25 November 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 16 - Weaponsmith

This is the sixteenth 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.

Development for Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) brought a lot of changes to the Weaponsmith in different ways. From thematic changes to underlying functions of their key talents, this particular discipline got a great deal of attention.


The thematic changes this discipline have undergone include focusing more on their role as craftsman. Their bonus talent allows them to build pretty much anything and their karma ability means they are going to be very good at it. The Journeyman ability has remained spiritually the same, but instead of taking twice as long, it simply imposes a penalty to the test. This encourages the usage of a proper forge, but doesn't make using it agonizingly slow.

There is also an increased focus on their role as the center of a community, and access to combat abilities to help support their association with weapons. Additionally, their "anti-magic" theme has been expanded on slightly and will continue to grow.

To make room for these changes, there were some themes shuffled and removed. Talent consolidation also helped and haggle was simple enough to make a talent option - for some being a Weaponsmith is a trade, while for others it is a passion. Conceal Object was a strange fit for a discipline which is values honesty and being forthright above all else - and thus was cut. 

The expansion of the discipline into Elementalism was interesting and seemed like a great marriage in concept, but in play it never went well. Many adepts who wanted Elementalism wanted it earlier than Warden and the number of basic talents to make it function meant they were locked into purchasing them at a premium while eschewing their other high circle talent options. If a character didn't want Elementalism, then they were stuck with a virtually useless Warden ability. It should come as no surprise at this point all of these talents were removed to make room for some truly Weaponsmith talents.

As has been discussed elsewhere, Forge Armor and Forge Weapon have been expanded considerably. The bonuses they provide are now related to the talent rank, not the base item. Critically, these talents would become forgotten by Journeyman with Forge Armor virtually obsolete before it was received. Their value was only maintained for crafting your own thread items and waiting until thread equipment could be obtained. The changes, including bringing Forge Armor to the beginning of Journeyman, emphasize these talents and what they bring to the group. An essential goal here was to make the forging theme a key part of the discipline throughout their career.

The end result is a versatile discipline which can go in numerous directions depending on what the player wants and what the group needs. One of their biggest strengths is as a support character for their group and consequently often find themselves in positions of leadership and influence. If you are more interested in your group as a whole than your character in particular, this may be a good discipline for you.

Novice

First Circle
  • Forge Weapon
  • Item History
  • Melee Weapons
  • Steel Thought
  • Thread Smithing
Abilities
  • Durability 5
  • Craftsman
  • Karma: Any test to craft, repair, or improve an item.
Second Circle
  • Conversation
Third Circle
  • Suppress Curse
Abilities
  • Karma: Recovery Test.
Fourth Circle
  • Wound Balance
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Forge Armor
Abilities
  • Traveling Smithy: 2 Strain, create an improvised forge; -3 to tests using the forge.
  • Karma: Damage tests with weapons you have made.
Sixth Circle
  • Temper Flesh
Seventh Circle
  • Spot Armor Flaw
Eighth Circle
  • Lion Heart
There are a number of different things which this discipline can do just from their discipline talents. Items is clearly a focus between their Forge talents, karma ability, Craftsman, and Item History. They also gain a considerable number of combat talents, magic resistance, and a social talent. Which means they have a lot of different ways to contribute and talent options give the ability to further expand in all of these areas, depending on the needs of the group and your desired direction.

In combat, their discipline talents are mostly defensive, though they can do respectable damage through their karma ability and Spot Armor Flaw. This puts them in a similar category to a Warrior, particularly with their mobility (or lack-thereof). It may be tempting to have them hold the line, and perhaps they are best suited for it in some groups, but they simply do not have the staying power nor many of the tools to which combat disciplines have access. Specializing in combat allows them even more defensive abilities in addition to some offensive and control abilities. This makes them more capable of holding the line with another character. What does set them apart is their ability to handle spellcasters and other mystic attacks. With a naturally high Mystic Defense, Lion Heart, Steel Thought, and Suppress Curse they can wreck most spellcasters foolish enough to get near them. Throw Earth Skin in as a talent option and it gets ugly.
  • Avoid Blow - If you want to pick up more combat talents, this should probably be where you start. Weaponsmiths' do not have a naturally impressive Physical Defense and this can be supplemented with an active defense.
  • Awareness - This is simply a good selection in general. Everyone likes to notice things.
  • Danger Sense - Probably not the first choice for anyone, though if no one else in your group has this, it is worth considering to stave off ambushes. If you are handling traps, this is going to be more valuable.
  • Disarm Trap - Consider taking this if your group does not have someone with Disarm Trap. If you do take this talent, you will absolutely want Awareness to go along with it.
  • Fireblood - Adepts who want to specialize in combat are going to want this talent. It gives Weaponsmiths a lot more staying power, particularly if they are tanking for their group.
  • First Impression - Characters who want to engage more in communities and the social parts of the game in general will definitely want this talent.
  • Haggle - If you find yourself as your group's quartermaster or leader, then this will likely appeal to you from a pragmatic perspective.
  • Shield Bash - Combat specialists who use a shield should take this talent - it provides battlefield control and can limit your opponents' mobility. Particularly useful against spellcasters who have low strength and no Wound Balance.
  • Speak Language - This is of primary use for characters who want to be more involved in the communities they visit.
  • Read and Write Language - Similar to Speak Language, though probably a second choice. It does have additional use in reading texts for adepts who want to focus more on ancient items.
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.

These builds are the protector, quartermaster, tinker, and jack-of-all-trades. The protector is a combat specialized Weaponsmith who is naturally focused on defense, particularly against magic. The are going to want Avoid Blow, Fireblood, Shield Bash, and either Awareness or Danger Sense. This does lock them into using a shield, but the additional Physical Defense and Mystic Defense are going to be particularly useful given their moderate Durability. These talents give additional defense and staying power, along with some control. The choice between Awareness and Danger Sense probably weighs heavily in favor of Awareness simply because of the utility, but Danger Sense is the best defense against ambushes.

Quartermasters are social specialists and nicely fill the role of a group or community leader. These characters will want to establish connections to the community in which they currently reside and use these to further the plot or simply gain goodwill. You never know when the goodwill of a community will pay enormous dividends. They are just as likely to be a face as they are to work behind the scenes to ensure their group has what they need. To accomplish this they will want Awareness, First Impression, Haggle, and Speak Language. First Impression and Speak Language are important for earning that trust - speaking the language goes a long way to fitting in and ensuring no one is keeping something from you. Awareness helps to pick up the things you would either miss and Haggle should improve the group's coffers.

A tinker may not be the best term, but I couldn't come up with a better one so we all suffer. This particular build is most interested in playing with things and exploring the some of the more esoteric parts of their discipline. The talents they will want are Awareness, Danger Sense, Disarm Trap, and either Fireblood or Read and Write Language. The first three make up the core of dealing with traps and generally exploring kaers. The latter two options either emphasize one of their elemental connections, or give them a tool to help gain additional knowledge.

As per usual, the jack-of-all-trades wants talents which will see use more than anything and support their group in general. These are most likely to be Avoid Blow, Awareness, First Impression, and Shield Bash. Avoid Blow and Shield Bash open up more options in combat and Shield Bash can help everyone. First Impression is a solid social talent and helpful when establishing a presence in the community. Awareness is likely to be rolled every session. At least once. It is simply one of those talents and it never hurts to have more people in the know. The other talent which may be a good fit for the right character is Haggle, though there isn't a clear choice as to what it should replace.
  • Battle Shout - A powerful talent which can be used to great effect against a single target. Combat specialists will definitely want this, though it can be useful for any adept who regularly engages in combat.
  • Diplomacy - Weaponsmiths particularly invested in solving other Namegivers' problems will want this talent.
  • Earth Skin - If you either find yourself as the target of magical attacks, or want to be in their face, this is a very useful talent with its long duration bonus to Mystic Defense.
  • Etiquette  - Another talent for characters who are frequently the face of their group, or interested in building community goodwill. The ability to avoid social faux pas never hurts.
  • Fire Heal - Extra Recovery Tests are simply good in general. They are even better if you have Earth Skin and Fireblood.
  • Heartening Laugh - A group buff against fear effects can be very powerful in the right situations. Characters more invested in the group will likely want this; it is also worth finding out if anyone else already has this talent.
  • Iron Constitution - General protection against disease and poison. You are going to know if this talent is right for you and the investment is minimal for it to be useful.
  • Leadership - Not generally a talent which PCs get a lot of use from, but it can be very helpful when rallying the community to your cause.
  • Missile Weapons - Shield Bash is the only talent which locks Weaponsmiths into a particular style of combat (besides starting with Melee Weapons) and this gives them some additional versatility in combat to supplement their poor mobility.
  • Resist Taunt - This talent gives Weaponsmiths access to an active defense for each Defense, which can be pretty powerful. Social and combat specialists will want to take this talent. The former for the edge it gives in social situations and the latter to avoid the potent social debuffs.
At Journeyman, protectors get access to even more defensive talents and a powerful debuff: Battle Shout, Earth Skin, Fire Heal, and Resist Taunt. With these talent options and their discipline talents, they should be resistant to nearly everything thrown at them, even though they are somewhat fragile until their shell. Battle Shout is best used to keep a single powerful opponent from bringing everything they have to bear for a little while, or debilitate a foe for their allies to exploit.

A quartermaster's ability to become involved in the community increases considerably with access to Diplomacy, Etiquette, and Resist Taunt. Leadership is a the perfect fit for this character, but not necessarily perfect for every game or player. In this case, Heartening Laugh makes a good substitute.

The tinker invests heavily in their elemental connection with Earth Skin, Fire Heal, and Iron Constitution. They will probably want either Fireblood or Read and Write Language from Novice - which ever of the two they did not take previously. This is definitely a strange character, but also an excellent choice to bring with you into dangerous kaers with their ability to never be caught unaware and some excellent defense.

There are a number of different directions a jack-of-all-trades can go depending on what their group needs, which is going to be important for their selections. Battle Shout, Earth Skin, and Heartening Laugh, and Resist Taunt are all good choices which will almost certainly prove to be useful. This provides a variety of different tools to use at their disposal and interesting things to do in general.

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