I found the question especially insightful, because it highlights something that has niggled at me off and on for a while now. If a cornerstone talent is “what you are”, how can that really change much?
I think there’s a better way to handle that than I was originally planning, so I want to explore the idea a little.
Okay, this clarifies a few things about cornerstones/capstones, although there are still a few points I haven’t figured out the meaning of. I’m going to do an example to see if I’m following things correctly.
Xarden is an XL1 human commoner, who is a bit of a brawler. I therefore give him Warrior as his Basic cornerstone: this cornerstone doesn’t represent combat training but rather a natural inherent tendency. Xarden is swept up in an adventure with a pair of elves who came through town: a ranger (cornerstone Elf) and a sorceress (cornerstone Arcanist). Over the course of their journey Xarden trains to become a more skilled fighter, adding Martial Training, Weapon Focus (long blades), Shield Proficiency, and a few others. These normal talents represent actual learning/training which adds to his natural tendencies. The ranger picks up Stealth, Nature Affinity, and so forth, while the sorceress concentrates on Arcane Lore, forges herself a Familiar, and learns the thread of Air.
This sounds pretty fun so far, and legitimate.
As they attain XL4, Xarden decides to learn the art of Chivalry, thus entitling him to also take up the Knight capstone. This talent is neither a natural ability nor a specific piece of training: rather, it is a sort of acknowledgement of what he has made of himself with his training. The ranger opts for the Forest Warden capstone, while the sorceress takes the obvious capstone of Wind Mage. (it occurs to me that many capstones can be represented as titles: is this a good way to think about it?)
I hadn’t thought to phrase it that way, but certainly. This strikes me as a good way of thinking about it.
Later, it’s XL5 and everybody has reached Expert tier, which means it’s time for another cornerstone. This is where things are a bit hazy for me. As cornerstones represent something the character inherently is, doesn’t adding a new cornerstone in some way alter the character’s nature? It seems pretty evident that (barring unfortunate transmutation accidents) Xarden can’t add the Dwarf cornerstone since it’s been established that he’s a human. Can he add Auspicious Birth-Star, (assuming such a thing is an appropriate cornerstone subject)? I can see an argument for adding Arcanist: perhaps his magical talents have lain dormant and are only coming to the surface now. Of course, the most likely thing for him to do is to advance Warrior to Expert; but that still means he needs to pick a new Basic cornerstone, right? You might even want to mandate that new cornerstones normally have to start at Basic (shunting everything else upwards), unless there’s a really good reason why the character’s “inherent nature” has suddenly made a radical change.
If all the above makes sense then I think I understand the place of cornerstones/capstones, and how they differ from each other. Now my only remaining confusion is what it means to acquire new cornerstones in the middle of one’s existence.
To be honest, this is something that has been itching at me for a while. Multiple capstones, no problem. You’re a knight, you are an initiate of the seven-fold path, you’re cross-trained and are both (at different tiers). Dead easy.
Cornerstones… not so much. I have toyed with having only one cornerstone that scales with tier. If you are a demon you are always a demon, it’s a central element of your character. If you are a warrior you are always a warrior. This falls down, though, if you wanted to have a ‘demon warrior’… though it might help address another question I had regarding multiclassing considerations.
If you have Master Warrior and Heroic Arcanist you’ve got a fair bit of mojo available. You might be fairly close (but not quite balanced) in ability between the two. If you can only have one, but that one provides half your primary mojo in a particular area — I considered having Martial Training give +1/tier to BAB, the other half comes from Warrior, and there is no Improved Martial Training — then anyone who doesn’t have the cornerstone simply cannot become as good at it… but perhaps that is a good thing.
Perhaps a cornerstone is just an efficient way of gaining the abilities. Warrior gives you several talents’ worth of combat mojo but someone else might be able to keep up by spending most of their talents on it. If you have Warrior you might get: Martial Training + Improved Martial Training (when eligible) + Toughness + ‘Warrior-only’ talents. Someone who does not take Warrior (the wizard who wants to crosstrain) has to take the separate talents individually (burning three of his slots) and is not eligible for the Warrior-only stuff. Contrariwise, if you are an Arcanist you get the caster training stuff and have more room for magic-related talents, but someone else could go the expensive route and learn magic as powerful… but not as much of it.
This has potential that I kind of like the look of, and multiple cornerstones have always bugged me. I liked the idea of allowing for some of the cornerstones to ‘fade in importance’ (yeah, you’re a dwarf, but that is so little a part of what you are now — or a better example, a demon that works to exceed its nature), but I’m now leaning toward what you are becoming bigger. If you’re a Champion dwarf, you are really dwarfy. You can’t be a Master-tier creature that is ‘just a little bit demon’, you have evil coursing through your veins. That sort of thing.
I need to think on this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I may have been too caught up in the symmetry of the construction, when it isn’t necessarily a good approach.