28 February 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Part 4 - Math and Reducing Complexity

This is 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 brief warning: this is going to rapidly descend into the realm of letters as numbers, but nothing will be terribly complex. The goal is to explain how some of the changes to Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) were made for the game to be more accessible to players who are not mathematically inclined. Also, by understanding the new, underlying math, there is significantly less need to use the characteristics table during character creation. Except for carrying capacity.


Fans of Earthdawn are likely familiar with the underlying math which has been a part of the system since day one. Use of the Fibonacci sequence for legend point costs creates a natural increase which scales just right. The step number is also the average result of the dice used (don't forget to account for bonus dice if doing this at home). Once multiple dice are used, they also tend to create a normalized distribution, though not all steps were created equal in this regard. Thus the monkeying with D20s and D4s in Third Edition and ED4. Even the result table roughly equates to standard deviations of results.

Towards these ends, the role math plays in the system and how it is used was a factor under significant scrutiny during the development of ED4. The first and perhaps most significant change was to the Result Level Table. It was off-putting to many existing and potential players and GMs to consult a table to determine your degree of success. This step takes just long enough that it can slow the action down. Also, you have to have the table nearby at all times. 

The applied fix was to remove result levels and instead use successes. Making the difficulty number is one success and every 5 above it is another success. The magic number 5 was selected for three primary reasons: 1) It roughly maps to the old result levels, which gives an experience with little noticeable difference, 2) manipulating multiples of 5 in your head is rather simple for everyone, and 3) it feels natural.

Moving from there, the base value provided by additional successes tends to be +2 to something. Not everything, but we wanted a standard number to use for as much as possible to reduce the amount which needs to be looked up. Instead, it is a case of remembering the exceptions - of which there are few and largely relegated to spells. Different standard numbers were playtested with 2 and 3 coming out as the best for gameplay. Ultimately 2 was selected because manipulating multiples of 2 is easier than multiples of 3.

The next table to tackle was the characteristics table. Here it was a case of identifying simple formulas which mostly align with the old results. The goal behind this was to allow people who noticed the underlying math to use derive all of the characteristics without the need to reference the table. Actual formulas weren't provided for space reasons and playtester feedback included the phrase "... and then my eyes glazed over..." more than once. Here are the underlying formulas:  

Step Values: Attribute/3 (round up) + 1 [This was not changed]
Defense Values: Attribute/2 (round up) +1
Unconsciousness Rating: Toughness * 2
Death Rating: Unconsciousness Rating + Toughness Step
Wound Threshold: Toughness/2 (round up) + 2
Recovery Tests: Toughness/6 (round up)
Mystic Armor: Willpower/5 (round down)

There are a lot of different manipulations going taking place and there is no expectation for these to be internalized out of the gate. However, GMs who can become comfortable with these will find it significantly easier to generate accurate NPCs on the fly (for Wound Threshold, treat it like a Toughness Defense +1).

Next on the list is Durability. The way this talent was written in previous editions (e.g. 7/6) was frequently a source of confusion to new players and frustration to those who were not good at math. Familiarity cures the former, but the latter is only exacerbated by taking multiple disciplines. Navigating the treacherous shoals of Durability rules with multiple disciplines if your first discipline is not Warrior (or something else with 9/7) can turn ugly.

Turning it into a function of the discipline solved many of these problems by simply providing the best value available for a given circle. It was a little complex to some players during playtest, but infinitely better than previous executions and ultimately no more difficult than taking the highest defense value of those available.

Using the death rating from durability created a second set of calculations and feedback for this was negative from newer players, particularly when getting involved with multiple disciplines. Instead of basing the boost to death rating off of Durability, it was changed to the highest circle. This is a simple value to determine regardless of the number of disciplines a character possesses and how convoluted their Durability ratings and ranks are.

Final formulas for unconsciousness and death ratings are below:

Unconsciousness Rating: Toughness * 2 + (Durability Rating * Durability Rank)
Death Rating: Unconsciousness Rating + Toughness Step + Highest Circle

Since it essentially comes out The end result is easy for the mathematically inclined to perform in their head and also reduces the complex manipulations (yes, basic multiplication is complex for some people) in favor of simple addition. This is a case where understanding the underlying math and how death rating relates to unconsciousness rating can greatly simplify operations.

The final numbers which were played with are in magic. Dispel, learning, sensing, and thread weaving difficulties were all simplified a great deal. Sensing difficulties (from spells) in particular are much easier since they are always based on the circle of the effect instead of maybe the circle or maybe the effect test from the spell. They are based on Circle and a static modifier, as seen below:

Dispel Difficulty: 10 + Circle
Learning Difficulty: 5 + Circle
Sensing Difficulty: 15 + Circle
Thread Weaving Difficulty: 4 + Circle
Reattuning on the Fly Difficulty: 9 + Circle

It is worth noting reattuning on the fly is specifically one success greater than the basic thread weaving difficulty. The static modifier for thread weaving is 4 instead of 5 based on feedback from playtesting. It was just enough of a difference for a spellcaster to be confident at any given circle of weaving the thread, with karma providing the boost to help with reattuning on the fly or reaching for an additional success on the thread weaving test.

17 February 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 22 - Purifier

This is the twenty-second 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 Purifier has not received an official Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) treatment yet and it is a discipline which I have enjoyed thematically over the years quite a bit. While the mechanics have never been specifically bad, there have been little things which bothered me. To begin with, I don't like racial restrictions on disciplines. Particularly when the thesis behind the discipline is applicable to numerous races.


Previously, Purifiers have been limited to obsidiman only based on their connection to the earth, which has also been a major theme for the discipline. However, this view seems like it stems from the starting point of having a discipline limited to obsidimen, rather than creating the idea and themes, then moving forward and seeing where they go. The idea of purifying the world and yourself is universal and should have followers among all Namegivers, though the philosophy is likely to appeal greatly to obsidimen.

Moving forward from the basis of the discipline, it was expanded to include more than just the connection to the earth. The elemental connections for Purifiers now include earth, water, and wood. These form the primary basis for life which lends itself well to purification. As well, they are no longer solely concerned with purifying the world, but also purifying themselves; the concept of purification itself is central to the discipline, instead of just a connection to the earth. This moves their anti-Horror themes to a more central position, though they will be explored much more starting at Warden.

The mechanics for the discipline were similarly redeveloped. Most of the core of the discipline is still present, however many talents were moved around and some were removed entirely. Body Control and Clay Skin were both returned to their normal varieties to save space and prevent confusion - if you already have Wood Skin, do you have to take Clay Skin as well? Lifesight was moved up a tier as per the current standards and moved to talent options to allow for the more critical talents to the discipline's basic function.

Life Check was moved to talent options to make room for Earth Skin. This was done as both a nod to the origins of the discipline and to reaffirm their connection to the element. As well, it also reinforces their role as a mystical warrior who is well suited to dealing with Horrors and other mystic threats. Steel Thought was added to further reinforce this theme.

Earth Bond and Spirit Talk were both removed entirely. The former didn't quite fit as a talent and has a new lease on life as a hybrid discipline ability. Spirit Talk, on the other hand, didn't fit at all. They could speak with spirits, which they couldn't perceive, but not elementals which have their own talent. It simply didn't do much for them. Instead, Blood Share was included as a precursor to build on the idea of moving life between people, of sharing in the burden, and the connection and power of blood.

Purification is a new talent which was created to give something concrete for the theme of self-purification in addition to supporting their role as mystic warriors. Their new Journeyman ability at the same circle, Earth Bond, provides their connection to the external world. The effects of the ability on the environment are deliberately vague, though the effects are now based on a static scale, rather than relative to a talent rank. In part because establishing such guidelines are difficult without extensive playtesting and also because such guidelines may not be appropriate for every game. Keeping them vague gives each table the opportunity to define how large of an impact they want this power to have. Moving to a fixed scale also means higher circle characters can have objectively greater effects, rather than roughly the same, only excepting for particularly good rolls.

The talent options were redeveloped to make them less unarmed fighters with a connection to the wilderness (this discipline already exists and goes great with Purifier), and have a stronger martial artist feel. Some other talent options which didn't quite fit for various reasons were also cleared out. In the end, Creature Analysis and Tracking were removed under the first clause. Heartening Laugh, Resist Taunt, Steely Stare, and Throwing Weapons were removed for just not fitting in well.

This cleaning house created a lot of space with which to play. Anticipate Blow was added as the pair to Acrobatic Strike. As an aside, unless there is a clear reason to include one of these over the other, I like to include both to give each character the chance to decide which fits their style best. Purifiers don't have a clear style here as they can be athletic and agile, dealing with multiple attackers, or they can be patient and implacable - either are valid concepts. Awareness and Danger Sense both play into their connection to the world around them. Cobra Strike and Waterfall Slam both offer new combat options for different character styles - though there is no reason a Purifier cannot have both. Disarm gives them a non-violent option, and it also makes sense for an unarmed combatant to have the ability to level the playing field (note: the playing field will not be level - one of the two is probably much better without a weapon). Cold Purify is another water talent (along with Waterfall Slam) to provide a connection to that element, but it is also a way to extend their theme externally not just to the world, but to other people. In some ways this further builds on their Blood Share talent.

Novice

First Circle
  • Avoid Blow
  • Claw Shape
  • Purity Weaving
  • Unarmed Combat
  • Wound Balance
Abilities
  • Durability 7
Second Circle
  • Wood Skin
Abilities
  • Defense: +1 Physical Defense
Third Circle
  • Steel Thought
Abilities
  • Karma: Once per turn, the adept may spend a karma point on an Action test against a Horror, Horror construct, or undead target. This does not include Damage tests.
Fourth Circle
  • Blood Share
Abilities
  • Defense: +1 Mystic Defense
Talent Options
  1. Acrobatic Defense
  2. Anticipate Blow
  3. Awareness
  4. Battle Shout
  5. Danger Sense
  6. Great Leap
  7. Maneuver
  8. Sprint
  9. Tiger Spring
  10. Wilderness Survival
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Purification
Abilities
  • Earth Bond: The adept uses their connection to the land to either draw life force from it, or spend theirs into it. To do this, the adept must have their feet on the ground, make a Purity Weaving (6) test, and then immediately make a Recovery Test, choosing to either heal themselves or the land. Each success on this test grants +2 to the Recovery Test. This Recovery Test may not benefit from bonuses from any other source. Every 5 points of damage the adept heals causes the surroundings to notably wither. In lush areas, this may have little noticeable effect, but barren areas may be rendered sterile. Every 5 points of damage the adept heals the land will cause plants to grow and become healthier in an increasing area. At the GM’s discretion, continued use over time may reduce or heal wounds from the Scourge and corruption.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a karma point on unarmed Damage tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Earth Skin
Abilities
  • Defense: +2 Physical Defense
Seventh Circle
  • Crushing Blow
Abilities
  • Bonus: +1 Mystic Armor
Eighth Circle
  • Momentum Attack
Abilities
  • Defense: +3 Physical Defense
Talent Options
  1. Astral Sight
  2. Cobra Strike
  3. Cold Purify
  4. Disarm
  5. Life Check
  6. Lifesight
  7. Lion Heart
  8. Swift Kick
  9. Temper Flesh
  10. Waterfall Slam
Purification
Step: Rank + WIL
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
The adept to uses their connection to the elements to remove debilitating effects affecting them. Each adept uses this talent in a different way; for example, a centering kata or purifying phrase. The adept then makes a Purification test against the highest Dispel Difficulty or Step (as appropriate) of the negative effects affecting them they wish to end. If successful, all such effects immediately end. This can include creature powers, disease, Horror powers, poison, spells, and talents, but does not include Horror marks or any powers used through Horror marks. During the turn this talent is used, the adept may only perform other Free actions (such as Avoid Blow) - they may not perform any Simple actions as their attention is drawn entirely into their purification ritual.

This is a first draft with some external review and playtesting. There is almost certainly still some tinkering required, based on additional playtesting of the new talent and particularly the modified Journeyman ability. While the third circle karma ability is appropriate and serviceable, there may be a better ability for that circle, which would push it to eleventh circle.

14 February 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 21 - Wizard Part 2, Talents

This is the twenty-first 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 Wizard 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.

As has been said before and will undoubtedly be said again: Wizards are all about the magic. This is their primary theme and is not about casting spells, which they are no more adept than other spellcasters, but about manipulating magic in other ways. Even their sub-themes are just extensions of their primary theme. Their use of astral space is to further understand and research magic. The other major aspect to the discipline is their academic nature. This too is a sub-theme to their overall mastery of magic. Their dedication to learning about magic extends to knowledge in general, often leading to a professorial air. Along with the petty academic infighting which inevitably follows.

Journeyman discipline talents were shifted around as part of the general spellcaster update: everyone gets Willforce and Hold Thread. Though Wizards get it a circle earlier since it has been their thing previously. Willforce is a talent every spellcaster is going to take and there is no reason to think otherwise. Having it as a talent option prevented karma use in ED3, but with those changes it was effectively removing another talent option (we all know one talent option is going to be taken by Enhanced Matrix). This is basically embracing the inevitable.

This seems like a reasonable place to discuss Patterncraft. Specifically, why it got a name change. The simplest reason is I detested the name Read and Write Magic. It is dull and I would constantly forget about it. It also wasn't a particularly illustrative name for what it actually did. It lets you learn spells and used a terminology holdover from D&D to do so, but what it could do was never limited to just this task. Just mostly limited to it. So, it got a new, sexy name and with this a new image of what it can do. Most of the new functionality hasn't been included yet as this edition is still in its infancy, but there are plans for this little talent.

In their discipline talents, they see the addition of three new talents. This is among the most new talents, if not the most, for any discipline. Astral Interference, Dispel Magic, and Tenacious Weave are all new to ED4 and build on their primary theme of being the masters of magic. Astral Interference continues their proud tradition of being incredibly effective against other spellcasters, this providing a blanket penalty to all spellcasting (Wizards, naturally, have a countermeasure).

While Dispel Magic is technically new, it is basically the spell with some bits torn off. The talent has been reduced to working only on other talents and spells. This is due to two primary factors. The first is limiting the scope of what Wizards are about: magic. This extends to primarily spells, but also talents. What it doesn't include is anything outside of this, such as creatures and especially Horrors. Creature powers are somewhere between natural and magical, but they are definitely a different beast than the magic learned by adepts. Horrors are the specialty of other disciplines and it stepped all over the expertise of those disciplines. The other factor is Dispel Magic as it was simply wore too many hats. It could do too much and was too useful. This meant everyone had it and it could solve too many problems all on its own. The current form is still quite good, but no long the sonic screwdriver of Earthdawn.

The final addition of the three is Tenacious Weave. It is simply a layer of protection against Dispel Magic which can be added. This was added to the game to introduce another layer of interaction between talents on the measure and counter-measure side. Also, it has a really great name.

One other talent was added to their discipline talents: Suppress Curse. While Dispel Magic no longer functions against everything magical, Wizards are tenacious when it involves overcoming obstacles related to magic. This talent is about their growth and adaptation; developing a new tool.

Despite these additions, the number of actual cuts were rather small. Read and Write Language was moved to talent options since it isn't really necessary to be literate in more languages than officially exist. Book Memory was moved as well, though this was because it has often been seen with some disfavor - it simply may never come up in a game and it isn't particularly crucial to any theme. While it supports the idea of an academic or a researcher, they will have access to all of their books littered around them whenever they choose. Thus making it the perfect candidate for a talent option. Book Recall was cut entirely - it is no longer in the Player's Guide. Finally, Resist Taunt was moved to talent options since it supported the academic sub-theme, without really contributing meaningfully to the primary theme of magic.

From here, the discipline talents were reorganized to make the discipline more focused on their key curriculum. Dispel Magic and Research define their approach to magic: mastery through knowledge. Astral Sight seems like it fits within this paradigm, and it does, however it doesn't fit quite as well as the other two for the basics which every Wizard leaves home knowing. Another reason to move Astral Sight to second circle is otherwise Nethermancer and Wizard start to look very similar and they have enough in common as it is. This clearly separates what each of them is about.

Steel Thought was moved a little earlier since it is difficult to claim mastery over magic if there isn't much you can do about the spell being cast at you. It also works to show their growing strength of will in dealing with these powers.

Naturally, talent options also fell under the dread gaze of redevelopment. These have been used to either further support the primary theme(s), or to explore different sub-themes. At this point, there weren't many talents left for exploring magic, but there were plenty for the acquisition of knowledge and petty academic in-fighting. Also, the best kind of in-fighting.

First, the cuts. Detect Trap, Detect Weapon, Lip Reading, and Orbiting Spy are the sum of the cuts made. Two of these are simple: Detect Weapon and Lip Reading were removed as distinct talents. Detect Trap was rolled into Awareness as long as you have the ability to disable them, and this is not a task Wizards should be undertaking. It's frighteningly dangerous. Orbiting Spy fits their theme of information and it is rather magical, however it also traffics with spirits. This was a line which was drawn to differentiate disciplines - Wizards simply do not deal with spirits, it is something the discipline cannot work around. This serves to preserve the flavor of Elementalists and Nethermancers, and set Wizards apart. Despite all of their efforts, there are somethings which they cannot do.

Avoid Blow, Diplomacy, Etiquette, Hypnotize, Power Mask, and True Sight are all new to the list. Technically Power Mask and True Sight were just moved from Warden, but their role with regard to magic means they are appropriate earlier. Avoid Blow was added to work with their spells which previously provided this function. Since Wizards have a social function, though very erudite and civilized, they needed some more talents to support this. Etiquette is obvious since it also plays into the theme of knowledge: learning about other cultures. Diplomacy is their potential role as peacemakers (someone has to keep the department from falling apart) and it has implied airs of wisdom. Hypnotism is an application of their knowledge of how the mind works, then exploiting it.

One talent, Evidence Analysis, was shifted from being available at first circle to Journeyman. There are two reasons for this. First, the information provided by the talent is too powerful to be available so soon. It has little in common with what Novice talents offer and a great deal more in common with what Journeyman talents offer. The second is the earlier circle makes it available to the Wizard before and at a lower cost. While the talent is thematic and appropriate to a Wizard, it isn't the core of their discipline. Where it is essentially everything a Scout is about.

Wizards have a diverse and versatile selection of spells, with a particular focus on screwing with opposing spellcasters. Their talents show a dedication to the art of magic which is second to none, and a strong knack for knowledge. If the idea of a classical wizard appeals to you, then this may be the right discipline.

Novice

First Circle
  • Dispel Magic
  • Patterncraft
  • Research
  • Spellcasting
  • Wizardry
Abilities
  • Durability 3
Second Circle
  • Astral Sight
Third Circle
  • Tenacious Weave
Abilities
  • Karma: Action tests to recall information (including Knowledge tests)
Fourth Circle
  • Steel Thought
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Astral Interference
Abilities
  • Book Mage: 1 Strain, the Wizard gains +5 to a Thread Weaving test for Reattuing on the Fly if they are looking at the spell in their grimoire.
  • Karma: Spend a karma point to change the range of a spell you are casting from "self" to "touch".
Sixth Circle
  • Willforce
Seventh Circle
  • Hold Thread
Eighth Circle
  • Suppress Curse
While Wizards have multiple themes, their discipline talents are almost all focused on supporting their primary theme of magic. They have all of the basic spellcasting talents shared by all spellcasters: Hold Thread, Patterncraft, Spellcasting, Thread Weaving (Wizardry), and Willforce. Their sole non-magic related talent, Research, defines how it is they go about their particular style of magic.

Their other discipline talents all reflect their interaction with magic on a basic level. Astral Interference, Dispel Magic, and Tenacious Weave manipulate the nature of spells, though Dispel Magic will also function against talents. This fact is important to remember and can be used to disable the abilities of other adepts. Air Dance, Astral Interference, Earth Skin, Gliding Stride, and Wood Skin (among others) are all susceptible to Dispel Magic.

The other two talents, Astral Interference and Tenacious Weave, are almost exclusively useful against other spellcasters, which somewhat defines where they are most effective. While Dispel Magic offers a remedy for spells, Astral Interference is a preventative treatment against spellcasters in the area. Tenacious Weave is a counter-measure against Dispel Magic. Typically this won't need to be used, unless there are opposing spellcasters. It is worth mentioning all Wizards should be careful with the flight spell in combat if they are opposed by anyone with Dispel Magic for non-specific reasons. Tenacious Weave is important in these situations.

Suppress Curse also operates in this spectrum. It works against all hostile magic, but has other limitations. This expands the tools available to Wizards when neutralizing magic. Steel Thought is the final piece of their defensive capabilities against magic, working against effects before they become active.

Their final discipline talent, Astral Sight, is important in how it allows them to study astral space. It also provides a side benefit of giving a small bonus to some spells when they have astrally sensed the target. For Wizards, knowledge is power.

The karma abilities at their disposal reflect two of their themes. First, the ability to improve information recall at third circle plays up their theme of knowledge. While it doesn't improve their researching abilities, it does mean they gain more from having a diverse array of knowledge skills. At fifth circle they gain a karma ability which can augment their spells, like all spellcasters. The Wizard's ability is a little more subtle in use than other spellcasting disciplines and more thematic as to how they approach magic. Instead of making things better in a particular way, they actually change the nature of a spell. There is some particular synergy here when it is combined with the Elementalist ability, allowing two targets to benefit from a spell such as Displace Self, or Flight.

At fifth circle they also gain their Journeyman ability, which continues to play on their theme of being researchers. It also works with the overall goal to bring grimoires from the background and into gameplay. Since the Wizard theme isn't quite as specific and evocative as other spellcasters, their ability reflects more their flexibility when it comes to applying spells to solve a problem. As long as they have their grimoire at hand, they have a significant advantage when it comes to reattuning spells on the fly, effectively reducing the difficulty to simply weaving a thread.
  • Arcane Mutterings - The primary uses for this talent are either gaining an advantage in social interactions or preventing a conflict before it breaks out. Either of these can be appealing to a Wizard, particularly if they want to contribute to social interaction without being a social character.
  • Awareness - Odds are reasonable every character will pick this up at some point. They already have a high perception and it's always a good idea to notice things. This talent received a name change and general face lift for ED4. The mechanical changes include an expanded scope was and the Strain was eliminated. This was done because there wasn't a general counter-measure to abilities such as Stealthy Stride. The Strain was removed because it didn't quite make sense - the measure doesn't cost Strain and most of the usage is passive. Originally the Strain was introduced to prevent players from spamming Search tests, though this kind of situation is generally best left to the table and some good GM advice.
  • Book Memory - This is an interesting talent and there isn't anything quite like it. Given how few disciplines have access, it should likely be considered. It doesn't require a great deal of investment for it to be useful either.
  • Conversation - If you are interested in playing a social Wizard, this should be the talent to get you started. The duration for this talent was increased from hours to days. This was done to differentiate it more from other social talents, particularly First Impression. It now fills the role of a long term social talent, rather than the short term usage for First Impression. They are each useful in different areas.
  • Creature Analysis - Given their ability to cause both mystic and physical damage, this talent can provide valuable information to maximize damage output. In addition, knowledge is power in any conflict. The action type for this talent was changed from Standard to Simple. The reasoning is straight forward: unless you are watching the creature outside of combat, using your action for this information isn't generally worth the action. Odds are, unless there is some crucial information, your action is better spent doing something proactive. This change allows for the talent to be done in addition to this, since you are already paying the costs in Legend Points, Strain, and the opportunity cost associated with not taking a different talent.
  • Etiquette - Typically this will be second talent for a character wishing to pursue a social path. It can also be the first if your game takes you to enough exotic and unfamiliar locales.
  • Item History - If no one in your group has this talent, someone needs to have this talent. Even if one of your allies does, it is still worth considering picking up for its use with thread items, but also to gain information with mundane items. If you intend to take Evidence Analysis later, this is the perfect companion. 
  • Read and Write Language - For most characters, the skill will suffice just fine. Some like to have the ability to pick up a new language on the fly as needed, which is where the talent shines over its mundane counterpart. This talent tends to benefit research oriented characters most.
  • Speak Language - Similar to Read and Write Languages, except this tends to benefit social characters most.
  • Standard Matrix - Realistically, this is the first talent option everyone will take. Even with the free matrices, you are here for the spells.
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 erudite, professor, voyager, and jack-of-all-trades.

The Erudite is interested primarily in knowledge and magic. Even more so than the average Wizard. They will focus most on what other information they can gather and how it can be applied to the situation. Games which feature investigation, mysteries, and puzzles will benefit this type of character greatly and they work more behind the scenes to put all of the pieces together. Later, they will also be able to affect some misdirection to help in these endeavors. For this, Book Memory, Item History, Read and Write Language, and Standard Matrix will likely be the most helpful talents. Of those, Read and Write Languages can easily be replaced most likely for Awareness, though the social talents could also be of use.

While "professor" may sound like they are interest in research, they are actually social creatures. These characters aren't going to be generally useful when fast talking someone, but if allowed considerable time, they can adapt to most situations and slowly build consensus and support. They are likely to find Conversation, Etiquette, Speak Language, and Standard Matrix the most useful. Of those, Speak Language can be switched for any of the other talents as needed.

Voyagers want to get out into the world to find some forbidden knowledge. They are generally the most prepared for trouble and well suited for a life of crawling around in kaers. Towards these ends, Arcane Mutterings, Awareness, Creature Analysis, and Standard Matrix will be the talents of choice. Of these, Arcane Mutterings can be switched for Item History if it is unlikely the former social talent will ever be of use.

As usual, the jack-of-all-trades wants to contribute and to get screen time. They will want Awareness, Book Memory, Conversation, and Standard Matrix. Book Memory may seem the odd talent out, but it is also a talent to which few other disciplines gain access. This means if it comes up, it will be your time. This being said, depending on the needs of the group Book Memory and Conversation can be switched out for whatever is most likely to be useful (probably Item History).
  • Avoid Blow - By this point you will know if you need this talent or not. With two spells which support its use and encounters likely to only get more dangerous, this is a talent which is almost certainly worth considering for any PC. Avoid Blow no longer requires a greater level of success to be used against ranged attacks. This change was made because it was a detail which added nothing to the game and was largely forgotten.
  • Diplomacy - If you have Conversation, odds are reasonable you want to consider this talent.
  • Enhanced Matrix - Just as in the previous tier, this is the first talent option you are going to take.
  • Evidence Analysis - If your game ever has mysteries which need to be solved, think of this as a shortcut. It is worth considering for most characters as it is likely to come up in most games. Odds are reasonable you will know if your game qualifies or not by this point. Even if other characters have this talent, it is still worth picking up as more information never hurt an investigation.
  • Hypnotize - This potent talent goes perfectly with the other social talents, or is even useful all on its own. If you take this talent, be prepared for your companions to make snide remarks. The action type for this talent was changed from Standard to Sustained to reflect the mechanics better.
  • Lifesight - One of the best uses of this talent is when paired with Mystic Shock as they both take advantage of being able to operate through walls. Other than this, it is still useful for the additional information it can gather which may be unavailable by other sources. While this talent didn't actually change, it did become more useful by virtue of the limitations placed on interacting with astral space. Specifically, you can no longer see through solid objects with basic Astral Sight.
  • Mystic Pursuit - This is another talent which falls under the category of "check to see if anyone in your group has this talent". Odds are reasonable someone will it, though if no one does it is worth considering. It is often unexpectedly useful. This used to be know as Direction Arrow and Direction Sense, which is about the extent of the changes.
  • Power Mask - If you are playing in an intrigue laden game, there is likely value in being able to conceal your power from others. However, if crawling around in kaers most of the time, it isn't likely to be as useful. This talent was given a Strain cost of 1 because it is powerful enough to warrant it. Also, this encourages characters to not necessarily have it active at all times. Though with a sufficiently high rank, it is very cheap to do so anyway.
  • Resist Taunt - Socially inclined characters will absolutely want this talent, while others should consider it from the variety of social debuffs which are available.
  • True Sight - Most useful against Illusionists, this still has value against the variety of talents which take advantage of minor illusion magic. The function of this talent was updated to reflect the new illusion mechanics, which now include talents.
Erudites add a few powerful talents to their repertoire, which also extend their capabilities into new areas. Enhanced Matrix, Evidence Analysis, Power Mask, and True Sight are the talents which help this build the most. Power Mask conceals information from others (since erudites know the true power of knowledge) and True Sight helps defeat various attempts at misdirection.

Professors continue down the social path even more so at Journeyman. They gain access to a social talent which allows them to be the department mediator, to help get what they want (in way which is a little creepy), and prevent others from getting what they want. These talents are Diplomacy, Enhanced Matrix, Hypnotize, and Resist Taunt.

The voyager continues down their path and expands their ability to deal with adversity. Talents for them are Avoid Blow, Mystic Pursuit, Enhanced Matrix, and Lifesight. Of these, Lifesight can be exchanged for a variety of options (including those from Novice, if they are appealing) depending on the need. Given their proclivities, Resist Taunt will help when the going gets tough, though Evidence Analysis and True Sight may help with finding the knowledge in the first place.

Jack-of-all-trades has some hard choices, but there are a few talents which rise above the rest due to how useful they are in the majority of games and situations. For them, Avoid Blow, Enhanced Matrix, Evidence Analysis, and Resist Taunt will bring the special combination of value and screen time which these characters are about.

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

08 February 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 21 - Wizard Part 1, Spells

This is the twenty-first 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.

What Wizards are about has been somewhat nebulous throughout the history of Earthdawn. While they have always been the discipline about magic, this has spilled over into "and pretty much everything else as well." Which lead to a great deal of overlap on other disciplines and little distinct flavor. Mechanically, this tended to be great for Wizard players since they had a tremendous variety of effects from all over the place.


Development for Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) involved striping away a lot of the cruft and taking them back to basic, then building from there. They are the discipline about magic. From there, they gained themes for research (think specifically tenured professors at a college and all this entails) and astral. They share the astral theme with Nethermancers, though each approaches it in a different fashion. Wizards are significantly more cautious and are primarily interested in using the astral plane as a research tool and source of power. None of this mucking about with actually playing with things from there, that sounds particularly dangerous.

Their effects tend to be expressed in terms of a mental manifestation or pure energy, which is a favorite to work with. They are not limited to those areas and still maintain quite a bit of versatility (having access to both mystic and physical damage). In terms of pure combat and inflicting damage, they have the most spell options. They still crib from other disciplines quite a bit, using their vast knowledge and mastery of magic to adapt those effects to their own techniques.

First Circle

Astral Sense: The direct application of this spell is pretty straight forward - turn Astral Sight into a form of astral radar. This is very useful by itself, though it will require a spell matrix to keep it active. The other uses for this spell are a little more subtle. In many ways, this spell is the foundation for many other Wizard spell effects through astrally sensing the target. While a target can be astrally sensed by using just Astral Sight, this has a strain cost which can start to take its toll on a spellcaster who generally has little breathing room for damage. There is one change to the spell and this is replacing the effect test with Astral Sight. This makes the spell scale naturally and has it enhance the talent, rather than providing something of a replacement.

Bedazzling Display of Logical Analysis: A social buff based around being a little bit pompous (a theme which may show up from time to time). Wizards who want to play up the professor theme will almost certainly want this spell. At fifth circle, the general use increases due to their karma ability to cast "self" spells at a touch range. This makes it a solid buff for social characters. There is technically a change to the spell, reducing the bonus from +6 to +4. However, with additional threads, this is effectively a +6 bonus which will only improve as the Wizard increases in circle.

Catseyes: Groups which feel the hurt from characters who have difficulty seeing in low-light conditions, perhaps relying on light sources to the detriment of stealth, will likely want to pick up this spell. It's very straight-forward, granting the target low-light vision. This used to be an Illusionist spell of the same circle. It never quite fit based on how it changes the target and is distantly related to their themes at best. While a potential to be cut entirely, it was kept because it was useful enough and could resolve some basic utility issues for specific groups (sneaking around with a human at night). From there, Wizard was the right fit based on As a slight tidbit, this is an example of a spell which was adapted from another discipline.

Divine Aura: The uses for this spell are rather subtle and benefit most from a campaign which is more involved with intrigue. Nonetheless, any game which involves adventure and solving problems can find a use for this spell. The changes involve removing the effect test in favor of just the first Spellcasting test (a very common trend) and reducing the duration to one round. The latter was based on the removal of the effect test, since it could be used on another target. Maintaining the duration would mean you could use it on a child, then concentrate on, say, Alamaise without another test. Probably more words than are necessary to explain a small change, but I had an inexplicable urge to type "Alamaise".

Flame Flash: One thread and decent physical damage (WIL+5) which extends over two rounds as a default (extra threads can increase this). This is most effective against targets with low physical armor, as higher armor values will reduce the damage enough to make the extended duration less useful. Previously, this spell had the dubious distinction of being even worse than Earth Darts. This is not a position in which any spell wants to be. The threads and range remained the same, but it got a little more damage and the extended duration. Damage over two rounds was included to make this an interesting choice and something which other spells didn't already offer.

Iron Hand: No threads and it increases close combat damage. This is a solid spell and stacks with Flameweapon if you are really serious about buffing your allies. The two spells have some small differences (range, effect, duration), but the biggest is the scope - this affects all attacks, while Flameweapon affects only one weapon. Generally more relevant at higher circles, but your t'skrang friends will thank you much earlier. From the previous version, the duration has been decreased, but the range increased, and most importantly - the threads reduced from 1 to 0.

Mage Armor: A buff to physical armor with no threads, and it can be extended to minutes with an extra thread. A very solid buff spell which every Wizard should probably consider, particularly given how they tend to have lower physical armor. The previous version was a fifth circle spell with a thread and provided only +1 physical armor. It did default to a duration of minutes, but it also required the target to already be wearing armor. Which means the Spellcasting test was made against one of two target numbers, but those conditions have largely been removed due to slowing things down rather than making them more interesting. The replacement is to just target the character's defense, rather than their item.

Mind Dagger: This is likely to be your most common offensive for quite a while. No threads, mystic damage, and a penalty to physical defense which your allies will love. You should just take this spell. The only notable change from the previous version is the addition of the physical defense penalty.

Quicken Pace: It doesn't start as a significant increase (+2 to movement rate), but with extra threads this can start to climb. The default duration of hours certainly doesn't hurt either. This is a good utility spell to have access, particularly for reducing the time required for overland travel. In the previous version, the rate increase was based on the result level of the effect test. The effect test has obviously been removed and the bonus is flat (affected by extra threads) and additional successes increase the duration. The reason for this change is to remove the temptation to constantly cast this spell until some large number of successes are reached. Instead, the rate increase is tied to advancement and thus regular.

Speed Reading: A new spell which plays into the Wizard's theme of being a researcher. It lasts for hours and gives some significant bonuses to researching (bonus to the test and an increased rate of reading). If pressed for time, this is an excellent option, even with the downside of the intense focus.

Wall Walker: This gives a bonus to Climbing tests and has a default duration in minutes. It's a safe bet this spell will be useful at some point, whether for skilled climbers to make even more difficult climbs, or for unskilled climbers to have a chance in the first place. There are two notable changes from the previous version. The first is the removal of the effect test in favor of a flat bonus. This makes it useful to characters with the talent or skill and prevents the spell from making the abilities irrelevant. The other change is moving the duration from rounds to minutes, meaning it can be useful during longer climbs.

Second Circle

Astral Shield: This provides a bonus to mystic defense which can be extended to a duration of minutes with an extra thread. There is a small twist which makes casting the spell in combat more palatable: anyone you have astrally sensed can be included as a target. Which means if you need to cast this spell at the last minute, it is much easier to include your friends as well. This spell hasn't changed much since it was last seen. There were a host of minor changes all made for it to fit better into the new paradigm for spells. The biggest change is it now works with other spells which increase mystic defense since it was re-designed from the ground up with this intention.

Baseline Subtraction: A new spell which interacts with a new talent, Astral Interference. The two combined help to give a Wizard prepared for anti-spellcaster combat a significant edge. They can impair all of the opposing spellcasters while maintaining their own capabilities. Anyone they have astrally sensed can also benefit from this, which makes casting it during combat on their allies significantly less troublesome. It can also be used to negate opposing Astral Interference, which can lead to a war of magical measure and counter-measure.

Crushing Will: Even though it is available at a lower circle, this spell doesn't start to come into its own until the spellcaster has access to an Enhanced Matrix. For an additional thread over Mind Dagger, the damage is only a small improvement, but the range is quite long for a spell at 50 yards. The penalty it inflicts is to mystic defense, which can have an enormous impact on follow-up attacks with some additional successes to extend the duration. Previously this was a first circle spell and was moved to second circle in part to spread the combat spells around a little bit more and to make Wizards less combat focused at first circle; they aren't particularly and this was the desired result. Mechanically, it traded damage for the mystic defense penalty. The purpose behind this was to make it more interesting and thematic for Wizards (playing with mystic elements), and have the name and effects match each other better. Without this change, the spell would basically end up as Astral Spear for Wizards.

Dodge Boost: No threads for a bonus to Avoid Blow tests which can have the duration extended into minutes. This isn't going to help Wizards for quite a while, as they don't get Avoid Blow until Journeyman as a talent option (so sixth circle as the realistic earliest time). It does work very well with Displace Self and all of your friends are likely to benefit from it. Similar to Astral Shield, this was primarily updated to fit in the new framework. Small tweaks everywhere, but nothing significant outside of the implications from extra threads to functionality.

Rope Ladder: Another spell to help with climbing (it's like Wizards are expected to be bad at it or something), in the form of an enchanted rope. This works well with Wall Walker and is worth considering even if you don't have Wall Walker. Beyond the addition of extra success and thread mechanics, I don't think this spell was changed at all.

Seeking Sight: If there is an Archer in your group, they will love this spell. It provides a relatively uncommon boost to ranged attacks and gives them even more accuracy. In ED3, this was a third circle spell with one thread and a duration in minutes. It was scaled back to make these kind of benefits show up earlier and also so Combat Fury and it weren't in the same circle. Combat Fury could just as easily been moved, but ranged characters don't get as much love from spells. Threads were reduced to make it more accessible in combat and the duration was reduced accordingly. The final change was the flavor text, which felt way too much like Mystic Aim ( which there is a good chance the target of the spell already has and uses) and not enough like it actually affected their sight.

Third Circle

Astral Targeting: The new spell for third circle, which every Wizard will probably want. This combines particularly well with Astral Sense, though can be used with Astral Sight as well for just a little more strain. The end result is a bonus to your Spellcasting and effect tests for 0 threads. Also, the duration can be extended into minutes. A downside is this spell is not subtle and anyone in "the know" will realize the caster is up to no good. This spell ties into their mastery of magic - they gain rare improvements to their actual spellcasting - and astral sensing themes. The lure is also deliberate, any spellcaster who wants to be better at magic will want to think about investing in Wizard at some point.

Aura Strike: Similar to Crushing Will, the damage on this spell is a little lackluster by default for 1 thread. Though it does gain additional damage with successes. The range isn't notable either. However, it guarantees a Wound on the target, which is quite a thing. It doesn't inflict any more than the one Wound, but it will always cause a Wound. This was once one of those spells which was simply nuts. Beyond the standard frame work adjustments, the damage was reduced from WIL+8 to WIL+3, which actually brings it in line with comparable spells since the range is a little short. It still inflicts extra damage with additional successes, so with a good roll it can approach (or surpass with a very good result) the original levels.

Combat Fury: Like Seeking Sight, except this benefits close combat attacks. Odds are good there are quite a few people in your group whom this would benefit and it can affect a lot of attacks, depending on the target (*cough* t'skrang Warrior *cough*). When last seen, this provided a larger bonus, but had 1 thread. To make it more accessible in combat, both were reduced. Another change was something of a clarification - the target must be willing. This spell has been used to prevent ranged and spellcasting characters from doing anything, which goes against the intent (particularly for such a low circle and low thread spell).

Identify Magic: This can be a powerful way to gather information and is particularly thematic for Wizards. It should definitely be on the list of spells to have at your disposal. Previously a fourth circle spell, it was brought down earlier as it is part of the core competencies of the discipline. Otherwise, it was only adapted to ED4 standards.

Levitate: Players who like to think a little outside of the box tend to flock to this spell. Even though the effect is rather simple, the explicit ways in which this spell can be combined with itself and how it can be used make this a favorite for solving problems in very interesting ways. Beyond moving to the new edition and all this entails, this particular spell should be largely unchanged.

Wizard Mark: This is another spell which benefits from interesting uses. It can be a good way to mark someone so make shadowing them easy, or identify them for others not present. The ability to cast touch spells at a range is also significant when used creatively. Campaigns which focus on kaer delving may not see quite as much use, but games with a great deal of intrigue will likely have many uses for this spell. Another spell which saw no real revision.

Fourth Circle

Ball of String: While not combat related, this is a spell kaer delvers will almost certainly want. The ability to not get lost can be significant. Wizards in other campaigns can certainly benefit as well - most games end up in a kaer or other place designed to misdirect you at some point. This spell saw a reduction in the effect step from the previous edition. However, with extra threads, this comes out to be the same and scales up as circle increases.

Binding Threads: This is a very early and pretty good control spell to lockdown a single opponent. The thread cost is relatively high at 2, but the ability to entirely prevent actions is powerful, with a worst case scenario of the target only being harried. This spell is best when used against weaker opponents, such as other spellcasters and windlings. There were three key changes made to this spell. The first was the reduction in effect step and the second was moving from resisting against an effect test to resisting against the effect step. These two changes are somewhat connected. Part of the change to resisting against the effect step is so when Willforce is available, this spell isn't effectively impossible to resist - strength does not particularly scale outside of very large creatures - which is also why the effect step was reduced. The other part is it removes another roll and brings it in line with the other control effects. To compensate for this, the target is harried even if they are successful in breaking free, as the binding threads are still constricting their actions, just not preventing them entirely. In all, this spell was simply too powerful and action denial isn't fun for whoever is on the receiving end.

Evolved Consciousness: Here is the new fourth circle spell and it is another one Wizards are likely to want. It gives a bonus to knowledge and Patterncraft tests, which are things they generally want to be good at - if nothing else than to show up other spellcasters at their own game. With a duration in minutes, they can have this effect all of the time. This spell was included to touch on the researcher theme which doesn't get as much focus in their spell list. It also calls on the pompous professor thing they have going on by making their brain simply better than others'.

Juggler's Touch: The first area effect spell available to Wizards and it has some interesting effects for the 2 threads. When these come with a duration, they are normally used for area denial, though this is not the case for this spell. With a radius of only two yards, this is relatively a relatively personal area spell and the ability to shift it two yards each round means this is ideal for using during combat as close support for your allies. It does require concentration each round, but there is a lot of versatility which can be gained through additional threads. The most notable are the ability to remove your allies from the effects and for two threads, you can maintain concentration as a simple action instead of a standard action. Anyone who learns this spell should also carry around a sack of marbles just in case. Everyone else, be wary of a Wizard carrying around a sack of marbles. Anyone who has used the previous version spell knows how much of a pain it can be; test Spellcasting every round, if you want to move it, a largely pointless Spellcasting test which only means you can't use it that round, which gives everyone the opportunity to escape its glacial pace when you haven't inevitably failed because you are eventually going to make a bad roll. This entire process was simplified - test Spellcasting when it is cast and if it is going to be moved. The latter is only so it cannot be cast where nobody is present, then move it over the Named Horror without fear of its incredible Mystic Defense. In the extra threads is an example of how Wizards use their mastery of magic to provide some very interesting options for their spells.

Lighten Load: While very specific in effect, there are enough uses for making something go from very heavy to only 10 pounds for this to be a tempting utility spell for nearly anyone. This was originally an Elementalist spell associated with air. However, there isn't anything to particularly associate with the element and the description doesn't reference the element at all. It was useful enough to find a new home and the esoteric nature of the spell fit well with the Wizard themes. Other than this, the effect step was reduced by 1, but the extra threads more than make up for this reduction. It could have been moved to the original value, but even numbers are easier to work with on the fly for most people.

Wizard's Cloak: What we have here is basically the countermeasure against many of the Wizard spells. It provides a large bonus against some specific effects. There are some other uses as this makes it difficult for anyone in the astral plane to notice you, including Horrors. However, this will not protect you against gaining the attention of a Horror through raw casting magic. There were a number of important changes to this spell, though it still serves the primary part of the original function. As for many spells, the effect step was replaced with a static bonus - this reduces the rolling, maintains the value of people who actually invested the affected value, and keeps the influence of Willforce close to other, similar talents. The overall effect was also scaled back from (apparently) making them effectively invisible to just impairing astral detection instead of all detection. Not even Illusionists have access to such a blanket effect and it is really their territory to begin with. The final change was to reduce the threads. This accounted for the reduced power and also makes it much more accessible during action sequences if it is important.

Fifth Circle

Flight: What non-windling wizard doesn't want to fly? It only affects the caster as a default, but Wizards also gain the ability to affect others with a "self" range spell. From the previous version, it got a name change (the solo felt redundant and the aforementioned karma ability made it not so accurate), the speed was reduced, and the duration was increased a great deal. These changes were generally a result from introducing the spell into the new framework; speed decrease to account for extra threads to increase speed and increased duration so it can be used by other characters without an omnipresent fear of falling.

Giant Size: This spell will give you a BFF - big friend forever. Or a few rounds. Nonetheless, the bonuses it provides are useful in a wider variety of circumstances than most buff spells, affecting damage, strength, and toughness tests. It's handy for breaking and resisting a lot of different things. This spell had the threads reduced to make it more accessible to casting in combat (2 threads for a buff which may lead to an argument is a lot). Also, the bonus to damage was made explicit (the aforementioned argument was around if damage tests counted as strength-only - probably not, but why wouldn't a giant character do more damage?). The bonuses were reduced slightly to fit within the bonus framework.

Mystic Shock: With 2 threads and only WIL+4 damage, this isn't a go to spell for combat. What is notable is it can be cast through objects, as long as you and the target are both touching the object. Realistically, this means through the floor. It is perfect for astrally sensing your target, then launching a preemptive strike. The big change here is a large reduction in damage. This is because the primary use of this spell isn't in general combat, but against opponents who have no real recourse against the caster. This benefit, which is entirely appropriate for Wizards, is powerful enough to warrant the damage reduction.

Sever Talent: This new spell has no threads and potentially infinite frustration. For definitions of infinite which last 2+ rounds. Another spell which benefits from astrally sensing your target prior to use, this spell prevents them from using a talent. Either the last used, or your choice of the last three used. The purpose behind this spell is to show how the mastery of magic for Wizards extends beyond just spells and into the realms of talents. While the lost their unique access to Dispel Magic, they have made gains in applying the principles to other areas. 

Slow: At 2 threads, this spell has some significant investment for a debuff. With the penalties including -5 to all dexterity-based tests and halved movement, it is worth it against exceptionally powerful foes. Specifically, foes who aren't also spellcasters since they aren't going to care a lot about the penalty to dexterity. There weren't any notable alterations for this spell other than the usual, minor adjustments.

Weapon Back: While this spell is not likely to benefit the cast much, the rest of your group will appreciate it greatly. The trouble is you are never going to know if will be useful in advance, and always lament you don't have it when it comes up. Which is to say, this spell is worth picking up for your group. Especially if your GM likes to capture you - they may even be planning on you taking this so you can make your escape. When last seen this was a fourth circle Elementalist spell. Beyond this, the mechanics haven't changed. This was moved to Wizard for a number of reasons. First, it doesn't have an elemental connection and varying the element based on the material of the item is an excuse for it to fit, rather than an actual good fit. While they have a small connection to items, they don't actually have a particular connection to people. Nor are they big into forging connections in general. The spell itself is a lot of fun, so keeping it around was a given. While none of the previous fits with Elementalists, it actually describes Wizards quite well. It was moved to a later circle to reflect the general power of the spell. It seems innocuous, but it can negate enough effects to warrant this circle.

Sixth Circle

Displace Self: Compared to other Avoid Blow boosting spells (e.g. Mist Shield), this 0 thread spell is different as it doesn't provide a numerical bonus to the tests. Instead, the primary purpose behind this spell is to remove the Wizard from the threat of additional attacks. For example, if the attacker leads with a Swift Kick (which is a common opening attack, and is rarely improved with karma - which puts it in an important range between "likely to hit" and "possible to dodge".) and the caster successfully uses Avoid Blow, they will move 2 yards away; putting them out of reach for all of their other attacks since they almost certainly didn't split their movement. For a spellcaster who cannot withstand the damage from a hit, or the strain to continue avoid such an onslaught, this can be an important defense. There were a number of significant changes to this spell. The first is a reduction in the threads from 2 to 0. This was to make the spell much more accessible for casting and also informs a lot of other changes which were made. The effect test was removed entirely and it instead enhances Avoid Blow tests, which is inline with all of the other similar spells. As well, the function has been scaled back to work against only physical attacks, instead of also using it against spells. This keeps talents from going too far afield. The teleportation effect is controlled, which reinforces the utility as a spell to get the caster out of danger, instead of possibly in worse trouble. Initiative requirements have been removed as this severely limits the potential uses. Finally, there is no limitation on the number of times it may be used per round. All of this goes to make a spell which is useful and can be used effectively in combat.

Energy Shield: The new sixth circle spell has one thread and gives a sizable bonus (+4) to Avoid Blow and select Steel Thought tests, specifically against spells which have a visible component. The duration can be also extended into minutes, but there are some restrictions on how your off-hand can be used - it cannot be used to hold a weapon while the spell is active. Shields and casting are just fine. This particular spell was developed to add to the pure energy theme for Wizards, as well as giving them some other and more powerful defensive options. Particularly additional defense against spells. Comparing this spell to the earlier Dodge Boost and which one to get (or use), it depends on your group composition. Characters who use both hands for weapons won't be able to take advantage of this more powerful spell. If you can only have one, it will depend on how many people will not benefit from Energy Shield. However, if everyone has Avoid Blow and you can make the space in your spell matrices, there may be value in having both active for some serious defenses.

Loan Spell: While this spell does allow for non-spellcasters to use the spell matrix loaned to them, the fact they are running off of just perception doesn't bode well for making any difficulty number. If there is another spellcaster in your group, this can have some useful synergy by sharing particularly valuable spells. The duration is long enough for the spell to be cast in advance of an encounter you know is coming, and for two additional threads both characters can cast from the same spell matrix. The notable change here is the reduction in threads. This is because the effect of the spell isn't particularly powerful and to make it a possible option once the action has already started.

Rampage: For 1 thread, this is a good group buff for your close combat allies (+3 to attack and damage) which affects rank targets. However, such generous bonuses come with a downside - all of the targets will be aggressively attacking (which stacks with the bonuses) for the duration of the spell. As long as you have a fair number of allies who are interested in this, it is worth taking. If the number is two or less, it may be best to stick with a different buff spell to benefit more characters. Really, this spell is completely different. It bears no resemblance to the original at all beyond the name - it may as well be a new spell. The reason for this is the original name was good and the original spell (along with Ork Stoke) was terrible. Essentially, those spells are racist - they exist for no other reason than to take advantage of a racial trait of orks. 

Razor Orb: At 3 threads, this spell is an investment to cast and it is brutal. The physical damage is good at WIL+7, but the real value is in the physical armor penalty (-4) which will last through the fight. The effect with extra successes only improves the penalty, making this an amazing tool for taking down opponents with very high physical armor. If you happen to see an opponent casting this spell (it looks like an angry, green tesseract), take them out. The range of this spell makes it rather difficult to escape. This spell saw a lot of changes during redevelopment. The first is the threads were increased from 2. Also, the effect step was reduced from WIL+15. Both of these changes were part of the effort to bring the spells into some semblance of balance with each other and not overshadow combat disciplines in raw damage output. The armor-defeating effect obviously doesn't translate. Instead, the armor reduction effect was added, which should more than make up for the previous reductions in effectiveness. They also serve to benefit the group as a whole, which highlights a the spellcaster in their more support role during combat.

Sleep: This spell has a very large radius (8 yards) to go with its 2 threads. The effect is very effective for the cost and range, but this is one of the easiest mind affecting spells to resist (as an aside: most of the others are found in the Illusionist spell list and you can tell them by the resistance mechanic against the effect step - mechanics harmonized under the radar). Still, it can be an excellent way to take control of a situation which is getting out of hand. Either to diffuse it, or to quickly dispatch some people before they start to wake up. The key change here is how targeting is determined. Instead of having selective targets, it now has an area of effect. On the whole, this makes it less powerful since it cannot be deployed easily in the middle of combat. That kind of specificity and multiple targets with a lockdown effect like this is far too powerful for the number of threads. Increasing the threads to allow for the original effect makes it costly and isn't necessarily the kind of effect which should be around in the first place. As an area effect it is easier to use (no increases to Mystic Defense) and makes it better at crowd control. Ironically, it also makes it more like the D&D version of the spell; go figure. 

Seventh Circle

Call: It's pretty straight forward - place a short one-way video call to someone within range. The odds are good this spell will come in handy at some point and can be used for two Wizards to have conversations as though one is somewhere in space. It should be noted it is generally considered poor form to use this to send "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope" to others. Beyond adjustment to the current framework, this spell was unchanged.

Confusing Weave: Wizards are the bane of other spellcasters. This has been well established and only gets worse with increasing circles. Confusing Weave makes it a lot worse. While particularly effective against groups of opposing spellcasters, this is still an effective tool against just one. It's existence is almost like a deterrent, keeping others from attempting multi-thread spells for the fear all of their work will simply vanish. This won't eliminate their contributions entirely, it will keep them focused on more basic spells rather than something truly horrific. Also, this is another spell which benefits from astrally sensing the targets. If you are going to be using this 1 thread spell, it is best to keep it in an Enhanced Matrix so it can be deployed rapidly as needed. This spell had some tweaks similar to Sleep. Perhaps the most significant is moving to an area effect instead of selecting targets within range and increasing the difficulty for additional targets. The effect step was also reduced. These changes are due to this spell being quite potent for action control and denial against spellcasters. The original prevented them from even considering spells with more than 1 thread from an Enhanced Matrix, when the goal was to encourage more versatility in spells through extra threads. This still is a heavy deterrent, but it can be made less effective by spreading out (though this tactic has it's own host of problems when dealing with opposing skirmishers).

Dislodge Spell: If you are only dealing with one spellcaster, this spell is probably a better way to be a jerk to them over Confusing Weave. It has 2 threads, but can be used to clear out their spell matrices. As a spellcaster yourself, you can see how this is consider to be "not cool, bro," in spellcasting circles. The selection is random, but if they have been astrally sensed (super useful if you are a Wizard), you can reject the first in favor of a different random selection. The threads on this spell were increased from 1 and the effect step reduced from WIL+10. These changes were made for the same reasons as Confusing Weave - the supremacy they granted over opposing spellcasters was simply too great. The effect step with Willforce would almost always succeed and at 1 thread it could be cast every round, which is the same rate the target can add spells back to their matrices - assuming they succeed every time. This makes it a powerful choice without being absolutely dominating, which is not fun.

Hypervelocity: It's rare to see high circle single target spells which don't have control effects associated with them. This new spell isn't fancy, but it is very effective. With 1 thread, the damage is unimpressive at WIL+2. It does, however, have one small detail: no armor of any kind provides protection. Additionally, the damage increases with extra successes. This spell was introduced to build on the discipline's telekinetic effects which can be seen throughout the circles, also as a counter to the greater value of armor. With so many complex spells, its nice to have something so simple and direct - like a Warden Wizard's thesis which is a rejection of the increasingly baroque nature of spells. And it gives another reason to fear a Wizard with a bag of marbles.

Mystic Net: Did you like Binding Threads from fourth circle? If the answer is yes, you are going to love this. Even if you aren't a fan, the improvement for the cost of 3 threads total may change your mind. It is Binding Threads over a 16-yard radius. This is an obnoxiously large area on which to inflict a control effect. There are still uses for the smaller version, particularly since it has one less thread involved and that kind of area means it isn't going to be used in the middle of combat. <>

Spellstore: As the Scout Motto says, "Always be prepared." With this spell you can create a temporary, single use Standard Matrix which means you may always be prepared. If there are spells which may come up, but you don't really want to stick them in a spell matrix, this is the perfect answer. If your allies include spellcasters, you can share these little care packages with them as well. Really, every Wizard should have this spell. There were two changes made to this spell. The first was removing the effect test in favor of just the initial Spellcasting test, now made against the same difficulty as the old effect test. This just simplifies the process, which is going to be done out of combat and realistically just needs a duration to be determined. The second was removing the parts on extending the duration. This one has to do with somewhat clumsy mechanics (the damage is bad when you account for obsidimen Wizards) and the reduction in access to spell matrices. While the cost is steep, this gives access to a significant number of spell matrices and encourages characters to start looking into death magic.

Eighth Circle

Astral Catastrophe: The new spell for eighth circle is a big area effect damage spell. For 2 threads, it does WIL+5 mystic damage over a 6-yard radius and causes a -2 action penalty. While the default duration is one round, extra threads can extend this and turn it into an area denial effect as well. There is one other added bonus: the caster is unaffected. When looking at the Wizard spell list, there was a lack of area effect abilities, both damaging and denial. This spell does double duty by taking advantage of the inherent Wizard trait of having much more versatile extra thread abilities. The theme for the spell draws on their astral particular astral connection. This could very easily also be a Nethermancer spell, though the overall effect would be bigger and nastier, and would not have the ability to control the duration nor would the caster be unaffected.

Catch Spell: Continuing in the proud tradition of being a jerk to other spellcasters, this lets you effectively riposte a spell. There are so many different options on how to ruin spellcasting for others and this is not the last one. Which is right for you depends on how exactly you want to be a little black rain cloud which follows them around. This is one of the most versatile and proactive (since it is setup initially, then comes into play) of the available options, but it also requires the spell to be cast directly at you. At only 1 thread, this can become a strong deterrent, but it also means your friends will be bearing the brunt instead. Two changes were made to this spell. First, the number of threads was reduced from 2 to make the spell much more accessible in combat. Second, the effect step was reduced from WIL+12 to WIL+2. This particular change was made to give the original caster an actual chance in the contest. The original value, when combined with Willforce, far outpaced anything the target could realistically achieve. The new value gives the Wizard and edge, but no guarantee.

Compression Bubble: It takes 2 threads, but this spell will remove the target from the conflict. From there, the caster can concentrate on the spell to deal damage every round, or simply be happy with their boy in a bubble. This is a particularly effective control spell due to the fact the trapped character's only recourse for escape is a strength test. While unlikely to hold a rampaging obsidiman, it may be brutally effective against opposing Archers (some jerk told them to target spellcasters), Thieves (again, the same), other spellcasters (a favorite pastime for Wizards), etc. These targets also tend to have lower physical armor, meaning they are more susceptible to the damaging effect. Allies can attempt to rescue their friend by attacking the bubble, but this is a good thing for you; any actions spent on this course are actions not spent on attacking you. Many changes to this spell. A minor change was to remove the elemental keyword and change the description to energy, as this better reflects the new overall Wizard thematic direction. Next, the threads was reduced from 3 to make it easier to pull off in combat. 2 threads is something of a magic number since it means without high circle talents, the spell will always take at least 2 rounds to cast. Any spell with a powerful action denial effect falls into the category where it needs at least 2 threads so there can still be a reasonable opposition before the target enters into lockdown. The effect step was also reduced. There were a few reasons for this. One was the damage in conjunction with the action denial was a lot (keeping in mind the number of threads was also reduced). Another was a number of the value were moved to the effect step to have things scale with extra threads and require less numbers to be floating around in general. Anything which reduces the confusion of a complex spell is a boon at the table. The difficulty of escape from inside was reduced, as it now ties into the effect step, though from the exterior it is a little more difficult as the bubble has a higher Death Rating. This increase was in part due to the removal of defense ratings - it's a bubble, it's not going anywhere. Stat blocks in general were removed as they just take up space without adding much.

Karma Cancel: Using this 2 thread spell effectively requires some strategic thinking. Ideally, you want to use it against a target which has at least one of the following: 1) better things on which to spend their karma, 2) less karma, or 3) much better karma over all. Essentially, you need to identify a situation where your karma lost is going to be a more effective expenditure than your opponent. If you have at least a x4 karma multiplier, using this against a troll or obsidiman fighter-type is going to be a good choice. They have all sorts of things in a fight on which to spend karma and they are all bad for you. Really, any fighter-type can be a good choice, just know others may burn you out of karma before their pool runs out. This isn't all bad, since it is that much karma which wasn't spent making this more difficult for you and your allies - if you have to decide what to let through, always remember Avoid Blow and the ilk are excellent choices to cancel their expenditure. One of the best targets are Horrors. They tend to be able to spend karma on a wide variety of horrible things and their karma step tends to be impressive. Anything you can do to prevent this is going to work out for you in the long run. This used to be a sixth circle spell, but it is too powerful for such a "low" circle. Spells which affect karma in general have been removed or pushed back considerably. This is in part due to the metaphysics of karma, it isn't well understood and is ephemeral, thus not something readily manipulated by spells. The other part is having your karma screwed with isn't a lot of fun. Obviously it hasn't been removed entirely, but by the this point things can get ugly in ways the just cannot at sixth circle. The primary mechanical change was to move from a static resistance to using the Spellcasting test result. This allows the difficulty to scale with circle, which takes into account the new effect of Lion Heart.

Spell Cage: Very similar to Compression Bubble. Both are lockdown effects against a single target and require 2 threads. Where they differ are duration (Spell Cage is slightly longer), what can be done from inside, and escape. Spell Cage is the more difficult to escape overall, as it requires doing sizable damage without a strength option to tear it open. However, spellcasters can still cast spells from within, albeit at a -5 penalty to Spellcasting and Thread Weaving tests. They are different with different applications. Most characters are unlikely to need both, which means it comes down to preference. Previously this was a seventh circle spell. It was moved to eighth circle due to the action denial it provides and since it was so similar to Compression Bubble, they needed to be close for the associated costs to be the same - otherwise the cheaper (in legend point) of the two would likely be the more popular because of the costs and the earlier access. The threads were reduced from 3, matching Compression Bubble, and other than this it was mostly kept the same. The stat block was eliminated and values simplified - the same armor ratings because it's just easier to only use one regardless of the attack, etc.

Spell Snatcher: The final jerk spell here for Wizards to use against other spellcasters. It is like an upgrade to Dislodge Spell - instead of just removing the spell, you also place it in one of your spell matrices. It is slightly more difficult to pull off (the effect step is less), but this can also be a great way to learn new spells. The primary change to this spell is the reduction in the effect step and the reason is the same as all of the other spell control effects - with Willforce, it was too much of a sure thing. With the relationship between Catch Spell and Spell Snatcher, the absolute difference between the steps was maintained; both were reduced by 6.