Monthly Archives: June, 2011

Shield Proficiency Talent, Updated

After discussion in a few places (here, IRC, IM) regarding the first cut at the Shield Proficiency Talent, I’ve tweaked it a bit.

Shield Proficiency

This talent allows you to use a shield to increasingly greater effect, ultimately providing impenetrable defenses,  defense against spells, and even the ability to turn spells on their caster.

Tier Benefit
Free Proficiency with light shields
Basic Proficiency with heavy shields, Shield Wall
Expert Proficiency with shield bashing and tower shields.  Improved Shield Wall
Heroic Shield Protector, Deflect Arrows
Master Aegis
Champion Immediate Aegis
Legendary Spell Turning

A character is free to use a shield if the shield is equipped and the character is not helpless (yes, it works while flatfooted).


What to do with Spell Resistance?

The conversations on my blog about shield and armor talents has brought up spell resistance. If it’s in the game, one or the other of these talents would be an appropriate mechanism for gaining it.

However, I have to wonder… is Spell Resistance really an appropriate mechanic in the first place? It largely amounts to a little sign that says “you must be at least *this* tall to cast against this monster”. While I admit I am okay with things that limit spell casters (because non-casters need something they can deal with better… though the orb spells take even that away), is this really a valid mechanism for Echelon?  Or D&D in general, come to that?


Shield Proficiency Talent

GreyKnight wrote up some talents for Echelon and asked for my thoughts on them.  I’ll be reviewing them over the next few days, but his his suggestion for a Shield Proficiency talent (slightly modified in the wording) is such a shining example of what I’m looking for in a talent that I had to get this one out first.

Shield Proficiency

This talent allows you to use a shield to increasingly greater effect, ultimately providing Spell Resistance, spell invulnerability, and spell turning.

Tier Benefit
Basic Proficiency with light and heavy shields.
Expert Proficiency with shield bashing and tower shields.
Heroic If you are free to act with your shield, allies within reach enjoy the benefits of your skill with the shield.  They may use the better of your Shield Bonus and their own, and may share your shield-based Spell Resistance.
Master If you are free to act with your shield, you gain Spell Resistance equal to (12 + Shield Bonus + Level Bonus).
Champion If you are free to act with your shield, your SR increases to (14 + Shield Bonus + Level Bonus).  As a swift action you can activate a globe of invulnerability effect that protects you and your allies within reach.  If this globe of invulnerability is dispelled you may reactivate it as a swift action.
Legendary If you are free to act with your shield, your SR increases to (16 + Shield Bonus + Level Bonus).  As an immediate action usable a number of times per day equal to your Level Bonus you may use a spell turning effect against a chosen spell that targets you.

A character is free to use a shield if the shield is equipped and the character is not helpless (yes, it works while flatfooted).

Keith’s Comments

This talent provides abilities that increase in awesome as the tiers increase, from “can be done in the real world” through “impressive but fairly credible” to “wow, can’t do that in the real world” and “really, really useful for keeping shield-users alive“.  The way the Spell Resistance is written keeps the SR about equal to level+8 (Master tier has a Level bonus of +4..+6, I would expect the Shield Bonus to be +2, for a total of 12+4+2 (18) at 9th level and 12+6+2 (20) at 12th level), so it stays fairly relevant but not crippling against opponents of similar levels.  If the talent is not kept at the top it loses some utility against opponents of the same level but still provides benefits against weaker opponents.

It might prove interesting to make the Spell Resistance equal to 10 + BAB + Shield Bonus.  This is pretty clearly a martial talent and it would be reasonable to have it scale more directly with martial ability (and presumably spell casters and other non-martial characters will have comparable defenses — I don’t see a ‘rogue’ humping a big shield around when he could use evasion instead, possibly more easily).

I like this.  A lot.  Thanks GreyKnight.

Threshold d20 Review: Running an Encounter

In this review I look at and the pages under it.

Encounter Checklist

The encounter sequence looks fairly reasonable.

Surprise and Initiative

It might be worth changing “those that exceed the DC by a large margin” in the Perception check description to “those that make the Threshold on their Perception check” (or whatever text is used to describe rolling higher than the Threshold.  There is a mechanic specifically for this purpose, evidently important enough that the system seems to be named after it, I’d use that.

If rolling above the high Threshold gives a bonus on the Initiative check that follows, does rolling below the negative Threshold give a penalty on the Initiative check?

Using a -20 penalty to surprised creatures is an interesting idea.  The primary effect of this that I see is that it means that a ‘surprise round’ no longer is, it just ensures that the surprising group probably goes first.  There is no doubling up of actions against the surprised creatures.  There is later the option of rerolling Initiative each round.  This can lead to one side having multiple turns before the other side gets another one.

This leads to a situation where having the drop on someone and ambushing them can have less real effect on turn order than could be gotten ‘just because’ during the fight.  This seems a little odd to me.

Action Points and Phases

I’m not sure how I feel about Action points only being spent during the Main Phase except when they can be spent as reactions.  Do I have to plan my reactions?  Or are such reactions taken from the next round’s budget?


Thanks John

I’d like to thank John Reyst for taking a look over what I’ve written for Echelon d20 and providing feedback.  I’ve been doing a series of articles that does much the same for his Threshold d20 system.

This post is my response to his initial feedback.


Threshold d20 Review: Archetypes Part 2

Also responding to John’s post “In Response…” (the second half, regarding archetypes).

“This may seem harsh…”

Ah good, a mature response.  I’ve been told I can be a trifle harsh (“you just told him his baby is ugly!”  “it’s got three eyes and two noses, I think that qualifies” – during a particular code review I was part of) so I figured I’d try to soften it a little.

I find the same thing you do – as long as it’s treated respectfully (where the definition of ‘respectful’ can vary quite a bit by audience; I’m a member of a forum where conversation might be described as ‘very robust’ (and by some as downright rude or vulgar), but I have to admit that the lack of formality is refreshing) I’m quite okay with people pointing out flaws in my reasoning or design, especially if they can suggest ways to improve the product.  That’s why I look for feedback; as gratifying as “this looks good” can be, a reasoned negative response helps me find and fix flaws in my work.

Regarding the Archetypes Section

Ah, this is more an analysis exercise than a design exercise.  That explains much.  I’ll leave off examination of this section for now then.

Actually, I think the feedback and suggestions in my review of the Talents section may be more useful than my response to the Archetypes section because most of my issues in the Archetypes section stem from issues I see in the Talent definitions and Talent list.


Threshold d20 Review: Resources, Races, and Allegiances Part 2

Responding to John’s post “In Response…


Yes, resources/money/etc. is a tricky thing, especially when you’re trying to be generic.  You might look at FantasyCraft’s approach here (which I have to admit I don’t remember well enough off the top of my head to summarize, and I don’t have the book handy – I’m on my lunch break at work).

Races and Templates

My approach is similar, so I know exactly what you mean about the results being somewhat scattered.  This is why I do my pondering and tentative thoughts in my blog at and post the ‘final results’ of my thinking at


Again, you might look at FantasyCraft ‘alignments’.  They appear to be a more formalized structure for presenting the same concept as allegiances and include such things as allies and enemies, and identify ‘domain powers’ (I forget the exact term used) that followers might learn.  As with many things in FantasyCraft, the use of such rules is optional, but worth examination.

It isn’t strictly part of Echelon, but I expect to use entity definitions (that might look something like the one for the Kreshtar Tribes) to capture this same information.


Anime and RPGs

In the last couple of months I have seen comments linking anime and role playing games.  It is not a bad link, really, given the overlap between ‘watchers of anime’ and ‘players of RPGs’ and the influence anime and RPGs have on each other.  However, it is incomplete because ‘anime’ is about as specific as ‘television’.

In fact, I know someone who can get rather ragey about the subject.

In order to accurately depict a link between anime and RPGs it is necessary to specify the kind of anime and the RPG.  It seems that most often when people refer to anime in relation to RPGs they are thinking of shounen anime, a genre largely dedicated to action and awesomeness and badassness (all of which often is a good match for RPGs).  This is a very incomplete picture, though.


Threshold d20 Review: Talents

In this post I will discuss material from

In the first page, John describes how Talents are categorized and their general characteristics.  In the second he provides a list of specific Talents.


Threshold d20 Review: Resources, Races, and Allegiances

I take a quick look at how Threshold handles other character considerations, including resources (money and stuff) and races.  Talents will be in another review.

Here, I look primarily at

and their subpages.