03 April 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 27 - Blade Dancer, Part 1

This is the twenty-seventh 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 Sword Dancer is a discipline from Cathay which has not yet been updated to Earthdawn Fourth Edition (ED4). This isn't the Sword Dancer, but the Blade Dancer. It is derived from/inspired by the Sword Dancer, but there is a reason the Name change is important for this discipline.

Identity of the discipline is the reason. When introduced in Cathay, the Sword Dancer was an interesting enough discipline in concept - a sword-wielding wuxia martial artist. In execution, it struggled to differentiate itself from the Swordmaster. So much, it was strange why the Swordmaster even existed in the setting; the Sword Dancer filled the equivalent niche from a different cultural perspective. Changing the Name of the discipline sets it enough apart from its roots and from the Swordmaster discipline to become its own thing.

The core concept of the discipline remains - sword-wielding wuxia martial artist. This is a starting point and only a source of inspiration, rather than something to be emulated slavishly. From here, the goal becomes finding a niche for this discipline between Swordmaster and Warrior. I bring up Warrior because part of separating the Blade Dancer from the Swordmaster involves exploring a limited elemental theme. Limited because the elemental theme is key to the Warrior.

One of my goals was to remove much of the essential Cathay flavor and turn the discipline into something which, while keeping the original inspiration, is applicable to Barsaive in addition to Cathay.

Cutting to the chase, the Blade Dancer is (currently) an elementally themed (air, fire, and water) light fighter designed around using a single one-handed weapon and facing multiple opponents at once. This is a counterpoint to the Swordmaster who uses two weapons and specializes in facing a single opponent. They have access to social talents through their talent options and can also bring quite a bit of mobility if they desire. The Blade Dancer is more militant than the Swordmaster and likely to appeal to previous fans of the Bladesman specialist of the Swordmaster.

The elemental themes exist in talents (both discipline and options) and in their discipline abilities and roughly (though imperfectly) tracked to tiers. They will receive a "dance" ability for each of the elements in the first three tiers which aligns with the primary element for the tier: Air Dance as a Novice discipline talent, Water Dance as the Journeyman discipline ability, and Fire Dance as the Warden discipline ability (even if it isn't shown below). 

There are two new mechanical elements for this discipline. The first is their Journeyman ability; it provides some versatility to the discipline from giving up their off-hand, being unable to use a second weapon, shield, or two-handed weapon. The key is it allows them to adapt to their situation, particularly with a custom talent which shows up at the same circle - either going defensive, or pressing the advantage. A previous iteration provided a larger bonus while requiring the adept to have no more than a specific Initiative Penalty from armor. This was discarded because it already has enough dictation about weapon selection. It definitely needs additional testing to ensure it works appropriately without giving too much of a boost.

Next is the talent, Firefly Lure. This is a counterpoint to Distract and intended to be used against a large number of opponents, instead of just one. The penalty is conditional based on behavior, which encourages opponents to focus on the Blade Dancer. It provides more group control and can allow her allies more freedom around the battlefield. This talent went through a number of different iterations, balancing various effects. A lot more testing needs to go into this talent to see how it plays out. Also, I'm uncertain if this is an ability which other disciplines should possess; in particular the Warrior and Sky Raider to a lesser extent. If yes, there are ways to maintain this ability and give broader access to those who should have it.

At this point, it exists apart from the Swordmaster and the Warrior and does some things which neither of them do. However, it is still undecided if this is a discipline which is different and unique enough to warrant existing with some more development. Does it bring something to the game and setting which is worthwhile and new?

Artisan Skills: Dancing, Rune Carving

Half-Magic: Blade Dancers use half-magic to care for their weapons and recognize different types of melee weapons. Blade Dancers may also use half-magic to identify another Blade Dancer’s fighting techniques, the influences of a Blade Dancer's particular style, and elemental fighting techniques. They are also familiar with prominent dance styles.


First Circle
  • Acrobatic Defense
  • Avoid Blow
  • Blade Weaving
  • Melee Weapons
  • Tiger Spring
  • Durability 7
Second Circle
  • Maneuver
  • Defense: +1 Physical Defense
Third Circle
  • Air Dance
  • Karma: Initiative
Fourth Circle
  • Wound Balance
  • Defense: +1 Social Defense
Talent Options
  • Anticipate Blow
  • Awareness
  • Conceal Object
  • Distract
  • Etiquette
  • First Impression
  • Graceful Exit
  • Great Leap
  • Impressive Display
  • Surprise Strike

Fifth Circle
  • Firefly Lure
  • Water Dance: For 1 Strain before Initiative is determined and if your off-hand does not have a weapon or a shield, you may take either a +2 bonus to your melee weapon Damage tests, or a +2 bonus to your Physical Defense. To change the benefit, this ability must be used again. This ability lasts until the end of combat.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a karma point on melee weapon Damage tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Momentum Attack
  • Defense: +2 Physical Defense
Seventh Circle
  • Spot Armor Flaw
  • Bonus: +1 Initiative
Eighth Circle
  • Second Attack
  • Defense: +3 Physical Defense
Talent Options
  • Danger Sense
  • Disarm
  • Gliding Stride
  • Lion Heart
  • Resist Taunt
  • Riposte
  • Sprint
  • Swift Kick
  • Waterfall Slam
  • Wind Catcher

Firefly Lure
Step: Rank + CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
The adept’s blade becomes surrounded with beguiling flame, causing opponents to be distracted by the bright, darting colors and drawn to the adept. To use this talent, the adept makes a Firefly Lure test against the highest Social Defense of each adjacent opponent. If successful, all affected targets must remain adjacent to the adept and include her in all of their attacks for a number of rounds equal to the number of successes. If a target moves away from the adept, or makes an attack which does not include the adept, they are Blindsided until the end of the next round as they find it nearly impossible to pay attention to anything other than the flames. The Blindsided duration is independent from the talent duration.

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