Arcane Schools as Common Talents

The other day I said that wizard arcane schools would ‘pretty clearly be a cornerstone talent’. Each wizard has one and only one (barring an archetype or feat that allows more than one) and each arcane school can significantly affect a wizard’s abilities. Also, arcane schools are iconic to the wizard class (most schools to specialists, and the universal school to generalists).

I goofed.

While the initial reasoning is fairly sound, on examination the structure of the arcane schools is more appropriate to common talents, and they don’t look nearly like what I think caster tradition cornerstone talents should look like. The rules for specialization don’t particularly fit the other decisions I’ve made.

I’ve changed my mind. They’ll be common talents instead, and represent more inherent abilities based around certain types of magic effect (protective magic, summoning, and so on), regardless of tradition or eldritch thread.

Arcane Schools in the PRD

Arcane schools really don’t offer much in the PRD, to be honest.

  • Two abilities at first level.
  • One ability at a higher level (often 8th-level, sometimes a different level).

The individual abilities might scale with level somewhat, or increase in effect at higher levels (not strictly the same thing).

Arcane Schools in Echelon

The bits I am using of the arcane schools (the arcane school powers) are pretty thin on the ground. However, thanks to a discussion with Angela Steele on Google+ I looked into The Tome of Secrets from Adamant Entertainment. The warlock class uses arcane schools heavily, selecting school abilities from all schools as they see fit (two at first level, then one at second level and every even level after that).

The warlock class also adds three more arcane school powers, one each at 4th-, 12th-, and 16th-level. Whether this is by coincidence or not, this complements that standard wizard arcane school powers almost exactly right for me to shift them all (except the first-level one) one level so they each align with a different tier.

Again I’m taking the easy route and will construct the arcane school common talents as shown below.

  • Two (wizard) arcane school abilities at Expert tier (and I’ll probably move the weaker one to Basic tier, so every tier has one).
  • One (warlock) arcane school ability at Heroic tier.
  • One (wizard) arcane school ability to Master tier.
  • One (warlock) arcane school ability at Champion tier.
  • One (warlock) arcane school ability at Legendary tier.

I think I want to change the name of this talent class, since they really don’t have much specifically to do with spell schools any more. I’m not sure what I’d change it to, though. ‘Arcana’ for now, but I reserve the right to change it later. Otherwise, structurally this seems almost spot on for the structure of common talents, but let’s see how it looks.

Example: Abjuration Arcana

Tier Benefit
  • Resistance 5
  • Energy Absorption 10
  • Protective Ward (+1, 3 rounds, 3/day)
  • Energy Absorption 20
  • Protective Ward (+2, 5 rounds, 5/day)
  • Arcane Grip
  • Energy Absorption 30
  • Resistance 10
  • Energy Absorption 40
  • Protective Ward (+3, 7 rounds, 7/day)
  • Protective Ward (+4, 9 rounds, 9/day)
  • Energy Absorption 50
  • Break Enchantment
  • Immunity
  • Protective Ward (+5, 11 rounds, 11/day)
  • Energy Absorption 60
  • Mind Veil

These abilities can use some description, since they don’t readily fit in the table.

  • The energy type the Resistance and Immunity are chosen each day (“when you prepare spells”, according to the arcane school definition). Since a character with this talent does not necessarily cast spells (and I have not decided if casters must prepare spells in any case) this might not be relevant.
  • Energy Absorption works against any type of energy damage you suffer, after immunity, vulnerability, and resistance are applied, up to the total shown per day.
  • Protective Ward lets you create a field of protective magic that grants a deflection bonus to AC to all allies within a 10-foot radius.
  • Arcane Grip is basically an at-will arcane lock spell that affects one item at a time… and only as long as you touch it.
  • Break Enchantment works as the break enchantment spell and is usable on a single object or person once per day.
  • Mind Veil is as a permanent mind blank spell.

I am not prepared to do so yet, but I do not particularly like ‘uses per day’ as a constraint. I would rather see the powers managed some other way, such as fueled by magic points or driven by tokens as some abilities are in Iron Heroes [that link is almost four years old! Ffffuuu].

Otherwise, I kind of like how this looks. Again I find I’m tweaking how I apply the abilities, but this one seems less tweaked than the others.

Closing Comments

Yet again I find myself looking at the benefits of the talent and I find there are many. I think I need to distill them a bit more yet.

Still, this talent is useful not only to spell casters, but to many other character types. I can imagine a (mostly) fighter character taking this, and very much a paladin or other protector. Caster specialization is handled through other means, but even so I can see certain types finding this still useful.

As common talents it would be possible for a character to take more than one of these per tier. That will add up to a lot of arcana, but the warlock class from The Tome of Secrets gets one school ability every two levels plus other things… loading up on the arcana talents means not taking eldritch thread talents (for casters), domains (for cleric-types), combat styles, or other common abilities… I expect talents like these will make the short list for certain character types and not be of interest to others.

I think I like how the Abjuration Arcana looks so far. It’s functional, it’s useful, and it might make it onto the “I want it too” list… and I’ve long held that game balance lives in “I can’t decide what I like best”.

Originally I had expected talents to basically be a string of related feats, one per tier, but given that many of the talent abilities so far are things I would not make feats, I may need to stiffen the other talents up a bit. Or, as I say, distill these to their core function and remove the rest.

In the meantime, I think I would take this to the table. I can tune things later.

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  1. Pingback: Arcana Talents (All Eight Arcane Schools) | Echelon d20 - An RPG framework based on the d20 system.

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