07 April 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 19 - Weaponsmith

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

Overview

The Weaponsmith is simultaneously one of the most straight-forward and complex Disciplines in Earthdawn. Their demeanor is forthright and honest, they are interested in results. Yet they are contemplative and focused on the effects that their actions will have on those around them. While this may seem like a juxtaposition, it is entirely within their scope.

Central to the Weaponsmith is the Forge. This is the social core for these adepts, and one which many communities across Barsaive are built around. It is through the Forge that their view of the world comes into focus. As the heart of their society, they have deep roots and responsibilities to those Namegivers. They are trusted, so must respect that trust with everything they are. They must be direct, so there are never misunderstandings. They must think before they act and decide, because they represent their community. They must act with purpose, because decisiveness is at times more important than the most correct action. Without results, all actions and decisions are useless. But perhaps most of all, they must think about tomorrow and the tomorrow generations from now - not only must there be a tomorrow to consider, but it should also be one worth living.

These are the central concepts to this Discipline, and they are complicated. Their responsibilities are many, but they bear them with pride and strength. A Weaponsmith without resolve and love for their work isn't truly a Weaponsmith at all. A traveling Weaponsmith may not have a Forge, which means they are always a guest wherever they go. This does not relieve them of their responsibility to the community by any stretch of the imagination. At the very least, it means that wherever they are at the time is their community they owe their loyalty and consideration to. Some may extend that to a greater area, perhaps all of Barsaive, or even the world as a whole.

Anyone that sees this level of responsibility as an onerous obligation may want to choose a different path. What this truly is, is an opportunity. A Weaponsmith can make inroads in even the most xenophobic community with what they bring. If there is an established Forge, gaining acceptance there should mean the rest of the Namegivers welcome the adept and their companions sooner than later, particularly once the Weaponsmith begins working for the betterment of their new family. If there isn't, then certainly the services they bring are a welcome addition to these people. By investing their time and effort, they gain friends and allies.


As well, the role of the Forge allows them information regarding the community as a whole. The goings on, major events, relations, etc. The Weaponsmiths of the Forge are often sought for their advice, or just as someone trusted to listen to - a Weaponsmith would never betray this trust unless it was absolutely necessary. While they would never admit it, they are horrible eavesdroppers; with good reason. As a social hub of the community, there is plenty of opportunity and they view it as a necessity to the harmony of their home to be aware in advance of any storms that may be brewing, perhaps heading them off. Never revealing the source, or betraying any trusts, they can diffuse a tryst in the making before it occurs, or even work towards mending a relationship in trouble because of misunderstandings.


Beyond all of these social elements, they are also fearsome protectors. It is their solemn duty to protect their friends and family. They craft weapons and armor, working behind the scenes to ensure the very best. When it comes time, they are there with the rest of their companions, never ones to shirk at even the most dangerous duty. Against even the most dangerous foes, Horrors and their constructs, Weaponsmiths represent a bulwark against them. Standing strong against their powers and unraveling their curses.

When making a Weaponsmith, remember the importance of tradition. It is handed down from Master to Apprentice and tradition is where a community derives its identity from. The things that you were taught should shape how you view the world. Those traditions will be ingrained and carried in all of your travels. Establishing details on that relationship, those traditions, that initial culture and the Forge itself, will give a much deeper experience. These are elements that can be shared with the Group as a whole, and as the Weaponsmith often falls into role of the "heart" of any Group, are often adopted by those around them (possibly through sheer stubbornness).

Where a Weaponsmith came from is only half of the question. Where they are going is the other half. More than nearly any other Discipline, these adepts are looking to the future. While you may not know your goals initially, it should be on your mind - why haven't you settled down (the natural state of being for a Weaponsmith), what are you looking for? Maybe your community is larger than simply what you can see. This is something that you should consider.

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. There are a number of ways in which the Weaponsmith can run afoul - their road is not an easy one. Betrayal of any kind, including the community, allies and Forge, is unthinkable. Just as is breaking their word, which may extend to any kind of deception to those they care about. Even failing to share important knowledge may be the source of a violation to these adepts. Also, any hospitality shown must be returned and cannot be forgotten.

Less obvious issues that can arise involve their relationship with their companions. To call a Weaponsmith bossy would be something of an understatement. They view their role as the heart and soul of their Group, and take that very seriously. Which means that they may get involved in things they are not welcome, and share their even more unwelcome opinion. Their belief that they are always right can also cause some friction. Combine this with their stubborn nature and desire to become involved in every little thing when there may be other priorities... well, there are plenty sources of strife and potential growth.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Melee Weapons, Missile Weapons, Parry, Speak Language, Throwing Weapons

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Evaluate, Forge Weapon, Haggle, Karma Ritual, Steel Thought

Novice
Talent Options: Detect Weapon, Fireblood, First Impression, Heartening Laugh, Read/Write Language, Shield Charge, Wound Balance

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

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Abate Curse

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Thread Smithing]

Journeyman
Talent Options: Conceal Object, Detect Trap, Elemental Tongues, Fire Heal, Leadership, Read/Write Magic, Resist Taunt, Temper Other

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Temper Self

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Lion Heart

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Spot Armor Flaw

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Forge Armor

Mechanically, the Weaponsmith is a support character. Not just any support character, they are an amazing support character. Not many games provide this much for support characters without them being healers, and that is a big plus for Earthdawn. If you prefer to work for the better of your group and not necessarily be in the thick of all the action all the time, then this may be a great choice for you.

The first thing they bring to any Group is gear. Forge Weapon is any combat character's best friend. Every Group without a Weaponsmith spends as much as they can afford upgrading their gear. This may require some additional downtime, but the Group will probably have superior weapons overall (I know every game I have run works out this way). Though much later, this also applies to Forge Armor and crafting Thread Items in general.

Next up is money. Evaluate and Haggle of the first ways they support the Group's funds and will often find the task of quartermaster being thrust upon them. It certainly helps that these adepts have to be honest. The next way they aid the overall treasury is through Forge Weapons. This, along with their Half-Magic, can be used to earn some extra cash during downtime, but most importantly the savings from not paying someone else to improve your armor and weapons. It is surprising what the final costs for that end up at.

Item History rounds it all out. Every Group will want at least one character with this Talent. Any Group that doesn't have someone with this Talent will feel it once they get to Journeyman. Not only is this practically a requirement for Thread Items, it's excellent for investigation and intrigue.

They do have a few other elements that they bring to the table. Steel Though and Abate Curse give them some good anti-magic abilities early on. Along with Lion Heart, they will be valuable when confronting mystical threats, but Horrors in particular. While not combat characters, they do get more combat related Talents than most non-combat Disciplines. Temper Self and Spot Armor Flaw are both solid combat related Discipline Talents, and there are some more in their Talent Options.

Despite their reasonable access to combat related Talents, these are not combat characters. A Weaponsmith tends to be more durable than their average Durability may indicate, but they don't have the variety of tricks that a Swordmaster or Warrior has available, nor quite the staying power. They also don't have a lot to spend their Karma on; it mostly gets used during downtime. This means that whenever you have an opportunity to spend Karma, you should. There is no reason to not spend it.

In all, this is one of the Disciplines that sets Earthdawn apart from so many other fantasy games. The Weaponsmith isn't for everyone, but it is perfect for certain players. It is relatively straight forward, uncomplicated, always useful and welcome, and can contribute in nearly every type of scene. It may be frustrating at times to most often be the crew, rather than the star of the show.

There are a few good Initiate Talent Options, but decisions here shouldn't be extremely difficult:
  • Melee Weapons - This is the most popular combat Talent for a Weaponsmith in my experience. It is also the only one to have some additional support, though minimal. You will want to continually improve this.
  • Missile Weapons - If you don't intend on getting into harm's way (not a bad plan, a Weaponsmith can be a bit fragile), this can be a good selection. You are only going to want one combat Talent, however, since they require maintenance to be useful.
  • Parry - For the most part, I am not much of a fan for active defense Talents that are not also Discipline Talents. If you happen to be using a two-handed weapon (and aren't a windling), the Size bonus makes up for that rather well. With their few combat options, this can be a good pick. It will need to be raised regularly to remain relevant.
  • Speak Language - If you are going for a more social Weaponsmith and/or no one else in your Group has this (assuming you aren't exclusively dungeon-crawling), this could be useful. On the whole, this can be covered by the skill unless you are the social character and heading well off the beaten path.
  • Throwing Weapons - You only need one of these combat Talents and this one just falls short. When you cannot use concealment to your advantage, these weapons simply aren't as good as the other options available. This is particularly true considering this Talent will need to be improved every Circle and may see minimal, if any use.
The Talent Options for the Novice tier have some interesting choices (as well as some very good choices):
  • Detect Weapon - For some Disciplines I have mixed opinions on this Talent, but I am generally for it in the case of the Weaponsmith; it fits nicely with the overall Discipline and themes. Now, there are at least two things to consider: how many of your encounters take place in a city and how much intrigue is there in general? Those two answers (which, to be fair, are pretty related) will have a considerable bearing on how useful this Talent will be for you. If the answers are "few and not much", then you can pass, but if they lean towards "most and a lot", then this rapidly becomes more useful.
  • Fireblood - Pretty much any character that can take this Talent should seriously consider it. This can mean the difference between continuing to contribute and saving the day, or sitting things out for a while as you hope things do go sideways without you. It doesn't even need to be improved all the time to be great, it just makes it even better!
  • First Impression - It is my general recommendation for every character to pick up some basic social Talents (or failing that, skills). They allow you to contribute to a different aspect of the game, one that can be frustrating at times to be continually excluded. The investment here can be minimal to get a return and there are a number of social opportunities that a these adepts have that few other Disciplines do.
  • Heartening Laugh - While there isn't a lot to spend your Karma on, there are likely better Talents for you to pick up that this. If your Group has a Swordmaster in it, this is probably a Discipline Talent for them. 
  • Read/Write Language - For most purposes, this skill suffices. However, if you have open Talent Options, this is never a bad choice.
  • Shield Charge - If you don't have Parry and use Melee Weapons, this is a Talent worth considering. It fits into the overall support theme of the Discipline by setting up the more combat capable characters for a big hit.
  • Wound Balance - If you are going to mix it up in combat, this is a good place to start. It is a passive defense that doesn't require much investment. You are going to take Wounds and as you gain Circles, the odds that those Wounds cause Knockdown goes up. This is extremely helpful in mitigating that.
Journeyman tier is where the Talent Option choices may start becoming difficult. There are some solid selections and chances to go in interesting directions, but they also get more expensive:
  • Conceal Object - I don't care for this Talent for the Weaponsmith. It goes against their themes, even if you can come up with the philosophy to support this. Unless you are doing some heavy intrigue, there is almost certainly a better character in the Group to take this Talent. Which, of course, makes hiding things on the Weaponsmith more tempting, but it could run afoul of their honesty theme.
  • Detect Trap - If no one else in the Group has this Talent, you will know by now if you need it or not.
  • Elemental Tongues - This is a great Talent for this Discipline, particularly if you intend on taking advantage of the Warden ability to use Elementalism. It's good without that for numerous things, such as making Thread Items and gathering strange information in general. Also, a lot of fun.
  • Fire Heal - This Talent plays very well with Fireblood, you will just want to make sure you never fail.
  • Leadership - There are some uses for this, particularly with a more social Weaponsmith, but on the whole it simply isn't a Talent that a PC will get a lot of use from. There will be occasions, but they will likely be irregular.
  • Read/Write Magic - If you intend on picking up the rest of the magician Talents in Warden, this is the one to start with. Otherwise, it is a pass.
  • Resist Taunt - Similar to any active defensive Talent, if it isn't a Discipline Talent, it's hard to be worth investing in. This will require considerable Legend Points and is unlikely to work during those times when you really need it (because no Karma). However, if you are finding social attacks to be a significant problem, then this could be a solution - it must be raised every Circle.
  • Temper Other - This is a fantastic support Talent and fits well with the support theme of the Weaponsmith. While you may not benefit directly, your Group will benefit greatly.
Races

Overall, the differences between a race that has ostensibly great bonuses to being a Weaponsmith (elf) versus one with terrible bonuses (obsidiman) is absolutely minimal. Every Namegiver can be successful at this Discipline, though there are a few that have a little more upside or downside in their abilities.

T'skrang cannot take advantage of their tail combat as a Weaponsmith - which may be a small thing, but it is something to keep in mind. Windlings have Astral Sight, which can potentially aid in some of the mystical aspects of the Discipline and gathering information in general. Humans have Versatility and for a Discipline that can already do a number of different things, this can enhance those options further. You can have a Weaponsmith that really holds their own in combat, does social interaction really well, has all of the support Talents, or is an investigator.

The race decision may have some effect on Talent and equipment selections. Obsidimen and trolls benefit from Melee Weapons even more and by taking a two-handed weapon (Size 7) and using Parry. While a windling will want Missile Weapons, or if going with Melee Weapons favor a shield (the armor bonus is unaffected by size, while the damage gained from a two-handed weapon is less than the additional armor).

Equipment

Given that there are no initiative requirements for any of the Talents, equipment selection is fairly open. The Talent selection will dictate some weapons that you use, or vice versa, but armor is fair game. Ideally, a Weaponsmith is a big tank capable of soaking up all of the damage. This may be important because your Durability is average and defensive options are limited overall, not terrible, just limited.

If you want to use a two-handed weapon, you may want to pick up Parry; alternatively, if you want Parry, you will want a two-handed weapon. If you want a one-handed weapon, you may want to pick up Shield Charge.