This is part of the Echelon RPG Development series. Here are links to other articles of the series:
- Game Design: Bucking the Trend
- Normal Distribution Resolution
- Apotheosis & Echelon Core Traits
- Secondary Traits of Echelon
- Echelon Archetypes
- Echelon Species Part 1
While I mentioned the design and development goals in my Bucking the Trend article, I did not mention the goal of actual play. Besides the traditional epic quests and quintessential adventuring lifestyle, the point of playing Echelon is to break free of one’s mortal coil and obtain divinity. This deific journey is called the Echelon Conduit, from which the game takes its name.
There are many different reasons for playing roleplaying games, but Echelon is specifically directed at players who want create unique characters and watch them grow to legendary personalities. Since the game is about characters and their struggle during the course of their own exaltation to legendary or divine status, there is a mechanical gauge that reflects a character’s progress.
[Design note: It’s my belief that whatever idea is core to the game should be represented by a mechanic.]
A character’s Apotheosis rank determines the maximum rank of Abilities and Attributes. Every character begins play with an Apotheosis rank of 1 and a maximum rank of 5 for Abilities and Attributes. For every additional rank in Apotheosis, the maximum rank increases by 1. This trend continues until a character reaches Demigod rank at which point the maximum ranks increases to 15 and again to 20 at the rank of God. For example, a character with an Apotheosis of 3 would have a maximum rank of 8 for Strength (or any other Attribute or Ability).
Unless otherwise stated, a character’s Apotheosis rank is added to every action roll, but not damage or effect rolls. Apotheosis does not have a maximum rank, however many consider an Apotheosis rank of 10 godhood. Apotheosis may never be reduced below zero. Should a character’s Apotheosis rank ever reach zero, he loses access to all Abilities and Advantages and may only make basic attacks.
[Design note: It would be interesting to make Apotheosis a conflicted gauge (similar to Blood Potency in Vampire: the Requiem) where there are advantages and disadvantages to having a high score. Currently, it only has positive effects, but I would like to entertain some methods of frustrating characters with high Apotheosis.]
Apotheosis also grants characters resources that help players influence the results of actions. Apotheosis influences two Secondary Traits: Karma and Kismet. Both of these Traits represent a character’s destiny and its influence over events the characters are involved in. In Echelon, destiny is not inevitable, so characters may fail fantastically when pursuing it, but it still exerts a significant influence. Both Karma and Kismet are detailed in the Secondary Trait section.
Attributes give a rough measure of a character’s aptitude concerning several key aspects. There are two categories of Attributes: Body and Soul. Each category has three Attributes associated with it. Body attributes include physical aspects of a character: Constitution, Dexterity, and Strength. Soul attributes include meta-physical or mental aspects of a character: Intelligence, Spirit, and Wisdom.
Attributes are used as prerequisites for many Abilities and Advantages. They are also used in most action rolls and even many damage and affect rolls. Attributes also determine the base values of all Secondary Traits. All characters start creation with zero ranks in each Attribute. The maximum rank for Attributes is determined by Apotheosis; however, the minimum rank for any Attribute is -5. Should an Attribute be reduced beyond -5 for any reason, the character becomes helpless and cannot move or act.
This Attribute measures a character’s stamina, fortitude, and durability. Constitution helps determine a character’s Vitality, Resilience, and Vigor.
This Attribute measures a character’s agility, coordination, and nimbleness. Dexterity helps determine a character’s Accuracy, Reaction, and Vigor.
This Attribute measures a character’s brawn, puissance, and potency. Strength helps determine Impact, Resilience, and Vigor.
This Attribute measures a character’s knowledge, reasoning, and aptitude for learning. Intelligence helps determine Accuracy, Reaction, and Animus.
This Attribute measures a character’s presence, charisma, and force of personality. Spirit helps determine Vitality, Resolve, and Animus.
This Attribute measures a character’s intuition, wits, and common sense. Wisdom helps determine Impact, Resolve, and Animus.
Check back tomorrow for a round-up of the Secondary Traits. In the meantime, I love hear any general feedback about the system so far as well as any ideas on how to implement Apotheosis as a conflicted gauge.
Listening to: Damn Laser Vampires – Rue Morgue Radio Hymns from the House of Horror – Saint of Killers
 Blood Potency is a power limiting gauge in Vampire: the Requiem. The higher the score, the more blood you can spend, the higher your attributes can be, but it also comes with a price.
2 thoughts on “Apotheosis and Echelon Core Traits”
Would you be willing to settle a curiosity for me? Why is it that you name the attribute governing presence and force of personality “Spirit”? Since the other five attributes take their name directly from D&D 3.5, which you cite as your original source, I wonder what influenced you to name this particular attribute “Spirit” and not “Charisma.”
I’m certain you’ve given some more thought to the conflicted gauge of apotheosis since writing this post, but I’ll throw out a few obvious ideas on its implementation if only to keep this comment from being a simple draw on your time.
To first take a page from Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” During your ascent to godhood, you grow to more than a simple adventurer out for gold and good times; you become a symbol and warden of certain aspects of the world or of a certain people or way of life therein. Aside from responsibilities that manifest in the way of ever-so-juicy plot hooks, characters might suffer penalties or diminishment of their powers if they take actions in opposition to the ideals they represent.
Another idea depends on the method of ascent you envision for characters’ rise to godhood. Perhaps the characters need to maintain a certain number of followers as they achieve higher ranks of apotheosis. Are your followers becoming unhappy with you? Is some other wannabe deity stealing their affection? Well, I’ve got bad news for you. The other side of this would be that performing deeds of heroism is not necessarily enough to elevate our apotheosis rank; you must also win the affection of those who would respect or benefit from such feats.
Another thing to consider is why gods are not constantly directly acting in the mortal plane. (Perhaps they are, but bear with me here.) As you ascend toward godhood, the fundamental laws of creation limit certain actions on the mortal plane. You want to tear open the ocean and raise a continent given over to faithful followers of Your One True Path? Go for it. Some priest of more venerable powers forcibly turning the townsfolk away from worshipping you? Time to start thinking laterally.
Then there’s the issue of dealing with mortals face-to-face in the first place. The more divine you become the more terrified, pained, or awestruck people are to find themselves in your presence. Moving around discretely becomes a problem unless you can find some way to hide your glory.
Of course, the impact of these suggestions has a lot to do on the setting in which the characters find themselves as they progress through the game.
I deviated from the standard with Spirit because I think it represents more than just Charisma. It’s not just how likeable you are, but also measures your courage and self-identity. Besides, Charisma has always been a loaded term in my experience with gaming, so I wanted to change it 😉
I’ve definitely been thinking about the conflicted gauge, but nothing has struck me as worthwhile yet. You’ve mentioned some interesting ideas and I’ll be thinking about this more.
What I’d like to see is as they gain more Apotheosis character are open to bigger hindrances. One idea I had that I thought held some merit was as they gain Apotheosis, some negative force in the Universe (Entropy maybe) creates a Nemesis. These Nemesis grow in power as the Character does.
A Nemesis can be defeated, but as long as the character lives, it will survive (reforming in the Ether or something). The key to ascension is to unlock/discover the method that delivers final destruction to the Nemesis.
It sounds pretty intense from a GM’s perspective, but maybe it will grow into something usable.