20 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 08 - Illusionist

This is the eighth 4E Companion Discipline Preview, 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.

This week takes a look at another spellcasting Discipline: Illusionist! This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

Illusionist is a something of a strange Discipline, designed to approach problems subtly and laterally. Their primary tool is magic, but that rarely presents solutions in itself. Instead, they work best to enhance their social abilities, or provide unique support to other plans. The overall goal for high Circle Illusionists was to continue with this, offering them more social tools and ways to utilize and improve their illusions. How reality and illusion are more fluid to powerful Illusionists, much like the perception of truth and lies. These are important themes for Illusionists.

Both Discipline abilities for high Circle Illusionists are new: Hide Matrix has been replaced by Hide Spell, and Truth Interpreted has been replaced by Manipulate Reality. Hide Matrix is far too specific and simply may never come up - which is a bad place to be. However, the ability to cast a spell without being noticed is extremely useful, particularly for this Discipline and fits in perfectly with how they go about their business. This isn't to say Hide Matrix is bad, or there's no place for it, just not there.

Truth Interpreted is a little strange and in some ways feels more like a spell than a Discipline ability. However, the big problem is it's a little banal for this Discipline. It doesn't particularly play into their worldview or reveal anything about them, it's just a bigger illusion. The replacement is probably the single strangest ability and it is written knowing the application in a game is going to get weird. However, it perfectly represents how their understanding of magic, which is relatively unique - almost the other side of the Wizard coin. Reality and illusion is a difference of perception. The restriction is in place because Illusionists have to embrace both illusion and reality, and cannot just one. It requires understanding one to fully understand the other in their perspective.

The Warden and Master Discipline talents are almost entirely different, featuring two unique talents: Enthralling Visions and Truth Through Lies. The first enhances their illusions by making them so vivid as to be disorienting, while Truth Through Lies is a strange method of gathering information from a target by getting them to tell you lies you know are lies. It's definitely weird, but entirely fitting for them and their methods. As well, one of the few ways to gather good intelligence from an unwilling target. Infuse Memory is similar to Memorize Image, though with some key differences.

As to why the changes, two (Second Chance and Range Pattern) were moved to talent options because they aren't quite suited as Discipline talents. While Range Pattern is a good talent, it's not necessarily for everyone. Especially not as a Fifteenth Circle talent. Second Chance is available to every Discipline as a talent option, so that's just being consistent. The others (Detect Falsehood, Mind Wave, Multi-Tongue, and Thoughtful Expression) simply aren't talents anymore. 

Their talent options have numerous differences as well. Conceal Object and Hold Thread are both available at earlier Circles, Incite Mob is no longer a talent, and Chameleon is too banal. This does mean there are plenty of new talent options and they continue to suppor their overall themes, offering a variety of social talents, spellcasting support talents, and trickster talents.

In all, Illusionists continue to have some of the stranger abilities at their disposal, but also the most powerful if you go into a problem understanding the tools at your disposal. Some very weird tools. But it's less about turning a square peg into a round one, and more about realizing there is no peg or hole. Or something like that.