27 March 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 26 - War Rider

This is the twenty-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.

War Rider is a discipline from Cathay which has not been updated to Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4) yet. Using it as presented, it is unlikely to get an official update. From my perspective, this discipline is in an interesting position and somewhat different from many others.

The setting material for this discipline is pretty terrible. It is the Mongol, I'm sorry Gar light cavalry archer ready to cause trouble in Warring States era China, er Cathay. Gar are a subspecies of elf which aren't worth any more words. Nothing about this plays well with others and they are all jerks. This is pretty much what the text says. However, the mechanics behind this aren't bad. The have a lot of peculiarities specific to the culture from which they have liberally borrowed, but there might be room in Earthdawn for a mounted archer discipline.

This is my effort to discover if this is the case.

The biggest issue is going to be making this discipline something more than just a hybrid of Archer and Cavalryman. To be honest, I don't think I succeeded at this point. However, since those two disciplines don't go well together in the first place, all is not lost by simply creating their lovechild.

One of the big points for the original War Rider was how little they cared for their animal. This doesn't tend to go over well with people who want to have mounts. Also, while you may not care about your animal at all, it certainly pays for it to be loyal to you. Compared to the Cavalryman, this discipline isn't going to see as much direct combat. Which means it isn't as important for them to have as many talents which improve their mount. Access, yes, but not as a requirement.

Archery related talents are obviously important, but I want to play down many of the more mystic aspects of the Archer. This discipline is a little more pragmatic and simply doesn't have the same single-minded dedication to archery. With this in mind, they get the basic archery talents, but miss out on the more esoteric ones.

The third area I have given them for core talents is based on perception. This is pretty common for ranged attackers and it also plays into their role on the battlefield. They are built around out-maneuvering their opponents and it is important they never get pinned down. Denied their mobility, things get quite grim. To help this, they have some talents which should help them maintain situational awareness.

Their final piece is taken directly from the original War Rider: Surprise Strike and Feign Retreat. While these are key pieces to the Mongol Gar playbook, they also work well to showcase how this discipline uses their mobility to out maneuver their opponents and gain advantage. It also serves to provide a damage bonus without relying on Flame Arrow (which is quite esoteric).

Talent options first saw those added which improve their basic capabilities: ranged combat and animals. From there, it was looking at the various roles they may hold: military, outrider were the first two and a social traveler found its way in there somehow.

For talents, despite looking quite a bit like the middle point between Archer and Cavalryman, they don't look bad. However, I'm not sold on the inclusion of social talents right now and could go either way (keeping them or replacing them) depending on the arguments for either side. 

I used the Specialist template to emphasize how fragile they are in comparison to a Cavalryman, also keeping with Archers. This creates some additional work in the form of a free talent and a karma spend. Up until a few moments ago, Call Missile was the free talent, Animal Bond was a discipline talent, and Danger Sense was a talent option.

Here is why I changed to the current state: Call Missile is both too esoteric and too much like the Archer, Animal Bond isn't as useful at high ranks unless paired with Enhance Animal Companion, Danger Sense fits with them keeping aware at all times, and Animal Bond is too crucial (in my opinion) to simply relegate to talent options.

There were a number of different discipline abilities I went through before settling on the one listed. I'm not convinced the one I selected is the best, either. The goal is to have something which emphasizes their status as light and fast. Others were generally a combination of bonuses which required the adept to be wearing armor with no initiative penalty. These were ultimately discarded as too fiddly and too restrictive.

The final-ish result (below) definitely needs more input and collaboration, and deserves it before deciding if this type of discipline has a home in Earthdawn.


First Circle
  • Awareness
  • Danger Sense
  • Missile Weapons
  • Mount Weaving
  • Trick Riding
  • Animal Bond
  • Karma: Initiative
  • Durability 5
Second Circle
  • Animal Training
  • Defense: +1 Physical Defense
Third Circle
  • Surprise Strike
  • Karma: Attack tests against Surprised opponents.
Fourth Circle
  • Mystic Aim
  • Defense: +1 Social Defense
Talent Options
  1. Avoid Blow
  2. Call Missile
  3. Enhance Animal Companion
  4. Etiquette
  5. Graceful Exit
  6. Impressive Display
  7. Sure Mount
  8. Navigation
  9. Tracking
  10. Wilderness Survival

Fifth Circle
  • Call Animal Companion
  • Fleet of Hoof: For 1 Strain, the adept can increase her mount's Movement Rate by 4 for 1 round.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a karma point on ranged Damage tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Spot Armor Flaw
  • Defense: +2 Physical Defense
Seventh Circle
  • Feign Retreat
  • Bonus: +1 Initiative
Eighth Circle
  • Second Shot
  • Defense: +3 Physical Defense
Talent Options
  1. Animal Companion Durability
  2. Armor Mount
  3. Blood Share
  4. Distract
  5. First Impression
  6. Leadership
  7. Long Shot
  8. Spirit Mount
  9. Tactics
  10. Tiger Spring
Feign Retreat
Step: Rank + CHA
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
The mounted adept pretends to withdraw from combat, only to return shortly thereafter, surprising her opponent. She must have been in mounted combat for at least one round before using Feign Retreat, though not necessarily with her target, but her target must have at least seen her. She then moves away from combat and makes a Feign Retreat test against the target's Social Defense. If successful, once the adept returns to the battlefield, the target counts as Surprised towards the adept.

Every successful use of Feign Retreat against a target increases the difficulty to fool the target again. One every successive use during the encounter, Feign Retreat requires an additional success.

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