02 February 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 15 - Scout


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

Overview

The Scout seeks to experience the world in its entirety. Only by opening all of their senses and truly learning a single place in a single time can they claim to be living that moment. Regardless of the setting, from untouched wilderness to a bustling urban area, Scouts enjoy little more than seeking out new things. They want new sights, sounds, scents, feelings, in new combinations, all at once. They are the quintessential wanderers, always wanting to see what is next and go somewhere new.

Through this, they learn and process a considerable amount of information. Because of those abilities, these adepts are invaluable to any task where gathering information is vital, from investigating in a city, to searching for a lost kaer in the wilderness. The Scout brings a unique set of skills to any Group. If you want someone that knows something, it is likely best to see a Troubadour or a Wizard, but if you want someone to learn something for you, there is unlikely to be a better option than a Scout.

Because they spend so much time taking in their surroundings, many Scouts are prone to remain inactive. There is a reluctance to get involved, instead to observe. They do not want to spoil the natural order, this includes Namegivers. The contemplation over the correct course of action, as well as deciphering all of the information they are taking in, may delay their actions to the point where it is too late.

One of the main questions for any Scout is to define what drives them: why do they seek to experience the world? Perhaps even, what are they looking to find? What are some of their favorite sensations that they seek out? Do the love the feeling of a warm rain on their face, the crisp scent after a thunderstorm, or sitting perfectly still and letting their surroundings just wash over them?

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 greatest trouble a Scout will face is their unwillingness to get involved. That hesitation, because if they disrupt how things were, then they have changed things and that is against their ethos. They exist to experience the world, not shape it. If their actions destroy part of a forest, they may be compelled to do what they can to restore it. The same can be said for a Namegiver's home. While doing nothing will almost certainly lead them into conflict with their Group. It is truly a fine line that Scouts must tread, though there can be reward in exploring these elements.

Specialists

There are three specialties for the Scout: Burglar (or Delver), Explorer and Infiltrator. Two of these specializes in a different surrounding; the Explorer in the unknown wilderness and the Infiltrator in the urban wilderness. The Burglar specializes in removing (or liberating) items typically from ruins or lost kaers.

Burglars learn Research as a Second Circle Discipline Talent and Speak Language is a Novice Talent Option, while Detect Weapon is removed from the list entirely. Detect and Disarm Trap are both Novice Talent Options, and Anticipate Blow and Disguise Self are now Journeyman Talent Options. This presents a relatively significant change to the structure of the Discipline and puts a great deal more emphasis on traditionally Thief duties. If there is a Thief in the Group already, this will probably be unnecessary. Otherwise, this is a great way to cover those missing Talents at an early opportunity.

An Explorer has Creature Analysis as a Second Circle Discipline Talent, while Speak Language is an Initiate Talent Option, and Sense Danger as a Fifth Circle Discipline Talent and Evidence Analysis as a Journeyman Talent Option. This is a slightly more combat ready adept, not necessarily capable, but ready. A potential downfall here is that you may find less to do proactively. Both of the Discipline Talents you gain, while good, don't tend to contribute outside of combat. The ability to spend Karma isn't vital for any of these Talents (other than being mostly irrelevant for Speak Language).

The Infiltrator has Silent Walk as a First Circle Discipline Talent and Wilderness Survival as an Initiate Talent Option; and Disguise Self as the Third Circle Discipline Talent, but Navigation as a Novice Talent Option. This adept is going to be marginally less useful adventuring (because the Navigation skill is still granted through Half-Magic), but act more as a spy. The most attractive element here is Silent Walk as a Discipline Talent. This is typically a test that you don't want to fail and having access to the Shadow Hide Knack at First Circle is always good. If you don't want Disguise Self, however, this may not be great.

All of these specialists are good for their respective roles, but neither of them are simply better at being a Scout. All three flavors of Scout have something good to bring to the table; though if you already have a Thief in the Group, a Burglar will likely be a poor choice. Unless you expect to find that many traps.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Avoid Blow, Creature Analysis, Melee Weapons, Missile Weapons, Silent Walk

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Climbing, Karma Ritual, Search, Tracking, Wilderness Survival

Novice
Talent Options: Anticipate Blow, Detect Trap, Detect Weapon, Disguise Self, Great Leap, Read/Write Language, Sprint

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

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Navigation

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Scout Weaving]

Journeyman
Talent Options: Conceal Object, Direction Arrow, Disarm Trap, Lock Picking, Maneuver, Sense Danger, Trap Initiative, Trick Riding

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Evidence Analysis

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Astral Sight

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Empathic Sense

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Safe Path

The Scout is all about gathering information, with a side order of surviving in the wilderness/adventuring. There isn't particularly much to say about there Discipline Talents beyond that, they will support one, if not both, of those themes in some way. Climbing, Search, and Tracking are good for both themes. Speak Language, Evidence Analysis, Astral Sight and Empathic Sense all support their information gathering theme, and Wilderness Survival, Navigation, and Safe Path are all solid wilderness/adventuring Talents.

This can easily put the Scout in a role of keeping the Group together and out of harm, though there is little to suggest a leadership role. They would more likely to be the quiet supporter of safety in numbers. Keep in mind, these adepts are not combat characters and do not have much to do in a fight. If you are looking for a character that can get into trouble and hold their own beside a Warrior, then you may want to keep looking. The Archer or Woodsman have many similar themes, but are also significantly more combat ready.

With that out of the way, the questions focus on what else you would like your Scout to do, primarily through Talent Options, but also potentially with multiple Disciplines (not all groups like to include that option). Scouts have some solid Talent Options and you may feel like you don't have enough space for all of them - and you may not. They can also substitute for a Thief if you Group is lacking in that area, but at Initiate, they have one very important choice:
  • Avoid Blow - This is still something that I advise against as a Talent Option, not because it isn't good, but because the math doesn't tend to work out favorably when you cannot spend Karma. It also has a requirement to improve every Circle if you want it to remain relevant and you probably aren't going to have enough Talent Options to get everything you want in the long run. I'm starting to feel like I should just make a post about this Talent and link to it.
  • Creature Analysis - Scouts are all about gathering information and this is well within that schtick. If you have the space and no one else has this Talent, you can do a lot worse.
  • Melee Weapons - You're going to want a combat Talent if you don't have one already. If you prefer doing damage, this is going to be the way to go in the long run.
  • Missile Weapons - You're going to want a combat Talent if you don't have one already. If you prefer relative safety over damage, this is going to be the way to go in the long run.
  • Silent Walk - I honestly don't know if I have ever seen a Scout without this Talent. It allows you to gather information covertly, and when you say "I'm going to go scouting", it doesn't have to mean "I'm going to wander that way and maybe stumble into a fight".
There are more good Novice Talent Options and likely to be tempted by at least one from Initiate:
  • Anticipate Blow - This is the only defensive Talent available to Scouts and has the upside of working for both Melee and Missile Weapons. The only downside to the Talent is that it puts you in the position of needing a good initiative. This means melee characters will have to sacrifice better armor to keep it useful. Ranged characters won't find that sacrifice as significant. You will want to improve this regularly to keep it useful.
  • Detect Trap - If you intend on fulfilling the role that a Thief would typically play (dealing with traps), this is going to be the first step on that path. Unfortunately you won't actually be able to disarm them until Journeyman. If you happen to have a Thief, ignore these - they will be much better at this than you and you will have plenty of other options available. Keep in mind that you get this skill through Half-Magic.
  • Detect Weapon - Scout is actually one of the few Disciplines where I quite like this Talent because it is what they are about: they discover potential threats before they come into play. If you are finding too many good options, this may be one of the first sacrifices; it isn't likely to be relevant that often.
  • Disguise Self - Very useful in a intrigue or urban-based game. A typical adventuring game may use this during city adventures, but likely won't find much value when confronting a Horror or espagra.
  • Great Leap - Both melee and ranged characters will find use out of this. The former in conjunction with Down Strike to improve damage and the latter to get of the way from attackers.
  • Read/Write Language - A natural compliment to Speak Language (it's easy to forget that you cannot read the many languages you speak), but may not make the cut with other, more tempting options.
  • Sprint - The Karma cost isn't as pressing for Scouts simply because they don't tend to spend as much (specifically because they don't have any combat Talents to spend it on). If you have the open Talent Option, this could be a good choice. It will certainly make getting away from pursuers back to the safety of the Group much easier (see Silent Walk above).
On the whole, I don't find the Journeyman Talent Options as compelling. Probably because they are mostly Talents that you find at Novice in other Disciplines and the increased costs are unfortunate. That being said, if you are fulfilling the Thiefly duties, there is a lot to like here:
  • Conceal Object - For most Disciplines, this Talent focuses on concealing weapons, but for the Scout it is typically about infiltrating some form of contraband, or ex-filtrating evidence. If that seems useful for your Group at this point, give this some consideration.
  • Direction Arrow - A return to gathering information. This works very well with Empathic Sense to ensure that the Group stays together. If it doesn't seem like a game where one character will get in trouble all on their own and need some saving, then this might not be relevant to you.
  • Disarm Trap - If you took Detect Trap previously, this is a nice compliment. Otherwise, it is pretty useless.
  • Lock Picking - If you don't have a Thief and are engaged in espionage, then this is a must. Even if you do have a Thief in the Group, this might still be valuable.
  • Maneuver - If you are a melee character and find your damage lacking, this might be the answer, though I would suggest Great Leap and Down Strike first
  • Sense Danger - This is bound to come up at some point and supports the Scout's theme. The downside is that you can get a weaker version with a cloaksense brooch. 
  • Trap Initiative - You will want this to go along with Detect and Disarm Trap, maybe even if you don't have them, but probably not.
  • Trick Riding - With all of the other good Talent Options, this sticks out more than a little. While the mounted Scout makes sense, it simply brings along all of the problems the Cavalryman has. Unless you have a compelling reason and the space (and by this point you should have a good idea of how useful this will be), I would give it a pass.
Races

Perception is a Scout's most important attribute, and since the difference between the best perception in the game (elves and windlings at +1) is only two more than the worst (obsidimen and trolls at -1), there isn't a whole lot to be said there. The good dexterity that elves and windlings bring to the table will be useful, but since this adept isn't a combat character, it isn't quite as necessary to carry your own weight in a fight. The array of Discipline Talents means that having great Karma isn't a necessity. Essentially what you are looking at is the other abilities that each race brings to the table.

The heat sight and low-light vision that some races have will be useful in scouting during the night without bringing a light source. Windling's flight is very valuable, as is Astral Sight up until it becomes a Discipline Talent. A human's Versatility can be a great way to fill out some of your perceived holes, though be certain to determine what other Disciplines (if any) you would like to pick up first. Tail attack is a great ability, but a t'skrang Scout won't have any default way to use it and will need to be a melee character to really use it. The odd Namegiver out is the obsidiman, but even so, a melee obsidiman Scout with Great Leap and Down Strike will still be a Thing. One final thing, obsidiman and troll Scouts will want to be melee characters to take advantage of their size.

Equipment

If you have selected Anticipate Blow as a Talent Option, you will want to be aware of your initiative. Otherwise, it doesn't particularly matter what your initiative is. In the former case, light armor will be a must and melee characters will want a two-handed weapon; ranged characters will still want to use a buckler. If you don't care about initiative, then load up on heavy armor and melee characters can even use a big ass shield.