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]

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