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.

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.