04 November 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 10 - Scout

This is the tenth 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.

When redeveloping the Scout for Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4), the primary theme was gathering intelligence in nearly any setting. As long as the setting isn't a library. Unless it has some sort of horrendous Golden Child-esque obstacle course required to gain access to the correct book.


Information is likely always going to be one of the most important commodities to any group, and this is truly where these adepts shine. Since the information they are gathering tends to have some resistance associated with it, they also have themes for adventuring, combat, and infiltration. This gives them a broad base of abilities to choose from - allowing them to specialize as needed for a given group.

Even though ED4 improved Scouts' access to combat talents considerably, it is important to realize they are not a combat discipline and simply do not have the ability to keep up with more specialized adepts. With the right choices and strategy, they can meaningfully contribute to their group - it simply is not likely where they shine brightest. 

What are the choices and strategy for the Scout? It depends in part on the weapon talent you want to use; they have two options: melee and missile. The good news is every combat talent option will support either of those choices equally. This isn't a coincidence and was a deliberate choice. Both of these options are equally valid to the archetype and their talent options should reflect this state.

From there, what Scouts have going for them is access to mobility. As a melee combatant, they can work best as a skirmisher who moves to support their allies as needed and never gets bogged down in the thick of things - which will likely end poorly - or move to harass archers, skirmishers, and spellcasters for the opposition. Ideally, you are either picking on someone weaker than you, or teaming up with someone so you will not be the primary target.

Those who took Missile Weapons will want the same targets, but they are going to use their mobility to stay out of harm's reach. Climbing, Great Leap, and Sprint are all going to be useful towards this end. You don't just want someone to not be able to reach you, but you want them to waste their actions trying. The more time which is focused on you is more time they aren't doing something productive like slowing down the obsidiman freight train, or stopping your Wizard friend from dropping razor orb. On the flip side, if they aren't even going to try, then attack with impunity.

You should consider playing a Scout if you like to be integral to all of the awesome plans outside of combat (there is a good chance they will all be your plans, anyway). If you like to participate in combat, but it isn't necessarily your thing (particularly with complicated talent interactions), then this could very well be for you.

Novice

First Circle
  • Awareness
  • Climbing
  • Scout Weaving
  • Tracking
  • Wilderness Survival
Abilities
  • Durability 5
  • Navigation
  • Karma: Action tests to gather information
Second Circle
  • Stealthy Stride
Third Circle
  • Direction Arrow
Abilities
  • Karma: 
Fourth Circle
  • Danger Sense
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Evidence Analysis
Abilities
  • Enhanced Senses: 1 Strain and choose a sense to enhance. You gain +2 on any Perception-based tests using it for one round. If the sense is unhindered, you may ignore Blindness penalties for one round by using it as your primary sense.
  • Karma: Recovery Tests
Sixth Circle
  • Astral Sight
Seventh Circle
  • Safe Path
Eighth Circle
  • Orbiting Spy
The focus here isn't just about gathering specific information, though they impressive in this regard, but also a general situational awareness. In this broader area, they are without peer. Between Astral Sight, Awareness, Danger Sense, and Orbiting Spy, they should hardly every be caught unaware. Astral Sight, Awareness, and Evidence Analysis should get them started with a direction. Direction Arrow and Tracking will lead them to the information. Navigation, Safe Path, and Wilderness Survival get you there. Finally, Climbing and Stealthy Stride are for the inevitable infiltration and exfiltration. Assuming it does't end in just violence and running (it usually ends in violence and running).

There are many more tools which can be used to help with any of these parts, particularly if you plan to operate more in cities than in more wilderness settings. If you want to get help with the violence and running optional piece, talent options are where all of it can be found.
  • Anticipate Blow - A useful talent which benefits defense and offense, but requires a good initiative. Generally only suggested for characters who want to invest heavily in combat talents.
  • Avoid Blow - Outside of an actual weapon talent, the basic combat talent. This is more important for Scouts who choose Melee Weapons than those who choose Missile Weapons.
  • Creature Analysis - Definitely a thematic talent for a Scout, particularly those who want to participate more indirectly in combat and support their group.
  • Disarm Trap - If your group doesn't have a Thief and you are either exploring kaers or operating in a city, this should be strongly considered. However, if you don't have Lock Picking yet, you should start with that one.
  • Great Leap - One of the talents which improves a Scout's mobility. This is essentially climbing for action scenes.
  • Lock Picking - If your group doesn't have a Thief, you should probably be looking long and hard at this talent.
  • Melee Weapons - One of the two weapon talents. Melee Weapons offers either more damage (two-handed weapons) or better armor (shields) over Missile Weapons.
  • Missile Weapons - The second of the two weapon talents. Missile Weapons offers range over Melee Weapons, which is has defensive and offensive advantages.
  • Speak Language - Part of traveling the world to find new things is meeting new people and learning how to speak with them. Also, this can be important when spying.
  • Read and Write Language - Sometimes you can't take the documents with you and have to read them on the spot, or know which documents are those you came for in the first place.
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.

A Scout filling the shoes of a Thief as well, who will be referred to as an infiltrator, will want a weapon talent (Melee Weapons will probably work out the best), Lock Picking, Disarm Trap, and Avoid Blow. This is going to give you all of the tools for breaking in and the ability to do something in combat. For those looking for less combat, consider Great Leap for awesome chases.

Those who are most interested in filling the role of a ranger will want Missile Weapons, Avoid Blow, Anticipate Blow, and Creature Analysis. With these talents, the adept is going to be most at home in the wilderness and good support in combat.

A more aggressive combat Scout, we'll call them recon, will want Melee Weapons, Avoid Blow, Anticipate Blow, and Great Leap. Very similar to the ranger, though they are going to use their mobility through Great Leap to bypass opponents as needed and launch deeper strikes, or to help make a hasty get away.
  • Animal Bond - This opens up some new opportunities for Scouts. These animal companions will not be combatants, there simply isn't the talent support, but they can expand their ability to gather information considerably.
  • Borrow Sense - If you have the animal companions, you can use their superior senses for your own ends.
  • Conceal Object - Best when used with Surprise Strike and a melee weapon, or for escaping with the goods and things haven't gone pear-shaped yet.
  • Disguise Self - An incredible tool for getting into and out of secure locations. It even works for getting lost in a crowd to shake pursuit.
  • Spirit Mount - Useful for making a quick getaway.
  • Spot Armor Flaw - Any Scout who wants to be more competent in combat will want to consider this.
  • Sprint - This improves mobility, either for getting into trouble or escaping from it.
  • Surprise Strike - While any character can gain some benefit, those with Conceal Object are likely to get the most from this talent.
  • Tiger Spring - If you have Anticipate Blow, this is almost a must. Any combat-oriented Scout will want to consider this talent.
  • True Sight - Very specific in application, though worth taking if you encounter illusions frequently. Or you have a deep-seated fear of encountering illusions.
Returning to the three previous builds, the infiltrator will want Disguise Self, Conceal Object, Surprise Strike, and Sprint. This will give you considerably more bite in combat and enhance your ability to operate unobtrusively. Spending every other action re-establishing surprise in combat will likely be the best strategy to get the most from Surprise Strike. This will also allow you to either keep from drawing too much attention, or tie up some of your opponents while your allies deal with them.

Rangers will want Animal Bond, Borrow Sense, Spot Armor Flaw or Tiger Spring, and either Spirit Mount or Sprint. The latter is going to be more useful in combat, while the former more useful outside of combat. This particular character has strayed from their combat roots established in Novice, but they are more focused on gathering information and keeping out of direct conflict.

The recon Scouts, on the other hand, are about causing trouble. They will want Spot Armor Flaw, Tiger Spring, Conceal Object, and Surprise Strike. This is as combat heavy as a Scout gets. If you are using a two-handed weapon (why not, besides the strength requirement?), Conceal Object and Surprise Strike aren't going to be very useful. In this case, trade them out for Sprint and Disguise Self. Sprint is going to maximize your battlefield mobility and Disguise Self will open up a lot of opportunities for gathering intelligence.

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