Threshold d20 Review: Characters

Here is my commentary on the Characters page.

Characters do not have Classes in the normal sense in this system. Instead, all characters share certain fundamental features and then differentiate themselves by the players choice of Talents. Player’s may instead choose a classic “archetype” that closely models normal classes if they wish to save time.

Echelon does pretty much exactly the same thing.  However, we do differ somewhat in the detail.

Creating a Character

Ability Scores

Ability scores have the same names as in the SRD (whichever one you want) but they may be slightly repurposed.

I will examine these in detail in another post.


John more or less equates the two, in that they are each a “package of predetermined Talents that all members of one group share, usually as a benefit of shared racial features”.

Fair enough.  I take a different approach to races in Echelon (because I like dwarves that become more dwarfy than other dwarves – thanks, Dawnforge!)

Heh.  Word suggests that I replace ‘more dwarfy’ (a word the spell check doesn’t even recognize) with ‘dwarfier’.  Totally irrelevant to the topic at hand, but it amuses me.


These basically replace classes, in that they describe how to model certain character concepts.  They can be convenient, and are not mandatory.  I expect to do much the same with Echelon (though I extend the concept somewhat further in that it also applies to races and monster types and so on).

I will examine these in detail in another post.


Virtually everything a character or creatures does or can do is governed by its Talents.

Again, Echelon does pretty much exactly the same thing, and we differ somewhat in the detail.

I will examine these in detail in another post.

Hit Points

Hit points do pretty much what they do in most SRD-based systems.  I notice that John’s approach here is somewhat similar to the Wounds and Vitality variant from Unearthed Arcana or the Grim’n’Gritty rules.

I’ll be interested to see how this works.

Saving Throws

Saving throws do pretty much what they do in most SRD-based systems.  Their calculation looks different from normal, but I would need to see more detail before commenting further.

Character Advancement

Experience Points

John doesn’t describe an experience point system.  In fact, he deliberately ignores it.

Where are they? This system does not include rules for awarding Experience Points. Instead, GM’s are encouraged to determine the desired rate of progression for characters in their campaign and then simply award a new level at the desired pace.

He does provide some guidelines about what can be appropriate based on time playing (12-15 hours of table time).  I did something fairly similar years ago.  It cost 10 (or 12? I forget) advancement points to go up a level.  Each session was worth a base of one point toward advancement, plus various bonuses for good roleplay and achievement of goals; it amounted to the party gaining a level every 3-4 sessions… which is just about bang on John’s suggestion of 12-15 hours.

Honestly?  I like this.  This is how I do it.  In fact, what I have been doing is identifying milestones where characters will level up (usually the completion – successful or not – of a scenario) and I otherwise ignore experience points altogether.

Universal Advancement Table

This looks like it came from an earlier iteration – John says that there are no more class skills, but still refers to classes, and the saving throw points differ from what he describes in text in the Saving Throws section of this page.  In fact, I think skills have been replaced by Ability Challenges (and the player can spend Talent Points to improve his chance of success with them).

Without knowing exactly what the numbers mean these next comments may be completely wrong, but I’ll point out that Talent Points are gained at varying amounts per level (it looks like 2, 3, 2, 5… but I don’t know why – wouldn’t it be simpler to just give three per level?).  The deviation at first level (15 points instead of a much smaller number) makes sense because you’re paying for fundamental bits.

I suspect this table will be updated or even replaced entirely.  If I’m reading other parts correctly I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it gets reduced to something as simple as “you get ten Talent Points per level , plus ten more at first level” (or twenty more at first level, or the numbers might vary by campaign – a more cinematic campaign might give more points per level than something more gritty).


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