Aptitude is how an entity is keyed to perceive and experience the weaves of The Pattern. They grant specific abilities that provide a natural tendency of perspective and direction for character development. There are 4 pillar aptitudes of The Pattern, measured from a level of 0 to 4: Divine, Kinetic, Occult, and Psychic. Each represents an affinity for powers and knowledge of a specific type and rely on Essence.
D20 Aptitude Mechanics
Aptitude is an advanced concept, not part of the D20 Essentials for Incarna. It empowers character significantly and upgrades their challenge rating early in their character development. It offsets some of the changes to the time scales of short and long rests by adding capability and survivability while maintaining the Gritty Realism. Aptitude also enables other aspects of character development – it is the gateway to traits and aspects outside the core D20 experience and acquiring powers across classes without sacrificing levels. Each Ability has one of the pillars of The Pattern associated with it. Divine (Wisdom); Kinetic (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution); Occult (Intelligence), and Psychic (Charisma). Sanity does not have a specific pillar and is generally not something that characters have affinity with.
- Aptitude must be chosen to be used when the character is initially created.
- Primary Class: This is their first character class and it must always be a level higher than any other class (or the aptitude is considered half for determining what powers are gained).
- The cost is 5 essence for the 1st measure; 4 for the 2nd, 3 for the 3rd, and 2 for the 4th. Add 1 Essence to the cost at each measure if Aptitude is taken after character creation.
- Level Trace: Unless noted, the benefits of aptitude do not kick in until the character level is equal to the aptitude. Natural Talents (those who begin play with the maximum of 4 rating in an aptitude) offsets this.
- Reality Pillar: Aptitudes provide a deep anchor point in The Pattern.
- Characters start with the maximum HP by Hit Dice at first level.
- A character with aptitude and 2 or less Proficiency Bonus may exchange 1 Essence per Long Rest to have a killing blow or effect drop them to 0 HP instead.
- Each additional class after the primary takes 1 Essence, and the multiclassing requirements go up by 1. All other multiclassing mechanics stay the same.
A Closer Look: Aptitudes allow characters to sacrifice versatility (multiclassing requirements become more difficult) for flavor (increasing the uniqueness of each) and early survivability (individualized powers and traits requiring aptitude). It requires a great deal of attention to ensure the player knows all the powers available to them. Aptitude adds a lot of minute dimensions and adjustments that can be hard to track. The experience of using aptitudes may have some impact on the perception of advancement. Overall, it will emphasize story and flavor over strict level based challenge ratings. Characters will begin more powerful and the arc of advancement is shallower as foes and challenges stay within a more narrow band until much higher levels. Chasing Aptitude power focuses a character on themselves. It leaves significantly less Essence for bonds with groups, entities (ex: deity or Patron), and items. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the player to monitor and maintain these various complex aspects.
- NPC’s and Aptitude: If the players use aptitude, then the GM should be allowed to as well. NPC’s do not have the same level of character depth. It is not necessary for GM’s to add this character attribute to NPC’s to make or persist a challenge rating with PC’s using it. GM’s may make inferences about natural talents and general powers for NPC’s with significant roles in an adventure but revisiting them all prior to using in an encounter is not necessary.
- Altering Encounter Challenges: Give NPCs some canned builds for aptitude powers and keep it in quick reference format.
Incarna Core Aptitude Mechanics