16 November 2012

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 06 - Air Sailor

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

Overview

They travel across the world on currents of air. The life of an Air Sailor is romantic and dangerous, and all of them will tell you it is because of their mates that they have made it. This Discipline is something of an unsung hero in the role that they fulfill, but they are not in it for the glory, not like a Swordmaster. What drives an Air Sailor may be different for each individual, but it will inevitably involve their friends, that sense of companionship, to some degree.

An Air Sailor lives by their wits and value the ability to see clearly, think quickly and act with certainty above all else (except for solidarity). Through those traits it is not uncommon for Air Sailors to become the leader of any Group they travel with. Despite having the Talents for it, they may not be the face; they are generally more comfortable out of the limelight and playing a supporting role. They know that a Group can only find success through every member working together and it is their goal to ensure this. Generally, this means their ego must take a backseat to the needs of the whole, but through that quiet knowledge they know their value.

Towards any outside of their Group, Air Sailors are consummate professionals - they would never take any action that could reflect poorly on their friends. By extension, they expect the same of their friends. Even if such a transgression occurs, they will defend their companions in public to the death, for that is what is expected. In private and away from outsiders, there will likely be a severe dressing down regarding expectations.

It is through these attitudes that they naturally gravitate towards leadership roles, along with their ability to see. This is a trait somewhat difficult to describe, but it involves always planning for the future and looking to see what is next. Air Sailors are never solely interested in what is happening now, but always have one eye on the horizon, on what is coming.

Discipline Violations

These are best employed not as a stick, but as a chance for the player to take a deeper look at what it means to follow their Discipline. The Group is the most important concept to an Air Sailor and any act which goes against the Group can be a distinct source of trouble. Any situation that causes the Air Sailor to evaluate what it means to have their individuality subsumed by the greater whole would evoke some soul-searching; finding their place, and determining to what degree they can shape their Group. Conflict with other Disciplines over this facet which is fundamental to an Air Sailor is almost inevitable. What is clearly evident to them may be anathema to another adept's perspective. In all things, a united front must be presented, but what happens when a companion breaks ranks? As well, what of a betrayal?

Of significantly less importance, but still relevant to an Air Sailor, is their code of honor. This is what they hold themselves to, what they expect from all of their companions as well. This code of conduct is often what will guide them during times when their vision is blurry. Developing this, how it involves the treatment of allies and enemies, will be important in the growth of an Air Sailor.
Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Navigation, Parry, Speak Language, Throwing Weapons, Unarmed Combat

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Air Sailing, Avoid Blow, Climbing, Karma Ritual, Melee Weapons

Novice
Talent Options: Air Dance, Great Leap, Haggle, Heartening Laugh, Missile Weapons, Read/Write Language, Wind Catcher

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Distract, Durability (6/5)

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Empathic Sense

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Air Weaving

Journeyman
Talent Options: Acrobatic Strike, Disarm, Etiquette, Lasting Impression, Lion Heart, Riposte, Tactics, Taunt

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Swing Attack

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Wound Balance

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Resist Taunt

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Leadership

Air Sailors can play switch to a number of different roles within any Group, though their Discipline Talents are generally combat related. However, with a strictly average Durability (6/5), they are going to find protracted engagements to be dangerous and that Strain cannot be spent freely.

The primary areas of emphasis for an Air Sailor are combat and social, though they have access to some fun movement abilities as well. They will never excel in combat like a Sky Raider, Swordmaster or Warrior, but with Avoid Blow and Melee Weapons as Discipline Talents, they should be able to hold their own. They even have Swing Attack for some additional combat options and a damage bonus. Access to social Talents is done through their Talent Options, and they have an nice collection, but missing what could be considered key Talents (First Impression is of particular note here).

No matter what direction an Air Sailor is taken, they are strongest as a team player. They can support other characters in their niches and that is where the Air Sailor shines, which is somewhat ironic. Between Empathic Sense and Collaborate (Journeyman Ability), these adepts should be welcome in any Group. In combat, they can employ Distract to grant more combat oriented characters openings to exploit. With Collaborate, it pays for an Air Sailor to at least dabble in other characters' specialties, providing additional bonuses and a back up character when needed.

The Initiate Talent Options are perhaps the only time in an Air Sailor's career where they won't have to make some very difficult choices. They represent some solid choices and any decisions here can easily be based on what the rest of the Group is bringing to the table:

  • Navigation - While granted through Half-Magic when on an airship, if no one else in the Group has this it can be very useful.
  • Parry - There are some issues with this Talent: Avoid Blow is a Discipline Talent, which means it will be continually improved and Karma can be spent on it. To remain useful, this Talent will require constant improvement, but that still doesn't quite out-weigh the benefit of Karma. As well, two-handed weapons are often unavailable to Air Sailors as they tend to have good attributes across the board and often don't sport the strength to wield them.
  • Speak Language - Always one of my favorites, it generally pays to have at least one character in a Group with this Talent. If none of the other Initiate Talent Options are compelling, this is a good choice.
  • Throwing Weapons - It requires constant improvement to be useful and Air Sailors get access to a number of movement Talents that make this less valuable.
  • Unarmed Combat - This can only be recommended if it fits a character concept; it will require continual improvement as well.
Novice Talent Options are when difficult decisions begin, particularly if there is something from Initiate that is still tempting. At this point, the direction of the character should be somewhat decided - what areas will they be supporting, and what will the be filling in for - and that will make Talent Option selection considerably easier:
  • Air Dance - An amazing Talent all around. Boosts initiative and can potentially grant an additional attack. There is little reason to not take this (unless Strain is a continual issue).
  • Great Leap - Useful and fun, this Talent grants considerable mobility and the ability to capitalize on skills like Down Strike.
  • Haggle - If there is no Weaponsmith, then someone in the Group could stand to have this Talent. Generally Air Sailors have a good charisma, so this is worth taking a second look at.
  • Heartening Laugh - At the cost of a Karma, I would generally give this one a pass. There is a Swordmaster in your Group, isn't there?
  • Missile Weapons - In the same boat as Throwing Weapons: there are probably better options available to you. That being said, if it goes with the character concept, then by all means.
  • Read/Write Language - It is always good to have this paired with Speak Language, if nothing else so you don't have to deal with the potential headaches of "I can speak it, but not read it". Reading is fundamental.
  • Wind Catcher - Pair this with Great Leap for fun. You are bound to come up with uses for this Talent, particularly if you don't have it and are plummeting to your doom from an airship.
Even more good Talent Options are to be had at Journeyman. There is a strange detail about some Talents at this tier (including Discipline Talents): it is somewhat later than you generally see Acrobatic Strike, Taunt and Wound Balance.
  • Acrobatic Strike - The ability to raise your physical defense is always useful. With Air Dance, gaining initiative shouldn't be an issue to use this Talent. It does require continual improvement and costs Strain, so those should be weighed when considering it.
  • Disarm - Powerful in the right situations, it does have some downsides. It requires the constant maintenance of any attack Talent and costs Strain.
  • Etiquette - A useful social Talent that fits well into the "leader" theme Air Sailors develop.
  • Lasting Impression - If going down the social road, this Talent is going to be important.
  • Lion Heart - Rarely will you regret taking this Talent when you need it, it doesn't require much investment to show a return when it comes up.
  • Riposte - The costs associated with this Talent are high and the inability to spend Karma on it means you will be unlikely to see much out of it. Which is tragic, because this Talent is really good.
  • Tactics - Useful for any Air Sailor that intends to command a number of NPCs, such as on their own airship. Other characters involved in more conventional adventuring won't likely get much out of this.
  • Taunt - Probably the best debuff in the game - attacks social, reasonable duration, decent penalities. It rarely hurts to have more than one character capable of using it.
Races

Obsidimen find themselves at odds with the Discipline; they are mostly inclined to stay on the ground and little rigging is going to support almost half a ton of rock man. Nearly all other Namegivers can find a niche within this broad Discipline to fill.