Echelon Design Element: Ability Scores
Sleep-deprived rambling to follow...
Ability scores have come and gone a few times in Echelon. Originally they followed the d20 model (3-18 base scores, modifier = floor((score-10)/2, etc.). Then they went away entirely when I realized things get somewhat simpler if I simply assume humans are basically the same except where they differ (their talents, that is).
In Echelon Dice Pool, though, I think they might be making a comeback. I'd previously expected to not include them, but after reversing some logic around skills I realized there might be a place for them.
To wit: in D&D and family, most feats have prerequisites, often including ability scores and ranks in skills. Talents in Echelon originated out of feats (and class features; and the cornerstone and capstone talents were later additions), but I didn't want to deal with prerequisites. Instead, talents now often indicate tendencies
: taking a talent gives you qualitative benefits, and
can affect certain rolls. That is, rather than requiring Weapon Proficiency and Weapon Focus with swords (and a certain base attack bonus) before you can take a Cutting Wind Style talent/feat, Cutting Wind Style scales with the tier you take it (benefits scale with level, which cooks in the BAB requirement) and improves your combat rolls with swords (to a point; Cutting Wind Style doesn't stack with Monster Cleaver Style).
Most 'everyman skill checks' are made using (a base of) d8s, and improve as talents bump you to bigger dice. What if instead I add 'ability scores' back in, starting at d6s, to be used in the absence of specific ability... and the specific training bumps those?
A human with the Ghost Step common talent (bumps Dex and Sneak -- Move Silently) and an elf (bumps Dex) with Cutting Wind Style (bumps Swords and Dex) might thus have the same rolls when trying to move silently. The human starts with d8s, Ghost Step bumps to d10s. The elf has no specific sneaking training, but the bumps to Dex from the elf cornerstone and Cutting Wind Style common talents both apply, improving his roll to d10s as well. His 'natural ability' is such that he's got pretty good native skill at it.
However, he lacks the specific training the human has. While he makes the same rolls, the rogue has more (qualitative) effect. Depending on his level he:
* steps so lightly that he is harder to track (gets to apply a Sneak check against attempts to track him);
* steps so lightly that creatures with tremorsense and the like have to beat his Sneak check to detect him;
* steps so lightly that he doesn't even sink in water any more;
... and so on.
Ability scores give the possibility of improving your base rolls, without giving greater effect with them. I reduced the die size in order to make untrained-but-talented checks 'hard checks'; it takes a lot of native talent to get better than the assumed background training implied by everyman skills, and leaves more room for specific training to be better than native rolls anyway (d8 bumped three times becomes d20, if you get three talents that reinforce each other, while d6 bumped three times becomes d12).+Grey Knight +Greg Christopher +Jay Dugger +John Payne +David Lamb +Andrew Shields