19 October 2022

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 28 — Step Table Plus

This is the twenty-eighth 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.

For all the elegance and utility of the Step table, it's not the easiest to become fluent with because this means memorizing how Steps translate to dice types and the pattern. This is also based on the edition for the exact version of the table:
  • 1E, 2E, and Classic have a 22 Step pattern (it's like an 11 Step pattern alterrnating D20 and D10+D8 — which is still 22 Steps), which isn't very helpful in terms of what a repeating pattern brings to the table
  • 3E has a seven Step pattern based around the D12 — every multiple of 7 adds another D12
  • 4E has an eleven Step pattern based around the D20 which starts at Step 19 when the first D20 is introduced
There are arguable advantages for each — do you have access to nearly limitless D12s in your area? Do prefer only needing two full sets of dice? Are you super into looking at charts? — but this is and attempt to create a Step table that addresses a few concerns, though not without sacrifices.

The first point is to include the D20 because I detest fistfulls of D12s (I depleted all loose D12s in my area for a period of time because of an Everlasting game I was running at the time). Also, that table already exists, nothing to innovate on there. A complaint about the D20 is the variability and our selective memory bias where we only recall it rolling poorly, thus it always behaves that way. It doesn't. If you think that, you're objectively wrong. Human, but wrong. Which is also human. We'll get back to this.

The next part is an easy to remember pattern. Base 10 patterns are the easiest for us to remember. However, a D20 is Step 11. Which presents a problem. The current (4E) Step table delays implementation of the D20 until there are three dice to help alleviate the distribution of results issues from Step 14 in the 1E table (D20+D4) when it's first introduced. These specific issues are the high variance of results compared to previous Steps due to the mismatched dice sizes. Adding a third die to the Step minimizes this variance and provides a more normal distribution of results.

To have these shifts at multiples of 10 to make remembering them easier, this means shifting when the D20 is introduced from Step 19 to Step 20 and treating the D20 as Step 10. This is the sacrifice as the expected result once a D20 is introduced increases by 1 over the Step number. The mathematical elegance dies a little at the altar of accessibility. What some may see as a side benefit is this means there's an inherent benefit to getting access to a D20 and accepting the increased variance it brings (which is both good and bad) as opposed to incorrectly viewing it as only a net negative because of bias.

The actual effect of providing a slight benefit from modifying the D20 to be treated as Step 10 is likely minimal. However, minimal isn't none. Also, this modification benefits players as much as their opposition, so it's essentially a net neutral change in those terms and only affects games which regularly see Step 20+; these are typically reserved for damage Steps or high Circle games.

With that preamble, here is the Step Table Plus:
  1. D4-2
  2. D4-1
  3. D4
  4. D6
  5. D8
  6. D10
  7. D12
  8. 2D6
  9. D8+D6
  10. 2D8
  11. D10+D8
  12. 2D10
  13. D12+D10
  14. 2D12
  15. D12+2D6
  16. D12+D8+D6
  17. D12+2D8
  18. D12+D10+D8
  19. D12+2D10
  20. D20+2D8
  21. D20+D10+D8
  22. D20+2D10
  23. D20+D12+D10
  24. D20+2D12
  25. D20+D12+2D6
  26. D20+D12+D8+D6
  27. D20+D12+2D8
  28. D20+D12+D10+D8
  29. D20+D12+2D10
  30. 2D20+2D8
  31. 2D20+D10+D8
  32. ...
As you can see, Step 10 through 19 represent a repeating pattern where a D20 is added at each multiple of 10 starting at Step 20. It's a relatively simple progression which only needs two full sets of dice until Step 40 when three D20s are required. While many gamers have lots of dice or are using dice roller applications, this is a little detail that's important to me to make playing more accessible to more players.

19 January 2022

Earthdawn 4E: Musing 06 — Creating Disciplines

This is the sixth Musing, 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.

Be warned, "Musings" posts feature a lot of me wandering off-topic and semi-related thoughts. There's a lot more insight on the design — how things came to be, directions I want to explore, etc. — but you have to work for it. This one is exceptionally long.

This is the second in what I plan to be a three-part series to provide thoughts and guidelines on creating player-facing material for your home games. As always, it’s your game and you can and should do as you like. This is to guide you through some of the process I go through when designing this material.


Disciplines are the foundations of characters in Earthdawn. While this is true for all class-based fantasy adventuring games, they have a special place in Earthdawn and this creates special considerations when designing them. The introduction of Paths in Earthdawn Fourth Edition reduces their burden in terms of setting heavy lifting, while also creating additional scrutiny. The goal is to discuss Discipline design considerations to help homebrewers with their efforts.

Before diving in, there’s a recurring question regarding providing tools to design a variety of things (Disciplines, knacks, Paths, spells, etc.) at home: when will they be published? The short answer is: never. Not a popular answer. However, there are good reasons for it. While those tools were available in the past and increased the perception of accessibility for homebrewing, they contributed significantly to the decreased quality of material produced while giving it the perception of balance because it followed the guidelines. No tools and guidelines are perfect. I can provide the knowledge, but not the wisdom. Which is to say, being given a tool doesn’t inform how to use it appropriately.

In contrast, if you learn how to build these things from using the numerous examples provided, the sincere hope the user earns the wisdom as they gain the knowledge. Of course, there’s no guarantee of this, but this is my good faith effort to do what I can. With this preamble, let’s get to what you’re here for.

I started the series with variants and I’m working in increasing difficulty or complexity. As discussed previously, variants involve moving talents around within a set of guidelines so it’s still recognizable as the original Discipline. This is building one from the ground up. I’ve covered this process in some detail in previous posts, but I’m going to do it with additional guidance and a title that makes it very clear what’s going on.

This process assumes you already have a clear concept of what you want and the themes. Those pieces are required before you dive into this process. Getting into the details may help clarify and refine the core elements of the Discipline, it is likely to remove many extraneous pieces as you continue to cut it down, somewhat like a carver or sculptor shaping their medium to reveal what’s within.

Creating a Discipline is deceptively simple, but has more clarity to the structure in Fourth Edition once you look at the details. There are three broad categories informally called: Combat, Specialist, and Spellcaster. There aren’t official titles, so if you have a different term, that’s fine. They’re noted primarily by their Durability at 7, 5, and 3 respectively. “Specialist” Disciplines (Durability 5) also receive a free talent and an additional Karma ability at First Circle, “Spellcaster” Disciplines (Durability 3) receive two free Standard Matrix talents outside of the talent structure — these don’t count against talent options — and one of them is upgraded to an Enhanced Matrix at Fifth Circle. “Combat” Disciplines (Durability 7) get Durability 7. Sometimes quantity is its own kind of quality.

A brief discussion regarding Specialist Disciplines. The two benefits they receive shouldn’t be specifically combat-related. A combat-adjacent free talent is okay, such as Call Missile and Danger Sense, but not directly combat talents. As well, the free talent shouldn’t be something characters are going to want to improve at each Circle. The talent is something every adept of the Discipline should have, but not something like Awareness. Some of my side-project Disciplines experimented with unique talents here; I’m not certain if that’s the right plan. But also why they’re experiments. My suggestion is to wait until you have your talent list cut down and the choice may be obvious.

The ability to improve the free talent and get the Legend Points back is a kludge and not something I’m a fan of, but it’s there. Were I to do it again, I would describe the free talent as “You gain a free rank in the talent if it’s below your Circle in the Discipline when you advance in Circle.” This removes all ambiguity and edge cases.

Why is that? I don’t like the concept of refunding Legend Points as it starts making keeping detailed bookkeeping a necessity and I like keeping copious notes, including all Legend Point expenditures. However, I don’t want to force that onto other groups. Which is very real if it’s printed in the rules — even optional ones. This is really an unnecessary layer of complexity and a conceit of mechanics rather than setting. Much like converting skills into talents. Fine if you want it at your table, but it’s not appropriate for how the two are portrayed in the setting.

The Karma ability should showcase what the Discipline is about. Importantly, in a generally non-combat way. Being perfectly honest, I don’t think all of these Karma abilities in the Player’s Guide are right. There’s definitely room for improvement in some cases, while others are perfect. I discussed this in the Discipline variants post with regard to Air Sailor v. Venturer (that last “r” is important to me). Thief is probably the biggest issue — I wanted it to show another aspect of the Discipline without just doubling down on what it already does. Without hyperbole, I think I agonized over it for weeks before accepting I wasn’t going to get anything better in time and needed to move on. Those spells weren’t going to redesign themselves.

To continue, this Karma ability may be one of the most difficult pieces to design. I know it often is for me — how do you encapsulate the Discipline in a single, short ability? Try your best and maybe get some feedback. I’m not great about that last part for personal projects, but part of the idea is to put them out there and get feedback after seeing them in play.

Another note is Combat v. Specialist Disciplines. Keep the latter in your mind even if you think the former is the right answer. Going through the talent culling process and getting to those last, most difficult cuts may change your mind about what is the right answer. In many ways, Specialist is the most interesting category to play with because of how it can come together. Combat is the easiest because there’s less work in general. Unless you’re doing a Spellcaster that doesn’t require a new spell list. Basically nothing is more work than writing spells. Seriously.

Regardless of the type of Discipline you choose, there are some considerations for all Disciplines beyond talents:
  • Artisan skills
  • Bonuses
  • Defense progression
  • Discipline abilities
  • Half-magic
  • Important attributes
  • Karma abilities
  • Karma Ritual
I’m not tackling these in alphabetical order, I just like to make lists in that order.

What kind of art is a good fit for the Discipline? This is the central question. Artisan skills should be simple and these are suggestions, not requirements in my mind. Most adepts should be picking one of these because tradition is powerful, but something else is probably fine. I’m only wary when it gets into skills I don’t think should be artisan skills, but tradition is powerful and I didn’t change it. That’s on me.

Half-magic is complicated in part because different groups have differing interpretations of how much it should be able to do. The good news is you’re just writing this for your group, so you have a much better handle on what is appropriate to include here. My perspective is this is intended to fill in the gaps for the concept of the Discipline and what talents exist. It’s not intended to wholly replace skills, but can encroach a bit. For example, it’s reasonable to think a Beastmaster can use half-magic to approximate Physician on one of their animal companions. However, this is a limited replacement. I chose to make half-magic just the character’s Circle for simplicity, but I think this was a mistake in retrospect as it does too much to make it simply better than similar skills and talents. Going back to half-Circle opens up better options without making it strictly better than skills.

Important attributes are best handled after Discipline progression. Total up the attributes required for Discipline talents and also talent options, but halve the latter. This should give a rough approximation of what attributes show up most often. Also apply a sanity check to ensure it all makes sense. It gives you a chance to assess if this spread is right for the intentions of the Discipline. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the result not quite matching the goal, but some adjustment may be appropriate depending on the distance between those two poles.

The example Karma ritual shows one way the Discipline connects with their magic. It should be fairly iconic and ideally something that can be accomplished in any setting. Some of us recall the old arguments over the example Air Sailor Karma ritual. Not everyone believes these are examples. Since this Discipline is ostensibly for your game, it’s not something to necessarily agonize over. The further you intend for it to travel from your group, the more many of these concerns come to the fore about how other people will interpret what’s written here.

Now we get into the engine room of Discipline design.

There are two different options for Defense progression, the balanced and standard progressions. Most Disciplines use the standard progression, but currently two use a balanced progression (Gauntlet and Swordmaster) to show how they’re balanced between two aspects. This can give more nuance to characters and how they’re presented. Or it could just be looked over and mostly ignored.

Standard progression assigns each Defense (Physical, Mystic, and Social) a priority from 1 to 3. While a balanced progression has the total benefits from priorities 1 and 2 equal, but one receives the bonuses first. Below are when Defense increases are received for each progression.

Standard Progression:
  • Second Circle: Defense [1] +1
  • Fourth Circle: Defense [2] +1
  • Sixth Circle: Defense [1] +2
  • Eighth Circle: Defense [1] +3
  • Tenth Circle: Defense [2] +2
  • Eleventh Circle: Defense [3] +1
  • Twelfth Circle: Defense [1] +4
  • Thirteenth Circle: Defense [2] +3
  • Fourteenth Circle: Defense [1] +5
  • Fifthteenth Circle: Defense [3] +2
Balanced Progression:
  • Second Circle: Defense [1] +1
  • Fourth Circle: Defense [2] +1
  • Sixth Circle: Defense [1] +2
  • Eighth Circle: Defense [2] +2
  • Tenth Circle: Defense [1] +3
  • Eleventh Circle: Defense [3] +1
  • Twelfth Circle: Defense [2] +3
  • Thirteenth Circle: Defense [1] +4
  • Fourteenth Circle: Defense [2] +4
  • Fifthteenth Circle: Defense [3] +2
Assigning bonuses is a similar process to Defenses in that you give each of the potential bonuses (Initiative, Mystic Armor, and Recovery Tests) a priority from 1 to 3. I don’t recall making a Discipline with a balanced progression, but it isn’t complicated to do so. A hypothetical balanced progression still needs priorities to give the overall order, but the final bonus is +2 for each. Below are when bonus increases are received for each progression.

Standard Progression:
  • Seventh Circle: Bonus [1] +1
  • Tenth Circle: Bonus [2] +1
  • Twelfth Circle: Bonus [1] +2
  • Thirteenth Circle: Bonus [3] +1
  • Fourteenth Circle: Bonus [2] +2
  • Fifteenth Circle: Bonus [1] +3

Balanced Progression:

  • Seventh Circle: Bonus [1] +1
  • Tenth Circle: Bonus [2] +1
  • Twelfth Circle: Bonus [3] +1
  • Thirteenth Circle: Bonus [1] +2
  • Fourteenth Circle: Bonus [2] +2
  • Fifteenth Circle: Bonus [3] +2
Next are Karma abilities. These are generally straightforward at lower Circles, but can become increasingly complicated at higher Circles. This is because the lower Circle abilities are providing basic competencies up through Ninth Circle. After that, it’s more about refining the concept of the Discipline and what it’s about. Here’s a list of the “basic” Karma abilities:
  • Initiative tests
  • Interaction tests
  • Recovery tests — every Discipline eventually gets this ability at Ninth Circle if they didn’t receive it previously.
Karma abilities are gained at the following progression with any special notes for the particular Circle. The Specialist Karma ability was discussed ad nauseum previously and won’t be covered here.
  • Third Circle
  • Fifth Circle: This ability should be core to how the Discipline functions and is often combat-related.
    • A damage ability with some requirement is very common here. Don’t worry about absolute parity, the goal is to capture the flavor of the Discipline, not make it better. See the various damage abilities across the Disciplines.
    • It enhances spellcasting in some fashion for Spellcasters, but be wary of making it too combat-specific for them since that’s not their specialty. This should be applicable to non-combat situations as well. Because of that versatility, it should have less absolute power for spellcasters.
  • Ninth Circle: If the Disciplines doesn’t have it already, this should be for Recovery tests.
  • Eleventh Circle: Generally a more specific ability that is more niche and gives the ability to spend Karma on something new, but carries a requirement appropriate to the Discipline. It explores a constant theme, but perhaps one that isn’t as front-and-center as other themes.
  • Thirteenth Circle: This is only +1 Karma Step, but every Discipline gets it.
The last thing before we get to talents are Discipline abilities. These are gained at each new tier (Fifth, Ninth, and Thirteenth Circles) and should be unique to each Discipline. In one instance, Sky Raider Journeyman, it explicitly doesn’t need to be unique since they gain an additional benefit if they gain that ability again. As expected, they increase in power at each tier and build on the primary themes of the Discipline. Being perfectly honest, these can be very difficult to get just right. Like many things, I would do some of them differently if I could go back and do them again with what I know now. I tried to create general patterns in the benefits provided at each tier to give homebrewers a place to start and an outline for their creations.

Now we’re at the main event in terms of what you need to do: talents. These are the core of a Discipline and define what they do in the most explicit way. Their structure is clear and consistent: five Discipline talents at First Circle and one Discipline talent each following Circle. There are 2n+2 talent options at each tier where n is the number of Circles in the tier. This means 10 talent options at Novice, Journeyman, and Warden, and 8 at Master. The number of talent options at each tier isn’t arbitrary, but the math getting you there is a little.

I picked these numbers because they provide strict limitations and I feel those limitations give rise to better character and definition. It requires thinking carefully about what should belong and making difficult choices. Adding even two more talent options per tier changes how the various Disciplines feel. There are a few innovations I would include — some I wanted at the time and others I designed later — such as creating the category of “weapon talents” as a single option to open up some of the Combat and Specialist Disciplines a bit more, rather than just having so many options taken up with weapon talents. This wouldn’t be true for all Disciplines, as some should have their weapon options limited for various reasons.

Ideally, talent options should provide two or three different directions for a Discipline to be developed outside of its primary focus. An extremely focused Discipline like Warrior defines how it enacts violence as the “different direction.” This is really an exception rather than the rule.

When looking at which talents to include, be careful of making it just a “greatest hits” collection. Which is, don’t just load up a Discipline with all the most powerful talents, taking what is perceived as the “best” in each category. Including Air Dance when there’s no air elemental theme to be seen. This was a very common issue with the Discipline design guidelines from the days of yore and a big reason never to include “official” instructions on how to do it. As I mentioned before, it gives a false sense of competency. I don’t have to look far into the Earthdawn Journal before I wince. That’s not a judgment on people who played and enjoyed them, but every time I hear a comparison of the Gauntlet to the Mystic Warrior, I frown deeply.

A particular note: Everyone gets Second Chance as a Master talent option. It’s never a Discipline talent, always an option.

Talents are informally restricted to various tiers and usually shouldn’t show up before one of the existing Disciplines gains access to it. For example, Air Dance shouldn’t be showing up before Third Circle, when Warriors get access to it. In fact, it really shouldn’t be showing up before Journeyman. Other talents are somewhat unique to their Discipline. For example, don’t spread Claw Frenzy anywhere else. It was a mistake.

Something I can’t teach well, but only note is to consider how talents interact with each other and the themes of the Discipline. If the Discipline isn’t intended to go early and doesn’t receive an Initiative improving talent, they may not get anything out of Acrobatic Defense and Anticipate Blow. Maneuver can still provide some value between the Attack bonus and knacks, but be prepared for people endlessly talking about it. These considerations are a lot more important if you start delving into the realm of custom talents and knacks. Evaluating potential interactions is important when establishing limitations to how the talent functions.

With all this done, let’s do an example. This isn’t going to be a “real” Discipline I’m posting, this is just an example of how to put everything into practice.


I’m going to make the Sentinel Discipline. The premise is a Combat Discipline who focuses on using a body shield to protect themselves and their allies. They’re going to need some detection abilities to spot trouble and social talents to comport themselves when duty requires. I see them having earth, fire, and wood as potential elemental themes, but I’m not committed to this yet.

This concept could easily work as a Path, a society dedicated to protecting people and/or causes. The details on how it functions needs to be worked out, but that’s something for another week.

Artisan Skills

Going through my list, what kind of art is important to them? I feel rune carving on the face of their shield could be relevant and I also like the idea of tattoos as an expression of their service. Half-magic is difficult here and I don’t have a solid idea of everything these adepts are about, so I’m going to revisit the rest of this later.

Defense and Bonus Progression

Next, Defense progression. This Discipline is using the standard progression with Physical (1), Mystic (2), and Social (3). Their bonus progression is Recovery Tests (1), Mystic Armor (2), and Initiative (3). While I may want social abilities for them, they aren’t as likely to be lethal if they land compared to Physical or Mystic attacks.


Now I’m going to make a list of all the talents which I think could apply and arrange them by tier. This gives me an idea of the cuts I need to make. Remembering the number of talents you need to choose per tier: Novice (18), Journeyman (14), Warden (14), and Master (11).

  1. Acrobatic Defense
  2. Air Speaking
  3. Anticipate Blow
  4. Avoid Blow
  5. Awareness
  6. Battle Shout
  7. Conversation
  8. Danger Sense
  9. Distract
  10. Empathic Sense
  11. Etiquette
  12. Fireblood
  13. First Impression
  14. Guardian’s Service
  15. Heartening Laugh
  16. Maneuver
  17. Melee Weapons
  18. Mystic Pursuit
  19. Shield Bash
  20. Speak Language
  21. Steel Thought
  22. Tactics
  23. Thread Weaving
  24. Tiger Spring
  25. Unarmed Combat
  26. Wood Skin
  27. Wound Balance
  1. Astral Sight — This is generally a Journeyman talent for non-Spellcasting Disciplines.
  2. Battle Bellow
  3. Blood Share
  4. Cold Purify
  5. Crushing Blow
  6. Disarm
  7. Earth Skin
  8. Fire Heal — I prefer to keep this as a Journeyman talent unless exceptionally appropriate. It also falls in the “greatest hits” category.
  9. Graceful Exit
  10. Inspire Others
  11. Iron Constitution
  12. Lasting Impression
  13. Leadership
  14. Life Check
  15. Lifesight
  16. Lion Heart
  17. Momentum Attack
  18. Power Mask
  19. Resist Taunt
  20. Second Attack
  21. Spot Armor Flaw
  22. Steely Stare
  23. Temper Flesh
  1. Burning Vigor
  2. Champion Challenge
  3. Chilling Strike
  4. Critical Hit
  5. Defensive Posture
  6. Eagle Eye
  7. Echolocation
  8. Ethereal Weapon
  9. Lion Spirit
  10. Rally
  11. Relentless Recovery
  12. Resist Pain
  13. Safe Thought
  14. Spirit Strike
  15. Storm Shield
  16. Thought Link
  17. Unflinching Fortitude
  18. Vine Armor
  19. Vital Strike
  1. Aura Armor
  2. Multi-Strike
  3. Second Chance
  4. Soul Aegis
  5. Stone Skin
  6. Vicious Wound
  7. Vital Ward
That’s way too many talents! Which is typically how this goes. Now comes the process of pruning the talents that don’t fit. Master tier is the only one with less than its allotment of talents (11). This is also typical and a lot of talents from Warden get pushed up to Master.

Let’s start with Novice and make some easy cuts:
  • Acrobatic Defense — A defensive talent, but not a good fit for the general concept.
  • Air Speaking — I like the idea of giving them secure communication, but this doesn’t feel like the right fit.
  • Battle Shout — Applying penalties is great, but this feels too overtly aggressive for a primarily defensive Discipline.
  • First Impression — There are other social talents more appropriate for a steady character like this.
Moving to easy cuts for Journeyman:
  • Battle Bellow — Same fate as Battle Shout even as it has group support built in, which I like.
  • Cold Purify — The battlefield medic role isn’t inappropriate, but cuts are necessary and this is an easy one.
  • Inspire Others — I like to limit access to this talent and I think this Discipline has other things to do.
  • Lasting Impression — Social, but it fits best for Disciplines with a traveling feel to them.
  • Leadership — This Discipline probably isn’t going to be the type to command soldiers.
  • Power Mask — It’s a fun idea to slip under the radar, but cuts are needed and this isn’t a great fit.
Here’s Warden’s easy cuts:
  • Chilling Strike — Not the right fit.
  • Critical Hit — Too much focus on offense.
  • Ethereal Weapon — I don’t see the mystic themes enough to support this, nor the focus on using a weapon.
  • Spirit Strike — Same as Ethereal Weapon.
  • Vital Strike — They need their Recovery Tests for healing if they’re going to protect their allies as intended.
Finally Master:
  • Multi-Strike — I don’t think they need this particularly.
  • Vicious Wound — Not a great fit.
Where does this leave us now?

  1. Anticipate Blow
  2. Avoid Blow
  3. Awareness
  4. Conversation
  5. Danger Sense
  6. Distract
  7. Empathic Sense
  8. Etiquette
  9. Fireblood
  10. Guardian’s Service
  11. Heartening Laugh
  12. Maneuver
  13. Melee Weapons
  14. Mystic Pursuit
  15. Shield Bash
  16. Speak Language
  17. Steel Thought
  18. Tactics
  19. Thread Weaving
  20. Tiger Spring
  21. Unarmed Combat
  22. Wood Skin
  23. Wound Balance
  1. Astral Sight
  2. Blood Share
  3. Crushing Blow
  4. Disarm
  5. Earth Skin
  6. Fire Heal
  7. Graceful Exit
  8. Iron Constitution
  9. Life Check
  10. Lifesight
  11. Lion Heart
  12. Momentum Attack
  13. Resist Taunt
  14. Second Attack
  15. Spot Armor Flaw
  16. Steely Stare
  17. Temper Flesh
  1. Burning Vigor
  2. Champion Challenge
  3. Defensive Posture
  4. Eagle Eye
  5. Echolocation
  6. Lion Spirit
  7. Rally
  8. Relentless Recovery
  9. Resist Pain
  10. Safe Thought
  11. Storm Shield
  12. Thought Link
  13. Unflinching Fortitude
  14. Vine Armor
  1. Aura Armor
  2. Second Chance
  3. Soul Aegis
  4. Stone Skin
  5. Vital Ward
We’re looking good at Warden and Master, but Novice and Journeyman still have too many. Again, very normal and why many lower tier talents get pushed up — they’re a good fit as a whole, but there are better fits earlier. Also, there are at least two more talents that need to be cut since the total is two over. And I want to create at least one new talent for them — they should have some Master capstone since I cut Multi-Strike and the remaining talents don’t feel significant enough — which is at least three talents to cut.

Let’s look at moving some of the Warden talents to Master, since it needs more to be filled out and inevitably things will be pushed to Warden.
  • Champion Challenge — I solid thematic fit, but perhaps something they’re better suited for later.
  • Eagle Eye — Perception at a distance is less conceptually important for this Discipline and could be cut overall.
  • Echolocation — A better fit than Eagle Eye on the whole, so it’s unlikely to be cut, but it could be pushed back.
  • Safe Thought — Another good, thematic talent around protection, but could be available later due to the lack of a mental or mystic theme.
  • Thought Link — It’s a difficult move, but this is in a similar situation to Safe Thought and can be moved to Master.
This cleared up space in Warden for Journeyman moves; though cuts still need to be made.
  • Astral Sight — I like it, but I’m kicking it back further. It may end up cut entirely, but not yet.
  • Crushing Blow — This could be moved, but I’m going to sit on it here for now.
  • Disarm — This is getting cut. It’s a decent fit and made it through the first round, but this Discipline doesn’t have the right feel for it.
  • Lifesight — An appropriate talent, but it could be pushed back to make space.
  • Momentum Attack — Another good candidate to be moved back a tier.
  • Resist Taunt — Appropriate for the Discipline, but a better fit for Warden.
Now onto Novice:
  • Empathic Sense — Generally better as a Journeyman talent anyway.
  • Maneuver — This is probably going to the chopping block at the end of the day.
  • Mystic Pursuit — Better suited for Journeyman here.
  • Speak Language — Cut.
  • Steel Thought — More appropriate at Journeyman.
  • Tactics — Another good candidate to be pushed back a tier.
Let’s evaluate how things look now:

  1. Anticipate Blow
  2. Avoid Blow
  3. Awareness
  4. Conversation
  5. Danger Sense
  6. Distract
  7. Etiquette
  8. Fireblood
  9. Guardian’s Service
  10. Heartening Laugh
  11. Maneuver
  12. Melee Weapons
  13. Shield Bash
  14. Thread Weaving
  15. Tiger Spring
  16. Unarmed Combat
  17. Wood Skin
  18. Wound Balance
  1. Blood Share
  2. Crushing Blow
  3. Earth Skin
  4. Empathic Sense
  5. Fire Heal
  6. Graceful Exit
  7. Iron Constitution
  8. Life Check
  9. Lion Heart
  10. Mystic Pursuit
  11. Second Attack
  12. Spot Armor Flaw
  13. Steel Thought
  14. Steely Stare
  15. Tactics
  16. Temper Flesh
  1. Astral Sight
  2. Burning Vigor
  3. Defensive Posture
  4. Lifesight
  5. Lion Spirit
  6. Momentum Attack
  7. Rally
  8. Relentless Recovery
  9. Resist Pain
  10. Resist Taunt
  11. Storm Shield
  12. Unflinching Fortitude
  13. Vine Armor
  1. <<Capstone>>
  2. Aura Armor
  3. Champion Challenge
  4. Eagle Eye
  5. Echolocation
  6. Safe Thought
  7. Second Chance
  8. Soul Aegis
  9. Stone Skin
  10. Thought Link
  11. Vital Ward
Things are looking pretty good. Warden needs another talent and Journeyman has too many. This Discipline is going to be shield-focused and likely wear some heavy armor. Which means low Initiative — and I put the Initiative bonus at priority 3. However, they really need to have at least a decent Initiative to do their thing. To that end, I want to give them a Journeyman Initiative replacement, but those currently in existence don’t fit. Which means a custom talent and I need to cull three talents from Journeyman.

  • Crushing Blow — You’re getting moved to Warden to emphasize this isn’t a damage dealing Discipline.
  • Graceful Exit — Not an easy cut, but we’re beyond easy cuts. This Discipline is less about running away and more about a last stand allowing their allies to escape.
  • Mystic Pursuit — Like other mystic talents, this one simply doesn’t fit when push comes to shove.
This closes out our talents. Next step is assigning Discipline talents. Before that, an aside about Discipline talents and the talent “tree” structure.

There’s a decent chance you’ve read this from me before, or read parts of it. We’ve seen three different, official methods for Discipline advancement. First and Second Edition had a tree where two or three talents were available at each Circle (except First) and you had to pick one. Classic used this as the default and introduced the talent option system as an optional rule. Third and Fourth Editions use the talent options system with “Using All Talents to Advance” as an optional rule, which retrofits the advancement table for First Edition onto the talent option system. This is likely the most popular system in Fourth Edition, but it creates some weird results.

Ultimately, I think all three of these options are various degrees of not great for different reasons. The 1E system creates the illusion of choice from beginning to end, and some of the choices are terrible. A random example: Sixth Circle, do you want Disguise or Missile Weapons? You have to take one. Next Circle (Seventh) is Detect Weapon and/or Throwing Weapons. Did it get mentioned Throwing Weapons is a Discipline talent that shows up so very late? This scheme is awful and I do not understand the logic behind how it’s arranged. However, it does have choices. Not necessarily good ones, but it does have them.

The talent option system of 3E and 4E has required talents, which may rub some players the wrong way. I put a lot of effort into the Discipline talents of 4E to ensure they’re good choices and should fit the Discipline regardless of the direction. However, nothing is perfect. Using All Talents to Advance largely fixes this, but can also produce characters who don’t really look like their Discipline, but are the product of using the Discipline to create some specific build. It also means some talents are unintentionally gated because they’re Discipline talents from a higher Circle. So a less appropriate talent is available earlier because of the Discipline talent structure. Some talents are deliberately gated because of intentional advancement, but this system doesn’t discriminate between them.

Which brings us to the hybrid, “alternate advancement” system I proposed as an alternate rule. I like it because it takes the best of all worlds, providing a structure that requires talents core to the concept of the Discipline, while giving considerable freedom in what talents the character takes as Discipline talents to advance. It allows for deliberate gating, but removes unintentional gating. Since talents chosen for Discipline talents (rather than those required) have to be a new talent, it also reduces the ease of multiple Disciplines. I’m not actively discouraging the practice, but I think it should be a little more difficult and encourage more breadth rather than allowing characters to really focus. This has the knock-on effect of making Versatility more useful as a low-cost option for doing the same thing. Assuming you’re just after some talents.

There are other changes I want to the structure, but these are deeper cuts and really require a new edition to implement. The end result would be toward more clarity of “Discipline identity,” but also more freedom to explore within those boundaries.

With that exceptionally long digression out of the way, let’s proceed. I’m going to collect the most appropriate talents from each tier, then divide them up by Circle.

Novice [8]:
  1. Anticipate Blow
  2. Avoid Blow
  3. Awareness
  4. Danger Sense
  5. Guardian’s Service
  6. Melee Weapons
  7. Thread Weaving
  8. Wound Balance
Shield Bash and Tiger Spring are also good choices here, but the above are better and there are only eight spots.

Journeyman [4]:
  1. <<Custom Talent>>
  2. Life Check
  3. Second Attack
  4. Temper Flesh
There are plenty of good choices here and Second Attack isn’t the most appropriate. However, it needs to be gated, so it appears on the list. Steel Thought might be better than Temper Flesh, but I wanted Steel Thought to be available early and Temper Flesh to be gated slightly. This is betraying the weaknesses inherent in the system.

Warden [4]:
  1. Defensive Posture
  2. Rally
  3. Relentless Recovery
  4. Unflinching Fortitude
The focus for many Disciplines at Warden are more generic options since so many of the talents build on earlier talents. For example, Storm Shield and Vine Armor require Wood Skin and Shield Bash respectively. However, there’s no guarantee an adept took either of those, so they cannot be Discipline talents. This causes the curious effect where a Discipline with one as a Discipline talent (e.g. Warrior and Vine Armor) learns it at a later point and with Using All Talents to Advance, it means they can even use that talent to advance. Effectively making it a Discipline talent.

Master [3]:
  1. <<Capstone>>
  2. Aura Armor
  3. Soul Aegis
Next is assigning these to discrete Circles. The first concern is deliberate gating which can be for power reasons (e.g. Second Attack) or to keep access more on par with established Disciplines. With talent options, this doesn’t always work out. After that, I prefer to alternate talent types as appropriate to give a little variety in advancement. Along with this comes a sense of building complexity and competency. Lead characters through what it means to be an adept of the Discipline and put the complexity at an incline and avoid frontloading it.

First Circle Discipline Talents: Avoid Blow, Awareness, Danger Sense, Melee Weapons, Thread Weaving (Sentinel Weaving)
Second Circle Discipline Talent: Anticipate Blow
Third Circle Discipline Talent: Wound Balance
Fourth Circle Discipline Talent: Guardian’s Service

Fifth Circle Discipline Talent: <<Custom talent>>
Sixth Circle Discipline Talent: Temper Flesh
Seventh Circle Discipline Talent: Life Check
Eighth Circle Discipline Talent: Second Attack

Ninth Circle Discipline Talent: Defensive Posture
Tenth Circle Discipline Talent: Rally
Elevent Circle Discipline Talent: Unflinching Fortitude
Twelfth Circle Discipline Talent: Relentless Recovery

Thirteenth Circle Discipline Talent: Aura Armor
Fourteenth Circle Discipline Talent: Soul Aegis
Fifteenth Circle Discipline Talent: <<Capstone>>

There’s two talents to write and three Discipline abilities to create. I’m not going to do all of this and create a finished Discipline because this is only intended as a demonstration and otherwise people would try to use it. Which really isn’t what I’m going for here.

The first talent is an Initiative replacement talent to enable Anticipate Blow, but I want it to be defensive in nature. Here’s a first draft:

Protector’s Reflexes
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Free
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Defensive. Exclusive. Karma. Replacement.
The adept is preternaturally aware of the unfolding conflict and uses that knowledge to evade rather than press the attack. This calmness and mental state allows them to overcome hindrances when properly harnessed. The adept substitutes their Protector’s Reflexes Step for their Dexterity Step when making their Initiative test, suffering penalties as normal, as well as applying any other bonuses to Initiative (e.g. Discipline bonuses). This result is compared against Difficulty 10 and the adept gains +1 Physical Defense per success until the end of the round against opponents with a lower Initiative.

If the adept is in the Defensive Stance, they don’t suffer Initiative penalties from their armor or shield. Successes on Initiative can only be spent on the talent and its knacks.

This builds on the idea of being a defense-oriented Discipline, using heavy armor and a shield, while also going fast to control or react to the battlefield more readily. Testing is required to know if the effects are too good, or not good enough.

Important Attributes

At this point, let’s go back and figure out the important attributes. Below is an occurrence count for each attribute in the Discipline talents:
  • Dexterity: 6
  • Strength: 1
  • Toughness: 2
  • Perception: 3
  • Willpower: 3
  • Charisma: 1
Here is a similar count for talent options:
  • Dexterity: 4
  • Strength: 3
  • Toughness: 5
  • Perception: 6
  • Willpower: 5
  • Charisma: 8
We don’t know the capstone talent — and we won’t — so this will have to be good enough. Applying the math I suggested earlier gets us this:
  • Dexterity: 8 (6+2)
  • Strength: 2.5 (1+1.5)
  • Toughness: 4.5 (2+2.5)
  • Perception: 6 (3+3)
  • Willpower: 5.5 (3+2.5)
  • Charisma: 5 (1+4)
This is a fairly balanced distribution, which is good and means a variety of different approaches and Namegivers can be successful. While the talent options change things, they don’t change the frontrunners from the Discipline talent count, which is good. The important attributes are: Dexterity, Perception, and Willpower.

Discipline Ability

Next, I’m going to put together a draft of a potential Journeyman Discipline ability.

Sentinel Stance: As a Free action for 1 Strain, the adept may adopt the Sentinel Stance — a variation of the Defensive Stance. Sentinel Stance appears different for each adept based on their training and personality, but always appears purely defensive. Perhaps the adept moves loosely as though flowing with water, or takes a rigid position and appears forged from steel. They make a Sentinel Weaving (10) Action test. Each success reduces the penalties from Defensive Stance by 1 until the end of the round. This ability must be used when Defensive Stance is announced.

This ability further develops the idea Sentinels spend their time in Defensive Stance, working with their custom talent. The ability gets better over time, roughly reducing the penalty by 1 each tier. Or the adept can spend Karma to get a little more out of it. It could be too powerful, but that requires actual testing rather than white room guessing to figure out.

I’m leaving the capstone talent and other two Discipline abilities unwritten for the aforementioned reasons of having this be deliberately incomplete. Also, it’s very long.

Karma Abilities

With things coming together, I’m going to do a first draft on Karma abilities. These can see a lot of revision to get them just right. Given how different this Discipline is, this could be difficult.

Third Circle Karma Ability: Recovery tests
Fifth Circle Karma Ability: Once per round, any test when in Defensive Stance
Ninth Circle Karma Ability: Once per round, any test when adjacent to an ally in combat
Eleventh Circle Karma Ability: Once per round, any test performed by an adjacent ally

This list clearly shows what they’re about, but it’s also fairly limited and the back half requires them to be around their allies. Which doesn’t support the concept of them standing alone against the tide. It’s a decent place to start, but it needs more work. One option is to build out how many times they can spend while in the Defensive Stance. This furthers that angle, but it’s not terribly interesting and doesn’t say anything new about them.

Karma Ritual

A difficulty here is this Discipline isn’t action based. It’s defensive and reactive. Which means there isn’t as natural a way to close out the Karma ritual as other Disciplines. However, there are numerous ways to approach this.

The adept stands stoically, feeling their feet planted to the ground. They hear, see, and smell everything around them. Their senses extend through their feet into the ground so they can feel everything around them. Each movement is tracked as a potential threat and the adept assesses them, slowly working through the area. Once they are completely aware of their surroundings and all potential threats after 30 minutes, the ritual is complete and this supernal awareness leaves with it.


Finally coming back to half-magic, I have a better idea of what this Discipline is about.

Sentinels use half-magic when caring for and repairing their weapons and armor, and knowledge of various military, mercenary, and bandit companies. They also use half-magic to perform basic first aid, such as staunching bleeding. This doesn’t heal damage, but prevents things from getting worse.

Hopefully this gives a better understanding of the various processes and thoughts that go into designing a new Discipline. If it doesn't, I'm at a loss as to what will.

12 January 2022

Earthdawn 4E: Musing 05 — Creating Discipline Variants

This is the fifth Musing, 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.

Be warned, "Musings" posts feature a lot of me wandering off-topic and semi-related thoughts. There's a lot more insight on the design — how things came to be, directions I want to explore, etc. — but you have to work for it.

This is the first in what I plan to be a three-part series to provide thoughts and guidelines on creating player-facing material for your home games. As always, it’s your game and you can and should do as you like. This is to guide you through some of the process I go through when designing this material.

Discipline Variants

I introduced this concept in The Adept’s Journey: Mystic Paths with Boatman, turning them from what was a semi-racial Discipline into an Air Sailor variant. There’s a few reasons behind this decision. The first is eliminating racial Disciplines. Quite frankly, I dislike them immensely and they perpetuate the idea everything needs a Discipline. Whatever the concept is, the answer is a new Discipline.

Part of it is also I don’t like locking some concepts behind “race,” which begets this weird racial essentialism. And humans can still learn the talents unless the special text “this talent cannot be learned through Versatility” which was rife in Cathay. As the designer, I get it. However, it’s also a cop out without a reason for it to be limited in this fashion. These are problems which can be solved within the context of the setting and it makes perfect sense. It also feels much less like Versatility is being singled out for reasons.

Leaving that Paths-related digression, introducing a new Discipline is a big deal to me in the context of the official material. My personal work is a different story and very much me conducting experiments and research intended to eventually come back to official material in some way. It’s a big deal because I’m committed to supporting that Discipline throughout the run of 4E. If we revisit an Adept’s Way-style book, it will have all 17 Disciplines represented within. It doesn’t take long for this commitment to be cumbersome, but I don’t want to leave someone who is playing a new Discipline in the cold when it comes to new material. This is also why I have no interest in regional Disciplines when venturing throughout the Empire.

Which brings us back to Discipline variants, which are represented in different regions as the way that Discipline is practiced in the area. The core concepts of Air Sailor are still applicable when on a riverboat — it’s about being on a boat and traveling with your fellow crew. Some of the details need to change to adapt to the new theme, but it’s still quite recognizable. Soon to be introduced in Vasgothia, Marauder is a Sky Raider variant which is true to core concepts of aggression, strength, and power. It just trades the skies for the Deep Forest or Caralkspur Mountains.

What’s key here is the variant is still thematically linked to the original Discipline. In the cases of Air Sailor and Sky Raider, I think of them as core Discipline concepts with Air Sailor and Sky Raider as two expressions. This is because most Disciplines represent fairly big tent concepts with a lot of space underneath. Those two are quite specific — but bring a lot of flavor with that specificity. It just gives more opportunities for variants.

Looking at other Disciplines for variants is more complicated because of how broad they are already. This concept immediately brings Discipline specializations from previous editions to mind, but there’s some deliberate reasons I specifically didn’t use that terminology. The biggest is they aren’t the same and I want to put space between those easy comparisons with what they’re called. These shouldn’t be a more specialized version of an existing Discipline. The talent option structure in Fourth Edition along with the Using All Talents to Advance optional rule basically do everything specializations did. A big part of them was switching out the Discipline talents which changed what you could spend Karma on. This is no longer a concern. I also redesigned the talent structure with the original specializations in mind found in The Adept’s Way to account for the different directions, making them accessible out of the box. I didn’t pay the same favor to the specializations found in Kratas: City of Thieves because they’re silly at best. Far too many are just dumb, to put it kindly.

To summarize where we’re at right now, Discipline variants should have the same core theme of the original Discipline, but some crucial difference that makes the original Discipline not work correctly. This shouldn’t be a case of just talent access based on what already exists, there should be a fundamental inability. The Karma abilities and Discipline abilities should stay the same. A name change or slight modification to fit better are fine, but getting into wholesale changes means you’re looking more into a homebrew Discipline or Path. Changing those is a fundamentally different Discipline in this scheme.

If Using All Talents to Advance isn’t being used and someone wants to switch things around in a way that would be otherwise possible with the optional rule (i.e. they’re not trying to get higher Circle or tier talents earlier), work with them to make an easy variant that makes sense with their description of it.

You can point to my recent Air Sailor variant, Venturer, as an example where I changed their First Circle Karma ability as an example of how I broke this rule. There’s two reasons for that. One, there was no way to turn it into an equivalent of being on a boat. Two, I like it a lot more than the Air Sailor Karma ability and would retroactively change it to be the Venturer ability if I could. It’s a better fit for what the Discipline is about once you remove the air sailing trappings and look at how it functions. It makes it less of a vocation and more thematic, representing their role within the group. Also, it removes that weird situation that bothered me when I first looked at it and thought, “Why are Air Sailors on their airship the best alchemists?” But it wasn’t worth worrying about and I didn’t have a better answer at the time.

Half-magic, the example Karma ritual, and suggested artisan skills should absolutely change to reflect the variant. These three are expressions of what it’s about and the half-magic shouldn’t be exactly the same. Similar — probably. But not exactly the same. Since the Karma ritual is only an example, I always encourage writing new examples, particularly when how the variant relates to their Discipline changes. Also to discourage people who see these not as example Karma rituals, but as the set-in-stone Karma ritual, just like the essays presented in The Adept’s Way are the only interpretations of a given Discipline. These are example perspectives and anyone who says otherwise is objectively wrong. The two types of Thief presented are just the two types according to that Thief.

When I talk about themes for a Discipline, I typically mean not only what they do, but how they do it. This is to make them more than just the most efficient collection of abilities to do what they’re about. It gives a crucial feel to how they do things and holes in what they can do. While this is mostly relevant to designing a Discipline, it’s relevant here because there might be some alterations to those themes. For example, Boatman loses access to Air Dance because they don’t have an air theme anymore, being replaced by a water theme (which Air Sailors lack). Sailors arguably have both air and water themes, but I played more into the air theme because without it, they’re dead in the water. Which is merely the medium on which they operate.

With that, let’s look at designing an example variant to showcase how this works. A Warrior variant for people who want to play a more social, leader-oriented Warrior in favor of a dedicated combatant. I’m specifically picking this because it’s not something I want to formally put out there — this can largely be achieved through talent options — but something someone might want and it is actively less combat-oriented than the typical Warrior. Which is a low bar. The lowest bar.

Looking at the basics — important attributes, Karma ritual, artisan skills, and half-magic — I don’t see anything that needs to change. A formal write-up would get a different example Karma ritual that doesn’t rely on Air Dance and is focused on seeing the battle play out in their mind, then engaging in that. Everything else is perfectly fine.

Now comes the part where we start looking at the guts of the Discipline (talents) and seeing what we want to add, move, and remove. Distract and Tactics stand out from the Novice talent options as more appropriate to this variant than normal and I want an additional social option. First Impression isn’t a good fit — the theme is wrong. However, Conversation suits the more deliberative style of a Warrior. Etiquette could also stand to be earlier here. Which means cuts.

Looking at Novice talent options, Fireblood and Missile Weapons are the easiest to remove, followed by Acrobatic Defense. I’m hesitant to pull Missile Weapons since it limits their options considerably, but it’s on the table right now. Air Dance is going to be moved from Novice to Journeyman. Honestly, this should be a Journeyman tier talent and I agonized over that. Even putting it to Third Circle as it’s traditionally been available at First Circle was quite the move at the time, fearing alienating the fanbase. Waterfall Slam could follow suit, but it generally plays well as a support talent for the rest of the group to capitalize on, so that’s staying. Maybe getting moved to Journeyman tier. We’ll see.

Journeyman talent options have two easy talents to cut: Second Weapon and Swift Kick. They don’t support the concept as well as others and additions require removals. Leadership needs to be a Discipline talent and the best candidate for demotion is Temper Flesh; it’s less iconic and thematic than Earth Skin. One option is a direct replacement of Temper Flesh, making Leadership the Sixth Circle Discipline talent. The other is bumping Earth Skin to Sixth Circle and making Leadership the Fifth Circle Discipline talent. Since I want to generally reduce the number of changes, I’m doing the first. But the second clearly crossed my mind and you may have a different opinion on how to do this at your table. Which is great — you do you.

I’d like to find space for Diplomacy and Empathic Sense somewhere. Either Air Speaking or Thought Link would also be nice to fit in. Heartening Laugh, Inspire Others, and/or Resist Taunt may be good, but I don’t think I’m going to find the space for them. Also, I don’t want to make it too easy to get access to Inspire Others, as that’s limited to specific Disciplines right now. And a Warrior (even a slightly less fighty one) may have other things to do with their action.

I’m focusing on Novice and Journeyman because that’s where most of the action is with variants. How Warden and Master talent lists are put together is generally less flexible and the talents worth focusing on are at the lower tiers in terms of establishing a different feel for the Discipline.

Here’s a summary of what we’re currently looking at [with a note on lowest tier]:

  • Add:

    • Air Speaking [Novice] (?)

    • Conversation [Novice]

    • Diplomacy [Journeyman] (?)

    • Empathic Sense [Journeyman] (?)

    • Heartening Laugh [Novice] (?)

    • Inspire Others [Journeyman] (?)

    • Resist Taunt [Journeyman] (?)

    • Thought Link [Warden] (?)

  • Move:

    • Air Dance (Novice to Journeyman)

    • Distract (Novice; talent option to Discipline talent?)

    • Etiquette (Journeyman to Novice)

    • Leadership (Journeyman; talent option to Discipline talent)

    • Tactics (Novice; talent option to Discipline talent?)

    • Temper Flesh (Journeyman; Discipline talent to talent option)

  • Remove:

    • Fireblood [Novice]

    • Missile Weapons [Novice]

    • Second Weapon [Journeyman]

    • Swift Kick [Journeyman]

We identified up to seven Novice and Journeyman talents to potentially add and four to potentially remove. That sounds about right. First the easy cuts: Heartening Laugh and Inspire Others. Diplomacy can potentially be pushed to Warden if it needs to stick around at all. I prefer Air Speaking to Thought Link because it builds on the Warrior’s elemental theme. If I want Distract and Tactics as Discipline talents, I need to kick Waterfall Slam to Journeyman. I’m passing on that because Distract isn’t key to the variant concept and it’s not something every group will capitalize on or want.

Here’s how Novice is shaping up:

  • Novice Talent Options: Acrobatic Defense, Air Speaking, Anticipate Blow, Conversation, Danger Sense, Distract, Etiquette, Maneuver, Shield Bash, Unarmed Combat

  • Third Circle Discipline Talent: Tactics

Journeyman looks like this now:

  • Journeyman Talent Options: Air Dance, Diplomacy, Disarm, Empathic Sense, Life Check, Lion Heart, Momentum Attack, Spot Armor Flaw, Steely Stare, Temper Flesh

  • Sixth Circle Discipline Talent: Leadership

I want to fit Resist Taunt in there and Warden is a good place for it. A direct replacement at Warden isn’t going to work, but Vital Strike is the easiest shift here, taking it to Master. I also see Rally and want that as a Discipline talent, which means a little more shuffling. Making Unflinching Fortitude a talent option is probably the best route after weighing options.

Something to consider when shifting talents around is how this affects access to a talent. For example, I could have shifted Unflinching Fortitude and Chilling Strike back one Circle, making Vine Armor a talent option. This means Vine Armor becomes available to the variant as a talent option at Ninth Circle and if Using All Talents to Advance is in effect, it could be effectively the Discipline talent at Ninth Circle. Keep this in mind when designing variants of your own. This is also why Warden and Master tiers are trickier to work with.

At Master tier, Fluid Movement is probably the best option for Vital Strike to replace. While it does support the elemental theme, this variant has a whole new social thing going on and they only need to overcome one of Warrior’s weaknesses.

Warden now:

  • Warden Talent Options: Burning Vigor, Critical Hit, Defensive Posture, Iron Constitution, Lion Spirit, Resist Pain, Resist Taunt, Steel Thought, Storm Shield, Unflinching Fortitude

  • Tenth Circle Discipline Talent: Rally

And finally, Master:

  • Master Talent Options: Champion Challenge, Ethereal Weapon, Second Chance, Soul Aegis, Spirit Strike, Vicious Wound, Vital Strike, Vital Ward

Hopefully this provides some insight on how to make variants of your own.