Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Discussion on the Earthdawn game line, errata, and feedback not related to playing or GMing.
Purplefixer
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Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Purplefixer » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:33 am

1. Animal Training (I believe you've seen all this?) What constitutes Combat Trained is nebulous, as is how to get an animal combat trained. What constitutes a trick is nebulous, as is the method of giving commands (what action is this? Is training an animal to respond only to certain whistles a trick? is training an animal to only take your commands a trick?), as is the scope of a command (is 'find dead bird' a trick? is 'find dead bird and bark' two tricks? Is 'down' a trick, as well as 'kill'? Do beast masters need bonus tricks to keep their pets in line?). Is there any limit to the amount of command that can be taken and given? Can an adept beastmaster send a pack of wolves in to fight with a single command? Isn't that breaking action economy open like a melon thrown off a building? What about Cavaliers that hunt with dogs?


2. Pattern Items are nebulous sorcery. I think the WHOLE SUB-CHAPTER needs to be redesigned from the ground up. It alludes to things, contradicts itself, and is extremely difficult to parse and bring to functionality. Can a pattern item be a tree? How can you weave functional threads to a TREE if you have to have the tree 'in your possession'?! If pattern items (MAJOR at that!) are 'usually created intentionally' you probably need to tell us how that's done, since you've given us the method of how to weave threads to them. The book clearly says that Major items are almost always intentionally created, but you -must- have a minor pattern item for that to work. The rates at which and circumstances under which a PC gains pattern items is important to elaborate on, otherwise it's just a lot of wasted space.


3. You've heard of hot garbage? Ice Mace and Chain is reheated garbage. It's that bad. If you read the spell, it makes no sense whatsoever. No successes to damage is fine if you want to keep the Elementalist from having a serious attack spell until 4th Circle when he gets elemental spears (This is a legitimate deliberate design decision to make! Elementalists get fantastic buffs), but why doesn't this chain... which wraps around someone... entangle them? Why does it harry them instead? Why does it function WORSE if you roll well? Why does the description clearly state 'the next round it is removed' and then successes add to duration? This spell needs a pretty immediate errata.


4. Research is a sustained action with no time interval. How long does research take? Does it take longer researching something about a place or person than it does researching thread knowledges?


5. The encounter design system is the worst part of the game. It's nebulous and dangerous. It's easy enough to roll 25 damage on a Step 7 hit from a Krillworm, we don't need step 10 damaging poison on a C2 monster (looking at you, ghouls). Is 4 C2 monsters an average challenge for a C2 party? Is it supposed to be their only fight per day? What about a single C3 monster? Are two C3 monsters an average fight for a C2 party? If it is, does that mean that two C4 monsters is an average fight for a C3 party?

Purplefixer
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Purplefixer » Mon Sep 18, 2017 9:17 am

Today's issues at the game table!

1. Trust
The Trust spell is unstoppable. In a single creature fight (PCs vs Cave Troll? PCs vs Great Bear? PCs vs Horror?) if the goal isn't specifically to kill a creature, this spell instantly ends the encounter as the PCs wave, walk on by, and go about their business? The same applies if you beat a thief within an inch of his life, tie him to a chair, torture him, then cast friendship on him? He can't deceive you, but does he have to answer you? Is being silent a deception?

2. See the Unseen
There is some argument that this spell does less than what it says it does. As a second circle spell with one required thread I argue that the spell, indeed, does exactly what it says on the (Effect) box. The target/s gain a +5 bonus to all sight based perception/awareness tests. A fellow GM argues that it gives bonuses ONLY to see things that are *intentionally* hidden, such as someone hiding a door behind a flag, or sneaking up on someone. Does this mean that if a meteorite is falling from the sky to bean the T'skrang's head that he doesn't get the +5 bonus to notice it?

3. Why are there no interaction skills for Insight, Con, or Intimidate?

Slimcreeper
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Slimcreeper » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:35 pm

1) Totally agree with you. There is some debate on another thread about this.
2) Pattern Items are deliberately nebulous, because they are intended to support the narrative. It is a thing that is different that D&D (I've been watching a lot of Critical Role, I've got no beef with the game). If a PC intends to create a pattern item, the player would just work with the GM to make a great story. For an example of making a minor item, look to the group pattern section. That is a ritual that creates pattern items.
As for your question of the tree, that is a living thing, so I personally wouldn't allow it as a pattern item. However, if there is a pattern item that is too large to be portable (an anvil woven with true earth?) then you would need to be using it or at least in contact with it to benefit from it.
3) I ... don't feel you on the ice mace & chain. On one specific, the duration is how long it takes for the ice to melt and the character to struggle free. It could have used an Str test to break free, but I think it models the chain melting reasonably well.
4) The research could use some hard numbers, but it's basically whatever the GM thinks is reasonably based on how he or she is pacing the game.
5) Balancing encounters is indeed tricky, probably the toughest part of GMing.

Part 2
1) Trust doesn't require the target to answer questions, and doesn't make the target friendly to the spellcaster. It keeps the target from lying or attacking. And it is temporary. Cast it on an Unfriendly cave bear, it will be hostile in 60 seconds (per rank) and tracking you down. Cast it on a horror and you'll have just enough time for it to plot its revenge.
2) I side with the fellow GM on See the Unseen. In the text it says "tests made to detect hidden objects or characters"
3) The idea is to encourage role-playing, and have fewer social interactions decided solely on the basis of a dice roll, I believe. You can't get so good at deception that you can just get through anything (without using magic). That said, I think you could easily add such skills if they would benefit your table. Intimidate could be based on Battle Shout, for example.

Dougansf
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Dougansf » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:54 pm

Adding more to the pile

1) Aggressive vs Defensive.
These two stances are similar but not equitable. Aggressive reduces your passive Defenses, but not your Active defense skills. Defensive increases your passive Defenses, but makes ALL other rolls penalized (instead of just attack & damage), with the option to not penalize your Active defense skills... which will now be harder pressed to actually work because your passives are 3 higher.

2) Spells not getting bonus successes to damage
It's frustrating getting a lucky Spellcasting roll and not getting any additional damage like all the other characters are getting. On top of the fact that most Combat Options and all Special Maneuvers are not available makes low Circle combat pretty boring for Magicians.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Slimcreeper » Mon Sep 18, 2017 11:31 pm

1) I don't think they should cancel each other out. Aggressive should beat Defensive.

2) Write some new spells and share them!

Purplefixer
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Purplefixer » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:02 am

The tree wasn't my example. It's in the book.

Spells and Bonuses) I believe this is a design decision. Some spells DO get bonuses, and other spellcasting types are better at different things. Illusionists get True Ephemeral Bolt, Wizards get Mind Dagger, Nethermancers get Astral Spear. It's just the Elementalist that loses out. Sorry bub, but you have the very best buffing and healing spells in the game at First and Second Circle... It can't rain all the time.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:57 am

Ok, bubdy-bub, I still wouldn't allow a tree. It's already got a true pattern,

Dougansf
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Dougansf » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:49 am

Oh I'm sure it's a design decision. I just want to understand it. :D
Because it's not just me, but e game I'm running has a wizard PC who feels the same way. Once all the buffs are in place (which Chain casting makes much easier), it's spam 0 Thread offense every round.

Nethermancer gets Spirit Dart as their 0 Thread spell, which adds duration.

A related issue, the illusion of choice that is the extra threads for combat spells. Using a round to weave an extra thread at best breaks even. If you go for 1 extra target, you attack 2 things, like you would have if you'd just cast both rounds.

Again, only talking about Novice circles. Enhanced Matrixes changes everything.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:41 am

The round spent weaving a thread has always been problematic in ED, which is I think why they increased the number of 0 thread spells so much. A multi-thread damage spell really has to bring something special to be worthwhile. The extra thread mechanic is really recent. Most of the rest of the system has had a decade or two to shake out. I think an extra thread really needs to bring a dramatic effect to be worthwhile.

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The Undying
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by The Undying » Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:47 am

- Pattern Items -

Slim really touched on the heart of this: pattern items are mostly story hooks. How did this bad thing happen? Pattern item. How can someone get some extra leverage? Pattern item. The "how was it made" is far less important the "how was it (ab)used", with "why was it made" a distant secondary question.

Generally, Pattern Item creation isn't going to be placed in front of players - unless you go out of your way to do it. Since that's an edge condition, it makes sense not to put it in core books. If every edge condition were put into the core, we'd be getting our books in the next millennium at the very reasonable asking price equal to the Gross Domestic Product of a small country. Now, I agree, a quick sentence would be helpful ("they're made via a ritual similar to most Oaths"), but I don't think it needs to be mechanized.

As to how it might impact your characters? There will come a point where a -LONG- running campaign might create some naturally occuring minor pattern items for players. Per the rule book, Magicians are very likely to have their Grimoire turn into Pattern Items over time. Non-magicians tend to swap equipment more often, or use Thread Items, so this isn't a thing for them ... but, a superstitious Thief that keeps their first dagger with them as a luck charm could see that come about as a minor Pattern Item. I'm not sure how many players ever ask "can I make a major Pattern Item," in which case I'd remind them how dangerous they could be in the wrong hands ... and how great a story it would be if it were stolen and used against them (hint hint).

- Ice Mace & Chain -

I'm guessing you're new to ED? IM&C was basically *THE* spell to have as Elementalist, and nothing ever really beat it. They actively tried to reign it in a bit in ED4, which I think was for the better, all things considered. As to your concern about entangling, check the Player's Guide information on Entangling Weapons (pg 391) - all they do is inflict Harried, with the caveat that entagled targets can make a non-Harried roll for breaking free. Lastly, on your comment about the duration - one could argue that ED's attempt to intermix rules and flavors text is ultimately detrimental (although it keeps it from reading like a sterile instruction manual). Your cited problem is with the flavorful writing of the text; systematically, it just says "at the end of the round when the duration expires, the IM&C melts and no longer inflicts Harried."

- Encounter Design -

Sounds like you just don't like the Step System. However, it isn't really "easy enough" to roll 25 on a Step 7 - if you look at the probability underpinning the Step System, it's actually better at achieving target numbers than systems with linear dice systems. Granted, that probability only really kicks in at Step 8 and gets better at Step 15 (IIRC), but it's there. Besides, exploding dice makes incredible stories your table will remember and recount, and isn't that why we're all really here?

- Aggressive vs Defensive -

I' personally agree with the thoughts here. It does seem weird that there's an imbalance. However, there is something to be said for simplicity. I like the feel of what it seems is being proposes - "Aggressive Stance gives penalty to all non-attack Talents/Skills" and "Defensive Stance gives penalty to all non-defense Talents/Skills" - but it becomes tricky to maintain what those categories. Lastly, this stuff is in print ... unless there's something fundamentally broken, I don't see changes like these happening - way too late for published content to be updated for better ideas, sadly. Might make a good suggestion for an optional rule, though.

- Spells not getting bonus successes to damage -

This was most definitely a design decision. It makes the ones that do it stand out, and it theoretically allows ones that do not do it to receive more interesting other effects as recompensed. Also, with the design push to put damage more squarely in the realm of close/ranged combat, Magician damage output has to be controlled somehow, this being one avenue. Note I'm not speaking to the pros/cons of that objective, just the results.

- Threads -

Every Magician player's favorite topic ever, mine included. =) The idea of bonus spell effects is great - it helps keeps spells relevant, interesting, and adaptable, and it offsets the reduced spell list; the execution (extra threads) is not great (in my humble opinion). Basically, the benefit of the extra thread needs to be so great as to offset the loss of per-round Spellcasting (or adding an extra turn to a spell that already requires Threadweaving), and very few extra threads actually provide that level of benefit. Sadly, the only "fix" is Spliced Weave at Circle 15, which will basically not affect 99% of games. One could argue that hitting something hard once is "better" because you can throw more weight into a single big push (Karma, Strain, Blood Charms) versus multiple smaller pushes, but that only works within certain gameplay constructs and situations.

Again, though ... this is all published material, so it is what it is. Unless there's something interesting that could be suggested succinctly as an optional rule, you'll just have to learn to deal with it (which, sadly, usually means ignoring it). Alternatively, begging shamelessly for an alternate solution via as-of-yet unpublished materials (i.e., Companion, via Knacks) might help. I guess it's always possible they revisit some of this in "The Magician's Grab Bag" (or whatever the working title was), but I'm not sure they'd want to spare the text real estate to effectively fork the system.

- Parting Thoughts -

It's easy to identify problems, it's harder to identify solutions. If you think there's some rough areas, be proactive and propose some solutions. I think most people know my primary frustrations with ED4 (extra threads, Summoning, Hold Thread, and formerly Plant Talk), but I've also tried pretty hard to come up with some solutions to those problems.

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