21 November 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 15 - Warrior

This is the fifteenth 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.

The Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) redevelopment of the Warrior was primarily concerned with two things: 1) increasing the emphasis on their elemental theme and 2) rearranging talents to improve choices.


Elemental talents have always had a place in the Warrior talent list and given a clear flavor to the discipline, particularly one which sets Earthdawn apart from D&D. To make this more prominent, Air Dance and Earth Skin were moved to the discipline talents and the talent Waterfall Slam was written. With Fireblood as a talent option, they have access to talents of all the elements.

Improving talent choices came down to removing talents to allow for the elemental talents and giving more room for character customization. The three talents in question are Anticipate Blow, Life Check, and Unarmed Combat. Removing Anticipate Blow and Unarmed Combat were easy decisions to make. Having the former as a discipline talent meant the value in taking Acrobatic Defense was extremely limited since these talents are mutually exclusive. Giving players the option of which of the two is best for them (or none at all) was the course of action. Unarmed Combat simply never saw use in some games and was often considered dead weight, making it a perfect candidate for inclusion as a talent option.

Moving Life Check to the talent options was a more difficult decision and came down to Earth Skin being a better fit for the new thematic focus rather than Life Check being a poor one. In particular, Earth Skin gives Warriors a much needed boost to Mystic Defense, playing up their one of their combat themes of being unstoppable.

Their Journeyman ability, Battle Rites, was updated based on the changes to karma and issues encountered during play. It enables Warriors to have a longer workday and effectively gives them a larger pool of Strain than other disciplines, something of a nod to the previous Durability hierarchy.

Consider a Warrior if you are looking for a discipline which can dominate the battlefield - fast, powerful, and tough. If you want to be the rock around which your enemies break and your allies rally, this is probably what you want.

Novice

First Circle
  • Avoid Blow
  • Melee Weapons
  • Tiger Spring
  • War Weaving
  • Wood Skin
Abilities
  • Durability 7
Second Circle
  • Wound Balance
Third Circle
  • Air Dance
Abilities
  • Karma: Recovery Test.
Fourth Circle
  • Waterfall Slam
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Earth Skin
Abilities
  • Battle Rites: Select one talent, during any encounter for the rest of the day, the Warrior may spend a karma point to reduce the Strain cost of the talent by one per round for the rest of the encounter. Only one karma point may be spent per encounter, but this may be used for each encounter.
  • Karma: Close combat damage tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Temper Flesh
Seventh Circle
  • Crushing Blow
Eighth Circle
  • Second Attack
Most disciplines have a particular way in which they excel at combat. Warriors, however, simply excel at combat. The only discipline talent they have which isn't directly combat related is War Weaving. Even their talent options are almost exclusively combat oriented, with only three which are non-combat talents. This narrow focus means Warriors have no true peers when it comes to causing violence, but little to do outside of a fight.

Without talent options, Warriors are good at nearly everything and in nearly every circumstance. Air Dance and Tiger Spring mean they are going to be one of the fastest adepts out there. The speed from Air Dance and Second Attack give them excellent access to additional attacks, and Crushing Blow and Waterfall Slam make those attacks even more powerful. This all combines to create a devastating offense.

Their defense is equally impressive, though relying mostly on passive boosts which are good in every situation. Temper Flesh and Wood Skin both improve their basic toughness, while Wound Balance protects against knockdown. Earth Skin gives a rare, but important boost to Mystic Defense, and Avoid Blow is their only active defense.

Despite all of this, there are still some weaknesses. Mobility is the most noticeable area in which these adepts are deficient. They have no particular ability to move around the battlefield to engage with specific targets - their only option is to leave a swath of destruction in their wake. Beyond this, they have no resistance against social attacks, which contain some potent debuffs, and require talent options to improve their Physical Defense.

Warrior's don't have a particular approach to combat through just their discipline talents. It is their talent options which will truly define how the Warrior engages in combat and what is their precise role within the group.
  • Acrobatic Defense - One of the three different talents to improve Physical Defense. Characters who are likely to be facing multiple opponents at once may find this the most useful.
  • Anticipate Blow - The second of the three Physical Defense talents. This one is very similar to Maneuver (improving Physical Defense and your next attack test against the target), though it works at any range and requires a higher initiative than your opponent. The requirement is unlikely to generally be a concern for Warriors and the added versatility may be appealing to characters who also take Missile Weapons. There may be some future value in this talent for characters who want to defend their allies.
  • Danger Sense - Avoiding being taken by surprise is generally a good thing and if it appeals to you, consider this talent.
  • Distract - Given their ability to take a beating, Warriors can take advantage of this talent without much fear of being the focus of the attention. In fact, it may very well be the primary purpose with the other effects as a side benefit.
  • Fireblood - Healing during combat is a powerful ability and only increases the resilience of a Warrior. The downside is between Earth and Wood Skin, there may not be a lot of Recovery Tests to go around to take full advantage of this talent, in contrast with Sky Raiders who benefit from Fire Heal for extra Recovery Tests.
  • Maneuver - The third talent which provides a bonus to Physical Defense and it also gives a bonus to the next attack test against one opponent. There is a lot to like here and characters looking for general competence will likely want to start with this talent.
  • Shield Bash - If you have a shield and intend to keep using one, this talent is probably worth taking; knockdown can be very powerful, particularly if timed just right.
  • Tactics - Thematic for Warriors and it provides a bonus to your entire group, even if for a limited time.
  • Missile Weapons - Supplemental weapon talents are always tricky since they absolutely need to be continually improved to get use from them and they may not come up very often. This being said, if you aren't comfortable without a ranged attack, this is the best one in the game and make sure you have Anticipate Blow to supplement its use.
  • Unarmed Combat - Similar to Missile Weapons, this is recommended for characters who specifically want to engage in Unarmed Combat on a regular basis, or have a plan.
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.

Warriors have quite a few different builds to take advantage of their talent options. I am going to explore the defender, juggernaut, officer, tempest, and jack-of-all-trades.


The defender is primarily concerned with protecting their allies. They are likely to be the key element of the front line, and be concerned with disrupting any attempts by skirmishers to engage with their support allies. To help with this, they will want Anticipate Blow, Danger Sense, Distract, and Shield Bash. Shield Bash helps break the opposing formation, Distract keeps the attention on you, and Danger Sense means you should always be ready. Anticipate Blow may seem like a strange choice, but it is a good talent to support Distract and allows you to improve your defense against ranged attackers from the opposition.

In contrast, juggernauts want to cause maximum carnage. They use their innate abilities to punch a hole in the opposing line and relentlessly keep on the pressure. Acrobatic Defense, Fireblood, and Maneuver are solid choices for this kind of character (who has a two-handed weapon). Acrobatic Defense will help with Physical Defense when they are surrounded by opponents, which should be all of the time, while Maneuver should be used against the primary target to both help land a decisive hit and mitigate retaliation. Fireblood will help keep you active if things go wrong, which is probably going to happen. This leaves an open selection and there are two good options depending on what you prefer - Distract will allow your allies to engage with the primary target and quickly take it down, while Tactics gives an initial boost which can help take control of the fight tempo. Acrobatic Defense can be exchanged for Anticipate Blow for a more aggressive direction. The specific goal of this is to load up all of the bonuses to hit on one attack for a better chance of triggering Momentum Attack at Journeyman.

Officers are interested in being the core of the group in combat and directing the action. It is less about personal glory and more about how to maximize their allies' abilities. Towards this end Distract, Maneuver, Shield Bash, and Tactics will give the most options for controlling the conflict. Distract isolates an opponent, Shield Bash controls movement (or really ruins the day of the one opponent), while Maneuver provides a general benefit and in particular against the target of Distract, while Tactics improves everyone.

A tempest wants attacks - all of the attacks. Which means they will not be getting them quite yet. This build will be using a light shield at this point, preparing for Second Weapon, but does not want any initiative penalties - they are after the additional attack from Air Dance. This character is going be in the thick of things like the juggernaut, but with lots of smaller attacks rather than single big hits. At this point, they want the same talents as the juggernaut, except Tactics instead of Distract; you don't want to draw that kind of attention since you are likely to be very lightly armored.

As usual, jack-of-all-trades wants maximum impact rather than a particular theme. Talents which will give them the most options in combat and are most likely to always be useful include Acrobatic Defense, Distract, Maneuver, and Shield Bash. This has a lot of different ways to improve your defense and open up opportunities for your entire group. Even without a top of the line initiative, this talent selection should have things to do every turn.
  • Disarm - This is one of the more limited talents in the Warrior options since it requires the target to be wielding a weapon. Against such opponents, it can be a great control ability by denying actions or even forcing a surrender.
  • Etiquette - The only true social talent available to Warriors, and something which may interest characters who want to play the role more of an officer than a soldier.
  • Leadership - As usual, this isn't likely to be a talent which most PCs will find very useful. However, it can be an important part of a concept and valuable in the right game.
  • Life Check - It never hurts to have this talent in your back pocket. If you are holding the line for your group and drawing all of the wrong kind of attention, the odds are good you will go down at some point and this talent helps prevent it from occurring.
  • Lion Heart - This is a second line of defense against control effects. While it won't generally stop them from happening, it will help end them quickly. The low investment required makes this worth considering for nearly every character.
  • Momentum Attack - Another talent which can grant an additional attack (which is always good), though it is dependent on your attack roll. Characters who can consistently get additional successes on their attack tests may want to consider this talent.
  • Second Weapon - A more reliable talent for another attack, though characters who want this talent should plan for it early and communicate this to your GM. This talent will make you more offensive, lacking a shield, though individual attacks will do less damage than a two-handed weapon and there will be more investment for a second thread weapon.
  • Spot Armor Flaw - An inexpensive multi-round damage boost. With the number of attacks Warriors can get, there is a lot of appeal to this talent. Characters who specialize in multiple attacks will find even more to like here.
  • Steely Stare - A social-ish talent which is primarily useful for avoiding conflict, or to simply be left alone. It can even be used as a dark horse replacement for Engaging Banter.
  • Swift Kick - Warriors can take advantage of this talent more so than any other discipline. They already have the initiative to use it and with Waterfall Slam, it is perfect for kicking opponents to the ground.
From the Journeyman talent options, defenders will want Life Check, Lion Heart, and Swift Kick. The first two are to further specialize in defense, while the latter is to create openings for their group to take advantage. This leaves an open option and Disarm, Etiquette, Spot Armor Flaw, or Steely Stare can all be good selections. Disarm gives a a control ability, while Etiquette is useful for a bodyguard character who needs to blend in at least a little while attending fancy affairs, Spot Armor Flaw is a damage boost and never a bad choice, and Steely Stare can prevent a situation from occurring in the first place.

A juggernaut is straight forward with talents to match: Life Check, Lion Heart, Momentum Attack, and Spot Armor Flaw. The first two will keep them going, while the latter two increase their offensive power. There is nothing particularly subtle about these selections or this character.

In contrast to the juggernaut, officers are less a force of nature and more about adapting to the situation. There is a pool of talents to consider for this character, depending on exactly what you want. The default suggestions are Disarm, Etiquette, Leadership, and Steely Stare. This has control and all of the non-combat abilities available to open up different avenues for the adept, rather than just violence. Since some of these talents may not be for you, despite enjoying what the character is about, other options include Lion Heart, Spot Armor Flaw, and Swift Kick. Lion Heart is the only defensive talent and useful to stay in the fight - relying on their already formidable physical abilities to resist conventional attacks. Additional damage is always good and Spot Armor Flaw may gain some group support in the future. Swift Kick adds some additional control to to their abilities as an additional Shield Bash, effectively, allowing them to put more opponents on the ground for their allies.

As the other side of the coin from the juggernaut, the tempest truly comes into its own and gets all of the attacks. Momentum Attack, Second Weapon, Spot Armor Flaw, and Swift Kick are their talents of choice. Three of those are additional attacks, one to knock opponents to the ground, and the fourth makes every attack better. All of the attacks.

Comparatively playing the middle ground, the jack-of-all-trades should consider Life Check, Lion Heart, Momentum Attack, and Spot Armor Flaw. Instead of trying to be something they are not, this character is going to focus on what they are best at: combat. This is something of a generalist who is taking talents which will benefit any situation and any equipment selection. These are solid talents which are unlikely to ever cause buyer's remorse.

For a discussion over the general themes of the Warrior how they can function in game, see the Third Edition Anatomy of Warrior. Example charatcers: dwarf, obsidiman, and t'skrang.