Engaging the Designer

louis clark asked

Is echelon ready to play at all? what i mean is I have read bits and pieces over at your website, but for example when I read about ability scores and such, I find nothing about how to roll up a character and/or where to go form there.

If it came to it I could probably run a game, but I’d be making a lot of it up as I go.  Mechanically Echelon has its origin in (mostly) D&D 3.x, so if in doubt you could pull from D&D 3.x pretty safely.

However, it has been my intent for a while now to get it to the table.  Renewed interest from readers is giving me something of a kick in the ass.  I ended up revising my plans for an Echelon Intro Box, cutting down the ‘basic/expert set’ from about 300-400 pages to 128, 3/8 of which is entirely sample characters.  See Echelon Quick Start Reformulation for details.

I have discovered about myself that I seem to really like explaining things to people (see quote below).  If you really want me to work on something, ask me about it.  Ask me how it works, what to do, whatever.  Suggest things that you think would fit (Ray Case did this today asking about the keystone talents). This pushes my buttons, and if I don’t have higher priorities drawing my attention, I’m likely to do what it takes to answer.

Some of my coworkers have learned to not ask me questions unless they really want to know, because I will explain until they stop asking questions… today a meeting I was supposed to have about 20 minutes of to get approval for a firewall change ate 45 minutes of their lives because they wanted me to explain our network architecture… the more people around me understand, generally the better things are for me.

Of course, the answer might be “I can’t do this now” or “I have no idea” or “I’m not interested in that”.  It might be “how do you think it should work?”

I am training myself away from ‘answering informally’ (in chat, IM, face to face conversation, even in email) — if one person asks, another is likely to, so let’s get it documented properly.  Even if I do respond informally, or write about something in a comment at a blog, I am likely to do a post about the same material (and at echelonrpg.com, probably find an appropriate page in the hierarchy to put it on).

Come to that, this post is itself prompted by a question.  It’s a good question and deserves a good answer, and I’ve spent longer than I planned answering it… into the Echelon blog it goes.

Today I was asked about keystone talents, which makes me think about archetypes they implement.  Louis wants to know how characters are created, that probably wouldn’t take all that long to bang out.

Short form: roll ability scores (or point buy, or just pick them; ability score generation isn’t really important to me), assign, pick talents, pick gear/spells… that’s about it, really.  Oh yeah — you can assign them from the top end.  The relative lack of prerequisites means you don’t have to look outside the current tier to qualify for talents.

One of my biggest difficulties in working on Echelon is the flexibility and sheer volume of choices available to me.  I have imagined so many ways to do different things, including some that contradict each other, that I frankly sometimes confuse myself (at which point I stop writing so I don’t confuse everyone else…).  For instance, some time ago I put a fair bit of analysis into ensuring characters at the same level stay on the RNG.  Since then I have come to the conclusion I’m actually okay with Falling Off the RNG.

So, if there’s something you’re interested in, ask.  If you like the way something looks, let me know.  Ray did that today, telling me the idea of keystone talents was eating his brain but he didn’t fully understand them; it led to a post expanding on their explanation.  If you have an idea that you think fits or that I’d be interested in, share it.

Engaged readers raise my engagement, and encourage the hell out of me to write.

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  1. Pingback: Engaging the Designer | Keith Davies — In My Campaign - Keith's thoughts on RPG design and play.

  2. The two main things I would like to hear more about are some follow-up on the question of keeping/removing ability scores (as originally discussed here: AFAIK there was no final decision on the matter); and also some examples of complete characters.
    A third thing that I would like to experience would be a short sample of actual play. In fact this would satisfy my second inquiry above (since there would necessarily be complete characters involved), and we could use it as a test-bed to see how well things work if ability scores were to be removed. 5-Room Dungeons provide a nice quick start for a test adventure that shouldn’t take up too much time.

    • I haven’t actually decided to remove them, but I am tempted to. They allow a character to be better at a group of related things, and I’m not convinced anymore that the groups inherent in ability scores really does it for me.

      IOW, not decided, but it is becoming more likely in my mind… but then again, Echelon is pretty flexible and I could make it an optional thing.

      Working toward the other part, I want to get in on a couple of other things that require me to have something playable.

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