17 April 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 27 - Blade Dancer, Part 2

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.

This is a continuation of development on the Blade Dancer discipline from part 1.

Since the first post on the Blade Dancer has gone up, I have received good feedback. An important part of it was the assessment of Firefly Lure: it should probably be available to Warriors at the very least. Which means some will need to be a general reconfiguration to deal with the hole this creates in the talent progression.

Before getting into that topic, a brief aside [this is a lie; I am incapable of anything resembling brevity] on potential access to Firefly Lure. The only public comment suggested Swordmasters and Sky Raiders should potentially gain access to the ability as well. To be clear: this is not an unfair suggestion by any stretch; it, in fact, deserves more than I gave it at the time. If things went in this direction, I was on the fence regarding Sky Raiders. In the end, it is appropriate to them, but it would be access gained much later than Blade Dancers and Warriors. Battlefield control like that isn't one of their specialties, but the ability to draw attention, take punishment, and fire are all in theme for them.

In the reply, I indicated this is not an ability to which Swordmasters will gain access without expanding on the statement. Here are the reasons why this is the case. The first is one of specialization; Swordmasters specialize in single opponents over multiple. This isn't to say they cannot take on a group, but it isn't their strength. Second is about elemental themes. It seems like a little thing, but it helps to establish a feel for a discipline if they follow particular elemental themes. This also helps when it comes time to make tough decisions regarding talent options. Swordmasters do not have fire as one of their themes. The third reason ties into both the first and second. It goes back to maintaining clear distinctions between Blade Dancer and Swordmaster. The difference in combat styles, the elemental themes, all of this is important in establishing and maintaining the distance and validity of both disciplines. 

Longer than I thought it would be, which is why I added the note in brackets. Hopefully this explanation makes sense and pulls back the curtain a little on why some decisions were made. Returning to the topic at hand: changing talents.

Removing Firefly Lure isn't just a simple swap in this instance. It was a Journeyman talent and the replacement, Distract, is Novice. While it could be installed at fifth circle, this feels too much like a surcharge on a basic talent for the sake of convenience. Of the Novice discipline talents, Wound Balance is the poorest fit, which puts Distract in Novice where it belongs and Wound Balance is a Novice talent option. This still leaves a hole at fifth circle, however.

There are a few options on how to proceed here, but they effectively come down to either developing another new talent, or moving a talent from the Journeyman options to the discipline talents. Since everything of which I can think to fulfill the role a new talent is also something to which other disciplines should have access, I am going to skip all of the agonizing work involve and graduate a talent option.

Moving a talent option to a discipline talent in this case will have the linked effect of requiring a new talent option. First things first, however. Looking at the list, the best choice is Waterfall Slam for two reasons. The first, it continues with the vague water theme of Journeyman. Second, it also emphasizes more battlefield control, which is good for this discipline (particularly since they don't have a lot of damage to send opponents sprawling in the first place).

Waterfall Slam could just go in at fifth circle, and this wouldn't be inherently a bad thing, but it is something of a new signature talent for Warriors and I would like to have it be special for them a little bit longer. Also, Spot Armor Flaw would fit nicely earlier. So, Spot Armor Flaw gets moved down and Waterfall Slam comes in at seventh circle. I'm not sold on the location of these talents and they can be switched based on a compelling argument.

There is still an opening for a talent option which requires attention.

Three different areas can be explored with this: mental, physical, or social.

Going through the more cerebral talents, Research, Steel Thought, and Tactics are the best options. However, none of these are particularly great options. As of yet, this hasn't been a scholarly discipline, nor focused on mystic aspects, and it isn't associated with organized conflict. Perhaps there is a place for a scholar-warrior style discipline (the Monk is somewhat shaping up in this direction), but this is a topic for another day.

Social talents are a bit more fertile with Empathic Sense, Lasting Impression, and Winning Smile all coming up. The latter two are quickly discarded because this treads too much on Swordmaster territory. Empathic Sense still remains as an interesting option.

Combat talents are tricky because they already have nearly everything which is appropriate. There are still two, Blade Juggle and Unarmed Combat, which may work. Despite being strangely compelling, Blade Juggle gets pulled because it just doesn't quite fit. This is a discipline based around having a single, one-handed weapon, not a sack full of weapons and a talent which requires both hands (thus making the Journeyman ability useless).

The final tally leaves us with Empathic Sense and Unarmed Combat. In the end, I picked Unarmed Combat, but part of me wants Empathic Sense as a talent option. However, Empathic Sense isn't quite as appropriate as the other talent options. This isn't a discipline with a strong group or exceptionally prominent social theme. Though it does fit their social theme well. Unarmed Combat won the day because it goes well with having an open hand, I can see this discipline appealing to t'skrang characters (and they tend to want access to Unarmed Combat), and for some other reasons which are shrouded in secrecy for now.

Since nothing is ever easy, Unarmed Combat needs to be available as a Novice talent option to be relevant. The open spot is for a Journeyman talent option. Looking over the list, Impressive Display is the best choice for moving up a tier. There are three reasons for this. The first is it spreads out the social talents a little better, putting two at each tier. Second, Impressive Display doesn't need many ranks invested in it to be useful, which means it is easier to absorb the increased costs of a Journeyman talent for interested characters. The third reason is it introduces a little more distinction between Blade Dancer and Swordmaster, as the latter has access to Impressive Display as a Novice talent option. This makes Blade Dancers a little less social leaning.

All of the talent shifting is now cleaned up and settled. Until some more valuable feedback comes in to stir things up again. Well, that and as I look at the talent options, I see Anticipate Blow. A talent which is somewhat redundant with Acrobatic Defense as a discipline talent. This could be removed and Danger Sense could drop down to Novice. Which opens up a place for Empathic Sense as a Journeyman talent option. What are the thoughts on this potential shift?

Hopefully everything discussed here makes sense. If it does not, please let me know if there are any questions on the above decisions and reasoning. Otherwise, below is the updated version of the discipline. 

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
  • Distract
  • Defense: +1 Social Defense
Talent Options
  1. Anticipate Blow
  2. Awareness
  3. Conceal Object
  4. Etiquette
  5. First Impression
  6. Graceful Exit
  7. Great Leap
  8. Surprise Strike
  9. Unarmed Combat
  10. Wound Balance

Fifth Circle
  • Spot Armor Flaw
  • 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
  • Waterfall Slam
  • Bonus: +1 Initiative
Eighth Circle
  • Second Attack
  • Defense: +3 Physical Defense
Talent Options
  1. Danger Sense
  2. Disarm
  3. Gliding Stride
  4. Impressive Display
  5. Lion Heart
  6. Resist Taunt
  7. Riposte
  8. Sprint
  9. Swift Kick
  10. Wind Catcher

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