30 May 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Example Character 03 - Troll Sky Raider

This is the third Example Character in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

When many people think of Earthdawn, one of the first images which comes to mind is a troll Sky Raider. They combine a unique take on the fantasy staple, trolls, along with one of the most visible elements of the Earthdawn setting, airships. Below is what an example of an Eighth Circle troll Sky Raider, along with equipment and play suggestions.

Each Circle saw this character improve one attribute and take a new Talent Option. There are no Thread Items on this character, however unlikely it may be. 

Note: The entries in this series may be updated periodically as I master the coding to fit all eight of the Circles in a fashion which doesn't result in eye melting. Consider these living entries. Please leave comments if there is anyway this could be made more useful.

Discipline: Sky Raider
Race: Troll

DEX: 18 (7)   STR: 19 (8)   TOU: 17 (7)
PER: 12 (5)   WIL: 10 (5)   CHA: 16 (7)

Initiative: 2 (Recommended: Crystal Plate [-5])
Physical Defense: 13
Mystic Defense: 7
Social Defense: 10

Physical Armor: 12 (Recommended: Crystal Plate, Forged +5 [12])
Mystic Armor: 12 (Recommended: Crystal Plate, Forged +3 [10])

Damage: 22 (Recommended: 2x Troll Sword, Forged +8 [14]); 31 (with Down Strike)

Unconsciousness: 90
Death: 105
Wound Threshold: 10

Recovery Tests: 4
Knockdown: 16
Karma: 24
Karma: Recovery Tests and melee Damage tests.

Battle Shout: 9 (16)
Climbing: 8 (15)
Fireblood: 9 (17)
Melee Weapons: 9 (16)
Sky Weaving: 8 (13)
Air Sailing: 8 (13)
Great Leap: 8 (15)
Avoid Blow: 8 (15)
Wound Balance: 8 (16)
Wind Catcher: 8 (13)
Fire Heal: 9 (16)
Danger Sense: 8 (13)
Battle Bellow: 9 (16)
Second Weapon: 8 (15)
Steely Stare: 8 (15)
Lion Heart: 8 (13)
Down Strike: 9 (17)
Tiger Spring: 8
Momentum Attack: 8 (15)
Sprint: 6

Here we have an adept based around wrecking things. They support phenomenal offensive capabilities, with at least two attacks, incredibly high damage, and two debuffs (on of which also buffs allies). They should also be using the Aggressive Attack option every round to further enhance their potential for mayhem.

Defensively, they will be relying primarily on a good offense. Heavy armor was selected to reduce the total need for Fireblood in combat, but it is an option which should be used as needed, particularly with the additional Recovery Tests granted from Fire Heal. This character is not designed to sit around in a slug-fest like a Warrior, but use their enhanced mobility (Great Leap and Sprint) to take down high-value targets, such as Archers and spellcasters. They are the linebackers on the field.

The initiative of this adept is lacking, though Tiger Spring is available for use against adepts with talents which prey on low initiative (Air Dance and Cobra Strike), as well as getting the jump when necessary. However, the biggest weakness is magic. To help mitigate this, crystal plate with good Mystic Armor and Lion Heart have both been selected, however neither of these will fully compensate for this innate problem. This Sky Raider's best solution is to take them down first: the best defense is a good offense.

28 May 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Example Character 02 - Windling Swordmaster

This is the second Example Character in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

The windling Swordmaster is a popular combination. What isn't to like about playing a feisty swashbuckler with gossamer wings? There may be things not to like about dealing with one, however. There can commonly be a problem with this character struggling to be contribute in combat. Below is what an example of an Eighth Circle windling Swordmaster, along with equipment and play suggestions.

Each Circle saw this character improve one attribute and take a new talent option. There are no Thread Items on this character, however unlikely it may be. 

Note: The entries in this series may be updated periodically as I master the coding to fit all eight of the Circles in a fashion which doesn't result in eye melting. Consider these living entries. Please leave comments if there is anyway this could be made more useful.

Discipline: Swordmaster
Race: Windling

DEX: 19 (8) [+2]   STR: 7 (4) [+0]   TOU: 13 (6) [+2]
PER: 15 (6) [+1]   WIL: 10 (5) [+0]   CHA: 19 (8) [+2]

Initiative: 4 (Recommended: Crystal Plate [-5])
Physical Defense: 14
Mystic Defense: 9
Social Defense: 14

Physical Armor: 14 (Recommended: Crystal Plate, Forged +7 [14])
Mystic Armor: 10 (Recommended: Crystal Plate, Forged +1 [8])

Damage: 15 (Recommended: 2x Windling Sword, Forged +8 [11])

Unconsciousness: 82
Death: 96
Wound Threshold: 10

Recovery Tests: 3
Knockdown: 12
Karma: 48
Karma: Interaction tests and melee Damage tests.

Avoid Blow: 9 (17)
Maneuver: 9 (17)
Melee Weapons: 9 (17)
Weapon Weaving: 8 (14)
Taunt: 9 (17)
Winning Smile: 8 (16)
Astral Sight: 5 (11) [No Karma]
First Impression: 9 (17)
Impressive Display: 6
Riposte: 9 (17)
Distract: 8 (16)
Heartening Laugh: 8 (16)
Wound Balance: 8 (12)
Second Weapon: 8 (16)
Spot Armor Flaw: 8 (14)
Disarm: 8 (16)
Etiquette: 8 (16)
Resist Taunt: 8 (13)
Lion Heart: 8 (13)
Second Attack: 8 (16)
Lasting Impression: 8 (16)

This is a truly hybrid social/combat character, taking advantage of the windling's natural Charisma increase and acknowledging they will likely struggle in pure combat compared to other characters. The social talents given them a clear advantage in such arenas over most other adepts, with selections for a variety of needs.

In combat they take what may seem non-standard approach. Eschewing the speed of the t'skrang Swordmaster, the windling has focused more on defense and support. Heavy armor allows them to shore up their impressive Physical Defense, particularly with judicious use of Karma on active defenses. This allows them to make great use of the Distract talent, "encouraging" the target to focus on the Swordmaster, while allowing the heavy hitters to abuse them.

The battlefield mobility and number of attacks does allow them to engage and harass enemy support characters, such as Archers and spellcasters. Since they tend to have unimpressive armor, the lower damage and high number of attacks will allow them to be a successful skirmisher. Regardless of the target, Spot Armor Flaw will be key to improving the damage of all the adept's attacks for the duration. If pursing the tactic of harassing mystic attackers, improving Perception (Mystic Defense) is going to be a must, with the added benefit of improving Spot Armor Flaw as well.

27 May 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Example Character 01 - T'skrang Swordmaster

This is the first Example Character in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

The t'skrang Swordmaster is probably the single most iconic archetype in the history of Earthdawn. It's no surprise, really: they are an evocative meeting of system and setting. This combination was meant for each other and it happens to be a mechanically good fit as well. Below is what an example of an Eighth Circle t'skrang Swordmaster, along with equipment and play suggestions.

Each Circle saw this character improve one attribute and take a new talent option. There are no Thread Items on this character, however unlikely it may be. 

Note: The entries in this series may be updated periodically as I master the coding to fit all eight of the Circles in a fashion which doesn't result in eye melting. Consider these living entries. Please leave comments if there is anyway this could be made more useful.

Discipline: Swordmaster
Race: T'skrang

DEX: 19 (8) [+2]   STR: 13 (6) [+0]  TOU: 16 (7) [+2]
PER: 14 (6) [+1]   WIL: 10 (5) [+0]   CHA: 18 (7) [+2]

Initiative: 7 (Recommended: Crystal Ringlet [-2]); 13 (with Cobra Strike); +8 (with Tiger Spring)
Physical Defense: 12
Mystic Defense: 8
Social Defense: 13

Physical Armor: 10 (Recommended: Crystal Ringlet, Forged +6 [10])
Mystic Armor: 8 (Recommended: Crystal Ringlet, Forged +2 [6])

Damage: 19 (Recommended: 2x Broadsword, Forged +8 [13]), 18 (Recommended: Short Sword, Forged +8 [14, Tail])

Unconsciousness: 88
Death: 103
Wound Threshold: 10

Recovery Tests: 3
Knockdown: 6
Karma: 32
Karma: Interaction tests and melee Damage tests.

Avoid Blow: 9 (17)
Maneuver: 9 (17)
Melee Weapons: 9 (17)
Weapon Weaving: 8 (14)
Taunt: 9 (16)
Unarmed Combat: 8 (16) [Tail Combat]
First Impression: 8 (15)
Anticipate Blow: 8 (14)
Riposte: 9 (17)
Tiger Spring: 8
Heartening Laugh: 8 (15)
Impressive Display: 6
Second Weapon: 9 (17)
Cobra Strike: 8 (15)
Disarm: 8 (16)
Spot Armor Flaw: 8 (14)
Resist Taunt: 8 (13)
Lion Heart: 8 (13)
Second Attack: 8 (16)
Lasting Impression: 6 (13)

This character is designed primarily for combat, but with the ability to be the social character for a group as needed. This character is going to be accurate above all else, gaining bonuses from Anticipate Blow, Cobra Strike, and Maneuver. Between Second Attack, Second Weapon, and Tail Combat, this character has access to a lot of attacks, which is going to be important because you can expect damage to be somewhat problematic. Against opponents with low Physical Armor, this isn't a concern, but against opponents kitted out, this poses a challenge. Spot Armor Flaw and the bonuses to attack can help mitigate this with improved damage through finesse. Initiative is an important factor, as two of those talents require a high Initiative, but some speed was sacrificed in the name of greater protection (crystal ringlet).

This reveals the major weakness of this character: Defense. The sacrifice for crystal ringlet was made in the name of magical defense, which is non-existent. Hide armor or padded leather could be traded out for characters looking to nurse every bonus to Initiative they can (5/1/-1 and 4/0/0 respectively), but this can be dangerous ground. This particular character is also weak to knockdown effects as they lack Wound Balance. This can be selected from the Novice talent options, and would likely feature on non-t'skrang adepts, but the value of an additional attack (even at -2) is significant.

23 May 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 30 - Shaman Part 1, Spells

This is part one of the thirtieth Anatomy of a Discipline in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.


The heart of what a spellcaster brings to any Group is their spells. They determine most of the play style and focus for a given Discipline, but also can represent a significant task to wade through and weighing the various options. The goal of this post is to analyze the spell selections in the first five Circles and give some idea of how those options may inform the emphasis of the Discipline, play style, as well the relative use of a particular spell. The reason this will only address the first five Circles is that you get to pick spells at those Circles - starting at Sixth Circle, you are on your own and it is largely in your GM's hands.

Depending on the Optional Rules used in your game, how you address picking up new spells will change. If spells can be purchased and do not cost Legend Points, there is little reason to not learn everything you can get your fingers on. If they do cost Legend Points, you may want to be more selective of what you include in your grimoire.

Since the boilerplate text is all out of the way, this particular look is going to be a little different. All of these spells have come from another discipline; there are functionally no unique Shaman spells (Dispel Shamanism Magic does not count). I'm going to include all of the text which can be found with the original discipline and probably some commentary on the way. Here's a warning: I'm not a fan of this discipline in execution.

First Circle

Air Armor: An excellent support spell for a considerable period of time. With no Threads, +3 Physical Armor for the combatants in your Group will always be a welcome addition.

Assuring Touch: No Threads, a decent duration (in rounds) and a small bonus to resist fear effects. By no means amazing, but this is an entirely reasonable spell by any stretch of the imagination.

Bone Dance: A powerful control spell that can effectively remove a single target from combat, or at least make them an easier target. If their are environmental dangers, such as a cliff or Death's Sea, then there is significantly added danger.

Catseyes: You can give anyone low-light vision for a few minutes. This can be remarkably useful in the right situation.

Crunch Climb: There are going to be a lot of these spells; small, but useful bonuses to a specific task. They are all useful to have around. This one is for climbing and a First Circle spell that has some longevity to it.

Earth Blend: You can blend in with your surroundings (assuming you are standing on earth or stone, which is a reasonable assumption), but you cannot move. With no Threads, it can be useful for evading pursuit, but it's biggest strength is probably in setting up an ambush.

Earth Darts: While this is a poor combat spell by any stretch of the imagination (1 Thread for WIL+6/Physical damage and poor range?), it is going to be the best damage spell you get until Third Circle. I sincerely hope you didn't want to be doing direct damage as an Elementalist.

Insect Repellent: See Dry and Wet above. (If there is no cost associated with learning this spell, it's neat in ways that probably are not going to be useful outside of that one time it was awesome to have.)

Moonglow: It creates light for a few minutes. Not bad, also not exciting at all.

Plant Talk: For a First Circle spell, this has the potential to be incredibly useful. Anything that can gather information is almost always going to be a winner in the long run. There is little reason to not take this spell.

Purify Earth: This spell is more about making friends and making the world better. It is worth taking if you find it.

Purify Water: Actually more practical than Purify Earth - this can potentially solve issues with not having access to clean water. You just have to have access to the water in the first place. It may be gross, but when desperate, you can always recycle.

Quicken Pace: Make your entire Group (with enough castings) move faster for a day. It's hard to argue with that.

This is a third Circle Wizard spell. Why was it dropped two Circles?

Resist Cold: Unless you know about it in advance and keep this in a Matrix (it has a duration only in minutes), this spell isn't going to be very practical. 

I find it amusing Resist Cold is present without Resist Fire. The answer is probably because Shaman get access to water spells, but not fire spells.

This Circle isn't bad. For combat, it's pretty disappointing. Really disappointing. Only the Illusionist ranks in at more disappointing. There are some good miscellaneous spells, but nothing really stands out. It is mostly the Elementalist list supplemented with selections from all of the other lists, which defines pretty much every Circle. The problem is there are no stand out spells here. Bone Dance can be amazing, but it can be difficult to pull off reliably as well (and that thread is a killer at First Circle), but the real Elementalist winning for First Circle, Heat Food, isn't present. This list is best defined by mediocrity.

Second Circle

Gadfly: One Thread and you can render a target Harried. This is particularly effective in encounters with small numbers of powerful opponents.

Gills: Breathe underwater? Yeah, this is going to be useful at some point.

Hunter's Sense: There is going to be some quest, at some point, when you are looking for a particular creature. You are going to want this spell for that. Otherwise, it is unlikely to come up.

Icy Surface: In contrast, this spell can create a nice control effect to make an escape, enact a trap, or simply pummel foes with attacks. Windlings and Archers love this spell to death.

Path Home: You will always be able to find your way back to camp, which can be useful when exploring strange (and often horrifying) new places. If you're going to the Servos and your GM is a little nasty, this may be good back-up to prevent getting too terribly lost.

Small Slayer: Only useful if you can get access to someone that you fully intend on assassinating in a moment of vulnerability and don't want to directly do the deed yourself. 

Vines: Probably the most useful spell at this Circle, particularly against single targets that are more threatening (getting the Harried is always a bonus).

Weather Cloak: There is nothing particularly special about this spell. It's not terrible, but also not terribly interesting.

Again, it is a similar story. There are some decent support spells here, but it's hard to get excited about the selection. As an aside, it's also interesting to note how generous I was in the past for some of these spells. Small Slayer is... not very good as written. 

Third Circle

Astral Sense: This marks an awkward first entry on this list because how this spell is going to function may differ heavily from game to game. It is very similar to the Astral Sight talent (which is a Second Circle discipline talent for Shaman, making this even more difficult to distinguish) with some subtle differences. The primary functional differences seem to be cost (this spell has no Strain), time (once cast, the spell lasts in minutes and is a Simple action to use) and information (the spell provides significantly less, but there will also be less interference). My suggestion is to talk with your GM about the functionality of this spell. Which is incredibly helpful, I know.

And this is a First Circle Wizard spell. Were Quicken Pace and Astral Sense switched?

Behind Eye: Useful if you can prepare for a fight and know that being Blindsided is going to be an issue. The 2 Threads make actually employing it once combat has begun a less tempting proposition. While there is nothing wrong here, there isn't a whole lot to recommend this niche spell.

Yet, here is a fire spell.

Catwalk: Another spell that helps with climbing. That is three for three, so far. This one also gives bonuses to resisting Knockdown. It might be good (however, the Thread requirement and duration make it of dubious value in combat), but it's hard to get excited about this spell.

Crunch Climb and Catwalk? Protip: When you're rifling through other discipline's spell lists, go for variety.

Death Trance: This is a spell infinitely more likely to be used by an NPC than a PC.

Dispel Shamanism Magic: Similar to Detect Elemetalism Magic above, but likely to see significantly more use. Definitely a useful spell to have in your arsenal, but not the must have for this Circle.

I'm leaving the reference to Detect Elementalism Magic as a note that Shaman do not get an equivalent Detect Shamanism Magic spell.

Fog of Fear: Very similar to Death's Head above, this has two Threads and affects everyone (including allies) in the area immediately. It is great for clearing the vicinity, but lacks that critical "control" element which makes these kind of control effects so useful. While it has its uses, there are significantly better options.

This is the only reference to Shaman being scary. They don't even get the Frighten talent. As a hint, in 4E, this spell won't actually do anything in the edition change.

Ice Mace and Chain: Here is the best damaging combat spell in the Elementalist's list. 0 Threads and WIL+5/Physical damage (which is actually pretty decent). The big selling point, however, is that a target struck is Harried unless one of the damage dice explodes. This is very good, since you either get a good damage roll, or inflict a status that the rest of your Group can take advantage of (there is no downside here). 

Mind Fog: Yeah, this spell is just fun. Seriously fun. It is worth taking and putting in an Enhanced Matrix when you get one of those. A million and one uses. Easily one of the best spells in the game.

Here is a strange pick for a Shaman. Also, this steps on the Illusionist schtick quite a bit and is really one of their signature spells in my mind.

Ork Stoke: Whoever created this spell is probably an enormous jerk. However, there can be some good uses for this spell if you want to make an ork ruin everything. Political themed games will probably get the most from this.

It's worth noting I detest this spell. The fact it was written at all is deeply troubling. A setting excuse could be given to explain why it is out there, but someone still had to think this was a good idea for it to exist in the first place. Why does a Shaman have this spell?

Plant Feast: Never worry about rations again as long as there is some flora alive in your area. This is worth taking, if nothing else than to remove the need for that bookkeeping ever again.

Puddle Deep: The requirement of a puddle limits the usefulness of this spell. The Effect Test is also rough until you get Willforce. This really works best when setting a trap rather than on the fly, since you can create your own puddle.

Soothe the Savage Beast: A good spell, and certainly worth learning if the opportunity presents itself. The most fun comes from an Extraordinary Result, so make sure to spend Karma on the Spellcasting Test.

Sunlight: Natural sunlight is created emanating from the Elementalist. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of anything in Earthdawn that is negatively impacted by sunlight. 

Thrive: If you are patient, you can do some pretty impressive things with this spell. Not terribly powerful, but it can be fun and potentially earn some goodwill through your travels.

Water Wings: If you have a windling in your Group, they will appreciate not having to worry about their wings getting wet again. If you don't, maybe you will meet one?

Winds of Deflection: Similar to Throne of Air, though with a worse duration and one less Thread (also a slightly worse Effect Step). It doesn't cost Strain, however. With an Enhanced Matrix, this is really quite useful to have around since it can be thrown up immediately.

This is the best Circle for the Shaman by far. There are a lot of solid spells to choose from, but this Circle also lacks for direction more than the others (there may be a connection here). The nature and spirit themes are by far the most tenuous. They do get the best Elementalist damage spell here, Ice Mace and Chain. 

Fourth Circle

Air Blast: Another example of the control an Elementalist can bring to combat. This presents a difficult Knockdown Test and can grant some significant advantages to the rest of your Group if deployed before melee combat begins.

Blizzard Sphere: More an area denial spell more than an overtly offensive spell. If you can trap opponents inside, it is brutal, but with 2 Threads a little on the time consuming side. Not a bad selection, but definitely better used to deny a small piece territory on the battlefield than create an elaborate trap to deal a bunch of damage.

Buoyancy: Another spell that grants a small bonus to a specific task. This time, it's swimming. With a Thread, it's hard to cast this at a moment's notice, though the duration is in hours, which is a nice change for these spells. Decent, though nothing to be excited over.

Circle of Well Being: A healing effect for Illusionists. Probably the most fiddly, but definitely worth taking.

This is the first healing spell this Circle.

Conceal Tracks: An anti-tracking spell. It's pretty specific in application, but you never know when it might come in handy.

Dust Devil: The strong indication is that this spell will affect your Group (except for you), making it of dubious use (two Threads is an awful lot for something like that). If you can convince your GM that it only affects those that you want it to, then you should probably take this spell.

Falcon's Cloak: Somewhere between useful and dangerous is this spell. You are a bird and can cast spells, but only those that don't require speaking or moving. That may be a more limited list than you think (or a larger list than you think - where I'm going with this is I don't actually know what you're thinking). 

Fatal Food: Most useful for NPCs, there is still some value in intrigue games where the PCs are not terribly nice people. 


Friend or Foe: This peculiar spell is most useful when you want to stop everyone involved from fighting, unless they don't care much who they are killing, so long as they are killing. The narrow application of this spell makes it unlikely to see any use.

Another pick I don't fully comprehend the reasoning.

Great Sticky Vines: If you find yourself with a need to incapacitate your foes, then this is a superb option. Possibly one of the best available.

First Vines, and now Great Sticky Vines!

Hair Frenzy: Much better than Dust Devil: no Threads and it Harries a single target. While it isn't going to be your first pick for the Circle, try and get this one eventually.

Another pick which is a strange one. 

Karmic Connection: It's hard to really get the most out of this spell since it has a Thread (and also hard to justify using a precious Enhanced Matrix early on). That being said, the Karma cost isn't that high (5 points) and it can be a game changer in combat. This can bring a heavy hitter from the brink back into the swing of things in a big way.

Here is the second. This is also the only Karma related spell they get. In the middle of all the healing spells, they needed this one too, opening a theme which is never touched again. I can only assume the theme is: Give Shaman all of the Fourth Circle healing spells. EVERY ONE!

Last Chance: Let's face it, this is the best spell this Circle, if not one of the best spells period. You are going to want this, and you are going to use this.

And the third.

Lighten Load: A utility spell that could be pretty useful in the right circumstances and worth picking up if the opportunity arises. 

Relax: Another solid healing ability, this increases the effectiveness of Recovery Tests and reduces the time required to use them. One more good spell for this Circle.

Finally, number four. That is right, Shaman get four healing spells at Fourth Circle. This is rather ridiculous, actually.

Root Trap: Similar to Great Stick Vines, though with no Threads, worse range and a worse Effect Step. It also requires a nearby tree. In all, it isn't quite as good (mostly because of the requirement of a tree nearby). No Threads can be awfully tempting at times.

Thorny Retreat: So... this spell. It seems like a great idea. It can come in handy and I wouldn't be surprised if there are stories of how this spell saved someone's bacon. In general, I would consider those the exception rather than the rule. To make it work: You need to either be at peace with raw casting or have it in a Spell Matrix. This means you have to be planning a "hasty" retreat at all times. From my experience, not how most Earthdawn Groups roll. Then you need to Weave a Thread. This is cutting down on the running time. When encountered, anyone trying to get through will most likely fail the Test, but there isn't a guarantee on this one. Particularly considering how frequent the ability to spend Karma on a dexterity-only test is available. Also, the damage it does is utterly laughable; to be fair, stopping pursuit is the main goal here. End result: it's hard to make this spell work for you and there are a lot of good spells.

Uneven Ground: The use of this spell is going to depend entirely on how your GM wants to interpret it. The Effect lists it as "enemy character", while the description says "any character". The latter reading makes more sense from the context, but... you never know. If it is the former, this is pretty amazing and well worth having. If they latter, you should just pass on it. There are better things to do with your actions.

This Circle is a little strange. First off: So. Many. Healing. Spells. Followed by that, it's a collection of strange spells from across the various disciplines which showcase how much of an afterthought the Shaman spell list actually is. There is no concept of what mechanics should be prevalent, how to emphasize their themes, what are they missing, what can be built on, etc. It is just a bunch of spells which vaguely (and I really do mean vaguely) seem like they would fit.

Fifth Circle

Bond of Silence: Tragically, the duration is rather short, but that may be all the time you need to make use of this spell. At the same time, it has three Threads, so it's not exactly perfect to use on a target that is running away from you.

I'm uncertain how this fits into the overall themes. While it hasn't been mentioned every time, this is something of a recurring theme for me while reading this list, "What is this even doing here?"

Ironwood: While not incredibly useful for improving armor and weapons (it seems), it is great for impromptu fortifications. Odds are good that will be useful at some point. 

Nutritious Earth: This isn't likely to be a game changer (though could be very important to any Questors of Jaspree or Garlen), but it has some fun flavor and can likely earn some serious good will from Namegivers around Barsaive. I like this spell a lot, but you will probably know if it will be useful for you or not. Also, consider using it with Thrive.

Resist Poison: Always good to have up when exploring the wilderness or kaers. Additional protection against poison with a duration in hours is always welcome to an adept.

Sanctuary: This is a pretty serious "buy some time" spell. It will seal off and reinforce and entire building for minutes. Three Threads is steep, however.

So it seals off a building. When the description of a Shaman is rather tribal in nature.

Spiritual Guidance: Fun, but be prepared for a trip. It is also worth noting that not all GM's like to be put on the spot and may respond best when this is used in-between games.

Wither Limb: This is a very powerful spell and approaching permanently debilitating if it causes a Wound (which is rather likely given the WIL+8 Effect Test). When any side starts to deploy this spell, things have gotten ugly and were probably already personal. If they weren't before, they are now. Don't expect this to end well.

This is one of those definitive Nethermancer spells which doesn't make me very happy to see here. I'm also uncertain what it is doing other than filling in space and adding some power to the otherwise unimpressive list. This Circle is pretty sad. It's worth noting Shaman have the measure, but not the countermeasure for Wither Limb.

My primary complaints for the Shaman spell lists are it is pretty dull and haphazard. It seems most like someone went down the spell lists and picked all of the spells which vaguely fit, then shoved some more in to fill it out. Much of it just seems like an afterthought, from the spell list to the spell fetish idea. Really, if they deserve to be a discipline, they deserve better than this. If this is all they will ever get, I would rather see them tucked away in a closet than continuing to not really fit in with the other disciplines. 

20 May 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 60 - Horn of the Seven Winds

This is the sixtieth Anatomy of a Thread Item in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

Found in Nations of Barsaive II: Serpent River (pg. 112), Horn of the Seven Winds is a Thread Item first introduced in The Serpent River (pg. 129). I dimly recall this item from long ago. It never graced the table, perhaps because of the first sentence of the first effect. We'll get to what it is shortly.

There will be an analysis of how the 3E Thread Item stacks up to the proposed guidelines (pg. 46 of the Gamemaster's Companion) and what it looked like in its original release.

Horn of the Seven Winds
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Nothing notable here - Spell Defense is as expected and with seven ranks, it is one shy of expectations, but I have a feeling the number has more to do with a theme.

Thread Rank One
Effect: The item may be used like a crystal spell box to capture one Elementalism spell.

And there it is. Even back in '96 when I was much, much younger, I didn't want anything to do with this. The decision may have been premature and based entirely on prejudice, but it was a well-founded prejudice based on empirical evidence. Nonetheless, it's a more limited version of a cheaper item.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Rank to Spellcasting and Willforce talents for capturing spells into the horn and casting spells from the horn.

This is pretty similar to the equivalent crystal spell box rank (so this entry into the series may get a little recursive), though a greater emphasis on power than making it work. For my Legend Points, I would rather have the Spellcasting bonus so I don't end up with something terrible up in my business on accident.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The horn can hold up to two Elementalism spells.

Again, just like the crystal spell box, only one quarter as useful.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: For the purpose of capturing or casting an Elementalism Air spell, the Rank bonus to Spellcasting and Willforce is +3.

Even more specific and a bigger bonus. This is almost cripplingly specific and makes me want to count the number of Air spells which are either threatening or worth capturing. So I did. Only two, and just barely: Winds of Deflection and Lightning Bolt. The former to store for your own use and the latter in case some silly Elementalist is using it instead of Ice Mace and Chain. In which case you should really encourage them.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 Ranks to Battle Bellow.

If you felt this bonus came out of nowhere, you may be right. This is a good bonus (two effects) to a powerful talent. However, it's problematic in that if you don't already have the talent, you will not be throwing a lot of dice and the overall effect is going to be pretty weak because of the low ranks.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The user may cast an Elementalism spell into the horn.

This rank directly acknowledges the shenanigans players get up to with a crystal spell box and removes the necessity for your friend to cast spells at you. However, the character with the horn probably isn't an Elementalist, because the Elementalist is the one casting spells at it. So the ability to directly put your own spells in the horn isn't quite as good. However, if there are already two spellcasters in your group, odds are they will pick up at least one other spellcasting discipline. Probably two.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: The horn holds three Elementalism spells. Once per year, the user may summon a pack of 16 storm wolves for 24 hours as an escort.

The crystal spell box gets four spells by this point, but you also cannot cast directly into the box. The pack of storm wolves is pretty awesome, but with a limit of once per year, it is pretty limited.

How does it all stack up? Eh, I would rather have a crystal spell box. It does the whole capturing spells thing much better in every way. Not the least of which it can capture spells other than Elementalist spells. For the costs associated with this item, it cannot actually do much. That being said, I still wouldn't bring it into a game for all of the same reasons I wouldn't introduce a crystal spell box: it will bring only pain.

This isn't a particularly good example to build items from. It copies an item already in existence, yet manages to be both more expensive and worse. The interesting bonuses are too limited to be truly useful and in doing so becomes worse at the primary function of the item.

How does the 3E version compare to the 1E version? Let's find out:

Horn of the Seven Winds (1E)
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

The only change is the Spell Defense.

Thread Rank One
Effect: The item may be used like a crystal spell box to capture one Elementalism spell.

Nothing different here.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Rank to Elementalism, Spellcasting, and Willforce talents. If the wielder is not an Elementalist, they do not gain these bonuses.

This is considerably different. Instead of bonuses to capturing, the character gains three good effects. As long as they are an Elementalist.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The horn can hold up to two Elementalism spells.

Same here.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 Rank to Elementalism, Spellcasting, and Willforce talents when casting an Air spell. If the wielder is not an Elementalist, they do not gain these bonuses.

This is pretty good. While it may not be worth screwing around with capturing Air spells in the box to unleash later, a blanket bonus to casting them is something else entirely.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: The wielder may use Battle Bellow with at CHA +5.

A much more useful bonus for anyone who does not have the talent. Which will almost certainly be the character using this horn.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The horn mimics the effects of the Hold Thread talent for 1 Elementalist spell. The step number of the test is PER + Thread Rank.

These two effects are completely different. The ability to cast a spell into the horn pleases me more because of how self-aware it is, but it is also more powerful. Hold Thread is good, but not terribly difficult to pick up eventually.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Once per year, the user may summon a pack of 16 storm wolves for 24 hours as an escort.

The ability to hold another spell is missing in 1E, otherwise it is the same.

Overall, the 1E version is the more powerful version. This is due wholly to the bonuses to the caster, rather than to screwing around with capturing and releasing spells. What is particularly notable here is how divergent the 3E version is from the 1E version. Of the two, I would be far more likely to include the 3E version in a game; it is open to more characters, not just Elementalists, and the bonuses are going to be less abusive overall. All of this being said, I still don't really care for the item. Never again.

16 May 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 59 - Dagger of Ishkarat

This is the fifty-ninth Anatomy of a Thread Item in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

Found in Nations of Barsaive II: Serpent River (pg. 110), Dagger of Ishkarat is a Thread Item first introduced in The Serpent River (pg. 127). One of these has never shown up in a game over the years for the fairly simple reason I've never had a t'skrang from that particular aropagoi.

There will be an analysis of how the 3E Thread Item stacks up to the proposed guidelines (pg. 46 of the Gamemaster's Companion) and what it looked like in its original release.

Dagger of Ishkarat
Spell Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is on the low side, but the thread ranks is spot on with six. I never particularly cared for the idea that every member of House Ishkarat got one of these upon entry. Instead, I used them as a cue on NPCs for a particularly dangerous character.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 3.

While it is the standard effect, it is rather uninteresting on a dagger.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Rank to Avoid Blow.

This is much more like it and good for something which isn't going to be a primary weapon. Particularly if the GM allows the bonus if it is just worn, and not held as a weapon.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Rank to Riposte.

Another good effect which is also appropriate. This one isn't as universally useful as a bonus to Avoid Blow, but Swordmasters are certainly going to appreciate it a great deal.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +1 to Physical Defense.

A good effect which is within guidelines and fits the defensive theme of the item.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 4, and Retributive Strike. 1 Strain, add Willpower Step to all Damage tests made for the dagger against an opponent who has caused harm to House Ishkarat, and may spend 1 Karma on the Damage test if no other ability allows the use of Karma.

Well, there are two effects here and it isn't Rank Seven. Retributive Strike is very powerful. However, since it must be performed with the dagger, which is a sad weapon, it's not too bad. The damage is probably going to come out around Step 10, which may not be better than the adept's normal weapon. In all, this ability ends up being underwhelming at this point.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: 1 Strain, Retributive Strike may be used against any enemy of House Ishkarat. Retributive Strikes are automatically Armor-Defeating Hits. Additionally, up to 3 Karma may be spent on the Damage test. However, the dagger shatters after the first Damage test.

There is quite a bit going on here. First, the expansion on who Retributive Strike can be used on is a bit strange. Specifically, I'm uncertain where lies the distinction between someone who has caused harm and is just an enemy. Next, the attack is extremely powerful. However, it can only be done once and this is quite the investment to simply throw away. There is a strange follow-up to the ability about killing someone in a single hit, taking their weapon, and an Ishkaratan Weaponsmith making a "remarkable threaded weapon". It indicates this has never been done before, so an interesting place to hide a plot hook with no guidance?

How does it all stack up? It's decent enough looking for three of the six ranks, then it starts to go a little sideways. This item would never be classified as being powerful, it actually may struggle to be considered good. It has some interesting flavor, particularly building on the reputation of House Ishkarat, but it suffers from being wrapped up in a weapon which isn't likely to see use as a weapon. 

Starting a character out with this may cause some problems from the simple angle that no one else starts with a thread item. However, it isn't going to cause any issues beyond that point. It gives some minor bonuses, but nothing remotely powerful. The big effects are plot related, rather than player-controlled.

Themes of this item are good. It plays up the nature of the House and the basic abilities of a Swordmaster. The defensive bonuses acknowledge that a dagger isn't going to be the weapon of choice for a Swordmaster (who really is the target audience). The final two abilities are certainly interesting and can be used for inspiration, but could easily lead to problems if attached to a more effective weapon without some adaptation first.

The weapon forging thing is neat, but it would be better if there was some guidance beyond "it has probably never been done before". It's good to offer players a chance to be the first, but what makes it remarkable? Can it even be done? How does this process empower the Weaponsmith? So many questions which may be asking too much of GMs for what amounts to a throwaway line; it requires the sacrifice of a thread item for a possible, not guaranteed, reward.

How does the 3E version compare to the 1E version? Let's find out:

Dagger of Ishkarat (1E)
Spell Defense: 9
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is very low and there is one less rank than the 3E version. It is worth mentioning right now: these items are going to be pretty different at each rank.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 4, use Avoid Blow twice a round. If the wielder doesn't have Avoid Blow, add the Thread Rank to Avoid Blow tests.

Keeping in mind you only got one Avoid Blow test a round, this was very powerful. Particularly for characters who did not have the talent. There is also a two Step damage boost here. A lot of bonuses for only 200 Legend Points.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 5.

The damage on this is starting to get respectable, but still not in the realm of a primary weapon.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 Steps to Riposte. If the wielder doesn't have Riposte, they can use the talent with a Step equal to DEX + 3 + Thread Rank.

Two ranks is good, granting Riposte at that step to characters who don't have it is quite a thing.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +1 to Physical Defense.

This is actually the same.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Retributive Strike: 1 Karma, the next attack against an enemy of House Ishkarat is an Armor-Defeating Hit. The Damage is STR + WIL + 8, but the wielder takes the same amount. The dagger breaks during the strike

Similar-ish to the 3E version, though this is in one rank while the other is spread across two. The fact that you are going to be taking the same damage makes this distinctly unappealing. 

For the most part, the 1E version is better across the board, particularly for characters who don't have the talents natively. The Retributive Strike ability, however, is not so good. Which is possibly a little generous. Without a doubt, the 3E version marks an improvement over the 1E version, though it could still use a little help. It is good to see some of the designs taking some steps back from the original and adapting the overall intent to the proposed guidelines. At least mostly doing so.