus Tier Bonus Tier Talent Slots Available ‘Stone’
Basic Expert Heroic Master Champion Legendary
1 +0 +1 Basic 2 corner
2 +1 +1 Basic 3
3 +1 +1 Basic 5
4 +2 +1 Basic 6 cap
5 +2 +2 Expert 4 2 corner
6 +3 +2 Expert 4 3
7 +3 +2 Expert 3 5
8 +4 +2 Expert 2 6 cap
9 +4 +3 Heroic 2 4 2 corner
10 +5 +3 Heroic 2 4 3
11 +5 +3 Heroic 2 3 5
12 +6 +3 Heroic 2 2 6 cap
13 +6 +4 Master 2 2 4 2 corner
14 +7 +4 Master 2 2 4 3
15 +7 +4 Master 2 2 3 5
16 +8 +4 Master 2 2 2 6 cap
17 +8 +5 Champion 2 2 2 4 2 corner
18 +9 +5 Champion 2 2 2 4 3
19 +9 +5 Champion 2 2 2 3 5
20 +10 +5 Champion 2 2 2 2 6 cap
21 +10 +6 Legendary 2 2 2 2 4 2 corner
22 +11 +6 Legendary 2 2 2 2 4 3
23 +11 +6 Legendary 2 2 2 2 3 5
24 +12 +6 Legendary 2 2 2 2 2 6 cap

This brings it down to 16 talent slots plus 12 cornerstones and capstones, for a total of 28.  This reduces things by fully a third, keeps it weighted toward the top end (which I think is good, since it focuses on the ‘level-appropriate’ stuff), and the cornerstone/capstone mechanism should help provide shape and encourage archetypes.  Between reducing the sheer number of talent slots and supporting good archetypes it should probably streamline the decision-making processes somewhat as well.

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4 Comments

  1. The last table has the useful property that at least half your slots are usually in the top two tiers. I would probably maintain a character by having around 7 “main” talents that I keep at the top end, and filling in below with other “nice to have” talents to support them. It should be possible to cover the most salient features of most concepts with ~7 talents, right?

    • Probably. I think. I’ve been looking at Rule of Cool’s Legend (huh, apparently still available-by-donation at Rule of Cool: Get the Game, I thought this closed a month ago) and there are basically four (three+one) tracks per character, plus some variation in attack bonus. Everyone has two good saves, BAB is medium or good by RSRD standards, plus skills and feats. I can come quite close to this on top-tier talents even without making certain things ‘free’; if I assume that medium BAB and two saves are the baseline (and they basically are) then it’s pretty easy.

      * 0 or 1 for martial training
      * 0 for saves
      * 4 for tracks
      * 1 or 2 for skills+feats

      Easy. I’m actually really close to that even without the shifted baseline:

      * 1 or 2 for martial training
      * 4 for tracks
      * 2 for saves

      ‘skills and feats’ actually draw from lower-tier talents (they aren’t truly the focus of the character). Come to that, saves could be down-shifted slightly because they aren’t truly the focus of the character (and the ‘save talents’ bring baggage that isn’t present in Legend).

      I’m satisfied I can come close enough that Legend can be modeled on 6 top-tier talents.

      D&D should be even easier. Some classes can’t quite be modeled that way, under current models, but since these are generally classes that are seen as most powerful this is probably not a bad thing.

  2. The introduction of “cornerstones” makes me think that they should somehow inform what sort of talent choices you’re going to make over the course of that tier. In general I find I’m not sure what to put in “stone” slots; in fact I already had that feeling when there were only capstones. It would be nice to have an example list for some common archetype (or a few such; maybe the standard Warrior/Priest/Wizard/Rogue four-man-band). I might take a crack at making some, although I will certainly need your input!

    Edit: Okay, just noticed the new text on the talent slots page. Need to ponder some more I think!

    • Cornerstones… I don’t see them as enforceable plans, but I do expect they often will be plans. For instance, ‘Warrior’ suggests you’re going to be building some kind of ass-kicker (so will probably take Martial Training, some kind of combat style, and maybe a little more to flesh things out), but doesn’t mandate that you take any particular talents after that. The knight and the berserker and the duelist have somewhat similar bases (all warriors of some sort), but the particulars vary.

      Other capstones might not do this so much. ‘Dwarf’ might just stop with the basic racial package, and do something else entirely for the capstone.

      Again, I waffle somewhat in how I want these to be applied. I do like the idea of Warrior -> Specialization-of-Warrior, but I can imagine cases where that might not fit so well and don’t want to disallow them.

      So, both will be allowed, even if I favor and expect to use only one of them myself.

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