22 October 2014

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 06 - Air Sailor

This is the sixth 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 Air Sailor in Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) is one of the most versatile disciplines. They have good access to combat, social, and "adventuring" talents, along with a strong emphasis on teamwork. Depending on the talent options selected, they can emphasize any of these roles to fit their goals or needs of the group.

They can also be adapted to other arenas, such as river boats or sailing, by changing their bonus talent, Air Sailing, and Wind Catcher to talents more appropriate to their new environment. For example, an Air Sailor who operates on the Aras Sea would likely have Sailing and Swimming instead. The mechanics for Sailing would be identical to Air Sailing, simply on the water rather than the air, and Swimming is the same as the skill.

Air Sailors are nearly always welcome in any group due to their versatility and teamwork. If you want to support your group first and foremost, and able to participate in nearly any endeavor, this is a discipline worth considering.


First Circle
  • Air Weaving
  • Avoid Blow
  • Climbing
  • Melee Weapons
  • Wind Catcher
  • Durability 5
  • Air Sailing
  • Karma: On an airship
Second Circle
  • Awareness
Third Circle
  • Empathic Sense
  • Karma: Initiative
Fourth Circle
  • Wound Balance

Fifth Circle
  • Heartening Laugh
  • Collaborate: 1 Strain, once per round describe specifically how you are working with an ally to achieve a common goal to give them a +2 bonus (GM’s discretion).
  • Karma: Interaction tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Air Dance
Seventh Circle
  • Inspire Others
Eighth Circle
  • Lion Heart
Their discipline talents are slightly weighted towards combat with just under half of the talents (Air Dance, Avoid Blow, Lion Heart, Melee Weapons, and Wound Balance). This means all Air Sailors will be capable of contributing to a fight. From there, they are divided between adventuring talents (Air Sailing, Awareness, Climbing, and Wind Catcher) and social/teamwork talents (Emapthic Sense, Heartening Laugh, and Inspire Others).

The selections were made to emphasize their themes and how an Air Sailor is likely to function within the setting. Their adventuring talents, along with Wound Balance, account for the abilities they will need to fulfill their duties on an airship - thus they are all acquired prior to Journeyman. Once the Air Sailor is a Journeyman, they become a more senior member of the crew and their talents reflect this with access to more abilities which promote teamwork: Collaborate, Heartening Laugh, and Inspire Others.

Every Air Sailor is expected to defend their ship, particularly against their nemeses: Sky Raiders. This is why all Air Sailors have default access to a variety of combat talents - every body must be able to protect their fellows and their ship. Their fighting style benefits from speed, which fits with their connection to the air element, particularly with the ability to spend Karma on Initiative tests and access to Air Dance.

Heartening Laugh and Lion Heart are both excellent defenses against the potent fear effects, such as those of Sky Raiders - it simply does not do for the senior crew to show fear in the face of the enemy, particularly in front of the junior crew members.

 It is important to note Air Sailors are not intended to be primary combatants. While they can certainly hold their own in a fight, their mid-level Durability 5 means they will fall behind more combat focused disciplines, such as Sky Raiders, Swordmasters, and Warriors. Talent option selection can make a big difference in what these adepts bring to a fight and are at their most dangerous when actively working as part of a team.

All Air Sailors are social to a degree, hence the Karma on Interaction tests, though the amount of emphasis placed on this depends on the adept. This goes for further combat specialization and those who are interested in leadership positions. If you are interested in focusing further on combat, you will want to keep your combat talent options at the same rank as your discipline talents. This will keep them useful as Defense ratings continue to increase.
  • Acrobatic Defense - One of the two ways for an Air Sailor to improve their Physical Defense. The advantage this has over Maneuver is it works against all adjacent opponents. In particular, this gives them a greater ability to tie up a number of weaker opponents while their heavier hitting allies concentrate on the more dangerous adversaries. Any Air Sailor who intends to be combat focused will want to consider this talent.
  • Distract - Powerful and dangerous. This talent gives their allies a distinct advantage against one opponent. However, Air Sailors don't have a lot of defensive staying power and this can go sideways. When timed correctly, this can change the momentum of a conflict.
  • First Impression - Adepts looking to expand their social influence want to start here. Since Social Defense tends to stagnate compared to Physical and Mystic Defense, the required investment is on the low side. This is the foundation of a social character and is worth considering for every Air Sailor.
  • Great Leap - This talent increases battlefield mobility and can be a good compliment to the other combatants in the group. Either by giving them a partner to collaborate with, or someone to harass enemy ranged attackers.
  • Haggle - Likely to be one of the less popular talent options overall, it still has a place with the right Air Sailor. That being one who likes to be the quartermaster for the group. Buying supplies isn't sexy, but the money to pay for forged arms and armor must come from somewhere.
  • Maneuver - The other talent which improves Physical Defense. While it only works against one opponent, this also improves the adept's attack test. Air Sailors who want to focus heavily on combat will want this talent because of the offensive boost it offers.
  • Navigation - If you are interested in really being an Air Sailor, this adventuring talent is for you. It supports a traveling group and doesn't require the same level of continual investment as combat talents to get use out of it. 
  • Speak Language - It is generally useful to speak more languages, though social characters and groups who travel quite a bit will likely get the most value from this talent. It requires little investment to keep this talent useful.
  • Taunt - A social combat talent from which everyone benefits; this is a good option for every Air Sailor.
  • Throwing Weapons - This is the talent I would gently steer new players away from until they get a handle on the system. It will require continual investment to keep it competitive and likely an entirely different set of weapons to use. There are reasons to take this, but the decision should be made knowing it may end up as a resource sinkhole. For adepts willing to make the investment, it can end with some awesome gameplay.
What Novice talent options are right for you? Well, it depends on what direction you want your character to take. A jack-of-all-trades Air Sailor will likely get the most mileage from First Impression, Great Leap, Maneuver, and Taunt.

An adept who wants to be social will likely find First Impression, Haggle, Speak Language, and Taunt the most valuable. This character can easily fill in for a group which doesn't have an Illusionist, Swordmaster, or Troubadour. Here is where I confess I have never played in a game where there wasn't a Swordmaster.

Air Sailors with a combat focus should select Acrobatic Defense, Distract, Maneuver, and Taunt. While still not at the level of a Swordmaster, it comes rather dangerously close.
  • Air Speaking - Air Sailors who find communication with each other to be particularly important or difficult may consider this talent. It's primary uses are communicating covertly over a distance and during periods where it may otherwise be impossible. Such over the din of battle or while dropping through the sky onto a target.
  • Battle Bellow - Similar to Taunt, this is a talent which every Air Sailor should at least consider. This talent penalizes all of your opponents and improves your allies.
  • Conceal Object - Adepts who engage in smuggling will definitely find use for this talent, though only for objects which can be carried on their person. The other primary use is in conjunction with Surprise Strike. If Surprise Strike isn't as appealing to you, this talent is not going to be as useful overall.
  • Engaging Banter - This is going to appeal most to social characters in groups which like to get up to no good. Particularly helpful for sneaking things which would otherwise be noticed immediately (e.g. obsidiman Warrior) part guards.
  • Etiquette - Socially or travel inclined Air Sailors are going to find the most value here. The ability to adapt quickly to a new culture is very useful for groups which spend a lot of time going to new places.
  • Graceful Exit - If you have Engaging Banter, this may be worth considering. While running away is never a player character's default move, this talent can now affect your entire group. This makes the prospect of a retreat less unpalatable in general since no one will be left behind.
  • Leadership - While not typically of much value to the average player character, this is invaluable to any Air Sailor who wants to captain their own vessel. It can also find use for rallying faceless masses of NPCs to a cause temporarily.
  • Resist Taunt - A must for social characters and also worth considering for combat characters to help with the various social debuffs out there.
  • Second Weapon - With the importance of Initiative for Air Dance, the prospect of a shield is not appealing to most Air Sailors. As well, there is variety of attributes which they rely on, meaning they aren't likely to have the strength for two-handed weapons. All of this makes Second Weapon a good talent for every Air Sailor.
  • Surprise Strike - This is the only damage booster Air Sailors get in the first two tiers. However, it is also quite limited in application and effectively requires Conceal Object to regular usage. Working as a team with your group can make it more useful and it is also the only talent which can improve damage on both melee and ranged weapons. Anyone serious about throwing weapons will want this over later options.
The talent options available at Journeyman are more specific in application and benefit most from having a clear idea of your direction. It isn't a bad thing to look back on the Novice talents for selections if so inclined. What this does is make it more difficult to offer suggestions since many of these are very useful in specific campaigns, while not broadly useful outside of those campaigns.

The jack-of-all-trades Air Sailor will most likely want Battle Bellow, Etiquette, and Second Weapon. This leaves an open spot depending on the role they tend to be fulfilling; Air Speaking and Resist Taunt could be quite useful. Looking back at the Novice list may be a good idea if neither of those are appealing - characters seeing a lot of combat may be interested in Acrobatic Defense or Distract to help a Thief with their Surprise Strike.

Social Air Sailors will find Air Speaking, Battle Bellow, Etiquette, and Resist Taunt to round out this tier nicely. If combat is becoming more important, Air Speaking can be substituted for Second Weapon.

Those who are most interested in specializing in combat will want Battle Bellow and Second Weapon at the very least. From there, it depends in you want to invest in Surprise Strike or not. If so, Conceal Object and Surprise Strike are best friends. However, if you want to wait for something else, Great Leap should be appearing on this list and Resist Taunt is a good partner to work against your opponents' social attacks.

For a discussion over the general themes of Air Sailor and how they can function in game, see the Third Edition Anatomy of Air Sailor. Example characters: dwarf and t'skrang.

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