One of the sticky bits I’ve faced in building monsters in Echelon is a lack of energy resistance and energy immunity talents.
This was something of a challenge because immunity should cost more than resistance, but there are creatures in the RSRD (mephits) that are immune to one or more energy types at low levels (down to Expert for certain, I don’t remember seeing any at Basic). I was not prepared to give total immunity to an energy type at such a low level, but this was actually easier for me to reconcile than I’d expected.
For the sake of simplicity I’ll assume ‘fire resistance’ for the rest of the article, but the rules and considerations apply to all energy types.
Note that I’m not putting any thought at this point into ‘vulnerabilities’. I haven’t decided in general what to do about ‘disadvantages’ so don’t really have a path planned here. Most likely I’d treat them as ‘negative talents’ and give a spare slot or something for them, but to be honest I’m tempted to ignore them and drop them altogether.
Immunity versus Practical Immunity
If I give total immunity to fire for a low-tier talent, eventually everyone will take it (and for the other energy types). This is a clear sign of a balance problem; it fails the “would everyone take it” test.
I shouldn’t need to do this, though. I realized that a creature does not need to be entirely immune to fire to not take damage, as long as it is sufficiently resistant to fire that it won’t take damage from fire that it would encounter. In the case of fire mephits (CR 3) they don’t need to be totally immune to fire, only to ‘Expert fire damage’. For simplicity I’ll call this up to 4d6 fire damage, which you might see from a caster level 4 fireball, if such a thing exists. They can readily handle minor fire effects, but can be harmed by greater effects (dragon’s breath or immersion in lava).
After some consideration and analysis, I decided on 15 points of energy resistance per tier. At the lower levels of the tier it can be impossible to penetrate at all (Expert Fire Resistance would give 15 points of fire resistance; 1d6 and 2d6 can’t get past it at all, 3d6 only does 10/216 times (for an average of 1.5 points of damage), and 4d6 can a bit less than half the time, for up to nine points of damage. This is perhaps the most likely tier for the energy resistance to be unsuccessful, since at higher tiers the difference between mean damage and energy resistance gets bigger, and the chance of deviating much from the mean gets smaller (20d6 comes up within a few points of the mean – 70 points – so often it’s usually not even worth rolling).
This is before rolling a saving throw. On a successful save 15 points of energy resistance is always enough to block damage from a tier-appropriate energy source.
I would start with 15 points per tier, with the possibility of moving it to 20 points per tier if this is not sufficient.
Many creatures with energy resistance have only limited resistance instead of immunity. At higher tiers this is easily done by just taking a lower-tier talent for the energy resistance, but at lower tiers it doesn’t quite work.
I think I’ll have a more generic ‘energy resistance’ talent that also gives 15 points of energy resistance per tier, split up between two or more energy types.
I could probably combine the two talents mentioned above. To work ‘properly’, though, it can be necessary to take the same talent multiple times to get enough points of energy resistance to cover the full resistances in the RSRD. For now I think I’ll keep it explicit.
The benefits are phrased as they are as a convenience. The size of the energy resistance was chosen to usually be sufficient before saves, and on a successful save for half the effect will always fail to get past the energy resistance. The DM may decide to apply the immunity clause to other amounts if they would have a similar mean and maximum damage. A simple example would be 6d8 fire damage from a dragon’s breath – a creature with Heroic Fire Resistance could ignore it. However, 4d8 fire damage requires either an Heroic talent slot or two Expert slots (Expert Fire Breath and Expert Improved Fire Breath). The resistance still applies, but the immunity clause does not.
|You have 5 points of Fire Resistance, and can ignore up to 1d6 of fire damage.
|You have 15 points of Fire Resistance, and can ignore up to 4d6 of fire damage.
|You have 30 points of Fire Resistance, and can ignore up to 8d6 of fire damage.
|You have 45 points of Fire Resistance, and can ignore up to 12d6 of fire damage.
|You have 60 points of Fire Resistance, and can ignore up to 16d6 of fire damage.
|You have 75 points of Fire Resistance, and can ignore up to 20d6 of fire damage.
Each five points of Energy Resistance applied to an energy type allows the creature to ignore up to 1d6 damage of that energy type.
It might be worth giving immunity to another 1d6 damage every 15 points of specific energy resistance, but with the extra flexibility this talent gives in allocation it might be better to not do that. For now, I won’t – each five points of resistance lets the creature ignore 1d6 damage of the specific type.
|You have 5 points of energy resistance, which may be split between one or more energy types.
|You have 15 points of energy resistance, to be split between two or more energy types.
|You have 30 points of energy resistance, to be split between two or more energy types.
|You have 45 points of energy resistance, to be split between two or more energy types.
|You have 60 points of energy resistance, to be split between two or more energy types.
|You have 75 points of energy resistance, to be split between two or more energy types.
Let’s look at some specific creature types. Note that as with most examples I am trying to model the values from the RSRD, rather than the simpler builds I would be inclined to do when reconstructing for Echelon. Also, I am not looking right now at how many talent slots might be available to the creature. Where I blithely say “use a maximum-tier slot”, the creature might need to trade something out or delay purchasing or upgrading the talent at that tier.
From the RSRD, most angels are immune to acid and code and have resistance to electricity 10 and fire 10. This can be done with maximum-tier Acid Resistance and Cold Resistance, plus Expert Energy Resistance and Basic Fire Resistance (to get the last five points of energy resistance).
Celestial Creature (Template)
These have resistance to acid 5, cold 5, and electricity 5 (10 starting at 8th level). This is trivially achieved with Expert Energy Resistance, then Heroic Energy Resistance.
From the RSRD, most demons are immune to electricity and have resistance to acid 10, cold 10, and fire 10. This is trivially done with a maximum-tier Electricity Resistance and Heroic Energy Resistance. Lesser demons might need to downgrade the Energy Resistance slightly. For instance, a Quasit has only Fire Resistance 10… bad example, the Quasit could take Expert Fire Resistance for an upgrade, or Basic Fire Resistance for a downgrade, or Energy Resistance and pick up at little cold resistance as well. There are several options depending what’s needed.
From the RSRD, most devils are immune to fire and have resistance to acid 10 and cold 10. This can be done with maximum-tier Fire Resistance, plus Expert Energy Resistance (and possibly Basic Acid Resistance for the last 5 points, or a slight downgrade). Imps would have just Basic Fire Resistance (fire resistance 5).
I’m not going to give a full breakdown by color and age. Dragons are very simple here. They have immunity to the energy type of their own breath weapon. Give them maximum tier in the appropriate resistance talent and you’re done.
May be immune to one energy type; this is trivially done with the appropriate talent.
Fiendish Creature (Template)
These have resistance to fire 5 and cold 5 (or 10 and 10 starting at 8th level). They’ll get an upgrade from Expert or Heroic Energy Resistance, or might take Basic Fire Resistance and Basic Energy Resistance (low-level) and upgrade to Expert Energy Resistance at higher level.
I think I’ve covered the bulk of the cases. There are probably other examples, but I can’t think of any interesting ones offhand.
Comment on Prerequisites
I mentioned weeks ago that I’m trying to minimize formal structure in talent prerequisites. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to invest in rigid rules here when there can be so many exceptions or complex prerequisites (“this talent needs this one, or this one, or this other one, or that one, or those two together”). Instead, I just go on character theme. If it makes sense at all to have a particular talent, a character or creature probably can.
It is probably reasonable that a fire mage (Thread Knowledge with fire magics) would be resistant or practically immune to fire effects, up to a point. So might a practitioner of the Desert Wind martial discipline or a fire dragon. I don’t expect that a matching vulnerability be present, though. I would think a fire mage might be able to use his spells to keep the worst of a frost attack off, the Desert Wind disciple could call on his inner fire, as could the fire dragon.
I expect to be pretty liberal in what I will accept as a ‘making sense’.
I might be worth doing some more analysis to see how close the estimate of 15 points per tier is to effectively immune at that tier. Overall, though, this looks like a workable approach to energy resistance. It’s pretty easy to get high energy resistance, if you’re willing to pay the price, but it means trading out other Good Stuff you’d probably want. I expect that many characters may pick up at least a little energy resistance (or the more specific talents) when they get to higher levels, but because they’re unlikely to want to cut into their highest-tier slots for it they would still be at least a little susceptible to the resistant energy types. Failing that, they should still be susceptible to other energy types – being known to be immune to fire just means knowledgeable opponents use lightning bolt instead.