29 November 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 06 - Grappling

This is the sixth Rules Variant, part of 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 entry into the series addresses everyone's favorite topic: grappling. Truth be told, it's typically an agonizing topic and often fraught with opening up the mechanics to figure out when it comes up (D&D 3.X, I'm especially looking at you). 

The current grappling mechanics in Earthdawn are simple, but binary in nature (you either are or are not) and present few options for the grappling and grappled parties. This isn’t inherently a terrible situation, with the bad taste frequently left in the mouth by grappling mechanics and verisimilitude isn’t a goal unto itself; this doesn’t reflect the versatility of grappling, or the tension between two opponents struggling for control, or watching a Horror slowly pin an adept and drag them to the meat grinder it calls a mouth. Sometimes you might want more for various reasons.

These optional rules present a more complicated and nuanced place for grappling in your game. If grappling doesn’t come up much, isn’t a problem in any way, and no one has Unarmed Combat, these optional rules may not bring much to your table. However, even if any of those aren’t true, it can still create new tension in encounters with grapple-centric opponents, such as a Badlands antlion.

Instead of a binary state (not grappled or grappled), these optional rules present four new situations: Grappled, Clinched, Pinned, and Immobilized. There are also some new modifiers that apply to anyone involved in a grapple as either party:
  • Grappling using only one hand requires an additional success on Attack tests.
  • Once grappled, those involved can attack each other (unless their situation prevents this) with weapons, including unarmed attacks. Weapons over the attacker’s minimum weapon size require an additional success on Attack tests.
  • Using two-handed weapons while grappled requires an additional success for any related actions. This is cumulative with other applicable penalties. Unless the attacker has more than two hands, they cannot grapple while using two-handed weapons.
  • Once involved in a grapple, a does not receive Physical or Mystic Defense bonuses from a shield. They can still be used for actions such as Shield Bash.
  • Grappled targets cannot move except for teleportation-style effects.
  • A character can end a grapple (relinquishing all Control successes) as a Free action, allowing them to use talents such as Avoid Blow without penalty due to grappling. This has no effect on any Control successes against them.
The goal of grappling is to establish control over an opponent, represented by Control successes. Opponents can apply control successes to each other, representing their struggle to pin their opponent.

Initiating a grapple requires an Unarmed Combat Attack test against the target’s Physical Defense. This does not require an additional success, unlike the standard rules. If successful, the attacker makes a Control test against the target’s Strength Step, +2 for each additional success on the Attack test. A Control test is a Strength test by default. Each success on the Control test gives the attacker a Control success against their opponent.

Control successes cause worsening situation modifiers as they increase. When a target has at least one Control success against them, they are Grappled. When the control successes equal half of their Strength Step (rounded up), they are Clinched. At Control successes equal to their Strength Step, they are Pinned. If the Control successes exceed the target’s Strength Step, they are Immobilized.

A character only suffers the worst penalties from all grappling situation modifiers inflicted on them. For example, if a character is Grappled and Clinched by two different opponents, they only suffer the penalties from being Clinched. If a character has their opponent Pinned and their opponent has them Grappled, they suffer the penalties from being an attacker with a Pinned opponent, and a -2 penalty to Initiative and can only move with teleportation-style effects (which effectively end the grapple).
Both characters involved in the grapple can make grappling tests against each other with their actions as described above. Once in a grapple, the involved characters can spend Control successes to increase their Control successes on an opponent, reduce an opponent’s Control successes against them, or both, dividing their Control successes between each. If a character is grappled by or grappling multiple opponents and wants to affect both, the highest Physical Defense and highest Strength Step are used for the Attack test and Control test respectively. Control successes can be spent against the affected targets.

There are a variety of different new options available to grappling characters (see below). Creatures with grappling special powers, such as Grab and Bite, inflict the Grappled situation modifier when using the special maneuvers. Additional uses of the special maneuver against the same opponent increase the Control successes by one each time; the creature can still engage in grappling as normal. Characters and creatures with multiple attacks can use them for grappling, affecting Control successes, and using combat options and special maneuvers as they see fit.

New Combat Options and Special Maneuvers


Cause Pain

The attacker makes an Unarmed Attack test against the target’s Physical Defense. If successful, the target makes the higher of a Toughness or Willpower test against the result, with a +2 bonus per Resist Pain rank. If the target fails, they are Harried until the end of the round. The attacker must have the target Clinched.

Drag Opponent

Drag Opponent (Attacker, Unarmed Combat): The attacker can spend additional successes on their Unarmed Attack test to move the target 2 yards per success spent this way, up to the attacker’s Movement Rate. The attacker must have the target Grappled.

Escape

A Grappled character can attempt to escape by making an Escape test as a Simple action against the controlling character’s Strength Step. Escape tests are Strength tests by default. If the character gets an additional success, they immediately escape from the grapple. This can only be attempted if the character is Grappled, not Clinched or worse.

Pry Loose

Pry Loose (Opponent, Close Combat): The attacker may spend additional successes from an Attack test to allow a grappled ally to make an Escape test as a Free action with a +2 bonus per success on this special maneuver. The ally also gains +2 to their next Unarmed Combat Attack test and Control test for the sole purposes of reducing the Control successes against them per success on this special maneuver. This can be used against all situation modifiers.

Take an Item

The attacker attempts to take an item by making an Unarmed Attack test against the target’s Physical Defense. If successful, the attacker has the item now. The gamemaster can require additional successes for small or worn items, such as one additional success for a necklace or dagger, or two additional successes for a ring or gem. The attacker must have the target Pinned.

Takedown

The attacker can attempt to knockdown their opponent with an Unarmed Attack test against the target’s Physical Defense. The attacker gain give up Control successes against the target, gaining +5 to the test for each success given up. The target makes a Knockdown test against the result. If the Knockdown test fails, attacker is also knocked down if they did not give up any Control successes. The attacker must have the target Grappled.

Situation Modifiers

Grappled

A character who has one Control success against them is Grappled. They suffer a -2 penalty to Action tests (including Initiative), Physical Defense, and Mystic Defense. The attacker can only move if dragging their grappled opponent.

Clinched

A character who has Control successes over half their Strength Step against them is Clinched. They suffer a -5 penalty to Action tests (including Initiative), Physical Defense, and Mystic Defense. The attacker suffers a -2 penalty to Action tests that require movement unrelated to grappling, Physical Defense, and Mystic Defense, and can only move if dragging their grappled opponent.

Pinned

A character who has Control successes equal to their Strength Step against them is Pinned. They can only attempt to break free (spend Control successes to reduce their opponent’s Control) and have a -5 penalty to Physical and Mystic Defenses. The attacker suffers a -5 penalty to Action tests that require movement unrelated to grappling, Physical Defense, and Mystic Defense, and cannot move.

Immobilized

A character who has Control successes over their Strength Step against them is Immobilized. They can’t take actions unless their opponent allows them (including escape, talking, etc.), their Physical Defense is 2, and they have a -5 penalty to their Mystic Defense. The attacker suffers a -5 penalty to Action tests that require movement unrelated to grappling, Physical Defense, and Mystic Defense, and cannot move.

31 October 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Horror 06 - J'osh the Vexing Son

This is the sixth 4E Anatomy of a Horror, 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 was written up for FASA's Halloween social media in honor of Josh Harrison. I decided to put up here as well to make it easier to find (for myself as well).

The general concept here plays with Josh, who I've worked with for years now and become good friends in the process, as he is when meeting him and some of the things he likes to say in jest. Such as no one can take your books and tell you how to play. It turns out, J'osh the Vexing Son can absolutely take your books and tell you how to play. Both are naturally biliophiles who spread a particular brand of madness.

This Horror is designed less as a villain to be defeated in the traditional sense, and more something that pops up every so often causing trouble. A lot of trouble, there is no doubt, but the source of the trouble is a mystery. It plays with horror themes and in a more whimsical fashion, though disturbing nonetheless.

J'osh the Vexing Son

There’s nothing J’osh the Vexing Son enjoys more than adopting a human guise and mingling with the masses. Spreading “the word” as the saying goes. In this case, “the word” is madness and the Horror’s favorite medium is the written word. It’s texts appear innocuous at first, but it doesn’t take long for those who experience them to descend into a particular lunacy, one unique to each victim, but all possess a singular drive to spread that hysteria onto others. These poor Namegivers force J’osh’s corrupted texts on their friends, loved ones, random individuals they see on the street, anyone who could possibly come to understand the brilliance and obsession of those books. And slowly, ever so slowly, the delirium spreads.

J’osh the Vexing Son’s favorite guise is a mild-mannered middle-aged man, rather banal, but with something just a bit off. Perhaps a little too animated. There’s an excitement and gleam of something not quite right in the eyes. By the time anyone notices these details, it’s far too late and their sense of reality is almost certainly affected. Powerful illusions cloak his true form as he moves seamlessly between personas. Those unlucky enough to penetrate his guise only see themselves reflected back at them, with subtle twists and shifts, drawing them in and beginning their descent to madness. By astral space once the illusions are penetrated, J’osh the Vexing Son is an undulating, non-Euclidian pattern of contrasts that invites delusion to any who behold it. At times whispers repeat and reflect J’osh the Vexing Son’s voice, changing the tone and inflection over and over, inserting fleeting words, causing even the simplest statements to challenge the listener’s perception of reality as the echoes become the listener’s voice.

While capable enough, J’osh the Vexing Son prefers to avoid combat at all costs. Instead, it taunts and cajoles its victims, preying on their wants, desires, and insecurities. Ultimately, J’osh the Vexing Son has no desire to kill, only to spread its madness. The Horror gladly aids its victims in any way possible, seeing it not as a predator and prey relationship, but itself as a partner or mentor to its victims. Even the Horror’s perception of reality is strained at times.

Challenge: Warden (Twelfth Circle)
DEX: 12        Initiative:                  12       Unconsciousness:      132
STR: 10         Physical Defense:  14       Death Rating:               148
TOU: 16        Mystic Defense:      24       Wound Threshold:     24
PER: 19        Social Defense:       24       Knockdown:                  12
WIL: 17        Physical Armor:      9         Recovery Tests:           5
CHA: 19        Mystic Armor:         16       Karma:                            12 (48)
Movement: 12
Actions: 3; Unarmed: 24 (22)
Powers:
Awareness (31, Simple): As the talent, Player’s Guide, p. 129.Corrupt Compromise (31, Standard)
Corrupt Karma (29, Standard)

Corrupt Reality (29, Standard): This can be used at any range against a marked victim or a victim in possession of a corrupted text. If successful, the victim also gains a Corruption Point.
Corrupted Texts: J’osh the Vexing Son maintains at most thirteen texts that bear its words and madness. These can be manifestations of the Horror, or existing books corrupted by its will. When one is destroyed, it manifests another or searches the physical plane for a new text to imprint with its essence of insanity, which costs J’osh the Vexing Son 5 Karma Points. J’osh the Vexing senses whenever a suitable being ventures across one of these texts. When a victim reads the text, J’osh the Vexing uses Corrupt Reality to alter their reality to suit its whims. These are often pleasant at first, drawing the victim in before slowly twisting their perception of reality and making it indistinguishable from madness.
Cutting Words (31, Simple): As the talent, Earthdawn Companion, p. 52.
Cursed Luck (34, Free)
Disarming Smile (31, Standard): As the talent, Earthdawn Companion, p. 52.
Disguise Self (45, Standard): As the talent, Player’s Guide, p. 138.
Disrupt Magic (29, Standard)
Dual Nature: J'osh the Vexing Son has an astral and physical form. They are not independent, but both must be destroyed to kill the Horror. As long as one of the forms survives, it can reform the other. Attacks that deal mystic damage affect both forms simultaneously.

Favored Spell (Encrypt): The duration is measured in years.
Favored Spell (Ephemeral Bolt): J’osh the Vexing Son can spend a Karma Point to change the spell to True Ephemeral Bolt after the target decides to resist. The target doesn’t know this.
Graceful Exit (31, Standard): As the talent, Player’s Guide, p. 151.
Harvest Energy (31, Free): If the emotion is excitement, discovery, or related to losing touch with reality, J’osh the Vexing Son gains an additional Karma Point, and gains a Karma Point even if the test fails. This power can be used at any range against marked victims or a victim in possession of a corrupted text.
Horror Mark (31, Standard): This can be used at any range against a victim in possession of a corrupted text. J’osh the Vexing Son gains +2 to this test for every Corruption Point the victim has.
Karma Boost (Free)
Maddening Voices (31, Free): Before Initiative is determined each round, one Maddening Voices test is made and the result compared against the Social Defense of each opponent within 50 yards. If successful, the target is Harried for the round due to the voices surrounding them and tearing at their sanity. The penalties also affect Social Defense.
Madness Loves Company: Marked victims gain +1 to tests to convince others to read a corrupted text for each Corruption Point the victim has.
Mimic Voice (45, Simple): As the talent, Player’s Guide, p. 158.
Redact History (29, Sustained): J’osh the Vexing can perform a ritual that removes evidence of a target Namegiver’s deeds and existence, or the existence of a particular book or passage of the book (though this does not affect texts of different titles with the affected information or memories of the passage, often leading to a Mandela effect). The ritual lasts for one hour, during which time the victim must be immobile and touching the the Horror’s true physical form. J’osh the Vexing makes a Redact History test against the victim’s Social Defence. If successful, all written references to and depictions of the victim on mundane surfaces within 100 miles are removed, leaving only blank spaces. Memories and magic items are unaffected by this ritual.
Spellcasting (31): As the talent, Player’s Guide, p. 168.
Spells (Player’s Guide): (J’osh the Vexing Son is a Twelfth Circle Illusionist and Tenth Circle Nethermancer) Encrypt (p. 296), Ephemeral Bolt (p. 296), Fun With Doors (p. 297), Send Message (p. 298), True Ephemeral Bolt (p. 298), Unseen Voices (p. 299), Blindness (p. 300), Displace Image (p. 300), Mind Fog (p. 301), Fog of Jeer (p. 302), Nobody Here (p. 303), Clarion Call (p. 304), Stop Right There (p. 306), Illusion (p. 308), Presto! (p. 309), Switch (p. 309), Chosen Path (p. 310), Memory Scribe (p. 311), True Switch (p. 312), Twisted Tongues (p. 314), Vertigo (p. 314), Walk Through (p. 314), Face Lift (p. 315), Form Exchange (p. 315), Other Place (p. 315), Astral Spear (p. 317), Ethereal Darkness (p. 319), Spirit Dart (p. 322), Chilling Circle (p. 323), Shadow’s Whisper (p. 324), Viewpoint (p. 330), Debilitating Gloom (p. 335), Step Through Shadow (p. 336), Shadow Tether (p. 340)
Witty Repartee (31, Free): As the talent, Earthdawn Companion, p. 72.
Special Maneuvers:
Forgotten Magic (J’osh the Vexing Son): J’osh the Vexing Son may spend two additional successes on a test targeting the victim’s Mystic or Social Defense to use Disrupt Magic against them as a Free Action.
Madness Carries (J’osh the Vexing Son, Maddening Voices): J’osh the Vexing Son may spend two additional successes on a Maddening Voices test to make a Horror Mark test against the victim as a Free action.

17 October 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 08 - Armor of Roheline

This is the eighth 4E Anatomy of a Thread Item, 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 is a new thread item written to build some flavor to the Roheline Forest that once was. The armor of Roheline is a fernweave that probably represents what many characters interested in the armor are looking for. Not necessarily all (obsidiman Warriors, for example), but something that enhances their speed and ability to be stealthy, in addition to some increased protection. 


Armor of Roheline

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman (Warden)


This fernweave armor is made from leaves, ferns, and other vegetation that once naturally occurred in the Roheline Forest before the Scourge. Similar armors were created throughout the kingdoms of the Region in styles reflecting the local flora. More powerful versions change in ways that reflect its home kingdom’s seasons. Those few that survived the Scourge now reflect locales and seasons that no longer exist, a forlorn echo of things lost.

Once a thread is attached to the armor, it draws all sustenance from the magical connection and does not require the enchantment to be renewed as normal fernweave. As the thread rank increases, the armor’s appearance becomes responsive to the owner and the surroundings. Some were more powerful than others, having eight thread ranks instead of six. These Warden tier items are particularly rare and prized.


Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the Name of the armor.
Effect:
The armor is Physical Armor 3.


Thread Rank Two
Effect: The armor is Mystic Armor 4.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn who created the armor.
Effect:
The owner gains +1 rank to Stealthy Stride.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The armor is Physical Armor 4.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn what Roheline Forest region the foliage was intended to represent
Effect: The owner can spend an additional Karma Point on Initiative and Stealthy Stride tests if they are in a natural area.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The owner gains +2 ranks to Stealthy Stride.

Thread Rank Seven

Deed: The owner must visit the region and commune with a wood elemental (at least Strength Rating 7), performing a significant service for the elemental in exchange for their blessings to the forest.
Effect: The armor is Physical and Mystic Armor 5.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: The owner gains +2 to Initiative.

16 October 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 07 - Wayfarer Cloak

This is the seventh 4E Anatomy of a Thread Item, 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 is a new thread item written to build some flavor to the Roheline Forest that once was. The wayfarer cloak isn't terribly powerful, but offers a variety of benefits to anyone exploring the wilderness. Rank 6 offers greater versatility in the benefits it provides (affecting four possible talents v. the typical one), but with an increased cost (2 Strain v. the typical 1 Strain). Given the nature of the talents, this is unlikely to negatively affect play and makes the ability more attractive, though with the added cost. This isn't something I recommend for any four abilities as it's highly dependent on the abilities that can benefit.


Wayfarer Cloak

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 10
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman


These green and brown cloaks look like rough spun wool and adorned with various leaves and other effects to help blend into the environment. Truthfully, all five True elements have been woven through the garment. They're warm, waterproof, and resistant to stains, in addition to deceptively soft. Still, they incur more wear and tear than expected of a thread item and most show signs of numerous repairs upon closer inspection.

These cloaks were once common throughout the Western Kingdoms and can still be found among elf communities, though those from lost kaers are most prized for the stories they tell.


Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the Name of the cloak.
Effect:
The owner gains +1 rank to Awareness.


Thread Rank Two
Effect: The owner gains +1 rank to Wilderness Survival.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn who created the cloak.
Effect:
The owner gains +1 rank to Tracking.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The owner gains +1 Physical Defense

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn where the True elements were harvested.
Deed: The owner must repair any damage incurred from continued use and use the stitches to tell their story.
Effect: The owner gains +2 to their Movement Rate.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The owner can spend 2 Strain to gain a +3 bonus to Awareness, Tracking, or Wilderness Survival.

15 October 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 06 - Tarrack Talons

This is the sixth 4E Anatomy of a Thread Item, 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 is a new thread item written to build some flavor to the Roheline Forest that once was. It's very similar to feral bracers (Gamemaster's Guide, p. 214), but is different on the last two ranks that allow the items to stand together. The variety gives support to more styles of play and different group compositions. Feral bracers benefit greatly from group support—an ally with Distract is a boon—while tarrack talons below emphasize speed above all else, which is a more narrow character direction, but doesn't require group support.



Tarrack Talons

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman


These long fingerless gloves stretch nearly to the wearer’s elbow. They were worn by a loose affiliation of Beastmasters who once called the Roheline Forest home and kept the native creatures in check. The adepts were easily identified by their tarrack companions, which did little to quell their fierce reputation. Fashioned from tarrack leather, each pair is tooled to tell the story of their wearers.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the Name of the gloves.
Effect:
The owner gains +1 rank to Claw Shape.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The owner gains +1 to unarmed Attack tests.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn who created the gloves.
Effect: 
The owner gains +2 ranks to Claw Shape.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The owner gains +2 to unarmed Attack tests.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the tarrack’s Name the leather came from.
Deed: The owner must tool the leather to add their story to the gloves.
Effect: For 1 Strain, the owner can use the Tarrack Tear ability as a Free Action. If the owner’s Initiative is greater than their target, they gain +2 to unarmed Attack and Damage tests against that target. This can only affect the first attack the owner makes in a round and they must be using Claw Shape.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: If the owner uses Tarrack Tear before Initiative is determined, they gain a +2 bonus to Initiative.

08 October 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 05 - Patterncraft v. Spellcasting

This is the fifth Rules Variant, part of 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 entry into the series addresses a minor change, but one that sets the stage for better talent balance across the board. Replacing Spellcasting rank with Patterncraft rank in spells.

The origins of this are with the broad applicability of some talents and how they impact the game. For example, Awareness comes up a lot. An awful lot. However, it doesn't have undue impact on the game because of the limitations on what it can do. In contrast, Astral Sight is often interpreted by hopeful players as an ability that can do anything magical and should basically replace everything. Which isn't quite the intention; more like Awareness for magical things. It has more value because it's more limited in who can learn it, has a Strain cost, and limited duration, but it doesn't replace the myraid of other effects out there. With knacks and spells, Astral Sight can do a lot more.

Back to Spellcasting and Patterncraft. In this case, Spellcasting does a lot. Between the basic function, available knacks, and the ability to further affect spells, it probably does too much. Even the basic function, you know, casting spells, offers more than nearly any other talent. It covers combat functions and non-combat functions, with an incredible impact on the game. There's little surprise given the versatility and impact most spellcasters increase their Spellcasting rank as high as possible. The fact it also improves spells is basically gravy.

Replacing Read and Write Magic with Patterncraft in 4E set the stage for significantly expanding what that talent does. Previously, Read and Write Magic wasn't so good. It was used only for learning spells and often entirely glossed over. The dynamic for increasing it seemed predicated on spending Recovery Tests to make additional tests, rather than any value it brings on its own. That ability still stands along with reading and understanding magical writing, but it also moved strongly into enchanting and Improved Spell knacks (making their debut in The Adept's Journey: Mystic Paths). The basic idea of Patterncraft is it represents the adept's understanding of magic, not how to apply it (Spellcasting), but the fundamentals that go into it. Hopefully this is shown by how it's being used in the various functions, knacks in particular, rather than telling be strictly necessary.

This is a lot of text to explain why replacing all instances of "rank" in a spell should refer to Patterncraft rather than Spellcasting for this rule variant. In short, it broadens the base of talent functions, rather than piling even more on one already very useful talent.

30 September 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 04 - Renewable Spells

This is the fourth Rules Variant, part of 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.

Most of the rules variants presented in this series will focus on magic (spellcasters and spellcasting in particular) because it's the most complex part of the system. Part of that complexity is by design, but that doesn't mean some areas can do with simplification when possible and clarity whenever possible.

The introduction of Chain Casting as an unofficial optional rule back at the release of the 4E Player's Guide, then later a modified version as an offical optional rule presented in the 4E Companion, was an "eyes wide open" situation. Spells were designed with this in mind and it reflected the new direction of spellcasters as incredibly effective supporting members of an adventuring group, rather than the stars who could easily compete (or even outcompete) the dedicated combat Disciplines for combat effectiveness. This direction is clearly at odds with spellcasters in most fantasy adventuring games and the many tropes surrouding that disparity.

Chain Casting introduced a complication in how to allocate spell matrices by allowing for spells to be continually recast as long as the duration is measured in minutes. This occupies a spell matrix with a valuable spell, reducing the character's versatility in exchange for effectiveness. In all, it further helped drive the demand for additional spell matrices along with redeveloping spells to make them more attractive across the board.

With the benefit of hindsight, Chain Casting skewed both a little too powerful and too "loose" in implementation. While spells were designed with it in mind, it was still new and nothing is perfect. The official introduction corrected a little too much, though that is usually a safer side to err on. This entry is about a more explicit direction formally part of the basic mechanics, rather than an "after-market" addition.

"Renewable" is a new type of Extra Thread option that maintians a spell so long as it is in the spell matrix. This rule variant and it entierly replaces Chain Casting if used. The major benefits are simplicity, clarity, and scaling. Below are the requirements and effects of a Renewable spell:

  • The spell must have an extra thread woven for "Renewable"; a list of spells with this extra thread are provided below. There is no benefit to using an Enhanced Matrix for this extra thread.
  • The target(s) must be in range when this spell is cast and must be in range at some point during the base duration interval (unaffected by additional successes). This creates something of a tether for allies benefiting from the spell.
  • The spell can beneft from effects due to extra threads, such as Additional Targets, Increased Duration (typically rounds -> minutes to expand the "tether"), and Increased Effect.
  • The spell cannot benefit from "external" effects with costs, such as False Sight, Tenacious Weave, Karma abilities, etc. Costs can be Karma, Strain, limited uses, etc.
  • Each spell can only have one active casting with an extra thread woven for Renewable. This provides limitations on how many targets can benefit based on the tier. It takes until Journeyman before an entire group is cruising around with Air Armor at all times, which is more in-line with expectations.
  • The spell is cast with the minimum Spellcasting test result required for success, regardless of the actual result. In reality, there's no particular reason to require Spellcasting or Thread Weaving tests unless it's done in a stressful situation.
  • Targets cannot be unwilling, unless otherwise specifically noted. Such as Illusionist spells Switch, True Switch, and Form Exchange.
  • If the spellcaster falls unconscious, the Renewable thread fails, though the spells expire from the last time they were within range of the spellcaster. For example, if an Elementalist with Renewable Air Armor falls unconsciousness without an extra thread woven for Increased Duration, the duration for all targets is based on the last time they were within Touch distance from the Elementalist.
Hopefully this rules variant provides more simplicity and clarity with regard to how semi-permanent buffs can affect the group. Also, the degree to which they can scale and how quickly is more explicit, for example: Novice: one target; Journeyman: the group, one target with a greater "tether", or one target with a greater effect; Warden: the group with a greater "tether", the group with a greater effect, or one target with a much greater effect; Master: all the toys.

Below is the promised list of spells with the Renewable extra thread option.


Elementalist

First Circle
  • Air Armor [ED4 PG, p. 271]
  • Crunch Climb [ED4 PG, p. 271]
  • Resist Element [ED4 PG, p. 274]
  • Waterproof [ED4 PG, p. 275]
Second Circle
  • Fingers of Wind [ED4 PG, p. 276]
  • Mantle of the Woodland Hunter [ED4 PG, p. 277]
  • Shield Willow [ED4 PG, p. 277]
Third Circle
  • Mantle of the Reflecting Pool [ED4 PG, p. 279]
Fourth Circle
  • NA
Fifth Circle
  • Earth Staff [ED4 PG, p. 283]
Sixth Circle
  • Metal Wings [ED4 PG, p. 287]
Seventh Circle
  • Earth Surfing [ED4 PG, p. 289]
Eighth Circle

  • Earth Wall [ED4 PG, p. 291]
  • Ironskin [ED4 PG, p. 292]
  • Mantle of the Lightning Vanguard [ED4 PG, p. 292]

Illusionist


First Circle
  • Assuring Touch [ED4 PG, p. 294]
  • Best Face [ED4 PG, p. 295]
  • Cloak [ED4 PG, p. 295]
  • Encrypt [ED4 PG, p. 296]
  • Fun With Doors [ED4 PG, p. 297]
Second Circle
  • Innocent Activity [ED4 PG, p. 300]
  • See the Unseen [ED4 PG, p. 301]
Third Circle
  • And Then I Woke Up [ED4 PG, p. 302]
  • Nobody Here [ED4 PG, p. 303]
  • Pilferous Paper [T:tMC, p. 133]
Fourth Circle
  • Notice Not [ED4 PG, p. 305]
Fifth Circle
  • Eye of Truth [ED4 PG, p. 307]
  • Illusion [ED4 PG, p. 308]
  • Switch [ED4 PG, p. 309]
Sixth Circle
  • Astral Shadow [ED4 PG, p. 309]
  • Chosen Path [ED4 PG, p. 310]
  • Flying Carpet [ED4 PG, p. 310]
Seventh Circle
  • Silent Stampede [ED4 PG, p. 313]
Eighth Circle
  • Form Exchange [ED4 PG, p. 315]
  • Other Place [ED4 PG, p. 315]

Nethermancer


First Circle
  • Life Circle of One: The magician still makes individual Spellcasting tests as usual [ED4 PG, p. 320]
  • Shadow Meld [ED4 PG, p. 321]
  • Soul Armor [ED4 PG, p. 321]
  • Soulless Eyes [ED4 PG, p. 321]
Second Circle
  • Shadow's Whisper [ED4 PG, p. 324]
Third Circle
  • Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk [ED4 PG, p. 326]
Fourth Circle
  • Aspect of the Menacing Tyrant [ED4 PG, p. 328]
  • Dark Spy [ED4 PG, p. 329]
  • Nightflyer's Cloak [ED4 PG, p. 330]
  • Viewpoint [ED4 PG, p. 330]
Fifth Circle
  • Circle of Astral Protection [ED4 PG, p. 332]
Sixth Circle
  • NA
Seventh Circle
  • NA
Eighth Circle
  • Netherblade [ED4 PG, p. 340]
  • Spirit Portal [ED4 PG, p. 341]
Shaman

First Circle
  • Alarm [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Hunter's Sense [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Insect Repellent [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Moonglow [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Otter Swim [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Prey Senses [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Weather Cloak [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Second Circle
  • NA
Third Circle
  • Catwalk [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Polecat Resilience [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Sunlight [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Fourth Circle
  • Gills [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Repel Animal [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Fifth Circle
  • Falcon's Cloak [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Path Home [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Sixth Circle
  • Pangolin Armor [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Predator Senses [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Seventh Circle
  • Beastform [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Earth Q'wril [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Wolf Run [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Eighth Circle
  • Lifesense [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Wizard

First Circle
  • Astral Sense [ED4 PG, p. 342]
  • Bedazzling Display of Logical Analysis [ED4 PG, p. 343]
  • Catseyes [ED4 PG, p. 343]
  • Mage Armor [ED4 PG, p. 344]
  • Quicken Pace [ED4 PG, p. 345]
  • Speed Reading [ED4 PG, p. 345]
  • Wall Walker [ED4 PG, p. 345]
Second Circle
  • Astral Shield [ED4 PG, p. 346]
  • Dodge Boost [ED4 PG, p. 347]
  • Rope Ladder [ED4 PG, p. 348]
  • Smudged Fingers [T:tMC, p. 132]
Third Circle
  • Astral Targeting [ED4 PG, p. 348]
  • Levitate [ED4 PG, p. 350]
  • Wizard Mark [ED4 PG, p. 350]
Fourth Circle
  • Ball of String [ED4 PG, p. 351]
  • Evolved Consciousness [ED4 PG, p. 352]
  • Lighten Load [ED4 PG, p. 352]
  • Wizard's Cloak [ED4 PG, p. 353]
Fifth Circle
  • Flight [ED4 PG, p. 353]
Sixth Circle
  • Energy Shield [ED4 PG, p. 356]
Seventh Circle
  • Spellstore [ED4 PG, p. 360]
Eighth Circle
  • NA

23 September 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 03 - Scaling Spells

This is the third Rules Variant, part of 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 is the first in a series of articles I plan to write providing different ways to approach magic—particularly spellcasting—in Earthdawn 4E. They're probably going to take a while to get out there, but they represent years of considering different approaches to some of the designs.

The first is scaling spells.

[Ed note: I reorganized things so this is more accurately considered the third entry, as noted above, but there are a few years of experience, thought, and wisdom between the first two and picking up the thread once more.]

Traditionally, the only way to scale the effect of a spell is through Willforce. 4E introduced extra threads, some other talents, and additional successes in limited instances, but Willforce is still the primary scaling effect.

This is fine, but it introduces questions and complexities I'm not a fan of. Such as applying to effects with a duration that affect an area when the spellcaster has left the building. Questions of do they have to use it each time the effect is activated and can they use it when they're no longer in the area (yes to both) are reasonable questions, but I'd like a situation where they don't have to be asked at all without having excessive explanation that's easily overlooked because it's dry and only relevant to questions about very specific scenarios. I find those minutia and details detract from the overall ability to read the text and digest the content. It's well in the category of "this could just be me".

However, I'd like there to be an analog more in line with access to Forge Weapon for spellcasters than Crushing Blow/Down Strike. The former is more generally applicable to everyone (assuming players have access to the Forge Weapon talent, which is a fundamental assumption—otherwise spellcasters will outpace their intended performance), while the latter is supposed to represent a distinction for the Discipline. Something that sets them apart. Every spellcasting Discipline getting Willforce doesn't really set them apart, it's just a thing they need to keep pace. It comes a little late, which means the latter part of Novice (3-4) can feel like it drags a little. The bumps of Enhanced Matrices, new spells, new abilities, and a new Karma ability at Fifth Circle definitely smooth the way for Willforce at Sixth Circle.

Thank you for sitting through everything up until now. The idea on how to change the situation is pretty simple and has two parts: 1) If a spell uses Willforce in the Effect test (i.e., doesn't reference an Effect Step as a Difficulty Number, but actually has an Effect test in the description) and has WIL as part of the Effect, subtract 1 from the static number and add Circle to the Effect equation (e.g., WIL+3 becomes WIL+Circle+2), and 2) remove the Willforce talent.

There are a few spells that beneft from a little more tweaking within this design space and are further detailed in the big list below.

There are some talents that already play with this type of formula, such as Chilling Circle, and I found the scaling of it to be very nice. It provides a constant sense of improvement without the big bump or questions from Willforce. This also gives a little space to make spellcasters more diverse.

Which brings us to replacing that Sixth Circle talent:

  • Elementalist: Cold Purify
  • Illusionist: Resist Taunt
  • Nethermancer: Lion Heart
  • Shaman: Steel Thought
  • Wizard: Evidence Analysis
Naturally, new talent options to fill out the Journeyman list:
  • Elementalist: Wound Balance
  • Illusionist: Danger Sense
  • Nethermancer: Book Memory
  • Shaman: Empathic Sense
  • Wizard: Haggle
Hopefully this variant works out for anyone who tries it.

Below is a list of the spells this variant affects and the new Effect (doing the modifications for you).

Elementalist

First Circle
  • Earth Darts: WIL+Circle+2 [ED4 PG, p. 272]
  • Purify Water: WIL+Circle+7 [ED4 PG, p. 274]
  • Snuff: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 275]
Second Circle
  • Fingers of Wind: WIL+Circle-1 [ED4 PG, p. 276]
  • Icy Surface: WIL+Circle-1 [ED4 PG, p. 276]
Third Circle
  • Ice Mace and Chain: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 278]
  • Lightning Bolt: WIL+Circle+5 [ED4 PG, p. 278]
  • Plant Feast: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 279]
Fourth Circle
  • Air Blast: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 280]
  • Blizzard Sphere: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 281]
  • Elemental Spear: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 281]
Fifth Circle
  • Fireball: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 283]
  • Heat Armor: WIL+Circle-1 [ED4 PG, p. 284]
  • Shattering Stone: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 285]
Sixth Circle
  • Drastic Temperature: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 286]
  • Fireweave: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 286]
  • Stone Rain: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 288]
  • Tossing Earth: WIL+Circle-1 [ED4 PG, p. 288]
Seventh Circle
  • Cloud Summon: WIL+Circle+5 [ED4 PG, p. 288]
  • Death Rain: Circle+1/WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 289]
  • Whirlwind: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 291]
Eighth Circle
  • Crushing Hand of Earth: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 291]
Illusionist

First Circle
  • Ephemeral Bolt: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 296]
  • True Ephemeral Bolt: WIL+Circle [ED4 PG, p. 298]
Second Circle
  • Phantom Flame: WIL+Circle+5 [ED4 PG, p. 301]
Third Circle
  • NA
Fourth Circle
  • Phantom Lightning: WIL+Circle+6 [ED4 PG, p. 306]
  • Suffocation: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 306]
Fifth Circle
  • Phantom Fireball: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 308]
Sixth Circle
  • Illusory Missiles: WIL+Circle+7 [ED4 PG, p. 311]
  • True Missiles: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 312]
Seventh Circle
  • NA
Eighth Circle
  • Shadow Spell: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 316]
Nethermancer

First Circle
  • Astral Spear: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 317]
  • Experience Death: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 319]
  • Life Circle of One: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 320]
  • Spirit Dart: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 322]
  • Spirit Grip: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 322]
Second Circle
  • NA
Third Circle
  • NA
Fourth Circle
  • NA
Fifth Circle
  • Dust to Dust: WIL+Circle+7 [ED4 PG, p. 332]
  • Wither Limb: WIL+Circle+5 [ED4 PG, p. 333]
Sixth Circle
  • Bone Shatter: WIL+Circle+5 [ED4 PG, p. 334]
Seventh Circle
  • Constrict Heart: WIL+Circle-1; Willpower tests are made against the spellcaster's Willpower Step, +2 for each extra thread for Increase Effect [ED4 PG, p. 338]
  • Foul Vapors: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 338]
Eighth Circle
  • Spirit Portal: WIL+Circle+9 [ED4 PG, p. 341]
  • Wither Away: WIL+Circle-1 [ED4 PG, p. 342]
Shaman

First Circle
  • Invoke Crow Tear: WIL+Circle+3 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
  • Invoke Leopard Pounce: WIL+Circle+3 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Second Circle
  • NA
Third Circle
  • Invoke Lion's Pride: WIL+Circle+5 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Fourth Circle
  • Invoke Shark Rend: WIL+Circle+2 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Fifth Circle
  • Invoke Boar Charge: WIL+Circle+6 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Sixth Circle
  • NA
Seventh Circle
  • Invoke Unicorn Charge: WIL+Circle+4 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Eighth Circle
  • Invoke Espagra Frenzy: WIL+Circle+5 [TAJ:MP, p. XX]
Wizard

First Circle
  • Flame Flash: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 344]
  • Mind Dagger: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 345]
Second Circle
  • Crushing Will: WIL+Circle+2 [ED4 PG, p. 347]
Third Circle
  • Aura Strike: WIL+Circle+2 [ED4 PG, p. 349]
Fourth Circle
  • Ball of String: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 351]
  • Juggler's Touch: WIL+Circle+5 [ED4 PG, p. 352]
  • Lighten Load: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 352]
Fifth Circle
  • Mystic Shock: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 354]
Sixth Circle
  • Razor Orb: WIL+Circle+6 [ED4 PG, p. 357]
Seventh Circle
  • Confusing Weave: WIL+Circle-1 [ED4 PG, p. 358]
  • Dislodge Spell: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 359]
  • Hypervelocity: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 359]
Eighth Circle
  • Astral Catastrophe: WIL+Circle+4 [ED4 PG, p. 361]
  • Catch Spell: WIL+Circle+1 [ED4 PG, p. 361]
  • Compression Bubble: Circle+3 (the omission of WIL is deliberate) [ED4 PG, p. 361]
  • Spell Snatcher: WIL+Circle+3 [ED4 PG, p. 363]