24 February 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Creature 36 - Kriktikik

This is the thirty-sixth 4E Anatomy of a Creature, 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 particular peice of work has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I decided to put it to paper. Er, virtual paper. It's a highly mobile pack hunter with a variety of different disrupting options beyond just doing damage. They would (hypothetically) be even worse if there were some kind of gnarlier version within their social structure where these beasties harassed, screened, and generally pinned opponents down for the others to lay down the hammer.

But that would just be mean.

Kriktikik

Described by some windlings as the “little Scourge” of Glenwood Deep, these arachnids first appeared there sometime during the Scourge, but have since spread to forests and jungles across Barsaive and potentially further. There are many things that set them apart from other arachnids, but perhaps the most dangerous is their social organization. They get their name from the sounds like make when communicating with each other, only growing silent while waiting in ambush.

Kirktikiks are typically around four feet long with mottled exoskeletons that take on the appearance of their habitat within two to four generations, blending in well. They have eight limbs, the foremost developed grasping hydraulic claws at the end that hold prey to paralyze and consume with their mandibles and complex mouth parts. Kriktikiks’ bodies are long and flexible with an orifice at the end capable of producing both venom and webbing as needed. It can point in nearly any direction and the nozzle at the end allows it to achieve both remarkable accuracy and range.

They are fiendishly clever and quick, and always hunt in groups. Kriktikiks lay traps with their webbing among the branches of trees, allowing them to easily navigate the sticky substance along with their incredibly jumping ability. Though sometimes one may act as bait to lure prey in if other tactics are not working.


Challenge: Journeyman (Sixth Circle)
DEX: 9        Initiative:                  13      Unconsciousness:      54
STR: 7         Physical Defense:   14      Death Rating:               62
TOU: 8        Mystic Defense:       12     Wound Threshold:     13
PER: 7         Social Defense:        10      Knockdown:                 13
WIL: 5        Physical Armor:       8       Recovery Tests:           3
CHA: 6       Mystic Armor:           4        
Movement: 20 (Climbing 20)
Actions: 2; Bite: 12 (17, Poison), Claws ×2: 16 (13)
Ambush (10)
Awareness (13): As the skill, Player’s Guide, p. 129.
Creature Power (16, Spit Venom, Standard)
Great Leap (16)

Hardened Armor
Poison (12): If the kriktikik sprays a target with venom or inflicts a Wound with its bite, the target must resist a paralytic poison (Gamemaster’s Guide, p. 171). The poison is Step 12 [Onset: 1 round, Interval 4/1 round, Duration: 8 hours]
Resist Pain (2)
Spin Web (15, Standard): The kriktikik can spit its webbing at a target within 20 yards. The kriktikik makes a Spin Web test against the target’s Physical Defense. If successful, the target is affected by the Web Trap power.
Spray Venom (15): The kriktikik can spray venom at a target within 20 yards. It makes a Creature Power test against the target’s Mystic Defense. If successful, the target suffers Step 10 Mystic damage.
Stealthy Stride (15): As the skill, Player’s Guide, p. 170.
Web Trap (12): Kriktikik webs are strong enough to entangle most Namegivers and difficult to spot, using the kriktikik’s Stealthy Stride Step to be detected. If a character becomes stuck in the kriktikik’s web, they are entangled (Player’s Guide, p. 391). They must succeed at a Strength (12) test to break free. If a character is carrying a small (Size 1 or 2) sharp weapon at the time they were trapped, they may add the weapon’s Damage Step as a bonus to the Strength test.

Willful (1)

Special Maneuvers:
Defang (Opponent, Close Combat)
Grab and Bite (Kriktikik, Claws)
Hamstring (Kriktikik, Bite)
Pounce (Kriktikik)
Pry Loose (Opponent, Close Combat): This special maneuver can also be used for allies entanglied with Web Trap.
Stifle (Opponent)The attacker may use two extra successes on an Attack test to prevent the kriktikik from using Spin Web or Web Trap until the end of the next round. If the attack causes a Wound, the kriktikik cannot use Spin Web or Web Trap until the Wound is healed.

17 February 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Musings 04 - The Importance of Canon

This is the fourth part of Musings 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.

It’s cliche, but let’s start this discussion of canon with what it is. I find it useful to define the terms I’m working with at the beginning of a discussion so everyone has a common frame of reference. This is also quite relevant to the topic at hand. We have two definitions, one given by a dictionary and another more casual from Wikipedia:

“A collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.” - Oxford Languages

“... the material accepted as officially part of the story in an individual universe of that story.” - Wikipedia

Canon is essentially the shared version of the setting. This is important because it gives everyone a common frame of reference to discuss the topic. Without that, things can quickly lead to misunderstandings or worse. That’s the key and the value of canon: it provides a clear starting point to discuss and alter things.

In terms of Earthdawn (though this can apply to anything), the canon setting is the currently published version of the setting. Reboots reset that canon (e.g. Battlestar Galactica) and new editions may retcon portions of it (e.g. Star Wars). There’s nothing wrong with discussing previous versions, but it’s important to establish that up front because the default assumption is to work with the most recent version, unless there’s context to indicate otherwise.

Statements like “everyone’s game is canon” are not helpful or useful. It takes a very useful term, “canon,” and strips it of all value. Indicating they are canon to the campaign isn’t useful because that’s an already known fact and a misuse of the term. What happens at your table is awesome, but not officially part of the setting.

This is not to impune or look down at what happens at individual tables with the setting or in fan fiction (which is in some ways what we’re creating)—that’s literally the point of the game in the first place. I always change elements of settings I’m familiar with because they’re so familiar. There’s often some aspect I want to play with and use that to subvert my players’ expectations. Their familiarity with things their characters don’t know is a way to make things surprising and new, even in small ways.

Canon is important conceptually, but less so once you get to your table. You do you. Have fun and be awesome. But in doing this, let’s not misuse the word and see it for the value it brings: clear communication and reference point to discuss and deviate from.

In practical terms, the canon for Earthdawn Fourth Edition is everything released by FASA from 1E, Redbrick from Classic and 3E, and obviously 4E. Which excises the material produced by Living Room Games. There may be some similarities between Barsaive at War and the history presented in the 4E Gamemaster’s Guide, though this is because they started from the same place and moved in different directions. Which is to say: the events in Barsaive at War are not canon, but you should absolutely use them at your table as you see fit.

If something isn’t specifically addressed in a 4E book that covers a topic (e.g. the windling tribe in Blood Wood), this doesn’t mean it was removed, but is left to each table and campaign to determine its fate and relevance. Another example along these lines is the material from the unpublished 1E Dragons manuscript. It was published by Living Room Games as part of their 2E run. Much of the material from the 1E manuscript was incorporated into the 4E Gamemaster’s Guide, but not all of it. What does this mean for the material omitted from the unpublished 1E manuscript? Well, it isn’t canon. However, it doesn’t mean you cannot use it—you absolutely should use it as you see fit! There’s material in 4E that relies on pieces of the unpublished manuscript as the setting moves forward. Which pieces remain a secret because that ruins the surprise.

10 February 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Musings 03 - Failing Forward and Success with Cost

This is the third part of Musings 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.

Failing sucks.

Whether in real life or in a game, it’s not fun to fail. However, without failure there isn't that sweet, sweet dopamine rush from success. Oftentimes, the harder the success, the better it feels when you arrive. The results from failing a single test in gaming can range from wasting your turn to failure to move the plot forward or character death.

Two similar, but distinctly different concepts in gaming arose to address these topics: failing forward and success with a cost. Because the gaming lexicon is hardly uniform and more of a cobbled-together jargon, there is almost certainly different terminology and definitions for these ideas. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to use that terminology and define them as follows:

Failing Forward: The failing result from an action benefits future attempts at that action.

Success with Cost: The action meets the minimum requirements for success, but there is a significant cost associated with this success.

The benefits from failing forward don’t necessarily have to be for the character who failed. They should ideally be for the same overall goal, preferably supporting the original tactic as closely as possible, but this may not always be practical. After all, there may be a good reason it failed the first time and not to try the same thing again.

Failing forward is best used in situations where time is of the essence. Combat is likely the most common example, but whenever turns are an important resource can apply, such as a chase or ending a ritual effect.

At the same time, always mitigating failure goes back to making success feel meaningless. Even if you don’t get everything you want, you cannot really fail. This makes all the victories a little anticlimactic and failure as a concept toothless. Like with most things, the right answer is somewhere in the middle.

The mechanics of Earthdawn can make failing forward challenging to include. However, they’re already present in my Pack mask and opponent groups found in Empty Thrones. Below are two knacks to strike a balance between failure and successes, where you technically succeeded, but may as well fail. Offering some concessions for that effective failure. These can also help with a bit more diversity for otherwise low damage options. There are some restrictions on them to keep them true to their intentions and not become wholesale replacements.

Baiting Strike [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Melee Weapons, Missile Weapons, Throwing Weapons, Unarmed Combat
Requirements: Rank 2
Restrictions: None
This knack can be purchased multiple times for each talent. It can only be used with attacks associated with the appropriate talent. For example, to use it with a t’skrang tail attack, the adept must purchase it for Unarmed Combat, even if they have a knack that allows them to use their Melee Weapons Step.

Baiting Strike (Adept): If the adept fails to inflict damage after armor reduction with a successful Attack test, the next Attack test against the same target and same Defense gains a +2 bonus per success spent on this special maneuver. The initial success and additional successes spent to increase damage can be spent on this special maneuver. This special maneuver is used after the Damage result is determined. The initial Attack test must be capable of inflicting damage—e.g. it cannot use the Attacking to Knockdown combat option—and cannot be used with entangling weapons.

Spell Package
Talent: Patterncraft
Requirements: Rank 2
Restrictions: None
Step: NA
Action: Free
Strain: 0
Skill Use: No
If the adept fails to inflict damage to all targets after armor reduction with a successful Spellcasting test, the adept can affect the targets with a Spellcasting knack they know (e.g. Fluster). The spell must be capable of inflicting damage and did not affect an area (e.g. Chilling Circle) nor inflict damage over a duration (e.g. Flame Flash).


The timing implications from these two knacks can seem at odds with how the fiction proceeds and actions resolve in Earthdawn and other traditional games, but the shift in perception is minor and still consistent with how actions are interpreted and resolved. In this case, instead of the Damage result narrating the injury inflicted, it turns out the character was never trying to injure the opponent, but set them up for a later attack or with a different effect hidden within the spell to impair the opponent. Looking strictly at the fiction generated at the table, this makes it more interesting and fluid; attacks set up allies, rather than just being strikes to injure, even if determined after the fact.

Success with cost is complementary to failing forward, but they shouldn’t both be applied to the same tests. While failing forward works best when each action is critical, success with cost works best when either time isn’t a factor at all, or when failure carries a disproportionate weight or provides a story block.

Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition introduced “taking 20” as a way to deal with tasks where the character can repeat them without consequence until they maximize their chances of success. At which point it becomes a binary yes/no. Either you can do the thing or you cannot. This doesn’t quite work in Earthdawn with the existence of bonus dice. Allowed functionally infinite time and no consequences for failure, they always succeed and it becomes an exercise in real world patience of rolling dice. An excellent example here is picking a lock.

In this case, limits on the number of attempts can be placed, but this may feel artificial and if characters fail through poor luck, the story may not be able to proceed. Failure in gathering required information is a common example of blocking the story. This is an entirely separate discussion from GM planning. This is a mitigation strategy.

The other instance I indicated is when failure carries disproportionate weight. These are typically things like a character’s fate resting on the result of a single test, which feels out of step with the shared narrative. When what should be a simple Great Leap test or an important Climbing test results in the character’s death, and quite possibly a body that cannot be retrieved. No last chance salve for you.

In all these instances, utilizing success with a cost is quite likely the best way to go. This may not feel right for some groups (including failing forward), particularly in the last example. In which case, you do you, but that’s not what this is about. Allow the character to pick the lock—particularly if it is important to the story—but provide teeth to the failure of their test. Someone else knows they picked the lock, or it cost them significant precious time (if it is important), or even a combination of factors. There have to be consequences to this failure or it’s not really a failure and why bother?

The failure to gather information: the group gets the information, but their enemies know what they’re looking for and have an ambush for them later. Perhaps they’re stymied later on, have to call in a favor, or owe one to someone they find very distasteful. The story proceeds, but they have to really hope they succeeded the first time. Allow the character to make the jump or climb, but they suffer serious injuries in the process. They’re not dead, but they require time and resources to get better.

Having a cost for failure, even while offering the success is paramount. The goal is to always keep the story moving and not have the players feel as though they can’t proceed, but there are real consequences for failing their tests.

03 February 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 122 - Thriving Stag

This is the one-hundred and twenty-second 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items and happens to be the last item before I resigned. This was written with the request of a helmet with a bonus to Toughness Value. After mulling it over for quite a while, I decided to go with a life theme for the Toughness. Antlers and warm bronze went well with that.


Thriving Stag

Maximum Threads: 1
Mystic Defense: 16
Legend Point Cost: Master

This bronze helmet is of a curious design. It resembles a Corinthian helmet with massive antlers affixed to it and extending out. Swirling, circular glyphs are etched into the surface with a tidy row of runes carved along the edge. These runes are most prominent along the nasal and cheeks. The helmet’s metal has a warm patina of use and a faint green sheen when the light strikes it just right.

When a thread is attached, the helmet adjusts to fit the wearer, including allowing for a troll's horns along with the antlers. An aventail of morning glory vines begins growing from the helmet, extending in length as the wearer’s thread rank increases.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the helmet’s Name.
Effect: The wearer gains +1 to their Physical Armor.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wearer gains +1 rank to Wood Skin. When the wearer activates Wood Skin, the trailing flowers wind around the wearer and appear as part of the appearance.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the meaning of the glyphs etched into the helmet.
Effect: The wearer gains +1 to their Mystic Armor.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The wearer gains +2 ranks to Wood Skin.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the runes carved into the helmet.
Effect: The wearer gains +1 Recovery Test per day.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The wearer gains +2 to their Toughness Value.

Thread Rank Seven
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn where the flower cutting used for the helmet originated.
Deed: The owner must visit this site and gather additional flower cuttings to incorporate into the helmet.
Effect: When the wearer uses Wood Skin, the vines grow into the wearer’s skin and the flowers are pink variegated. All tests the wearer makes to heal damage gain a +2 bonus if their Wood Skin is active.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: The wearer gains +2 ranks to Lifesight.

Thread Rank Nine
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the stag’s Name whose antlers adorn the helmet.
Deed: The owner must find one of that stag’s legendary offspring and earn their antlers to replace on the helmet.
Effect: The wearer gains the Thriving Stag ability. As a Simple action for 1 Strain when their Wood Skin is active, the wearer’s eyes glow green within the helmet as the flowers and vines become animated. They make a Lifesight test (the cost pays for the Lifesight cost) against a target’s Mystic Defense. If successful, they can more effectively see the target’s energy moving through their body, giving them a +2 bonus to their next Action test against the target and an associated Effect test (including Damage, Effect from a spell, or Recovery test caused by the Action test).

Thread Rank Ten
Effect: The wearer gains +4 ranks to Lifesight.

27 January 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 121 - South Wind, The

This is the one-hundred and twenty-first 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items and happens to be one of the last two items before I resigned. This was written with the request of crystal ringlet armor with bonuses to Air Dance. Since Air Dance is an offensive option more than anything, the benefits support that for the most part.


The South Wind

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

This crystal ringlet armor is crafted from rose colored crystal with a faint inner glow and hint of opalescence. Select rings are carved with intricate, stylized runes that give it the appearance of a flame as light strikes the surface. The armor is always warm to the touch and resizes automatically to the wearer when a thread is attached.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the armor’s Name.
Effect: The armor is Physical Armor 5.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The armor is Mystic Armor 5.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: Intentionally left blank.
Effect: The wearer gains The South Wind ability. As a Free action for 1 Strain, the runes on the armor ignite, causing the wearer to appear wreathed in a corona of flame. If the wearer is using the Aggressive Attack combat option, they gain +2 ranks to Air Dance.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The armor is Initiative Penalty 1.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: Intentionally left blank.
Effect: When the wearer uses The South Wind, they are surrounded by a swirling current of dry, hot air and gain +2 to close combat Attack tests against opponents with lower Initiative results.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: When the wearer uses The South Wind, they can surround their weapon with blistering superheated air. For 1 Strain, they can spend an Karma Point on a close combat Damage test against an opponent with a lower Initiative result and the attack gains the fire keyword.

20 January 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 120 - Godot's Crossbow

This is the one-hundred and twentieth 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items. This was written with the request of a medium crossbow with some kind of bonus against an opponent who already took their action. Players, amirite? So... I went with a pun that made sense to me at the time. And built on that pun. And eventually, there was a whole item.

I offer no apologies for this series of events because this would imply I somehow feel some kind of remorse or shame for what I did. Which is not true. I have no shame nor remorse. It has happened before. It will happen again. Not if, but when.


Godot's Crossbow

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

This crossbow appears as a standard issue for some long-forgotten military or mercenary unit, though it appears it was never used. Always waiting to be fired.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the crossbow’s Name.
Effect: The crossbow is Damage Step 6.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wielder gains +1 to Attack tests with the crossbow.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the unit the crossbow is associated with. [Lucky Pozzo’s Boys]
Effect: The crossbow is Damage Step 7.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The wielder gains +2 to Attack tests with the crossbow.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the first owner’s fate. [Died fighting an estragon Named Vlad.]
Effect: The wielder gains the Godot’s Crossbow ability. As a Simple action for 1 Strain, the wielder’s bolts fired from the crossbow seem to travel lazily, without any hurry to their target. An opponent who has already performed a Standard action struck by a bolt suffers a similar malaise and suffers a -2 penalty to their next Initiative test.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The slowness inflicted by Godot’s Crossbow intensifies and targets affected by the Initiative penalty also suffer a -2 penalty to their Physical Defense until the end of the next round.

13 January 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 119 - Windfury

This is the one-hundred and nineteenth 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items. This was written with the request of a windling sword. That seems easy, but it's more difficult than it may first seem. At least, if you want to make a truly windling sword. So I put something together that tries to address bonuses in a different fashion, even while doing roughly the same things and I think it comes out perhaps more interesting for it. The thread item certainly feels different in how it comes together and what it emphsizes and how it goes about doing so.


Windfury

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

This windling sword is notable for the subtle, graceful curve to its nearly translucent blade, chisel tip, and lack of any guard. It’s a rare, but classic design from a windling tribe that calls Glenwood Deep home. Crafted for a flurry of slashing attacks while moving at high speed and relying entirely on the wielder’s ability to evade counterattacks.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the sword’s Name.
Effect: The wielder gains +1 to Attack tests.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wielder gains +1 to Initiative tests.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn about the windling tribe.
Effect: The wielder gains +2 to Attack tests.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The wielder gains +2 to Initiative tests.

Thread Rank Five
Deed: The owner must travel to the tribe and earn their favor.
Effect: The wielder gains the Windfury ability. As a Simple action for 1 Strain, slashing winds emanate around the sword and the blade darkens. The wielder gains +2 to close combat Damage tests with the sword against opponents with lower Initiative until the end of the round.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: If Windfury is active, the wielder can spend an additional Karma Point on a close combat Damage test with the sword against an opponent with lower Initiative.

06 January 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 118 - Tempest Guide

This is the one-hundred and eighteenth 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items. This was written with the request of a hat with a bonus to Charisma. Clearly such a hat should also have personality. Perhaps even be a little distracting. Given the character is an Air Sailor with a couple other thread items, I leaned into that direction.


Tempest Guide

Maximum Threads: 2
Mystic Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

A tricorn hat made from the softest espagra hide imaginable. The brilliant white scales are shaded with delicate blue and gray, and sparkle with True air woven into them. A iridescent, dark blue feather, dark blue piping along the edges of the hat, and embroidery with orichalcum thread complete the look. This style was once fashionable before the Scourge and is certainly still eye catching.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the hat’s Name.
Effect: The wearer gains +1 rank to Distract.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wearer gains +1 rank to Air Dance.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn when and where the hat was once fashionable.
Effect: The wearer gains the Tempest Guide ability. As a Free action for 1 Strain, a storm begins to brew around the wearer if they are using Air Dance. Each footstep is a crack of lightning and between them the roll of thunder. The wearer gains +3 to their Initiative and this effect lasts until the end of the round.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: While the wearer is using Tempest Guide, lightning strikes when they attack, drawing the target’s attention. The wearer gains the effects of an additional success on their Distract test if they attacked the target this round and the target has a lower Initiative result.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn why time only flows in one direction.
Effect: While the wearer is using Tempest Guide, ominous thunder fills the area, building to a crescendo. They gain the following special maneuver:

Tempest Guide (Wearer, Initiative): After the wearer successfully uses Distract on a target, they may compare their Initiative to the target’s and can spend additional successes to give an ally +1 per success to their next close combat Attack test against the target.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The wearer gains +2 to their Charisma Value.

30 December 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 18 - Removing Attribute Values

This is the eighteenth 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.

Since the dawn of time, humankind has yearned to do two things. One is destroy the sun. The other is entirely eliminate the Attribute Value table in Earthdawn. This rules variant is about the other one.

Not the sun destroying one. Just to be super clear.

This post incorporates elements from three other variants:
References to the Hindrance and Movement Rate variants are called out with a hyperlinked asterisk (*)  to the appropriate post where relevant. They're not the only usage of asterisks, but context makes everything clear.

The biggest downside to eliminating the table is transforming Attribute Steps into the various derived values requires a little math. Which, ironically, would be removed by including a table. The good news is the math is pretty simple, even if you want to calculate your carrying capacity.

These derived values aren't a perfect match for the table, but doing so is impossible. They are a very good match overall.

Part of the simplification means the nuance with scaling costs and different break points is lost. To this end, the Attribute Step modifications for each Namegiver were shuffled a bit in the names of balance, diversity, and relevance. More value was placed on some Namegiver abilities than just their attribute modifications. Unless you wanted Strength Step 8, it was hard to justify an ork over a human doing more strict conversions.

The number of Attribute Steps available for allocation was based on the assumption of a character starting with two Attributes at Step 7, two at Step 6, and two at Step 5. There are more efficient allocations for getting the largest number of Steps possible, but I just don't care for this purpose.

The order between purchasing attributes and selecting your Namegiver are also switched because this tends to be how other games work. However, if you want to maintain the other way: Add 3 Steps to the Attribute Step Modifiers for each Namegiver to determine your starting Attribute Steps. Then spend 18 Attribute Steps between them, spending no more than 4 Steps on a given attribute.

Purchasing Attribute Steps

Characters have 36 Attribute Steps to allocate between Dexterity, Strength, Toughness, Perception, Willpower, and Charisma. No Attribute Step can be below 3 or above 7 at this point, though this may change based on the following Namgiver modifications.

Namegiver Modifications

The various Namegivers of Barsaive have differing characteristics and are modified as listed in each entry. Apply the modification listed for each Attribute Step in the Namegiver entry. Some have additional limited choices to make, such as choosing an Attribute Step to increase or decrease, or choosing to decrease an Attribute Step in exchange for increasing another.

Dwarf

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: 0*, STR: 0, TOU: +1, PER: 0*, WIL: 0*, CHA: 0
* You may modify Dexterity by -1 Step to modify Perception and Willpower to modify by +1 Step, or:
* Choose one from Perception and Willpower to modify by +1 Step
Karma Pool Multiplier: 4
Movement Rate: 10
Movement Rate Modifier*: -2

Dwarf Abilities
  • Heat Sight
  • Strong Back: STR Step +1 for Carrying Capacity, this does not affect Hindrance*.

Elf

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: +1, TOU: -1, PER: 0*, WIL: 0*, CHA: 0*
* Choose two from Perception, Willpower, and Charisma to modify by +1 Step.
Karma Pool Multiplier: 4
Movement Rate: 14
Movement Rate Modifier*: +2

Elf Abilities
  • Low Light Vision

Human

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: 0, STR: 0, TOU: 0, PER: 0, WIL: 0, CHA: 0
Karma Pool Multiplier: 5
Movement Rate: 12
Movement Rate Modifier*: 0

Human Abilities
  • Versatility

Obsidiman

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:

DEX: -1, STR: +3, TOU: +1, PER: 0*, WIL: 0, CHA: 0*
* Choose one from Perception and Charisma to modify by -1 Step.
Karma Pool Multiplier: 3
Movement Rate: 10
Movement Rate Modifier*: -4

Obsidiman Abilities
  • Increased Wound Threshold: +2 to Wound Threshold.
  • Natural Armor: +2 to Physical Armor. This is cumulative with other armor. However, obsidimen can only wear living or stone armor, or armor-like clothes (such as an espagra cloak).

Ork

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: 0, STR: +1, TOU: +1, PER: 0, WIL: -1, CHA: 0
Karma Pool Multiplier: 5
Movement Rate: 12
Movement Rate Modifier*: -1

Ork Abilities
  • Gahad
  • Low-Light Vision

T’skrang

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: 0*, STR: 0, TOU: 0*, PER: 0, WIL: 0, CHA: 0*
* Choose one from Dexterity, Toughness, and Charisma to modify by +1 Step.
Karma Pool Multiplier: 4
Movement Rate: 12
Movement Rate Modifier*: 0

T’skrang Abilities
  • Natural Swimmer: T’skrang are natural swimmers and have limited use of their gills. They use their full Movement Rate when swimming and can hold their breath longer than most other Namegivers (see Gamemaster’s Guide, p. 168). T'skrang characters also automatically start with Swimming rank 2 as a skill for free. If the character selects a Discipline with access to Swimming as a talent during character creation, this can be exchanged for a rank 2 Knowledge skill. This does not provide talent ranks under any circumstance.
  • Tail Combat

Troll

Game Information
Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: 0, STR: +2, TOU: +1, PER: 0*, WIL: +1, CHA: 0*
* Choose one from Perception and Charisma to modify by -1 Step.
Karma Pool Multiplier: 3
Movement Rate: 14
Movement Rate Modifier*: 0

Troll Abilities
  • Heat Sight

Windling

Attribute Step Modifiers:
DEX: +1, STR: -2, TOU: -1, PER: 0*, WIL: 0*, CHA: +1
* You may modify Willpower by -1 Step to modify Perception by +1 Step.
Karma Pool Multiplier: 6
Movement Rate: 6/16 (flying)
Movement Rate Modifier*: -5/+5

Windling Abilities
  • Astral Sight
  • Flight

Derived Characteristics

These are not perfect and require a small amount of math to derive. A table can be generated to help players who are less math fluent.

Physical Defense: DEX Step +2
Mystic Defense: PER Step +2
Social Defense: CHA Step +2
Carrying Capacity: STR Step^2 ×5
Unconsciousness Rating: TOU Step ×5
Death Rating: Unconsciousness Rating + TOU Step or TOU Step ×6
Wound Threshold: TOU Step +3
Recovery Tests: TOU Step ÷2 (round down)
Mystic Armor: WIL Step ÷2 -1 (round down)
Maximum Hindrance*: STR Step -3 (cannot go below 0)

Increasing Attributes with Legend Points

A given Attribute Step can be improved once for 3,400 Legend Points. This requires two weeks (14 consecutive days) of dedicated training for eight hours each day. The adept must be rested and in good health during their training, including no Current Damage or Wounds, except for Blood Magic Damage and Wounds and other similar exceptions. Training typically costs 500 silver pieces from an appropriate trainer, though this can vary and trainer Availability is typically Rare.

The adept must wait eight weeks before they can improve a different Attribute Step. During this time the character may adventure, raise talent ranks, train for a new Circle, etc.

23 December 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 17 - Linguistics

This is the seventeenth 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 rules variant is focused entirely on making languages feel more alive without going too far down the linguistics rabbit hole. Which is very deep indeed. These are intended to add depth and life without requiring too much effort to make them accessible. Too much detail or verisimilitude and it becomes unweildly and inaccessible. I'm trying to find a good place in the middle to facilitate the value without making introducing it crushing.

The names and organization here is simply what I liked for this purpose and doesn't reflect anything beyond that.

Overview


Racial languages are silly at the very, very best. Deeply stupid to very troubling more likely. They place racial “purity” over culture. Why would a troll who grew up in Travar speak “Troll” over the local language? There’s a lot of things that don’t make sense, but this one is actively awful. It also doesn’t match with the rest of the setting which does have regional languages… in addition to new racial languages. Where’s that facepalm?


How did we get here? D&D. It had racial languages (and even alignment languages if you go far enough back) because they’re easy. Alignment languages were an entirely different kind of dumb, but still on that side of the spectrum. Thankfully, they’re gone now. Being fair, having named languages is difficult in a game without a setting. It implies more of a setting than D&D seemed to want to imply, despite heavily implying a setting. Just with a lot of blanks for you to fill in. However, that level of racial homogeneity was lazy and… not great.


Barsaive is an entirely cosmopolitan place where Namegivers of all types freely associate throughout the cities. Towards that end, this is an attempt to bring more depth and culture to the complicated linguistics this can create. For the sake of simplicity, this does elide the naturally occurring differences from 400 years of isolation. Which can range from languages turning entirely into their own thing or completely stagnating and seeing no variation at all. It’s worth noting “no variation” doesn’t mean the language is the same as that commonly spoken, as that language lived, breathed, and changed by exposure and use. It’s more akin to comparing Middle English to Contemporary English—there’s going to be some problems, though not insurmountable. Gullah and High Tider are US-centric examples of fairly isolated languages in the context of a modern society.


Using this a language-in-isolation does present an avenue to give value to abilities sometimes perceived as underused, such as Etiquette and Speak Language (talent). Misunderstandings, communication difficulties (if not outright breakdown), factional conflict between suspicious isolationists and grateful rescuees.


The difficulties posed by linguistic drift are most significant for recently opened kaers and/or isolated communities. Once exposed to the prevailing dialects of their region, they are likely to acclimatize readily. 


This organizes languages into rough families, though some of these organizations are more of convenience than accuracy (as indicated by the text). Languages and their dialects are noted by that text. The further away from the same dialect, the more difficult it is for two speakers to interact. For example, Throalic is the most common form of Scythan in Barsaive and virtually everyone speaks it. A Throalic speaker and a Scythan speaker can understand each other, but there are some minor difficulties due to linguistic drift. A Throalic speaker and a speaker with a dialect particular to one of the Throalic cities may have similar difficulties, while the Scythan speaker and the speaker with a dialect of Throalic may have significant difficulties as the euphemisms and many meanings are quite different, even as the words are shared.


Language Families


  • Scythan (language) — Technically the parent language, this language is rarely spoken compared to the Throalic dialect. It still sees some use in the Scythan Mountains and isolated communities.

    • Throalic (dialect) — The official language of Throal is the most prevalent language in Barsaive, spoken, read, and written by nearly every Namegiver. It shows the cultural dominance of Throal on the provincial landscape. This is the “common” tongue and language of trade.

      • Individual Throalic cities (dialect) — Each Throalic city has their own dialect with minor variations, though not particularly strong.

      • Oshane (dialect, pidgin) — This Throalic city is notable for its Throalic/Or’zet pidgin

  • Kratan (language, pidgin) — A pidgin of Throalic, Or’zet, Landisian. Kratan also possesses its own unique vocabulary and word usages, often designed to obscure the intended meaning from any eavesdroppers. The language shifts frequently and speakers are just as willing to rifle through languages for new verbage as they are for coins in your coat.

  • Sperethiel (language) — What was once the official language of the Elven Court, things have changed since the Scourge. While still ostensibly spoken throughout elven lands across the world, this represents the language spoken by the elf diaspora in Barsaive prior to the Scourge.

    • Theran (language) — A simplified version of the parent language where similarities can be seen, but lacks the depth of meaning in favor of efficiency.

    • The Queen’s Sperethiel (dialect) — What is formally called “Sperethiel” but is beginning to diverge from the Sperethiel of the rest of Barsaive due to the need for new vocabulary to describe their unique situation and centuries of isolation. The linguistic drift is relatively small given the time, but speeding up with the biological and social distance.

    • Shosaran (language, pidgin) — A pidgin of Sperethiel and local languages based on hundreds of years of commingling. 

    • Sereathan (dialect) — Considered by the elves of Sereatha to be the truest form of Sperethiel with no deviations, it is not. It may have the same words, but they are not used in the same ways and gained different meanings and subtleties to reflect the distinct culture of the City of Spires over the centuries.

  • Cathan (language) — Spoken by the people of the Servos Jungle, this language has the same common ancestor as Iopan and Landisian, but grew much further from those roots. Some linguistic scholars argue it represents the “truest” version of the original language, and the other branches co-evolved further away.

  • Unknown parent — The lost parent language prominent in the more human dominated areas of the province. There are likely more dialects from this parent and other languages in the province and beyond may trace their roots here.
    • Iopan (dialect) — Iopans consider their language to be the parent language from which Landisian is born, but this is not accurate. Both come from the same parent language, but evolved in different ways to reflect the needs of the speakers. Still, this is listed as a dialect of Landisian for simplicity in organization, rather than accuracy.

    • Landisian (language)— Considered the parent language of most Barsavian languages commonly spoken by humans, this is not entirely true. Current scholarly linguistic studies indicate a parent language of the contemporary languages and their dialects.

      • Jerran (dialect) — This dialect of Landisian has a somewhat cosmopolitan feel to it, with words borrowed from throughout Barsaive and beyond. However, the recent Iopan influence is beginning to show.

      • Scavian (dialect, pidgin) — This is most accurately described as a pidgin of the Travarn dialect of Landisian and Shivarrotal.

      • Travaran (dialect) — A dialect known for its clipped sounds and skewed vocabulary. It possesses significant unique and adapted terminology, some with no discernable origin and others borrowed or put to use for the unique culture of the city.

      • Urupan (dialect) — A young dialect with expected influences from Shivarrotal and Throalic. Most notable are the comparatively exotic words borrowed from The People Across the Sea.

  • Marellyawenkhurtectl (language) — the common language of obsidimen

  • Or’zat (language) — The original language spoken by the people who identify as the progenitors of Cara Fahd. Uniquely adapted to speaking with the tusks common to orks. There is no written language.

    • Or’zet (language) — The official language of Cara Fahd. It grew from influences and concepts introduced by other languages, most notably Throalic.

  • Shivarrotal (language) — The parent language spoken by t’skrang throughout Barsaive. Those who grow up apart from an aropagoi don’t develop the dialect specific to those circumstances.

    • Aropagoi (dialect) — Each aropagoi has its own specialized terminology to reflect their way of life.

      • Niall (dialect) — Some nialls also have distinct dialects, though this typically only occurs in isolated communities, where there is a need for very specialized terminology, or significant exposure to other cultures.

  • [Spirit Wind] (language) — Similar in structure and sound to Shivarrotal, it is wholly distinct and something of a linguistic curiosity as to how it is learned and passed on.

  • Unknown parent — The lost parent language of the “trollish” tongues. While all are technically parallel branches from this language, they are considered dialects of Ustrectish for linguistic teaching. This has something to do with availability for instruction and likelihood the instructor will attempt to kill pupils for some real or imagined insult.

    • Ustrectish (language) — Once the language of Ustrect, this is now the prevailing language spoken by so-called “lowland” trolls throughout Barsaive. 

    • [Highland] (dialect) — It would be the gravest of insults to consider the root language spoken by Crystal Raiders to be derived from the language of their lowland cousins, and it is not entirely wrong. This dialect of the lost parent language has considerably more words and nuance around the concepts of honor, raiding, and various other aspects unique to their lives.

      • Mountain range (dialect) — The highland trolls of each mountain range are somewhat isolated and have more linguistically in common with each other than the moots of a different mountain range.

        • Each clan (dialect) — This reflects the differences that can arise within each clan to reflect their perceptions, both of themselves and the greater world around them.

    • Unknown origin [Ustretchish B] (dialect) — This language is very rare. While it clearly shares the same parent language as the other two primary dialects in Barsaive, it is a parallel branch rather than branching from one of them. Speakers can still be found in isolated parts of eastern Barsaive.

  • Saheerys (language) — Spoken by the various clans within Glenwood Deep, very little is actually known about the origins of this language or any dialects that may arise. All too often what seems like break-through research into the subject turns out to be nothing more than a joke sustained by various native speakers. This is very discouraging and means any conclusions on the matter are met with skepticism from the scholarly community. Most vociferously from native speakers with contradictory claims to whatever the prevailing theory there may be. Continued research on this topic is utterly pointless.


How to Deal with Dialects


There are three methods. The first is to use Etiquette; the differences between the dialect and the parent language are differing aspects. The gamemaster should adjudicate just how different the dialect the character knows is from the dialect they are dealing with. Pidgin languages can also be dealt with in this way, but the number of differences are considerably more. Another is to use Speak Language, allowing the character to become familiar with the dialect. The final is either to increase the Difficulty Number or the number of successes required, based on the differences between the two dialects.


Pidgins can be treated something like a distant dialect from parent languages, even if it is a dialect or distinct language. Speakers pick up some of the words and there may be a familiar structure, but Difficulties should be significantly increased to communicate.