[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.

First things first: I did take some inspiration from/nicked a few things from existing material so credit where it is due:
  • ED3 Namegiver’s Guide, Purifier & Woodsman
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.
I had already posted it in the Discord server and got a little feedback, so this is the finalised version we'll be using in our game but I would still appreciate some feedback ;)

Themes: Connection to Animals & Nature, Mobility, Steadfastness

Custodians devote themselves to the protection of Nature, aiming to maintain the natural balance. Some Custodians 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 and doing everything in their might to restore it. However, all custodians have in common their deep connection with nature and its denizens, and they tend to keep a few companions around to help in their endeavours.

Main Attributes: Willpower, Charisma, Toughness

Karma Ritual: The Custodian spends 30 minutes meditating to convene with Nature. In a city, they would have to search out an area with at least a few trees or abundant plant life. During their meditation, they focus on the surrounding life and how everything present is connected. They then picture 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, Craftsman, Body Painting

Half Magic: The custodians Half-Magic includes knowledge of plants and animals, this includes identification of common characteristics, attributes and natural habitats. They may use Half-Magic in place of tests to make use natural resources, such as the use of natural healing remedies or poisons.

Novice Talent Options
Anticipate Blow
Creature Analysis
Dominate Beast
Melee Weapons
Stealthy Stride
Tiger Spring
Empathic Sense

First Circle

Animal Bond
Animal Training
Avoid Blow
Custodian Weaving
Wilderness Survival

Free Talent: Mystic Pursuit
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
Wood Skin

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

Fourth Circle
Animal Companion Durability

Defense: The Adept adds +1 to their Physical Defense.
Journeyman Talent Options
Animal Talk
Blood Share
Borrow Sense
Call Animal Companion
Cobra Strike
Life Check
Lion Heart
Spirit Mount
Steel Thought

Fifth Circle
Tending the Land

Protector’s Oath: Upon entering an area with abundant wild plant growth, such as a forest, the Adept can spend 30 Minutes to perform the Protector’s Oath Ritual. The Adept thereby binds themselves to the pattern of the area and takes the role of its Custodian. The connection also allows the Adept to feel any unnatural disturbances within the pattern. For the next week the Adept may spend 1 Strain to make a Custodian Weaving Test (6) in order to sense anything that disturbs the natural order in the area. Filtering out specific disturbances requires extra success but the bigger the disturbance, the easier it should be to filter out. They can then use the Mystic Pursuit Talent to find the source, without needing an object associated with the target. During the 1-week duration, the adept has to stay in the area, otherwise the effect ends.

Karma: The adept may spend one Karma Point per round on any Action test one of their animal companions is making.

Sixth Circle
Safe Path

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

Seventh Circle
Animal Possession

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

Eighth Circle

Defense: The Adepts adds +3 to their Social Defense.
Warden Talent Options
Astral Sight
Burning Vigor
Defensive Posture
Lion Spirit
Momentum Attack
Plant Talk
Resist Taunt
Spirit Strike
Steely Stare
Vital Strike

Ninth Circle
Goring Attack

Safety in Numbers: When fighting together, the Adept coordinates skillfully with their animal companions. The Custodian may spend 1 Strain to get a +3 bonus on any test improving their physical defense (Anticipate Blow, Maneuver, Acrobatic Defense, etc.).

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

Tenth Circle
Thought Link

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

Eleventh Circle
Vine Armor

Defense: The Adept adds +1 to their Mystic Defense.
Karma: The Adept may spend one Karma Point per round on any active defense test (Avoid Blow, Steel Thought, etc.).

Twelfth Circle
Resist Pain


Defense: The Adept adds +4 to their Social Defense.
Recovery: The Adept gains 2 additional Recovery tests per day.
Master Talent Options
Blood Insight
Confront Horror
Critical Hit
Fluid Movement
Relentless Recovery
Second Chance
Soul Aegis
Unflinching Fortitude
Vital Ward

Thirteenth Circle
Animal Leadership

Head of the Pack: The adept performs an eight-hour ritual to connect themselves to one of their animal companions. Upon completion of the ritual, the adept takes 1 Blood Magic damage and this animal then becomes part of that adept’s pack. Each adept’s ritual is unique, often based on their training and personal philosophy. The ritual can only be performed on a number of animals of half the adept’s circle, rounded up, and the pack cannot be dissolved except through death.
This ability allows the adepts to spend 2 Strain as a free action to inflict penalties on his own defense ratings, initiative or attack step and distribute these penalties as an equal a bonus to the members of his pack. The sum of the penalties cannot be higher than the Custodian Weaving Rank.

Defense: The Adept adds +3 to their Physical Defense.
Physical Armor: The Adept adds +1 to their Physical Armor.
Karma: The Adept increases their Karma +1 Step to a d8.

Fourteenth Circle
Aura Armor

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

Fifteenth Circle
Law of the Land

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

Custom Talents:
Tending the Land
Step: Rank+TOU+2 Action: Standard
Strain: 0 Skill Use: No

The Tending the Land talent increases the natural connection the custodian has with nature and allows an adept to either heal by drawing upon earth’s power, or to nurture the earth and allow it to recover from damage. The adept must be touching or standing on natural ground to use Tending the Land.
When using Tending the Land to heal himself, the adept spends a Recovery Test, then makes a Tending the Land Test and reduces his Current Damage by an amount no higher than the result. Doing so saps life energy from the surrounding area.
When using Tending the Land to nurture an area, the adept spends a Recovery Test, then makes a Tending the Land Test and suffers a number of Damage Points of his choosing no higher than the result, doing so enriches the surrounding area with the adept’s life energy.
The affected area is the one within Tending the Land Rank x 10 yards of the adept. The effects the transfer of life energy has on an area are determined by the gamemaster. It is suggested that a transfer of double the Tending the Land Rank Damage Points causes small but visible effects in a moderately fertile area (a number of leaves turning brown, for example), with effects worsening the more barren the area, but hardly being noticeably in very fertile environments.
This damage cannot cause Wounds and cannot be by mitigated by armour or other effects which absorb damage, such as Wood Skin or Absorb Blow Charms.

Law of the Land
Step: Special Action: Standard/Sustained
Strain: 0 (Special) Skill Use: no

The Custodian's bond with nature manifests in them being able to influence their surroundings to their own advantage. This Talent can be use both in combat and out of combat for different results.
In combat, the custodian can make a Tending the Land test to channel their will into the plants around them. The character declares which enemies he wishes to hinder in combat and needs to channel Damage Points equal to the highest Physical Defense among all targets into the ground. The maximum number of targets is limited by the Law of the Land’s Rank.
By doing so they command the local plant life to hinder their enemies, resulting in their targets being Overwhelmed, incurring a –3 Step Penalty to all tests and subtracting -3 from both Physical and Mystic Defense. This penalty can be further increased by actual character attacking the effected enemies in close combat, increasing the Overwhelmed penalty.
The Duration is a number of rounds equal to Law of the Land’s Rank. The test fails if the Custodian doesn't manage to reach the required Damage points with their Tending the Land test. This damage cannot cause a wound and cannot be mitigated by damage absorbing effects.

Out of combat, the Custodian can use Law of the Land to ease their travels and make their surrounds easier to traverse. Tree roots will disappear into the ground, branches will move to the side and small holes will fill up. The Custodian makes a Tending the Land Test and increases the land travelling speed of themselves and their nearby allies by 20% for up to a number of hours equal to the test result. The Damage points are gradually channelled while travelling at a rate of 1 Damage Point per hour travelled. The maximum duration is the Talent Rank in hours.
Custom Knacks:
Empathic Bond
Talent: Empathic Sense
Requirements: Rank 5 Restrictions: Custodian 5
STEP: Rank+CHA Action: Standard (see original Talent)
Strain: 2 (see original Talent) Skill Use: No

Allows Empathic Sense to be used on Animals. Extending the talent's effect with animal costs 2 Blood Damage instead of the regular 1.
Last edited by ragbasti on Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:54 am, edited 3 times in total.

Posts: 36
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 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 he 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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