23 December 2012

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 10 - Outcast Warrior

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

Overview

The Outcast Warrior is a highland troll only Discipline and probably the most involved in terms of setting lore. Because of that, they are also loaded with flavor, adventure hooks, drama and reasons to be out there creating a Legend.
Honor is the most important concept for trolls (this is touched on in Sky Raider) and that is the very essence of this Discipline. An Outcast Warrior has chosen to have their horns removed and leave their moot, rather than fight to the death, over a point of honor. The details of these situations are far too complex for other Namegivers to grasp and the troll in question doesn't really like to talk about it. This is all good because you don't necessarily have to develop more than an outline of the scenario that catalyzed this outcome. Vague is better, let the other players guess at what the details are and how the Byzantine nature of troll honor dictated that this was the best outcome.

Other highland trolls are obligated to try and kill you on sight, so reconciliation with the your moot isn't in the cards and a lack of horns makes it very easy to spot Outcast Warriors. They tend to gather in groups and try to eke out a living as best as possible, or make their way with the rest of the world. This character is going to have tense relationships with pretty much everyone that they meet, in no small measure because of the questions that having no horns brings about, which of course runs into the prickly nature of troll honor and this can easily lead to a violent mess. Those Namegivers that manage these troubled waters and earn an Outcast Warrior's trust will have a friend for life.

Honor is by far and away the most important element in this Disciplines life, they chose what their moot sees as a shameful way, though what they see as the most honorable decision. The fact they chose not to fight to the death should never imply a cowardice on their part, but instead some deeply nuanced view of the honor required in the situation. What this means is that their views on honor may not be obvious in application and are a major area of development for the character.

There are other unique elements to this Discipline; initiation into it is a required part of the Ritual of Severance. The character can abandon their previous Discipline, or take the Outcast Warrior as an additional Discipline. In the latter case, they will need to decide if it will now be their primary Discipline, or their newest Discipline. This ritual may very well cause a character to become an adept, which implies a great deal of power involved.

For character development, details of their past are likely best left muddled in exposition. These are things that have explicitly been left behind. Creating aspects of their old moot can be important to establish things that the Outcast Warrior no longer does. For example, if the moot wore red as their primary color and decorated themselves with skulls, the Outcast Warrior will now shun the color red and all bones. It is an interesting exercise, a mirror of what is normally associated with a background - a list of things that are not done. From there, their development in game will be significantly more important as they learn their new life, especially their honor.

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 most obvious aspect of this Discipline to examine is their honor. It required them to make a difficult decision in the past and will continue to do so in the future. This should always be on the table because of how central it is to the character. Their honor also places demands on the Outcast Warrior with regard to their Group, which may cause difficulties as they try to discern the most honorable way. This is not a character of easy answers.

More minor concerns would be conduct in battle - an Outcast Warrior, no matter how pragmatic, must always comport themselves honorably in battle. They hold themselves to the very highest standards here and will likely hold their companions to the same standards. Also, returning to their old ways, whether relying too much on previous Disciplines that represent their old life, or living in a way that evokes their previous existence. All of these show that the troll has not truly severed their ties.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Acrobatic Strike, Climbing, Parry, Wilderness Survival, Wood Skin

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Avoid Blow, Battle Shout, Karma Ritual, Melee Weapons, Unarmed Combat

Novice
Talent Options: Anticipate Blow, Great Leap, Maneuver, Missile Weapons, Sprint, Throwing Weapons, Tiger Spring

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Durability (9/7), Shield Charge

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Swift Kick

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Kava Weaving]

Journeyman
Talent Options: Cobra Strike, Disarm, Down Strike, Earth Skin, Endure Cold, Resist Taunt, Sense Danger, Temper Self

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Fireblood

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Life Check

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Steely Stare

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Second Attack

Outcast Warriors play somewhere between a Warrior and a Sky Raider, for better or worse. They are tough; Durability (9/7), Fireblood and Lifecheck all see to that. Battle Shout gives them a good debuff, Shield Charge and Swift Kick some options, though they are both limiting in their own way. Steely Stare is one of my favorite Talents for the grim fighter-type, even if it shows up rather late. It gives you something to do (and be good at) in non-combat situations and can potentially prevent things from escalating.

The limitations imposed by Shield Charge and Swift Kick are unfortunate as they work counter to each other and there aren't very good options to deal with that. For Shield Charge to work, you need a shield, which will most likely give you an initiative penalty. Swift Kick, however, requires you to go before your opponent. These together put some definite restrictions on your character to take advantage of them, and since you will be investing in them every Circle, it is probably worth it.

Their biggest problem, beyond the limitations previously mentioned, will be damage output compared to other frontline fighters. They don't have a damage adding Discipline Talent, nor do they have a significant bag of tricks, or a large number of attacks (e.g. Swordmaster and Taildancer). This means they will rely more on their Talent Options than most other combat Disciplines must.

In all, the Outcast Warrior is a solid combatant with more options of things to do in a fight than a Warrior, though they make some compromises that are best entering into with eyes open. Though, this Discipline is best left for players much more comfortable with the moving parts of the system.
There are is one good Initiate Talent Option for the Outcast Warrior, and something of a mixed bag beyond that:
  • Acrobatic Strike - Lacking a native physical defense increasing Talent, this is a good option. Since having a good initiative should already be a priority, that is not a particular issue. It will require continual improvement.
  • Climbing - A useful Talent only if you cannot find something else to take, otherwise it is better as a skill.
  • Parry - Redundant with Avoid Blow as a Discipline Talent. Between the inability to spend Karma and the requirement to use a shield (which eliminates the benefits from two-handed weapons), this Talent is best avoided.
  • Wilderness Survival - This is in the same category is Climbing above.
  • Wood Skin - Due to Fireblood as a Discipline Talent, I would give this Talent a pass. They draw from the same resource (Recovery Tests) and Karma on Fireblood is pretty awesome. The cost of a Karma and the constant investment to keep it on par with Fireblood are the final nails in the coffin.
The Novice Talent Options hold a couple of Talents that a very important in dealing with some of the issues Outcast Warriors face:
  • Anticipate Blow - The play style of the Outcast Warrior is more aggressive than this patient Talent requires and I would recommend Acrobatic Strike overall. There is very little point to having both Talents in your arsenal and they both require continual improvement.
  • Great Leap - This is a must and the first half in addressing the damage output problems that Outcast Warriors will face.
  • Maneuver - On the whole, I would say give this Talent a pass. The action cost with it can be daunting at times.
  • Missile Weapons - Great Leap will solve most of the problems that this deals with, though if you have the extra selections it is a possibility. It does require investment every Circle to remain useful, however.
  • Sprint - There is no requirement to continually improve this Talent for it to be useful, but it does cost Karma and that is often a resource that trolls have in limited supply.
  • Throwing Weapons - In the same situation as Missile Weapons.
  • Tiger Spring - This is a must and the primary tool in improving initiative.
There are some interesting choices available in the Journeyman Talent Options and some difficult decisions may have to be made:
  • Cobra Strike - Normally this isn't a great option, but it can be an excellent selection for an Outcast Warrior (mostly because they don't get Air Dance). It is good at any level and will help with initiative in the first round, as well as some good side benefits.
  • Disarm - An interesting pick that is useful for many situations, but not applicable to all (opponents really need weapons). If you aren't fighting a lot of opponents with weapons, this won't come up as much as you may like. It will need continual improvement.
  • Down Strike - This is a must and the second half in addressing the damage output problems that Outcast Warriors will face.
  • Earth Skin - I like this Talent a lot for pretty much every character. It will be very useful once magical effects start becoming more common. 
  • Endure Cold - If you don't know you need this Talent, you probably do not need this Talent.
  • Resist Taunt - I don't generally care for active defenses that you cannot spend Karma on.
  • Sense Danger - This is often an interesting Talent, though will usually come up just short when the time to make difficult decisions arrives. It looks good on paper, but it is difficult to predict how often it will be useful.
  • Temper Self - This is almost always a good selection, though there is the potential for a big downside if you fail the roll. To mitigate that, it is highy suggested to continue improving this talent.
Equipment

The limitations above seem to dictate some narrow options: one-handed weapon, shield and light armor. Between Shield Charge and Swift Kick, that is how things seem to fall out. Any improvements that can reduce initiative penalties (Smooth Armor) will be extremely valuable.