24 February 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 13 - Beastmaster

This is the thirteenth 4E Companion Discipline Preview, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.


Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

This week brings a preview of the Beastmaster Discipline from the forthcoming Earthdawn Companion for 4E. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

The primary theme for Beastmasters as they reach these lofty heights of power is they are dangerous. They are apex predators and increasingly take on characteristics of beasts within their domain. While each Beastmaster takes a different approach, they are tough and tenacious as few others, while maintaining brutal offensive prowess.

Tough Hide is still their Warden Discipline ability, but instead of providing a bonus to Physical Armor, it gives them a bonus to Toughness. This change was primarly made to allow a broader bestial nature and connection, rather than just to creatures with a tough hide.

The previous Master Discipline ability, Wild Sense, has been replaced by Bestial War Form. Wild Sense is certainly an interesting ability and appropriate for the Discipline, but falls short of the mark when it comes to the impact of a Master tier ability, particularly with the adjustment in emphasis of the Discipline. Bestial War Form is their apotheosis, blending flexibility with power, allowing them to adapt their form to the situation. For example, taking on traits from a cheetah to give chase, and once their quarry has been cornered, shifting to a brithan's hide and claws.

Their Discipline talents saw some movement as well, reflecting changes in the talent line-up and their thematic adjustment. Animal Leadership and Chameleon were moved to talent option, Bestial Resilience is now Relentless Recovery (while the former was an excellent name, it didn't quite describe what the talent did), and Astral Web, Develop Animal Sense, and Scent Identifier are no longer talents. Animal Leadership and Chameleon were moved for the same reason: they aren't appropriate to all Beastmasters. The former includes animals in a way that may not be appropriate to every character or every game, while the latter requires the adept to possess Stealthy Stride.

Critical Hit, Howl, Momentum Attack, Unflinching Fortitude, and Vicious Wound replace these Discipline talents. These talents are more generically useful, but show a certain brutality to the Discipline. Vicious Wound is debilitating, particularly when combined with Claw Frenzy. The volume of attacks then can generate (and possible bonuses from Cobra Strike) increase the likelihood of a Critical Hit and Momentum Attack. While Unflinching Fortitude means they're unlikely to be bothered by any but the worst attacks. Finally, Howl allows them to express their dominance over the battlefield, causing a broad penalty to their opponents.

Their talent options show some significant changes. Bestial Toughness (effectively) and Howl were both moved to Discipline talents, while Cobra Strike is a Journeyman talent option. Enduring Art, Incite Stampede, Plant Shelter, and Tame Mount are no longer talents. While First Ring of Perfection, Safe Path, and Spirit Strike weren't good fits for the Discipline. The Discipline simply doesn't have the Sustained actions to utilize First Ring of Perfection - and it's also a strange talent for the Discipline in general - Safe Path is about avoiding danger, whereas the Beastmaster is a predator, and Spirit Strike reflects a spirituality or connection to astral space they simply don't have. Theirs is a world of flesh and blood.

New talent options include: Alley Cat Approach, Armor Mount, Aura Armor, Bloodhound Form, Burning Vigor, Eagle Eye, Life Check, Resist Pain, Second Chance, Steely Stare, Vital Strike, and Vital Ward. These reinforce existing themes, or build on new/secondary themes. For combat, most of their talent options are defensive in nature (Aura Armor, Defensive Posture, Life Check, Resist Pain, and Vital Ward), but their ability to inflict a frightening number of attacks can do frightening things with Burning Vigor and Vital Strike, not to mention the general increase in physicality Burning Vigor brings with it.

Alley Cat Approach, Bloodhound Form, Chameleon, Eagle Eye, and Echolocation all provide more subtle approaches for these adepts, particularly in the role of a scout and gathering intelligence in general.

Lion Spirit and Steely Stare both play with their concept of dominance, particularly the latter which extends it from just animals to Namegivers as well. Speaking of animals, Armor Mount, Goring Attack, and Animal Leadership all further that connection, with the first two directly improving animal companions' capabilities in combat (defensive and offensive respectively).

The end result is a versatile and dangerous combatant, who also can follow varied directions to best suit their concept and group.

17 February 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 12 - Thief

This is the twelfth 4E Companion Discipline Preview, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.


Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

The last Discipline in this triad is the Thief. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

Thieves have a few different themes they explore in their higher Circles. One, seen through their Discipline abilities, ever increasing embrace of darkness and shadows. Another is taking their thieving abilities to another level, metaphorically, or even another plane, quite literally. There are also their deceptive and opportunistic streaks.

Both Warden and Master Discipline abilities are new, replacing the previous entries for different reasons. Shadowcloak is so appropriate for the Discipline, it is the Journeyman Discipline ability. Shadow Heal, on the other hand, isn't a bad ability, it's just a strange one. It fits with the idea Thieves are loners and don't need anyone else, but doesn't particularly reinforce anything else they have going on. Which is to say it may be seen again in some form at a later date.

As mentioned above, the new abilities both build on how Thieves aren't just as competent in darkness as they are in light, but it's starting to feel like home. It's a part of them. This begins with their Warden ability, Shadow Sight. As long as they can see, even magical darkness doesn't bother them anymore. If they're using Shadowcloak, they can see even better. At Master they can become one with their Shadowcloak, bringing a new dimension to their intrusion game.

Like so many other Disciplines before them, Thieves' Discipline talents got a makeover. Aura Armor, Gain Surprise, Gold Sense, and Lip Reading are all gone. Of those, Aura Armor is still a talent, but it wasn't a good fit for Thief. That feeling of fortitude, stability, etc., it just isn't their style. Gain Surprise is somewhat gone. We'll get back there in a moment.

Naturally, this means there are some new Discipline talents to fill the gaps that were created. Enter Beguiling Blade, Dream Thief, Power Mask, and Snatch Talent. Of those, Power Mask isn't new and is also a natural fit for a Discipline naturally involved in deception. Also, something about Thieves not always being popular *cough* Travar *cough*.

Building on the theme of deception is Beguiling Blade. This can be seen as the replacement for Gain Surprise, but it does a few different things that make it a more interesting option. It builds on an existing talent, Conceal Object, rather than effectively replacing it - an area explored in a number of high Circle talents. It does two things: improves the Conceal Object test and turns it into a Simple action. This effectively accomplishes the purpose of Gain Surprise, but has non-combat applications as well and Conceal Object just got better. The name strongly implies it is a combat-only talent, but to be perfectly honest, it's a really good name.

The next two new talents, Dream Thief and Snatch Talent, both move Thieves from stealing literal objects into the realm of stealing things more... ephemeral. Also, both interact with Pick Pockets. Snatch Talent does pretty much what it says on the tin, while Dream Thief is a bit weirder. It allows the adept to steal memories. The stolen talents and memories, once stolen, have a substance to them that can be stored in an Astral Pocket and transferred to others with the appropriate talent. Each has a duration and prohibition against using the stolen bits. But Thieves have a certain knack for breaking the rules.

Moving to their talent options, let's take stock of what has been lost: Bank Shot, Detect Falsehood, Mind Wave, Poison Resistance, Quick Shot, Safe Thought, Sense Magic Item, and Shackle Shrug. As usual, some of these aren't talents anymore or maybe weren't a good fit. With that, let's see the new entries: Acrobatic Defense, Alley Cat Approach, Anticipate Blow, Astral Sight, Defensive Posture, Disarming Smile, Echolocation, Fluid Movement, Netherwalk, Orbiting Spy, Perfect Focus, Resist Taunt, Spirit Strike, and Wind Catcher. It's worth noting Escape Divination is now Escape Plan, while Second Weapon and Sense Danger are both in earlier tiers.

There's a lot of new things here to support a variety of different Thief characters and their particular direction. The one thing that didn't get a lot of support is the more social Thief character, receiving only Disarming Smile and Resist Taunt. Many of the advanced social talents weren't a great fit and they already have access to solid set of abilities to support any grifting. These two build on that, without moving them into the realm of a truly social character. Instead reinforcing the idea social abilities are a means to an end for this Discipline.

One they do see more options include improving their ability to gain access and get out of trouble, with talents such as Alley Cat Approach, Escape Plan, Netherwalk, and Wind Catcher. Along with this comes new ways to gather information, useful for casing a target, scouting, or spying: Astral Sight, Echolocation, and Orbiting Spy. For those more interested in the role of opportunistic killer, they have some new defensive options, Acrobatic Defense, Anticipate Blow, and Defensive Posture, along with offensive options in Critical Hit and Spirit Strike.

All together, Thieves are embracing the concepts of taking and shadows. The ephemeral is now something they can grasp. That maybe all these rules are for other people, not them. And they would give it all up for just a little bit more.

10 February 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 11 - Elementalist

This is the eleventh 4E Companion Discipline Preview, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.


Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

Continuing with the established trend brings the final spellcaster: Elementalist. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

While their mastery of elemental magic has always been their thing. As they enter higher Circles, Elementalists focus even more on their connection to the elements. Whether Discipline abilities or talents.

Earth and Wind, their Warden tier ability, remains mostly the same. The circle of earth has been clarified, noting the adept doesn't need to be inside the circle, the radius is based on successes, and now only affects allies. Which should make it more useful in general and inline with other Warden abilities. The circle of air also has the same clarification and successes effect, but now acts as Dispelling effect for some specific effects. It's not going to come up as much as the former ability, but is effectively a fun bonus ability that can be incredibly valuable in certain circumstances.

Their Master tier ability, Elemental Form, emphasizes their elemental connection and also serves to highlight some of the fundamental interactions of those elements. It doesn't have quite the raw power of Nethermancer's Astral Face, but offers more versatility through bonuses to Thread Weaving as well and a free extra thread. Well, versatility at a cost to giving up a particular element for the time - nothing's free. The fun really seems to begin when paired with an active Earth Staff and the high Circle spellcasting talents.

Element Matrix, the previous Master tier ability, isn't a bad ability at all - it's quite good. However, it didn't drive home their elemental connection other than carrying around a bag of sticks and stones. Something similar to this particular ability may show up again sooner than later.

Looking at their Discipline talents, there are two in common with the previous edition: Elemental Walk and Stone Skin. The other five are new: Concise Casting, Elemental Mastery, Plant Talk, Spliced Weave, and Vine Armor. These talents either improve their spellcasting abilities (Concise Casting, Elemental Mastery, and Spliced Weave), or their elemental connection (Elemental Mastery, Elemental Walk, Plant Talk, Stone Skin, and Vine Armor). As well, Stone Skin and Vine Armor work to improve their defensive abilities 

Of those, Elemental Mastery is the only talent new to the previews. It's basic effect, improving Thread Weaving tests for spells with an elemental keyword, is fairly staid. However, it designed to have knacks that enhance spells with specific elemental keywords hang off of it.

Their talent options are a similar story, with Armored Matrix, Perfect Focus, Shared Matrix, and Summoning Circle (previously a Discipline talent) being the only returning entries. As always, the reason for removing various talents runs a variety of reasons. Plant Shelter is now a spell, while Disarm Trap is much too late. At this point, the group has probably figured out some way to deal with traps. Possibly whoever has the most health. While many weren't a particularly good fit (Spirit Strike) or simply aren't talents anymore.

The talent options available all work to enhance some aspect of their primary themes, whether improving their summoning capabilities (Contest of Wills and Summoning Circle), their spellcasting abilities (Armored Matrix, Casting Pattern, Effect Pattern, and Range Pattern), their elemental connection (Burning Vigor, Iron Constitution, Shock Treatment, Temper Flesh, and Thunderous Resolve), being tough bastards (Burning Vigor, Iron Constitution, Life Check, Temper Flesh, Thunderous Resolve, Unflinching Fortitude), or their aptitude with objects (Evidence Analysis, Perfect Focus, and Suppress Curse).

There are a lot of different ways to approach these talents, depending on the direction the adept wants go and their role within the group. The result is a Discipline with quite a bit of diversity, which can build towards a variety of roles, focusing on one theme in particular, or picking up a variety of useful abilities. Which reinforces their role as a clutch supporting character, keeping the group going against all odds. Sometimes against their will - take that Recovery test. Take it and like it.

03 February 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 10 - Warrior

This is the tenth 4E Companion Discipline Preview, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.


Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

For this week we have a preview of the Warrior. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

While other combat Disciplines may have their particular specialties, Warriors are the all-around best when it comes to violence. Their particular specialty is sheer endurance. Their abilities don't tend to be as big and flashy, but they're dependable and enable Warriors to keep going, to be the bulwark when things go wrong. Along with their elemental and group themes, this continues through their higher Circles.

Their Warden ability, Battlefield Awareness, is similar to the previous edition, though it was rather costly at 3 Strain and often had associated timing questions. Such as, can it be used as a Free action to prevent being Surprised? Otherwise, it's of limited use. Now it lasts for an entire day for 2 Blood Magic Damage, which allows it to be specifically useful in the situations where it is most needed. However, it no longer entirely negates Harried because that is too powerful and entirely eliminates too many different options.

Elemental Warrior is the new Master ability, replacing Resurrect Self. It plays up their elemental connection in a way that gives players interesting ways to describe their actions, and provides a solid benefit to not just the Warrior, but their allies as well. Since it is always active and at no cost, this continues the overall trend of straight forward and effective abilities.

The previous Master ability, Resurrect Self, wasn't bad, but it also didn't come up very often and was too reactive in nature. It simply may never come up, which is good in a way, but also uninteresting. Coupled with the permanent cost for using it, this made it something that needed to be replaced.

As expected, their Discipline talents have a number of differences across the board. Earth Skin is available at Journeyman, while Resist Pain and Burning Vigor (effectively a replacement for Vitality) were moved to talent options, and Unmount is no longer a talent (an oddly specific Discipline talent against a rather uncommon opponent). This gave an opportunity to entirely rebuild their Warden talents with Chilling Strike, Relentless Recovery, Unflinching Fortitude, and Vine Armor.

Relentless Recovery and Unflinching Fortitude both improve the overall toughness of a Warrior, enabling to keep going longer and harder. Vine Armor has a similar effect, by both improving Wood Skin and their Mystic Armor at the cost of a Recovery test. Chilling Strike benefits Warriors for synergy with Air Dance, but also any allies who are ganging up on the same target.

While Stone Skin isn't a new talent and still improves Physical Armor, it has changed. Like Vine Armor is to Wood Skin, it also improves the usage of Earth Skin in addition to the Physical Armor boost for the cost of a Recovery test. The duration of both these talents is in hours, like the talents they improve.

Similar to their Discipline talents, there are quite a few changes to talent options. Battle Bellow, Body Blade, Frenzy, Matrix Strike, Mind Blade, Shield Beater, and Weapon Breaker have all been removed. Some aren't talents anymore, while others weren't the best fit given other options on the table.

The new talent options that were introduced, Champion Challenge, Defensive Posture, Iron Constitution, Lion Spirit, Rally, Soul Aegis, Storm Shield, Vicious Wound, and Vital Ward, support some combination of their themes. Iron Constitution and Storm Shield are both elemental themed, along with the already present Burning Vigor, Rushing Attack, and Steel Thought. Champion Challenge and Rally are both group oriented talents, an argument can even be made for Storm Shield supporting this as well - who doesn't like attacking an opponent on the ground?

Critical Hit, Ethereal Weapon, Spirit Strike, Vicious Wound, and Vital Strike provide new offensive options, while the list of talents that support defense or being tougher is... extensive. Iron Constitution, Lion Spirit, Steel Thought, and Soul Aegis all improve their ability to deal non-physical attacks, while Burning Vigor and Resist Pain simply make them tougher in general. The former can almost feel like a necessity given the number of talents at their disposal that cost Recovery tests. It was almost a Discipline talent, but ultimately cut because there wasn't a strong impetus for everyone to continually improve it. This leaves Defensive Posture and Vital Ward as options against physical attacks.

The resulting adept is tough as nails in virtually any situation with preparation. They can keep going all day and have access to a tool for virtually any situation. When things are grim, the best option may be to regroup behind the Warrior who can bear the brunt of an offensive. Warriors can be both the spear of an assault, and the rock opponents break upon. Which is about right for these masters of close combat.

30 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Namegiver Variants 4 - Troll

This is the fourth 4E Namegiver Variants, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

This short series assumes you are familiar with the connections between Earthdawn and Shadowrun before they separated by licensing; being the Fourth and Sixth Ages respectively of the same world. Shadowrun introduced a number of metahuman variants to elves, dwarfs, orks, and trolls - most based on mythology from global locales. For a bit of fun, this four part series converts them to Earthdawn.


The basis used are the versions from the 3E Shadowrun Companion. These are not going to be perfect because each setting has some very different assumptions of what each race looks like. Getting the spirit close enough and making sure there are some differences between the variants presented.

This is the final entry and covers trolls. Trolls didn't have any of the issues encountered when adapting dwarfs, elves, or orks. Though their attributes don't align well to what is seen in Earthdawn and the racial feature most likely to be removed for balance, dermal armor, isn't present. Regardless, the primary goals - maintaining the spirit and ensuring the resulting variants offer something different - were maintained.


Cyclops
DEX: 10
STR: 16
TOU: 12
PER: 9
WIL: 11
CHA: 10
Move: 14
Karma: 3
Racial Abilities: One Eye (-2 to all Action tests that require vision and range)

The cyclops variant is from the Mediterranean area and thus almost certainly known by the Theran Empire. They're distinguishable from standard trolls by their heavy musculature and general lack of dermal bone deposits. In particular, they have only one horn (typical) or no horns at all (more rarely). Oh yeah, and they have one eye. Which really does them no favors when it comes to any task that requires depth perception of any kind.

In Shadowrun, they are distinguished from trolls with more Strength, loss of dermal armor, ranged penalties, and no heat vision. This is mostly maintained, though there isn't the dermal armor to play around with. The hope is the penalty to ranged actions and loss of heat vision are sufficient to account for the net bonus to Strength.


Fomori
DEX: 10
STR: 13
TOU: 11
PER: 10
WIL: 11
CHA: 11
Move: 14
Karma: 3
Racial Abilities: Heat Vision

Precious little of note is really said about these trolls in the source material being used, but they originate from Celtic areas, have no or very little in the way of dermal bone deposits, and a greater tendency for magic. Based on their attribute modifications, it's probably safe to assume they have a slighter build in general and they do benefit spellcasters more.

The conversion here was fairly simple, as the original version has less Body and Strength, while eliminating the penalty to Charisma. The first two are easy, but trolls in Earthdawn don't have a penalty to Charisma. So, they get a small bonus and their penalty to Perception is eliminated, which aligns with their increased magic usage.


Giant
DEX: 9
STR: 15
TOU: 12
PER: 9
WIL: 11
CHA: 10
Move: 14
Karma: 3
Racial Abilities: Heat Vision

Hailing from the Nordic region, giants are possibly the largest Namegivers around (dragons consider themselves to be Nametakers and all that) at around 11'6" (3.5 m). They're fairer and and lack the horns and dermal deposits common to most trolls (well, except for these variants). It's probably fair to say they're somewhat lankier than other trolls.

Adapting giants fell into the problem addressed at the beginning: dermal armor. They get a bonus to Strength at the cost of losing their dermal armor. Reducing their Toughness may make sense, but a base of 11 for something that big just doesn't seem right. However, Shadowrun trolls have a Quickness penalty and that seems like an appropriate place to look for something simply that large.


Minotaur
DEX: 10
STR: 13
TOU: 12
PER: 10
WIL: 11
CHA: 10
Move: 14
Karma: 3
Racial Abilities: Heat Vision


Another Mediterranean variant with bovine facial features (snout instead of nose, wide-set eyes, etc.), rather long horns, and lots of body hair. You know, they look like the Minotaur, except for the legs, which are just furry.

Like many before them, their Shadowrun attributes don't quite align with Earthdawn; their penalties to Charisma and Intelligence are reduced, as are their bonuses to Body and Strength. A bonus to Charisma isn't a good solution, since that puts them in the category of fomori who have a larger bonus to Charisma. Same with reducing their Strength and Toughness. Instead, they got a reduction to Strength and an equivalent bonus to Perception. They're still pretty similar to fomori, but a different option is to make their base Perception and Willpower both 10, instead of reducing their Strength.

27 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 09 - Weaponsmith

This is the ninth 4E Companion Discipline Preview, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.


Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

The specialist Discipline rounding out this triad is Weaponsmith. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

Considered by many to be the ultimate support Discipline, the high Circles of Weaponsmith continue this trend. Their ability to be a force multiplier for their allies continues to improve, but they also gain the ability to leverage their natural mystic resistance to protect their allies. This allows Weaponsmiths who are more likely to shrug off or have tools to deal with Horror powers to bear the brunt of such attacks, while keeping their more combat capable allies in the fight. For these adepts, it's not about the glory, but the win.

The Warden ability, Blood Bound Forge, is similar to the previous Master ability, Craft Mastery. The concept behind the former was good, but it was expensive and had enough limitations to make it underpowered for the tier. The cost and damage bonus have been reduced to be in line with other Warden tier abilities (1 Blood Magic Damage and +3 Damage Steps). However, the armor bonus remains the same, making it a slightly better deal, which serves to reinforce the overall defensive nature of the Discipline. The high number of items that can be improved (Thread Smithing Rank) is limited by the restriction: all must be crafted by the Weaponsmith. There is a definite benefit to having gear made by your ally.

This left an opening at Master that was filled by Mystic Grounding. It's not a big, flashy ability, but it definitely improves the defensive abilities of a group. The ability to funnel all nasty abilities to one character, who can then in turn be supported by everyone else, gives a great deal more confidence. It also makes any Horror using the perennial favorite, Cursed Luck, just sad. Strategic use of this ability can definitely turn the tide of a conflict.

The previous Warden ability, Elementalism, deserves a bit of discussion. At first blush, it appeared like the perfect compliment to Weaponsmiths. However, it carried a lot of baggage. To get the most out of it, the Weaponsmith needed to devote a lot of high Circle talent options to basic spellcasting (Read and Write Magic at Journeyman, Spell Matrix and Spellcasting at Warden, and Armored, Shared Matrix, and Willforce at Master). That still leaves you with a total of three spell matrices for half your Warden picks and all your Master talent options. If you didn't care, then the Warden ability was pretty useless and the number of relevant talent options was unimpressive. Coupled with this, Elementalist and Weaponsmith is such a natural fit, there's more than a few characters who learned both Disciplines, which means it actually does nothing. It was a neat idea in principle, but turned out to not be a very good one in practice.

Looking at their Discipline talents, there are a lot of differences to be found. To start, Mind Blade, Weapon Ward, and Reshape Object are gone. Perfect Focus is quite similar to First Ring of Perfection, but got upgraded to a Discipline talent and moved to Warden - it may as well been created specifically for Weaponsmiths and then worked out for other Disciplines as well - and Ethereal Weapon was bumped to talent options. It fits Weaponsmith with their connection to weapons and armor, in addition to their growing mysticism, but it's directly offensive nature is just enough out of sync to not be appropriate as a Discipline talent.

Infuse Armor and Infuse Weapon have been reborn as Living Weapon and Forge Flesh respectively. The mechanics on these two are similar, but a little different than their predecessors. An important part is they don't require a medium, such as armor or weapons, but work directly on the target, showing how the adept has moved to directly forging living patterns and their vessels.

This gives some space to bring in new talent. In this case, Confront Horror, Dispel Magic, and Soul Aegis. All of which push their theme of confronting and defending against hostile magic and Horrors. It is pretty late in the game to see Dispel Magic, which is available to some Disciplines at Novice, but it isn't a talent that really gets seen outside of spellcasters. Which makes it an interesting and fitting trick to have for a Discipline dedicated to how things are made, which includes disassembling them.

There are some talent options that also departed: Armored Matrix, Critical Hit, Disarm, Sense Magic Item, Shared Matrix, Show Armor Flaw, Soften Blade, Spell Matrix, Spellcasting, Temperature, and Willforce. Okay, that may be a little more than "some". Particularly since Disarm Trap was moved to Novice talent options and Spot Armor Flaw is a Journeyman talent option (yes, they get Show Armor Flaw, but that's a knack for Spot Armor Flaw now). Except for Ethereal Weapon and Resist Pain, that's everything. The reasons for many of these should be obvious with the removal of Elementalism. From there, some aren't talents anymore, while others just aren't a good fit - such as Critical Hit and Disarm.

The good news is that's a lot of room to provide new options and directions to build. Weaponsmiths aren't combat specialists, but they get a fair number of options that reflect their unique style. Burning Vigor, Relentless Recovery, Unflinching Fortitude, Vital Ward, and Weapon Breaker are all defensive talents for a tough Weaponsmith, while Crushing Blow, Momentum Attack, Spirit Strike, and Vital Strike all support a more aggressive Weaponsmith. Those interested in exploring their growing mystic connection have Astral Sight, Evidence Analysis, Matrix Sight, and True Sight, with Lion Spirit offering additional protection.

In all, any group with a dedicated Weaponsmith is lucky to have their services. These stalwart companions support their through their services initially, then their very presence as they adapt to changes in the battlefield as they advance. These heroes get work done. They know it's about the team and sacrifice. They ensure the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts and that every part must be strong enough to persevere. It's their job to see to that, it's their burden to bear.

26 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Namegiver Variants 3 - Ork

This is the third 4E Namegiver Variants, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

This short series assumes you are familiar with the connections between Earthdawn and Shadowrun before they separated by licensing; being the Fourth and Sixth Ages respectively of the same world. Shadowrun introduced a number of metahuman variants to elves, dwarfs, orks, and trolls - most based on mythology from global locales. For a bit of fun, this four part series converts them to Earthdawn.


The basis used are the versions from the 3E Shadowrun Companion. These are not going to be perfect because each setting has some very different assumptions of what each race looks like. Getting the spirit close enough and making sure there are some differences between the variants presented.

This entry converts some ork variants. Some because one is left out: ogre. There's a few reasons for this. First, Earthdawn already has ogres, though this could be resolved similarly to dwarfs and simply have the orks of Barsaive (this variant comes from Europe) and "standard" orks. However, I don't really want to do that again and the mechanical differences for ogres don't support it so much: no penalty to Charisma and no low-light vision. Even without ogres, there are still three variants presented here:


Hobgoblin
DEX: 10
STR: 12
TOU: 11
PER: 10
WIL: 9
CHA: 9
Move: 12
Karma: 5
Racial Abilities: Gahad (modified), Low-Light Vision

This variant from the Middle East are shorter than typical orks and have a slightly build with sharper features. They share a strong sense of honor with trolls and, combined with their vicious tempers, they avenge even the smallest slight. Orks in Shadowrun have a slightly different attribute distribution, favoring Body over Strength, whereas Earthdawn is the opposite, favoring Strength over Toughness. In Shadowrun, hobgoblins have less Body and no penalty to Intelligence. Taking this as a whole, reducing their Strength feels consistent with the description and mechanics.

Since orks don't have a penalty to Perception in Earthdawn, that's a bit of a problem. Looking ahead at the other races, this is an area where they can easily start coming out too similar. Instead of Perception, reducing the Willpower penalty feels right while still be true to the ork nature.

Gahad for this variant is a little different in that it must be linked to the character's sense of honor


Oni
DEX: 10
STR: 12
TOU: 11
PER: 10
WIL: 10
CHA: 8
Move: 14
Karma: 5
Racial Abilities: Gahad, Low-Light Vision

With bright blue, orange, or red skin, and big, pointed ears, this ork variant from Japan is bound to stick out. Their attribute modifications from base orks are reduced Body and increased Willpower. Which is easy enough to translate to Earthdawn: reduced Strength (for the same reasons as hobgoblins) and increased Willpower. To reflect they should have a bonus in Shadowrun, they don't have a penalty in Earthdawn. Which means another point needs to come from somewhere. Charisma is the winner; they are described as being treacherous and hostile, though this may just be prejudice. Regardless of the reality, a penalty to Charisma makes sense, either it's right, or they aren't good a presentation.


Satyr
DEX: 9
STR: 13
TOU: 11
PER: 10
WIL: 10
CHA: 8
Move: 14
Karma: 5
Racial Abilities: Low-Light Vision

This variant looks like you expect: curled horns, and a furry lower body with cloven hooves. They're from the Mediterranean, so it's fair to assume Therans have contact with them, though may not consider them to be orks at all, given the distinct differences in appearance. These orks are described as being smaller, though their physical attributes certainly don't reflect it, receiving only a penalty to Quickness due to their hooves, which converts easily to Dexterity. Much like oni, they have a bonus to Willpower in Shadowrun, so the same solution was applied: no penalty to Willpower and a small reduction to Charisma. This is likely reflected in their curious form. While less nimble, their legs are faster, so an increased Movement Rate. Nothing is particularly mentioned regarding their disposition, so gahad was removed, but there is absolutely no reason it cannot stick around if desired.

25 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Namegiver Variants 2 - Elf

This is the second 4E Namegiver Variants, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

This short series assumes you are familiar with the connections between Earthdawn and Shadowrun before they separated by licensing; being the Fourth and Sixth Ages respectively of the same world. Shadowrun introduced a number of metahuman variants to elves, dwarfs, orks, and trolls - most based on mythology from global locales. For a bit of fun, this four part series converts them to Earthdawn.


The basis used are the versions from the 3E Shadowrun Companion. These are not going to be perfect because each setting has some very different assumptions of what each race looks like. Getting the spirit close enough and making sure there are some differences between the variants presented.

Up next are elf variants. The small hiccup here are the Night Ones, which are primarily found in Europe and should be regional to Barsaive. It could be they are a small, reclusive population who tends to be xenophobic. Something only reinforced by their sunlight allergy.


Wakyambi
DEX: 11
STR: 10
TOU: 8
PER: 11
WIL: 12
CHA: 11
Move: 14
Karma: 4
Racial Abilities: Low-Light Vision

Tall and slender even by elf standards, this rare variant comes from Africa. Their skin is always black or brown and frequently lack the pointed ears commonly associated with elves. The conversion was simple: in Shadowrun this metahuman variant has a bonus to Willpower instead of Quickness, which seems to work well as an adjustment from Dexterity to Willpower in Earthdawn.


The Night Ones
DEX: 13
STR: 10
TOU: 8
PER: 11
WIL: 11
CHA: 11
Move: 14
Karma: 4
Racial Abilities: Low-Light Vision, Sunlight Allergy (-1 to Action tests when exposed to sunlight)

These have fine fur covering their body that looks like skin from a distance and comes in a variety of colors. Typically ranging from black to violet and blue, but also green and brighter colors even more rarely. Their eyes and hair tend to have a tint of their fur color as well. In Shadowrun, they have an additional bonus to Quickness and an allergy to sunlight. The former is pretty simple, if very powerful, but balanced by a penalty when exposed to sunlight. It's a fairly serious penalty, but also one that can be avoided most of the time.


Dryads
DEX: 12
STR: 7
TOU: 8
PER: 11
WIL: 11
CHA: 12
Move: 12
Karma: 5
Racial Abilities: Low-Light Vision, Maximum Two-Handed Weapon Size: 5

At just over a meter in height, this elf variant is pretty tiny. Their hair color changes with the seasons and all possess dark brown eyes without a pupil. Nothing is said about sclera, but those may be missing as well. In Shadowrun, they're all female, but that can probably be safely ignored. They also have a mild allergy to cities, but even the most densely populated area in Barsaive isn't going to have the same urban sprawl as Shadowrun, so this was ignored. There is also a mild for of animal empathy to small woodland creatures, which is probably best handled through roleplaying, rather than any specific mechanical support. There is this sinking feeling of it being used as a form of emergency rations... Their various penalties and small benefits (increased Charisma) all equate to moving them to a new Karma Modifier.

24 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Namegiver Variants 1 - Dwarf

This is the first 4E Namegiver Variants, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

This short series assumes you are familiar with the connections between Earthdawn and Shadowrun before they separated by licensing; being the Fourth and Sixth Ages respectively of the same world. Shadowrun introduced a number of metahuman variants to elves, dwarfs, orks, and trolls - most based on mythology from global locales. For a bit of fun, this four part series converts them to Earthdawn.


The basis used are the versions from the 3E Shadowrun Companion. These are not going to be perfect because each setting has some very different assumptions of what each race looks like. Getting the spirit close enough and making sure there are some differences between the variants presented.

Alphabetical order seems like the best way to tackle this, which means dwarfs with an immediate wrinkle. If these variants are being used, it's probably best to assume the dwarfs of Barsaive are already a variant, specifically gnomes. The geographical location roughly correct and gnomes are less physical than other dwarfs, but more mental and don't have a toxin resistance. Which aligns pretty well with 4E dwarfs. With that in mind...


Dwarfs (Standard)
DEX: 9
STR: 12
TOU: 13
PER: 10
WIL: 11
CHA: 8
Move: 10
Karma: 4
Racial Abilities: Heat Sight, Toxin Resistance (+2 to tests to resist poison)

These pretty closely resemble Earthdawn dwarfs of previous editions, with a penalty to Dexterity and bonus to Willpower. Strong Back has been traded out for Toxin Resistance, as the former isn't important given their increased Strength. This makes standard dwarfs much more closely resemble the typical dwarf presented in most fantasy media, rather than the slightly different take found in Barsaive. To account for the physical differences, these dwarfs are larger and significantly more robust, with much more muscle on their frames.


Koborokuru
DEX: 9
STR: 12
TOU: 13
PER: 10
WIL: 11
CHA: 8
Move: 12
Karma: 4
Racial Abilities: Toxin Resistance (+2 to tests to resist poison)

This variant from Japan in Shadowrun is described as being smaller, faster, and quite hirsute. To account for their increased Movement Rate, Heat Vision was removed. Also, the Shadowrun version also has a more involved toxin resistance, but that juice doesn't seem worth the squeeze for these purposes. In all, it's a straight forward conversion.


Menehune
DEX: 9
STR: 11
TOU: 14
PER: 10
WIL: 11
CHA: 8
Move: 10
Karma: 4
Racial Abilities: Heat Sight, Toxin Resistance (+2 to tests to resist poison)

Hailing from Hawaii, these dwarfs are smaller, with luxurious hair all over, but with particularly fantastic mustaches. They are tougher, but not quite as strong as others. A small modification moving a point from Strength to Toughness, and they're good to go. Which also gives them the single highest Toughness bonus of current Namegivers in Earthdawn.

23 January 2017

Earthdawn: Adventure Log 47 - Forest of Feelings

This is the forty-seventh Adventure Log in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.






Adventure Log – 047 Horror at the Gates

Written By: Elmod of Glenwood Deep

Date:  09 Strassa - 26 Strassa, 1509 TH
Group Name: Mismatched Steel

Group Members
Bongani the Scout
Elmod the Nethermancer
Honeysuckle Sunspray the Warrior
Ting the Swordmaster

Uriel the Illusionist

I, alas, have been distracted by enchanting duties here at the kaer and have missed direct action in the most recent group adventures. I have also been studying many advanced Elementalist techniques and should gain very useful skills for the future. Bongani has been negotiating with Meta Poobah Ein about final training and costs.

Also, it is still very hot here. It tries me a little, but I manage. And suffer. The Air Armor is kept on much of the time to keep things tolerable.

I miss Regia from time to time(1). Nightmares of the White Queen and her mangled body appear(2). My heart hopes that she is safe and growing strong within her tree. Having not tended the forest, it is hard to know whatever may have helped her and the forest. I trust Kristof will tend it best(3).

I hear the group has been fomenting plans to go to the other connected kaer from the present. It will likely involved another Horror. Oh joy.(4)

While I cannot enjoy the institutional racism present in this kaer leveled against elves, I can't blame them too much. I'm fairly used to the ignorance and belittling from those misunderstanding Nethermancers(5). And the group(6).

The Elementalist I trained with was kind enough to lend me a spell scroll to learn from. The Mantle of the Fire Marauder seems an interesting way to perturb an opponent.

We arrange a meeting with Meta Poobah Ein and get invited to dinner with him to discuss plans. Ein is pleasant and happy to see us, his family is delightful. The mushroom-based meal as fine and earthy as has come to be lamentably expected(7). I could go with a few lighter flavors. Alas.

Upon mention of the plan, Ein cut short our dinner enjoyment of a strange mushroom liquor and we made a fairly quick exit. Ein handed us a note, however, which Uriel reads as a meeting for later in the evening.

We make the meeting at the kaer passageway, Ein meets us and explains some of the history of Kaer Kuzzins. Pains were taken to keep some channel open, Kaer Kuzzins made sacrifices and suffered disease and poor designs in a hastily made kaer just before the Scourge. Cover-ups and guile wove over the historical truth, a dedicated group preserving some hope of linkage. The will of the Grand Poobahs is unknown. The connection between them remains active, aid given to Kaer Kuzzins remains secret. The other Namegivers there that represent the others of Barsaive. An opportunity should arrive in two days.

I should have found some time to make some blood magic charms.

We get the message and depart for the passage. The guards alert us to traps in the passage, mostly directed towards the far end. Bongani disarms of of the traps in the passage, but a major magical seeing glyph remained. Most of us climbed (via rope) or flew (me) over. Uriel made an elaborate illusion and also successfully crossed.

Bongani examined the paths through the caverns, deducing the paths taken and not. He also worked out the lock to the gate to the kaer.

It made a lot of noise. They would know we're here.

They did. Upon exiting the date to the kaer, we are immediately ambushed by shortish (5 ft ish) bootless humanoid figures. Perhaps they are the famed wulfaiders. We are taken to some cells and locked up until we are let to an old and well appointed - wooden furniture, carved - room to meet their leader.

Brie, an overachieving weaponized elf greets us, basically describes the situation of their besieged status of defending the kaer from Horrors. Her companion, Bray've, is the commander of the Stalkers, the elite defense brigade that initially welcomed us.

Eventually we are deemed helpful, having offered such services as ours and given some space in the wooden appointed barracks.

Wandering around town, many humans, elves, and tall bipedal wolf-people(8). The entire place feels like a military base and outpost.

We find a large cavern where trees and vegetation are grown and maintained. We interview a wulfaider, Prood; Ting seems strangely enamored with the gruff Stalker. She pets it, after asking permission. She seems uncharacteristically pleased. At least without having killed something first.

Uriel learns many things from their hall of records. It is mostly a tale of slow decline, Uriel writes some epic ballads.

There is remarkably little else to do here.

Honeysuckle later recounts enjoying sleeping in trees and avoid Elementalists trying to catch her in the forest. She even fended off a wulfaider trying to evict her, but she eventually re-establishes her squatting supremacy.

Brie returns to tell of the Crystal Heart. An as yet unfound emanation of the Horror troubles befallen to the kaer. Crystalline spiders seem to guard it. Still not sure if the Horror is present or just minions. They suspect the Robber of Twenty Candles is the Horror associated. They have one of its pattern items, but don't yet trust us enough yet to have access.

So there's that, sins of the father, etc.

We prepare for, as Ting calls it, the "pants-off, dance-off", She codifies as her fighting preference, the next day.(9)

Gnasher 3's (10) abound, but are deftly dispatched. The Stalker guides only take us so far, but then depart after a point and describe some of what they know on a little map. Then we are alone.

Further on, I discover a portion of cavern with many gruesome Namegivers. I ask a few questions and they get agitated at the mention of the Robber of Twenty Candles. Then some strange creatures come out of the walls and eat the spirits that we were talking with. Then spits out another ball of... itself.(11)

Honeysuckle identifies the creatures as some kind of wraith. Uriel and I attack the found one and get their attention. They engulf me quickly after as they materialize and attack the group. We fight them off long enough to antagonize them into running away. We only actually killed one, but most of the others were wounded. Bongani tended my wound. My soul is further scarred(12).(13)

*     *     *
(1) Wait, what? The creepy little doll thing with the incredibly unhealthy relationship? Oh, wow. His companions are going to be delighted to find that out. 
(2) This feels exactly like something that was deliberately left out previously and someone forgot to scrub it. What does it mean? Is this a reference to the White Lady that meant something back in Sanctuary? I know there are things missing from here. Need some scribes to go through earlier entries and compile references that could relate to this, the cross-reference those against other logs and intelligence. Zamrica's team would be perfect for this.
(3) This is all a reference to events concluded in Mismatched Steel Log 028. Which appear to have even more critical information missing than I originally suspected.
(4) The very first thing upon entering they were told was "don't ever go here". I'm surprised it took this long to get to this point.
(5) There's a lot of misinformation about Nethermancers and people fear what they don't know. Of course, once you get to know a Nethermancer, there's the realization it's much worse than you initially thought. So much worse.
(6) Now I almost feel bad.
(7) Ever since Zamrica archived one of the earlier logs, he has been jonsing for their recipes. And he says I'm weird for drinking hurlg.
(8) Wait, if the tall ones are wulfaiders, what are the short ones? Details, people!
(9) ... what?
(10) What is a gnasher 3? How is it different from a gnasher?
(11) This part is unclear - here is what I think happened: They encounter and talk with the spirits of some Namegivers that were gruesome. Possibly tortured during life and after by a Horror, which is bad news. Not even death is a release. Then wraiths of some variety appear on the scene and begin feeding on the spirits. One of the wraiths then spits out a new wraith? That last statement is very ambiguous, and it feels like it is important.
(12) Understatement of the log.
(13) Received and edited by Ela Pono

This session served as a bridge to the next section of metaplot and revelations. Their actual objective in coming to this place seems to have been forgotten (the key), but everything will swing back to that by the end. For now, there were a lot of callbacks to events and information from previous adventures. Some went under the radar (which is fair, this game has been going on for a long time), but most tickled the memory of something related.

I will admit, the almost gleeful fascination with the wulfaiders is amusing to me. It's not terribly surprising, as something similar happened when the urshan were introduced as refugees years ago. That had a certain air of responsibility to it, this is a little more child-like. 

As to the log itself, there are some small details in there that I find terribly interesting and almost prescient in wholly unexpected ways. Definitely interesting times.