Cornerstone Talent: RSRD Dwarf

Now that I’ve described how to convert a race to a cornerstone, let’s actually try it.

Creating a Cornerstone Talent from the RSRD Dwarf

I’m going to work from the Revised System Reference Document, since this is likely to be readily available to most readers.  I think in practice I will actually work from the Dawnforge setting books, since they are much richer in the amount of information provided.

Step 1: Identify Traits Common to Creatures of that Kind

The Dwarf race lists the following traits.

  • +2 Constitution, -2 Charisma.
  • Medium: As Medium creatures, dwarves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Dwarf base land speed is 20 feet. However, dwarves can move at this speed even when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load (unlike other creatures, whose speed is reduced in such situations).
  • Darkvision: Dwarves can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and dwarves can function just fine with no light at all.
  • Stonecunning: This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.
  • Weapon Familiarity: Dwarves may treat dwarven waraxes and dwarven urgroshes as martial weapons, rather than exotic weapons.
  • Stability: A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).
  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison.
  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells and spell-like effects.
  • +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids.
  • +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against monsters of the giant type. Any time a creature loses its Dexterity bonus (if any) to Armor Class, such as when it’s caught flat-footed, it loses its dodge bonus, too.
  • +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to stone or metal items.
  • +2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal.
  • Automatic Languages: Common and Dwarven. Bonus Languages: Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Terran, and Undercommon.
  • Favored Class: Fighter. A multiclass dwarf’s fighter class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing

Lots of traits, but it might not be so hard to model.

Step 2: Make a Note of Hit Dice, Level Adjustment, and Challenge Rating

Dwarves have no racial hit dice (or ‘one that gets replaced by a class Hit Die’, whatever).  No Level Adjustment (for standard dwarves), Challenge Rating calculated entirely from class.  This is consistent with ‘core races’ and thus is likely appropriate as a Basic or Expert cornerstone, depending how things shake out.

Step 3: Make a Note of Ability Score Modifiers

Dwarves get +2 Constitution, -2 Charisma.

I don’t see dwarves as being particularly weak-willed or lacking sense of self.  Despite being described as gruff and surly (things not actually part of Charisma!) this modifier was probably there originally to ‘balance’ the good Constitution score (I won’t get into why ability score exchanges like this aren’t particularly balancing).  I might make note of it as a character trait common to dwarves, but I have read enough stories with ‘friendly dwarves’ that I am happy to ignore it.

The Constitution bonus, on the other hand, could still have effect.  I don’t have a Constitution ability score, of course, but a note that dwarves tend to take talents that make them thougher (such as Great Fortitude) might be sufficient, or there may be something else to indicate it.  Noted, moving on.

Step 4: Review the Traits for Existing Talents or New Talents, or to Remove

Dwarves have a lot of these:

  • Medium: As Medium creatures, dwarves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Medium is the baseline.  Ignore for now.

  • Dwarf base land speed is 20 feet. However, dwarves can move at this speed even when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load (unlike other creatures, whose speed is reduced in such situations).

The base speed being reduced might be included, but I am planning to revise that.  Dwarves are noted in fiction for their ability to travel as fast (or faster) than humans because of their ability to force march, but since I plan to simplify the rules for moving within combat this reduction in speed might not be relevant.  It is worth noting that dwarves do not suffer encumbrance or armor penalties to speed.

  • Darkvision: Dwarves can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and dwarves can function just fine with no light at all.

Darkvision is handed out very often.  Minor ability, might be  basic talent in its own right for people who can’t get it otherwise, but worth keeping.

  • Stonecunning: This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.

This might be a trained ability, but could arguably be a purely racial thing.  Potential talent, maybe not.

  • Weapon Familiarity: Dwarves may treat dwarven waraxes and dwarven urgroshes as martial weapons, rather than exotic weapons.

‘Weapon Familiarity’ is not used in Echelon.  If anything, dwarves are simply likely to be trained in a combat style using these weapons.  Removed.

  • Stability: A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).

Could be a matter of training, could come in part from their physiology (why don’t more creatures have it, then?).  A minor ability in any case, probably not worth a talent.

  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison.

Great Fortitude.  Gone.

  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells and spell-like effects.

Spell Resistance (bonus to saves and Armor Class against spells).  Gone.

  • +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids.
  • +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against monsters of the giant type. Any time a creature loses its Dexterity bonus (if any) to Armor Class, such as when it’s caught flat-footed, it loses its dodge bonus, too.

Call it part of the Dwarven Giant-Killing combat style.  Removed.

  • +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to stone or metal items.
  • +2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal.

I was tempted to reject these out of hand, but they could be reasonably attached to Stonecunning.  I think whatever I do with that, these will become part of it.

  • Automatic Languages: Common and Dwarven. Bonus Languages: Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Terran, and Undercommon.
  • Favored Class: Fighter. A multiclass dwarf’s fighter class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing

Speaking dwarven is a tiny ability, the bonus languages are meaningless in Echelon (no rules-based reason to pick one over another, these are little more than suggestions).  Favored classes are even more meaningless.

The dwarf race in the RSRD gets lots of little abilities that here might be better done as talents anyway.  Rearranging gives

Already Talents, or could be

  • Darkvision: Dwarves can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and dwarves can function just fine with no light at all. [Darkvision, but probably often granted via race]
  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison. [Great Fortitude]
  • +2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells and spell-like effects. [Spell Resistance]
  • Stability: A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).
  • Stonecunning: This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.  This might include, if I’m willing to have racial bonuses
    • +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to stone or metal items.
    • +2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal.
  • Favored Enemy
    • +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids.
    • +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against monsters of the giant type. Any time a creature loses its Dexterity bonus (if any) to Armor Class, such as when it’s caught flat-footed, it loses its dodge bonus, too.

Gone or meaningless

  • +2 Constitution, -2 Charisma.
  • Medium: As Medium creatures, dwarves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Automatic Languages: Common and Dwarven. Bonus Languages: Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Terran, and Undercommon.
  • Favored Class: Fighter. A multiclass dwarf’s fighter class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing
  • Weapon Familiarity: Dwarves may treat dwarven waraxes and dwarven urgroshes as martial weapons, rather than exotic weapons.

Remaining

  • Dwarf base land speed is 20 feet. However, dwarves can move at this speed even when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load (unlike other creatures, whose speed is reduced in such situations).

What to do?

Step 5: Build the Cornerstone

Let’s pick and choose a bit, then rub a little until it fits.

  • Dwarf base land speed is 20 feet. However, dwarves can move at this speed even when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load (unlike other creatures, whose speed is reduced in such situations).

Seems like it might be in, there’s no other way to do it.  Given the changes I am likely making to ranges and whatnot, though, I won’t be keeping close track of movement, and dwarves are noted for their ability to cover long distances when they need to.  You could call that forced marches with a Constitution bonus (or racial bonus to Fortitude saves against force march damage) or just give them the same movement rate as humans and call it a day.  I’m not sure what I’ll be doing about encumbrance, so let’s change this to “does not suffer encumbrance penalties”.

  • Darkvision: Dwarves can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and dwarves can function just fine with no light at all.

This will likely get handed out a lot.  I might keep it as a Basic talent for those poor folks who don’t get it automatically but develop it later in life, but even then it’s likely to come through other means such as the Shadowdancer capstone.

  • Stability: A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).

Seems like a physically dwarfy thing to do, and it might be learned as part of something else.

I have come to the conclusion that not each and every thing needs to be a talent, a single talent can incorporate a number of what might otherwise be separate abilities.

  • Stonecunning: This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.  This might include, if I’m willing to have racial bonuses
    • +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to stone or metal items.
    • +2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal.

Let’s throw this in anyway.  It’s a stereotypically ‘Dwarf’ thing and isn’t particularly unbalancing.  I’m not sure about the bonuses to Appraise and Craft checks, but I imagine elves will end up with ‘Woodwise’ or something similar.

This gives us…

Dwarf Cornerstone Talent

Expert Dwarf

  • Darkvision: Dwarves can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and dwarves can function just fine with no light at all.
  • Untiring: does not suffer encumbrance penalties.
  • Stability: A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).
  • Stonecunning: This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.  This might include, if I’m willing to have racial bonuses
    • +2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to stone or metal items.
    • +2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal.

Does this seem like a little too much?  Darkvision should be almost free, if you consider how often it’s handed out.  Untiring could be pretty nice, it really encourages the use of heavy armor and weapons (which is entirely fine by me, but could mean that anyone who wants to tank will want to be a dwarf).  Stability is nice to have but not critical, Stonecunning can be quite useful in limited circumstances and I’m willing to consider it an innate racial ability.

It occurs to me that “Untiring” could be changed to “not subject to the fatigued condition” and would still suit.

If anything, it might be worth finding a negative of some sort to add, so this isn’t a no-brainer.  It doesn’t have to be huge, but cornerstones are a very good place to put such things.

The other abilities (racial save bonuses, favored enemy) can be picked up through other learned talents.

If I want to reduce it somewhat, simply removing Untiring might do it.  Darkvision, Stability, and Stonecunning are all notably dwarven abilities (though darkvision isn’t uniquely dwarven), Untiring could be part of ‘growing up’ as a dwarf.

Closing Comments

You may have noticed I moved things around a couple times in the course of designing the cornerstone.  Some abilities I thought might have become talents didn’t (Stonecunning, Stability) in order to flesh out the race a bit.  The dwarven movement reduction is gone and in fact replaced with something better — no encumbrance penalties.  The race is much simplified, with most of the cultural baggage being common talent selection rather than included in the race itself.

Cornerstones may have requirements.  If I wanted, I could insist that all dwarves have Spell Resistance or Great Fortitude or the Giant-Slayer combat style (/favored enemy), but I don’t know that I want these to always be present in all dwarves.  I am satisfied with them just being common among dwarves.

All in all, the process takes about 10-15 minutes… writing this up and trying to capture all the steps, somewhat over an hour….

2 Comments to "Cornerstone Talent: RSRD Dwarf"

  1. David Lamb's Gravatar David Lamb
    December 4, 2012 - 8:54 pm | Permalink

    It bothers me a little that Basic Dwarves don’t exist. It’s irrelevant to adventurers, of course, since they start at Expert anyway, but I wonder about NPC dwarves. All dwarves you meet are tougher than many/most humans?

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