07 April 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 21 - Cavalier (Cavalryman Rebuild)

This is the twenty-first 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.

Cavalryman has problems. This is something of a known quantity. However, I disagree on the exact nature of those problems. Turning them into a close combat Discipline who incidentally has a mount they sometimes ride does the concept and their place in the setting a disservice. From my perspective, the problem is with how they were built from the ground up. Too many abilities with too many limitations and the mounted combat mechanics weren't robust enough. Arguments can be had whether or not that is an understatement.

A take I cannot disgree with in stronger terms is turning them into a Path. This misunderstands their place in the setting and the role Paths serve. Yes, they are a very useful framework and tool — being shiny and new, so full of promise and not yet hurt by the world. But they aren't the answer here. The number of talents required to achieve the basic premise of the Discipline means you have to get deep into the Path before it starts being realized; rank five is likely required just to accomplish the basics. From there, this also opens up animal companions to every character without the need for an additional Discipline. Which is a full on nightmare scenario. Paths represent organization or a teaching passed between the members, while Cavalryman is distinctly a calling between adept and their mount. This is not a good fit.

The solution I've been working on burns the mechanics to the ground and rebuilds on the core premise. It gives them stronger themes so they're more than just fighter-type with a horse. This makes them a less generic archetype to fill in for any mounted character, but Earthdawn Disciplines carry a distinctly strong flavor even as they represent a classic archetype, in contrast to D&D. I'm playing up that fact and bringing it along.

A new name is called for through all these changes that better fits their new role and themes: Cavalier. This isn't variant Discipline, but a full rebuild and replacement of the Discipline. It relies on a number of previous variants, including Animal Companions, Combat Options and Stances, Social Abilities, and Weapons Redesign. If any of those aren't being used, it should be clear how to reverse it into the default system.

Special thanks to Brett Bowen for helping with this.


Cavalier

Important Attributes: Dexterity, Strength, and Charisma

Karma Ritual: The Cavalier plants a target in the ground, then rides their mount several minutes distance away. Blindfolding themselves, the adept directs their mount to return to the target. Once they close to about 100 yards, the Cavalier uses the almost psychic connection with their mount, and whatever other empathic talents they possess, to urge their mount to charge the target. Still blindfolded, the Cavalier strikes the target with a weapon. They remove the blindfold to end the ritual.

Artisan Skills: Body Painting, Braiding

Half-Magic: Cavalier may use half-magic for knowledge of different types of mounts used by the Namegiver races, upkeep of riding gear, animal husbandry and first aid, and knowledge of significant cavalry units in Barsaive.

Mount: Cavalier begins the game with a mount of the gamemaster’s approval. The mount is trained for riding only; the Cavalier must combat-train it. Humans, orks, and elves prefer horses, although many tribal ork Cavaliers use thundra beasts. Trolls, windlings and dwarfs find horses awkward to ride. Some dwarf Cavaliers ride ponies due to their short size; some use troajins or huttawas. Because of their size and weight, troll Cavaliers are known to ride large war horses, but most ride an unusually strong and sturdy breed of horse called a granlain. Too small to ride normal horses, windling Cavaliers most often ride small lizard-like mounts known as kues, or large birds called zoaks.

Novice Tier

Novice Talent Options: Avoid Blow, Call Animal Companion, Conversation, Creature Analysis, Etiquette, First Impression, Impressive Display, Heartening Laugh, Speak Language, Wound Balance

First Circle
  • Durability 7
  • Discipline Talents: Animal Bond, Cavalry Charge, Melee Weapons, Thread Weaving (Mount Weaving), Riding

Second Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +1 to their Physical Defense
  • Discipline Talent: Animal Training

Third Circle
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Recovery tests.
  • Discipline Talent: Enhance Animal Companion

Fourth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +1 to their Social Defense
  • Discipline Talent: Battle Cry

Journeyman Tier

Journeyman Talent Options: Animal Talk, Blood Share, Animal Companion Durability, Dominate Beast, Fireblood, Leadership, Lion Heart, Mount Attack, Spirit Mount, Tactics

Fifth Circle
  • One Soul, Two Bodies: The adept gains a +2 bonus to any beast ability involving their bound mount.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Damage tests made while mounted.
  • Discipline Talent: Armor Mount

Sixth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +2 to their Physical Defense
  • Discipline Talent: Fearsome Assault

Seventh Circle
  • Bonus: The adept gains +1 Recovery Test per day.
  • Discipline Talent: Wheeling Attack

Eighth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +3 to their Physical Defense
  • Discipline Talent: Lightning Charge

Warden Tier

Warden Talent Options: Battle Bellow, Champion Challenge, Critical Hit, Deliberate Assault, Graceful Exit, Life Check, Lion Spirit, Resist Pain, Resist Taunt, Spot Armor Flaw

Ninth Circle
  • Shared Strength: The adept performs an eight-hour ritual to improve their bond with a specific mount. Each adept’s ritual is unique, usually based on their training and personal philosophy. It is commonly done as the final step of becoming a Warden, but may be done at any time. After the ritual, the adept takes 1 Blood Magic Damage and the mount adds +3 to its Strength Step, Knockdown, and close combat Damage Steps. Only one mount may be bound at a time. The effect may be ended at any time, at which time the adept may heal the damage as normal and use the ability on a new mount.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Attack tests made while mounted.
  • Discipline Talent: Goring Attack

Tenth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +2 to their Social Defense
  • Bonus: The adept adds +1 to their Initiative Step.
  • Discipline Talent: Momentum Attack

Eleventh Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +1 to their Mystic Defense.
  • Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on their mount’s Damage tests.
  • Discipline Talent: Tempest Shield

Twelfth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +4 to their Physical Defense.
  • Bonus: The adept gains +2 Recovery Tests per day.
  • Discipline Talent: Rolling Thunder

Master Tier

Master Talent Options: Aura Armor, Rally, Second Attack, Second Chance, Thought Link, Unflinching Fortitude, Vicious Wound, Vital Strike

Thirteenth Circle
  • Shared Spirit: The adept knows the truth about their spirit and their mount’s; they are one and the same. With this knowledge, they can trick reality and bring their mount to them at any time. The adept takes 4 Strain and makes a Mount Weaving test against their mount’s Mystic Defense. If successful, the mount appears under the adept as if it was always there and the adept is mounted properly. This ability doesn’t work if there isn’t enough room for the mounted character.
  • Defense: The adept adds +3 to their Social Defense
  • Karma: The adept increases their Karma +1 Step to a d8
  • Bonus: The adept adds +1 to their Mystic Armor.
  • Discipline Talent: Relentless Recovery

Fourteenth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +5 to their Physical Defense
  • Bonus: The adept adds +2 to their Initiative Step.
  • Discipline Talent: Thunderstruck

Fifteenth Circle
  • Defense: The adept adds +2 to their Mystic Defense.
  • Bonus: The adept gains +3 Recovery Tests per day.
  • Discipline Talent: Eye of the Storm

Talents

Battle Cry
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: Yes (Journeyman)
Keywords: Aggressive. Karma. Persistent.
The adept issues a loud, intimidating shout that gets the adept psyched up for battle when making a Mounted Charge or using the Aggressive stance. The adept makes a Battle Cry Action test against an opponent’s Social Defense. If successful, the adept adds +1 to their close combat Attack tests and the associated Damage tests per success until the end of the round against that opponent.

Cavalry Charge
Step: Rank+STR
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Skill Use: Yes (Novice)
Keywords: Exclusive. Karma. Replacement.
The adept increases the effectiveness of a Mounted Charge by using their Cavalry Charge in place of their Strength Step. The adept must be mounted, and the normal rules for Mounted Charge otherwise apply, except the adept cannot be dismounted or disarmed from a Mounted Charge when using this talent. The mount’s attacks cannot benefit from this talent.
Skill Use: After a successful mounted charge, the character may make a Cavalry Charge test in place of a Strength test to avoid losing their weapon or being dismounted by lance or mounted weapon attacks.

Eye of the Storm
Step: Rank
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Air.
The adept leads the charge and rallies allies behind them to victory. There is a certain calmness around the adept as they join the fray. For some, this is a pillar of light following them into battle, while others cause a windstorm around them as they remain untouched within. The adept makes an Eye of the Storm (10) Action test. Each success gives +2 to their next Mounted Charge Attack test. If the attack is successful, the target is marked and all allies gain +1 to close combat Attack and Damage tests against the target until the end of the encounter. The adept can only have one target marked in this way at a time and a new mark ends the previous one.

Fearsome Assault
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Aggressive. Condition. Impairment. Karma.
The adept frightens opponents when making a Mounted Charge or using the Aggressive stance, undergoing a radical transformation unique to each adept. The eyes glow and teeth become pointed and prominent for some, while others are cloaked in shadow and the miasma of death. The adept makes a Fearsome Assault Action test against an adjacent opponent’s Social Defense. If successful, the target is frightened 2 for each success until the end of the following round. Each use against the same opponent in a given encounter increases the Difficulty Number by 5.

Impressive Display
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Special
Strain: 0
Skill Use: Yes (Novice)
Keywords: Aggressive. Condition. Default. Impairment. Karma. Limited. Persistent.
The adept impresses a target with a display of skill. This display can be of any kind, as long as the target(s) observe it, such as archery, rhetoric, or swordsmanship. The adept makes an Impressive Display Action test against the highest Social Defense in the target group, +1 for each additional target. This test is limited by the appropriate ability (the adept’s Action Step cannot be higher than the final Action Step of the ability they are using for the display) and uses the same action type as the ability being used for the display.

If successful, the targets are impressed by the adept’s prowess and gain 1 level of an appropriate impairment condition (e.g., friendly, helpful, impressed) per success until sunrise the next day. The normal effects of the associated ability (e.g., damage from a Melee Weapons test) do not apply; the goal is only to impress. This includes any abilities normally used for Attack tests, as this is not an Attack test.

For example, Lady Haytrish plans to impress some unhelpful yokels with her bear hands, using Impressive Display with her Unarmed Combat talent. She has a base Unarmed Combat Step of 14 (Dexterity Step 6 and Unarmed Combat rank 8). She also has various thread items that give her +3 to her Unarmed Combat Step. However, her bonuses to unarmed Attack tests do not apply to this because she’s not attacking anyone. Though she wishes she was. This gives her a final Unarmed Combat Step of 17. Her Impressive Display Step is 13 (Charisma Step 7 and Impressive Display rank 6) with no additional bonuses. Since her Impressive Display Step is the lower of the two, she uses it for the test.
Skill Use: This is limited to 2 successes.

Leadership
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Sustained (5 minutes)
Strain: 0
Skill Use: Yes (Journeyman)
Keywords: Boon. Condition. Default. Karma. Persistent.
The adept leads a group of gamemaster characters no larger than their Leadership rank ×20 members by giving a short speech, then making a Leadership Action test against the highest Social Defense among the target group. If successful, the affected characters gain the follower 2 boon condition while the adept is in the Commander stance and accompanying them. The success level determines the talent’s duration. A single success causes the condition to last for one scene; two successes means it lasts until sunrise; three or more successes means the condition lasts for Leadership rank days.

While under the adept’s leadership, followers must accept the adept as their commander to receive the boon. This grants them an authority typical to being their designated commander in a military environment, but can be used in other situations, such as being a superior in an administration or a foreman in construction. This talent can be used once per day.
Skill Use: This is limited to 2 successes.

Lightning Charge
Step: Rank
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Air-Electricity.
The adept’s weapon crackles with lightning from the point. The adept adds their Lightning Charge rank to their Cavalry Charge rank and the attack gains the air-electricity keyword. The adept gains +2 to the damage test if they are using a lance or other weapon with the mounted keyword. This talent can be used once per round and is incompatible with Dive Attack and Focused Strike.

Mount Attack
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
Karma: Yes
Keywords: Attack. Beast. Exclusive. Karma. Limited. Replacement.
The adept empowers their mount when striking their foes. The mount uses the adept’s Mount Attack Step (limited by Attack Step for the appropriate attack). This attack may not be used during the same round as a Mounted Charge. This does not grant an additional attack.

Riding
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Skill Use: Yes (Novice)
Keywords: Beast. Default. Karma.
The mounted adept performs acrobatics while riding. They may also goad their mount into jumping fences, chasms, flames, or other obstacles by making a Riding Action test against a Difficulty Number determined by the gamemaster. Jumping a short one-yard-high fence could have a Difficulty Number of 4; jumping over a three-yard-wide chasm could have a Difficulty Number of 12.

If the adept or their mount is required to make a test for a maneuver, the adept may make a Riding Action test instead. Some maneuvers in Mounted Combat require a Riding Action test if the mount is not sufficiently combat-trained or the rider is unfamiliar with his mount.

The adept’s Riding rank must be at least equal to their mount’s effective Circle. If not, they are Harried as the mount is simply too much for them to handle.
Skill Use: Riding Action tests to take an unfamiliar mount into combat require an additional success.

Rolling Thunder
Step: Rank
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Air.
The adept’s charge generates thunder as they charge towards their opponent. The adept can increase their or their mount’s Movement Rate by up to twice the adept’s Rolling Thunder rank for one movement action that round. If the adept or their mount uses their Standard action to move, this additional movement does not benefit from the Movement Rate increase. The adept gains +1 to their close combat Damage test for every yard they move after the first 10 yards toward their opponent, up to the adept’s Rolling Thunder rank, and the attack gains the air keyword. If the adept moves at least 10 yards and uses a weapon with the mounted keyword while mounted, or a two-handed weapon while on foot, they gain+2 to the Attack test. This talent must be used before the adept or mount move this round.

Tempest Shield
Step: Rank
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Air. Defensive.
The adept finds safety in speed, summoning winds around them to deflect blows as they move faster. After they move the first 10 yards in a round, they gain +1 to their Physical Defense and Physical Armor for every yard moved after that, up to a maximum of their Tempest Shield rank. This bonus lasts until their turn in the next round.

Wheeling Attack
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 0
Skill Use: Yes (Warden)
Keywords: Aggressive. Karma.
The adept makes more effective charging attacks. The adept makes a Wheeling Attack (10) Action test. If successful, their mount is not required to move more than its Movement Rate before the attack, but is required to instead move at double its Movement Rate during the round and at least 10 yards before the charging attack.

The adept must be in the Splitting Movement stance to use Wheeling Attack. Each additional success on Wheeling Attack may be spent to reduce the Harried penalties from Splitting Movement by 1.

Knacks

Animal Bond

Perfect Understanding
Talent: Animal Bond
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: Cavalier 5
Step: NA
Action: NA
Strain: 0
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Beast. Perpetual.
The adept and their allies treat their mount as an ally for all abilities and can give consent for effects that require a willing target. The adept’s mount must be a bound animal companion and in their presence.

Battle Cry

Cry Havoc
Talent: Battle Cry
Requirements: Rank 6
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Standard Effects.
The adept gains an additional +2 to their first Attack and the associated Damage test if they are using a two-handed weapon or a mounted weapon and making a Mounted Charging attack. If the first attack triggers a Momentum Attack, the bonuses also apply to Momentum Attack.

Cavalry Charge

Beast Rider
Talent: Cavalry Charge
Requirements: Rank 5, Claw Shape rank 5
Restrictions: Beastmaster 5
Step: NA
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
Keywords: None.
The adept modifies their claws to be effective weapons while mounted. They can make unarmed attacks from their mount and use them with Mounted Charging Attacks.

Impressive Display

Inspiring Display [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Impressive Display
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: None
Keywords: Boon. Condition. Persistent. Special Maneuver
Impressive Display (Adept): The adept can spend additional successes on an appropriate Action test to give allies within Impressive Display ×2 yards the inspired 1 boon condition for each success. This boon condition lasts until the end of the next round.

Intimidating Display
Talent: Impressive Display
Requirements: Rank 4
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Special
Strain: 0
Skill Use: Yes (Journeyman)
Keywords: Aggressive. Condition. Impairment. Standard Effects.
The adept applies a frightened impairment condition instead.
Skill Use: The skill rank cannot exceed the character’s Impressive Display rank.

Momentum Attack

Ride-By Momentum
Talent: Momentum Attack
Requirements: Rank 9
Restrictions: Cavalier Circle 9
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Standard Effects.
The adept can use this talent while splitting movement on a Mounted Charge during the movement following the split. The attack does not benefit from the Cavalry Charge talent.

Mount Attack

It’s a Biter
Talent: Mount Attack
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Standard Effects
The adept enables their mount to strike at their foes even as they thunder past. If the adept is making a Mounted Charge, the mount can also make an Attack test against the same target. This allows an attack when the mount wouldn't normally be allowed to make an attack.

Trampled Underfoot
Talent: Mount Attack
Requirements: Rank 6, It’s a Biter
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Standard Effects.
If the mount has a Trample attack, it can be used during the mount’s movement, not just when it is stopped. If the Trample attack uses the Overrun special maneuver and successfully causes knockdown on the target, the adept and mount can move through the space unimpeded.

Riding

Chasing the Wind
Talent: Riding
Requirements: Rank 8
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Simple
Strain: 2
Skill Use: Yes (Journeyman)
Keywords: Beast. Karma. Unrestricted.
The adept makes a Chasing the Wind (10) Action test. Each success allows them to increase their mount’s Movement Rate by +2. This knack must be used before the adept or mount make any movement this round.

This knack does not count against the number of times the talent may be used in a round.
Skill Use: This skill rank cannot exceed the character’s Riding rank.

Emergency Dismount
Talent: Riding
Requirements: Rank 6, Sure Mount
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Free
Strain: 2
Skill Use: Yes (Novice)
Keywords: Defensive. Karma. Unrestricted.
The mounted adept reduces their falling damage after being dismounted or leaping off their mount (such as attempting to grapple an opponent). They make an Emergency Dismount (10) Action test. Each success reduces the falling damage by -2 Steps. This ability is ineffective for falls over 3 yards.

This knack may be used once per round and does not count against the number of times the talent may be used in a round.
Skill Use: This skill rank cannot exceed the character’s Riding rank.

Nimble Rider
Talent: Riding
Requirements: Rank 2
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Skill Use: Yes (Novice)
Keywords: Active Defense. Beast. Karma. Unrestricted.
The adept may avoid injury through acrobatics and directing their mount out of the way. When the adept or their mount are attacked in close or ranged combat, the adept may make a Nimble Rider Action test against the opponent’s Attack test result. If successful, the target of the attack avoids the blow through appropriate means. The adept can use Nimble Rider up to their rank each round, but only one active defense can be attempted per Attack test. An adept cannot use Nimble Rider if they are blindsided, surprised, or otherwise unable to use active defenses.

This knack does not count against the number of times the talent may be used in a round.
Skill Use: Nimble Rider Action tests with an unfamiliar mount require an additional success and it can only be used once per round. This skill rank cannot exceed the character’s Riding rank.

Ride the Pony
Talent: Riding
Requirements: Rank 5, Sure Mount
Restrictions: None
Step: NA
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Unrestricted.
The adept remounts their mount. This knack does not count against the number of times the talent may be used in a round.

Sure Mount
Talent: Riding
Requirements: Rank 3
Restrictions: None
Step: Rank+CHA
Action: Free
Strain: 0
Skill Use: Yes (Novice)
Keywords: Beast. Exclusive. Karma. Replacement. Unrestricted.
The mounted adept avoids being dismounted or prevents their mount from being knocked down. The adept makes a Sure Mount Resistance test in place of any Knockdown test they and/or their mount is required to make while the adept is mounted.

This knack does not count against the number of times the talent may be used in a round.
Skill Use: This skill rank cannot exceed the character’s Riding rank.

Second Attack

Ride-By Attack
Talent: Second Attack
Requirements: Rank 10
Restrictions: Cavalier Circle 13
Step: Rank+DEX
Action: Simple
Strain: 3
Skill Use: No
Keywords: Standard Effects.
The adept can use this talent on another target while splitting movement on a Mounted Charge during the movement following the split. The attack does not benefit from the Charge talent.

Wheeling Attack

Crooked Charge [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Wheeling Attack
Requirements: Rank 6
Restrictions: None
Keywords: Special Maneuver.
Crooked Charge (Adept, Wheeling Attack): The adept can spend additional successes to make a 45° turn prior to the charge (which must otherwise be straight) for each success spent this way. Two successes may be combined to make a 90° turn prior to the charge (which must otherwise be straight).

Rushed Charge [Special Maneuver]
Talent: Wheeling Attack
Requirements: Rank 8
Restrictions: None
Keywords: Special Maneuver.
Rushed Charge (Adept, Wheeling Attack): The adept can spend additional success to reduce their mount’s Movement Rate by -2 per success to a minimum of 8. The reduction is -4 per success if the mount’s natural (unimproved by external effects, such as spells, talents, thread items, etc.) Movement Rate is at least 18. This knack must be used before the adept or mount make any movement this round.