16 June 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 24 - Half-Adepts

This is the twenty-fourth 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.

As requested based on the results from the poll I ran in my Discord server, this rules variant addresses a topic that's never really been discussed in any depth: half-adepts. They've been part of the setting for quite a while, though never received much attention. Which makes sense in terms of effort and page count. The game and setting aren't designed for them; adepts are the stars of the show. Still, this provides some background to fill things out.

To be very clear: these are not designed for players. They're not balanced against anything and pale in comparison to adepts. These are only intended for NPCs and shouldn't be mixed with questors.

Half-Adepts


Magic is all around the world of Earthdawn. While not at the highs seen during the Scourge, it is still enough to support the fantastic scenery, flora, and fauna that call it home. Part of this are the Namegivers who use it to shape the world around them. Adepts are the most well known, but not everyone has the potential or the drive to follow a Discipline. Namegivers who still have magic, but aren’t adepts are referred to as “half-adepts.”


Unlike adepts as they are known through the Theran Empire and surrounding lands, half-adepts can’t be placed in tidy boxes. They don’t have Disciplines to offer discrete classification. As much as Disciplines focus magic and the associated mindset to better access it, this can also be seen as placing strictures on adepts’ ability to access that magic, honing it in focus. Half-adepts lack that focus and thus are ill-defined as a whole. Each half-adept is unique and typically self-trained; learning their magic through trial and error.


Scholars who pay attention and attempt to catalog such things created three tiers to describe half-adepts: lesser, minor, and major. Valid arguments are made regarding these classifications, since it seems in some cases the only thing holding a half-adept back from a greater tier is their dedication or access to training, rather than inherent access to magic. Those advocating for a “core” tier are rebuffed as that clearly refers to actual adepts who make their Discipline the core of their existence. Such is the dedication it takes to journey the path of an adept.


Still, these are useful enough for these purposes. Lesser half-adepts have but one trick, which their life typically revolves around. It’s most often related to their vocation, but could also be a related passion. Whether this became a passion because of their trick, or they developed the trick because of their passion is an open question without a clear answer. Trivial half-adepts lack the magic to become adepts and may also lack the drive or training to further develop their abilities, but it could just be the issue with their raw ability.


For example, a farmer who has uncanny skill for the task and uses small blessings on their crops, or a guard with a knack for swordplay. 


Minor half-adepts have a few tricks which may make them somewhat formidable in a single field, or branch out into different areas. It’s unusual for a minor half-adept’s magic to be wholly unrelated to their vocation and usually expands their ability in the field considerably. Minor half-adepts are likely limited by at least two of their potential, drive, and training. A minor half-adept may have the same potential as a lesser half-adept, but with sufficient drive and training could access this tier of development. This goes to show the difficulty in assigning these designations, however useful at the time. This is also the tier where those with the potential to become adepts who lack the drive and training can develop abilities associated with talents.


For example, a farmer naturally skilled at growing crops, predicting the weather, tending livestock, and who deals with minor elementals to help with the field, or a guard with a talent for combat and exceptional awareness of their surroundings.


Major half-adepts are quite rare by this measure. They typically reflect either those with the potential and drive to become an adept, but lack the training, or Namegivers with the potential most associated with minor half-adepts, but with exceptional drive and training. This allows the magic of the former to grow organically in a fashion not associated with a Discipline, but the natural inclinations of the half-adept for those with the potential. In contrast, half-adepts who lack that potential but are rigorously trained likely have similar strictures as a Discipline, but cannot initiate for some reason and despite what seems like so much potential, can never learn to weave threads.


The rare half-adepts in this category who have the potential to be adepts often display magic typically associated with adepts and their Disciplines. However, it isn’t quite right. These unique expressions reflect the half-adept’s growth on their own and the unrefined nature of their advanced magic shows compared to more codified and understood talents. Though it calls into question the nature of Disciplines and talents. What would magic in our land look like without Disciplines as we know them and what does it look like in lands without our Disciplines? 


For example, a farmer who breeds unique flora, picked at the perfect time and their animals are always healthy and grow quickly, or the captain of the guard from an influential family with exceptional skills in combat, awareness, tactics, and leadership, and has a special bond with their dangerous war hounds.


Half-adepts are rarely questors, though for different reasons than adepts. Most Namegivers who have the dedication to quest for a Passion, rather than simply honor them, also have the dedication to pursue a Discipline if they have the potential. Those who quest rely more on the devotions granted by their Passion than being a half-adept and thus these abilities never develop.


They recover their Karma at dawn each day.


Lesser half-adepts receive:

  • 1 skill they can improve without seeking training and at half the time.

  • They may spend Karma on activities related to that skill.

  • Treat lesser half-adepts as Circle 1 for determining their Karma Pool.


Minor half-adepts receive:

  • A Novice skill they improve without seeking training and the maximum rank is 5. The name of this skill should reflect the theme of their magic.

  • Each rank allows them to learn a skill which they can improve without training and in half the time. The skills learned must be related to the theme of their magic.

  • At ranks 1 and 5, the half-adept gains a Karma Ability to spend Karma Points on activities related to their theme.

  • At ranks 4, the half-adept gains +1 to an appropriate Defense.

  • The skill learned at rank 5 can be unique and similar to a Novice tier talent.

  • Treat minor half-adepts as Circle 1 for determining their Karma Pool. At rank 5, treat them as Circle 2.


Major half-adepts receive:

  • A Novice skill they improve without seeking training and the maximum rank is 10. The name of this skill should reflect the theme of their magic.

  • Each rank allows them to learn a skill which they can improve without training and in half the time. The skills learned must be related to the theme of their magic.

  • At ranks 1, 5, and 10, the half-adept gains a Karma Ability to spend Karma Points on activities related to their theme.

  • At ranks 4, 6, and 9, the half-adept gains +1 to an appropriate Defense. No Defense can receive more than +2, but should reflect their theme.

  • The skills learned at ranks 5-8 can be unique and similar to a Novice tier talent.

  • The skills learned at ranks 9-10 can be unique and similar to a Journeyman tier talent.

  • Treat major half-adepts as Circle 1 for determining their Karma Pool. At rank 5, treat them as Circle 2. At rank 9, treat them as Circle 3.

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