09 January 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 18 - Elementalist Part 2, Talents

This is the eighteenth 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.

A great deal of the flavor for a spellcaster comes from their spell selection and Elementalist is no exception. However, one of the goals for Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) was to make talents more relevant to spellcasting disciplines. To do this, the discipline talents and talent options were evaluated for how appropriate they are and how useful they are.


For Elementalists, this focus is on the world around them and on being tough (for a spellcaster). Naturally, this is in addition to the talents for spellcasting. Air Speaking, Cold Purify, and Temperature were all removed from their discipline talents for various reasons. Air Speaking isn't necessarily for everyone, particularly since this is not a very social discipline. Cold Purify has been improved, but it puts them in the default role as a healer and their spells already emphasize this enough. Temperature was simply removed as a talent entirely.

To fill in these holes, Awareness was added for their connection to the greater world through the elements and Wood Skin both emphasizes their toughness and adds an elemental talent. Hold Thread and Willforce are both now a standard part of the curriculum for core spellcasting disciplines.

Talent options have been redeveloped to emphasize their connection to the elements, things, and the world, rather than people, in addition to their continuing arcane studies. The tend to lag behind some of their more studious peers in the latter category due to their interest in the empirical rather than the abstract.

Towards this end, Haggle, Read and Write Language, and Speak Language were all removed; they were simply too Namegiver-centric. All of the trap handling is gone - while it wasn't entirely out of place, there were better and more appropriate uses of their talent options. Spot Armor Flaw was also removed since it no longer interacts well with the mechanics of spells (if it ever did) and Parry was effectively replaced by Avoid Blow, as the former no longer exists.

To make up for these they gain access to a lot of spellcasting-related talents, which really plays up the whole spellcasting thing: Banish, Dispel Magic, and Tenacious Weave. These are all new talents to meant to expand the scope of spellcasting, and make it more interactive with talents as a whole. Part of a larger push to give spellcasters more reasons to care about their talents and not just their spells. Also giving them better talents in the first place. They also gained Climbing, Navigation, Safe Path, and Wilderness Survival as a part of their outdoorsman collection. Fireblood makes up the last addition and it plays into their tough, elemental theme and combines well with Fire Heal. Elementalists have a lot of Recovery Tests. A whole lot. Which is good for how many of their spells work.

The Elementalist is a tough and versatile discipline which can leverage their development into a number of different areas. They are at their strongest when working behind the scenes and supporting their allies. If the idea of a straightforward spellcaster who interested in results appeals to you, this may be a good match.

Novice

First Circle
  • Awareness
  • Elementalism
  • Patterncraft
  • Spellcasting
  • Wood Skin
Abilities
  • Durability 3
Second Circle
  • Fire Heal
Third Circle
  • Elemental Tongues
Abilities
  • Karma: Recovery Tests
Fourth Circle
  • Elemental Hold
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Summon [Elemental Spirits]
Abilities
  • Fire and Ice: 1 Strain and a successful Elementalism test against the targets Mystic Defense or Difficulty 6 to create a small flame or freeze water.
  • Karma: Spend a karma point to target an additional ally with a spell you are casting.
Sixth Circle
  • Willforce
Seventh Circle
  • Earth Skin
Eighth Circle
  • Hold Thread
Elementalists have a few different areas from their discipline talents. They have all of the spellcasting basics (Hold Thread, Patterncraft, Spellcasting, and Willforce) and are also a summoning discipline (Elemental Hold, Elemental Tongues, and Summon). These two areas form the backbone of the discipline and are their core competencies. Though reduced in overall power and accessibility in ED4, summoning is still a useful and versatile ability.

Beyond those two areas, they have a connection to the world and the elements. To support this, they have Awareness and three elementally themed talents, Earth Skin, Fire Heal, and Wood Skin. Those three talents make them incredibly tough for a spellcaster, and Fire Heal can provide extra Recovery Tests to support spells which allow the caster to spend their own to heal the target.

Their karma ability for Recovery Tests also adds to how tough they are (for spellcasters). While their unique spellcasting karma ability makes them excellent support casters. It allows Elementalists to put have a little more versatility when it comes to casting buff or healing spells - potentially saving an extra thread and the associated time. The Journeyman ability is unchanged as there was nothing particularly wrong with it.
  • Air Speaking - Characters looking to emphasize their connection to the elements, or provide some clandestine communication may want to consider this.
  • Arcane Mutterings - In contrast, those Elementalists who want to go in a more mystical direction, or simply want to contribute in a rather unique fashion to social encounters.
  • Astral Sight - This will definitely be one of the most popular talent options because of the versatility it offers. Mystically inclined adepts should consider this a must.
  • Avoid Blow - Given their relative toughness, this may not be a must if you can mostly stay out of harm's way. If you are willing to invest in improving it every circle, it is worth considering.
  • Climbing - Those looking to really get in touch with nature, such as by harvesting True elements in hard to reach places, may want this talent.
  • Item History - Someone in your group should have this; even if someone already has it, there isn't generally harm in having two people with the capabilities.
  • Standard Matrix - Even with the two free spell matrices, this is probably going to be the first talent option selected.
  • Tracking - Another talent for those Elementalists who want to get closer to nature. However, if there is another character in the group with this talent, you can probably pass.
  • Wilderness Survival - These spellcasters have a number of spells which can improve this talent significantly and it is always a good idea to have at least one person with it.
  • Wind Catcher - This is another choice for Elementalists to develop their elemental theme. Also, for characters who like to engage in some daring-do.
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 builds I will be looking at are the hermit, the mystic, the purist, and the jack-of-all-trades.

Hermits are about a connection to nature. They are probably going to want Climbing, Standard Matrix, Tracking and Wilderness Survival. Their talents can make them stand-ins for Scouts when it comes to exploring. Self-sufficiency and pragmatism are key to this character.

The mystic is a spellcaster who views the elements as the building blocks to the world. There is still a connection, but it is a means to an end rather the end itself. Their talent selections will include Arcane Mutterings, Astral Sight, Item History, and Standard Matrix. Even though they are the most "cerebral" build here, as Elementalists they will still be very hands-on and more inclined to empirical evidence rather than elaborate theories.

In contrast, the purist seeks a deeper connection with the elements themselves. Towards these ends, they will want Air Speaking, Avoid Blow, Standard Matrix, and Wind Catcher. This is an eclectic selection of talents, but this is going to be an eclectic character. They may not have the most effective answer at all times, but they will likely have interesting answers.

Of course, the jack-of-all-trades wants to be mostly be effective. Astral Sight, Avoid Blow, and Standard Matrix will be their must haves. For their final talent option, Item History and Wilderness Survival are likely the most use, though based on need and direction, any of the other options can be useful.
  • Banish - Sometimes its easiest to sweep things (like spirits) under the rug. If you traffic with them a lot, this is perhaps something to consider.
  • Cold Purify - Characters who play more of a support role will almost certainly want this talent. Its ability to mitigate the effects of poison and Wounds are extremely helpful.
  • Dispel Magic - If you deal with a considerably number of spellcasters, this will help take the wind out of their sails.
  • Enhanced Matrix - Probably the first talent option selected.
  • Fireblood - Elementalists who find themselves in the thick of combat may want to consider this talent.
  • Gliding Stride - Something of the other side of Fireblood, this is a great way to stay out of trouble.
  • Navigation - If you are fulfilling the role of the pathfinder for your group, this should probably get consideration.
  • Safe Path -  Similar to Navigation, if it has fallen to you to keep you group out of trouble in the wilderness, this is going to help a lot.
  • Steel Thought - With their rather high Mystic Defense, this talent may not always be useful. The target numbers may be too high to depend on Steel Thought, particularly with the (effective) requirement of continually improving the talent. This being said, it is still a very good selection for nearly everyone.
  • Tenacious Weave - If you find yourself on the receiving end of Dispel Magic, this is the talent which will help with your problem.
With the new tier, hermits round out their outdoorsy talents. They will want Enhanced Matrix, Gliding Stride, Navigation, and Safe Path. While it may seem an odd inclusion, the additional mobility from Gliding Stride will help this character when exploring their surroundings.

Mystics will likely want to invest in Banish, Dispel Magic, Enhanced Matrix, and Tenacious Weave. These selections are going to be particularly useful against opposing spellcasters provide a counterpoint to the entirely physical spell selection.

Continuing with their trend, purists will want Cold Purify, Enhanced Matrix, Fireblood, and Steel Thought. This is a very defensive set of selections, but plays up their elemental themes and makes an already resilient character even more so.

The jack-of-all-trades will most likely maximize their effectiveness with Cold Purify, Dispel Magic, Enhanced Matrix, and Steel Thought. None of these talents are critical, so they can be freely swapped out of something more useful to a particular campaign; Fireblood and Gliding Stride are the two most likely.

For a discussion over the general themes of the Elementalist how they can function in game, see the Third Edition Anatomy of an Elementalist.