Metal Cobras – Vha-Nerd: Jackelwoman Scout from Far Away

October 8, 2019

As we finish up our visit to FASA’s Earthdawn 4e, I’ll let you know that I’ll take a week off to collect my thoughts and refocus before we come back! In the meantime, I love the old Theran Empire book that expands the Earthdawn Universe outside of Barsaive. The Theran Empire has a massive footprint, as medieval Atlantis here had multiple continents it touches. Included in that book was Not only Talea (Italy) and Vasgothia (Germany), but also Creana (Egypt). I’ve already sent the metal Cobras there and wanted to use a different name giver race and Creana has the Jackelmen! 

Earthdawn 4e has not published them so I am using a version that was fine by a FASA Discord user Nick Lowe before I made my own. As for Disciplines, I love the Scout, and it is terribly useful for the Metal Cobras combining the trap and lock picking abilities with wilderness acumen and enough combat options to make up for Iopari and Prushka’s weakness. 

Vha-red is a straightforward character compared to some of the others. She is a character that fills in several of the weak spots that the Metal Cobras have.  In party dynamics, where Prushka is odd and Iopari a little distant, Vha-Nerd is more gruff. 

The Scout Discipline is not one of the original disciplines in Earthdawn and was introduced bridging the Archer and Thief Disciplines and is evocative of the D & D ranger class. It’s one of my favorites because of the breadth that an explorer and striver may be used for … and because Rangers and Scouts were some of my favorite D & D classes. The Metal Cobras have a good amount of skills covered between the archery and troll swords for combat, social competence, and magic, but there is some skulking and survival abilities that are missing 

Design Notes

I’ll go into a little more explanations for vha-Nerd han other because we are doing a house ruling bit for the race, but now it is time to build our Jackelman Scout! 

  • Race – Jackelman.  The Jackelmen are rare, even in their homeland of Creana.  They are well disposed towards martial discipline with a few that seem drawn towards the Thief and Scout Disciplines as well.  They are raised to be warriors and seen by the Creannans as violent and barbaric. To be fair, they do have a tradition to consume the heart of a worthy fallen foe, but it is ritualistic rather than an ongoing cannibalistic practice.  Their finely tuned sense also lend them an advantage in the shifting deserts of Creana. Here, it should be noted that the Jakclemen have Low-light Vision, a Bite Attack as they do have the heads of jackals, and Enhanced Sense providing a +2 Step Bonus when using smell or hearing Perception and Awareness tests.   I’ll go through their default statistics below, but again want to thank Discord User: Nick Lowe for this write up I’m using. 
  • Discipline Scout. Scouts are the seekers and finders of the Disciplines.  They have the Talent Options to include combat in their range, but they are more based in the ability to move with purpose to find and see what comes next.  Vhe-Nerd gets the free Discipline Talent of Navigation underscoring the Scout’s special focus. Scouts are a “Specialist” type of Discipline – that is one that isn’t a front line combatant like a Warrior or Swordmaster, but also not a spell casting Discipline.  These Specialist Disciplines like Troubadour and Archer have a Durability of 5, but also get a Free Talent rather than either the increased health of the Warriors and their ilk or the spell casting of the Wizards.  
  • 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 – Jacklemen start with a 12, only a single tic lower than Orks, which definitely will help since it will be a simple matter of a single point to get Strength to a 13 to get them to Step 6 for Damage. 
  • DEX – A baseline of 10 here means to get to 16 and Step 7 is 9 points.   
  • TOU – A 10 to start helps in getting Vha-Nerd to a 14 for 5 points but she will likely need some additional help in combat but thats for future Circle advancement. 
  • PER – The starting 12 in Perception is one reason Scouts are a great choice for Jacklemen as it takes only 5 points to raise it to a 16 for Step 7. 
  • WIL – A standard 10 to start for WIL means getting to a 14 for 5 more points which has a breakpoint for advancement I have not touched on yet. 
  • CHA – Charisma starts at only an 8 for Jackelmen, and since I have already spent all of my points, that is where it will have to stay. 
  • Talents – We already mentioned the Free Talent of Navigation.  One thing to keep in mind is that Free Talents raise with the Circle of the character, so no Legend needs be spent on them.  For Scouts, the discipline Talents of Awareness, Climbing, Scout Weaving, Tracking, and Wilderness Survival are what shows the Discipline’s theory or belief.  It is quite clear from the Talents just where a Scout’s focus begins. For a Talent Option at First Circle, I choose Melee Weapons as a more in your face style of Scout suits Vha-Nerd well.  
  • 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 – Because Vha-Nerd is from Creana, I am going to have her speak Creanan and Theran to start and be literate in Creanan.  Thera claims Creana as a Province of the Theran Empire though Creana tends to treat them like equals rather than conquerors. It is a strange place. The Artisan skill while not as important in the Theran controlled areas culturally as in Barsaive, is important to the concepts and conceits of Earthdawn and for Vha-Nerd I will choose Storytelling, even though she is not a Troubadour.  I think that the Jackelmen as a race in the desserts are likely to have a rich oral storytelling culture rather than as many fixed works. The two Knowledge skills to start, one is definitely Creanan Lore to push home that Vha-Nerd is a stranger when she gets to Barsaive with the rest of the Metal Cobras and for the other I’ll take Jackelman Lore. It won’t likely come up, but should the Metal Cobras ever return to explore more of Fekara, it could provide guidance from her own stories. In General skills, I know that I will put two ranks into Missile weapons which, while not part of her Discipline’s focus is something she would likely be taught and the same with Avoid Blow at two ranks and a rank of Animal Handling. Because Jacklemen are often outcasts in Creana, I will go ahead at look to a rank of Streetwise, letting her get along well with Grythlit,and two Ranks of Pickpockets just because she isn’t the most upstanding of citizens which will help endear her to Iopari.  
  • Gear – Aside from the basic Adventurers Kit, with 100 Silver I look first to a Spear, a Quarterstaff, a Shortbow and arrows, and Padded Cloth Armor. Normally, there is also an Artisan’s Kit, but because Storytelling is something I am seeing expressly as a verbal and oral tradition, it doesn’t have a lot of gear needed. 

Advancement Notes

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 – Toughness and Willpower are going to be increased because they are on cliffs for a few statistics we have not discussed much before.  Toughness provides the basis for the Wound Threshold as well as the Health ratings. The Wound Threshold is how much damage after armor must be taken before a wound is inflicted, and raising the Toughness from 14 to 15 increases the Wound Threshold from 9 to 10! Willpower is used to determine the Mystic Armor the character has – it is much harder to acquire and going to a 15 will increase the Mystic Armor from 2 to 3!.This also means that they are now sitting on another breakpoint where if they are increased they will increase their respective Steps in the future.  Maybe if we revisit them in the Warden tier…
  • Talents – To be a Fifth Circle Scout, the Discipline Talents will need to be raised to 5, but in addition to those starting 5 Talents, as a Scout, Vha-Nerd also learns Stealthy Stride, Mystic Pursuit, and Danger Sense on the way and Evidence Analysis as the Fifth Circle Talent.  The Evidence Analysis Talent lets an Adept act like an entire C.S.I. Team or Sherlock Holmes deciphering the clues in a scene and is invaluable for an investigative character. The other Discipline Talents play into the Hyper Aware nature of a Scout who is constantly watching and being attuned to their environment in Danger Sense and Stealthy Stride while Mystic Pursuit is even more magically advanced than Tracking to follow for things! For Talent Options, Vha-Nerd looks first to round out combat effectiveness with Anticipate Blow, which gives a chance to have the drop on some of the foes, and then Lock Picking and Disarm Trap.  Access to these Talents is one of the things that I most enjoy about Scouts letting them play up the explorer or archaeologist like image. For Fifth Circle, a Tiger Spring Talent will increase Initiative well but I will only have the Legend to get it to Rank 2. 
  • Skills – Missile Weapons and Avoid Blow will be at the top of the list to keep improving but I will cap them at 4 to save some Legend since it is 1300 legend to advance a those from Rank 2 to Rank 4. Increasing her Creanan Lore and Theran Lore also is good, but we will keep it in the more modest range of 3 and 2 respectively.  Her Storytelling will keep up with the Joneses mostly at a 4 and I want her to learn Throalic to better communicate with the rest of the Metal Cobras. I think the best thing to do after I circle back from the threads and magical items below, is to spend the last 300 Legend on a second rank in Animal Handling.  
  • Gear – The best part of the Gear advancement is going to be adding a Threaded Spear, because I love that image, but the armor will also be upgraded first with a Blood Pebble Armor.  As a Creannan with more exposure to the Theran’s Vha-Nerd doesn’t have as many qualms about Blood Magic additions. This magical item is a series of 100 magical pebbles implanted in her skin that function as armor, though she carries Blood Magic Damage that cannot be healed as long as the item is part of her. It would also make a lot of sense coming from the desert of Northern Fekara not to be wearing too much metal.  The Short bow is going to get upgraded to a Long Bow and a Threaded Footman’s Shield round out the major items. A smattering of other items are used, but she likes to stay light on her feet.
  • 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. Vha-Nerd fills a roll that the Metal Cobras were certainly lacking in the vanguard role and the stealthy roll.   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. I think that the best things for Vha-Nerd to reflect her role within the Group would be to enhance her Initiative and a Thread to enhance her Physical Armor. 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.  

Character Notes

Attend, attend to the tales to be told!

I, Vha-Nerd, come to you with my story to share and legend to grow
As one who comes from the blessed land of Creanna 
Under the eyes of the Pharon and partner of the Therans
Blessed land of Creanna captured by our own pride and gilding our own cage

You know from my look and from my voice I am of the feared
Jackelmen who haunt the dreams and nights of the One Perfect Land
Across the edge of Fekara my people are known as warriors and
The most vicious of those who walk the sands

This story talks less of my people and more of how I came to leave the cradle of all life
For the stories that take place outside Creana can shake the scribes and
Even the great Theran allies are not just allies, but the conquerors who let us live
As though we are the good and docile examples of their bested foes.

Let none ever leave the thoughts behind that Thera pays us our due as the most perfect 
For in an instant few things would be left but sand caked with blood set afire
As a Scout I must seek and seeking will sometimes find the hard and uncomfortable truths
As much as the riches and secrets left behind. 

My early tales can be told anew, but for now the meddling outsiders entered our lives
As these simple men and women of Barsaive fled a powerful foe to the land 
Even dragons fear, they brought with them a clumsiness and ignorance
Their kind so often carries like the Therans when outside their own land

Without cubs, I had noone to guide, and an odd tugging at my heart 
Told me that these simpletons needed a Mother, and so I took them to suckle
At my knowledge and directions in their metal suits while I stayed cool and protected 
While they hid in the sands. 

It seems though that unlike the many content in the greatest of lands these travelers
Do not know their place and so will seek out something new and something dangerous
Perfect for a Scout such as myself but with that daring comes the danger that only leads to pain
So we set out into the sands and found the Theran encampments and Malek touched Chalmideans. The dangers of the desert know few bounds

As the Theran spy master who must serve Gez began to question my fellows nature 
So did their own feet began to itch to feel their home beneath them 
And so set off we did to return to their home one step ahead of the Therans in Creana
Back to their land where they know the secret of a Dragon and seek to earn his enmity.

Vha-Nerd – Jacklewoman Scout in a Foreign Land Sheet Here

Metal Cobras Overview Here

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