04 October 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 05 - Traveled Scholar

This is the fifth 4E Anatomy of a Discipline, 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.

The Traveled Scholar has not received an official Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) treatment, but there are still players who want to bring their character into the most recent edition. Here is my first draft at bridging the gap for them. For most characters, the Troubadour or Wizard disciplines can achieve what this discipline offers. However, for each of them knowledge is a sub-theme instead of the primary theme.

When updating this discipline, the only thematic change was to remove the dwarf racial restriction. While the dwarfs of Throal have the largest and most active library in the province, it is difficult to argue they have a complete lockdown on the sage archetype. Other races may find Troubadour or Wizard more appropriate to their society, but this doesn't mean the option should be entirely closed.

The mechanical changes were a bit more extensive, though this is to be expected with the changes between editions. One mechanical change of note is the inclusion of two weapon talents, Melee Weapons and Throwing Weapons. The Traveled Scholar previously had the dubious distinction of being the only discipline which had no in-discipline ability to attack anything. If they are truly going to embrace their ability to travel Barsaive, which has never been described by any GM ever as a kind and safe place, they are going to need to be a little more proactive in their protection. It is also unfortunate to be the only character in a fight looking for something to do. They still do not have a lot of options, but there are indeed options.


First Circle
  • Item History
  • Lore Weaving
  • Read and Write Language
  • Research
  • Speak Language
  • Durability 5
  • Area of Expertise
  • Karma: Knowledge tests.
Second Circle
  • Etiquette
  • Defense: +1 Social Defense
Third Circle
  • Awareness
  • Karma: Action tests which involve gathering information.
Fourth Circle
  • Book Memory
  • Defense: +1 Mystic Defense
Talent Options
  1. Avoid Blow
  2. Climbing
  3. Conversation
  4. First Impression
  5. Graceful Exit
  6. Melee Weapons
  7. Navigation
  8. Taunt
  9. Throwing Weapons
  10. Wilderness Survival

Fifth Circle
  • Applied Knowledge
  • Related Topic: 2 Strain, the Traveled Scholar may apply their Area of Expertise to a semi-related field. Be prepared to come up with a justification for the GM and the Difficulty Number increases by 5.
  • Karma: Interaction tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Evidence Analysis
  • Defense: +2 Social Defense
Seventh Circle
  • Suppress Curse
  • Bonus: +1 Initiative Step
Eighth Circle
  • Lion Heart
  • Defense: +3 Social Defense
Talent Options
  1. Anticipate Blow
  2. Arcane Mutterings
  3. Astral Sight
  4. Cold Purify
  5. Inspire Others
  6. Resist Taunt
  7. Spot Armor Flaw
  8. Steel Thought
  9. Tactics
  10. True Sight
Area of Expertise: This is a relatively broad topic which is the focus of the Traveled Scholar's studies. In general, it should encompass roughly three Knowledge skills to represent their focus. For example, two Traveled Scholars may both have an Area of Expertise centered around Barsaivian history, however one may focus on the heroes of Barsaive (Ancient Weapons, Barsaive History, and Legends and Heroes), while the other may focus more on the Scourge in Barsaive (Barsaive History, Horrors, and the Citadels and Kaers). 

Applied Knowledge
Step: Rank + PER
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
The adept to use their accumulated knowledge to gain insight and an advantage on related activities. Following a successful and relevant Knowledge test (this includes Area of Expertise), the adept may make an Applied Knowledge test against the target's Mystic Defense, or Difficulty Number 6 (whichever is higher). Up to Applied Knowledge Rank characters gain +1 to a specific Action test for each success. The adept must impart this knowledge to the affected characters, but it doesn't actually have to make sense to them (though they must understand the communication) - the adept's confidence and the talent's magic are all they need to benefit. This talent lasts for Applied Knowledge Rank minutes and a character may only benefit from one use of Applied Knowledge at a time.

This is a first draft without any review and no playtesting at all. Applied Knowledge has been updated from Applied Sciences because it wasn't actually science. The scope has been narrowed, limiting it to just Knowledge tests. It's not that the previous version was too powerful, but can create a lot of different grey areas. With the inclusion of Area of Expertise and Related Topic, it should be widely useful (likely even more so).

While the Quest for Knowledge ability expanded the theme of traveling, I am of the opinion they haven't yet spent enough developing their primary theme. There are plenty of other disciplines which travel and learn things, but for the Traveled Scholar to have a niche, it needs to finish establishing it with abilities which other disciplines do not have access.

Which is where Related Topic comes into play. Area of Expertise gives them a good base to start from, replicating an academic department and how there isn't actually one person who knows everything. Related Topic expands this to give them a broader depth of knowledge, representing the other things which they would reasonably pick up along the way. It comes with a cost, the increased difficulty, which means it will never replace another Traveled Scholar's Area of Expertise and may not replace a character dedicated to a particular knowledge skill - not that having redundant skills in case of a poor roll was ever a bad thing.

As noted above, none of these have actually been playtested, so I do not know what the functional balance on them is like.


  1. This is interesting, but you could provide more information about the area of expertise ability? Is it related to the expansive expertise talent from the Scholar mystic path? I don't understand how it works as an ability if you don't add ranks to it... Do you gain three knowledge skills when you gain this ability, or a new knowledge skill derived from the character's existing skills? Your description of Applied knowledge implies that you could have an area of expertise test, which is hard to understand if it's an ability instead of a talent. Thanks!

    1. This predates the release of The Adept's Journey: Mystic Paths by five years. It was trying some things out to fill the gap left between editions. The Scholar Path is the completed version of what this started.