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.