22 January 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 08 - Alternate Advancement [Basics]

This is the eighth Rules Variant, part of 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.

4E was designed with the default method of advancement in mind, which is to say every adept learns the Discipline talents for their associated Discipline and branches out through their talent options. The benefits are it's simple and easy to understand—this is a boon for new players because there's a lot of moving parts and things to learn. Too many choices and there can be problems. For example, humans tend to be a good "default" race in other fantasy adventure games, while in Earthdawn they require the most system mastery. This can be jarring for new players.

The default Discipline talent list is also easy to design for and gives distinctive flavor to each Discipline, encouraging them to be different, rather than slight variations of the same thing (this is especially true of spellcasting Disciplines). It encourages setting over system and thinking with the tools you have, rather than all the tools you want.

However, it also severely restricts choice in some potentially important ways. It was a goal to encourage flexibility and the talent option system introduced in 3E does that, the Discipline talents also work against that. Nothing is perfect.

The Discipline talent and talent options sceheme is a full improvement over the "pick one of two talents" scheme from 1E which typically lead to very uneven talent distribution between Circles. When looking at advancement schemes for 4E, this was considered at one point—though with much more care over what talents are offered—because it allows for some interesting talent gating.

Thus the "Using All Talents to Advance" optional rule. It mostly works well. Mostly. It's essentially just the advancement scheme from 1E imported to 3E/4E without much further thought given to it because further tinkering with it is complicated and essentially a new system. Which is basically what I'm doing here.

This alternate advancement scheme seeks to harmonize the two different approach. To be clear, I consider the lists imperfect because they are adapted from a system not fully designed for this approach and I'm not quite willing for a full rebuild at this point. Rather, an attempt at putting something in place that works better that the presented optional rule, whic as noted above can yield characters that don't fit well in their purported Discipline, or min/max it to be a flavorless optimization.

Here are the guidelines and alterations for this alternate advancement scheme:

Character Creation
  • Adepts have five Discipline talents at First Circle and one new Discipline talent at each subsequent Circle.
  • Adepts must put at least one rank from their starting eight talent ranks into each Discipline talent. This leaves three ranks to be distributed as usual (talents still cannot be improved beyond rank 3 with these ranks).
  • Adepts may select one talent option from the general talents.

Talent Types

  • Discipline talents can be Required, Gated, or Open.
  • A Required talent must be taken as a Discipline talent at the specified Circle.
    • For example, Air Sailors are required to take Air Weaving as a Discipline talent at First Circle.
  • A Gated talent is presented as a choice, whether between two specific talents or a specific talent and an Open talent. The talent may become available only after a particular Circle.
    • For example, Archers can choose between Missile Weapons or Throwing Weapons as a Discipline talent at First Circle. They can choose between Flame Arrow and a general talent option at Seventh Circle. These are the two different types of gated choices.
  • Gated talents not selected are added to the general talents. They can be learned later as Open talents or talent options, just like any other general talent.
  • Open talents are selected from the Discipline’s general talents.


  • Adept's must learn one new Discipline talent at each subsequent Circle.
  • The new tier's general talents are added to the adept's general talent pool when the adept advances in tier.
  • Any talent in the adept's general talent pool can be selected for a Discipline talent if the "Open talent" is available at that Circle.
  • Adepts may learn a talent option for each Circle.
    • This can be learned at any future time, so long as there is a teacher available.
    •  Alternatively, with five days of at least eight hours of uninterrupted meditation each day while in good health (same requirements as improving a talent), the adept can teach themselves a talent option from their general talent pool. This cannot be used to circumvent Circle advancement.
  • Some talents are gated at a Circle, but present in the Discipline's general talent pool prior to the gated Circle. This means the adept can learn it earlier if they choose and later turn it into a Discipline talent.
    • If it is learned as a Discipline talent for an earlier Circle, the other provided choice must be learned as the Discipline talent for that Circle.
  • If the adept wants to turn a talent option into a Discipline talent, there are some requirements:
    • The talent must be learned from the same Discipline. Not just can be learned, but must actually be learned. 
      • For example, a Scout learned Wilderness Survival as a Scout talent option. This cannot become an Elementalist Discipline talent.
    • The talent must be learned at the same tier as the Circle it's going to become a Discipline talent for.
      • The Scout cannot have their Wilderness Survival talent option they learned at First Circle become their Sixth Circle Discipline talent. However, if they learned it as a Fifth Circle talent option (advancing it at Journeyman tier costs), they can turn it into their Sixth Circle Discipline talent.
    • The reason behind these seemingly Byzantine requirements is to keep things simple and prevent abuses.
  • Free talents can be improved like other talents. When the adept advances their Circle in the associated Discipline, they are refunded the Legend Points it cost to increase the Free talent to the new Circle.

Multiple Disciplines
  • When learning First Circle in an additional Discipline, adepts must still take five Discipline talents.
    • They cannot choose gated or general talents they already know as Discipline talents, it must be a new talent if possible.
    • If a previously learned talent option is a required Discipline talent in the new Discipline, it does not "open" the talent option spot, but it is still advanced under the previous costs.
  • Talents learned through Versatility can be transferred to talent options or Discipline talents, opening the spot for a new Versatility talent. The talents now have the appropriate advancement to their new Circle (and with tier increases for additional Disciplines if appropriate).
  • Only one spell matrix of a given type can be learned as either a Discipline talent or talent option.
  • Free talents can be improved like any other talent. When the adept advances in Circle, thus improving their Free talent, the appropriate number of Legend Points are refunded to the adept.

List of Disciplines

No comments:

Post a Comment