02 December 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Musings 02 - Self-Training

This is the second part of Musings part of 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 is the second entry in this category where I share thoughts on various topics. Be aware, there will be rambling, asides, digressions, and wherever chasing the white rabbit takes me.

This particular topic comes up from time to time and like most things, I have opinions about it. Much of this is based on looking at how a body of knowledge develops in the world and how you gain access to it. Practicing a skill often only gets you so far as this doesn't necessarily force you to learn something new. But I'm getting ahead of myself...


Adepts training themselves is an interesting topic, though never discussed in the text throughout the editions. It is a topic of interest because it bypasses roadblocks, and implies an inherent level of mysticism and connection to magic that can be distinctly appealing. From a purely practical standpoint, there’s the argument someone had to be the first to get there. Rank 10 skills and Fifteenth Circle didn’t come out of nowhere. Well, depending on where you think Disciplines came from, they could have been given fully formed.


The problem with how to address this within the setting is everyone is standing on the shoulders of those before them. The knowledge of a Rank 10 skill was built over generations of practitioners making discoveries, then sharing that knowledge with others. Slowly building the abstraction we use ranks to represent. If someone doesn’t show you what the more advanced techniques are and you don’t have access to training materials, this is a long, laborious and potentially impossible task. You are effectively reinventing the wheel without knowing anything about what a wheel is.


Disciplines present a similar difficulty. If they were developed rather than gifted, this means they were the product of many who came before. Those teachings spread and became true, shaping the Discipline and what it represents. A scholar in the text The Adept’s Journey: Mystic Paths posits Paths may be precursors to Disciplines. This is rightly refuted with the statement there is nothing to support the hypothesis and it falls into the realm of things impossible to test.


Where does this leave us in the context of self-training within the setting? It indicates it may not realistically be possible to advance in Circle or a skill rank without a trainer. Doing so would require a significant increase in the time required. It would be measured in years rather than weeks. However, this doesn’t have to reflect your group and your table. Perhaps the adepts are prodigies who are remarkably in tune with their Discipline. They immerse themselves in meditation, communing with the elements that reflect their perspective on their Discipline, they attempt to open their eyes to possibilities, seeing what they don’t already see. This is a journey of discovery, explicitly learning what they don’t already know. In such circumstances, the training period should be at least ten times the listed requirement. This is almost fancifully low. However, it should reflect what the group wants out of the game. Not what the game wants you to do.


25 November 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 117 - Cold Calculations

This is the one-hundred and seventeenth 4E Anatomy of a Thread Item, 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items. This was written with the request of a vest with extra Durability. That pretty much writes the first four ranks. From there I wanted something weird with implications, but didn't go out of its way to say them. This builds on my impression of what the character wants, both in terms of imagery and function.


Cold Calculations

Maximum Threads: 1
Mystic Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

This black vest is woven from silk of unearthly smoothness. The fibers are always ice cold to the touch, even as they seem to be strong as iron. Close examination of the shiny fabric reveals small symbols, runes and glyphs along the front panels, giving it a slightly textured look even as the craftsmanship means they don’t stand out, only reflect what little light they do slightly differently. A row of elegant silver buttons tarnished with the patina of time round out the front. The back panel is dominated by a stylized, angular spider in thread which absorbs all light. But otherwise unadorned.

When a thread is woven to the vest, it resizes itself to perfectly fit the wearer. Aside from the tarnished buttons (which only make it look distinguished), the vest is never disheveled or out of place. It’s the perfect fashion for any situation, whether dominating trade negotiations, or laying in wait for prey.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the vest’s Name.
Effect: The wearer gains +1 to their Physical Armor.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wearer gains +1 Circle to a Discipline of their choice for the purpose of determining Durability.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the creator’s Name.
Effect: The wearer gains +1 to their Mystic Armor.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The wearer gains +2 Circles to a Discipline of their choice for the purpose of determining Durability.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the bound spirit’s Name. [Szazi]
Effect: The wearer gains the Cold Calculations ability. As a Free action for 2 Strain before Initiative is determined, the wearer runs their fingers along the vest’s buttons, making a particular symbol, and feels a chill run through their body. They become detached from the world around them, seeing it without feelings, only the moving pieces laid before them. The wearer gains +2 to one of the following until the end of the round: Initiative, Physical Defense, Mystic Defense, or Social Defense. Each selection has a different symbol the wearer makes along the buttons associated with it.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The bonus from Cold Calculations is now +3.

18 November 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 14 - Weapons Redesign

This is the fourteenth Rules Variant, part of 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 current weapon charts are interesting, but ultimately most of it is wasted space. Different costs and weights lead more to bottlenecks for weapon choice rather than interest as there tend to be optimized choices. There’s also some problems with inconsistency. Instead, this presents generic weapons and traits (or keywords) to add to weapons to customize them as needed. All Size 3 melee weapons with Damage Step 5 are the same and it doesn’t matter if it’s an axe, spear, or sword. Some spears can have the throwing trait and be designed as such, others may be designed for exclusive use in melee combat.


The exception is missile weapons which have a fixed list with some traits behind the scenes due to balance issues afforded by significantly more powerful missile weapons. To digress briefly: this is an instance of risk v. reward, which is the lever for a lot of balance decisions even if it has nothing to do with being “realistic.” It’s a game, it’s not realistic. Drop the pitchforks and crossbows. Offering more damage from missile weapons with their exceptional range tilts the balance too far toward reward with significantly reduced risk.


Weapons are divided into three categories—melee, thrown, and missile. Windlings get their own tables because they’re significantly different in size. Each category has a set of attributes and traits to potentially choose from. Each trait reduces the Damage Step by 1. Nothing is free. For example, the aforementioned Size 3 melee weapon has Damage Step 5; if throwing is added to it, it is Damage Step 4. 


Weapons also come in three sizes—small, medium, and large. These indicate which Namegivers the weapon is designed for—small for windlings; medium for dwarfs, elves, humans, orks, and t’skrang; and large for obsidimen and trolls. These are based on the maximum one-handed weapon size for new Namegivers in future products. Weapons designed for a size cannot be used by Namegivers outside of that size; despite both being able to use Size 1 weapons, a windling cannot use a dagger designed for an elf as a sword, nor can an ork use a sword designed for a windling as a dagger. The abstractions of Size don’t include tailoring required for such drastic differences in physiology. Such as a windling being able to wrap their hand around the hilt of a dagger sized for a troll.


The goal is not to perfectly replicate every weapon. I tried that and started toeing the line to madness. That’s not quite true—I was staring in the deep end and thought, “Man, it’s not worth it over mechanics to differentiate between a dwarf sword and a short sword. Not when people are arguing about model train gauges and Sonic the Hedgehog continuity on the internet. Pace yourself.” The purpose is to eliminate the need for all those different variations on the same thing (some worse for no known reason) and instead provide descriptions of specific weapons to fill out the setting and invite character.


This does not address weapons with entangling, which probably needs a deeper redesign and aren’t as easily addressed in a simple fashion.


While this is a good start, it's not the end. And by no means perfect. Though bigger changes to the weapon list require deeper fundamental changes to the mechanics beyond just a list of weapons and what seem like deceptively "simple" or "elegant" solutions. All of which are worse than the problem the seek to resolve, either in terms of excessive complexity or giving rise to entirely worse issues because they only focus on the pebble dropping into the pond, but not the ripples it creates.


Special thanks to Brett Bowen for helping with this.



Melee Weapons


Type

Size

Damage Step

Cost

Weight

STR Min

Avail.

Medium One-Handed

1

3

1

1

6

Average

Small One-Handed

1

3

45

1

6

Unusual

Large One-Handed

2

4

2

3

8

Average

Medium One-Handed

2

4

15

3

8

Average

Medium Net

2

-

5

2

8

Unusual

Small Two-Handed

2

4

55

2

7

Unusual

Large One-Handed

3

5

30

4

12

Average

Medium One-Handed

3

5

25

4

12

Average

Large Net

3

-

10

3

10

Rare

Large One-Handed

4

6

50

6

16

Average

Medium Two-Handed

4

6

50

6

13

Average

Large Two-Handed

5

7

100

8

17

Average

Medium Two-Handed

5

7

100

8

15

Average

Large Two-Handed

6

8

150

10

19

Unusual

Medium Two-Handed

6

8

150

10

16

Unusual

Large Two-Handed

7

9

175

12

20

Unusual


Melee Weapon Traits


Defensive: The wielder gains a +1 bonus to their Physical Defense, Avoid Blow, and Riposte when using the Defensive Stance combat option.

Entangling: This is an entangling weapon. If used to entangle, it does not cause damage.

Knockdown: This weapon increases Knockdown Difficulties it causes by +2.

Light: The weapon is treated as two Sizes smaller for cost, weight, and Strength minimum. This can be taken multiple times, but additional times treat the size as only one smaller. If this reduces the weapon below Size 1, reduce cost and weight in half, and Strength minimum by -2.

Mounted: This is treated as a one-handed weapon while mounted. This reduces Damage Step by 2. Melee weapons sized for windlings do not reduce their Damage Step for this trait.

Net: Nets cannot be given additional traits and are all entangling weapons. Their Entangling Difficulty is 12.

Reach: The wielder can attack opponents 2 yards away. This cannot attack through occupied areas.

Throwing: The weapon can be thrown with 2-10 (short) and 11-20 (long) ranges; or 2-8 (short) and 9-16 (long) for windling weapons. This can only be applied to one-handed weapons.

Tripping: When making an Attack to Knockdown, this weapon ignores Physical Armor.



Throwing Weapons


Type

Size

Damage Step

Short

Long

Cost

Weight

STR Min

Avail.

Small Throwing

1

2

2-12

13-24

10

0.75

4

Unusual

Medium Throwing

1

2

2-16

17-32

2

0.75

4

Average

Small Net

2

-

2-6

7-12

15

0.75

4

Unusual

Medium Throwing

2

3

2-16

17-32

5

1

8

Average

Medium Throwing Net

2

-

2-10

11-20

10

1

10

Rare

Large Throwing

2

3

2-20

22-40

25

1

8

Average

Medium Throwing

3

4

2-20

22-40

30

2

12

Unusual

Large Throwing

3

4

2-24

25-48

75

2

12

Unusual

Large Throwing Net

3

-

2-10

11-20

15

3

12

Rare

Medium Net

4

-

2-6

7-12

15

5

10

Average

Large Throwing

4

5

2-24

25-48

100

3

16

Rare

Large Net

5

-

2-6

7-12

20

7

12

Unusual

Note: Throwing weapons can only be used one-handed, except in the case of nets.


Throwing Weapon Traits


Extended Range: This adds +4 to short range and +8 to long range.

Light: The weapon is treated as two Sizes smaller for cost, weight, and Strength minimum. This can be taken multiple times, but additional times treat the size as only one smaller. If this reduces the weapon below Size 1, reduce cost and weight in half, and Strength minimum by -2.

Net: Nets cannot be given additional traits and are all entangling weapons. Their Entangling Difficulty is 12.

Tripping: This weapon can use the Attack to Knockdown combat maneuver.



Missile Weapons


Type

Size

Damage Step

Short

Long

Cost

Weight

STR Min

Avail.

Sling (Small)

1

1

2-10

11-20

1

0.25

-

Unusual

Windling Shortbow

2

2

2-10

11-20

20

0.75

-

Unusual

Blowgun

2

1

2-20

21-40

2

1

-

Unusual

Sling (Medium)

2

2

2-10

11-20

3

1

-

Average

Windling Longbow

2

3

2-20

21-40

25

1

6

Average

Sling (Large)

3

3

2-10

11-20

15

4

-

Average

Crossbow, Light

4

4

2-30

41-60

50

5

11

Average

Shortbow

4

3

2-40

41-80

30

3

10

Average

Crossbow, Medium

5

5

2-40

41-80

100

7

12

Unusual

Longbow

5

4

2-50

51-100

60

4

11

Average

Warbow

6

5

2-60

61-120

200

5

12

Rare

Note: Regardless of the Size, missile weapons always require two hands to use. Even if small enough to wield in one hand (e.g. sling), a second hand is required to reload.


Only shortbows, slings, and windling shortbows can be used while mounted.


If using sling bullets, rather than rocks smoothed by the river, slings add +10 yards to short range and +20 yards to long range for medium and large slings. Small slings must use sling bullets and do not increase range. Sling bullets cost 1 sp (small), 2 sp (medium) and 3 sp (large) for 20 sling bullets.