Build (Part 2)

It’s been a while, but I have not forgotten you or this project. I’ve just been swamped. Pathfinder Second Edition is about to see release. That took up a giant chunk of time, and now I’m working on the second wave of products. It’s an exciting release. Not only am I proud of the game, but I can also tell you personally that the second adventure path for the edition is going to be a blast. I’ve run the game for hundreds of folks in the last six month, and they’re digging it, which I–and everyone who worked on the game–should be incredibly proud of.

But let’s get back to Delve. It’s been too long.

A long, low time ago, I started talking about builds in the game. That is, how the players create and advance characters. I presented the basics on how talents interact with character progression, allowing you to build the kind of characters you want for the game. I showed the various talent types: class, general, race, and free.

When you create a character, the first choices you make are selecting a race and a class. Each of these choices unlocks their own groups of talents. Class talents allow you to become better at your class in some way. When you take a level in a class, you gain a class talent. Every single time. At first level, you gain a couple of free and set class talents. These talents are the baseline for the class–the things that every character of this class possesses–, and they all also live in the list for general talents, where they serve as the requirement talents for multiclassing–you want to switch your class later in your adventuring career, you have to select those talents first.

What are general talents? They are the talents that any character can take, and they gain one every level. Crafting lives in these talents, other things that may help navigate the world or gain a sliver of abilities out of the ordinary or that should be to available to any character no matter their class. The basics of magic live in general talents, as well as abilities that could serve as your background or secondary skills.

The next group of talents is race talents. We’ve gone over some of this ground before, but I think a refresher is in order. I’ve talked about my general ideas on race and racial abilities earlier, but race talents, which you gain at 1st and 4th level (and presumably every three levels after that), increase your…well…race-yness; both in power and diversity. Some of my favorite of these talents involves what I like to call, destiny feats.

Now, that’s not an official term or an element in the game, it’s just how I imagine them.

For over 6 years, I’ve been picking on Delve. As soon I was ready to playtest in public, I knew I had to make some sample characters. The basics for creating a character in Delve is relatively simple, but the choices are robust. Having new players create a character every time I wanted to try out things in the game would just take too much time–especially at conventions, where I tend to run most of my tests. To that end, I created a group of iconic characters.

Iconic characters are not only fantastic for basic playtesting, but they can also do great work in illustrating what classes, races, and basic gameplay are all about. They can serve as anchor points for stories and illustrations, and they can even highlight the diversity of class and race builds. Right now, I have six iconics–two warriors, two priests, one rogue, and one wizard.

The first iconic I came up with was the rogue, a plucky young woman with a pet dog. But the next two were dwarven sisters–the Doomhammer sisters.

Most video games (and many RPG gamers) portray with Scottish accents, but I always imagine dwarves to be more Nordic–I’m a traditionalist at heart. The first of the Doomhammer sisters is a bearded (yeah, you read that right–bearded) badass named Brumtha. She wielded the Doomhammer, which is 3.5 parlance, is a returning magical warhammer (gained from the Heirloom general talent) with a burning desire to slay giants. What does that mean? Well in mechanical terms, it means she took the Novice Giant Slayer talent at 1st level.

Thinking about an aspiring giant slayer, I figured it was good to start off with some defensive training. Dwarves always seem to be going up against things that are bigger than them, so I reasoned those who wished to follow this destiny were trained in not being hit as often by the louts.

The next step in the chain of destiny talents not only grants more combat punch when fighting larger creatures and giants, but it also grants an aspect of renown, as tales of a giant slayer’s accomplishments take root and the dwarf exudes the power of her identity.

Noticed Giant Slayer

If we imagine that the progression reaches 7th level, we might find a talent that looks like this.

Legendary Giant Slayer

Brumtha’s sister, the priest Doma, took another path. The younger daughter of the family, she was born beardless, which is a sign of favor among dwarven gods. She became a lorekeeper– an essential caste among dwarven priests. She starts with the following race talent.

Novice Lorekeeper

While, as you may have guessed, there is a Noticed Lorekeeper talent, with some parallels to the Noticed Giant Slayer Talent. Doma chose not to take it at 4th level, though. As the younger dwarven sibling, she is expected to support the elder sister’s ambition, and Doma is a good sister and dwarf. Instead, at 4th level, she chooses the following talent.

Pillar of the Dwarves

At higher levels, she might take Noticed Lorekeeper (being careful not to upstage her sister) or find a dwarf talent that centered on the reserve, self-sacrificing nature that is one of the aspects among many within the dwarven racial feats.

Noticed Lorekeeper

Let’s say Doma wants to go a different route–maybe her sister dies facing off against a particularly powerful giant, and she must forge her own way into the world or she just gets sick of living in Brumtha’s shadow. There are ways in which she can take dwarf racial talents at levels other than 1st and 4th, and that is by way of free talents.

Free talents are precisely that–free. At 1st, 3rd, and 5th level (and every odd level after that), you gain a free talent. You can take a talent from any other category you have access to. So while Doma might take Pillar of the Dwarves at 4th as her racial talent, she can pick up Noticed Lorekeeper at 5th as her free talent choice. Assuming there isn’t a class or general talent she would rather have in that place.

More so than any other talent choice, your free talent choice allows you to really focus in on the choices that make your character stand out.

Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned we get into more of Delve’s structure and its future.

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Author: SRM

Stephen began working on RPGs in 2000, when he became the RPGA editorial assistant at Wizards of the Coast, working on both Polyhedron magazine and Living Greyhawk Journal. Over the years he's administered the Living Greyhawk campaign, aided in the development of the D&D 3.5 Edition rules, was a developer for D&D 4th Edition and Star Wars Saga Edition, taught numerous game design classes in the Seattle area, and contributed to the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide and Ultimate Magic as a freelance designer. He worked at Paizo for nearly nine years as a designer and then senior designer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He's also the guy who designs the Pathfinder Flip-Mats, Flip-Tiles, and Map Packs. His current credits include Southlands for Kobold Press, as well as Hell’s Vengeance: For Queen & Empire, Horror Adventures,  Villain Codex, and Ultimate Intrigue, Ultimate Wilderness, Pathfinder Playtest, and Pathfinder Second Edition all for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He was also on the initial design team for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game and wrote Dead Suns: The Thirteenth Gate adventure for that game. He served as the senior designer for the Pathfinder Playtest and the Pathfinder Second Edition Roleplaying Game. Currently, Stephen is a freelance game designer, content writer, and consultant working with various companies when he is not spending time with his family, wrangling kittens, and working on Delve. Delve is a culmination of Stephen's ideas about tabletop roleplaying games over the past 19 years. It's a new look at d20-resolution systems and traditional fantasy roleplaying game design and tropes through the lens of more modern modes of game design. And Stephen sincerely hopes you enjoy playing it because that's the point.

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