My apologies for the slight delay in the Card Catalog roll out, but we are back with a character inspired by the description of the Nethermancer’s Karma Ritual in the Earthdawn Player’s Guide and so I now introduce to you Prushka, the Ork Nethermancer.
Working through the Metal Cobras, I knew that there would beat least one full magical casting Discipline represented and Prushka is our winner! In Earthdawn, there are four main types of magical casters represented in the Core Rule Book – Wizards, Elementalists, Illusionists, and Nethermancers. Wizards are what you expect from a fantasy caster while the Illusionists specialize in manipulating perceptions and having spells that may be both illusory and not while the Elementalists do indeed focus on spells that revolve around plants, earth, fire, water, air, and the like. Each fills a slightly different role, but in the unique setting of Earthdawn where the Astral space surrounding the world is polluted while Horrors and spirits roam, it is the Nethermancer who carries the greatest of the burdens. Studying the other world, the astral, spirits, and indeed Horrors means that they touch on the creepy and disturbing of the world, and Earthdawn has significant horror influences, and Horror influences, that can be a huge part. I’ll explain a bit more about the Discipline and the spell system as we work through, but I also wanted to make a studious Ork. Orks are so often pigeon holed as violent warriors without etiquette or training that it is something I am tired of. I choose an Ork so I could make her a bit older than the rest to add to the sense of isolation I see for her and I choose to have her be from Kaer Domine just to add to roleplaying potential. Without further ado, let’s talk about building Prushka, the Ork Nethermancer
At this point, we will now begin to build Prushka, our Ork Nethermancer step by step.
- Race – Ork. Orks have a lot of familiar traits to other fantasy games and settings – they are generally larger and stronger than other races, except for the Trolls and giant stone Obsidmen but one of the major differentiations that happens in Earthdawn is the cultural context for the Orks. They are a species that has a history of being enslaved before the Scourge and also that have a shorter lifespan so they are often far more intense and have a “Gahad” which is like a roleplaying trigger to describe the times an Orks passion is triggered. They also have lowlight vision. For Prushka’s Gahad, she will need to work to control herself whenever she is faced with the purposeful imposition of chaos. It sounds fancy, but this is more like your older aunt or grandfather who has a place for everything and woe be unto the niece, nephew, or grandchild who does not put something back. Prushka had to find Order in the universe, so that sort of purposeful upsetting of the careful balance of the world is going to ignite her passions.
- Discipline – Nethermancer. This discipline specializes in the study of spirits and of horrors with a significant helping of fear and creepy components. I like the idea of an Ork, as an outsider, turning to literal magical outsiders to find solace – the ability to speak to spirits means even alone Prushka is never Alone. This also works well in my head as Prushka has a slightly regal bearing but an oddity about her which we will certainly explore in more detail in her skills and talents.
- 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 – Orks start with a 13 but I am liking more and more the older character type for Prushka, especially since Orks have a shorter lifespan so I will drop her Strength to 11 and get 2 points back.
- DEX – Orks start with 10 and I keep it there.
- TOU – Orks begin with only an 11 but I’ll go ahead and adjust it down to the standard 10 to net back one point and to reflect an occasional slowness or sore hips for Prushka.
- PER – Orks start with a 10 but this is one of the three Attributes that are needed strongly, so I’ll raise it to a 15 for 7 points.
- WIL – Orks only start with an 8, likely reflecting their passion like the gahad, but for a Nethemancer, I need to sink significant points into this to make sure that I can achieve my plans so getting Prushka to a 15 requires 12 of my points.
- CHA – While only a 9 to start, that is still lower than a 10, but I will raise Prushka’s Charisma to a 15 with the last 9 points I have. If you know the Corestep system or have been following along, the series of 15s means you know something that will be coming later in advancement.
- Talents – Nethermancers receive two Standard Matrix Talents Free. If you remember our discussion of magic, a Matrix is an astral construct for Earthdawn magic users to filter spells through so they do not attract the attention of the extradimensional Horrors still roaming the planet. In addition to the Matrices, all Nethermancers get Astral Sight, Frighten, Patterncraft, Spellcasting, and their Thread Weaving called Nethermancy. With the initial character build, I will take a Talent Option for Awareness so that she can be alert and sharp behind her older eyes.
- Magic – We’ve briefly touched on Magic before, but this is a good opportunity to address more of the specifics – In addition to the Talents each Discipline possesses, which are a form of magic, there are spells as you may think of them. Spells are learned by one of the four spellcasting Disciplines and the Spellcasting Talent and Thread Weaving Talents, Nethermancy for Prushka, are integral in their use. Each spell has a different number of Threads that a caster must weave to the spell’s pattern to cast it, and if you do not have the spell’s Pattern within your Spell Matrix, you are likely to attract the attention of a Horror and suffer the consequences of that attention. Low Level spells can only require one or zero threads, but as you increase in Spell Level, higher level spells may require multiple actions for the Caster to weave enough Threads to the spell to cast it. If you get extra successes, every 5 over the Target Number you roll, you can weave threads more quickly or use those for additional power in your spell. Casters start with a number of Spell levels equal to their Perception Step and then they learn more as they increase in circle, but they can only ever safely cast a spell that is within their Circle in their Matrices.
- Spells – For Prushka’s starting 6 levels of Spells, I keep them all in First Circle. I start with Bone Circle because it is a starting place for many other spells later as this allows a Nethermancer to bind a Bone Spirit to a circle and then call upon the spirit or use the circle later, and remotely. Every few days of travel when the Metal Cobras stop, Prushka makes a new one. Astral Spear and Spirit Darts are the two offensive spells that are hard to pass up and work in synergy as the lower damage Spirit Darts also reduces Mystic Armor for a round so you can follow up with Astral Spear for even more damage. For protection, Life Circle of One to keep undead and Horror at bay and Soul Armor to improve Mystic Armor make a good set of choices. Finally, Experience Death lets a Nethermancer see and experience the death of another Name-Giver and can be useful for investigation but also to add to the Nethermancer creepy factor.
- 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 – Aside from the Dwarven Throalic that doubles as a common tongue in Barsaive, I’ll go ahead and use Or’zet which is the Orkish language in Earthdawn. The Artisan skill to really provide some character and distinction I believe is best suited is Puppetry. I like the idea of this older slightly unnerving Ork pulling out puppets for a Punch & Judy show or a ventriloquist’s dummy and the Netflix Dark Crystal revival may have some influence in this decision. With two knowledge skills, I am going to start with Nether Lore, which covers the astral and general Nethermancer topics and will likely get surpassed by Horror Lore eventually, and Herbalism, as I also like the idea of Prushka brewing wonderful tea. With the 8 ranks of general skills, I know I am going to put one rank each into Swimming and Melee Weapons. Swinging a Flail and going for a swim keep Prushka feeling young. I definitely want Alchemy in conjunction with the Herbalism as well with two ranks for each leaving a single rank for Research and Etiquette. You can see how this is pretty quickly shaping up to the slightly eccentric style of person and the fact that it is a Discipline that is a little unnerving goes a long was here as well.
- Gear – Aside from the basic Adventurers Kit, with 100 Silver, I grab a Flail, Leather Armor, a Writing Kit, and a Fishing Kit. I never said she was good at Fishing, but her time must be spent doing something interesting.
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 – If you’ve been reading along, you know that all of those three 15s will be turned into 16s because that is a breakpoint from Step 5 to Step 6 for PER, WIL, and CHA and that will help a lot in the long run.
- Talents – The Five starting Discipline talents are going to be raised to 5 by the time Prushka is Fifth circle, but lets also look at what comes alone as she gains new circles. Steel Thought, Spirit Talk, Spirit Hold, and Summon Ally Spirit all show very clearly the core focus of the Discipline. These are all Astral related Talents and work in conjunction with spells. With Ally Spirit Summoning only a 2 as the most recent new Talent, the rest are at five as well. For the Talent Options, Prushka is very much going to be needed to remove impediments so Dispel Magic, Suppress Curse, and Banish are all pretty good options. These are ways that Prushka can mutter under her breath about how lazy and clumsy the rest of the Metal Cobras are and go to save them in a magical duel. Finally, It is rare that you should not take advantage of additional Spell Matrices. As we’ve discussed, these let you hold a spell ready without attracting Horror Taint, and the more that you can have ready, the better so you don’t waste your time and actions swapping them out. One of the free Matrices is upgraded to an Enhanced Matrix at Fifth Circle which means that an extra thread gets woven into the Circle when a Spell is Attuned saving the caster the time to weave a thread later. If you click on the character sheet linked below, you will see that Prushka does not have Talents at as high a rank, nor skills as developed as the other characters that we’ve talked about. That is because Spells take Legend Points (XP) to actually learn and I spent a good sum on those.
- Magic – Spells that Prushka will have learned, and since I am building her up for narrative purposes, I can keep them nicely focused but this amounts to nearly three more Talents worth of Legend Points which is where a number of those legend points went.
- Second Circle. As for Second Circle spells, Summon Fog Ghost sounds like Pruska – the ability to summon a rather violent ghost of Fog that will attack people for her. She also learned Chilling Circle which creates a 2 yard circle of cold with game effects for people who pass through it and Shadow Whispers, so she can listen in on conversations that happen within earshot of a shadow she chooses within 100 yards of where she is.
- Third Circle. The Bone Circle comes back into utility as Circle 3 spells include Summon Bone Spirit and Aspect of Bone Spirit. Summoning summons a Bone Spirit to perform duties and tasks, including combat, from one of the Bone Circles within Spellcasting Rank x 10 Miles while Aspect of Bone Spirit will infuse that spirit into a friendly target providing additional Mystic Defense and Armor. Fog of Fear is a spell that creates a fog that then the Nethermancer can use their Frighten Talent on everyone in the Fog so it is a highly effective crowd control spell which the Metal Cobras sorely needed. Two other Third Circle spells that are useful, but that Prushka doesn’t have are Arrow of Night which would work wonderfully with Balama’s Archer skills and Grave Message where you can use the Bone Circles to send messages back and forth using the Bone Spirits. Alas.
- Fourth Circle. In her Fourth Circle spells, Last Chance and Viewpoint take the lead where Last Chance will allow a dead Character to use a Recovery Test at a bonus to see if it will heal them to where they are only mostly dead. Viewpoint allows Prushka to peak into Astral space to make a little window through solid objects and look around.
- Fifth Circle. At Fifth Circle, the Spellcasting Disciplines begin to really come into their own. Here Prushka has learned Circle of Astral Protection to create a field of additional Mystic armor for her allies while Dust to Dust will allow a massive attack against the Undead in groups. Reverse Withering allows Prushka to under the effects of a Withering, which can be pretty devastating and she is likely working to learn the Pattern to do Withering next.
- Skills – Prushka will have less skill advancement than others, especially Iopari, because of those Legend Point requirements for Spells, but that doesn’t mean leaving them behind. I will keep her Puppetry up to Circle Rank as her Artisan skill and also think about having her summon spirits to inhabit her puppets for fun. Small advancements in Research, Etiquette, Alchemy, and Melee Weapons have followed. She is likely nearing time to raise her Alchemy again now that the Metal Cobras are returning from Creana.
- Gear – Gear will be on the lighter side, but we don’t want to ignore it! First, a Fernweave armor, magically forged, will provide better protection and a Crystal Raider shield, also coming from the Firescale Trolls that the Party faced in the backstory that we’ve talked about before will help round out the protection for Prushka. Her Flail getting forged keeps her damage step up, though she is never going to be particularly good at swinging it around. Two specific Thread Items will be acquired – both tied to a historic Nethermancer from just as the Scourge ended and the Kaers’ opened named Kalim. Kalim’s Wand is Thread Wand, at least it appears to be such at this Circle, providing bonuses to Spellcasting and Nethermancy while the Ring of Kalim is a Matrix Item which means that is has a Spell Matrix in it that can be used to hold a Spell in addition to the Matrices that spellcasters use as Talents in Earthdawn. While three ranks of a Thread are woven to the Wand, the Ring is only a Second Circle Matrix thus far from weaving but that means keeping Astral Spear handy! Before the Adepts developed the spell matrices, these thread items that held a matrix were the way that the casters cleansed their magic from the horrors. Once again, Earthdawn made a story reason for a fantasy RPG trope – the wizard’s wand and staff.
- Group Pattern – The Group Pattern is something that binds this group together and is an endearing way that Earthdawn makes for a mechanical basis for party unity. As may be apparent from some of the spells and talents learned so far, our off putting and slightly creepy Nethermancer has been having to protect her fellow party members. Mystic Armor is the best thing then to help keep her up especially since she is comparatively fragile. A small fossilized sternum from a creature she won’t identify with runes carved will be the Pattern item. With a thread to Rank 2, that will mean another two points of Mystic Armor for Prushka. 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. Because of the Legend spent for spells, the high cost of this thread is going to keep me to just one thread right now. The Legend Point cost for this is Rank 1 for 300 Legend and the Rank 2 Thread is another 500 Legend and so forth as if it were a Talent of the Warden level.
Yes, Spirit, I am new to you. You may call me Prushka.
I did not say that was my Name oh clever one. We orks may have a life shorter than other name-givers, but that does not make me any less shrewd. I wish to call on you in the future as I may be headed towards danger.
A fair request in this barter – Who Am I? I was born in a Kaer to the one line of orks that the Domini Kaer housed. While the Scourge had ended as we know it, my clan of Orks hadn’t fully left the comfort of the Kaer.
Oh, the rumblings of war were something I warned them of. As an ork, few others were truly accepting and so I would play in the dark and quiet corners of the Kaer.
Yes. It was there that I heard voices like yours. Would you care for more of the tea?
If I was not to play with the young humans and elves, at least the voices in the astral would tell me what was past the veil. Him, yes, perhaps that is why I started to make the puppets you see. I wished to give a face to my friends, and perhaps it is so to this day.
Yes, you are shrewd as well my honored guest. I left the Kaer to find out more and was called to the Nethermancer discipline. I had left my past behind and looked forward unto the Nether realms but it seems that my ties left me close to my past. It was in my studies that I encountered Balama. Scion of the family for whom my Kaer was named, a peer to whom I was never allowed to be such, and a human so blessed with a life not shortened by the passion of a Gahad, though by no means as long as a dwarf or elf. Perhaps, kind spirit, you can tell me how those two name-givers can live so long and yet not see so much around them?
No, you are right. That is not a question that the astral may answer as it is solely within the folly of our place here. I joined with Balama, who seemed not to have the same reservations as her parents about an ork that spoke to the darkness . . . And the Darkness. Perhaps she saw its use or her time in the world with that loud, but charming troll taught her a few things.
Yes, Grythlit does get quite trying at times, as he does not seem to respect the space, the place, and the flow of the world around him. You see how the cups are in their place – Iopari enjoys a tea just as I do and can replace the cups but that thrice-cursed Troll- excuse me. I did not call you hear for my own complaints. We got involved in the war your fellowship told me of, fighting the Therans and their blood magic wielding enslaving flotilla. We fought with Trolls of the Firescsle moot and discovered a secret, or The Secret, of Iopos.
You wish to have that secret? Perhaps in another discussion. For now, know that we return to Barsaive from time in Creana – the land of no Dragons. I should tell you more of this land of sand and strange ways, but you likely know more than I. We have a new friend who looks to the dead in a way that none of Barsaive do vha-Nerd sees a way to honor a Pattern in the foes who are fallen, though she has not shared this practice with the others. many do frown upon her ways. She though is a Scout and brought us safely through the desert and bound herself to the Pattern of the group. We return to see the land of Barsaive in difficulty and that is why I ask for your aid.
Will you sleep a spell in this puppet, and keep our company should I need your services. I offer the tastes of our foes patterns as they fall and the first orichalchum coin I acquire for a year and a day.
Prushka – Unnerving Ork Nethermancer Sheet here