30 December 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 07 - Combat Options

This is the seventh 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 takes a look at two very specific combat options: Aggressive Attack and Defensive Stance.These two have been around since 1E and mostly unchanged. However, being completely honest, they aren't created equal.

Aggressive Attack is very popular, while Defensive Stance is... not—putting it mildly—and it's easy to see why. Aggressive Attack's downside doesn't apply if your opponents are unconscious or dead, and you still have active defenses (Avoid Blow, Steel Thought, etc.) to fall back on without penalty. Your actions are unaffected by penalties—this is a place where how the penalties are applied between 1E and now changed without changing all the fundamentals.

Defensive Stance is largely unpopular because it may give you a bonus, but it gives a blanket penalty to your actions. Everything. Including actions that may make sense for a character in Defensive Stance to take, like Avoid Blow.

The goal is balancing them within the system—not equal to each other or of equal utility, but Aggressive Attack doesn't have enough of a downside and Defensive Stance has too much downside for what it offers. Both "stances" must be declared before Initiative is determined and use the following modifications:

Aggressive Attack

  • Cost: 1 Strain per affected close combat attack, all attacks made must pay the cost; e.g., Melee Attack, Second Weapon, and Second Attack are individual attacks and each costs 1 Strain.
  • Benefit: The adept gains +3 to close combat Attack and Damage tests or each attack.
  • Drawback: The adept suffers -3 to Physical and Mystic Defense, active defenses (e.g., Avoid Blow, Riposte, and Steel Thought), and abilities that improve Defenses (e.g., Acrobatic Defense, Anticipate Blow, and Maneuver).
  • Clarification: If an ability has an active defense and creates an attack (such as Riposte), the initial test suffers -3 and the subsequent Attack test gains +3. Abilities that improve other tests (such as Defensive Stance) but do not generate tests of their own are unaffected.
Defensive Stance
  • Cost: Special; 1 Strain per ability that improves Defenses, all such abilities used must pay the cost (this does not include Active Defenses).
  • Benefit: The adept gains +3 to Physical and Mystic Defense, active defenses (e.g., Avoid Blow, Riposte, and Steel Thought), and abilities that improve Defenses (e.g., Acrobatic Defense, Anticipate Blow, and Maneuver).
  • Drawback: The adept suffers -3 to the following: Attack (including Spellcasting and similar) tests, Damage tests, Effect tests, Thread Weaving tests (and similar, such as Spliced Weave), Standard actions that don't involve defense (e.g., Inspire Others), ability tests that only improve Attack tests (e.g., Acrobatic Strike, Aggressive Maneuver, and Mystic Aim), and Initiative tests.
  • Clarification: If an ability has an active defense and creates an attack (such as Riposte), the initial test gains +3 and the subsequent Attack tests suffers -3. Abilities with a duration in minutes that improve Defenses (e.g., Earth Skin) cannot benefit from Defensive Stance. Abilities that improve other tests (such as Defensive Stance) but do not generate tests of their own are unaffected.
This variant has a lot more going on. It's more complicated and represents a first draft at dialing Aggressive Attack back and making Defensive Stance more attractive. If that complexity is worth it is to be seen, including ways to make it easier to express without costing too much precision.

Aggressive Attack more closely resembles where it started; giving +3 to Attack tests against the aggressive attacker effectively includes the penality to Avoid Blow. The other penalties further emphasize the all-out nature.

Whereas Defensive Stance at its most basic use is still free, which is important (falling unconscious from using it on your last legs isn't useful), while there are additional benefits that can be gained at cost, creating a tactical decision about using it. Giving a bonus to active defenses is important, otherwise they can easily become useless in light of the improved Physical Defense. I don't know if this provides similar utility as Aggressive Attack, but it should be more useful.

An aside on why there isn't a version of Aggressive Attack for ranged attacks and spellcasting: the downside isn't much of a downside. Regardless of contriving an explanation of how it could work, it's not good design because the risks are minimal. Limiting to close combat makes the risks of decreased defenses very real, while ranged combat (including spellcasting) reduces those risks considerably through range. 

10 December 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Path 01 - Sun Herald

This is the first 4E Anatomy of a Path, 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 could be considered part two on my off-the-books development on throwing weapons (part one being the Shadow Discipline). Since I already did a sneaky Discipline that uses small weapons, for this I wanted to do the exact opposite: an honorable leader who invokes the sun and uses larger throwing weapons (probably their one-handed size limit) in ranged and close combat. Also, it's a Path.


To be clear, I don't consider this Path "complete" and not just because it's missing an in-character essay (which is crucial to providing one follower's insight on their Path). The text is what I consider a place-holder until I would typically go back and clean it up, both before it's handed off to a writer for the in-character essay and after the essay to ensure it matches. I didn't spend a lot of time developing knacks, just the key knacks to provide trajectory and velocity, and thoes knacks haven't been playtested yet. Same with the talents. The reason is I didn't want to devote too much time since that takes away from other priorities,

So, here is a completely different direction a throwing weapons oriented character can go with that idea.


Sun Herald

Game Information

Honor. Valor. Integrity. These are the most important things to a Sun Herald. They strive to represent the best among Namegivers, and be leaders and examples among them. Many have important positions within their communities, often the leader or war leader, while others roam the land to make it better and be a beacon of hope to the beleaguered. It’s almost unheard of for Sun Heralds to travel alone, but there are legends told of communities in dire straits seeing a lone figure arriving with the dawn and leading them to overcome. Then leaving once there is no need, despite the pleas to stay and continue to lead them. But for such Sun Heralds, there are always more in need and it is time for those they helped to lead themselves.

It’s more common for young Sun Heralds to favor action that involve leading their allies and followers to victory in battle, whether protecting their people or those in need, or in honorable conquest. This is particularly true for deeds and ordeals shared at their gatherings. However, as Sun Heralds mature, they often find more meaning in brokering peace and understanding, mentoring the young, and instilling their ideals in others, particularly future generations. The threat of violence is a useful tool because it can bring people to the table who otherwise would not. There is greater valor in knowing when lives can be saved and people brought together.

Sun Heralds’ perspective on conquest can be different than many others. They view it as perfectly natural for the strong to conquer the weak. However, the strong must act with honor, valor, and integrity. It is now their responsibility to care for those they conquered. Never to oppress them, but to welcome them. They create something greater than the sum of its parts. Those who pillage and ruin are blights upon the land, often viewed as no better than Horrors. To Sun Heralds, slavery is the worst thing to inflict on a fellow Namegiver, as it steals all valor, honor, and integrity from all parties involved. Sun Heralds see highland trolls’ practice of newots as no better than slavery, despite how those who practice may see it, which is rarely helped by their differing attitudes towards honor and valor.

It’s not unheard of for Sun Heralds to come into conflict with each other, and in some regions may not even be uncommon. The two followers both act as their ideals demand and strive to minimize the loss of life—there is no valor in throwing lives away. Sun Heralds always grant mercy to those who request it and there is no reason to doubt their honor. However, they are not fools and mercy is not necessary against those who would use it against the Sun Herald. Disputes between followers, however rare, are brought before elders (rank 5 and above) for mediation. These are never held in secret because their ideals die in the darkness, though observers are only welcomed to speak when acknowledged.

Disciplines: Most Sun Heralds are Sky Raiders (particularly the Raider variant), with Warriors, Troubadours, and Weaponsmiths following

Passions and Questors: Sun Heralds come from societies that venerate the sun and most identify Mynbruje or Thystonius with the sun in their belief structure. Followers of these Passions are common and questors are more common among Sun Heralds than adepts as a whole, but still uncommon. Groups who associate the sun with a different Passion follow those Passions, while those who associate Passions with different facets of the sun typically favor one, but are never questors.

Followers from societies that don’t associate Passions with the sun favor Mynbruje and Thystonius in equal measure for different reasons, though rarely quest for any Passion.

Other Paths: Sun Heralds can follow others Paths that don’t hinder their duties and activities, which is typically limited by the expectations of other Paths. However, Paths such as Horror Stalker or Messenger are completely incompatible.

Initiation: Prospective adepts typically go to the Sun Heralds for admission, plainly stating their intentions during on of the Path’s gatherings. Word of the candidates deeds must have reached the Sun Herald leadership and their reputation should proceed them. They are invited to share tales of their exploits to those gathered, who pose questions to the candidate about their actions and motives. It’s common for Sun Heralds to question involved parties about the legend to ensure the veracity of the claims and the character of the applicant.

All potential Sun Heralds must clearly display their honor, valor, integrity, and leadership through their deeds. No additional ordeals are required for their initiation, thus their actions must shot they are suitable for the Path.

Once the Sun Herald leadership feels they have all the information they need, they meet to discuss the prospective candidates before them. This requires at least three rank 5 members, and younger members are often invited to participate, seeking both their opinion and to pass on the traditions of the Path. If the prospective Sun Herald is accepted, they begin their ceremony at dawn.

All Sun Heralds in the area attend if able, greeting the sun as it rises with outstretched arms. Those who can summon their Sun’s Simulacra, surrounded by glowing golden light. Many followers choose to wear ceremonial clothes, or none at all, though full battle dress is heavily discouraged—they are among their new companions and it is a celebration, not war. After it is complete, the new Sun Herald is ritually marked with their personal symbol. Some perform this on their own, but it is viewed favorably to allow one of their new peers to perform the blood magic. It typically takes the form of scarring or tattooing, though the form is up to the Sun Herald. Once complete, the new follower clasps forearms with all others gathered in a sign of welcome and trust.

Ordeals and Advancement: Sun Heralds strive to represent the best Namegivers have to offer, they are leaders and role-models. Exactly what this means is up to the Sun Herald, but they must always live their lives with honor, valor, and integrity. Their ordeals reflect this and their perspective, which can evolve as they progress and grow wiser. Followers who feel they have lived up to their ideals and performed a deed worthy of being retold at gatherings attend one and do just that.

The decision if the Sun Herald has performed a sufficient ordeal and lived as they should is up to the rank 5 and above members, however they always gauge the response of the others present. These elders may offer additional stories to give insight to the supplicant, perhaps affirming their actions, or rebuffing some of them. Their goal is never to discourage, but to offer a Path of continuous improvement. All Sun Heralds must strive to do and be better.

If the ordeal is deferred, there is no shame among those present. All stumble, but their peers are there to help them up. It is discussed and used as a teaching moment so all may learn. The most common reason is the supplicant ordeal does not build on their previous deeds. If the ordeal is accepted, they are invited to welcome the sun with all other Sun Heralds present, just as when they were initiated. At the end of the ceremony, their personal symbol is expanded, growing to reflect where the Sun Herald is now in their journey. There is no additional Blood Magic Damage associated with this.

Karma Ritual: Sun Heralds’ Karma Rituals incorporate the sun, as well as themes of leadership, valor, and honor. For example, a Sky Raider may perform their ritual as they watch the sun rise, beating two weapons together in the cadence of war drums. While a Troubadour performs a rousing speech under the sun, juggling their weapons to catch its light. A Warrior may levitate as the light of the sun hits them, their attacks and defenses incorporating throwing weapons and glowing with an inner light.

Half-Magic: The adept can also use their Half-Magic to find other Sun Heralds and know the history of Sun Heralds. Additionally, for 1 Strain the adept can make a Charisma-based Half-Magic (5) to illuminate an object they are holding, causing it to cast light as a torch for 1 minute per success.

Sun Herald Talent Cost

  • Master, Maximum Rank 10
Sun Herald Rank Bonuses
  • Rank 2: +1 Physical Defense
  • Rank 4: +1 Social Defense
  • Rank 6: +2 Physical Defense
  • Rank 8: +1 Initiative
  • Rank 9: +2 Social Defense
  • Rank 10: +1 Recovery Test
Sun Herald Talent Options:

Rank 1+ (Purchased as Journeyman tier talents)
Air Speaking, Battle Bellow, First Impression, Impressive Display, Long Shot, Mystic Aim, Sun’s Simulacra*, Tactics, Throwing Weapons, True Sight

Rank 5+ (Purchased as Warden tier talents)
Bank Shot, Blade Juggle, Inspire Others, Lasting Impression, Lion Heart, Sun’s Stroke*

Rank 9+ (Purchased as Master tier talents)
Blind Fire, Critical Hit, Lion Spirit, Sun’s Glory*


Sun Herald Talents

Sun’s Glory
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
The adept sends their weapons created with Sun’s Simulacra spinning around them and into the sky, exploding in a golden aura around the adept. The adept spends a Recovery Test and makes a Sun’s Glory test against the highest Social Defense of their allies within Sun’s Glory rank×4 yards. This test gains a +2 bonus for each simulacrum after the first used in this test. Each success gives all the adept’s allies +1 to Attack, Damage, Effect, and Spellcasting tests as long as they can see the adept. This talent always gets at least one success and all simulacra used are destroyed; the adept does not have to use all their simulacrum weapons. This talent lasts for Sun's Glory rank rounds.

Sun Herald
Step: Rank
Action: N/A
Strain: 0
Skill Use: No
This talent measures the adept’s advancement on the Sun Herald Path. The adept can learn one Sun Herald talent option for each rank and gains their Sun Herald rank as a bonus to Interaction tests for making an impression or asking for favors of other Sun Heralds. This talent’s maximum rank is 10 and costs Master tier to advance.


Sun’s Simulacra
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
The adept holds a one-handed throwing weapon, holds it aloft and makes a Sun’s Simulacra (5) test. If successful, a golden light illuminates it from behind at any angle and a golden copy emerges for each success to orbit the adept. The replicas gleam with golden light and 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. The last up to Sun’s Simulacra rounds or until the end of the round they leave the adept’s possession.

Sun’s Stroke
Step: Rank+STR
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
A weapon created through Sun’s Simulacra is empowered, gleaming brightly and warping light around it with the heat coming off the surface. The adept may substitute their Sun’s Stroke Step for their Strength Step on a Damage test made with a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra.


Sun Herald Knacks

Crushing Blow

As Above, So Below
Talent: Crushing Blow or Down Strike
Requirements: Rank 7, Throwing Weapons rank 7
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 5
Step: Rank+STR
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. The adept can also affect thrown attacks made by a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra. If using Down Strike, the requirements must still be met (e.g., the adept must use Great Leap).

Down Strike


As Above, So Below
See Crushing Blow.

Impressive Display

Emblazon Target [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Impressive Display
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 3
Emblazon Target (Adept, Attack): For 1 Strain, the adept can spend additional successes on an Attack test using a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra to give all allies +1 per success to Attack and Spellcasting tests against the target until the end of the next round.

Demoralizing Display [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Impressive Display
Requirements: Rank 9, Disheartening Display
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 7
Demoralizing Display (Adept): For 3 Strain, the adept can spend additional successes on an Action test using a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra to demoralize all opponents within rank ×2 yards of the original target; for example, if a ranged attack was made, the original target is the target of the ranged attack. Each success spent in this way gives the all opponents in range -1 to their Action tests until the end of the next round. The original test result must defeat the highest Social Defense of all targets in the area of effect; if it doesn’t, the successes are spent, but have no effect.

Disheartening Display [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Impressive Display
Requirements: Rank 7
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 5
Disheartening Display (Adept): For 2 Strain, the adept can spend additional successes on an Action test using a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra to dishearten one target within rank ×2 yards of the original target; for example, if a ranged attack was made, the original target is the target of the ranged attack. Each success spent in this way gives the disheartened target -2 to their Action tests until the end of the next round. The original test result must defeat the target’s Social Defense; if it doesn’t, the successes are spent, but have no effect.

Inspire Others

Inspired Action
Talent: Inspire Others
Requirements: Rank 8
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 6
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
The adept gives words of inspiration to any ally within rank ×4 yards by making an Inspired Action test against the target’s Social Defense. If successful, the target is bathed briefly in golden light and gains +2 per success to one Action test on their next turn.

Lion Heart

Glorious Defiance [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Lion Heart
Requirements: Rank 10, Sun’s Simulacra rank 8
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 8
Glorious Defiance (Adept, Lion Heart): The adept can spend additional successes on a Lion Heart test to grant all allies within 10 yards a +2 bonus per success to resist the ability on subsequent rounds. This only affects the ongoing ability, not new uses of the same ability. The adept must have at least one weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra to use this special maneuver.

Momentum Attack

Sun’s Momentum
Talent: Momentum Attack
Requirements: Rank 8, Throwing Weapons rank 8
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 6
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. If the adept is using a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra, they may throw it at a target within range instead of making another close combat attack against the same opponent.

Multi-Strike

Prism Attack
Talent: Multi-Strike
Requirements: Rank 13, Throwing Weapons rank 13, Off-Hand Throw, Rays of the Sun
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 10
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Simple
Strain: 1+ (see text)
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. If the adept is using a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra, they may throw it at a target within range instead of making a close combat attack with Second Attack or Second Weapon. Each thrown weapon costs an additional Strain (i.e., throwing a weapon with Second Attack costs 4 Strain, and Second Weapon costs 3 Strain). All copies of the same weapon are considered the same weapon for Second Attack.

Mystic Aim

Illuminate Target
Talent: Mystic Aim
Requirements: Rank 6, Throwing Weapons rank 6
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 4
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. The adept’s allies also gain the benefits of the Illuminate Target knack against the target.

Sun’s Guidance
Talent: Mystic Aim
Requirements: Rank 5, Throwing Weapons rank 5
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 1
Step: NA
Action: NA
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
The adept may apply the benefits from Mystic Aim knacks to attacks made with weapons created through Sun’s Simulacra, not just ranged attacks. This can be combined with other Mystic Aim knacks that provide standard effects.

Second Attack

Rays of the Sun
Talent: Second Attack
Requirements: Rank 8, Throwing Weapons rank 8
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 6
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Simple
Strain: 3
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. If the adept is using a weapon created with Sun’s Simulacra, they may throw it at a target within range instead of making another close combat attack. All copies of the same weapon are considered the same weapon for this knack.

Sun Herald

Channel Radiance [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: None
Strain: 0
The adept can spend a Karma Point on a Sun’s Simulacra test.

Charming Herald [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 3
Restrictions: None
Strain: 1
The adept can spend a Karma Point on a test to improve a target’s attitude toward the adept. The adept is lit as though the sun is behind them while using this ability. This knack cannot be combined with Karma abilities from the adept’s Discipline(s).

Herald of Strength [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 6
Restrictions: None
Strain: 1
The adept can spend a Karma Point on a Damage test with a weapon created using Sun’s Simulacra. The weapon glows brightly with an inner light when this knack is used. This knack cannot be combined with Karma abilities from the adept’s Discipline(s) and can be used up to Sun Herald rank times per round.


Incandescent Leader [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 10, Leader in Light
Restrictions: None
Strain: 2
The adept can spend a Karma Point on an ally’s Damage test (this does not include Effect tests). The ally must be within rank ×4 yards. The adept and ally are both lit as though the sun is behind them while using this ability. This knack can be used up to Sun Herald rank times per round.

Leader in Light [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 2
Restrictions: None
Strain: 1
The adept can spend a Karma Point on a test to inspire or lead their allies. The adept is lit as though the sun is behind them while using this ability.

Radiant Leader [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 9, Leader in Light
Restrictions: None
Strain: 2
The adept can spend a Karma Point on an ally’s Attack test (this does not include Spellcasting tests). The ally must be within rank ×4 yards. The adept and ally are both lit as though the sun is behind them while using this ability. This knack can be used up to Sun Herald rank times per round.

Sun’s Valor [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 4
Restrictions: None
Strain: 1
The adept can spend a Karma Point on a Lion Heart test. The adept is lit as though the sun is behind them while using this ability.

Together We Shine [Karma]
Talent: Sun Herald
Requirements: Rank 7, Leader in Light, Sun’s Valor
Restrictions: None
Strain: 1
The adept can spend a Karma Point on an ally’s Lion Heart test. The ally must be within rank ×4 yards. The adept and ally are both lit as though the sun is behind them while using this ability. This knack can be used up to Sun Herald rank times per round.

Tactics

Sun’s Bannerman
Talent: Tactics
Requirements: Rank 11, Sun’s Glory rank 9
Restrictions: Sun Herald rank 9
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Standard
Strain: 5
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. The adept is illuminated with brilliant light, typically manifesting a unique and personal banner or totem, and it is impossible for them to hide or have their presence concealed while using this knack. The adept suffers a -1 penalty for each success to their Defenses for duration of the ability and their allies gain all the benefits (Attack and Damage tests if on the offensive; all Defenses if on the defensive). If an ally can see the adept or their banner, they continue to gain these benefits even if the plan can no longer be followed due to changing circumstances. If the adept falls unconscious or dies, this ability immediately ends and the bonuses become equal penalties as their allies are demoralized.

Path Knacks

Sun Herald [Path]
Talent: Thread Weaving
Rank: 5
Cost: 500 Legend Points
Requirements: Rank 5, Leadership 5, must complete a Sun Herald ordeal
Restrictions: Any Discipline Circle 5
The adept performs the initiation ritual and weaves a thread to the Sun Herald pattern, taking 2 Blood Magic Damage, and gains Sun Herald at rank 1.

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.