21 January 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 13 - Purifier

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

Overview

Purifiers are an obsidiman-only Discipline that exists somewhat in contrast to the stereotypical view of those Namegivers. Whereas most see obsidimen as clam and slow to anger, a Purifier tends to be significantly more tempestuous, less a craggy mountain and more an avalanche.

Their purpose is to heal the earth. While that is primarily focused on the damage caused by the Scourge and Horrors, that is by no means the limit of their cause. Any that cause wanton destruction or harm will likely earn the unwelcome attention of a Purifier. This harm can take the form of encroaching on unspoiled areas, over grazing or hunting, anything that can have a permanent impact on the balance of the world.

It is important to remember the view obsidimen have of the world and how it has changed. They do not see just the next season, month or even decade; they look to the next centuries and Purifiers in particular how to safeguard that for those that must live there beyond the sunset of the Namegivers that currently surround them. The Purifier gives form to the silent rage most obsidimen feel, but cannot give shape to. These adepts are the passion of their people, and the passion of a mountain is a volcano.

Despite their love and protection for the earth, they understand for somethings to flourish, others must die. Therein lies the balance. For other Namegivers to live, some places must be given over to their needs. It is in the overuse of these sacrifices, refusing to honor what has been lost for them to continue, and the continual need to consume that Purifiers draw the line. Some see violence as their first answer, others see education as the more successful route. Only through teaching can the younger Namegivers be expected to learn. Though a refusal to actually learn and continuing in their decadent ways is a dangerous path to tread as obsidimen have long memories and do not forgive easily; Purifiers see themselves as the earth's vengeance given form and purpose.

While their relationship with other Namegivers may be a source of contention, their main focus is to combat the Scourge. They have the abilities and drive to heal the land in a way that no other Discipline can. Their focus on eliminating Horrors is almost as single-minded as the Horror Stalker.

When playing a Purifier it is important to determine what your philosophy when dealing with Namegivers that may not know better in how they treat the earth. At what point has a line been crossed? A Purifier's demeanor is significantly different from most obsidimen, and that can be an important element to consider - they will likely be a different roleplaying experience and perhaps a study in contrasts.

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 main concern for any Purifier is their relationship with the earth and how they tend to it. One of the main manifestations of this is likely to be the usage of the Earth Bond Talent to heal the Purifier, which draws life from the earth itself. Too much reliance on this while giving little to nothing back in return could be a significant issue. What may be a point of contention between this adept and their Group is how they deal with Namegivers that may be overstepping their relationship with the land. This could cause considerable for any Group and lead to what others may consider unnecessary violence, or may not understand entirely. While ignoring this duty may be impossible for the Purifier.

Healing the effects of the Scourge is never far from a Purifier's thoughts and their desire to stop and spend time on the land can also be a source of friction. An obsidiman's sense of urgency is typically different from an ork, and with good reason - there is an order of magnitude between their lifespans. Though everyone should find common ground when dealing with Horrors, the Purifier may pursue these goals with a particular fervor.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Acrobatic Strike, Avoid Blow, Battle Shout, Sprint, Wilderness Survival

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Body Control, Clay Skin, Karma Ritual, Unarmed Combat, Wound Balance

Novice
Talent Options: Creature Analysis, Heartening Laugh, Maneuver, Swift Kick, Throwing Weapons, Tiger Spring, Tracking

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Durability (7/6), Lifesight

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Spirit Talk

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Earth Weaving]

Journeyman
Talent Options: Astral Sight, Earth Skin, Great Leap, Lion Heart, Resist Taunt, Steel Thought, Steely Stare, Temper Self

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Earth Bond

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Life Check

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Crushing Blow

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Momentum Attack

In combat the Purifier is a intimidating, and are the premier unarmed combatants until Disciplines from Cathay are considered. Between Body Control and Crushing Blow as Discipline Talents, and the natural obsidiman strength, they have no issues with damage; this is normally an area of concern for unarmed characters. Momentum Attack can even give them an additional attack, which is one of their downsides.

They also bring some considerable defense to the table with a good Durability, Clay Skin (Wood Skin with a different name), and Life Check. Earth Bond can be used for healing, or fulfilling the function of their Discipline, which is some nice versatility, and Wound Balance as a Discipline Talent coupled with being an obsidiman (amazing strength, great toughness and additional Wound Threshold) means they will never fall down barring some extreme circumstances.

Without taking Talent Options into account, the biggest weaknesses for the Purifier in combat are low static defenses (obsidimen have reduced dexterity, perception and charisma) and not that many options. Besides beating things to a pulp, but there may be a desire for more than that. Lifesight and Spirit Talk give them some unique abilities to a combat Discipline, along with Earth Bond, that strongly reinforce their themes and give them ways to contribute outside of a fight.

Through their Talent Options, a Purifier can build in a number of ways, all of which are probably going to be very effective.
Talent Options for the Purifier is almost a litany of potentially difficulty decisions. Each tier has some great choices depending on what kind of character you want to make and Initiate is no different in this regard:
  • Acrobatic Strike - The overall best option the Purifier has for more Physical Defense, but it has some strings attached: initiative and you must attack to use it. It will need continual improvement.
  • Avoid Blow - In general, I don't like Avoid Blow as a Talent Option and this is no exception. Purifiers already have a good Physical Defense, which means that without Karma, it will be a difficult task to successfully use this Talent. It will need continual improvement.
  • Battle Shout - Though their charisma tends to be rather low, this is still a good debuff and worth of consideration.
  • Sprint - Though the concept of a sprinting Purifier is awesome (the fantasy linebacker), obsidimen just don't have the Karma supply to make this worth it and have a lot of great Discipline Talents to spend Karma on already.
  • Wilderness Survival - It is already covered by Half-Magic, though as a skill, and there is probably something else in this list. If not, make certain that you are willing to invest in it to actually have it be better than Half-Magic.
This is one of the few Disciplines where you are almost certain to use up all of you Talent Options. Along those lines, introducing some more very good choices at Novice:
  • Creature Analysis - Generally more important for spellcasters that can get the most mileage from this Talent, information is always power and this is thematically appropriate for a Purifier.
  • Heartening Laugh - It requires Karma (of which obsidimen have comparatively little) and there will probably be a Swordmaster that has this as a Discipline Talent.
  • Maneuver - On the whole, there just isn't the need for this as with other Disciplines, though it can give a damage bonus for the patient player that is having issues with high armor.
  • Swift Kick - The only downside to this is that you need a better initiative and that isn't really an obsidiman's strong suit. Other than that, this is extremely good.
  • Throwing Weapons - The Purifier already doesn't carry any weapons (very successfully) and this seems to defeat the purpose. Along with needing continual improvement and potential investment in Thread Items to keep it competitive at higher Circles, this seems more like a Legend Point sink that something useful.
  • Tiger Spring - If you have Acrobatic Strike and Swift Kick, you are going to want this (and if you don't have them, why not?). Otherwise, there isn't any particular need.
  • Tracking - This is a great Talent for an adept in every Group to have. If no one else does, you might want to consider this.
Even more things to like at Journeyman! These are the Talent Options that just keep giving:
  • Astral Sight - Not many combat Disciplines get access to this Talent and it is one that lets you participate in an entirely different game. With the other Talent Options, this one isn't automatic, but with the theme of the Purifier it should definitely be a strong contender.
  • Earth Skin - It may cost Karma, but you are going to want this. Every character should want this and it shows up right when it starts becoming more and more important.
  • Great Leap - A lot of fun with an obsidiman, but the typical combo with Down Strike is unnecessary. 
  • Lion Heart - This Talent is almost always good; it has low investment requirements and is bound to be useful.
  • Resist Taunt - A Talent Option I will pass on because of the same reasons as with Avoid Blow. This can simply be too difficult to use when you really need it.
  • Steel Thought - Same as Avoid Blow, and with access to Earth Skin there isn't much reason to give it a second glance. It does have one interesting feature compared to all of the other "dodge" Talents: it uses a different attribute than the Defense is derived from, which can actually work out for an obsidiman.
  • Steely Stare - Another fun talent for combat characters as it can give you an opportunity to bypass combat or participate in scenes where you may not have as much to do.
  • Temper Self - Because the Purifier needed to be able to take more damage. Well... they do, just because. The only real downside to this is the increased damage an obsidiman takes from failure with this Talent (due to their Increased Wound Threshold). This is still an  excellent Talent.
Equipment

No matter what direction you are going, armor is always going to be a tricky subject due to the obsidiman living or stone armor requirements. If you need a good initiative (Acrobatic Strike and Swift Kick), then that will limit options even further. For the former group, the best early armor options are stone, but they will generally tank your initiative (stone disk only has a penalty of 3). Later on crystal plate becomes an excellent option. Those that need to maintain a good initiative have more limited options. Fernweave is going to be it unless there are compromises or Thread Items in the mix. The other two armors on the table are blood pebble and crystal ringlet. Purifiers may have issues with blood pebble due to the blood magic and the associated damage. Crystal ringlet will need Smooth Armor and/or initiative penalty reductions from Thread Magic. Of course, everyone needs an espagra scale cloak, unless your GM rules that it falls under the "no living armor" clause for obsidimen.

While it may look strange, there is mechanically little reason for a Purifier to not have a shield. Purifiers without a care for initiative penalties (so long as they remain below their dexterity Step) will likely find considerable use from a crystal raider shield and others from crystal bucklers.