08 October 2019

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 05 - Patterncraft v. Spellcasting

This is the fifth Magic 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.

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