13 January 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 07 - Swordmaster

This is the seventh 4E Companion Discipline Preview, 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.

And the pendulum swings back, bringing with it Swordmaster! This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

Swordmasters are a hybrid Discipline, having one foot in the social arena and the other in a fight. Though a stylish fight to be certain. I think those are called "conflicts" or "duels". Each combat Discipline has a particular style that emphasizes how they go about their particular brand of violence. As they advance in Circle, the Swordmaster begins to evolve. The first half of their Circles were devoted to precision and timing, controlling the tempo of a conflict. Now they leverage that expertise in dangerous new directions.

But first, a look at their Discipline abilities. Warden features Blood Bound Blade, which is very similar to the previous Master ability, Keen Blade. Which was a perfectly fine ability, though a bit expensive and underpowered for when it showed up. With a few changes, it works great as a Warden ability. This provides a continual damage boost, much like Spot Armor Flaw, which helps support their multiple attacks while keeping Strain costs low. Which is important considering Swordmasters tend to have lower Toughness than their other close combat specialist counterparts. One particular change is it can be used on two weapons, which is only appropriate for a Discipline that prominently features Second Weapon as a key talent.

With the Master ability moved up, the Warden ability is clearly gone. Which is okay, because there's a spell with a very similar function and it was a neat ability, but too specialized. Nonetheless, this opened up for a new Master ability: Audacious Bravado. Which is just fun for everyone. It encourages players to get into trouble, following the Swordmaster's lead, and gives everyone a bonus along the way. There's a time and a place for the black op, but sometimes the best plan is when the Swordmaster sees underthings drying on a line and asks someone to hold their drink, "I've got a plan..." Of course it's a stupid plan! But it's going to be a lot of fun as it goes wrong.

Going back to their new talent spread, it's different. Plenty of talents aren't around anymore: Infuse Blade, Mind Armor, Mind Blade, Missile Twister, Pin, Shield Beater, Shield Charge, Vital Strike, and Whirlwind. Most of those simply aren't talents anymore for differing reasons. Gone, but not forgotten. Some are available earlier: Impressive Strike (now Impressive Display) and Spot Armor Flaw. Others were moved from Discipline talents to talent options: Champion Challenge and Ethereal Weapon. The last two deserve a little discussion. Champion Challenge is fitting for the Discipline, but it's not a talent that will necessarily come up in every game and there are other talents just as fitting for Swordmaster. Ethereal Blade works with their theme to master the blade, but it doesn't support their particular style as some other talents.

Talents like Critical Hit and Momentum Attack that benefit strongly from being able to deliver an attack with plenty of extra successes. Or Defensive Posture which serves to boost Riposte. Vicious Wound emphasizes their precise attacks and how they can control a conflict, along with Cutting Words - a social attack with a knockdown rider. And Fluid Movement, enhancing their already excellent access to mobility and letting them really explore the area. With stylish violence.

Swordmasters still looking to improve their social abilities have talent options working for them, such as Bardic Voice, Empathic Sense, Undermine, and Witty Repartee. Of those, Undermine is incredibly effective in their hands. There are, of course, options for the more conflict oriented, providing different offensive and defensive options. Chilling Strike gives an edge to adepts built around high initiative, while Aura Armor, Life Check, Lion Spirit,+ Relentless Recovery, Resist Pain, Soul Aegis, Unflinching Fortitude, and Vital Ward provide different defensive options. Finally, Ethereal Weapon, Matrix Sight, and Spirit Strike are for those who want more offensive options, particularly against opposing spellcasters.

These adepts have a variety of tricks up their sleeves and are at their best when creating openings and pressing the advantage. They can be comparatively complex, but with the ability to contribute significantly to both conflicts and social activities, stylishly, they are all about getting the maximum time in the spotlight.

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