Outsider Templates

I’ve been working on an examination and analysis of outsiders (brought about by trying to describe Babau in Echelon), and frankly it’s going to take more time than I have tonight.

Instead, I thought I’d present a few templates that basically fell out of that analysis.

Templates in Echelon

Templates, by and large, are dead easy in Echelon. Each template has a set of talents that must be taken to get the full template. If a template closely overlaps the abilities the subject creature already has you can simply not apply those talents (so you don’t pay twice for an ability). This also cuts down on potentially abusive stacking because you might only keep the higher of the two values (as with a template giving a strength bonus, to a creature that already has bonuses to strength). It also makes it very easy to tweak a template if you want to replace one ability with another, something I do very often when applying templates.

Sample Outsider Templates

I’ll start with the simplest templates (celestial creature and fiendish creature), then the larger and more complex ones (half-celestial and half-fiend).

Changing types and subtypes has little real effect so I don’t bother describing such changes here.

Celestial Creature

A celestial creature has the following talents at the indicated tier.

  • Smite Evil (at highest tier available, after required racial talents)
  • Energy Resistance
    • Expert Energy Resistance (energy resistance 5 vs. two of acid, cold, electricity)
    • Heroic Energy Resistance (energy resistance 5 vs. two of acid, cold, electricity, 10 vs. one of them)
    • Master Energy Resistance (energy resistance 10 vs. acid, cold, electricity)
  • Damage Resistance
    • Heroic Damage Resistance – DR 5/magic
    • Champion Damage Resistance – DR 10/magic
  • Expert Spell Resistance (4+level)
  • Basic Darkvision

No level adjustment required here, you can have low-level celestial creature. It takes three Expert slots and one Basic slot to start, increasing to four Heroic slots when you get to that tier (upgrading the talents in whatever order is desired). It could be done almost entirely on Basic slots, even (one for Darkvision, one for smite, two or three for energy resistance), then upgrade as needed after that.

Fiendish Creature

A fiendish creature has the following talents at the indicated tier.

  • Smite Good (at highest tier available, after required racial talents)
  • Energy Resistance
    • Expert Energy Resistance (energy resistance 5 vs. cold and fire)
    • Heroic Energy Resistance (energy resistance 10 vs. cold and fire)
  • Damage Resistance
    • Heroic Damage Resistance – DR 5/magic
    • Champion Damage Resistance – DR 10/magic
  • Expert Spell Resistance (4+level)
  • Basic Darkvision

Note that the energy resistance is based on the tier the talent becomes available, not when energy resistance 10 is described as happening in the RSRD template. Similar to the Celestial Template above, this can probably be done on lower-tier talent slots if desired.

Half-Celestial

A half-celestial creature has the following talents at the indicated tier.

  • Flight (appropriate for tier)
  • Smite (appropriate for tier)
  • Spell-Like Abilities (celestial (appropriate for tier) and light (up to Heroic, to get daylight, may go higher))
  • Expert Immunity (immune to disease – Heroic Great Fortitude gives immunity to disease and +4 to all Fort saves)
  • Damage Reduction
    • Heroic Damage Reduction – DR 5/magic
    • Champion Damage Reduction – DR 10 /magic
  • Energy Resistance
    • Expert Energy Resistance (energy resistance 5 vs. two of acid, cold, electricity)
    • Heroic Energy Resistance (energy resistance 5 vs. two of acid, cold, electricity, 10 vs. one of them)
    • Master Energy Resistance (energy resistance 10 vs. acid, cold, electricity)
  • Basic Darkvision

The various ability score increases can be handled as either racial ability score increases (and I haven’t defined how those should work), as ability score talents (so they could be ‘Heroic Great Strength’ for the +4 bonus described in the RSRD, plus twice per day +8 Feats of Strength), or simply ignored.

I ignored the +1 natural armor bonus because this creature probably has better Armor Class than the RSRD version even without it, and I dislike adding natural armor bonuses unless there’s a real reason such as thicker hide or the like. I suspect the Level Bonus addition I’ve made to Armor Class can probably replace a lot of the natural armor bonuses we see now.

Half-Fiend

A half-fiend creature has the following talents at the indicated tier.

  • Flight (appropriate for tier)
  • Smite (appropriate for tier)
  • Spell-Like Abilities (Fiendish)
  • Heroic Immunity (immune to poison – Master Great Fortitude gives immunity to poison and +6 to all Fort saves)
  • Damage Reduction
    • Heroic Damage Reduction – DR 5/magic
    • Champion Damage Reduction – DR 10/magic
  • Energy Resistance
    • Expert Energy Resistance x2 (energy resistance 5 vs. acid, cold, electricity, fire)
    • Heroic Energy Resistance x2 (energy resistance 10 vs. acid, cold, electricity, fire)
  • Spell Resistance
    • Expert Spell Resistance (SR 4+level)
    • Heroic Spell Resistance (SR 8+level)
  • Basic Darkvision
  • Basic Natural Weapons (claws and bite) [I’m guessing on this one]

See Half-Celestial (above) for comments about ability score modifiers and natural armor.

Additional Talents

The templates above have introduced a few new talents.

Many of these will be revised later because they are either incomplete or need to be reconsidered for balance reasons. It isn’t worth a legendary slot to have 30 points of energy resistance, for example, but it’ll do for tonight. Similarly, Damage Reduction and Spell Resistance deserve more thought than I’m going to put into it tonight.

Energy Resistance

This talent may be taken more than once. Each time you get ten points of energy resistance that may be split as desired among the different types of energy, to a maximum of ten points per tier.

Tier Benefit
Basic 5 points of energy resistance, maximum 5 points per energy type.
Expert 10 points of energy resistance, maximum 10 points per energy type.
Heroic 15 points of energy resistance, maximum 15 points per energy type.
Master 20 points of energy resistance, maximum 20 points per energy type.
Champion 25 points of energy resistance, maximum 25 points per energy type.
Legendary 30 points of energy resistance, maximum 30 points per energy type.

Honestly, I expect this one to be changed too. Fire Subtype (immune to fire, +50% damage from cold effects) is likely to be a Master-tier talent slot, full immunity without the vulnerability is likely to be Master. Alternatively, immunity might be done on a per-tier basis, so ‘Expert Fire Immunity’ (functionally equivalent to about 20 points, honestly – a 4d6 fireball does at most 24 hit points of fire damage, and almost always 20 or less – so it might be worth saying “fire resistance” is one talent and “improved fire resistance” is another that is functionally immunity to Expert-tier fire attacks).

Flight

Flight is not adequately defined to include here even in draft. I suspect it will start at Basic as allowing Smaller (or Tiny) creatures, or smaller, having average flight. Higher tiers (and there may be two talents, ‘Flight’ and ‘Improved Flight’) will allow larger creatures to fly, or flying creatures to fly better. It may be as simple as a ‘Flying Training Bonus’ (poor name, but similar behaviour) providing flight for some combination of (size and capability), so the same Training Bonus might make a Small creature a very good flyer or a Large creature a clumsy flyer.

Smite (Alignment)

This talent could potentially be taken for multiple alignments by the same creature. A creature with more than one Smite (Alignment) talent may apply more than one to the same attack, with normal effects stacking.

Tier Benefit
Basic Once per day you can make a normal melee attack against a creature of the indicated alignment and do an additional 1d6 points of damage.
Expert 1/day, +2d6 damage on one attack against a creature of the indicated alignment.
Heroic 2/day, +4d6 damage on one attack against a creature of the indicated alignment.
Master 3/day, +6d6 damage on one attack against a creature of the indicated alignment.
Champion 4/day, +8d6 damage on one attack against a creature of the indicated alignment.
Legendary 5/day, +10d6 damage on one attack against a creature of the indicated alignment.

I’m being lazy here and just trying to provide a talent usable for the templates above. Not only do I expect to not use the RSRD alignments (which means this talent would more likely be ‘Smite Alignment Foe’ and be allowed only once, but apply to all enemies of the chosen alignment), but I’d really like to see the smite have an additional effect – some damage and a condition or other effect appropriate to the alignment.

This talent is rather weaker than sneak attack. It does do twice as much damage for the cost (it takes two talents to keep sneak attack maximized), but is limited in the number of times per day it can be applied and it works only against a limited subset of opponents.

It’ll do for tonight, but it can be rather better.

Spell-Like Abilities

These may work as the spheres do in Trollman’s Tome. Basically, each sphere is much like an RSRD cleric domain, having a power and a spell for each level (from 0 to 10th, the latter often being an augmented version of a lower-level spell). I don’t expect to have the power (those are usually another talent), but each talent can be expected to have a spell (or perhaps two, since I don’t have the powers) for each spell level. You have access to all spells in the sphere appropriate to the tier you have the talent at, that would be castable by a caster of your character level, and can use each once per day. If you spend two slots you can use each spell three times per day, and if you spend three slots you can use the spells at will.

For example, the Celestial Sphere (from the template) has

  1. No spell named
  2. Protection from evil, bless
  3. Aid, detect evil
  4. Cure serious wounds, neutralize poison
  5. Holy smite, remove disease
  6. Dispel evil
  7. Holy word
  8. Holy aura, hallow
  9. Mass charm monster
  10. Summon monster IX (celestials only)
  11. Resurrection

As should be evident, the spells don’t necessarily land on the spell levels they are for most casters.

It is not necessary to have the multiple talent slots at the same tier. A 9th-level celestial might have Master Spell-Like Abilities (Celestial), getting him access to everything in the above list up to fifth level once per day, then have Heroic Improved Spell-Like Abilities (Celestial) so he can use all the spells in the above list up to fourth level three times per day, and Expert Greater Spell-Like Abilities so he can use all the spells in the above list up to second level at will.

At this point save DCs are always determined based on Charisma modifier and are equal to 10 + the greater of the spell level in the sphere and the creature’s Charisma modifier, per Recalibrating Saving Throws.

Spell Resistance

I’m not entirely sure what I want Spell Resistance to look like. Most talents should scale by tier, but Spell Resistance is really only useful if kept at the maximum (if your Spell Resistance is less than or equal to your level it’s pretty much useless). As such, I think it might be reasonable to have it scale with level and tier. At low tiers it gives only a small constant plus your level, at higher tiers it gives a bigger bonus.

This talent is ‘heavy draft’ and I expect it to change. For now, though, let’s try this.

Tier Benefit
Basic SR 0+level (really only useful against really weak spellcasters)
Expert SR 4+level
Heroic SR 8+level
Master SR 12+level
Champion SR 16+level
Legendary SR 20+level

Yes, this means Legendary creatures can be more or less immune to many spells, when cast by someone with a caster level no greater than the legendary creature’s level. On the other hand, by this point you should normally be making your saves against spells anyway.

Other Comments

At this point I’m still guessing about a lot of things. I have been pretty generous with the templates, if you will, assuming that they should continue to scale as much as possible with as many talents as possible. For instance, the half-celestial says ‘flight (appropriate for tier)’. This is mostly because a medium creature with flight with good maneuverability at twice his normal speed is probably not appropriate at Expert levels (but would be just fine for a tiny bird), but it could be okay around the Master tier. However, as written it should continue to scale, possibly getting even faster or better maneuverability at higher tiers.

The templates as presented here are intended to model as closely as possible the templates from the RSRD, including all abilities at their indicated power. In some cases intermediate forms are shown (such as Expert Energy Resistance when possible, instead of requiring Heroic or nothing). Other things may be scalable (up or down) that I have not examined here.

The half-outsider templates look really expensive. The half-fiend can be expected to use at least 8 Heroic talent slots (though he doesn’t have that many and will have to use them when and as he can). These are also fairly powerful templates (+1..+3 Challenge Rating adjustment, +4 Level Adjustment), so it may be reasonable that they consume a significant number of top-tier talents.

As with many creatures and characters, I can expect to end up revising how they are implemented. If nothing else the degree to which the talents are taken might not need to be kept up. The RSRD half-celestial has smite, scaled to Hit Dice up to +20 damage. This is roughly equivalent to the bonus damage from Master Smite, which also is usable three times per day. Rather than having smite always as a top-tier ability, it might be sufficient to take it to Heroic (+4d6 on two attacks per day) and leave it at that.

I may go back to my original talent slot model (2, 2, 3, 3 across the tier, instead of the 2, 1, 2, 1 I am currently using).  As work continues I find that I am becoming less concerned with all characters taking the same talents and more with not having enough talents to implement creatures I should be able to implement.  There could still be the problem of having flatly too many slots altogether, which I’ll want to be cautious of.  Given how often I am left looking for a slot to spend on a talent or struggling to decide which talent I want for a particular slot, this might not really be a problem.

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5 Comments

  1. Doug Lampert

    Highest available tier talents need to be replaced with “one of six highest tier talents” or something similar, else when you go up in tier your main schtick lags a level and no one will take these templates.

    SR: I don’t like having Level + Talent, that makes low tier SR very very useful to high tier characters. Make it something like Level Bonus + 2/tier + 11. That way someone with the tier appropriate talent always resists equal level casters half the time as long as you don’t include caster level boosters or spell penetration boosters.

  2. hadsil

    I find the Natural Armor of monsters in the 3E Monster Manuals to be (mostly) arbitrary. They exist only to give the monster a high AC because they’re facing a high level party and they don’t have to go through the trouble PCs do to get high ACs such as armor and magic items. Natural Armor is also used to compensate the size penalty of larger than medium creatures so that the size penalty isn’t really a penalty at all. Only PCs truly suffer a size penalty. Natural armor is not totally bogus. Some monsters legitimately deserve it and can be balanced within the Talent system.

    Pathfinder changed Smite Evil for paladins to allow it to last until the end of the encounter or the target is dead. It also provides a bonus to AC against the target. It’s worth taking a look. It makes Smite Evil more useful than just a one shot thing.

  3. Doug, your formula for SR looks better, thanks. It’s closer to what I actually wanted, I just went stupid (or sleepy, same thing) when I wrote that bit.

    I’m prepared to go to one or two templates per tier for a race, same for a template, and so on. In most cases there should probably be a cutoff. I wrote these templates up as I did because I was trying to show how to model what was written in the RSRD, in reality I’d redesign the template to have just the core parts.

  4. Hadsil, you’re right about the arbitrariness of natural armor — it’s a hack to cover that balor (CR20 demon with no armor) needs to be hard to hit — though it still sucks against touch attacks.

    Assuming we have a martial Balor hit points are a little higher (341) and AC 37 (full +27, touch +27, flatfoot +10, helpless +0, ignoring size modifiers)… giving him full plate would crank that up to AC 50 (full +40, touch +27, flatfoot +18, helpless +8)… either way I think he doesn’t need a high natural armor, though it’s probably appropriate to have at least a little.

  5. in fact, the balor is probably overstatted, at least a little. I’d pull off some of the Great Ability talents needed to build this bad boy and do something else with them. AC 50 is almost impossible to hit (you can trivially get to +30 attack bonus at 20th level, after that I may have to change the rules. OTOH, he *is* intended to be a legendary challenge and at least some of the stats aren’t too far out of line with what a human can achieve at that level, especially if Large size.

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