WHAT ARE Δ TEMPLATES?
- The name. All templates get a cool feature name, like "Blade-Monger" or "Smite the Unworthy." Δ templates are the same (though it helps to link the name of the Δ template to the specific action associated with it).
- The trigger. This is the necessary condition you have to fulfill in order to gain the associated benefits.
- The effects. These are the perks, benefits, abilities, bonuses, and other associated effects tied to the template as a whole.
Δ: enter into a formal, binding covenant with an extra-planar patron, such as a demon prince or lesser deity.
You can recognize other servants of your patron on sight as well as their sworn enemies. You gain 1 MD to channel your patron's energy.
WHY USE Δ TEMPLATES?
HOW DO I DESIGN Δ TEMPLATES?
- Single Achievement. This is the most standard, basic way of doing it: the player completes some specific objective ("slay a dragon" "win a game of chess against a wizard") and gains an according benefit. Those are very boring examples, but you get the idea.
- Big List of Stuff. This is the same thing, but instead of a single achievement, it's a laundry list of small goals ("kill 100 undead" "earn 10,000 gold" "survive three blizzards"). The advantage of these is that players can make slow progress on them over the course of a campaign, rather than being one-and-done. The downside is they take a lot of tracking.
- Odd Conditionals. More of a modifier than a pure trigger unto itself, but these are highly specific requirements attached to more mundane tasks ("kill 100 undead using a spoon" "win a game of chess against a wizard while blindfolded"). Fun and interesting, especially in a more sandbox campaign.
- Narrative Beats. If you're writing more structured, story-progression-oriented classes (like my Heresiarch or Rightful Heir), you can make triggers be narrative beats that fit the common story arcs of your class ("meet a master who will teach you fire magic" "get exiled from your homeland").
- Basic Power Features. These are, essentially, the same kinds of perks you'd see on any other class ("you now critically hit on a 19 or 20" "you can run along walls as if they were flat"). Those are both boring examples, but you know how to write these.
- Scaling Power Features. Also known as "Notches clones," since the Notches feature fighters get in the original Goblin Guts is the prime example of these. Basically, as you hit a list trigger, you get increasing benefits ("for every 10 undead slain, gain +1 save against necromancy spells" "for every blizzard survived, you can travel 1 hour further without exhaustion"). These have the advantage of being nifty substitutes for ordinary class benefits, but have the downside of needing to be easily-quantifiable.
- Boosting Current Features. If you have some regular feature you got from levelling up the normal way ("you have a 2-in-6 chance of turning invisible in darkness"), a Δ template can increase that ranking further ("after eating a giant demon bat, your chances of turning invisible increase by an additional 2-in-6"). Alternatively, it can modify an existing feature ("you can smell gold from up 100 ft. away") to something slightly different ("you can smell gold, silver, gemstones, and nervous merchants from up to 100 ft. away").
- Narrative Perks. Rather than attaching a specific mechanical benefit to hitting a trigger, it might just be something narrative-y and more situational/less crunchy ("you gain access to all Academy libraries" "trainee monks will begin to follow you as disciples"). These ones can be finicky, but can be a ton of fun.
- Consumable, Repeatable Benefits. A list that scales, but instead of scaling, you use up temporary perks ("get struck by lightning" to "gain 3 MD to use on your storm magic"). Basically a class resource that has narrative triggers. You can also do this where instead of gaining a repeating feature, it gains you another entry on a list (like my Sage's Wizardly Tricks, or Lexi's Thief Guild ability ranks).
- On/off Triggers. Basically, there's a trigger to gain a benefit ("marry into royalty" to "gain +2-in-6 chance of commanding lesser nobility"), and then an associated trigger to lose that benefit ("if you get divorced or your spouse has a public affair").
- Bad Effects. Instead of giving you benefits, the trigger gives you penalties ("pass out due to drunkenness" means "to not a take drink when offered, you must first pass a save vs. addiction"). Very fun if you're making a class that deals with dangerous forces (like, say, any magic-user). Anti-goals are less conducive to player progression and goal-setting, but do make for hella tense moments.
- Combining These. Take a trigger ("seal one of your eyes shut with goat's blood"), give it both good and bad benefits ("you can read demonic text and spot hidden demons, but witch-hunters can smell the foul magic on you and will hunt you"), and then have a way a player can get rid of it later ("bathe your eye in a mix of absinthe and maiden's tears").
- Gated Templates. In order to hit one trigger ("swear a Brass Oath" "slay an executor angel") you must first hit a different, previous trigger ("forge your own brass gauntlets" "slay a dozen praetor angels"). You can also gate the trigger behind other stuff, like level or wealth or whatever.
- Exclusive Triggers. In short, if you do one trigger, the other locks itself out ("sign a contract with a demon" OR "slay a demon who offers you a contract") to gain opposing benefits.
- Combining These. Multiple gated triggers that branch can be used to essentially allow a class to split into subclasses. A bucket of work, and some tables might hate it, but it can be a ton of fun if your players are into it.
- Campaign Templates. Rather than tie Δ templates to one specific class, make them just a big list of things that any character can do (here's a big list of those). Achievements with mechanical benefits, basically. You can also have them be party-wide triggers that are completed as a group (you can even make the reward for a party-wide trigger be that the whole party levels up, if you're feeling clever).
DID YOU COME UP WITH THESE?
- Keys from Lady Blackbird, by John Harper (which in turn come from Clinton R. Nixon's Shadow of Yesterday). These influence the on/off ideas and hitting them more than once.
- Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits from Burning Wheel by Luke Crane—more systematized and less case-by-case, but Crane's system is the granddaddy of "do what your character would to earn stuff."
- Pasts & Traumas from Zombie World, by Mark Diaz Truman and Brendan Conway. Like, almost beat-for-beat.
- Notches, from the Fighter from Goblin Guts, by Arnold K. I mentioned them earlier, but they're the basis for basically all the big-list-of-stuff-that-scales triggers.
- Basically any OSR system that doesn't follow quite the standard gold-or-monsters-for-XP. There's a bunch of these, so I won't list them all.