03 May 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Movement Rate Variant

This is 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.

The Movement Rates presented in the Player's Guide create a simple way of looking at how fast characters move which is easy to remember, provides some variation based on racial choices, but largely keeps characters within a band of movement rates useful for most battle maps. Some groups may want more variety in how fast their character's move and have it based on their attributes, rather than just their race.

The following formula helps achieve this goal:

Dexterity Step + Strength Step + Racial Modifier

This makes “average” members of each race a little slower than the values presented in the Player’s Guide, but this maintains a more median movement rate variation, as the basement for movement rate is much below the average (-1 Step), while the ceiling is considerably higher. The racial modifiers play with the movement rates a little more, both accounting for how attribute value modifiers affect the steps, and introducing more variation based on height and build. The goal isn’t absolute realism, but something relatively simple with the feeling of authenticity and introducing more variation in the values. Keep in mind the sidebar on Player's Guide, p. 373, if applying this to a battle map.

Racial modifiers are below:

Dwarf: -2
Elf: +1
Human: 0
Obsidiman: -3
Ork: 0
T’skrang: 0
Troll: +1
Windling: -4 (walking), +6 (flying)

01 May 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Expanded Equipment 02 - Piecemeal Armor

This is the second 4E Expanded Equipment, 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.

The goal of the series is to import equipment found in previous editions and maybe introduce some new offerings. This particular entry updates the piecemeal armor mechanics from in 1E (Denizens of Barsaive vol. 2).

In my humble opinion, the biggest problem with the previous piecemeal armor mechanics is a sufficiently dedicated player can create armor better than options found as whole sets. (I was personally a fan of small pieces of crystal ringlet, ring mail, and any three of: fernweave, hardened leather, hide, leather, padded cloth, and padded leather, creating PA 6, MA 1, and Initiative Penalty 0 - clearly an abuse of the mechanics.) With that in mind, the mechanics were reworked to prevent piecemeal sets being better than complete sets. Piecemeal armor is interesting and a character choice, but there's a reason people wear complete armor sets designed to work together rather than something cobbled together.

Here are the mechanics:
  • Characters can have up to five (5) points of piecemeal armor.
  • Piecemeal armor comes in three sizes and they cost the corresponding number of points: large (3), medium (2), and small (1). Large pieces cover at least half the body, medium pieces less than half, and small pieces less than 20%.
  • Characters cannot equip more than one size of a particular type, but smaller sizes combine to form larger sizes equal to the number of points, though cannot be more than large, no matter how many points. For example, two small pieces of the same armor make a medium piece of armor, a medium and a small piece of the same armor make a large piece of armor, or two medium pieces of the same armor make a large piece of armor.
  • Implanted armor (e.g., blood pebble and living crystal) are never available as piecemeal armor.
  • Leather includes espagra cloak, hardened leather, hide armor, leather, obsidiman skin, padded cloth, and padded leather. They’re just all one category because there’s no mechanical difference from the choice.
  • Each category lists the Physical Armor/Mystic Armor/Initiative Penalty.

Piecemeal armor is not sold by reputable armorers, though some adventurers, mercenaries, and other fiscally concerned “violent” types may sell “used” armor pieces where the whole set of armor isn’t suitable for reasons. In such cases, large pieces of armor cost approximately 50% of a whole set, medium are 30%, and small are 20%. Weight is approximately the same.

My apologies if this doesn't look so pretty; tables, Blogger, and I are not friends.

    Name Large (3) Medium (2) Small (1)
Chain Mail 4/0/2 2/0/1 1/0/1
Crystal Plate 4/4/4 2/2/2 1/1/1
Crystal Ringlet 2/2/1 1/1/0 1/1/1
Fernweave 1/2/0 1/1/0 0/1/0
Leather 2/0/0 1/0/0 0/0/0
Plate Armor 5/0/3 3/0/2 2/0/2
Ring Mail 3/0/1 1/0/0 1/0/1
Wyvern Skin 4/0/2 3/0/2 1/0/1

22 March 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 35 - Shadow

This is the thirty-fifth 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.

When looking at the available Disciplines and the roles and options they provide, a Discipline that uses Throwing Weapons as their primary combat talent is missing. This is hardly unique to Earthdawn and is a problem across many (I would hazard most) fantasy adventure games. There's a number of reasons for this despite such characters appearing in fantasy stories. Throwing away your weapon is probably the biggest and it dovetails into some related problems.

Fantasy adventure games are frequently about your equipment and this is even more true for Earthdawn. It's more than just stuff with bonuses, but part of your character and your story. Between the Legend Points, time, and forging, this investment is significant and throwing your weapon means it's over there and you can't use it anymore. This leads to having a primary weapon with all the investment into it. Multiple such weapons just isn't feasible.

There's a Throwing Weapons knack for returning and an effect can be put on a thread item, but these aren't perfect fixes. Returning is a solid knack, but expensive for a character reliant on Throwing Weapons as their primary combat talent. Thread items require coordination with the GM - either finding one or making it. While I am a fan of that communication between players and GM, some find that level of customization to the players artificial.

Everything leads to the idea of a Discipline purpose built for Throwing Weapons. With that in mind, I also wanted to explore a character who uses small weapons - daggers - which crosses over nicely with throwing weapons. A little versatile and able to do some melee combat if desired.

This is a pretty specific concept and doesn't allow for iconic ranged weapons like hawk hatchets and spears, I'm perfectly fine with that for now. I favor something specific for spears, a Lancer or sorts, and hawk hatchets are in a similar place. However, I want to get this particular idea down first and see how it works on its own. It may need expansion to allow larger weapons, but that changes a lot of the purpose and structure.


Shadow

Shadows are an unusual Discipline who seem to be halfway between multiple sources, but still exist on their own. These liminal adepts are in contrast with Archers - where Archers are direct, Shadows go sideways. They use small throwing weapons, fighting neither at range, nor in the thick of it. Shadows live on the edge, between reality and a memory.

Important Attributes: Charisma, Dexterity, Perception

Karma Ritual: The adept finds a shadowed place, preferably at sunrise or sunset, and pace out two concentric circles. They crouch and summon a brace of shadow blades, then move quickly between the circled areas, throwing the blades as they cross over the area between the circles. As the ritual continues, the blades create an image, symbol, or emblematic of something weighing on the adept’s mind. After 30 minutes, it is complete vanishes before the adept can see the final creation.

Artisan Skills: Acting, Dancing

Half-Magic: These adepts use Half-Magic when caring for small weapons and recognizing distinctions when things don’t quite fit in one category or another, when they exist between. This doesn’t necessarily provide additional insight into that state unless the adept has another appropriate ability, but can help pick things out or lead others to insights.

Novice

First Circle
  • Avoid Blow
  • Awareness
  • Thread Weaving (Shadow Weaving)
  • Throwing Weapons
  • Stealthy Stride
Abilities
  • Free Talent: Shadow Blades*
  • Durability 5
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on a Charisma-based test when not being entirely truthful, but not telling a complete lie either (Gamemaster’s discretion).
Second Circle
  • Surprise Strike
Abilities
  • Defense: +1 Physical Defense
Third Circle
  • Conceal Object
Abilities
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Initiative tests.
Fourth Circle
  • Mystic Aim
Abilities
  • Defense: +1 Social Defense
Talent Options
  1. Anticipate Blow
  2. Call Missile
  3. Danger Sense
  4. First Impression
  5. Great Leap
  6. Impressive Display
  7. Long Shot
  8. Melee Weapons
  9. Taunt
  10. Winning Smile
Journeyman

Fifth Circle
  • Spot Armor Flaw
Abilities
  • Shadow Throw: The adept throws two weapons at a target during the same attack, adding +2 Damage. Projectiles must be throwing weapons at the adept’s minimum weapon size.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Damage tests made with weapons at their minimum one-handed size.
Sixth Circle
  • Bank Shot
Abilities
  • Defense: +2 Physical Defense
Seventh Circle
  • Blind Fire
Abilities
  • Bonus: +1 Initiative
Eighth Circle
  • Second Shot
Abilities
  • Defense: +3 Physical Defense
Talent Options
  1. Blade Juggle
  2. Disguise Self
  3. Distract
  4. False Sight
  5. Lion Heart
  6. Mimic Voice
  7. Power Mask
  8. Slough Blame
  9. Sprint
  10. Tiger Spring
Warden

Ninth Circle
  • Ethereal Weapon
Abilities
  • Shadow Bound: The adept finds the edge of their physical being and spirit, between themselves and their shadow, binding this liminal state to their pattern with an eight-hour ritual, taking 1 Blood Magic Damage. Each adept’s ritual is unique, usually based on their training and personal philosophy. It is commonly performed as the last step in becoming a Warden, but may be done at any time. After the ritual, the adept’s shadow blades take on a more distinctive and personalized appearance, and when the adept hits a target with a shadow blade the target suffers a -1 penalty to Physical and Mystic Defense until the end of the round. These penalties stack and the attack does not have to cause damage, only connect.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Recovery tests.
Tenth Circle
  • Spirit Strike
Abilities
  • Defense: +2 Social Defense
  • Bonus: +1 Recovery Test
Eleventh Circle
  • Beguiling Blade
Abilities
  • Defense: +1 Mystic Defense
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Attack tests made with weapons at their minimum one-handed size.
Twelfth Circle
  • No-Shadow Throw
Abilities
  • Defense: +4 Physical Defense
  • Bonus: +2 Initiative
Talent Options
  1. Chameleon
  2. Critical Hit
  3. Defensive Posture
  4. Echolocation
  5. Lifesight
  6. Relentless Recovery
  7. Resist Taunt
  8. Second Weapon
  9. Swift Kick
  10. Undermine
Master

Thirteenth Circle
  • Impossible Hide
Abilities
  • Shadow Step: The adept can use shadows as openings to other shadows they can see, launching attacks and moving through them. The adept must be able to see the entrance and exit from their position, but do not pass through the intervening space when traveling through. It costs 1 Strain to attack or reach through a shadow and 3 Strain to move through. This tends to result in Blindsided opponents until they become wary of this trick.
  • Defense: +3 Social Defense
  • Karma: +1 Karma Step
  • Bonus: +1 Mystic Armor
Fourteenth Circle
  • Snapshot
Abilities
  • Defense: +5 Physical Defense
  • Bonus: +2 Recovery Tests
Fifteenth Circle
  • Vicious Wound
Abilities
  • Defense: +2 Mystic Defense
  • Bonus: +3 Initiative
Talent Options
  1. Alley Cat Approach
  2. Astral Pocket
  3. Matrix Sight
  4. Netherwalk
  5. Second Chance
  6. Soul Aegis
  7. Vital Strike
  8. Witty Repartee
No-Shadow Throw
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Simple
Strain: See text
Skill Use: No
The adept throws small weapons so quickly they don’t have time to cast a shadow, making multiple attacks with Second Shot using throwing weapons. The adept chooses the possible targets for their attacks and makes a No-Shadow Throw test against the highest Physical Defense among them. For each success, they can make an additional Second Shot test. Each additional Second Shot test costs 2 more Strain (i.e., 4 Strain), or 1 more Strain if the weapon was formed with Shadow Blade (i.e., 3 Strain). The throwing weapons must be the adept’s minimum one-handed size.

Shadow Blades
Step: Rank+PER
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
Illusion. The adept holds a small throwing weapon and grasps the cast shadows, making them temporarily real by making a Shadow Blade (5) test. If successful, the adept creates two shadow copies of the original weapon for each success. The shadows have the same statistics and effects of the original (though cannot stack with each other) and appear the same, with differences unique to each adept; for example as shadows given form or black replicas. They last up to Shadow Blade rank rounds or until the end of the round they leave possession of the adept. They are not affected by Sensing tests and the original throwing weapon must be the adept’s minimum one-handed size.

18 March 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 34 - Sky Raider Variants

This is the thirty-fourth 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.

Discipline variants. These aren't specialist Disciplines, though the distinction may seem superficial. The difference is one of adaptation, rather than intention. These are Disciplines which naturally fit into other areas, but still require some level of specialization to fulfill their role. Where as specialist Disciplines do something different because practitioners moved it deliberately in that direction.


This isn't an area that's going to see significant exploration because Disciplines are designed to not need this. They represent flexible archetypes. This is also why there aren't currently plans to bring back specialist Disciplines - with modifications to Discipline design, Karma rules, Using All Talents to Advance optional rule, and talent knacks, there isn't the same place for them. They may see a return in a modified form, however it's unlikely to be as in previous editions.

Sky Raiders. One of the most iconic Disciplines in Earthdawn - the image of enormous trolls plummeting from the sky onto airships below to wreck havoc is one strongly associated with the setting. This is both to its benefit (it's awesome and unique) and loss (they're not the easiest to bring into a typical group). Sky Raider variants bring this badass Discipline to other settings and more accessible to races other than highland trolls.

One of the goals for Sky Raider design in 4E was making them fit more roles within the setting. However, there's only so far this can be done without endangering that crucial flavor. Variants allow the Discipline to be more accessible within the setting without making Sky Raiders any less. The general concept of a fighter who respects strength above all else and holds to a code of honor (even if a peculiar one to outsiders), is hardly unique to highland trolls. Even if they are a bit more intense about it. This is common to any proud warrior culture. Without the specifics of highland troll culture, why can be said about Sky Raiders can be said for all Raiders - Sky Raiders just happen to be the most visible, dominant, and famous within Barsaive.

Raider

Raiders in Barsaive are most famous as ork scorchers, including among the famous cavalries, though any aggressive warrior culture counts them among their number. They are most at home outside cities, particularly the hills, mountains, and plains of the province where they can see the sky and don’t feel closed in.

Karma Ritual: The Raider spends several minutes in silent meditation under the open sky. Then they begin to strike their shield with a weapon, slowly at first. The striking accelerates until the Raider is beating their shield at a furious rate. Just before the ritual ends, the Raider stops, continuing to meditate while their shield still resonates from the furious bashing. The ritual ends when the echoes from the last drumbeat fades.

Artisan Skills: Rune Carving, Tattooing

Half-Magic: Raiders use half-magic for tasks related to the upkeep of riding gear, animal husbandry and first aid, knowledge of different caravans and crew complements (including typical guards), as well as knowledge of commonly followed overland trading routes.

Changes for Raider:
  • Novice Talent Options: Air Sailing becomes Trick Riding
  • Novice Talent Options: Wind Catcher becomes Sure Mount
  • Novice Talent Options: Sprint is added to the Novice Talent Options
  • First Circle: Climbing becomes Wilderness Survival
  • First Circle: Sky Weaving becomes Raid Weaving


River Raider

River Raiders in Barsaive prowl the Serpent River. They aggressive pirates who commonly operate from small, maneuverable craft, though can be found among larger arapagoi. They’re not common among the latter, where Boatmen are much more common. They don’t have a connection to air other Raiders do, instead being connected to water, particularly the coursing water of the river system.

Karma Ritual: The River Raider spends several minutes in silent meditation near a river. Then they begin to strike their shield with a weapon, slowly at first. The striking accelerates until the River Raider is beating their shield at a furious rate. Just before the ritual ends, the River Raider stops, continuing to meditate while their shield still resonates from the furious bashing. The ritual ends when the echoes from the last drumbeat fades.

Artisan Skills: Painting, Wood Carving

Half-Magic: River Raiders use half-magic for tasks related to the upkeep, repair, and building of smaller riverboats, knowledge of different riverboat designs and crew complements, as well as knowledge of commonly followed river trading routes.

Changes for River Raider:
  • Novice Talent Options: Air Sailing becomes Pilot Boat or Sailing (player's choice)
  • Novice Talent Options: Navigation becomes Read River
  • Novice Talent Options: Wind Catcher becomes Swimming
  • Novice Talent Options: Sprint is added to the Novice Talent Options
  • First Circle: Sky Weaving becomes Raid Weaving
  • Warden Talent Options: Air Dance becomes Fluid Movement
  • Warden Talent Options: Storm Shield becomes Waterfall Slam
  • Ninth Circle: Strength of the Sky is called Strength of the River; the adept draws on the inexhaustible power of the Serpent River and their ritual reflects this through an appropriate location or by challenging powerful water spirits or similarly elementally-aspected creatures.
  • Thirteenth Circle: Stormcall becomes Rivercall; the adept calls down a torrent of water to punish their enemies.
  • Thirteenth Circle: Thunderstruck becomes Chilling Strike.

Sea Raider

Sea Raiders in Barsaive are only found within the Aras Sea. They feel a connection to the sky and water, traveling the sea, but relying on wind to speed their journey and outmaneuver other ships.

Karma Ritual: The Sea Raider spends several minutes in silent meditation beneath the open sky. Then they begin to strike their shield with a weapon, slowly at first. The striking accelerates until the Sea Raider is beating their shield at a furious rate. Just before the ritual ends, the Sea Raider stops, continuing to meditate while their shield still resonates from the furious bashing. The ritual ends when the echoes from the last drumbeat fades.

Artisan Skills: Painting, Wood Carving

Half-Magic: Sea Raiders use half-magic for tasks related to the upkeep, repair, and building of smaller seagoing ships, knowledge of different seagoing ship designs and crew complements, as well as knowledge of commonly followed sea trading routes.

Changes for Sea Raider:
  • Novice Talent Options: Air Sailing becomes Sailing
  • Novice Talent Options: Wind Catcher becomes Swimming
  • First Circle: Sky Weaving becomes Raid Weaving
Note: Raider, River Raider, Sea Raider, and Sky Raider are treated as the same Discipline for meeting requirements. Sky Weaving and Raid Weaving are treated as the same talent for meeting requirements.

11 February 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 33 - Weaponsmith Part 2

This is the thirty-third 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.

I always enjoyed unique mechanics for various Disciplines - things that set them apart beyond their Discipline abilities and talent selections - first introduced in Adept's Way. These were specialties for most Disciplines, which could be a little uneven in application even as they helped show different directions for a Discipline. Some had a little extra, like the sniper's way (Archers), honor braids (Cavalrymen), and soul swords (Swordsmaster). These were even more uneven in application because few Disciplines had them, and the sniper's way for Archers was hardly a good thing.


Still, I liked the thought of them and want to eventually revisit that kind of thing if there's enough inspiration to give every Discipline that kind of treatment. I have no interest in leaving any out in the cold on fun stuff to help them stand out and enhance their characterization.

My favorite of them is a Weaponsmith's heartblade. It communicates what the Discipline is about, is an important achievement for them, and breaks the rules in a way to show everything we know isn't quite right. There's missing pieces. Even the mechanics are an unreliable narrator. That's important.

However, the mechanics of it never quite worked for me. They don't work for me because they're too inaccessible. It also irked me the process was clearly only for a sword. I like swords, but I know that's not for everyone. The bonus is huge, but odds are you're never seeing it. Cool, but not practical or fun. I've been thinking on this a little over the past six years and this is a missing piece of sorts always intended to be introduced which addresses the issue of Weaponsmith's Fifth Circle Karma ability (spending Karma on a Damage test with a weapon they crafted). I decided to share and see where it doesn't work.

This isn't a claim what's presented here is perfect or going to show up (particularly with the names - but as has been mentioned numerous times in the past, names are hard). However, I think it's a big step in the right direction of making various pieces of Weaponsmith come together and give them a big, but attainable goal. It builds on itself, but is expensive and time-consuming at every step. This also breaks it up into smaller pieces which can actually be accomplished and the Weaponsmith have something to show for it.

Forge Heartblade
Talent: Thread Smithing
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: Weaponsmith 5
Skill Use: No
The Weaponsmith begins the first step in the process of creating their heartblade: crafting the weapon. This is time consuming because only perfection is acceptable: the weapon must have at least five successes for Craftsmanship (Companion, p. 148). Once finished, the Weaponsmith must Name the weapon and it is a Core pattern item for the adept. This is an exception to rules regarding creating pattern items.

Enchant Novice Heartblade
Talent: Thread Smithing
Requirements: Rank 5. Craft True Pattern, Forge Heartblade
Restrictions: Weaponsmith 5
Skill Use: No
The Weaponsmith begins the next step of creating their heartblade: imbuing it with a True Pattern. If the Weaponsmith can design their own enchanting patterns, they may do so, but they can also use a common enchanting pattern. The Weaponsmith enchants their heartblade as a Novice thread item, but the Enchanting Difficulty Number increases by +5 if they are using a common enchanting pattern (EDN 20). The heartblade cannot be enchanted at a tier greater than Novice. This is an exception to rules regarding pattern items becoming thread items.

Enchant Journeyman Heartblade
Talent: Thread Smithing
Requirements: Rank 8. Design Enchanting Pattern, Enchant Novice Heartblade
Restrictions: Weaponsmith 8
Skill Use: No
The Weaponsmith begins the next step of creating their heartblade: enhancing the True Pattern. The Weaponsmith must design a Journeyman thread item enchanting pattern for their heartblade (the thread ranks created in the previous step are fixed) and enchants the heartblade with this improved pattern. The heartblade gains the additional thread ranks, but is still a Novice thread item for costs. The process is the same as though the heartblade is an unenchanted item. This is an exception to rules regarding enchanting thread items.

Enchant Warden Heartblade
Talent: Thread Smithing
Requirements: Rank 9. Enchant Journeyman Heartblade
Restrictions: Weaponsmith 9
Skill Use: No
The Weaponsmith begins the next step of creating their heartblade: enhancing the True Pattern. The Weaponsmith must design a Warden thread item enchanting pattern for their heartblade (the thread ranks created in the previous steps are fixed) and enchants the heartblade with this improved pattern. The heartblade gains the additional thread ranks, but is still a Novice thread item for costs. The process is the same as though the heartblade is an unenchanted item. This is an exception to rules regarding enchanting thread items.

Enchant Master Heartblade
Talent: Thread Smithing
Requirements: Rank 13. Enchant Warden Heartblade
Restrictions: Weaponsmith 13
Skill Use: No
The Weaponsmith begins the next step of creating their heartblade: enhancing the True Pattern. The Weaponsmith must design a Master thread item enchanting pattern for their heartblade (the thread ranks created in the previous steps are fixed) and enchants the heartblade with this improved pattern. The heartblade gains the additional thread ranks, but is still a Novice thread item for costs. The process is the same as though the heartblade is an unenchanted item. This is an exception to rules regarding enchanting thread items.