I have mentioned in previous posts the possibility of using ‘ability pools’ to fuel various powers and as a replacement for ability score damage and temporary effects. I wrote up a first draft at EchelonRPG.com that I will summarize here.
Echelon does not inherently need ability scores, and I have considered a few times removing them altogether. However, since I am trying to model a better version of D&D 3.x (which has ability scores) and I think I can gain some significant benefit from their inclusion, I will use them.
Echelon uses the same ability scores as D&D 3.x, with much the same interpretation as in D&D. They are applied somewhat differently (no skill points, so obviously Intelligence no longer affects how many you get) but Strength, Dexterity, and so on all mean pretty much what they used to.
Unlike D&D 3.x, all creatures have all ability scores. For instance, undead and constructs use Constitution to measure durability (how hard they are to ‘break’) and I have read stories where undead and constructs might both get ‘tired’ (the cauldron-born from the Chronicles of Prydain would weaken if they spent too long from Annuvin and vampires are well known for their afternoon naps, and it is easy to imagine constructs that periodically need downtime to recover their energy). Creatures that previously had null ability scores may likely have unusually high or unusually low values, and may have specific abilities that might make them more or less irrelevant anyway, but they will be present.
Ability Score Modifiers
Ability score modifiers are calculated and applied in a simpler manner. Take the ability score, divide by two. Done. No more negative modifiers for ability score.
This should work just fine. Contested checks (attack vs. AC, skill vs. skill, power vs. save) include the ability score modifier of both participants. The numbers are a little bigger, but +4 vs. -1 and +9 vs. +4 is still a five-point difference and will end up with the same result. The math involved with ‘bigger numbers’ is less of an onus that dealing with negatives, for many people.
For uncontested checks (those with static DCs) I will have to increase the DCs somewhat, but since I have to review all such things anyway in light of using Level Bonus and not skill ranks this is not a significantly greater cost.
This bit is new to Echelon, and was inspired by ability pools as described in Threshold d20.
Each ability score has an associated pool of points that may be used to fuel powers. Ability Pools replace temporary ability score changes. I hate having to adjust a character sheet in play because of a spell or ability damage.
The base value of an Ability Pool is equal to the ability score modifier plus the character’s Level Bonus. I could be persuaded to change the calculation to one half of the (ability score plus level), since this gives a slight benefit to having odd ability scores (13 rather than 12; 14 is clearly better than 13) and gets rid of a pathological ‘0 pool’ at first level with an ability score of one.
Spending from an Ability Pool
Various abilities, especially those from talents, can use points from an Ability Pool as a shared resource to power them. For instance, many divine talents may allow a character to draw on the Charisma Pool to fuel various powers. There will often be an initial power-on cost (based on the tier of the ability) and a lower maintenance cost.
Ability Pools and Conditions
If an Ability Pool is reduced to 0 (through expenditure or damage) the character is affected by a condition specific to the Pool. For instance, a character whose Constitution Pool is reduced to 0 is fatigued. This condition gets worse for each multiple of the base value the character is negative (a character with a base Constitution Pool of 10 might be fatigued when his Pool is reduced to 0, exhausted when it is at -10, and unconscious when it is at -20).
Temporary Ability Pool Effects
All ability damage and drain now affects the associated Ability Pool rather than the ability score itself. This removes the need to adjust derived values (such as attack rolls, damage, rolls, hit points, saving throw bonuses, saving throw DCs, and skill bonuses) during play. Instead, the character may lose the ability to apply the ability score without penalty (if your Constitution Pool is empty the character becomes fatigued, which has specific effect on the character) but the character may continue to draw on the Pool with increasing condition effect.
Similarly, powers that improve ability scores (such as a bull’s strength spell) now grant temporary points to the targeted Ability Pool. The mentioned bull’s strength spell no longer gives a bonus to the Strength score, it gives (for example, I haven’t worked this out in detail) four extra points to the Strength Pool that may be used for ‘Strength tricks’ (such as increased bonuses to Strength-based checks, or specific talents that draw on the Strength Pool). These points are spent before the actual Pool. Similarly, bear’s endurance or Rage might do the same thing, giving a character additional capacity before he has to draw on his normal Constitution Pool.
A character normally recovers a number of points per Ability Pool equal to the base value of the Pool. For instance, the character above with Constitution Pool 10 recovers 10 points to his Constitution pool after each encounter. As long as he does not overspend (or take too much damage to the pool, or a combination) he will recover the entire Pool after each encounter.
If a character has a condition applied as a result of an expended Pool, however, that condition remains until the Pool is fully recovered. If a character is just fatigued he will have that condition until his Constitution is back to its full base value. Barring effects that will allow further recovery (or further expenditure that slows recovery), this means that during the next encounter he will remain fatigued. If he were exhausted he would remain so through two encounters.
I may need to change that unconscious result to something else; sleeping through three fights would be dumb… and I don’t want you-lose conditions on the tracks anyway.