Welcome to the twelfth installment of Bullet Points. I'm Charles Ryan, one of the designers of the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game. I'm here to answer your questions about the game, offer advice on tricky issues, and give you a little peek into the minds of the designers. You'll be hearing from me every couple of weeks.
If you've checked out the earlier installments of Bullet Points, you know the format. Every two weeks I pick an issue that's provoked a lot of questions or comments, begin with a general discussion of the topic, and then answer specific questions related to it. If there are any unrelated but pressing questions in my mailbox, I might tackle them at the end of the column, but only if there's room and they can't wait for an appropriately themed column.
In this installment, we revisit character classes and talents. For a little insight into the design philosophy behind the character classes, check out Bullet Points #7. There isn't much new in the way of general information on this subject, so I'll just tackle a few of the questions you've sent me over the past couple of months, and those that I've received from other sources (such as our message boards).
Questions and Answers
Without further ado, on to the questions!
I want my 1st-level Charismatic hero to multiclass into Smart hero as soon as he gains his next level. When he does, I want him to take the linguist talent, but he doesn't currently meet the prerequisites. (Specifically, he doesn't have 3 ranks of Speak Language or Read/Write Language.) The Character Creation Summary (page 12) and the Level Advancement section (page 39) both say that a character has to pick a talent before spending skill points. Can't I buy the skills upon adding the Smart hero level so that I can qualify for the talent? If not, how could a 1st-level Smart hero ever take the linguist talent, as it says he can under Talents on page 26?
First I'll answer the question relating to your specific situation, and then I'll address the broader topic.
When you add a new level, you must follow the steps under Level Advancement (page 39) in order. Picking class features (like talents) is Step 4. Spending skill points is Step 9. Because you must pick class features before spending skill points, the skill points you spend can't contribute to the prerequisites for a talent. In other words, you can't buy ranks in three languages to qualify for the linguist talent with the same level increase. And that makes sense -- it would be pretty weird for your character to go from speaking no extra languages to being an expert linguist all at once.
But 1st-level characters work somewhat differently. A 1st-level character does not have to acquire skills, class abilities, and other features in any particular order. You can spend skill points first or last -- it doesn't matter. So a character can take the linguist talent at 1st level if he has already spent the skill points to meet the prerequisite. The Character Creation Summary gives the steps in a convenient order, but unlike the Level Advancement section, that order isn't set in stone.
The Dedicated hero's empathy talent activates only after she has observed the target for 1 minute. Does this observation have to occur immediately prior to skill use, or can you observe someone and then have empathy with that person forever?
The observation must take place immediately before the use of the skill, and the bonus applies only to use of the skill in that encounter. In other words, you can't observe someone at one point, then use the bonus some time later.
Must the observation required for the Dedicated hero's empathy talent be visual, or can she "observe" merely by listening? For example, could she listen to someone through a closed door or over the radio and still use the talent?
In terms of this talent, "observation" usually means being able to see and hear the target, but your GM can bend the rules for this requirement if the situation warrants. For example, he might allow the hero to get away with just hearing a target that is involved in a lot of intense or heated conversation. Or he might let her get the bonus if she listens for 5 minutes instead of visually observing for just 1 minute. Such decisions are entirely up to your GM.
The Charismatic hero's charm talent works only on targets of the chosen gender. What about targets without gender, such as constructs, elementals, plants, or oozes?
The charm talent cannot be used to influence genderless creatures. Charm plays upon gender relations, so if the target creature cannot be appealed to in those terms, the ability is useless.
Can my Charismatic hero take the charm talent twice, so that he can charm either male or female GM characters?
Sure. Normally, a hero can't take a talent more than once unless its description specifically allows it. In this case, however, the description should include a line saying that you can take the charm talent twice, once for each gender.
A Charismatic hero wants to use his talents against a member of the opposite sex. Does the bonus from the charm talent stack with the bonus from the fast talk talent?
No. Both are competence bonuses, so they don't stack. That point should have been made clearer in the text.
Does the bonus from the Personality's unlimited access ability stack with the one from the Dedicated hero's empathy ability?
Yes it does, but only in situations when the unlimited access ability applies.
A Personality in my campaign wants to use her unlimited access ability to get into a top-secret military base. It doesn't make sense to me that she could -- she doesn't have any ID or pass. Can the unlimited access ability be used in that way?
In a word, no. Unlimited access can be used only to gain entrance to semi-public events -- parties, tours, the private room at the back of the restaurant, and the like. In other words, heroes can use it to get into places that normally grant admission to members of the public -- even if it's just to a select few. They can't use it to get into places where no member of the public is ever admitted, such as a secret military installation.
Does the bonus from the Field Medic's medical specialist ability stack with the one from the Dedicated hero's healing knack ability?
My tough hero was hit by a stun gun. Thanks to the electricity resistance talent, he didn't take any damage because the damage roll result was lower than his electricity resistance. Does he still have to save against the paralysis?
If the character takes no damage at all, he does not have to make the save because he is unaffected by the attack. If he takes any damage at all (even a single point), he must make the save. His electricity resistance does not otherwise affect the saving throw.
The Dodge feat isn't on the list of Fast hero bonus feats. Was it left out deliberately, or was it an oversight?
It was left out deliberately. The Fast hero already has enough very attractive features, so giving it the longest list of bonus feats (which would be the case if Dodge were added) would have been just a bit too much. We could have added Dodge and removed something else, but given that many Fast hero players would pick Dodge as one of their starting feats anyway, that solution seemed to do the class a disservice. So even though your Fast hero does have to use a regular feat slot for Dodge, it's a small tradeoff for an otherwise excellent class choice.
How do the Daredevil's action boost and adrenaline rush abilities interact?
The action boost ability allows the Daredevil to spend up to 2 action points in a round on the same action. (The text isn't very clear on that.) Therefore, she can spend 2 action points to boost a single ability score with the adrenaline rush ability. When she reaches 8th level, the action points she spends affect two ability scores.
For example, suppose a 5th-level Daredevil spends an action point to boost her Dexterity. She rolls 1d4+1 to see how much it increases. After seeing the result, she can elect to spend a second point to boost that same score by another 1d4+1. She cannot, however, spend the second point to boost a different ability score.
An 8th-level Daredevil who spends an action point could boost both Dexterity and Strength by 1d4+1, then spend a second point to add another 1d4+1 to each. She could not, however, spend the second point to boost, say, Dexterity and Constitution.
What class abilities count as mind-affecting? I'm thinking of the Charismatic talents captivate, dazzle, and taunt, the Smart trick talent, the Personality ability winning smile, and the Negotiator's talk down chain.
All of the above class abilities, plus the Negotiator's sow distrust ability, are mind-affecting.
The Soldier's tactical aid ability is really powerful. Also, it's strictly better than the Bodyguard's blanket protection ability, despite the fact that the Soldier's ability is gained at 4th level and the Bodyguard's is gained at 10th. Are they correct?
No, they aren't. Here's how both abilities should read.
As a Soldier becomes more skilled, his leadership abilities increase. Starting at 4th level, he can use his knowledge of tactics to direct his allies in combat.
As an attack action, the Soldier provides tactical aid to any single ally (but not himself) within sight and voice range of his position. As a full-round action, he provides tactical aid to all of his allies (including himself) within sight and voice range of his position. This use of tactical aid requires an action point.
This aid provides each recipient with a +1 competence bonus on attack rolls. The bonus lasts for a number of rounds equal to one-half of the Soldier's level in the advanced class, rounded down.
At 10th level, a Bodyguard can use his expertise to provide protection for up to six allies (not including himself) within sight and voice range of his position.
[The rest of the description is unchanged.]
Does the Charismatic hero's captivate talent make the target flat-footed? Does it keep him flat-footed if he is already? Does it stop him from attacking the Charismatic hero? Similarly, the Negotiator's talk down ability makes the target stop fighting. Is he now flat-footed, and does he remain so until attacked?
The Charismatic hero's captivate talent can be used only on flat-footed opponents. That is, it can be used either out of combat or in combat, but only on NPCs who haven't acted yet. A captivated opponent remains flat-footed.
The Negotiator's talk-down ability has no effect on the target's initiative status. The target stops fighting, but he doesn't stop defending himself and doesn't become flat-footed.
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About the Author
Charles Ryan has been designing and editing games for more than twelve years. His credits include such diverse titles as the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game,The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game, Deadlands, Millennium's End, The Last Crusade, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium, and Star Trek: Red Alert!, to name just a few. Charles served as Chairman of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, the professional organization of the games industry, from 1996 through 2001. He lives in Kent, Washington with his lovely wife Tammie, three cats, and a dog. He works for Wizards of the Coast, Inc.