08 September 2015

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Discipline 29 - Bodyguard

This is the twenty-ninth 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 Bodyguard is a discipline which was first introduced in Earthdawn First Edition in Living Room Games' adventure "Path of Deception", though not updated for Third Edition. A reader recently requested a Fourth Edition version of this discipline for a friend's birthday present, a request I was more than happy to oblige.

There is some setting background on the origins of this discipline which is overly complicated at best. Why it would only come into being from the efforts of Journeyman (the discipline) adepts as a reaction to the Scourge, then taught in Throal where a dwarf Warrior would eventually learn this as a secondary discipline... I just don't know. The addition of stigma attached because it came into being during the Scourge - this also makes little sense to me. It is entirely possible I am missing something.

Nonetheless, the premise is fairly straight forward and it is easy to see the appeal of including such a discipline in a campaign from a setting standpoint. It is likely to be an uncommon discipline, particularly with adventurers, given its function and at least somewhat selfless nature. As a secondary discipline, it finds many more uses, particularly for Swordmasters and Warriors, and even Weaponsmiths to a lesser extent.

From a mechanical perspective, this is a poor choice for a primary discipline due to the highly defensive nature of the abilities. As well, there are some key pieces which are missing right now due to their inclusion in other works which have not yet been released. As indicated, the primary focus here is defense, with a lesser emphasis on perceptive abilities to detect trouble. With talent options, a Bodyguard can develop in a few different directions, though they all emphasize different aspects of their primary focus.

Few disciplines offer as many defensive options, particularly coupled with Perception-based talents, as the Bodyguard. However, they pay for this with few offensive options. They have no access to damage boosting and additional attack abilities through Journeyman. This is a key part of why they are unlikely to be a common choice as a primary discipline. Their defensive abilities really are astounding and can make a melee discipline the rock which opposition crashes upon.

Nothing here has been playtested yet and the Fifth Circle discipline and karma abilities are the most likely sources of trouble. The concept behind the discipline ability is to give what may very well be a low Initiative discipline access to what will be a key talent regardless of their poor Initiative, along with a small boost. Their karma ability plays this up even more, though at the cost of a damage ability which most other combat disciplines see at this Circle. It was hard to justify the damage increase for a discipline which isn't really about offensive abilities. An alternative was to offer them the ability to increase an Armor rating by a karma for one attack once per round. This still has potential, but it seems out of place at this Circle.

Artisan Skills: Rune Carving, Tattooing

Half-Magic: Bodyguards use half-magic for knowledge of escape routes in their immediate area which they have traversed or seen. In addition, they use half-magic for proper maintenance of armor and weapons.


First Circle

  • Anticipate Blow
  • Awareness
  • Danger Sense
  • Guard Weaving
  • Melee Weapons
  • Durability 7
Second Circle
  • Avoid Blow
  • Defense: +1 Physical Defense
Third Circle
  • Wound Balance
  • Karma: The adept may spend a karma point on Action tests to detect potential threats. This can include Sensing tests when appropriate.
Fourth Circle
  • Empathic Sense
  • Defense: +1 Social Defense
Talent Options
  1. Disarm Trap
  2. Distract
  3. Etiquette
  4. Fireblood
  5. Graceful Exit
  6. Maneuver
  7. Shield Bash
  8. Tiger Spring
  9. Throwing Weapons
  10. Unarmed Combat

Fifth Circle
  • Blood Share
  • Always Ready: Before Initiative has been determined, the adept may choose any number of talents which can increase Physical Defense as a Simple action. The adept pays 1 Strain for each selected talent. These talents may be used as a Free Action before Initiative is determined this round and the adept is considered to have a higher Initiative result to meet any requirements (e.g. Anticipate Blow). The adept gains a +2 bonus on all affected talents. If a talent can be used more than once per round (e.g. Anticipate Blow), the 1 Strain cost to use this ability must only be paid once.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a karma point on talent tests which increase Physical Defense (e.g. Anticipate Blow), avoid physical attacks (e.g. Avoid Blow), or escape from conflict. This may not be used on Spellcasting tests.
Sixth Circle
  • Life Check
  • Defense: +2 Physical Defense
Seventh Circle
  • Lion Heart
  • Bonus: +1 Recovery Test
Eighth Circle
  • Temper Flesh
  • Defense: +3 Physical Defense
Talent Options
  1. Astral Sight
  2. Cold Purify
  3. Disarm
  4. Iron Constitution
  5. Lifesight
  6. Resist Taunt
  7. Riposte
  8. Steel Thought
  9. Steely Stare
  10. True Sight


  1. I would love to see an update to this discipline including possible knacks.

    1. It's probably not going to happen. Between the things I need to write and it was a favor to begin with, rather than something I thought was a good concept for a Discipline. However, there is another structure I created that works much better for the bodyguard concept.