29 June 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 10 - Part 1 Hindrance

This is the first part of the tenth 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.

All the attributes in Earthdawn are important in their own way, though it’s fairly clear one sticks out as generally less valuable than the others: Strength. It increases combat damage for most characters, except for spellcasters and eventually ranged attackers with Flame Arrow, and is used for resisting knockdown. In many ways the limit on encumbrance is the most important factor as it limits what can be carried.

However, most tables ignore encumbrance as an exercise in bean counting when they want to have fun. Not run a spreadsheet to produce the live total of how much they are carrying. Then you can figure out the optimum amount of stuff to carry back by maximizing the value v. mass. If you have a cart with mules, this may be less important (unless there are obstacles preventing easy access to the phat lewt). But we’re now worrying about domesticated animals left outside to fend for themselves and have I lost everyone yet?

To dig into design a little: There is some merit in putting together a more simplified encumbrance system where only the big things are a concern and they get assigned some number of abstract encumbering units. These can have a rough mass equivalence, but it is still the same situation, just smaller numbers. And it runs afoul of carrying around millions of copper pieces, which may or may not be a problem depending on your view. Suffice it to say, it’s still not the easiest solution.

After all that preamble, what this post is actually about: Hindrance. This is a replacement to Initiative Penalty with the effects of Strength Value built in, rather than attempting to attach them as a post hoc fix. Even though this is a post hoc fix, it goes a little deeper to create a more coherent whole.

The premise is characters have a Hindrance Rating based on their Strength Value. Armor and shields have a Hindrance value equal to their current Initiative Penalty +1. If your Hindrance from armor and shields exceeds your Hindrance Rating, you suffer a -1 penalty to your Initiative Step and Movement Rate. If this reduces your Initiative Step to 0 or less, you cannot act in combat. Which is the same premise as Initiative Penalty. This also makes windling flight less excessive by forcing slightly more difficult decisions about equipment, reinforcing the idea of how they wear very light armor.

What this means is very strong characters can wear heavier armor and use bigger shields without it penalizing their Initiative. The Gauntlet Discipline is a specific edge case by how it functions and doesn’t benefit from this and makes their access to heavy armor less impressive. There’s a knack for that at the end.

Here are the specific rules:
  • A character’s Hindrance Rating is based on their Strength Value:
    • Strength Value 1-3: 0
    • Strength Value 4-7: 1
    • Strength Value 8-11: 2
    • Strength Value 12-15: 3
    • Strength Value 16-19: 4
    • Strength Value 20-23: 5
    • Strength Value 24-27: 6
    • Strength Value 28-31: 7
  • The Hindrance of an armor or shield is its Initiative Penalty +1.
    • For example: A buckler is Hindrance 1 and hide armor is Hindrance 2.
  • Characters receive a -1 penalty to their Initiative Step and Movement Rate for every point they exceed their Hindrance Rating.
    • For example, Jaye has Hindrance 5 from her crystal raider shield and crystalweave armor and her Strength Value is 13, giving her a Hindrance Rating of 3. She suffers -2 to her Initiative Step.
  • Windlings cannot fly when they exceed their Hindrance Rating.
  • Characters on a flying mount cannot fly if they exceed their Hindrance Rating.
  • Characters on a mount that does not fly reduce their armor’s Hindrance by 2 (this does not affect shields).
  • Strength of Bronze, Iron, and Steel no longer provide any benefit. This alternate rule eliminates the niche they filled.
  • The Strong Back ability does not increase Hindrance Rating. It was intended as a small benefit, but not an ability with quite this impact.
Here are revised armors to better fit this setup.

Special thank you to Brett Bowen for invaluable assistance with this.

Clarity in Patience
Talent: Deliberate Assault
Requirements: Rank 4
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
Standard Effects. For every 2 points the adept reduces their Initiative result, they gain +1 to their next Attack or Damage test this round against an opponent with higher Initiative. This bonus combined with the bonus from the difference in Initiative results cannot exceed the talent rank.

For example, Omen got a 9 for her Initiative result, which she reduces to a 0 because of course she does. She has Deliberate Assault rank 6 and can add up to +4 to her Attack or Damage test (in some combination). However, this +4 counts against her maximum +6 from the standard effect. Meaning if she adds +4 to her Damage, she can only gain up to +2 to the Attack test based on the Initiative result difference. Since her target bottomed out with an Initiative result of 1, this is working out well.

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