27 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 09 - Weaponsmith

This is the ninth 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.

The specialist Discipline rounding out this triad is Weaponsmith. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

Considered by many to be the ultimate support Discipline, the high Circles of Weaponsmith continue this trend. Their ability to be a force multiplier for their allies continues to improve, but they also gain the ability to leverage their natural mystic resistance to protect their allies. This allows Weaponsmiths who are more likely to shrug off or have tools to deal with Horror powers to bear the brunt of such attacks, while keeping their more combat capable allies in the fight. For these adepts, it's not about the glory, but the win.

The Warden ability, Blood Bound Forge, is similar to the previous Master ability, Craft Mastery. The concept behind the former was good, but it was expensive and had enough limitations to make it underpowered for the tier. The cost and damage bonus have been reduced to be in line with other Warden tier abilities (1 Blood Magic Damage and +3 Damage Steps). However, the armor bonus remains the same, making it a slightly better deal, which serves to reinforce the overall defensive nature of the Discipline. The high number of items that can be improved (Thread Smithing Rank) is limited by the restriction: all must be crafted by the Weaponsmith. There is a definite benefit to having gear made by your ally.

This left an opening at Master that was filled by Mystic Grounding. It's not a big, flashy ability, but it definitely improves the defensive abilities of a group. The ability to funnel all nasty abilities to one character, who can then in turn be supported by everyone else, gives a great deal more confidence. It also makes any Horror using the perennial favorite, Cursed Luck, just sad. Strategic use of this ability can definitely turn the tide of a conflict.

The previous Warden ability, Elementalism, deserves a bit of discussion. At first blush, it appeared like the perfect compliment to Weaponsmiths. However, it carried a lot of baggage. To get the most out of it, the Weaponsmith needed to devote a lot of high Circle talent options to basic spellcasting (Read and Write Magic at Journeyman, Spell Matrix and Spellcasting at Warden, and Armored, Shared Matrix, and Willforce at Master). That still leaves you with a total of three spell matrices for half your Warden picks and all your Master talent options. If you didn't care, then the Warden ability was pretty useless and the number of relevant talent options was unimpressive. Coupled with this, Elementalist and Weaponsmith is such a natural fit, there's more than a few characters who learned both Disciplines, which means it actually does nothing. It was a neat idea in principle, but turned out to not be a very good one in practice.

Looking at their Discipline talents, there are a lot of differences to be found. To start, Mind Blade, Weapon Ward, and Reshape Object are gone. Perfect Focus is quite similar to First Ring of Perfection, but got upgraded to a Discipline talent and moved to Warden - it may as well been created specifically for Weaponsmiths and then worked out for other Disciplines as well - and Ethereal Weapon was bumped to talent options. It fits Weaponsmith with their connection to weapons and armor, in addition to their growing mysticism, but it's directly offensive nature is just enough out of sync to not be appropriate as a Discipline talent.

Infuse Armor and Infuse Weapon have been reborn as Living Weapon and Forge Flesh respectively. The mechanics on these two are similar, but a little different than their predecessors. An important part is they don't require a medium, such as armor or weapons, but work directly on the target, showing how the adept has moved to directly forging living patterns and their vessels.

This gives some space to bring in new talent. In this case, Confront Horror, Dispel Magic, and Soul Aegis. All of which push their theme of confronting and defending against hostile magic and Horrors. It is pretty late in the game to see Dispel Magic, which is available to some Disciplines at Novice, but it isn't a talent that really gets seen outside of spellcasters. Which makes it an interesting and fitting trick to have for a Discipline dedicated to how things are made, which includes disassembling them.

There are some talent options that also departed: Armored Matrix, Critical Hit, Disarm, Sense Magic Item, Shared Matrix, Show Armor Flaw, Soften Blade, Spell Matrix, Spellcasting, Temperature, and Willforce. Okay, that may be a little more than "some". Particularly since Disarm Trap was moved to Novice talent options and Spot Armor Flaw is a Journeyman talent option (yes, they get Show Armor Flaw, but that's a knack for Spot Armor Flaw now). Except for Ethereal Weapon and Resist Pain, that's everything. The reasons for many of these should be obvious with the removal of Elementalism. From there, some aren't talents anymore, while others just aren't a good fit - such as Critical Hit and Disarm.

The good news is that's a lot of room to provide new options and directions to build. Weaponsmiths aren't combat specialists, but they get a fair number of options that reflect their unique style. Burning Vigor, Relentless Recovery, Unflinching Fortitude, Vital Ward, and Weapon Breaker are all defensive talents for a tough Weaponsmith, while Crushing Blow, Momentum Attack, Spirit Strike, and Vital Strike all support a more aggressive Weaponsmith. Those interested in exploring their growing mystic connection have Astral Sight, Evidence Analysis, Matrix Sight, and True Sight, with Lion Spirit offering additional protection.

In all, any group with a dedicated Weaponsmith is lucky to have their services. These stalwart companions support their through their services initially, then their very presence as they adapt to changes in the battlefield as they advance. These heroes get work done. They know it's about the team and sacrifice. They ensure the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts and that every part must be strong enough to persevere. It's their job to see to that, it's their burden to bear.