Converting RSRD Abilities to Echelon Talents

Converting RSRD abilities to Echelon talents is usually pretty straightforward.

Many abilities in D&D 3.x are built up of smaller abilities, usually along a path of some sort. Feat paths are pretty obvious (weapon focus and weapon specialization are an example, as is the Mobility feat path leading to Whirlwind Attack, though that’s a short one). Various class abilities improve as a character takes levels in the class (evasion leads to improved evasion, similarly with uncanny dodge, and so on). It isn’t really implemented in D&D 3.x, but it’s not unreasonable to treat access to spells and magic as a path, where knowledge of high-level spells of a particular type implies knowledge of lower-level spells of the same or similar type (if you can cast meteor swarm, it’s reasonable to expect that you can cast fireball… even if D&D 3.x RAW actually doesn’t require or enforce this in any way).

As a first pass in converting D&D 3.x abilities to Echelon talents, I look at the elements of the path, organized by level they can be gained. The abilities are then assigned to specific tiers in the created talent based on the level they can be gained.

Ability Gained in D&D 3.x Level Echelon Tier Echelon Levels

0-1

Basic

1-4

1-5

Expert

5-8

4-9

Heroic

9-12

8-13

Master

13-16

12-17

Champion

17-20

16-21

Legendary

21-24

I recently recalibrated the Echelon tiers to expand the Basic tier to a full four levels, so they look out of step with RSRD levels. I usually ignore the level numbers when designing or documenting talents because they mess with my head. Instead, I tend to refer to things by the target tiers, since exact level usually doesn’t have much bearing on the talents or their abilities.

Each ability I try to place gets compared to the levels in the first column and a tier selected. The level ranges are slightly larger than the tier sizes and overlap somewhat because I often find that a particular ability is either a little strong or a little weak compared to its RSRD level, or I may want to shift things a little to accommodate other abilities. Even so I sometimes shift things an entire tier because they fit better that way.

Examples

Lightning Reflexes and Evasion

Lightning Reflexes can be taken at first level and gives a +2 bonus to Reflex saves. Characters with good Reflex saves have a similar bonus to their Reflex saves (and may be considered better if they have something that depends on Base Reflex Save).

Evasion is gained by rogues at second level and Improved Evasion can be gained at tenth level (second and ninth for monks). I’d make Evasion an Expert-tier ability and Improved Evasion a Master-tier ability (it’s just a little too good for Heroic). I’ll still want abilities for Basic, Heroic, Champion, and Legendary; it might be as simple as making Evasion and Improved Evasion part of the Lightning Reflexes talent.

You are unusually good at avoiding area effects.

Tier Benefit
Basic +2 to all Reflex saves when you are not helpless.
Expert When making a Reflex save, on a successful save you can use an immediate action to move up to your speed to get out of the area of effect and take no damage.
Heroic +4 to all Reflex saves when you are not helpless.
Master On a failed Reflex save you take only half damage, on a successful save you can use an immediate action to move up to twice your speed to get out of the area of effect and take no damage.
Champion +6 to all Reflex saves when you are not helpless.
Legendary

Weapon Focus and Specialization

With slight expansion, this feat tree is very easily converted to a talent. A boring talent, mind, but still very simply converted.

RAW, abilities can be gained at first level (Weapon Focus), fourth level (Weapon Specialization), eighth level (Greater Weapon Focus), and twelfth levels (Greater Weapon Specialization).

This is trivially expanded by inserting ‘Improved Weapon Focus’ and ‘Improved Weapon Specialization’ before the Greater forms. The Weapon Focus talent works on a group of related weapons (such as axes or swords) rather than a single weapon as in the RSRD.

This roughly matches the progression of the RSRD feats, lagging potentially no more than one level behind when they could be taken according to the RSRD. It’s still pretty boring, though.

Tier Benefit
Basic ‘Full martial use’ of weapons.
Expert +1 to hit with weapons from the chosen group.
Heroic +2 damage with weapons from the chosen group.
Master +2 to hit with weapons from the chosen group.
Champion +4 damage with weapons from the chosen group.
Legendary +3 to hit with weapons from the chosen group.

Eldritch Weaving

When I drafted the talents using the Eldritch Weaving I split things up using similar guidelines. The spells were trivially split on spell level and caster level such that each tier of the Thread Focus talent gave access to two new spell levels. However, each thread also has a minor power and a major power. In the original source, at fourth level the Eldritch Weaver class gives access to the minor powers of threads a character knows, and at twelfth level the class gives access to the major powers of threads he knows. These are significant benefits, so I put them in the higher of the applicable tiers.

All zero-level spells are in the ‘Thread of Cantrips’ (I am planning to recalibrate spell levels, but that’s another matter) and threads don’t have zero-level benefits, so there are no ‘Basic tier’ benefits to these talents.

Tier Benefit
Basic
Expert You add first- and second-level thread spells to your list of available spells.
Heroic You add third- and fourth-level thread spells to your list of available spells. You add the thread’s minor power to the list of minor thread powers available to you.
Master You add fifth- and sixth-level thread spells to your list of available spells.
Champion You add seventh- and eighth-level thread spells to your list of available spells. You add the thread’s major power to the list of major thread powers available to you.
Legendary You add ninth- and tenth-level thread spells to your list of available spells.

Domain Talents

My posts on Divine Powers in Echelon and Alignment Domain Talents describe how feats in Agents of Faith can be converted into talents. Each domain has feats available at third, sixth, ninth, twelfth, and fifteenth levels (coincidentally, five feats per domain, three levels apart – close enough to Echelon tier spacing to be useful), plus an ‘ascended’ feat that has special rules for selection that are beyond the scope of this article. These don’t quite align with the level ranges described above, but are close enough to use for a first attempt at domain talents, especially since unlike Agents of Faith the abilities are cumulative – instead of paying five precious feat slots to gain all the feats of a particular domain, or only the slot gained at fifteenth level to gain that one ability, you spend a talent slot of the appropriate tier to gain all benefits of the feats up to and including that level.

There are no domain feats described in Agents of Faith available to characters below third level, so the Basic tier slot below is empty.

Tier Benefit
Basic
Expert You gain the benefits of the third-level domain feat.
Heroic You gain the benefits of the sixth-level domain feat.
Master You gain the benefits of the ninth-level domain feat.
Champion You gain the benefits of the twelfth-level domain feat.
Legendary You gain the benefits of the fifteen-level domain feat.

Closing Comments

I have found that most character and monster abilities, when they are large enough that a pattern is discernable, can often be translated to Echelon talents. In this post I haven’t gone into the larger abilities (such as sneak attack, or wildshape, or bardic music) because they may not quite fit this sort of pattern. Instead, they may be implemented as complementary talents, one providing the basic or core ability, and one providing expanded use or improvement to that ability. Similarly, fundamental construction talents (martial training, which improves attack bonus, and caster training, which improves caster level and controls access to spell levels) are not covered here because they are not abilities per se, being instead building blocks for modeling certain character facets.

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7 Comments

  1. Doug Lampert

    Master level reflexes it can be better to FAIL the save if for some reason you are unable or unwilling to move out of the AoE, I’d change this to half damage AND on a successful save you can move out of the area.

    How does your evasion interact with mounts? Does the mount get a freebee? Does the rider need a mounted combat feat to let the mount move? Does the rider need to dismount?

    Why isn’t the basic domain talent the PHB style domain power?

    Eldritch Weaving, if you’re not willing to put cantrips in as a basic level power you can still put spell activation items in at that level.

  2. Dunno how evasion interacts with mounts (even in RSRD), I’ve never considered it. I’ll put some thought into it at another time.

    I could just make evasion work more like in RSRD, where you just take no (or half on failed, if improved) damage when you can apply evasion. I like the move option, it explains how you don’t take damage from a 20′ radius ball of fire in a 10′ room (answer: don’t be in the room), but I can live without it.

    I didn’t consider the PH-style domain power, in part because I expect to largely replace how domains are implemented. I’m pretty unhappy with a lot of the core domain powers, to be honest.

    I did consider allowing spell trigger (and possibly spell completion) item use as the basic power for each thread. It seems a reasonable thing. I originally tried to model what the published rules did (this would be an extension) and didn’t feel like adjusting it last night. It’s a fairly sound idea, though.

  3. hadsil

    If I’m a warrior type who wants evasion, I could be engaged in a duel and don’t want to move from my position. That forces me not to use evasion. In 3E I could be a rogue wielding two short swords and flanking with my turn next. I understand why you want the movement but combat tactics makes it a hindrance. I don’t have a compromise solution :( .

  4. I actually like that there is a decision to be made. It is weaker than the RSRD version, but that’s pretty deliberate. If it was always effective I think this would be a no-brainer must-have. As written it will be much more common than in RSRD (where only rogues and monks have it, in principle), so while I do want people to be good at making saves, I want there to be some kind of limitation on the application of the ability. Making it a higher-tier ability might be reasonable as well (“he’s so good at avoiding damage he can avoid getting burned in a room full of flame!”, clearly a not-so-believable result, and thus suitable for a higher tier), but I like how this approach feels.

    That said, I didn’t much consider the situation in which you don’t want to move. I did consider that using an immediate action means that you are limited in how often you can do it, or how often you want to (evade the fireball, or suck it up and wait for an opening to take an AoO?).

    An ability that always works is by definition reliable, but if it’s free to use and always available, there is no real choice involved.

  5. Keith- Have you ever taken a look at OVA: Open Versatile Anime RPG? It seems to have quite a few things in common with what you are doing but a good deal simpler. Which I’m not sure would work for a genre other that anime… But I thought it might interest you. I think I lost your email address…

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