Spot Talent

This is the first draft of a talent to replace the Spot skill in Echelon

I’ve added a talent to replace the Spot skill in Echelon. I’m not entirely happy with how Shoot Around Corners works, it doesn’t feel right. I’m considering replacing it with the ability to see across planar boundaries (as a limited version of true seeing might).

Curiously, I found while writing this that concealment doesn’t seem to do anything to Spot checks.  It gives you a miss chance if you attack someone who has concealment, and it allows someone to hide, but it appears that someone not-hiding on a foggy day is as easy or difficult to see as someone not-hiding on a clear day.

As far as the rules are concerned.  The fog cloud spell does include the instruction that creatures more than five feet away cannot be targeted by sight, but that’s an easy one to miss.  I would have expected the the concealment rules to spell this one out.


You have unusually acute vision and can see things better than most people, and even see things most people cannot.

Tier Benefit
Basic +4 to Spot checks, Trained
Expert Eyes in the Back of your Head, Sharp Eyes
Heroic Piercing Gaze, See Invisible
Master Skill Mastery, Clairvoyance
Champion Far Sight, Shoot Around Corners
Legendary True Seeing

Talent Abilities

Eyes in the Back of your Head

You are unusually alert and are never considered to be distracted (the -5 penalty to Spot checks usually suffered when distracted does not apply to you).

You can no longer be flanked if you are aware of and can see the flanking opponents (you may still be flanked by invisible opponents and those you are not aware of).  Sneak attacks may only be made against you by those with Sneak Attack at a higher tier than you have Spot.

Sharp Eyes

Any range penalties you would take on Spot checks are halved (-1 per 20 feet instead of -1 per 10 feet).

Piercing Gaze

Your vision can reduce concealment penalties.  Miss chance due to concealment or full concealment is halved.

See Invisible

You can spend two points from your Wisdom pool to see invisibility, as the spell, for ten minutes, and maintain it for one point of Wisdom pool per ten minutes.

Skill Mastery

You may always Take 10 on Spot checks, even under pressure.


You may spend two points from your Wisdom pool to activate clairvoyance, as the spell, for one minute, and maintain it for one point of Wisdom pool per minute.

Far Sight

Any range penalties you would take on Spot checks are further reduced (-1 per 50 feet instead of -1 per 10 feet).

Shoot Around Corners

Your opponents gain only half the cover bonus they normally would against your attacks.  This affects cover and improved cover (situations where the opponent normally gets double bonuses and the effect of improved evasion), but not total cover.

True Seeing

You may spend four points from your Wisdom pool  to activate true seeing for yourself for one minute, and maintain it for one point of Wisdom pool per minute.


  1. dalamb

    Looks reasonable to me. A couple of generalizations for other talents occurred to me:

    Maybe “Skill Mastery” would be available at Master level to all skill-like talents?

    Is there a guideline for what level spell could be folded into a skill at various levels? Clairvoyance is level 3 (caster level 5); True Seeing is 5-7 (caster level 9-13) depending on class.

  2. The general form for skill-based talents is going to be:

    Basic: +4 competence bonus (if people insist on naming them) and ‘Training’ (in case being trained or not is important — it can be in 3.x), often with something a bit more.

    Expert and Heroic will have abilities associated with them, extra stuff you can do that others not so trained can’t.

    Master brings Skill Mastery (and by odd coincidence you’ll have a total +10 bonus from the skill and level bonus — you can always Take 10 and hit DC 20, barring penalties of some sort. This almost fell out of the design and felt good.

    Champion and Legend get into newer abilities.

    I’m using spells as a shortcut for defining talents; as the spell system gets revamped this may change. In the meantime, though, I’m using a rough guideline of:

    • All spell levels are increased by one. It makes life easier
    • Generally spell-like abilities granted through talents like this (which have other happy baggage) are about one tier behind where a caster would get them. This is not a hard rule, especially since you’re paying a lot for use of a single spell.
    • You spend from the related ability pool; amount is usually level/2 for activation for one time unit, plus one per time unit to maintain if relevant.

    Thus, legendary Spot gives access to true seeing at D&D17, when normally it could be cast somewhere from D&D9-D&D13 — two tiers separation (the material component cost is trivial). This is a pretty powerful ability in that it shuts down a lot of effects, at least as far as the spotter is concerned. On the other hand, clairvoyance is just about spot on the money: normally castable at Heroic, gained as early as Master.

  3. hadsil

    Only the Clairvoyance part bothers me. I don’t see the logic in being able to Spot things behind a wall let alone a mile away. True Seeing at Legendary makes sense. You’re that good to notice illusions and ignore displacement-like effects.

    Pathfinder combined Spot with Search and Listen into one skill Perception. It allows for bonuses or penalties that can come up to distinguish between seeing and hearing. Search stuff is easily justifiable to include into Spot Talent. Will you be keeping Listen/hearing separate?

  4. heh, you think clairvoyance is a tough one to swallow? I was looking rather lustily at prying eyes last night, until I realized it would be too much of a pain to adjudicate in play.

    At this point those skills are separate. I may or may not do something later to merge them. Similarly for various physical skills (Move Silently and Balance, and Tumble and Jump, and so on). If I can find enough to warrant keeping them apart I probably will, but I’m not horribly attached to them being separate or not, either way.

  5. Doug Lampert

    Tangential tirade: You mention miss chances from Concealment. This is an example of what I consider one of the worst problems with 3.x, the multiplication of defenses.

    One of the real problems I have with 3.x is the tendancy to create “defenses” which everyone has and that LOOK like they’re supposed to protect you, and then to create things that fairly trivially bypass those defenses, and then create things that work both against the normal attack and the bypassing attack, rendering the allegedly “standard” or “normal” defense totally obsolete compared to the completely different better defense.

    All the default defenses suffer from this, and it’s always bad, HP, AC, and saves all completely suck as defenses.

    You’ve created defenses, USE THEM. Let them work!

    Consider saves. 3.x has save DCs that grow about twice as fast as save bonuses, and thus are useless. But that’s not enough nerfing for a default defense, we couldn’t let one ACTUALLY WORK, so we have no-save spells, save and still suck spells, and any number of other ways to negate saves. Then we have True Seeing, Mind Shield, Death Ward, and Freedom of Movement, and two dozen other spells that defend against other spells (most of the time as an automatic, never fails, trump), and which are needed because otherwise your only defense if your useless save.

    Miss chance does the same thing but for AC. 3.x has touch attacks and the like render AC more or less meaningless. Miss chances then come in as the defense against attacks that target AC that actually “works”. You shouldn’t even TRY to optimize AC, much better to just stack two or three 50% miss chances and a mirror image effect and laugh at attackers.

    This is bad. Let defenses actually work, then the default defenses will have value. Then you can make spells that would otherwise be hard stops to some attacks just be modest bonuses to saves instead. Useful rather than “must have”.

    I’m convinced that miss chances are a bad idea. Replace a 50% miss chance == -5 to hit. 20% miss chance == -2 to hit. Spot at some level reduces the penalties one step (i.e. -5 goes to -2, -2 goes away).

    KILLING miss chances allows people who are good at hitting things to actually be good at hitting things. It simplifies game-play. It simplifies ruling on effects and interactions since it uses the basic attack and defense interaction you’re already defining. It speeds things up as it eliminates one or more extra rolls. And it makes AC meaningful rather than a trap that people THINK is useful and waste resources improving till they see how easily it can be bypassed.

  6. hadsil

    When Pathfinder changed spells that gave immunity to stuff into bonuses to saves, such as Death Ward just giving +4 to save vs death effects, Heroes’ Feast giving +4 to save vs poison, etc., I was bothered because I did not find it a crime for a PC to be immune to something. They’re not Pathfinder game breakers for me, just an annoyance of personal taste. Thanks to Doug (sincere, not sarcasm) I’m now less bothered.

  7. Doug Lampert

    You’re welcome. Pathfinder also nerfed a few of the “laugh at normal defenses” spells, which is the other half of making this work.

    My readthrough didn’t convince me that they nerfed the right ones (to me they seem to have mostly gotten the ones that help the rogue and fighter be really effective while missing the ones that strike me as a ballance problem). But the concept behind nerfing some attacks, and converting most defenses to bonuses to existing defenses strikes me as sound.

    For the record, I don’t find it a crime for a PC to be immune to something either (as long as it’s not immune to being hit or to HP damage). The crime is when the ONLY effective defense to so many attacks was to be immune to them. Once you’ve eliminate that, you don’t really NEED the immunity and it becomes a nice side benefit at best. And a nice side benefit can be a really high level spell or come from a special item.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top