[Discipline] Custodian - Animal Companion-centered

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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[Discipline] Custodian - Animal Companion-centered

Post by ragbasti » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:27 am

I created a discipline with one of my players for a current game. The aim was to fill the niche for a character that relies on animal companions to do most of his fighting and other stuff.
The general idea was to not make it a cliché ranger á la DnD but to give the character a nice toolkit to be more of a "defender of nature"-type, focusing on the nature aspect.

Edit: 06. Aug 2019:
Since the previous version of the Discipline was heavily inspired by the Purifier and Woodsman (both of which will be coming with the Mystic Paths book), most of what this Discipline did became somewhat redundant. I've done a complete rework of the Discipline, taking away much of the Mysticism and focusing more on the defensive aspect and Animal Companion theme.

Edit: 21/02/2020:
A bunch of more playtesting was done, switched around talents & fixed a few descriptions.

EDIT: 20/04/2020: Panda does things better if you want a discipline that lets the animals do all the dirty work :P
http://pandagaminggrove.blogspot.com/20 ... ne-23.html
http://pandagaminggrove.blogspot.com/20 ... nimal.html

I will cut down the Custodian into a Path for people who just want to give their character animal companion but don't want to commit to an entire discipline. The Discipline still stands as is, but Panda's Master of the Hunt will probably work better if you adopt his Animal Companion rules variant.

Discipline Description

Custodians are devoted protectors of Nature who surround themselves with wild animals. Some might live their life as simple Foresters, tending to the trees and maintaining a healthy, balanced wildlife. Others will go about it more aggressively, directly searching out places where the natural balance has been disturbed to hunt down the perpetrators. What all Custodians have in common is their fierce affection for animals and their talent in taming them. The discipline is rumoured to originate from deep within the Liaj Jungle, where a community of Namegivers known as the Tamers reside, isolate from the rest of civilisation.

Main Attributes: Toughness, Willpower, Charisma

Karma Ritual: The Custodian spends 30 minutes meditating to commune with Nature. In a city, they would have to search out an area such as a park. During their meditation, they focus on their surroundings and how everything present is connected. Finally, the Custodian pictures the life cycle of a single year and a day in their current location, starting from the first day of spring. The Ritual ends when the Adept has, in their mind, once again reached the first day of spring and the cycle starts over.

Artisan Skills: Wood Carving, Sculpting, Body Painting

Half-Magic: The custodians Half-Magic includes knowledge of plants and animals. This allows for identification of common characteristics, attributes and natural habitats. They may also use Half-Magic in place of tests to make use of natural resources, such as the use of natural healing remedies or extracting an animal’s poison.


Novice Talent Options
Anticipate Blow
Avoid Blow
Creature Analysis
Dominate Beast
Melee Weapons
Stealthy Stride
Throwing Weapons

First Circle
Animal Bond
Animal Training
Custodian Weaving
Wilderness Survival
Wood Skin

Free Talent: Empathic Sense
Karma: The Adept may spend a Karma Point on any test which involves non-violent interaction with an animal.
Durability 5

Second Circle
Enhance Animal Companion

Defense: The Adept adds +1 to their Social Defense.

Third Circle
Animal Companion Durability

Karma: The Adept may Spend a Karma Point on Recovery tests.

Fourth Circle
Borrow Sense

Defense: The Adept adds +1 to their Mystic Defense.


Journeyman Talent Options
Animal Possession
Inspire Others
Iron Constitution
Life Check
Resist Taunt
Safe Path
Steel Thought
Tiger Spring

Fifth Circle
Call Animal Companion

Journeyman Ability, Safety in Numbers:
When fighting among allies, the Adept reduces the penalty incurred by Defensive Stance by 1. The player should describe how they are coordinating with their ally to achieve this.
Karma: The Adept may spend 1 Karma Point per round on any Action test one of their animal companions is making.

Sixth Circle
Blood Share

Defense: The Adept adds +2 to their Social Defense.

Seventh Circle
Lion Heart

Recovery: The Adept gain 1 additional Recovery test per day.

Eighth Circle
Animal Talk

Defense: The Adepts adds +3 to their Social Defense.


Warden Talent Options

Burning Vigor
Chilling Strike
Cobra Strike
Fluid Movement
Perfect Focus
Surprise Strike
Relentless Recovery
Vital Strike

Ninth Circle
Goring Attack

Warden Ability, Primal Presence:
The Adept is surrounded by a primal aura that affects even the most territorial of animals, improving the attitude of any wild animal they meet for the first time by one degree – but not beyond neutral and only towards themselves. Wild animals will always choose to attack someone other than the Custodian, unless they have already been attacked by them. Additionally, the Adept’s presence will make even the most stubborn animals comply, allowing them to ignore one Rank in Willful.

Karma: The Adept may spend one Karma Point per round on Tests which are powered by a Recovery test.

Tenth Circle

Defense: The Adept adds +2 to their Mystic Defense.
Initiative: The Adept adds +1 to their base Initiative Step.

Eleventh Circle
Lion Spirit

Defense: The Adept adds +1 to their Physical Defense.
Karma: The Adept may spend Karma in tests affecting their Animal Companions

Twelfth Circle
Vine Armor

Defense: The Adept adds +4 to their Social Defense.
Recovery: The Adept gains 2 additional Recovery tests per day.


Master Talent Options
Blood Insight
Critical Hit
Second Chance
Soul Aegis
Spirit Strike
Unflinching Fortitude
Vital Ward

Thirteenth Circle
Animal Leadership

Master Ability, Blood-Bound Bestiary:
The adept performs an eight-hour ritual to connect their pattern to one of their Animal Companions. Once formed, the connection cannot be severed except through death - the adept should therefore choose carefully, which animals to form this powerful bond with. When performing the ritual, the adept takes 4 points of blood damage and the animal becomes deeply connected to the adept’s pattern. The ritual can only be performed on 4 animals, each bond representing one of the advancements in their journey (Novice, Journeyman, Warden, Master).

If an affected Animal Companion dies, the adept must wait a year and a day to heal the blood damage caused by the ritual and cannot initiate a new animal to take the former’s place until the damage has been healed.

After the ritual has been performed on an animal, the adept can share up to three of their talents with all affected Animal Companions, by taking 3 Strain per talent before initiative is determined. Each use of this ability lasts until the end of the round and is limited to talents that provide a direct bonus to tests or replace another attribute, without requiring a test of their own (e.g. the defense bonus from Lion Spirit, the damage bonus from Surprise Strike, or the initiative bonus from Tiger Spring). Each Animal Companion pays the cost for the use of the shared talents during this time, while the adept themselves loses access to the shared talents that round.
Defense: The Adept adds +3 to their Mystic Defense.
Mystic Armor: The Adept adds +1 to their Mystic Armor.
Karma: The Adept increases their Karma +1 Step to a d8.

Fourteenth Circle
Boodhound Form

Defense: The Adept adds +5 to their Social Defense.
Initiative: The Adept adds +2 to their Base initiative.

Fifteenth Circle
Exalt Animal Companion

Defense: The Adept adds +2 to their Physical Defense.
Recovery: The Adept gains 3 additional Recovery tests per day.

New Talents
Exalt Animal Companion
Step: Rank+WIL Action: Sustained
Strain: 0 Skill Use: No

The adept empowers one of their Blood Bound Animal Companions, strengthening their innate powers. They spend a week in meditation with the Animal Companion, then make an Exalt Animal Companion test against the animal’s natural Mystic Defense. For each success scored, the adept can increase the rank of a creature’s innate power by one (including those gained from applied Masks), or raise an Attribute by one step. The maximum total bonus that an individual Animal Companion can have is equal to the adept’s rank in Animal Bond – the stronger the bond an adept has to an Animal Companion, the more it can be empowered. However, no power may be enhanced beyond the talent Rank and attributes may receive a maximum of 3 increases.

In addition to strengthening an animal’s innate powers, usage of this talent can also grant the Karma ability equal to the Adept’s Exalt Animal Companion rank divided by 5, rounded down. In order to refill this pool, the Adept will have to actively involve the animal in their own Karma ritual. They must describe how this is done when first performing this talent. At the gamemaster’s discretion, the adept will only be able to include a limited number of animals per Karma Ritual.

When using this talent, the adept can also choose to move a point granted by a prior use of the talent to another power. Moving a point in this way uses one of the adept’s successes from the test. Creature powers with a negative effect, such as Willful, may also be raised but not lowered.
If an Animal Companion’s attitude drops below Loyal, they gradually lose the magical bonuses granted by this talent, losing one point per week from their bonus. If the adept restores their bond with the Animal Companion, they can use this talent to restore the bonus points, but the bonus points are otherwise lost.

Beispiel’s Animal Companion is a Snow Badger and they want to further raise the rank of the creature’s Freezing Aura power. Beispiel has the Exalt Animal Companion talent at rank 6 and a previous test has already resulted in a +2 bonus to this power.
After spending another week with the animal, Beispiel rolls a 37 on their test, resulting in a total of 6 successes against the animal’s mystic defense. They can now increase the bonus to Freezing Aura to the maximum of +6 (based on the talent Rank), and distribute the 2 points left to another power, for example its Enhance Sense [Smell].
Note, Beispiel ignores the Snow Badger’s Willful(1) due to their Warden ability, otherwise they would only have 5 successes to distribute.
Animal Empathy
Talent: Empathic Sense
Requirements: Rank 5
Restrictions: Custodian, Cavalryman
Action: Standard (see original Talent)
Strain: 2 (see original Talent)
Skill Use: No

Allows Empathic Sense to be used on Animals. Extending the talents duration to a year and a day with an animal costs 2 Blood Damage instead of the regular 1.

Animal Wood Skin
Talent: Wood Skin
Requirements: Rank 7
Restrictions: Custodian 8
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
Skill Use: No

The Adept can instead affect an adjacent animal companion with Wood Skin by spending a Karma Point and touching them. The Karma Point is a cost and does not increase the Action test, and the Adept must spend the Recovery Test.

Talent: Animal Possession
Requirements: Rank 8
Restrictions: Custodian 9
Action: Standard
Strain: 0
Skill Use: No

Standard Effects. Instead of leaving their body behind in a coma-like state, the adept’s body instead fuses with the animal. The adept may end the effect whenever they wish as a standard action. Should the animal go unconscious or die, is their body ejected from it.

Custodians also gain access to all animal-related knacks from the Game Master’s Guide:

Animal Handling, Augment Ally’s Form, Beast Summons, Empathic Command, Heal Animal Companion, Mold Ally’s Form, Sculpt Ally’s Form, Tame Animal
The Circle requirements of the existing disciplines are replaced by an equal Rank in Custodian.

Additionally, they have access to the following Knacks, with (x) marking the circle requirement:
Ambush Tactics (8), Exposure Resistance (7), Hidden Allies (3), Hunter’s Strike (5), Lay of the Land (5), Light as a Leaf (8), Race Through the Canopy (6), Take the Hit (5), Wastelander (6)
Last edited by ragbasti on Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:33 am, edited 18 times in total.

Posts: 68
Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2017 5:09 pm

Re: [Discipline] Custodian

Post by ragbasti » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:57 am

EDIT 17. Jan 2019 - Post playtesting:
The thread has now been updated based on last weekend's playtesting:
Some discipline talents were changed, options were scrapped and Law of he Land has been moved into 15th Circle, after the Master Tier had been finalised.
I think it is a pretty well-rounded discipline now which also makes a great secondary discipline. The ranged combat options have been removed to make space for more talent options that fit the theme better. (Archer as secondary is still a thing an would probably fit this really well)

We played as a group of 3 Custodians with up to 3 animal companions each, of which only one player went for the combat route. One became the ultimate scout, relying on his animals with Borrow sense and animal possession and the last player went for a commander type approach, picking up defensive talents and distract to boost his animals companions which he chose based on bonuses against surprised/blindsided targets.

Tested out playing at Circle 4, 8, 12 and 15, each test involving 2-4 Fights with one big one at the end and several other little challenges thrown in.
Animal Companions were limited to a max of 3 with a combined circle of 1.6x their circle, not counting applied masks. No secondary disciplines, though, to avoid too much power gaming.

While still not a fighter type, the combination of Tiger Spring and Cobra Strike has proven to be a pretty effective combat option for the early stages. Later on, Vital Strike becomes a significant damage boost and finally Critical Strike adds the final cherry on top. It's no warrior but he can dish out some pretty good damage, especially against Namegivers since Vital strike ignores most of their Mystic Armor (which usually comes from items).
You will still put out less damage than your animal companions, especially after applying a few masks to them, but the character seems viable when standing on he front line, mainly just soaking up damage and dishing out some in return. Out fighter had one high circle combat companion in every test and two C1-3 ones mostly for utility.

Omitting the combat oriented talent options has lead to some pretty interesting ideas by my other two players.
One of which picked a really beefy "protector", 1 blood hound and then used his flying companion to scout around. He quickly found about everything there was to find and the Journeyman ability synergised super well here. First picking up a disturbance with the journeyman ability, then finding out the direction with Mystic Pursuit and then* (EDIT: 21.02.2020: Journeyman Ability was changed after the introduction of Mystic paths) flying there as there in person via possessing the bird. The Beefy protector was guarding his body while he was "out", with the help of the blood hound basically sniffing out any threats that I sent his way.

The other "non-combat" Custodian grabbed all the defensive options he could get + distract and then focused on utility talents. Against single targets he was simply devastating....
He started out with a few Earth Q'wirls and later on gave them the "pack tactics" mask... these little buggers were still a force to be reckoned with well into Warden Tier. Due to the really low base stats he actually managed to give one of them +10 stats via Enhance Animal companion and the other two weren't far off. And with them being underground at all times, they were also never really in danger from most attacks unless I planned to use something that countered those specifically.
Ultimately he grabbed a sand lobster and a stone lion in Master Tier, while still keeping one of the little Earth Q'wirls just for sentimental reasons and wrecked everything as well, not even touching his circle limit for animal companions.

So yeah, TLDR: Really happy with how this turned out, and animals are a great source of diversifying what this discipline can do.

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