Welcome back to Card Catalog where we are taking the chance to work through Earthdawn 4E and make a group of characters. If you have not, please go read the overview here that describes the system, the setting, and the first of the characters in this adventuring group. One of the things that I like to do is to take some of the stereotypical concepts in a game and play against them. A Troll Swordmaster is one of those rarities that you may not see too often and so the image of the Little John-esque jovial Grythlit was born.
Next, we will walk through the step by step design choices in building Grythlit as we look, pieve by piece how a character comes together in Earthdawn.
- Race – Troll. Large, with dermal deposits and with great strength, Trolls are at first glance what you expect from any system. In Earthdawn, many trolls hail from clans of Sky Raiders who come from the Crystal Peaks using airships and raiding the surrounding lands. Grythlit won’t originate from these, though his family may have long lost ties. In addition to the Attribute modifications below, Trolls get Heat Sight, a higher movement from their longer legs of 14, and fewer karma to spend at 3 per circle.
- Discipline – Swordmaster. I know I want to make a bombastic and crowd pleasing Swordmaster. Swordmasters combine the martial focus on a Warrior with the social and performance aspects of a Troubadour – they are as much interested in the dance of the fight as they are of the fight itself. This means that I will need to prioritize Dexterity to land hits and Charisma for some of the social aspects of the discipline. As always, a combat discipline needs to hit hard – Strength; and take hits – Toughness. Because I choose a Troll, the Strength and Toughness will be easier to pump up a bit but it is something that will require some conscious design thoughts.
- Attributes – There are 6 Attributes in Earthdawn – Strength (STR); Dexterity (DEX); TOughness (TOU); Perception (PER); Willpower (WIL); and Charisma (CHA). Each starts at a 10, is modified based on the chosen race, and then players spend 25 points to raise the Attributes. Now, it isn’t a 1 for 1 spend either as the further from the baseline you go, the more it costs. These Attribute ratings are converted to a Step to use in the CoreStep system as we’ve described before.
- STR – Trolls Start with a 14 and since there is a STR Requirement of 16 for a Poleaxe, that is where I will go with a paltry 2 of my 25 Points.
- DEX – Trolls start with 10 and I want to get Grythlit to a Step 7 so I match his STR with a DEX of 16 for 9 more points.
- TOU – Trolls start with 12 and for lack of any imagination, I take his TOU to 16 as well for 5 points.
- PER – Trolls start with 9 and I will improve it to an 11 for 2 more points. I could save it also get his CHA up higher, but … well… Okay. A 9 PER it is. Perception is both general perception as well as intellect so Grythlit isn’t going to have the easiest of times putting things together and gets a bit lost in his own mind at times.
- WIL – Trolls start with 11 and I keep it there for now.
- CHA – Trolls start with 10 and I am going to go ahead and use 9 points left to get that CHA all the way to a 16.
- Talents – As a Swordmaster, Grythlit has the Discipline Talents of Avoid Blow, Maneuver, Melee Weapons, Taunt, and Weapon Weaving at First Circle. You can see how contours of the Discipline here as it combines the martial tendencies with Melee Weapons with a Dexterity based avoidance Talent in Avoid Blow. Maneuver is a precision style flourish while Taunt is just what it sounds like. Swordweaving is the threadweaving talent that all Adepts know, but with his particular Discipline’s skein. While I could divide these up evenly, I do want to take a Talent Option and as Grythlit will be a front line combatant, I am going to go for some hedging by picking up Wound Balance – this will allow Grythlit, all 450lbs of him, to not be knocked down even if a Wound is dealt to him. Since I can start with 8 Talent Ranks, I will put 2 Ranks in Melee Weapons and 2 Ranks in Taunt to start.
- Skills – Earthdawn provides for four different kinds of skills to start to make sure that characters are well diversified. There are two ranks for Language Skills to speak and one to be literate – Choose Throalic as it is the lingua france of Barsaive and the Troll tongue with literacy in Throalic. As an Artisan skill, which helps show that the horrors have not touched and marked the name-giver, I lean into the dancing theme for agile swordsman and take Dancing. Seriously, think about the “dance of the swords” and in Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice & Fire Bravosi Water Dancers – It is a trope and I think I’ll lean into it here. With two knowledge skills, I will start with Swordmaster Lore to know more about the most glorious Discipline there is! And a rank in Military History. Finally, 8 ranks of general skills may now be chosen. While Unarmed Combat may be taken as a Talent for Swordmasters, I think I’ll keep it as a Skill for Grythlit and start him at 2 ranks. Swimming and Climbing are useful, but properly skills for our good Troll. For fun, and possibly to get him into trouble, I will take Flirting and Streetwise also at 2 ranks each. Nothing like a good gambling den with ale off a back alley to a rousing good time!
- Gear – One thing I love about Earthdawn is the starting Adventurers Kit. It simplifies starting gear greatly. Basic clothes, appropriate artisan tools, backpacks, etc. all are there as just assumed to be part of your character. With only 100 Silver, though, I can’t start Grythlit with the Poleaxe I had envisioned, so I will pay the premium for a Troll Sword and Hide Armor. That takes all the starting silver a character has! Thankfully, he will earn more pretty quickly to pick up the rest of his gear like that Pole Axe!
We are using a total of 30,000 Legend to advance the Metal Cobras with a goal of 5th Circle. This is more than enough to have a lot of fun! To advance in a Circle of a Discipline, you must possess all the Discipline Talents at the Rank of the desired Circle – You must buy your Talents up first! When you advance to a new CIrcle, you gain another measure of Durability, access to a new Discipline Talent, and the option to add another Talent Option as well as some neat extra powers or bonuses.
- Attributes – You have a limited ability to increase Attributes in Earthdawn – you can only raise each Attribute a total of three times with an increasing cost each time. Only Perception and Willpower are really lacking in this built, so I will make sure that 800 Legend is spent for Grythlit to read and listen to the discourse in Throal to increase his Perception. This brings it from step 4 to 5 so is a great investment.
- Talents – Obviously, the five Discipline Talents listed above will be raised to 5, but as we advance in Circle, new Discipline Talents will be added such as – First Impression, Riposte, Heartening Laugh, and at Fifth Circle Second Weapon! All of those, except Second Weapon, I will raise to Rank 5 with Second Weapon only at Rank 4 so I can diversify the skills. In the Optional Talent list, I want to grab Tiger Spring which is a bonus to Initiative Steps for obvious reasons, Impressive Display because an 8 foot tall troll doing intricate maneuvers with a two handed Pole Axe ought to give you pause, as well as Anticipate Blow and Acrobatic Defense. The latter because I see Grythlit dancing between foes with a grace that belies his mass and the former as another defensive option that rewards a high Initiative. I should have enough legend to raise all of these to Rank 4.
- Skills – Several of these skills will be increased over the intervening Circles. I like to try to keep the Artisan Skill close to the Circle rank for flavor purposes in the world, so Dancing going to a 4 is 1600 Legend alone. Skills are more expensive than talents as Talents are fueled by magic. The Swordmaster Lore and Military History Increase to 4 and3 respectively and are joined by Dragon Lore at Rank 1. While not the most studious of individuals, Grythlit knows when to pay attention and Iopos poses that threat clearly. Unarmed Combat and Flirting also increase – he keeps getting into brawls when he isn’t as charming as he thinks he is. .
- Gear – Looking to gear, I know there will be a good amount of items added. First, there is a Pole Axe because I love the visual. I am also adding a shield for him to use in conjunction with his Troll Sword, that is actually a Thread Sword! I’ll pick up a second Troll Sword so that Second Weapon can be used to allow him a second attack with that off hand at the expense of carrying a Shield. I will also have a good bit of his gear like the armor and weapons to be Forged by a Weaponsmith. This will increase their properties but requires an annual “tune up” with a Weaponsmith of appropriate Circle. The Weaponsmith Discipline has Talents like Forge Weapon and Forge Armor that allows the Adept to instill a bit more magic into the pattern of the weapon and armor, increasing their ratings, but this fades over time. His armor will be threaded Faerie Mail which is an improved chainmail will mystic armor properties and reduced initiative penalties..
- Group Pattern – Finally, he will weave a thread to the Group pattern to a second Rank – When an adventuring party begins to make a name for themselves, as their legends begin to become intertwined , they can create a True Pattern where their Name becomes something more and more. An Adept can weave up to 5 threads to a Group Pattern, though the total number of threads between the Group Pattern and Threaded Items and other possibilities, can never exceed the Ranks in the Thread Weaving Talent. The Legend Point cost for this is high, though as a Rank 1 is 300 Legend and the Rank 2 Thread another 500 Legend. Regardless, Grythlit’s role in protecting his smaller and more squishy fellows has him establish his physical link to the Pattern as a Spaulder, or piece of shoulder armor that he can wear over his faerie mail, and weaves his Thread to increase his Physical Defense by 2 when acting with the Group’s interests at heart.
As Thystonius is my Witness, so see this as a record of the deeds and life of Grythlit Flashing Tusk
As a Troll, few are surprised to see me on the field of battle, but most are surprised by the joy with which I take to the challenge. As a Swordmaster, I proceed with not just a simple desire to defeat my foes, but by winning through the precision and flair that befits the Art of War. How, though, did one such as myself – so large and horned come to be called to the Swordmaster’s way? Why do I not frequent a Drakkar and drop from the sky? That is a story that my parents never fully told me, but I will share what it is I do know.
I was born on the surface of Barsaive – we Trolls don’t wait like Dwarves and Elves to bless Barsaive with another generation of Name-Givers; we are generous with our ways unlike their sometimes elfish…. I mean selfish habits. As such, I never knew the Scourge. My parents had come out from the Kaer in which they had been born and kept what traditions alive that they could with the other Trolls. Which Kaer itself does not matter so much – a small and modest one that survived not far from Landis and, now again, Cara Fahd. I know and have met Sky Raiders in my time since, and they carry with them ideas and honor that I had been taught, but in a way that seems less elegant if I am to be honest. My parents and their parents and their parents before them had to find ways to uphold what they knew while in a Kaer with other Name-Givers and so my Kaetral and my Katerra are to more than just my Clan, or perhaps it is that my clan is the Kaer. I have, though, digressed and I am not one who spins the words of a philosopher.
In trading with Parland, the nearest of the cities to the Kaer that had sheltered my family, my clan, I saw the Warriors and the Archers returning to the lands and I saw the beginnings of the Theran’s cold expansions – Rugaria is not that far away, you see and Vivane’s ships would fly to Parland on the way to mine their Elemental Fire. What brought my heart to flutter, though, was not when I saw a fight won, but when I saw the Dance between the fighters. It is the movement that as always enchanted me, and the way with which I find the patterns between name-givers that gives me the greatest of thrills. This led me to the school of Thylios-Doru, teaching Swordmasters the ways of the Dance of War and Peace – and that I was an Adept guaranteed my acceptance even as my parents could not pay the tuition.
I will forever be grateful to Balama of Kaer Domine, for she pulled me from my reverie to greater things. My Legend has grown because of her Vision, but Archers often seem to see one hill beyond the rest of us. In the time since I first joined her, there have been many things worth recording but I shall focus on only those that may loom largest for now so as to whet your appetite for more as the opening steps of a dance only entice you to move further to the rhythm. Our first trip to Throal, as the sabres were rattled and the drums beaten in advance of war, was because Balama had already begun her Journey and the distrust of the Therans thats comes so easily to those with clear eyes was evident. To my shame, it took me longer to realize how dangerous the Therans were but my time in Parland had left a cloud over my eyes until we took to the field of battle.
While in Thera, Iopari sneered his way into our group. Certainly, he is a fine diplomat but the Elf puts the story of the Aloof and Distant Elf to shame until he needs something from you. I don’t understand the way he skulks or plays against name-giver’s wants but something about him, another outsider, in the Great Library of Throal drew us together. Over the next few years as the Triumph had landed and Barsaive began to gather it’s rebellion, we learned much. It is here I gained the favor of a rather charming Blood Elf and did find myself possessed of a suit of Faerie Mail. I may need to visit the Blood Wood soon as even Prushka is beginning to be of little help in my thread weaving. I was distracted again, as between Iopari and Balama, the perfidy of the Deinarastas of Iopos was laid bare to all of us. They had been responsible for pushing Barsaive to War.
As we looked deeper into their machinations, we ran into a greater story and conspiracy. As Throal retreated to its own concerns with Neden dead and the King’s Crown unclaimed, we saw Iopos making a move on Jerris. Miserable Jerris with it’s ash swept artisans deserved better, but even we couldn’t stop Iopos from taking control of the mercantile power. The use of the Firescale Moot’s troops was shocking to us – we had not known that Troll Moots, even Firescales, had allied with the dishonorable and infighting Denairastas. Some other missive, I shall recount the grand and glorious battle we had that stopped Iopos from spreading even further than Jerris but for now suffice it to say that I emerged not only victorious but with the Ruin of Ustrecht Troll Sword to redeem. It’s history seems close to me and perhaps some part of my own family’s life from before the Scourge will matter. We also took scrolls and books that we only recently managed to translate – and I have learned much about the true nature of Uhl Denairastas and his Patron behind the scenes.
For the past several years, we had been in the Theran province of Creana. A strange departure, I know, but with Iopos quite enraged by our actions and not wanting to be drawn into the Throalic politics that Iopari was angling towards, we decided to see how the Theran’s treated other provinces. As our Group Pattern came into stark relief while there, we clearly made the right choice. Clad in Metal and as dangerous as snakes, we were called the Metal Cobras before we made our pattern True. Aside from returning with Vha-nerd, a jackal headed Scout, our time was spent well exploring how the desert land with their own thirsty Passions lived. I danced many a dance, and now hope to race this missive back to Barsaive to see how Throal fares. We are in danger is Iopos has not yet been stopped and what we learned is true and so my home needs me.