First Draft Talents: Combat Talents from FantasyCraft

These talents are derived directly from FantasyCraft feat trees.

FantasyCraft makes heavy use of some mechanisms that I have not decided to incorporate in Echelon yet. I will translate as I can, but will not at this time invest a lot of time in them.

The talents in this document include some annotations to make them a little more clear, and possibly identify some changes I would make in polishing them for later use.

Echelon FantasyCraft Talents Draft
Echelon FantasyCraft Talents Draft, click to download PDF


  1. David Lamb

    There’s a lot to think about in there, so I’m mildly embarassed that my first comment is just about formatting. When I read the .pdf on a few pages one of the yellow comment boxes sits in the middle of the page instead of along the edge. For example, page 7 the “hurl” comment blocks part of the text; same on page 11 with “Guard”

    • … and that’s what you get for not checking formatting before pushing the document. Turns out it was like that in the Word file as well, which at least made it easy to fix. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      Formatting is important to me, especially when it renders something unreadable.

      In fact, I just noticed a couple of blank pages were inserted that aren’t visible when I’m editing the file. That’s fixed now too.

  2. David Lamb

    I’ve had slightly longer to think about these combat talents. I have the same slight sense of unease about some of them that I have had with other talent chains I’ve seen since you started echelon.

    I certainly buy into the quote at the beginning, that you want the difficulty in designing a character to be making it hard to choose between different sorts of awesome. So I have some general question/comments about judging awesomeness:

    Some (all?) of these are based on interesting feat chains from FantasyCraft. I’ve never seen them in play so I can’t comment from experience, just theoretical concerns. But in general 3e feats are weaker, sometimes significantly weaker, than class abilities. And many class abilities are weaker than one more level of spellcasting. That doesn’t matter so much when you’re gaining feats in parallel with gaining class levels, but now in Echelon each tier of a “spearcaster awesomeness” chain has to be as desirable as whatever “class feature awesomeness” they could have got instead. I presume most combat feats will be on top of stuff like Martial Talent Basic and Advanced at each tier (and furthermore that those two may need to be a bit more awesome than +1 to hit). Do the weapon-specific talents stack up enough to be worth half of the “non-mainstream” talents in each tier? Maybe; I just don’t know yet. I *like* these more interesting forms of weapons specialization — more interesting weapon-specific stuff to actually do.

    Does the epic level spearcaster get to imitate Cucullin’s spear-riding? or the hammer specialist Thor’s flying (the Stan Lee version — throws the thing and catches it to get hauled along with it).

    • I also have a ‘general talents’ document I’m working on that isn’t as complete as the two already up. Martial Training and Improved Martial Training have been switched a bit. Martial Training is still there, I no longer have Improved Martial Training but do have ‘Warrior Born’ as a cornerstone. Each provides a +1/tier Martial Training Bonus that stack, and I agree, they should each have something else as well that doesn’t overlap or stack.

      Right now they’re ‘straight sugar’, sweet but no flavor.

      The FantasyCraft talents are shown only from Basic through Heroic tiers, at most, and are cribbed straight from the book. These are fairly mundane tiers, so the abilities should not be particularly weird. I’m okay with it for now, since I aim to start play at the lower tiers and build the higher-tier stuff as needed, unless I stumble on something that easily runs higher such as the Agents of Faith feats or Iron Heroes mastery feats.

      The higher-tier stuff may well include spear-surfing and hammer-flight, possibly around Champion tier, maybe even Master. Once you’re past Heroic I am only concerned (somewhat — my definition of ‘balance’ is pretty loose mechanically) with power balance. If you can talk me into believing the spear-surfing idea or Thor’s hammer-flight are reasonable things to do and they’re at a reasonable tier, I’m game.

      This may be a little sloppy for a while as we work the balance out, but I’m working on allowing more gonzo stuff. At higher tiers it’s pretty important that it be noticeably more awesome than “I use a sword” implies at lower levels.

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  4. David Lamb

    Regarding Cucullin and Thor — if the (or rather “a”) magic system more or less matches D&D at first, general-purpose Fly becomes a 4th level spell (+1 lvl from D&D) available roughly 7 levels above the entry to Expert, which means it’s high-end Heroic level. Does that put spear-riding and hammer-flying at the same tier? or pushed up a bit to low Master? It shouldn’t have to go above the next tier, Champion.

    Master seems about right for Cucullin if that’s where Herakles fits. Marvel’s version of Thor is different because of immortality and at-will lightning control, but maybe his hammer power is at a much lower tier than he is personally. “returning” is showing up in some of the martial Echelon talents at heroic; I forget what else the hammer can do besides moby damage.

    Mythic Thor — well, there’s the whole bit about controlling thunder and lightning everywhere around the world rather than in just one spot. Plus one-shotting Jormugandr at Ragnarok; should have worked on his Resist Poison, though.

    This Echelon stuff is making me really seriously rethink “mundane” class power levels.

    • Doesn’t it, though? Add to that, I’ve considered having ‘spell-like abilities’ coming from skill at a lower level than the spell. Spells can be relatively easily swapped in and out, they tend to be more flexible, and so on. If raise dead is fifth level in D&D, and thus a Master-tier spell, it almost makes sense to allow someone skilled enough a chance at Expert.

      I haven’t quite gotten to the point of accepting this in my brain because it seems wrong to let someone “have a spell earlier than a dedicated caster”… but then my brain goes “but why can’t someone specifically skilled do it before someone who just taps the right mojo?”

      Also, though I’m pushing the spell levels up by one, I don’t expect to push up the level the gain the spells to match, compared to D&D — instead of “SL*2-1” it becomes “SL*2+1”. Cantrips are now first level and accessible at level 3 (Basic), previously first level spells are now second level and accessible at level 5 (Expert). Starting adventuring wizards can still have their sleep spells.

      Perhaps the skill-based solutions being freely reusable while the spells are more limited will serve. The fly spell might still be fourth level (available at the Heroic tier), spear-surfing might also be a Heroic-tier ‘spear trick’ that amounts to “flight as far as you can throw the spear”, which amounts more accurately perhaps to a really impressive Jump result, especially if spearcasting lets you extend spear throwing range.

      • David Lamb

        I don’t mind “cantrips” being available at level 3 and “first level” (your level 2) available at Expert. It makes sense that if “Expert” is the entry level for adventurers, that they should be able to cast “first level” spells there.

        I think you should interpret my comment about special abilities being available at a higher level than what the spellcaster gets as yet more trying to get my head around how awesome non-spellcasters will get under Echelon. I was thinking “no worse than next tier up”; “next tier down” might make sense, too, but it’s even harder to get my head around.

        • I know exactly what you’re getting at, David. It seems wrong somehow, letting non-casters do stuff that ‘even casters’ can’t do yet.

          On the other hand, as far as power levels are concerned, casters really seem to set the standards in D&D… and not only do they get the best toys, they get lots of them.

          The wizard doesn’t just get fly, he might also have fireball, lightning bolt, and some other nifty tricks. He’s got some great flexibility.

          From a purely cost-benefit point of view, casters have it really good. The difficulty you’re having right now — I don’t say this to be patronizing, I had much the same thing — is that ‘non-caster’ is seen as ‘mundane’. Literally decades of play has said so.

          The epiphany I had that got me past this is that ‘non-caster’ does not have to be ‘non-fantastic‘.

          The premise in Echelon is that ‘awesome’ is a function of level, not how you do your thing. The wizard casts fly and hovers himself around on a cloud of magic. The spearcaster throws his spear and rides it to his destination (never mind just how he gets on it before it’s long gone), Thor throws Mjollnir and lets himself be pulled along.

          I find that watching lots of anime, especially shonen stuff like Bleach, seems to help unhinge things. Ninja ‘fly’ across the city (they touch down from time to time on rooftops, but really ‘flight’ is the closest effect. Swordsmen are fast enough they are practically invisible and untouchable except when they strike their opponents (blink), and some of them can effectively cause damage in a straight line scores of feet long (let’s call it lightning bolt).

          Right now I might phrase the effects using the spell names, but they are not casting spells, they are exhibiting trained skills that others have not learned… and yet, are not out of line for their character levels.

          D&D just doesn’t let them have these abilities easily, despite being appropriate for their level.

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