18 November 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 14 - Troubadour

This is the fourteenth 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.

All things considered, the Troubadour has come out of the development fairly similar to the previous version. There have been changes, shifting some themes and then tightening the focus, but the Journeyman ability is unchanged.


The specific themes which have been shifted are the leader and the trickster. These were represented with Leadership and Lion Heart, and Disguise Self and Mimic Voice, respectively. There was simply too much going on with the discipline and little focus - they were social characters, lore keepers, performers, leaders, and tricksters. There are a lot of different directions here and not all of them tend to play nice with each other. The heart of this problem is the Earthdawn Troubadour was essentially a D&D bard - which is where it started, but not where it should end. Which isn't to say these aren't possibilities for the discipline, but they shouldn't be the default - they are all still available as talent options.

Even beyond these thematic problems, Disguise Self, Mimic Voice, and Leadership aren't necessarily appropriate for every character. While they may be great for putting on a performance, this isn't their primary mechanical application. The former can be handled with some generous allowances of their Performance talent and half-magic. Leadership is a tricky talent in general for a PC to have and not necessarily appropriate for every game.

With these two themes moved to the talent options, the Troubadour focused even more on being the premier social discipline, increasing their role with information gathering, and expanding their ability to support other characters. The end result (hopefully) is to give players more of what they showed up for in the first place. 

Novice

First Circle
  • Emotion Song
  • First Impression
  • Heartening Laugh
  • Item History
  • Story Weaving
Abilities
  • Durability 5
  • Performance
  • Karma: Interaction tests
Second Circle
  • Etiquette
Third Circle
  • Empathic Sense
Abilities
  • Karma: Gain or recall information
Fourth Circle
  • Research
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Inspire Others
Abilities
  • One Last Word: 2 Strain, when you fail a test against a target's Social Defense, add a karma die to the result. This may be used once per test.
  • Karma: Once per round, on another character's test.
Sixth Circle
  • Lasting Impression
Seventh Circle
  • Resist Taunt
Eighth Circle
  • Slough Blame
The discipline talents and abilities of a Troubadour are primarily social, followed by information, and group support. It is outside of action sequences where the Troubadour shines and they can avoid quite a few conflicts simply through the use of their silver tongue. As either a discipline talent or a talent option, they have access to nearly every social talent in the game. Those missing are limited to fear-based talents, which isn't quite their thing.

Along with their social talents are two key information gathering talents, Item History and Research, which are supported by a karma ability. This gives them few peers when it comes to thread item key knowledge, particularly when it inevitably comes to talking to people. Their support talents, Heartening Laugh and Inspire Others, and karma ability aren't going to make them rock stars in combat, but they will always be welcome in any group because of what they bring.

Through their talent options they can expand their current abilities, or expand into other areas such as combat, deception, and leadership. Troubadours are a versatile discipline (except for combat) and have a lot of different ways to contribute based on the needs of their group.

In combat, their primary move is going to be supporting their allies first and foremost. They don't have a particularly good selection of combat talents, but they do have access to some which help their allies or provide defense. Getting isolated from your allies is bad, you are going to want to stick near one of your group and then support each other. Even if you cannot do significant damage, there are still considerable ways to contribute. Though if you happen to be a troll Troubadour, contributing with damage may be less of a concern than drawing undue attention which you cannot handle well.
  • Avoid Blow - This helps defense, but it also encourages you to get into combat, which is dangerous. If you plan to get mixed up quite a bit, and particularly if you are using Melee Weapons, consider this talent.
  • Conversation - For those who want to specialize more in social talents, this is a good place to start.
  • Haggle - A talent which will benefit the group more than the character which takes it. If you want to be a team player, someone should have this talent.
  • Impressive Display - Every Troubadour should at least consider this talent, which requires minimal investment to start paying off.
  • Melee Weapons - One of the two weapon talents. You are going to want one of them and this is the offensive choice.
  • Read and Write Language - This is going to expand your abilities as a researcher.
  • Speak Language - While this will expand your abilities as the face of your group.
  • Taunt - Combat-oriented characters will want this talent as it helps the entire group.
  • Throwing Weapons - The other weapon talent, and this is the defensive choice.
  • Winning Smile - A must for any character who wants to further specialize as a social character.
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.

There are quite a few different themes to play with and not all of them are obvious at each tier. I'm going to take a look at a combat specialist (skald), social specialist (charmer), trickster, leader, and jack-of-all-trades.


Skalds play a dangerous game by getting in the thick of things. They will want Melee Weapons for the increased offense. Avoid Blow and a shield will help keep them alive, while Taunt should be used judiciously to help everyone.

Charmers are going to be social monsters and should get all of the social talents they do not already have. This means Impressive Display, Winning Smile, and Conversation. The best weapon talent will likely be Throwing Weapons so you can keep your distance.

Tricksters do not have much which specifically benefits them at this tier, which means they will be building for the future. Speak Language and Read and Write Language are going to help with their spying and future impersonations, along with Winning Smile to get your targets on your side. A weapon talent will round things out nicely. If you don't want Read and Write Language, there are some options. Conversation will help with building a rapport and can be used to gather information on any targets, while Taunt is good for when things inevitably go wrong.

Leaders are about contributing to the group before anything else. For this, they will want Haggle, Taunt, a weapon talent, and either one of Conversation, Impressive Display, or Winning Smile to further help with their social duties. Each of these serves a different purpose, so there isn't quite an obvious choice.

The jack-of-all-trades is about participating, they want talents which let them do more and in more areas. For this, a weapon talent and Taunt will have them covered in combat, while Impressive Display and Winning Smile will play to their strengths in social areas and allow them to dominate interactions. One of those two can be switched for Haggle if so desired.
  • Air Speaking - (Mostly) secure communications are important for most groups and this allows for coordinating activities for capers. Leaders will love this talent.
  • Blade Juggle - This gives a hybrid defense/offense talent which is a little strange and complex at first blush. Combat characters are most likely to want it, though it can encourage many enemies to simply stay away.
  • Diplomacy - Troubadours who want to focus even more on their social talents and those who want to be leaders will want to look at this talent.
  • Disguise Self - The first step for being a spy, this is good for anyone who needs to make a get away or can even help getting in somewhere. Particularly dangerous when paired with Mimic Voice.
  • Engaging Banter - The talent to take if someone needs to be distracted for an extended period of time.
  • Graceful Exit - Given how most Troubadours fare in combat, having an exit strategy for your entire group on hand isn't necessarily a bad way to be. This being said, running away isn't typically the go to move for a PC.
  • Hypnotize - Social specialists and tricksters will love this talent and the trouble it can cause.
  • Leadership - Not for most characters or games, this can be good for some character concepts.
  • Lion Heart - The only defense Troubadours have against many control effects. Everyone should at least consider this talent, even if it doesn't make the final cut.
  • Mimic Voice - If you have Disguise Self, this may be the talent for you. It is best used for impersonating someone. Which means if you took Disguise Self for basic intrusion or escape, this may not be the talent for you.
Going back to the (many) example builds, skalds will want Blade Juggle to help them with both offense and defense, and Lion Heart for its defensive abilities as well. Graceful Exit may be worth looking into, even if it pains you, since at times discretion is the better part of valor. Air Speaking is also a good choice for communication and coordination in combat. Other than this, looking back at the Novice talent options (Haggle, Impressive Display, Winning Smile), or seeing about impersonating someone (Disguise Self and Mimic Voice).

Charmers are still looking for every edge they can get, and Hypnotize is a significant one. Diplomacy will also help in the tricky situations your increasing fame brings to the table. For the right group, Engaging Banter will help your allies gain access while you keep people distracted and Air Speaking can help during combat. Since fighting is a very weak point, you may also consider looking back at Novice talent options for Avoid Blow and Taunt, or Graceful Exit simply to avoid it altogether.

This is the tier where tricksters start to come into their own. Disguise Self, Mimic Voice, and Hypnotize are musts to causing trouble. From there, Air Speaking, Engaging Banter, and Graceful Exit are all useful for different reasons. The former for coordinating actions while you are "in character", Engaging Banter for keeping the marks occupied, and the latter for getting out of there when it all goes wrong.

There is also a lot for leaders to like here. Diplomacy is a must if you are going to be in-charge, along with Leadership to help with the whole being in charge in the first place. Air Speaking is good to maintain communications at all times, while Lion Heart helps to ensure you will always be there for the people who need you.

Finally, the jack-of-all-trades has a lot of different options here and less clear direction. Hypnotize and Lion Heart are good for basic selections which will be useful. From there, Blade Juggle will help with their general combat problems, while Diplomacy or one of the social talents from Novice can be a good choice. The truth is at this point, it is about recognizing what will benefit your group the most for this particular character - you are looking to fill in the gaps, or excel at your existing roles.

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