05 January 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 11 - Liberator

This is the eleventh Anatomy of a Discipline in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.


The Liberator is the most specific Discipline in purpose within the world of Earthdawn. They exist to free slaves. Everything about the Liberator is based around that idea. It is the entire reason for this ork-only DisciplineWhile they may engage in normal adventuring, that should be viewed more as a break between leading slave rebellions, rather than the other way around.

Each adept may approach how to infiltrate and operate differently, based on their Talents and what their Group may provide, but they will be drawn to areas of oppression where they can make a difference. Some Liberators may also involve themselves in local or regional politics, particularly with regard to equitable treatment (especially for orks).

While they ostensibly work for the betterment of all Namegivers, other orks are often their primary concern, or at least favored companions. It isn't an uncommon sentiment that only other orks can truly understand; a combination of their racial history as a slave race and their gahad which drives them. Of course, any Liberator will be strongly dedicated to any companions, regardless of race. 

Before a Liberator joins any game, it is best to ensure that everyone at the table is comfortable with what that will mean for the focus of the game. Which is to say, if the game wasn't about slavery before, it will be now. Otherwise, the conflicting desires of the players could have serious consequences for everyone's enjoyment.

Discipline Violations

These are best employed not as a stick, but as a chance for the player to take a deeper look at what it means to follow their Discipline. Freeling slaves and disrupting the slave trade are the primary concerns of a Liberator, so much that very little else even matters. Missing any opportunity to strike a blow against these institutions would be a severe problem for any Liberator, but also possibly a point of contention for their companions.

That fanaticism towards their cause is unavoidable, but can arise at the most inopportune times. Perhaps a delicate negotiation is taking place and it is revealed one of the involved parties is a unrepentant slave owner. How is a Liberator to deal with this situation? Learning how their actions affect their companions can be a difficult lesson.


Talent Options: Acrobatic Strike, Avoid Blow, Disguise Self, Silent Walk, Unarmed Combat

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Freedom Search, Karma Ritual, Lock Picking, Melee Weapons, Shackle Shrug

Talent Options: Conceal Object, Fireblood, Heart of Freedom, Heartening Laugh, Surprise Strike, Throwing Weapons, Tiger Spring

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Durability (8/6), Free Mind

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Shout of Justice

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Freedom Weaving]

Talent Options: Dead Fall, Disarm, Heal Slave, Leadership, Lion Heart, Resist Taunt, Second Attack, Temper Self

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: False Shackles

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Hoard Blows

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Mind Blade

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Power Mask

Between Freedom Search, Shackle Shrug, Free Mind, Shout of Justice, False Shackles, Hoard Blows and Power Mask (Mind Blade could be thrown in here as well with good justification), over half of the Liberator's Discipline Talents are geared exclusively towards their stated purpose (freeing slaves/leading slave rebellions). Granted you could find other uses for some of these Talents, but they are few and far between. What this means is this is the most focused Discipline in print on a single task, putting even the Horror Stalker to shame by a wide margin.

They will have issues with defense and damage in a traditional adventuring Group, as well as simply finding things to do outside of their niche. While engaged in that hyper-specific niche, there is a vast array of ways to employ their considerable Talents. Outside of that, they will likely have more interesting options outside of combat than within - which is something of a change of pace when you consider their very high Durability rating.

All of this is a warning to anyone considering to play a Liberator. It can be very challenging when most of your Talents continually go unused if playing in a traditional adventuring campaign. If engaged in a protracted war against Thera and slavery in general, then you may very well have considerable options at your disposal and when discussing plans it is stated "we have a man inside," that would be you.

When discussing Talent Options for a Liberator, there are two ways of looking at things. The first is from the perspective of a Liberator fitting into a more typical adventuring Group. The second is from the perspective of a Liberator being laser focused on what their Discipline is all about. That perspective will strongly inform your Talent Option selections. Both views will be addressed and noted by (1) for an adventuring Liberator and (2) for a narrowly focused Liberator.

No matter which flavor of Liberator you are, there is something good in the Initiate Talent Options. (2) will almost certainly have too many attractive options.
  • Acrobatic Strike - (1) and (2) A pretty solid choice for a Discipline that is overall lacking in defensive Talents. It will require constant improvement and a good initiative.
  • Avoid Blow - (1) and (2) Overall, less effective than Acrobatic Strike, but it doesn't require a higher initiative than your opponent, nor making an attack. These make it slightly better for (2), but continual improvement is still a must.
  • Disguise Self - (1) Fun and will add some more options for approaching problems, with minimal investment required. (2) This Talent may become more and more important as your Legend grows and infiltration becomes difficult. Can be very important.
  • Silent Walk - (1) Everyone wants to go on the black-op and in the same boat as Disguise Self above. (2) Of incredible value for infiltration and information gathering. Yet another difficult decision.
  • Unarmed Combat - (1) It requires constant investment to be valuable and is unlikely to see regular use. (2) The odds of having a weapon are pretty low and the odds of having a slave master unprepared to deal with an ork all about the face-punching are pretty high. It will require constant improvement, but almost certainly see use.
For (1) there are some good choices in the Novice Talent Options, but (2) will find another litany of difficult decisions.
  • Conceal Object - (1) While this can go well with Surprise Strike below and the Liberator will find damage more difficult than some of their other combat ready companions, this may be of limited use. (2) Almost certainly to be of use all the time. This can help mitigate the earlier problems associated with not having a weapon on hand.
  • Fireblood - (1) and (2) This is good all of the time for everyone.
  • Heart of Freedom - (1) and (2) A strange Talent that gives anyone gahad, and makes an ork's gahad go to 11. You either like this, or you don't, however (2) will likely have better options to consider.
  • Heartening Laugh - (1) If no one else in your Group has this, consider it since you will have a healthy pool of Karma to rely on. However, if there is a Swordmaster, give it a pass. (2) The odds are reasonable that there will be other Talents which will be more useful overall.
  • Surprise Strike - (1) One of the few ways to improve damage for a Liberator, but difficult to pull off regularly (let alone more than once a combat). (2) Often the opening blow in a rebellion, or useful to keep an escape quiet. This will likely see use.
  • Throwing Weapons - (1) and (2) There are probably better options than this, given the costs for continually improving it and what it brings to the table (not a lot). (2) may have some use for throwing rocks with it.
  • Tiger Spring - (1) and (2) Going first is almost always a good thing and this can help with Acrobatic Strike and life in general. A staple Talent for any combatant.
(1) will find some good choices among the Journeyman Talent Options, but (2) will, as per usual, suffer from too much good stuff.
  • Dead Fall - (1) If you have Disguise Self, Silent Walk, Conceal Object and Surprise Strike, this Talent will probably be what you are looking for. Otherwise, maybe not. (2) Another good Talent to have at your disposal when needed.
  • Disarm - (1) Though it takes longer to get to, this is a better option than Unarmed for taking prisoners. It does require constant improvement, however. (2) Potentially a great way of simultaneously depriving your opponent of a weapon and acquiring one of your own, though some GM's may require a Knack for that kind of effect.
  • Heal Slave - (1) A flavorful utility Talent that requires minimal investment. A good pick if you have an Option open. (2) Even more valuable, but there are so many other great Talents to choose from. Depending on how you like your drama, it may deprive (or enable) powerful moments where slaves die and your are helpless to save them - perhaps triggering your gahad.
  • Leadership - (1) More appropriate for a Liberator than most Disciplines that get access to this Talent, it still may be of limited use. (2) Rallying the slaves to your cause will certainly be of continual use.
  • Lion Heart - (1) Almost always a good choice that won't be regretted. It requires minimal investment and will always be active. (2) While a good choice, there may very well be others that are simply better. Also, there will likely be less powerful fear and intimidation effects to deal with compared to an adventurer encountering Horrors.
  • Resist Taunt - (1) and (2) A somewhat curious Talent that has all the drawbacks associated with Avoid Blow and then some. The most notable of those drawbacks is that it uses Willpower, which is generally an ork's lowest and Social Defense is determined by charisma, which tends to be rather good on a Liberator (often at the cost of a higher Willpower).
  • Second Attack - (1) and (2) One of the best Talents period. You are going to want this.
  • Temper Self - (1) Simply a great Talent. This is an excellent selection. (2) Very good, but there is a chance something else may be more attractive still - having both Fireblood and Temper Self may be overboard when there are so many other good selections.


There isn't much to say here. Acrobatic Strike is the only Talent that likes a high initiative, but above all else, a Liberator should be prepared for anything. 


  1. Your post made me think that maybe Disciplines like this would be better served to be "prestige classes", like in D&D rather than Core Disciplines. Posted a question on FASA forums to that effect & mentioned this (awesome) blog.

    1. It's great to hear that you've been enjoying things thus far. I agree that some of the very specialized Disciplines are better served as a subsequent Discipline rather than starting; Liberator happens to be the most egregious example of this, but Horror Stalker and Traveled Scholar would apply here as well. Since the structure for a something akin to a Prestige Class already exists in the form of multiple Disciplines, my preferred solution when running a game is to have a limited selection of starting Disciplines and then open up the field considerably at Journeyman. This also creates less regrets in what looks awesome initially, but turns out to be not so great during play.

    2. Do editions after the first restrict multiple Disciplines to Journeyman level?

    3. No, they don't. Fifth Circle is simply when the costs associated with getting another Discipline is at it's lowest, so that is functionally when everyone starts to look at that option. The costs associated with a new Discipline are also pretty small compared to what you are earning, while the costs of Journeyman Talents are starting to increase significantly. It is simply where a number of favorable factors meet.