In standard d20 games, money equals power.
While that’s always been true, in the real world money has meant the ability to buy political access and influence, to offer bribes, to pay thugs, researchers, and lawyers, and to manipulate events in a hundred other ways.
In d20, it means the ability to purchase piles of magic items. The fantasy equivalent of a trip to the mall to purchase a bunch of gadgets at wherever-it-is that all those super-spies shop.
Honestly, as far as most classical fantasy goes, that’s a bit jarring.
The Talent Rules in The Practical Enchanter (available in Print Here, in PDF Here, or in a Shareware PDF version here) were designed to break the link between money and personal power – so that characters could be rich or poor, make money in other ways than adventuring, and find and lose fortunes, while still allowing game masters to use standard adventures and challenges.
Per a request, here’s how to extend the Talent rules to epic level characters:
First off, since epic levels extend indefinitely, but charts cannot, here are some formulas:
Major Characters – such as kings and important nobles, great villains, high officials, player-characters, and other legendary figures – continue to gain talents beyond level twenty. The total value of those talents at any given level may be up to (Level) x (Level -1) x 1750 GP.
Minor Characters may have up to (Level) x (Level -1) x 475 GP worth of talents. This may be appropriate for followers and cohorts and such – but personally I’m inclined to wonder if there really is such a thing as a “minor” epic level character in most settings.
It is important to note that this presumes that talents will be built according to the rules in The Practical Enchanter:
Item slots are not relevant and there is no x10 epic cost modifier; you simply use higher level unlimited-use use-activated spells to produce higher level effects. If you simply use epic-level magic item costs for epic talents, talent-users will soon fall drastically behind.
Epic level characters would be well advised to consider doubling the cost of basic enhancements – such as attribute boosts – to convert them to extraordinary powers. This will simplify life a great deal when things like “dispelling” and “antimagic” come up. It also works well for portraying characters in less-magical settings.
Talent-users will generally have built up their talents through their lower levels. While talents can be upgraded – perhaps increasing that skill bonus, or generalizing it to a group of skills, or both – they cannot simply be discarded or replaced. Ergo, the “25% – 10% – 10%” rule still applies when you’re creating a character beyond first level – characters should not normally be allowed to take a Talent with a total cost of more than 25% of their allotment and may not have more than three with costs of more than 10% of their allotment. Characters built up over time will, of course, have whatever talents they’ve purchased and expanded upon along the way.
Finally, of course, this lets us calculate what level a character needs to be to get – say – unlimited use of Wish as a Talent. That has a base cost of [(Level Nine Spell) x (Level Seventeen Casting) x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Activated)] + [5000 XP x 100 (multiplier for unlimited-use) x 5 CP] = 2,806,000 GP.
Ergo, according to that 25% maximum rule, we’d need a total Talent allotment of 11,224,000 GP to buy that. Plugging in the numbers tells us that our fullblown Talent-based Wishmaster would need to be level 81 if designed from scratch and level 41 if he or she had been building up that talent from his or her early levels.
That level could be reduced a bit by restricting the Wishes to particular purposes, putting in some sort of easy way to negate their power, or in any of the usual ways enchantments can be limited – but even if the game master doesn’t veto the idea, it’s still going to call for a very high level character. It’s probably just as well.