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]