27 April 2022

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 27 — Starting Equipment

This is the twenty-seventh 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.

Another topic I've been thinking about for quite a while, though it was rarely pressing compared to other aspects as there's less to dig into and the current system doesn't have anything inherently wrong with it. However, I don't like it.

While it's not Shadowrun bad, more time is spent on initial gear than is necessary or particularly fun, and Earthdawn has a pretty extensive gear list. This is an interesting thing about the game and fosters a sense of discovery and how different the setting is from "typical" fantasy adventuring games.

Even though the vast majority of the equipment is out of a starting character's means, it takes a fair amount of system mastery to know what you're doing when you get there. Know what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Just being familiar with the various options takes a time, let alone counting costs and modifying them for character size. Which also leads to large characters being at a disadvantage for buying starting equipment and small characters being at an advantage for no particularly good reason other than scaling costs and static starting funds.

Perhaps worst of all, this time is spent and there's no interesting choices to make. All that work and characters tend to come out the other side looking mostly the same. And two-handed weapons are too expensive for at starting character, which means you can't necessarily have the character in your head and "having a two-handed weapon" is hardly asking a lot. Then comes the differing prices for otherwise identical weapons. It's a laundry list of complaints from seeing the same song and dance for almost 30 years. The same.

If I'm offering all this criticism, I also need to offer an alternative. Otherwise it's just pointless sour grapes.

The alternate system for starting eqiupment is based around narrowing attention to a few specific choices. Interesting choices. Some of these are objectively "better" in the monetary sense (not everything has the same value), but this is a chance for characters to make choices for their character outside of that. The basics are covered and they can begin defining what they're about. Some Disciplines get to make interesting choices in other ways, such as their mount or spells, and thus have reduced access to the catch-all "special" choices as they're presented below.

To be clear, characters created with this alternate starting equipment have more and better gear than standard characters. I'm okay with this because it gets you faster to actually playing and makes the characters coming out of it less homogenous and exploring different choices.


Introduction

Armor:

  • Light: Up to Initiative Penalty 1/Hindrance 2 (no blood magic or crystal)

  • Medium: Up to Initiative Penalty 2/Hindrance 3 (no blood magic or crystal)

  • Heavy: Up to Initiative Penalty 3/Hindrance 4 (no blood magic or crystal)

  • Shield: No crystal

  • Note: Obsidimen characters treat stone armor as one Initiative Penalty/Hindrance less.


Notes for Special Selections:
  • Special options available to everyone:

    • Booster potion (may be selected multiple times)

    • Physician’s kit (must have Physician skill)

    • Small light quartz (can be weapon mounted)

  • Depending on character background and starting skills, players may attempt to convince their gamemaster to use a special choice for an option which isn’t listed. This “off-list” choice shouldn’t exceed 30 silver pieces in value.

    • Yes, this is less than the value of many special options. However, that’s literally the price you pay for it and to discourage taking advantage of special options.


Miscellaneous
All characters start with the following miscellaneous equipment in addition to what's listed for each Discipline's entry:
  • Adventurer's kit

  • Artisan tools for their starting artisan skill

  • Dagger

  • Traveler's garb ×2

  • Trail rations, 1 week

  • 10 silver pieces


Disciplines

Air Sailor

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose two):

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Navigation charts (requires Navigation)

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

    • Writing kit

  • Miscellaneous

    • Rope, 10 yards


Archer

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • Bow or crossbow of choice and 100 ammo

    • Throwing weapon(s) ×5 (total, may be different types)

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose two)

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Healing kit

    • Navigation charts (requires Navigation)

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

    • Writing kit


Beastmaster

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose three):

    • Animal companion (First Circle, requires Animal Bond)

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Healing kit

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Cavalier (Cavalryman)

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed or lance and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and one special choice

    • Medium

  • Special (based on armor selection)

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

    • Writing kit

  • Miscellaneous

    • Feed, 1 week

    • Mount


Elementalist

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose one):

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Elfweave robe

    • Fire starter

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Healing kit

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

  • Miscellaneous

    • Grimoire

    • Writing kit


Gallant (Swordmaster)

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and an additional special choice

    • Medium

  • Special (choose one)

    • One-size hat

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Gauntlet

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and three special choices

    • Medium and two special choice

    • Heavy and one special choice

  • Special (based on armor choice):

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Illusionist

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose one)

    • Disguise kit

    • Elfweave robe

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

  • Miscellaneous

    • Grimoire

    • Writing kit


Nethermancer

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose one):

    • Absorb blow charm (comes equipped to the character)

    • Elfweave robe

    • Healing kit

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

  • Miscellaneous

    • Grimoire

    • Writing kit


Scout

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

    • Bow or crossbow with 100 ammo

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose two)

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Divining rod (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Healing kit

    • Thieves’ picks and tools (requires Disarm Trap)

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

  • Miscellaneous

    • Navigation charts

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent


Shaman

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose one)

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Elfweave robe

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Healing kit

    • Navigation charts (requires Navigation)

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

  • Miscellaneous

    • Grimoire

    • Writing kit


Sky Raider

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and an additional special choice

    • Medium

  • Special (choose one):

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Healing kit

    • Fishing kit (requires Wilderness Survival)

    • Navigation charts (requires Navigation)

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Thief

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

    • Bow or crossbow with 100 ammo

    • Throwing weapon(s) ×5 (total, may be different types)

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose two):

    • Climbing kit (requires Climbing)

    • Disguise kit

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Thieves’ picks and tools (requires Disarm Traps or Lock Picking)

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Troubadour

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

    • Throwing weapon(s) ×5 (total, may be different types)

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose two):

    • Disguise kit

    • One-size hat

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler's garb (additional set, may be selected multiple times)

  • Miscellaneous

    • Musical instrument, portable

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

    • Writing kit


Warrior

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and two special choices

    • Medium and one special choice

    • Heavy

  • Special (based on armor choice):

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Weaponsmith

  • Weapon (choose one, crafted by the character):

    • One-handed and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one, crafted by the character):

    • Light and two additional special choices

    • Medium and an additional special choice

    • Heavy

  • Special (choose one):

    • Craftsman's tools (choose one, may be selected multiple times)

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Thieves’ picks and tools (requires Disarm Traps)

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multple times)

    • Any kit (may be selected multiple times)

  • Miscellaneous

    • Craftsman’s tools (choose one)

    • Forge tools


Wizard

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose one):

    • Elfweave robe

    • Fire starter

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

  • Miscellaneous

    • Grimoire

    • Writing kit



Additional Disciplines

Bladeweaver

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and a special choice

    • Medium

  • Special (based on armor selection):

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

  • Miscellaneous

    • Grimoire

    • Writing kit


Lancer

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed or lance and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and one special choice

    • Medium

  • Special (based on armor selection):

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

    • Writing kit

  • Miscellaneous

    • Feed, 1 week

    • Mount


Seeker

  • Armor (choose one):

    • None and an additional special choice

    • Light

  • Special (choose three):

    • Elfweave robe

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)


Shadow

  • Weapon:

    • Throwing weapon(s) ×5 (total, may different types)

  • Armor:

    • Light

  • Special (choose two):

    • Disguise kit

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb (may be selected multiple times)

    • Writing kit


Spirit Rider

  • Weapon (choose one):

    • One-handed or lance and shield

    • Two-handed

  • Armor (choose one):

    • Light and a special choice

    • Medium

  • Special (based on armor choice):

    • Rope, 10 yards

    • Tent

    • Wealthy traveler’s garb

    • Writing kit