17 February 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Companion Discipline Preview 12 - Thief

This is the twelfth 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.

The last Discipline in this triad is the Thief. This is intended to offer some insights into the Discipline design. Obviously the actual progression is missing, which is found at FASA Games.

Thieves have a few different themes they explore in their higher Circles. One, seen through their Discipline abilities, ever increasing embrace of darkness and shadows. Another is taking their thieving abilities to another level, metaphorically, or even another plane, quite literally. There are also their deceptive and opportunistic streaks.

Both Warden and Master Discipline abilities are new, replacing the previous entries for different reasons. Shadowcloak is so appropriate for the Discipline, it is the Journeyman Discipline ability. Shadow Heal, on the other hand, isn't a bad ability, it's just a strange one. It fits with the idea Thieves are loners and don't need anyone else, but doesn't particularly reinforce anything else they have going on. Which is to say it may be seen again in some form at a later date.

As mentioned above, the new abilities both build on how Thieves aren't just as competent in darkness as they are in light, but it's starting to feel like home. It's a part of them. This begins with their Warden ability, Shadow Sight. As long as they can see, even magical darkness doesn't bother them anymore. If they're using Shadowcloak, they can see even better. At Master they can become one with their Shadowcloak, bringing a new dimension to their intrusion game.

Like so many other Disciplines before them, Thieves' Discipline talents got a makeover. Aura Armor, Gain Surprise, Gold Sense, and Lip Reading are all gone. Of those, Aura Armor is still a talent, but it wasn't a good fit for Thief. That feeling of fortitude, stability, etc., it just isn't their style. Gain Surprise is somewhat gone. We'll get back there in a moment.

Naturally, this means there are some new Discipline talents to fill the gaps that were created. Enter Beguiling Blade, Dream Thief, Power Mask, and Snatch Talent. Of those, Power Mask isn't new and is also a natural fit for a Discipline naturally involved in deception. Also, something about Thieves not always being popular *cough* Travar *cough*.

Building on the theme of deception is Beguiling Blade. This can be seen as the replacement for Gain Surprise, but it does a few different things that make it a more interesting option. It builds on an existing talent, Conceal Object, rather than effectively replacing it - an area explored in a number of high Circle talents. It does two things: improves the Conceal Object test and turns it into a Simple action. This effectively accomplishes the purpose of Gain Surprise, but has non-combat applications as well and Conceal Object just got better. The name strongly implies it is a combat-only talent, but to be perfectly honest, it's a really good name.

The next two new talents, Dream Thief and Snatch Talent, both move Thieves from stealing literal objects into the realm of stealing things more... ephemeral. Also, both interact with Pick Pockets. Snatch Talent does pretty much what it says on the tin, while Dream Thief is a bit weirder. It allows the adept to steal memories. The stolen talents and memories, once stolen, have a substance to them that can be stored in an Astral Pocket and transferred to others with the appropriate talent. Each has a duration and prohibition against using the stolen bits. But Thieves have a certain knack for breaking the rules.

Moving to their talent options, let's take stock of what has been lost: Bank Shot, Detect Falsehood, Mind Wave, Poison Resistance, Quick Shot, Safe Thought, Sense Magic Item, and Shackle Shrug. As usual, some of these aren't talents anymore or maybe weren't a good fit. With that, let's see the new entries: Acrobatic Defense, Alley Cat Approach, Anticipate Blow, Astral Sight, Defensive Posture, Disarming Smile, Echolocation, Fluid Movement, Netherwalk, Orbiting Spy, Perfect Focus, Resist Taunt, Spirit Strike, and Wind Catcher. It's worth noting Escape Divination is now Escape Plan, while Second Weapon and Sense Danger are both in earlier tiers.

There's a lot of new things here to support a variety of different Thief characters and their particular direction. The one thing that didn't get a lot of support is the more social Thief character, receiving only Disarming Smile and Resist Taunt. Many of the advanced social talents weren't a great fit and they already have access to solid set of abilities to support any grifting. These two build on that, without moving them into the realm of a truly social character. Instead reinforcing the idea social abilities are a means to an end for this Discipline.

One they do see more options include improving their ability to gain access and get out of trouble, with talents such as Alley Cat Approach, Escape Plan, Netherwalk, and Wind Catcher. Along with this comes new ways to gather information, useful for casing a target, scouting, or spying: Astral Sight, Echolocation, and Orbiting Spy. For those more interested in the role of opportunistic killer, they have some new defensive options, Acrobatic Defense, Anticipate Blow, and Defensive Posture, along with offensive options in Critical Hit and Spirit Strike.

All together, Thieves are embracing the concepts of taking and shadows. The ephemeral is now something they can grasp. That maybe all these rules are for other people, not them. And they would give it all up for just a little bit more.

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