A Talented Option

Source Material for Rolemaster Standard System

Copyright Tim Dugger 1999

     Many GMs use the ICE supplement book known as Talent Law, but the majority of people that I have talked to use the talents and flaws straight out of the book, with no modifications. This article is dedicated to providing ideas on various ways that Talent Law can be used --ways that are not listed in the forward of the book.

     Before we delve into some new uses for Talent Law, there may be a few folks who do not know exactly what it is, or exactly how it is supposed to be used. For their sake, I will start with an overview of what Talent Law is, before I proceed into the main thrust of this article.

 

Talents & Flaws

     Talent Law is a book with the sole purpose of expanding the abilities, and background of a character during the process of character creation. The first portion of the book describes the various talents, individual skill bonuses, and/or abilities divided into several sections by base type of talent.

     The next portion of the book is devoted to the flaws. Flaws are disadvantages to the character. Physical, Mental, and Special Flaws are the primary classifications used in this section.

     The final section of the book provides a system for the creation of new races. While this is a very interesting and useful tool, it is not the focus of this article.

     Each character, dependent upon his race, has a given number of talent points for purchasing talents. Every talent in the book has an associated cost, just as each flaw has an associated negative cost.

     When a player buys a talent for his character, the cost of the talent is subtracted from the total number of talent points. When a flaw is taken, the cost of the flaw is added to the talent point total. While Talent Law poses no restrictions on this procedure, the GM may wish to place restrictions on the number of talents, and/or flaws allowed. If he doesn't he may find himself with a very unbalanced game.

     There are two methods for doing this mentioned in Talent Law. The first is to vary the cost of talents and flaws to make them either more or less expensive. The other method suggested is to restrict the purchase of certain talents/flaws to certain locations of the campaign setting, or more accurately, restricting them by race.

     I often rule that no more than one talent and/or flaw may ever effect the same skill, ability or what have you. This means that out of the numerous talents which affect combat, only one may be taken. This prevents massive misuse that can happen using Talent Law. I also rule that a player may only take flaws, whose total point value equals up to half of the race's talent points. This means that a race with 50 talent points may acquire up to 25 points in flaws, which provides a total of 75 points for acquiring talents.

     There are as many ways to restrict talents and flaws, as there are reasons for wanting to do so. The author of Talent Law expressly urges everybody to not use the book as is, but to discover what balance is needed for your campaign setting.

 

Talented Options

Advantages and Limitations

     Once you, as GM have decided how you are going to restrict talents and flaws in your campaign setting, you still have a few choices to make. The most notable of which is whether or not to use any of the following options I am presenting.

     The simplest option is the talent limitation. This is nothing more than a qualifier that defines under what conditions a given talent does or does not work. The conditions will fall into different categories in different campaign settings, which makes assigning a cost modifier difficult. I have set up categories with an associated price break, but it will be up to the GM to assign a given condition as either minor, lesser, greater, or major.

     Let's use the talent Dense (Double) as an example. For 10 talent points it is always on. The GM determines that the player can make this talent usable at will as a Major advantage (x4 cost). This makes the total cost of this talent 40 points.

     Certain talents may also be affected by advantages as well limitations. When applying advantages and limitations to talents, several guidelines should be followed. First, all advantages should be calculated prior to adjusting costs for the limitations. In all instances, fractions should be rounded up to the next highest whole number. As the GM, thoughtful care must also be given when allowing the additions of advantages or limitations to talents and flaws, since altering the costs could be very disturbing to the balance of the game.

     Also, it is quite possible to have more than one Advantage or Limitation in effect at once. When this occurs, the GM should start with the lowest category of each and adjust the cost for each modification in order from lowest to highest.

     Example 1: A player takes the talent Tough Skin (insect), which grants an AT11 to the character. The player then wishes to add the Advantage that allows him to activate it at will, a Major Advantage. He also wishes to add the limitations, Focus Device, a Lesser Limitation, and Independent, a Major Limitation. The final cost for this talent would be as follows.

     First take the talent (30 points) and apply the Advantage (x4). This gives a total of 120 points (30 x 4 = 120). Then apply the Lesser Limitation (x.75), which brings the cost down to 90 points (120 x .75 = 90). Finally, adjust this cost by the Major Limitation (x.50) which results in a final cost of 45 points (90 x .50 = 45).

     This results in the character possessing an item which gives him AT11 at will. Unfortunately, this item can be used by anyone and the character must guard it carefully, for if he should lose it, he will no longer have this talent.

     Example 2: The use of Advantages and Limitations on flaws will automatically change it into a talent. A player decides that he want to take the flaw Muddled Mind, but with a twist. He wants to add the Advantage of Usable on Others. The GM decides that the Advantage is a Lesser (x2). Since this started as a flaw, the base cost of it is the positive equivalent of the flaw cost (15 points instead of 15 points). This gives him a total cost of 30 points to give the flaw Muddled Mind to any person he touches who fails a Resistance Roll. Being a nice GM, he also tells the player the his character is not affected by the flaw, and that he can use this at will for no additional cost, but he does allow the player to add the Limitation, Limited Uses as a Minor Limitation. This lets the character use this ability a number of times each day equal to the characters Empathy stat bonus (determined by the GM), and reduces the cost to 25.5 points which is rounded up to 26 points as the final cost.

 

     Both advantages and limitations can be divided into several broad categories. It is up to the GM to decide which category best fits the given advantage, or limitation. The following chart provides the suggested multipliers for each advantage or limitation.

 
Cost Variance Chart
Advantages
Limitations
Type
Multiplier
Type
Multiplier
Minor
x1.5
Minor
x.85
Lesser
x2
Lesser
x.75
Greater
x3
Greater
x.65
Major
x4
Major
x.50
 

     I will not list all the possible advantages or limitations that can be used in this article, as each GM must decide for himself what is appropriate or not. Some examples are listed in the following chart. Once again, each GM must look at and examine each option to see if it is appropriate for his campaign, and then set the actual modifier levels himself. The following lists are not complete, and are only meant to serve as an example as to the possibilities.
Advantages
Limitations
Activation Control (for always on talents)
Difficult to Dispel
Increased Range
Personal Immunity
Reduced Exh. Pts. Cost
Usable Against Others
Usable on Others
Activation Skill Roll (for always on talents)
Limited Charges or Uses
Requires Focus Device
Costs Exhaustion Points
Increased Exhaustion Points
Independent (power is in item not person)
Linked to another talent
 

     Here is a small description of the above Advantages and Limitations. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather just an example of what can be done.

 

Advantages

     Activation Control: This allows a talent, which is normally a constant ability to be turned off or on at will. This is usually combined with Costs Exhaustion Points or Linked to a Skill Roll.

     Difficult to Dispel: This allows Talents which are defined as magical, to be harder to resist or more difficult for another person to Dispel.

     Increased Range: This allows those talents that have a range to extend that range. Each step upward in range should increase the type of Advantage that this is. Each step upward in range is determined by the GM, but it is suggested that the following type of progression be used. Self Touch 10' 10/lvl 100/lvl etc...

     Personal Immunity: This allows the user of damage causing Talents to be immune to the effects of their own abilities. This does NOT make a person immune from the results of a fumble with this ability

     Reduced Exhaustion Points Cost: Certain Talents require the expenditure of a random number of exhaustion points prior to its use. This option allows a reduction in that number. For instance, a Talent with this advantage would divide the Exhaustion Point amount in half (rounding up).

     Usable Against Others: This ability could be used to turn a normal Flaw into a Talent by making it usable against others against their will. This requires the use of an attack roll based upon either a new or existing skill as determined by the GM and/or a Resistance Roll. This ability may also require the addition of other Advantages, such as Increased Range, since it only gives the Talent/Flaw a range of touch. If used on a flaw, this transmutes the flaw into a talent, changing the cost from a negative to a positive.

     Usable on Others: This ability allows the use of a Talent on another person, who does not resist. The range for this enhancement is touch.

 

Limitations

     Activation Skill Roll: This limitation causes the ability to not work unless the character is successful in a maneuver roll to activate the ability. This maneuver roll could be any already existing skill, or one created just for this particular ability.

Example: If a character wished to add an Activation Skill Roll to the Talent, Mind Scan, then you could require him to learn a new skill in the Self Control catagory and call it Mind Scan. While the skill would not affect the effectiveness of the Mind Scan, it would determine how easily the character may activate the ability.

     Limited Uses: Almost all non-constant abilities use Exhaustion Points to activate them. If the GM does not use exhaustion points, then he must find another method of controlling the potential unlimited usage. The GM can limit the number of times a day an ability may be used. For abilities linked to a skill, you can use the number of ranks in that particular skill as the number of daily uses. If the ability is not linked to a skill, it is recommended that the number of uses be limited to a number equal to the stat bonus of the most applicable stat.

     Requires Focus Device: With this limitation, the character still has the ability, yet cannot use it unless he holds or wears the item through which his ability is focused. The character may not even realize that he possesses the ability, thinking that the focus item holds the power. If the character should lose his focus item, the character not be allowed to access his ability without it, or a suitable replacement.

     Costs Exhaustion Points: This limitation can only be used with those abilities that are non-constant in nature. By requiring the expenditure of exhaustion points, the character may reduce the cost of an ability. The affected ability costs 1d10 exhaustion points per usage per limitation severity level. As a Lesser Limitation this would make the ability coast 2d10 exhaustion points, while a Major Limitation would make the exhaustion points cost 4d10 per usage.

     Increased Exhaustion Points: For those abilities which already cost exhaustion points, the amount of exhaustion points required to activate the ability can be increased by 1d10 for every limitation severity level.

     Independent: This ability is similar to Focus Device, in that the ability requires the possession of the item. The major difference here is that the item is a magical item that actually possesses the ability and not the character. The ability is available to anyone who holds the item. Should the character ever lose the item, he would then lose the ability until he recovered the item.

     Linked to another talent: This makes an ability only usable after a certain other ability has been activated. For example, if a character had Flight linked to Immolation, this would mean that the character couldn't use his Flight unless he was currently immolating.

     There are sure to be many other Advantages and Limitations than what I have mentioned here, and each GM will have his own flair for doing things. This is the main reason the modifiers are not assigned to a particular severity level on the cost variance chart.

 

Power Sets

     In addition to the Advantages and Limitations listed above, there is yet another method available to customize Talents and Flaws. This is the Power Set.

     The Power Set is a framework used to provide the character with a set of related Talents and/or Flaws at a reduced cost. The total of the Power Set is called the unit and each ability in the set is called a slot. All slots in a Power Set must be related to a single common theme. If a given talent does not fit in with the theme of the Power Set, then it must be purchased separately.

     Each slot holds one Talent or ability. Each slot may have its own Advantages or Limitations as well. Advantages or Limitations may also affect the entire unit itself. But if they are, then the Advantage or Limitation affects every slot in the unit. If the advantage or limitation is not applicable to a slot, then it cannot be used for the unit.

 

Cost Reduction

     Each Power Set will receive a cost reduction in relation to the size of the total unit. The larger the unit, the larger the overall discount. The Power Set receives anywhere between a 10% and a 15% discount. The actual rate being decided by the GM, though once a GM decides upon the discount rate, it is recommended that it not change for the course of the game.

     To determine the cost of the Power Set, total the cost of all the individual slots. If a slot has advantages or limitations, then these must be calculated before adding the cost of the slot into the cost of the unit.

     Once the total of all the slots have been added together, then this total must be adjusted by any advantages or limitations that affect the unit as whole. After all this has been completed, then the Power Set discount rate is applied. This will give a lower cost than all of the individual slots combined normally would.

 

Final Notes

     While the ideas put forth here are for the benefit of giving some variance to the normal utilization of Talent Law, they should by no means be considered the only possible ways to personalize the use of talents or flaws.

     Each GM will have to carefully look over any of the material presented as it does add complexity to character creation, and more work for the GM in the long run than the normal use requires.