Sorcerer Bloodlines as Cornerstone Talents

The other day I wrote about how various class features might map to Echelon talents. Sorcerer bloodlines would likely map to cornerstone talents. Here’s how it might work.

Sorcerer Bloodlines in PRD

Sorcerer bloodlines provide several abilities to sorcerers.

  • Class skill that extends the class skill list (at 1st level).
  • Bonus spells (one per spell level, gained the class level before gaining access to the next spell level).
  • Bonus feats (a list of feats to choose from, with feats gained at 7th, 13th, and 19th level).
  • Bloodline arcana, something like a feat (gained at first level).
  • Bloodline powers, specific abilities (gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th, 15th, and 20th level).

The levels don’t line up precisely, but I think I can come close.

Sorcerer Bloodlines in Echelon

As I said the other day, these are likely to be cornerstone talents. They are pretty fundamental to ‘what a character is’, a character can normally have only one, and it represents the basis of a certain facet of a character’s power (casting ability). As a first cut I might design sorcerer bloodline cornerstone talents something like below.

  • This is clearly a caster-oriented cornerstone, comparable to a casting tradition. Each tier gives a +1 tradition bonus to casting.
  • I am still working out exactly how skills will work, and I don’t want this to replace a skill talent, but I am willing to treat the bloodline as granting the ‘Basic’ tier of the skill (gain a +4 to all checks and count as ‘trained’, which can allow results not available to someone who just rolls well).
  • The bonus spells are supposed to represent spells all sorcerers of the bloodline have, at least in principle, but they are currently gained the level before gaining access to the next spell level. This seems out of place to me, and only one spell leaves it feeling pretty light. I will probably expand this to providing access to two or three spells per level. As a cornerstone talent the benefits are gained at the first level in the tier, which means that new spells will come available at the first level of the tier — all characters of a particular bloodline with a high-enough caster level will be able to cast the bloodline spells, if nothing else.
  • I don’t plan to have actual feats, but if I need to flesh out and beef up the the bloodline a bit I will look here first for material.
  • The bloodline arcana is something the sorcerer gains and has always, though it might not always be applicable. I think it will probably be a suitable Basic-tier benefit.
  • The bloodline powers don’t align with the tier level ranges, so I will adjust them slightly. The same abilities will be gained, but the PRD bloodline abilities gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th, 15th, and 20th level will instead be gained at 5th, 9th, 13th, 17th, and 21st level. Remember that Echelon levels are four levels higher than their nominal PRD equivalents; this would be comparable to gaining them at PRD levels 1, 5, 9, 13, and 17.

To be honest, if I were to redesign the PRD sorcerer class I would probably strengthen the bloodline influence and replace spell casting with spell-like abilities… but that is not what I am doing here. Yet.

Example: Aberrant Bloodline

Now that I’ve got the base strategy figured out, ┬áit is time for an example. Below I present a first pass at translating the Aberrant bloodline to a cornerstone talent.

I don’t yet know all the spells granted by each talent.

Aberrant Bloodline (Core Rules)

Tier Benefit Spell Knowledge
Basic
  • Trained Knowledge (dungeoneering)
  • Bloodline Arcana: Extend polymorph
  • Acidic ray (d6, 3/day)
  • +1 caster training bonus
  1. three cantrips
Expert
  • Acidic Ray (1d6+2, 5/day)
  • Improved Unarmed Strike, Improved Grapple
  • +2 caster training bonus
  1. enlarge person, two more
  2. see invisibility, two more
Heroic
  • Acidic Ray (1d6+4, 7/day)
  • Long Limbs (touch reach +5 feet)
  • +3 caster training bonus
  1. tongues, two more
  2. black tentacles, two more
Master
  • Acidic Ray (1d6+6,9/day)
  • Unusual Anatomy (25%)
  • +4 caster training bonus
  1. feeblemind, two more
  2. veil, two more
Champion
  • Acidic Ray (1d6+8,11/day)
  • Long Limbs (touch reach +10 feet)
  • Unusual Anatomy (50%)
  • Alien Resistance (SR +5)
  • +5 caster training bonus
  1. plane shift, two more
  2. mind blank, two more
Legendary
  • Acidic Ray (1d6+10, at will)
  • Long limbs (touch reach +15 feet)
  • Aberrant Form (immunity to criticals and sneak attack, blindsight 60′, DR 5/-)
  • +6 caster training bonus
  1. shape change, two more
  2. three not yet determined

I had to make a few adjustments I hadn’t considered. Some of the bloodline abilities improve as the character reaches higher level, so these are shown. The acidic ray power is, in core, “d6 ++1 for every two sorcerer levels”, and is usable “3+Charisma modifier” times per day. Because I don’t plan to have ability scores I felt it appropriate to set the number of uses per day by tier. Similarly, I don’t have ‘class levels’, but tier makes a good substitute for how strong the bloodline evidences itself. I think I might simplify acidic ray by treating it as a magical effect costing one magic point per die of damage, maximum of one die of damage per tier (a Heroic character could spend up to three points to do a 3d6 acidic ray, and is limited primarily by how long his magic points hold out).

Expert tier looked kind of empty, so I propped it up a bit with Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple.

Spell resistance is not done as a caster level check in Echelon, but as a modifier applied to saves and armor class against spells that target the character. I haven’t checked my notes on this recently, but I believe spell resistance is two points per tier when it is gained as a specific talent, and this is half that.

Finally, I would think the bloodline would also grant knowledge of three cantrips. I also allow ‘tenth-level’ spells, which might be lower-level spells modified by metamagic and the like — in fact, any spell knowledge could be a metamagic-modified spell.

Closing Comments

This is not an exact match, but things rarely are when translating between systems. A character with this bloodline will gain some casting ability (possibly built upon further by taking appropriate common talents) and some weirdness to his body. As implemented here I can imagine even non-casters being interested because of the defensive elements (resistance to critical hits and sneak attacks, and spell resistance) and the offensive abilities (acidic ray — I can imagine a character using two-weapon fighting to alternate between sword blows and acidic ray… the rend effect would probably be pretty freaky)… that he also gains some limited casting ability is something of a plus, even if as a Master he can cast only up to third-level spells in this bloodline (rather than the sixth-level spells a full caster would be able to).

This does tell me that I should find some lower-level polymorph spells to include in the lower tiers, so the bloodline arcana is useful.

I do see some places to improve here. I will likely want to come back to each bloodline cornerstone and streamline things, reducing the cornerstone to key elements, much as I did with the arcane archer and shadowdancer capstone talents. However, it looks like this conversion is largely a straightforward mechanical exercise and would provide something I could take to the table. I think I’d rather get these out and in play before worrying too much about perfecting them. That can be done later.

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