19 September 2012

Earthdawn: Part 10 - House and Optional Rules

This is the tenth part in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

One of the more frequent questions that I am getting is about the optional and house rules that use in my Earthdawn games. I will be going over what I used in my most recent game, why and my thoughts on them in retrospect.


Optional Rules in Use
Found in the Earthdawn 3rd Edition Player's Guide

  • Hidden and Surface Traits, p. 33
    • Additional depth to characters, nothing particularly notable here. This appeared way back in 1E.
  • Practical Knowledge, p. 88
    • It allows you to get associated knowledge from non-knowledge skill, since you practice and have learned the skill Getting more mileage out of skills is a good thing, and I'd rather keep things moving than getting bogged down in minutia. It just makes explicit how I was going to do things anyway. It is worth nothing that Talents explicitly do not have this since you are not learning them through practice, but through a mystical connection.
  • Unweaving Threads, p. 120
    • With a potentially difficult test, you can remove one of your Threads. This makes it so that a player does not have to plan their entire character from 4th Circle with regard to Weaving Threads. Unweaving to a Horror touched item might be a little different, though.
  • Spell Legend Point Cost, p. 133
    • After using this, I am torn over whether it was a good decision or not. I've discussed this before and I still don't have a good answer. My next game, whenever that is, won't use this optional rule and I will see how that plays out.
    • This Optional Rule has been retired.
  • Bypassing Cover, p. 134
    • This allows a spellcaster to bypass any non-magical barrier with the use of Astral Sight or Sense for spells that don't have a physical component. This increases the versatility of how a magician operates in combat, allowing them to do things that others just cannot without stealing the show. In my mind, this is when spellcasters are at their best.
  • Take the Initiative, p. 215
    • Just take the average initiative result instead of rolling for large combats. As a GM, I don't like rolling and will take every chance that I can get to avoid it. I find that it slows things down since I have to do so much of it and Earthdawn is kind enough to have the Steps which provide the average result as their Step number. The thing is that I always use this, even if it is just one opponent.
  • Minimum Weapon Damage, p. 221
    • With a Good result on your attack test, you will always deal damage at least equal to your Weapon's Damage Step before armor. I like the result levels and think that the Good level is often ignored, also rolling terrible damage is disappointing, so I like to mitigate that. It also happens to speed up fights and add more danger, which is good in my mind.
  • Circle-based Attribute Improvement, p. 238
    • I allow for the new and old method of attribute improvement because why not? It's fun and I have plenty of other ways to nickle and dime players for time and money. Players also seem to really enjoy raising attributes in a way that raising a Talent cannot match.
  • Aligning Talents and Skills, p. 240
    • This allows you to turn a skill you already have into a Talent you have just learned. It encourages players to make the character they want and not just plan for the future. It certainly can be gamed towards that end, but the Legend Point savings are minimal after the first few Circles.
  • Realigning Durability, p. 243
    • This allows you to use the best Durability you have access to rather than whatever you started with. While it seems that all roads may lead to Warrior, I have never seen that. What it does mean is that magicians are encouraged to branch out and characters are more likely to start where they want, rather than where the best Durability is.
  • Blood Charm Depatterning, p. 258
    • Depatterning is a nasty consequence of loading up on too much Blood Magic. It plays a lot like cyberware in Shadowrun does, and I like that connection.

    House Rules in Use
Races
  • Dwarfs now have the following game information:
    • Starting Attribute Values:

      DEX 9, STR 10, TOU 12, PER 11, WIL 11, CHA 10

    • Strong Back: Dwarfs treat their Strength as 2 higher for the purposes of carrying capacity.
    • Heat Sight
      • I've said before that I don't care for the attribute spread for dwarfs and this is my solution. Previously they were... fourth best at being a fighter, which was the only thing they were any good at. This makes them thinkers (also Weaponsmiths) and magicians on par with elves, and the lack of charisma penalty means they are at least average merchants. They're short, so a dexterity penalty is appropriate. They are also tough, though not freakishly. The Strong Back ability brings their carrying capacity up to what it used to be, since they are supposed to be stocky and powerful.
Disciplines
  • Air Sailors have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Haggle is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Taunt is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Endure Cold is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Champion Challenge is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Daughters of Heaven have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as a Novice Talent Option.
    • Empathic Sense is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Poison Resistance is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Resist Pain is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Elementalists have the following Talent modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as a Novice Talent Option.
      • This reflects the Parry House Rule.
  • Guardian of Cathay have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as a First Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Wound Balance is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Evidence Analysis is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Life Check is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Rushing Attack is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impart of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Horror Stalkers have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as a Novice Talent Option.
    • Wound Balance is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Temper Other is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Mind Blade is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Monks have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as a Novice Talent Option.
      • This reflects the Parry House Rule.
  • Outcast Warriors have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Throwing Weapons is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Sense Danger is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Lion Heart is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Mind Blade is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule
  • Samurai have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as a First Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Wound Balance is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Long Shot is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Mount Attack is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Mind Blade is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Scholars have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as an Initiate Talent Option.
      • This reflects the Parry House Rule.
  • Sky Raiders have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as an Initiate Talent Option.
      • This reflects the Parry House Rule.
  • Songsmiths have the following modifications:
    • Speak Language is now a First Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Evaluate as now an Initiate Talent Option. 
    • Etiquette is now a Second Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Haggle is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Diplomacy is now an Eighth Circle Discipline Talent.
    • True Sight is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
      • The role of merchant is already filled by the Weaponsmith, who also does a better job of it. I prefer the idea of Songsmiths being an emissary of elf culture. Though I have a specialist of Songsmith called "Emissary" that may be more appropriate for what I want. It just feels strange to have a specialist of what is already such a specialized Discipline.
  • Sword Dancers have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as a First Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Acrobatic Strike is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Performance is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Tiger Spring is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Missile Twister is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Swordmasters have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as a First Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Throwing Weapons is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Etiquette is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Shield Charge is not a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Rushing Attack is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Taildancers have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as an Initiate Talent.
    • Throwing Weapons is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Distract is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Resist Taunt is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Resist Pain is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Traveled Scholars have the following modifications:
    • Navigation is removed as an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Melee Weapons is now an Initiate Talent Option.
  • Warriors have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Missile Weapons is now an Initiate Talent Option.
    • Shield Charge is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Battle Bellow is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Rushing Attack is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
  • Weaponsmiths have the following modifications:
    • Parry is replaced by Avoid Blow as an Initiate Talent Option.
      • This reflects the Parry House Rule.
  • Wizards have the following modifications:
    • Research is now a First Circle Discipline Talent.
    • Astral Sight is now the Fourth Circle Discipline Talent.
      • This makes Wizards less like Nethermancers and plays up their studious nature more. It's a small change, but if you have both at first Circle in a Group, it feels more than a little redundant.
  • Woodsmen have the following modifications:
    • Parry is removed as a Novice Talent Option.
    • Mystic Aim is now a Novice Talent Option.
    • Tiger Spring is now a Journeyman Talent Option.
    • Pin is now a Warden Talent Option.
      • This reduces the impact of the lost Talent Option due to the Parry House Rule.
Talents and Skills
  • Avoid Blow: Shield Deflection bonuses apply.
    • This encourages shields, which aren't that popular with the initiative penalty, and makes the slower defensive character more attractive.
  • Buzz: The Test is made at the beginning of the round, regardless of initiative.
    • Just to simplify things.
  • Call of Harrow: It is now a Simple action instead of a Standard action.
    • As a Standard action, this was rarely an attractive option unless the target was being spied on from concealment, which is unlikely for a Horror. This means it will get used quite a bit, and I like that.
  • Claw Shape: The Step Number is STR+Rank+3.
    • This is the 1E damage formula, but I never got much data to compare - the character only played one session.
  • Craft Armor: Now takes days, not weeks.
    • I like the downtime for Earthdawn and how it has a different pace, but this was getting ridiculous.
  • Craft Weapon: Now takes half the number of days.
  • Creature Analysis: It is now a Simple action instead of a Standard action.
  • Durability: The benefits for magician Disciplines is now “5/4” instead of “4/3”. If realigning Durability, it now retroactively affects all previous ranks purchased, but requires using a Talent Option and will be a Discipline Talent for the appropriate Discipline.
    • I increased the Durability of magicians since Thieves no longer had a weird middle value (5/4) and there wasn't much reason to keep magicians in the Durability ghetto. The cost of a Talent Option for realigning goes along with the boost from realignment - which will lead to less bookkeeping down the road. The increased costs make realignment an actual choice, instead of an automatic assumption.
    • This House Rule has been updated to reflect Revised Edition.
  • Forge Armor: Each additional day spent using the Talent reduces Difficulty Number by -1 (max -3).
    • This barely came into play, but I will assume it has a similar effect as "Forge Weapon".
    • This House Rule has been retired.
  • Forge Weapon: Each additional day spent using the Talent reduces Difficulty Number by -1 (max -3).
    • This change was to mirror the additional time that can be taken with the Craft skills. In the end, I don't think that I would use this house rule again. It allowed very early access to weapons that were powerful enough to deform encounters for the duration of the game. The players didn't seem to notice, but the group were effectively glass cannons.
    • This House Rule has been retired.
  • Haggle: It has been modified to allow for Result Levels: +/- 5% per Result Level (starting at Good) instead of just +/- 5% if successful (each are per attempt).
    • This Talent now looks more like the Barter Talent from Cathay, but was before that book came out. I wanted to take advantage of the Result Levels more, and it make the Haggling game more entertaining, but provided substantially more resources to the players. It will need to be refined before future use.
  • Heartening Laugh: It is now a Simple action and costs 1 Strain, instead of a Standard action and no Strain cost.
    • This was not a terribly attractive option as a Standard action and the Strain cost brings it in-line with all other Simple actions.
  • Karma Ritual: You may spend 10 Legend Points to completely refill your Karma Pool when performing a Karma Ritual. You may also spend a Recovery Test to perform an additional Karma Ritual per day; the Recovery Test must come from the natural allotment of Recovery Tests and not from external sources, such as a Thread Item or Talent.
    • Karma is free in Revised Edition, but some of my players still wanted the option to regain all of their Karma, regardless of the cost (which the consider to be negligible). In general I like to have Karma Ritual serve as other purposes, so giving the ability to perform it more than once (for a significant cost) works out well.
    • This House Rule has been updated to reflect Revised Edition.
  • Maneuver: The Test is made at the beginning of the round, regardless of initiative.
  • Parry: Has been removed and replaced with Avoid Blow in all instances.
    • This was too powerful on defense for me, I prefer offensive to trump just to keep things moving.
  • Speak Language: When ranks are spent to learn a new language, no rolling is required. The Talent can be used to temporarily speak a new language for a number of hours equal to the adept's Speak Language rank (difficulty based on the Language Table, p. 80), modified by the complexity of the conversation.
    • I didn't care for all of the rolling associated with this Talent as written (or it was unclear, either way). This brought out the magical nature of the Talent and allowed a more diverse variety of languages and still have participation (also hilarious misunderstandings).
  • Steel Thought: Shield Deflection bonuses apply.
Karma
  • You may spend 10 Legend Points when performing a Karma Ritual to refill your Karma completely.
  • You may spend a Recovery Test to perform an additional Karma Ritual per day; the Recovery Test must come from the normal allotment and not from an external source, such as a Thread Item or Talent.
    • This reflects the ways my players have grown accustomed to regaining Karma (all of them) with the associated cost (10 Legend Points) if they prefer that to the standard method in Revised Edition, which is free. Given the number of ways I like to use Karma Rituals, and that not everyone expends resources the same way, I wanted to give players more options on how to use their resources.
    • This House Rule has been updated to Revised Edition.
Thread Magic
  • Thread Weaving Talents cannot have their Rank increased by exterior means. This includes, but is not limited to: Thread items, pattern items, and heartblades. These can be used to grant bonuses to Thread Weaving Tests.
    • The number of Threads you can have active is equal to your Thread Weaving rank and provides a limit on the number of sources you can have bonuses from, unless you have items that boost your Thread Weaving rank, in which case it becomes effectively unlimited. This prevents any "wish for more wishes" style abuses and creates a hard limit on how many boosts each character has access. Unweaving Threads (above) is important in conjunction with this.
Building Your Legend
  • Circle-based and training-based Attribute improvement is being used.
  • Attributes may be improved by +5 instead of +3 if they are an Important Attribute to any Discipline the Adept may possess. +4 and +5 may only be achieved through Circle-based Attribute improvement.
    • I wanted to make the "important attributes" for each Discipline actually meaningful, since I often found them to be somewhat misleading. This also plays up the mystical connection to the Discipline and how it allows adepts to transcend normal limitations.
  • Parts taken from creatures may be turned into trophies. The trophy may not be sold, but can be decorated by an appropriate Artisan Skill. A character may only have one decorated trophy of a given type. The value of the trophy may be paid again to gain +10% to the Legend Point value (+100% max). Characters may use their own Artisan Skills with a Difficulty 1/10th of the Legend Point value of the trophy initially (rounded up) at half of the cost in sp. For every +1 added to the Difficulty the Legend Point value will increase by 10% (maximum 100%). Each success level above Average will increase the Legend Point Value by 10%.
    • This is probably the single most successful house rule here. I like to run "tactile" games, where there are things to hand out and play with. It originated from an on-the-spot ruling about the players wanting to keep the things they found, but also wanting the points. It was a scheme to offer some paltry Legend Points in return for significant resources. The option also encouraged investment in artisan skills to help defray costs and make the trophies more awesome. It was a huge success. Considerable time and energy was spent on describing these items and were important parts in each character's identity - their themes in adornment. The difficulties need to be fixed since it becomes incredibly difficult at the higher end.
Currency
  • Gold pieces are worth 100 silver pieces, not 10.
    • This was to make usage of my actual coins useful and require less of them overall.
  • Earth and Water Elemental Coins are worth 1000 silver pieces, not 100.
    • Both a fix to the new cost of gold pieces and because I would sometimes forget which coins were worth less than the others.
Equipment
  • Helmets do not provide a Deflection bonus by default.
    • This was tedious bookkeeping for me and only one player wanted to wear a helmet, but there is no real reason to not wear a helmet. I would rather have them be Thread Items, or a thematic choice for the character.
Blood Charms
  • Blood Charm Depatterning works as follows: When a Blood Charm is installed its Depatterning Rating is added to the character’s Depatterning Rating. When a Blood Charm is removed, it’s Depatterning Rating is removed the character’s Depatterning Rating. Whenever a Blood Charm with a Depatterning Rating of at least 1 is activated, the Gamemaster will roll a Willpower Test (this test is unmodified) against the character’s Depatterning Rating. If the Test fails, the character will gain 1 Depatterning Point. This Test is an exception from the standard rules in which a Result of 1 will always be a failure. From this point the rules proceed as standard.
    • I like Depatterning, but found it to be far too punitive in execution. This was my attempt to strike a balance, but it never actually came up. There was a character that was almost addicted to Blood Charms, but avoided the worst of them.
  • No new methods to reduce Depatterning have yet been discovered by Nethermancers beyond eschewing all Blood Magic for a year and a day.
    • This was meant to inspire the Nethermancer into an area of research, but I don't know if he ever read the house rules.
Crafting
  • You may use your final, modified Step Number as your Test Result if you choose on crafting tests.
    • This was to simplify crafting between sessions since I would already know the outcome and could create props accordingly. It also encouraged players to engage in it since they knew their efforts would not be for waste. It worked very well and the characters that could were involved in making things on a regular basis.