05 June 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 25 - Journeyman

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

Overview

This human-only Discipline is barely that. It is the ultimate expression of Versatility, the unique human ability, and offers nearly complete freedom. It is a path that calls few, and those that do rarely ever see any others of their own kind. This is somewhat unsurprising, since these adepts do little to call attention to their own nature - some see their path as unnatural and anathema to the ways of other Disciplines, which directly hinders a Journeyman's ability to learn.

There are a few thing these adepts absolutely have in common. One is their desire to learn. They all share an insatiable desire to discover all they can and then pass that along. This is not the same as the dedication of other Disciplines, such as the Traveled Scholar, to see it for yourself. This is as simple as learning folklore, picking up some new skills, seeing a new flower, hearing the history of a building of local importance. None of this has to be in-depth, it can just be something cursory. The Journeyman is just interested in seeing as much as the world has to offer.

Another major thing adepts of this Discipline share is flexibility. Not just flexibility in their abilities, but in their thoughts and their perspective. How they see the world is always evolving, just as how the approach problems and their philosophy on their Discipline. They continually adapt and evolve, by learning new things and seeing the world from other perspectives, they can refine their own and try new things. This is the core of what it means to be a Journeyman.

When playing a Journeyman, you should consider what the core elements of their philosophy and perspective are; is there anything immutable? Is there anything in particular that they enjoy seeing, experiencing, learning, etc, above all else? What is it that motivates them on this unique, and often lonely, path? Much of these should feed into and derive from the overall direction and goal with your Talents.

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. Given the flexible nature of this Discipline, there are not many specific ways that a Journeyman can run afoul of their own philosophy, but they do exist; stagnation and a static nature being the primary ways.

What these refer to are always acting and thinking in a particular way, never exploring avenues that are outside of their box. Tried and true methods are for other Disciplines, not the Journeyman. As well, if they are learning half of their Talents from one Discipline, that can be an issue. Such dedication to those techniques would be best suited by actual dedication to those techniques, not following the fluid path of the Journeyman.

The final element to consider is that whatever the perspective your Journeyman holds, it is something that should have an impact on your decisions, but it should also continually evolve based on your experiences. No, it must evolve. To maintain the same perception is to miss the point of following this Discipline; Journeymen change and adapt more so than any other adepts.

There isn't much strife to be had here with the rest of the Group; these adepts adapt to any situation by design and are willing to try whatever method seems best at the time. The only trouble may come from their companions wondering if they ever really know the Namegiver. How can you know someone that is willing to change so freely? 

Mechanics

Typically this section is referred to as "Talents". This Discipline requires a different approach since it is entirely unique in its "structure". There are only two fixed Discipline Talents for these adepts: Karma Ritual at First Circle and Thread Weaving [Journey Weaving] at Fourth Circle. Everything else is effectively a Talent Option in how it is handled.

This means that at First Circle you can select five additional Talents, at Fourth Circle one additional Talent and two Talents at every other Circle. Learning these Talents is the same process that you go through for Versatility or Talent Options not selected while gaining a Circle: you find an instructor that learned the Talent at a Circle equal to or earlier than your open selection (see Versatility for more detail on this). It is worth noting that this adepts explicitly do not receive Versatility - this Discipline is considered the ultimate refinement of that ability.

Gaining Circles is also different than other Disciplines. Your two Discipline Talents (Karma Ritual and Journey Weaving; probably three in 3E Revised - Durability 6/5 at Second Circle as well) must be raised as usual, but from there you choose the Talents from each Circle that must be at least the Rank of your next Circle for advancement; four additional Talents from First Circle, one from every Circle after that (except Fourth, that is already covered). This means that you have the same number of Talents required for non-spellcasters to advance. When you have the right number of Talents from your Circles at Rank equal to your next Circle, you automatically advance. There is no training from an instructor of any kind to advance to the next Circle.

There are some downsides to this Discipline. You can never have another Discipline. This isn't as big of a deal, given the freedom you have in picking pretty much everything about your advancement (including Defense bonuses, attributes you can spend Karma on, etc), but it means that you do have to be selective about the decisions you make, since those are all of resources you will get.

Also, you never get true Discipline Talents. At Fifth Circle, Journeymen gain the ability to make a Talent a Discipline Talent until the end of the round for 1 Strain, which is adaptable to a situation, but can get extremely costly in the long run. With humans good Karma, this is a steep price.

It is impossible to give a breakdown of the Talents. Instead, I can give some advice on how to approach taking advantage of the unique nature of this Discipline. It is worth noting that this Discipline tends to advance very quickly due to the unique advancement combined with the choice access to Talents.

The first thing you need above everything else is a fairly high degree of system mastery. You need to know what every Talent is, when it is available, and how it interacts with all of the other Talents. Next you need a clear vision of what you want to do. Leaving some spots open for adapting to the game is always a good idea, but knowing the key Talents that you want to work together and cannot get anywhere else is going to be vital to your success and development with this character.

You are also going to have to be willing to abuse the ability to take any Talents that you want. Consider carefully your Talents and try to keep the list as slim and effective as possible (I understand the irony here in relation to the overall theme of the Discipline). You are creating your dream list here without any theme to be beholden to. Don't waste it; abuse this. Specifically, stay away from spellcasting. The number of Talents required as a basic investment is significant and you would be better served by simply being that Discipline.

That actually goes for the Discipline as a whole. When you look at what you want to achieve, verify that no other Discipline can accomplish that (or even two Disciplines). If there is another Discipline that can do, then it is probably best to go with that as it will have other benefits to offer (Discipline Talents, for example) and Versatility can easily be used to fill in the gaps.

In the end, this Discipline is probably the most difficult to get the most out of and I generally steer players away from it. That being said, if you know what you are doing, it can represent a very streamlined path with amazing Talent combinations that you do not see anywhere else.

Equipment

If you have the system mastery to really take advantage of a Journeyman, I don't know if there is any advice in this department that can be offered. Even more importantly, the versatility offered in Talent combinations make anything specific enough to be useful impossible to offer. Simply put, I have no idea what the goal is. However, if you want to ask for specific advice, I'm more than happy to respond to comments.