30 August 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 28 - Wizard Part 2, Talents

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

Overview

A Wizard values knowledge above everything else. Well, maybe not more than power or their own pride. Nonetheless, to these adepts, knowledge is power and they take great pride in their knowledge.

Coupled with their need for information is a desire to categorize everything. Wizards will often develop complex models and theories (don't tell them it is merely a "theory", however) for the ways of the world, particularly the magical ways, based on what they have learned and their experiences - though these spellcasters may plead the latter is not the case.

This can easily, and often does, result in a superiority complex with regard to other adepts, including other spellcasters. Wizards frequently believe that only they can have a truly objective perspective, and that their vast learning and knowledge of the past puts them in the unique position of always being right. This is not to say all members of this Discipline carry such beliefs, simply that they and their attendant arrogance are far too common.

They are a lot like a university professor: very well educated with intricate ideas on why things happen which are very well developed. They will create specialized vocabulary just to support that and share with others that are like-minded. Of course, there is also the arguing and looking down their collective noses are those who are not so like-minded.

Wizards are also very level-headed and rational. They are planners and often capable of looking past various prejudices to get at the heart of a situation. As well, their dedication to learning means they are unlikely to repeat any mistakes - preferring to learn from others before making their own in the first place. As long as you do not require action at the drop of a hat, they will be patient and exacting in what they do.

When creating a Wizard, consider who Initiated them into the Discipline and what their theories on magic are, from which the character should develop their own. Do they have a particular thesis they are trying to test? What topics fascinate them the most; magical and non-magical?

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 important thing to any Wizard is their gravitas. They must remain cool, calm, collected, even detached, in all situations. Any serious disruption to that projection can be difficult to deal with; it indicates that they are no longer in control. Emotional outbursts are particularly troubling, because it is virtually impossible to be objective and rational when your base instincts are ruling your decisions.

To a lesser extent, situations where they have nothing to fall back on, they have no knowledge to help in any way, are problematic for these adepts. Completely new situations, outside of their comfort zone, anything that prevents a Wizard from establishing some level of control over their surroundings is uncomfortable at best. This can easily lead to situations where they are not making decisions from a place of objective reason, but from "hunches" and "feelings". This is something for other Disciplines.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Arcane Mutterings, Conversation, Creature Analysis, Evidence Analysis, Spell Matrix

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Astral Sight, Karma Ritual, Read/Write Magic, Spellcasting, Spell Matrix, Thread Weaving [Wizardry]

Novice
Talent Options: Abate Curse, Detect Weapon, Item History, Search, Speak Language, Spell Matrix (2)

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Durability (4/3), Read/Write Language

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Book Memory

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Research

Journeyman
Talent Options: Detect Trap, Direction Sense, Enhanced Matrix (2), Lifesight, Lip Reading, Orbiting Spy, Willforce

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Steel Thought

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Book Recall

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Resist Taunt

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Hold Thread

Beyond the spellcasting Talents, the majority of a Wizard's Discipline Talents are based around gathering information. Astral Sight, Read/Write Languages, Book Memory, Research and Book Recall all support this. If we remove Astral Sight from the list and group it with Hold Thread in "magical support", which isn't an unfair association (it gets dual citizenship, really), then those Discipline Talents are all based around mucking about in musty old tomes. Which works for them and is often pretty useful in the world of Earthdawn.

The theme of information stretches well into most of their Talent Options and a number of spells as well (covered in detail below). Their Talent Options are less about studying for power, but it fits nicely with the overall characterization of the Wizard: knowledge is power. What this is really getting at is that Wizards have ways to learn pretty much anything.

To a (much) lesser extent, they also offer some defensive Discipline Talents with Steel Thought and Resist Taunt. What is notable about this list is that they have no Talents (including Talent Options) for dealing with physical attacks. It is notable how weak their defenses are. Even their spells (up to Fifth Circle) don't offer any stellar defensive options.

When it comes to the Initiate Talent Options, there is a tragedy to be had: there is only one answer, but there are a number of good choices. Specifically, Spell Matrix is the answer. The odds that you come back here at Novice are pretty good.
  • Arcane Mutterings - This is a curious Talent and can be used in support of your comrades by being "the creepy guy" during social interactions, or by weirding out someone bothering you enough to get them to leave. Outside of that, it's pretty useless and will cost a Karma.
  • Conversation - Together with the spell, Bedazzling Display of Logical Analysis, it corroborates the image of Wizards as professors engaged in debate. And crushing people with their minds (see the "Crushing Will" spell). Also, this is a rare social Talent, so it is worth considering just on the principle of broadening horizons.
  • Creature Analysis - Pretty much all of the good damaging spells for these magicians affect Mystic Armor, so this Talent plays more into their field of gathering information rather than directly supporting any particular strategy (as contrasted with the Nethermancer).
  • Evidence Analysis - If you can find a way to make it work, this Talent should make your short list. It plays to the overall theme of gathering information and can really move the plot forward on any game that features investigation and mysteries.
  • Spell Matrix - This one. You are going to want this one here. You might be okay with just two for a long time, but you are going to need at least two Matrices and it's a long time to Fifth Circle.
Novice tier is when all spellcasters have the most latitude with their Talent Options. Not much, just some:
  • Abate Curse - There are probably a few scenarios where this would be useful while Dispel Magic would not. I don't know if there are enough to warrant taking this, particularly if you have a Weaponsmith, Horror Stalker, or some other character that will eventually end up with this Talent.
  • Detect Weapon - While it is thematic, there are better options. So much better options.
  • Item History - If no one else in the Group has this Talent, someone needs to have it. That may be you.
  • Search - It you don't need Item History and are okay with your Spell Matrices, then this is the best option at this tier. Search is going to come up. In every game. Till the end of time.
  • Speak Language - This will tie in nicely with Read/Write Language, though if there is another character (preferably a social one) with this Talent, it is easy to pass on it.
  • Spell Matrix (2) - While you may not want both of these, you will probably want one. Each of these gives you another option, and that is powerful.
Fifth Circle, when you first get to Journeyman, is going to have the most agonizing choice you may ever have to make - especially when looking at Talent Options. Which do you get first, Enhanced Matrix or Willforce? Beyond that, there are some other good Talent Options here as well, but even then one rises above the others.
  • Detect Trap - Just keep right on going. There are limits to gathering information for the sake of gathering information.
  • Direction Sense - This is a neat Talent and useful in general. However, there are a number of Disciplines with access to it and this tier is pretty tight with Talents between Willforce and Enhanced Matrices (you're getting both of them, right? You're going to want both).
  • Enhanced Matrix (2) - Odds are reasonable you will want both of these. After all, you want to cast Aura Strike and Mage Armor without Weaving Threads first, right?
  • Lifesight - This is a neat Talent and has some nice scouting applications. It is one of the stronger contenders at this tier.
  • Lip Reading - If you happen to be in a very political and intrigue heavy game, this Talent could come in handy. Even then, there will probably be a better Talent.
  • Orbiting Spy - This is the best non-Willforce, non-Enhanced Matrix Journeyman Talent Option. It is powerful and versatile - it is almost certainly going to be useful. 
  • Willforce - Take this. It supercharges your spells and is arguably the most powerful Talent in the game for its sheer versatility (barring Versatility, of course). The biggest dilemma is do you get Willforce or Enhanced Matrix first? Willforce pretty much always wins.
Spells

There is a lot to like in the Wizard spell list, but there is also a fair amount to get bored by. Bonuses are good and they get a lot of them. The fact that most of them require a Thread limits how much the combat oriented bonuses will get used, but the odds are pretty good you can find something to give a bonus. Especially climbing. Seriously, there are a lot of climbing boosts. Also a lot of healing boosts, one each Circle starting at Third, which are almost always worth looking at.

It's hard to distinguish between their information spells and their pure magic spells at times, but suffice to say: there are quite a few of those. Wizards have a variety of spells dedicated to gathering information and manipulating magic. Their dispel works against everything; it's pretty amazing and a First Circle spell compared to Third for everyone else.

The damage spells available to these spellcasters are strong, as long as you steer clear from any that affect Physical Armor rather than Mystic Armor. The former are very weak, while the latter are decent, up to Aura Strike which is amazing. The range isn't awesome, which is good because for a Second Circle spell this is probably broken. Beyond that, there isn't particularly anything worth mentioning for the first five Circles.

Finally, this brings us to their miscellaneous spells. While not quite as diverse as the Elementalist, they bring a lot of curious effects to any Group. Kaer Knocking and Kaer Pictographs fall into this category and are rather intrinsic to the setting. To the point where it is tempting to make them spells available to any spellcaster, not just a Wizard. Levitate is like its own mini-game with the explicit ways it can be used and abused, while everyone knows what a game-changer a flying Wizard is.

Races

Elves, humans and windlings tend to bring the most (mechanically) to a Wizard (as well as my house-ruled dwarfs). Elves have a bonus to Perception and Willpower, by far and away the two most important attributes. Humans have Versatility; they can be good at anything. Windlings get a bonus to Perception, increased physical defense, flight, and their penalties to strength and size are pretty much meaningless.

What the other Namegivers have to offer isn't of much use to a Wizard. Dwarfs get a bonus to Strength. Orks get the same, but also a penalty to Willpower. The benefits that both obsidimen and trolls get (increased size, Strength) are of little use to a Wizard, and each get a penalty to Perception. T'skrang don't have any penalties, but their bonuses aren't extremely helpful and a Wizard has no real need for Tail Combat.

While these can be effective Wizard (these differences start to become less meaningful as you advance in Circle), it is important to be well informed about your decision. This pretty much goes for everything.

Equipment

Equipment for spellcasters is of minimal concern compared to all other Disciplines. On the plus side, there are no restrictions on what armor you can wear - an espagra scale cloak on top of other armor is always in style.