[WIR] Earthdawn Core Rules (1993)

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Which is a damn shame. You could play a regular fighter in other games, and even in Earthdawn (with just a little bit of house rules), but what made the Warrior in ED different was that it was supposed to be dripping with magic. Every action driven by a talent was the magical equivalent of being crazy juiced on steroids. That is cool, flavorful and thematic and could have set ED apart from the pack.
At the risk of being chastising, telling other people what they should have wanted out of the game is more than a bit off. People went to Earthdawn for a number of reasons, one of which was to have the D&D tropes make more sense; that didn't mean they wanted to note engage with those tropes in a way they were familiar with as much as possible.
 

Mataxes

Social Justice Troubadour
Validated User
It was a bit crazy this past week, so I didn't get much of a chance to work on this until this weekend. But I'm back, and we move on to:

Sky Raider
We turn from the intellectual and esoteric magicians to one of the game’s bruisers--the Sky Raider. These are one of the iconic Disciplines, and associated most strongly with trolls because of the crystal raiders. Important Attributes are Dexterity, Strength, and Toughness. Elves, obsidimen, and windlings are prohibited from the Discipline.

Advancement bonuses include +1 bonuses to Physical Defense (C6), Spell Defense (C8), and Social Defense (C5). At Fourth Circle they may spend a Karma point on any Strength-only test, and at Seventh may spend Karma on any damage test made with a melee weapon.

The Sky Raider, not surprisingly, gets a lot of combat-related talents. In fact, you get the full suite of basic combat talents -- Melee Weapons, Throwing Weapons, Missile Weapons, and Unarmed Combat. Shield Charge, Swift Kick, and Momentum Attack provide tactical enhancements and extra attack opportunities, while Crushing Blow can really bring the pain (it boosts damage). Fireblood helps the Sky Raider keep bringing the pain by providing in-combat healing.

Mixed in among all this combat power are a couple of intimidation-based talents (Battle Shout, Battle Bellow, and Steely Stare), and a pair of social talents that play into their “viking-flavored sky pirate” flavor (Fence and Speak Language). Great Leap and Wind Catcher provide some movement-related flexibility, and of course you need Air Sailing.

All in all, it’s a decent package. It seems odd that Sky Raiders get Missile Weapons and Unarmed Combat as late as they do (Missile Weapons is Circle 7 and Unarmed Combat is Circle 8). Conceptually, this Discipline always felt aggressively in-your-face with most of the additional combat talents supporting close-combat styles. It would make a bit more sense to have Unarmed Combat come up sooner to fit that ‘brawler’ attitude.

While Throwing Weapons kind of fits in there -- throwing a dagger or axe as a “close” ranged attack -- Missile Weapons feels a bit impersonal. The stereotypical brutal aggressiveness of the crystal raiders doesn’t quite gel with the image of a squad of them firing arrows from afar. On the other hand, airships can have mounted weapons. Missile Weapons is the most appropriate talent that fits the use of a fire cannon or similar ranged airship weapon.

Still, in general, having “basic” combat abilities show up so far into the progression is a little weird -- kind of like other “weak” mid-Circle talents that show up in various Disciplines. It is, as mentioned, one of the weaknesses of a level-based power progression. There are only so many available slots, and that means abilities you want to have need to show up somewhere.

I want to talk about Battle Bellow and Battle Shout. This is one of the few cases (if not the only one) I know offhand where you have a talent come along later that improves on or enhances the earlier version. Battle Shout shows up at First Circle, and can target a single individual or a group (each target beyond the first adjusts the base difficulty by +1). On a Good Success or better, the target(s) suffer a penalty of the Sky Raider’s talent rank to all tests for one round (so a Sky Raider with rank 4 in the talent causes a -4 penalty).

Battle Bellow is a Fifth Circle talent and has the same negative effect -- but only requires an Average success instead of a Good one. If the Sky Raider does score a Good (or better) success, then all friendly Sky Raiders within range gain a +rank bonus to their Battle Shout tests (so a Rank 4 Battle Bellow would grant a +4 bonus). It’s a nice one-two punch, and really plays nicely into the aggressive assault tactics that exemplify this Discipline.

Interestingly, Battle Shout also ties into Crushing Blow, the primary Sky Raider damage boost. Use of that talent requires the adept use Battle Shout the same round. If successful, they get an additional +3 bonus to the damage dealt (if Battle Shout fails, they can still use Crushing Blow, it just doesn’t get the extra bonus).

This makes for some interesting interactions of other rule systems. It would make sense for a human, non-Sky Raider combat type to look learning Crushing Blow through their Versatility talent in order to boost their damage output. But, at least as written, they would need to also learn Battle Shout through Versatility or pick it up as a skill (which is possible). Crushing Blow also, going as written, won’t work for a Sky Raider using Battle Bellow. Frankly, this kind of thing strikes me as a bit pedantic and against the intended spirit of things.

Overall, the Sky Raider can be a brutal combat opponent, especially in groups. Battle Shout is a nasty debuff (though it isn’t the nastiest -- we’ll get to that one next time), their supplemental talents help bring the fight to the enemy and making it hurt. Their tools do a pretty good job of playing into the Discipline’s iconic role in the setting.
 

Malidar

Registered User
Validated User
I've always liked the Sky Raider, but they felt thematically lacking without the airship.
 

Praetorian

Go Rangers!
Validated User
I've always liked the Sky Raider, but they felt thematically lacking without the airship.
Totally agree. One thing that didnt come off perfectly in 1e is how frequent air ships are. When I first read Earthdawn I felt that the Sky Raider / Air Sailor was a very specific subset of a traditional warrior (same thing with the calvaryman to a lesser extent, as well). I think too much of the concept was tied up in the Troll / Crystal Peaks sky raiders -- making it feel sky raiders really only come from that region and that race. The problem there isnt how specific the adept concept is -- its that the sky raider could have done with a bit of the spreading of the love throughout Barsaive to make the concept a bit more ubiquitous.
 

vitus979

Registered User
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I want to talk about Battle Bellow and Battle Shout. This is one of the few cases (if not the only one) I know offhand where you have a talent come along later that improves on or enhances the earlier version. Battle Shout shows up at First Circle, and can target a single individual or a group (each target beyond the first adjusts the base difficulty by +1). On a Good Success or better, the target(s) suffer a penalty of the Sky Raider’s talent rank to all tests for one round (so a Sky Raider with rank 4 in the talent causes a -4 penalty).

Battle Bellow is a Fifth Circle talent and has the same negative effect -- but only requires an Average success instead of a Good one. If the Sky Raider does score a Good (or better) success, then all friendly Sky Raiders within range gain a +rank bonus to their Battle Shout tests (so a Rank 4 Battle Bellow would grant a +4 bonus). It’s a nice one-two punch, and really plays nicely into the aggressive assault tactics that exemplify this Discipline.
These Talents as well as Taunt (which will come later) and IIRC some Troubador stuff means Earthdawn 1e is one of the few RPGs that debuffs are perhaps too powerful. At higher Circles, a party can more or less shut down opponents with a combination of debuffing abilities that layer penalties high enough that even remaining standing is a challenge.
 

Octiron

Pariah
Validated User
I kind of disagree with some opinions here. As for whether the warriors felt magical in earth dawn, I played one in a college earth dawn campaign, and was struck by how magical they felt compared to D&D/Palladium fighters - wood skin, air dance, etc. YMMV I guess.
 

Mataxes

Social Justice Troubadour
Validated User
I think too much of the [Sky Raider] concept was tied up in the Troll / Crystal Peaks sky raiders -- making it feel sky raiders really only come from that region and that race. The problem there isnt how specific the adept concept is -- its that the sky raider could have done with a bit of the spreading of the love throughout Barsaive to make the concept a bit more ubiquitous.
I can see that. In my first long-term campaign, I kind of set things up so that -- outside of the Twilight Peaks -- Sky Raiders were the marines to the Air Sailor navy. One of the PCs was a human Sky Raider who was a low-ranking officer in the Throal air fleet, assigned to the group as an attaché of sorts. Throal's Sky Raiders were the assault force, the heavy-hitters that would board enemy ships or drop in as a kind of special forces unit flown in by airship.

It's interesting, now that I think about your comment, that we have a "core" Discipline strongly associated with a particular cultural sub-group (troll raiders), but don't have one for the t'skrang riverboats. We get the Boatman later, but I don't think it ever had the same impact (pun unintended) as Sky Raiders. I mean, the image of giant, Viking-esque raiders attacking from air ships is one of the more definitively "Earthdawn" things you can have, but the t'skrang riverboats have a similar cachet... without the strongly iconic Discipline to go along with it. (Arguably, that role for the t'skrang is filled by the Swordmaster.)
 

vitus979

Registered User
RPGnet Member
Validated User
It's interesting, now that I think about your comment, that we have a "core" Discipline strongly associated with a particular cultural sub-group (troll raiders), but don't have one for the t'skrang riverboats. We get the Boatman later, but I don't think it ever had the same impact (pun unintended) as Sky Raiders. I mean, the image of giant, Viking-esque raiders attacking from air ships is one of the more definitively "Earthdawn" things you can have, but the t'skrang riverboats have a similar cachet... without the strongly iconic Discipline to go along with it. (Arguably, that role for the t'skrang is filled by the Swordmaster.)
Just as interesting IMO is that the "generic" Discipline related to Air Sailing (the Air Sailor) is NOT in the core, but the hyper specific Sky Raider is.

Also, maybe it's just me, but Sky Raiders always seemed far more iconic to me than T'Skrang riverboats. I would guess that this has more to do with what was emphasized in the campaigns I've participated in. The riverboats just always kind of seemed "there", but not particularly memorable.
---
I seem to remember both Sky Raiders and Air Sailors being somewhat annoying administratively. I can't remember why, but it was something like they could only do their Karma Ritual on an Air Ship, or they had to leave the party for an extended time on Air Ship patrols if they wanted to Circle up, or something like that.
 

Mataxes

Social Justice Troubadour
Validated User
Also, maybe it's just me, but Sky Raiders always seemed far more iconic to me than T'Skrang riverboats. I would guess that this has more to do with what was emphasized in the campaigns I've participated in. The riverboats just always kind of seemed "there", but not particularly memorable.
Which is, I think, a bit of a shame. You've got a race of gregarious, swashbuckling lizard folk plying the river in magically powered riverboats. What's not to love?

I seem to remember both Sky Raiders and Air Sailors being somewhat annoying administratively. I can't remember why, but it was something like they could only do their Karma Ritual on an Air Ship, or they had to leave the party for an extended time on Air Ship patrols if they wanted to Circle up, or something like that.
If you require all followers of the Discipline to use the Karma Rituals as written, there are some that can cause problems, and I've heard stories of games where the GM enjoys making Karma a scarce resource by putting the group in places where one or more characters aren't able to perform their rituals. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of that level of immersion/simulation, especially when it starts getting into the realm that could be viewed as screwing over the players, but chacun a son gout, eh?

I haven't really talked about the Karma Rituals in this discussion, because I've always leaned towards them as examples rather than strict requirements. But the Sky Raider ritual described in the book, for instance, requires 30 minutes under the open sky. If a group is on an extended kaer-delve, this could potentially screw over the Sky Raider from a gameplay perspective. The example Cavalryman ritual requires the adept to ride "several minutes away". The Beastmaster ritual requires there be some kind of local wildlife, and if in a place where such is not available, the number of potential Karma Points the adept can purchase is reduced by two. (Wow! I don't recall ever noticing that before now. That's kind of crummy, even if it might "make sense" in a certain context.)

There were "advancement rituals" in one of the later books (the Companion, maybe), and some of those might have been kind of restrictive. Personally, I tend more toward the descriptive rather than prescriptive and am pretty willing to give the players leeway rather than cut things off.
 

LouP

Registered User
Validated User
Hello,

Just as interesting IMO is that the "generic" Discipline related to Air Sailing (the Air Sailor) is NOT in the core, but the hyper specific Sky Raider is.
The Sky Raider discipline was clearly intended to represent the archetypal troll crystal raiders, but I thought it also worked well enough for most other Name-Giver airship crewmen in Barsaive. After all, it's likely that many sky raider initiates learned from either troll raiders or from those who had learned from the trolls.

Where I felt it didn't really fit so well was with the Theran airship crews. In particular, there is a scene aboard an airship in (IIIRC) the second novel that features particularly acrobatic Theran airship crewmen. Those didn't feel like sky raiders to me. Those were the inspiration for the Air Sailor discipline (and the depiction of their acrobatics and how it helped them fight was what prompted me to give that Discipline the Acrobatic Strike talent as a Discipline talent - something I know many people took issue with).


Take Care.

Lou
 
Top Bottom