31 October 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 09 - Cavalryman

This is the ninth 4E Anatomy of a Discipline, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

To be perfectly honest, the Cavalryman is a hard discipline. It is not easy to write and even more difficult to include in a game. The bond between the character and their mount is the most important thing to these adepts, and this can get in the way and cause problems within the standard adventuring group. These problems are likely to start with the mount not being able to go everywhere and can proceed to issues with group dynamics. Specifically, being true to the character and concept versus enabling the group to function without the mount. I have been there and it can be messy. Windlings are the exception, since their small size means their mounts can travel all of the same places as the rest of the group.


When developing this discipline for Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4), there were a number of different sub-themes for them to explore. Beyond their central theme, warrior bound to a mount, there is a blank space. This is good, because there is a lot to explore, and difficult, because there isn't any clear direction. Looking at cavalry throughout history gave some cues on how handle this and expand on those core themes as well.

They bring offensive power and mobility to any conflict, though do not have much in the way of defense. Their talent options give them a few different ways to develop, by expanding into social talents, improving their mount's effectiveness, and improving their own offensive capabilities.

Novice

First Circle
  • Animal Bond
  • Charge
  • Melee Weapons
  • Mount Weaving
  • Trick Riding
Abilities
  • Durability 7
Second Circle
  • Animal Training
Third Circle
  • Enhance Animal Companion
Abilities
  • Karma: Attack tests while charging
Fourth Circle
  • Call Animal Companion
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Armor Mount
Abilities
  • One Soul, Two Bodies: +2 on any non-combat test involving the adept's connection with their favored mount.
  • Karma: Damage tests while mounted.
Sixth Circle
  • Wheeling Attack
Seventh Circle
  • Wheeling Defense
Eighth Circle
  • Double Charge
Cavalrymen are a combat discipline first, followed by an animal companion discipline. Though they, above any other, leverage their animal companion for increased effectiveness in combat. In ED4, they have benefited considerably from the expansion of animal companion talents. Their mounts' will now improve skills through Animal Training and their other ratings through Enhance Animal Companion. Which when applied to a thundra beast is simply terrifying. This is not to belittle the much more likely zoak, who can become dangerous as well.

Their combat talents chase the adage, "the best defense is a good offense." The tactics for a Cavalryman start very simple: charge, set up for a charge, charge, etc. These will land devastating attacks and generally keep the Cavalryman out of harm's way. As they increase in Circle, how to approach combat becomes a more complicated tactical puzzle. They hit hard and it becomes a question of how best to use their mobility and power while recognizing they can be surprisingly fragile with the wrong set of circumstances.
  • Avoid Blow - This is a recommended talent if you frequently find yourself fighting without your mount. Also, if you should figure out a way to stop this from happening, because it is putting a serious cramp in your style.
  • Battle Shout - Highly recommended for any adept who wants to expand their combat capabilities. This has the advantage of being useful regardless the mounting situation.
  • Blood Share - Very useful for healing your mount, who are often even more frail than a Cavalryman. Even beyond that, it can move damage around a group to make healing more manageable.
  • Conversation - If you are interested in engaging in social activities, this is the second place you will want to look.
  • Creature Analysis - Thematic for adepts who want to play up their connection to animals, and information is always useful.
  • Dominate Beast - This falls into the same category as Creature Analysis. It will be less generally useful, but likely quite good when it does come up.
  • First Impression - This is the first place to look for a social talent and recommended for nearly every Cavalryman to consider.
  • Heartening Laugh - A solid group buff. If you are already heading down the social path because no one else is around to fill it, there is a good chance no one else will have this talent. You may want to consider fixing this.
  • Speak Language - With their ability to travel freely, it is natural for these adepts to come in contact with a number of different languages. Social Cavalrymen will find this the most useful, but with the low investment requirement, nearly any character can find some value.
  • Sure Mount - Basically Wound Balance for you and your mount while you are mounted. This is going to be useful for any adept wanting to improve their defenses.
Outside of actually playing and figuring out which talents will best fit your character, play style, and the campaign you are a part, there are a few different generic "builds" which can help show off themes and different decisions.

The social Cavalryman will want First Impression straight away, followed by Conversation, and then Heartening Laugh. Their fourth talent option is a bit more ambiguous and defined by their particular campaign. Speak Language is useful for a true face character, while Battle Shout is charisma based and beneficial in combat.

Those who want to further specialize in combat should start with Battle Shout, then Sure Mount, and Blood Share. Avoid Blow makes a good final selection because you simply never know.

Animal companion specialists will want Blood Share, Sure Mount, Dominate Beast, and Creature Analysis. This character is all about their mount.

Finally, the "jack-of-all-trades" who simply wants to participate as much as possible will find Battle Shout, Blood Share, First Impression, and Sure Mount to be solid choices. This is pretty close to the combat build, only picking up First Impression instead of Avoid Blow. The reason is straight-forward: this is a combat character. First Impression allows them to contribute meaningfully in social situations, and Blood Share can benefit the entire group.
  • Animal Companion Durability - If your mount is attacked with any frequency (not all GMs will engage in this tactic), this is a must.
  • Empathic Sense - A solid choice for a socially-oriented adept.
  • Etiquette - Another good talent for social Cavalrymen.
  • Fearsome Charge - A great debuff for any Cavalryman.
  • Leadership - Not generally useful for PCs, but very thematic for cavalry bands and units.
  • Lion Heart - One of the few defensive talents at their disposal. This is worth considering for every adept.
  • Missile Weapons - With the mobility of a mount, you can engage in ranged combat without any real fear of melee reprisal. However, there are also no other talents to support this and it will continual investment to be competitive.
  • Mount Attack - If your mount is particularly fearsome, this is probably worth picking up.
  • Spirit Mount - Never be without a mount again! However, it won't actually be your mount. This talent is in a strange place between worlds. It is thematically appropriate, but at the same time seems so deeply inappropriate. The Third Edition discussion goes into this in more detail and continues in the comments for those who want to look into this more.
  • Tactics - A good group buff even if it may only last for a round, two at most. I'm just being realistic about the ability of the average group to stick to the plan.
Going back to the builds from above, a social Cavalryman will want Empathic Sense, Etiquette, and Fearsome Charge (taking advantage of what is likely a good charisma). After this, Lion Heart and Animal Companion Durability are both solid choices. For those who want more defense, eschew Fearsome Charge for both Lion Heart and Animal Companion Durability.

Combat specialized Cavalrymen probably have a nasty, violent mount. Which means Animal Companion Durability, Fearsome Charge, Lion Heart, and Tactics are going to be good choices. If you always want to have a mount available, Tactics should be traded for Spirit Mount.

Those adepts most interested in their mount will want to stick to the combat selections, possibly returning to the Novice talents for Battle Shout.

A jack-of-all-trades will likely be interested in Animal Companion Durability, Empathic Sense or Etiquette, Fearsome Charge, and Lion Heart.

For a discussion over the general themes of the Cavalryman and how they can function in game, see the Third Edition Anatomy of Cavalryman. Example characters: ork and windling.