Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Discussion on playing Earthdawn. Experiences, stories, and questions related to being a player.
Posts: 283
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:39 am

Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by Sharkforce » Tue Dec 24, 2019 4:34 am

and an argument for why they should be different, in some cases =P

So I've been looking at some characters I'd like to create and I've been noticing that some things that don't fit with my personal expectations of which talents a discipline would have access to. I'm curious to hear what others think on the subject (and possibly even what led to the design decisions being made the way they were, if the dev team feel like chipping in their two cents). Obviously, I'm not expecting any changes in the rulebooks. Even if my points are super-convincing, I don't expect them to be convincing enough to justify rewriting anything, I'm just looking for alternate perspectives on the matter.

To start things off, the magician disciplines having access to neither missile nor throwing weapons as a talent is fine. They aren't adepts in weapon use, and if it comes down to it, they can still learn the skills for that, and that's perfectly fine. As such, I won't be covering Elementalists, Illusionists, Nethermancers, Shamans, or Wizards individually.

Now then, some of my observations on the differences in the two talents:

Missile Weapons: These have the best range, and damage, and are the most powerful as weapons as a result. Typically, they require both hands (a sling less so than a bow, but if you're holding something in your off hand you'll still have a hard time loading a sling), meaning that if you're using one, you're probably *only* using one to the exclusion of many other activities. The best weapons are much more readily used repeatedly due to ammunition cost being low (the expensive weapons are launchers, not ammo) On the down side, they do tend to be rather single-purpose though. One final thing: the crossbow can be used from positions where all other ranged weapons would be difficult at best to use (try throwing a ball accurately while on your belly, for example) although I don't believe that is reflected by any special interaction with the rules for people that are knocked down or anything like that.

Throwing Weapons: These have lower range and damage, but can often be used in a single hand (allowing the use of a shield or second weapon, or even to hold a two-handed weapon in one hand while drawing and throwing something). They do also enjoy greater versatility in use; a bola can entangle people, for example. They are also expensive in bulk to use the best weapons; a hawk hatchet may be remarkably effective, but it is going to be non-trivial to throw a dozen of those in every fight...

Air Sailors: They have throwing weapons, I would argue that they should have missile weapons. Airship battles are going to start at range, and then probably switch primarily to melee weapons. The longer range of missile weapons seems like it should come into play more often than the usefulness of throwing weapons in a brawl. The times you will want to use a ranged weapon, you probably aren't going to be needing your other hand to be holding a sword or a shield. The Air Sailor is all about working together, and weapons like nets and bolas are better for that, but I feel these are outweighed by the range and damage advantage for them. Plus, if you lob an expensive thrown weapon from airship to airship, there's a good chance you're not getting it back.

Archers: They have access to both. I would argue that there are probably some Archers that would prefer to focus on throwing weapons rather than missile (meaning they would want the discipline talent and the optional talent to be switched), but even if a GM doesn't want to make the exchange it is not by any means impossible to be a throwing weapon specialist as an archer.

Beastmaster: They have neither. This probably has more to do with their overall lack of *any* weapon skills, though, focusing purely on unarmed instead. I will come back to this later though =P

Cavalryman: They eventually get access to missile weapons, I think they should get throwing weapons. I don't have any extremely compelling points here; I think either could have worked, mainly because their bond with their steed should mean they don't need their hands to direct movement. I do think many Cavalrymen would use shields though, which thrown weapons would support much better, and the Cavalryman mostly revolves around their power in melee so it would feel odd to me for them to use a weapon that makes it hard to switch between melee and range. On the other hand, the logistics between stowing a lance or sword while riding along to pull out a javelin while your other hand is holding a shield in between charges doesn't make the most sense to me either, so... it could go either way. Still, I do give a slight edge to throwing weapons here.

Scout: They get access to missile weapons. I'd say most will think of bows, although for a stealthy class I would argue the crossbow has definite advantages; either way, both of those are missile weapons, which is what they get.

Sky Raider: They get access to throwing weapons. This works fine, I'd say if anything they're thematically two-handed weapon users, and switching their poleaxe or whatever to one hand to throw a smaller axe makes sense. They even technically have an ability to support throwing weapons over missile weapons, though I will say that I'm not sure which two-handed throwing weapons their 5th circle ability is supposed to be used with, but that's neither here nor there :P

Swordmaster: They get no access to either. I'm going to say this is probably a deliberate choice to focus purely on melee weapons.

Thief: They get access to both. That's probably fine, there are arguments either way; an entangled enemy is subject to surprise strike, but crossbows can be used while crammed into all sorts of hiding places, so long as it is already loaded.

Troubadour: They get access to throwing weapons. I'm not sure what tipped the balance in that direction, but I don't see any reason why they would specifically have missile weapons either, so that's fine, I guess.

Warrior: They get access to missile weapons. Here I have to disagree; I would consider warriors to be among the more defensively-oriented melee disciplines, which means a shield, but even if they use other standard melee options (two weapons, two-handed weapon) it still favours throwing weapons. They aren't dedicated to ranged combat like an archer, so even though the missile weapons are the more powerful weapons, I don't see that as being a compelling argument; in a ranged fight, the Warrior is going to try to close range rather than attempt to engage an opponent in an archery duel. Obviously they would want *some* method of returning fire until they do get into range, but that option being missile weapons feels out of place to me simply because it requires that they set aside their preferred equipment to do so; a Warrior who switches his halberd to his off-hand and throws a javelin while closing fits in a way that a Warrior firing arrows at someone while closing range does not, to me.

Weaponsmith: They eventually get access to missile weapons. That makes sense to me. Throwing weapons would involve a lot of forging to be up to their standards (meanwhile you only need to "forge" a single missile weapon), and the missile weapons are the more effective weapons. I could see some Weaponsmiths preferring shields, but seeing as how this isn't really a major part of their discipline to begin with, I'd say it's fine.

And I said I'd come back to Beastmaster, so here we are... not for the Beastmaster itself, but for the "homebrew" Master of the Hunt discipline which is mentioned as having come from more splitting off a concept from the Beastmaster on a site owned by what I'm pretty sure is one of the dev team (I'm not sure of real name, but I'm assuming it's Panda on these forums). I'm guessing it's not headed for print any time soon (lower on the priority list than Boatsman, evidently, which I would've guessed was not high :P ) but it has access to missile weapons but not throwing. To me, that feels backwards, because throwing weapons are better for setting up your allies, and for that matter they also eventually get access to surprise strike which throwing weapons does a better job of setting up too.

So, those are my thoughts. What about the rest of you? (I'm not expecting an essay back addressing each of those points, but feel free to if you want to).

And, for that matter... are there any other design decisions that seem odd to the rest of you? I haven't dived too deeply into it yet myself, but it seems possible there would be other things that seem strange :)

Posts: 192
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:59 am

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by sigfriedmcwild » Tue Dec 24, 2019 8:11 am

A couple of thoughts

Air Sailor: throwing weapons makes sense to me, assuming air ships are anything like real (water based) ships you’ll want to have a hand free to hold on to things as the ship rocks and rolls (:P) to avoid falling overboard. Also consider that you will need to move up and down the rigging and much heavier missile weapons can be mounted on the ship itself

Cavalryman: I like access to missile weapons for the horse archer archetype

Warrior: agreed, throwing weapons would be nice for some range while in a shieldwall

Posts: 815
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue Dec 24, 2019 4:49 pm

Anybody serious about Throwing Weapons will probably learn the "Returning" knack, available at rank 4. For one strain their thrown weapon returns to their hand. That way you only need one Thread Item and/or well forged throwing weapon. So you don't really need to buy a dozen hawk-hatchets.

For that matter a Melee/Thrown weapon character might consider his main weapon being a spear, which is a good melee weapon, a good charging weapon, a good weapon to set against a charge, and a good throwing weapon. Only one weapon to forge for all roles. Hopefully any thread item bonuses are phrased as being for "attack tests" and "damage tests" instead of for "melee attack tests" or "ranged attack tests".

Agree with sigfriedmcwild that Cav should have missile for horse archer tactics. Start outside range, split your move, have horse run into range, shoot, have horse run out of range. Sure it does not do as much immediate damage as a nice charge, but very difficult to oppose.

Air Sailors: I can see it being either or both. Historically in the Napoleonic wars there were musket-men in the rigging, so weapons in the rigging seems possible. But in Earthdawn ship combat rules, I think it all gets simplified away. Ships are ether outside of all personal weapon ranges, or inside all personal weapons ranges, no matter what the individual ranges are. I think that is all pretty much historically accurate as well, you are ether too far away, or you are just about to have a boarding action, and their is very little time between those two.

Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:43 pm
Location: Right behind you

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by Bonhumm » Tue Dec 24, 2019 5:25 pm

I agree that a missile-weapon cavalryman would made complete sense, especially with Barsaive being so close to the turkic lands.

To do this we would probably need to create a discipline still based on Cavalryman but changing a few things:

1- Instead of having Melee Weapon as 1st Circle Discipline talent and Missile Weapons as Journeyman Optional talent, getting the opposite.
2- Instead of having Charge as 1st Circle Discipline talent, have Mystic Aim or True shot.

Posts: 815
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue Dec 24, 2019 6:49 pm

Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 5:25 pm
To do this we would probably need to create a discipline still based on Cavalryman but changing a few things:
For horse archer as a primary tactic yes, but as it is missile weapons make a great secondary tactic.

It is the nature of Earthdawn that the system itself kind of dictates a disciplines primary focus, and only gives options for secondary focuses.

Posts: 283
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:39 am

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by Sharkforce » Tue Dec 24, 2019 7:57 pm

i'm not sure it makes a huge amount of sense to base my assumptions around a knack that requires rank 4 in a talent when that likely isn't available to a majority of adepts, particularly when considering what is likely to be a secondary focus for a character. after all, there aren't really any disciplines that i would really consider to be focused on throwing weapons.

so, while i might expect, say, a melee weapons talent that is available at rank 4 to be something that warriors, sky raiders, air sailors, etc might devote a lot of their early legend points towards rushing straight for that talent (provided it is sufficiently character-defining), i'm not so convinced we can make the same assumption for a combat style that is likely a secondary area of focus, if indeed the adept takes a ranged talent at all.

or, to put it another way... the disciplines that really emphasize ranged combat seem to focus on missile weapons, which makes sense because they are in fact the more powerful weapons... the advantages with throwing weapons are primarily advantages for someone who intends to spend most of their time *not* using throwing weapons.

so, honestly, i consider the far more likely solution to the hawk hatchet cost problem is actually "buy cheaper throwing weapons" in the majority of cases. the hawk hatchet is the most powerful throwing weapon... but that doesn't mean you have to use a hawk hatchet and nothing else. darts, daggers, throwing daggers, spears (javelins), bolas, or even throwing axes and flight daggers are substantially less expensive if it comes down to it.

as far as closing in an airship battle, i'd think you would still want missile weapons. the simple fact is, if you've got nearly a 100 yard range weapon and you're up against someone with almost a 50 yard range weapon, you're going to be able to shoot first (and potentially take out someone before they even get a shot off), even if either way you're only getting one or two shots off. alternately, if both fire at 40 yards (the longest range that is not a hawk hatchet for thrown weapons), there are quite a few common missile weapon options where that is at the edge of short range. so most likely, the person with the bow shoots first (realistically giving more time to switch over to their melee weapons), and/or shoots more accurately, while approaching. and since your ranged weapon is more likely to be used while getting close enough to board, rather than when you're actually boarding someone, i would think you'd also want the weapon that works best just in case the other guy is trying to evade being boarded.

plus i would assume that while there are no explicit rules for it to my knowledge, any height difference would only amplify the range advantage or disadvantage.

Posts: 144
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 5:30 am

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by Panda » Thu Dec 26, 2019 5:41 am


Below are the reasons why the various ranged combat talents were given to the particulare Disciplines:

Air Sailor: While engagements may start at range, Air Sailors use their ship weaponry rather than individual missile weapons. The usefulness of missile weapons is probably limited to sharpshooters in the tops, which wouldn't be Air Sailors, but Archers who are superior at targeting the relevant officers on the other crew. In this case, throwing weapons makes more sense for them and better supports their themes.

Cavalryman: Access to missile weapons is explicitly a nod to the tradition of horse archers. While there is cavalry that used javelins, giving access to both cuts an optional talent from the list and offering both wasn't a good reason when the latter is less likely to be a popular option.

Sky Raider: While not related to the question of ranged combat, they aren't inherently two-handed weapon users. Shield Charge was a Discipline talent for them in 1E and 3E (what exactly that means differs); 4E moved that to options and offered them Second Weapon, which means they can use a throwing weapon in their off-hand. Essentially, seeing Sky Raiders with a two-handed weapon is more a 4E thing than previous editions.

Troubadour: It was a combination of Blade Juggle and the themes of Troubadour. The idea of more easily concealed throwing weapons was a better fit and the image of a minstrel with a bow.

Warrior: The idea Warriors aren't inclined to engage in an archery duel is correct. However, the distance where throwing weapons are effective and closing the distance isn't so great. Their focus on combat makes missile weapons superior for them because it gives them extra "reach" when closing the gap may not be viable, or their opponents are moving toward them. Saying that may be part of a shield wall or some such truly misses the mark. That is a task for soldiers, where each is ostensibly interchangeable. These are Warriors and while they are the rock their foes break on, they aren't soldiers in that sense. Air Dance doesn't lend itself well to standing as part of a formation.

As for Master of the Hunt, it's not heading to print any time soon, if ever. It was a thought experiment, rather than a declaration of intent. While hunting using thrown weapons is a proud human tradition (just look at how our shoulders are put together), it's not a good choice for a dedicated ranged combatant. To whit, I've made two different recent experiments exploring ways to solve issues associated with throwing weapons. While casting nets may be thematic, it's not a concept likely to grab many players compared to the more iconic idea of a ranger type with their wolf companions. As with all such limitations, offering all the things means something gets cut.

Hopefully this offers some clarity.

Best regards,


Posts: 283
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:39 am

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by Sharkforce » Thu Dec 26, 2019 7:25 am

hmmm... so, air sailors don't actually appear to *have* any capability to use ship weapons (i mean, they've gotta be pretty substantially different from *throwing* weapons for certain, and that's the only *remotely* applicable talent they have), but provided we can agree that in hindsight their half-magic should probably have covered that I can agree that throwing weapons are not entirely unusual for the discipline :P

(that said, i still don't see a ton of scenarios on an airship where i'd be especially glad to have a throwing weapon :P )

cavalryman: i'm inclined to agree that to have an expert horse archer, something more than the one talent is probably necessary. just having a talent is better than having access to only the skill, but it isn't better by a huge amount. but as i said, i had no strong feelings on this one... either way has things that make it make sense or not make particularly good sense. i think it'd be nice if there was an explicit permission for people to replace the missile weapons optional talent with throwing weapons, but that's probably something that can be resolved at the table with each GM.

sky raiders: eh, well, i was going mostly on what i could see of their current incarnation, and their current incarnation does favour those things =S (but seriously, only windling sky raiders can use the 5th circle karma ability, and while the idea of windlings having somehow becoming so common amongst sky raiders as to have altered the pattern of the discipline in their favour *is* somewhat amusing, i suspect the more likely explanation is that something was missed there :P )

troubadour: actually, that makes a lot of sense. i had completely missed the tie-in with juggling and entertaining for a troubadour.

warrior: hmmm... last i can recall, warriors were always somewhat more organized, with actual full-blown military units of warriors being... well, not common (no adepts are), but at least being a thing that exists in the world. but even outside of that, they still strike me as being one of the more defensive melee combatants of the disciplines. they don't really get their damage increasing discipline talents until late in journeyman, but they're spoiled for choice on defensive talents from the very beginning (with 2/5 of their initial discipline talents and 6/10 of their talent options leaning in that direction). i wasn't so much thinking about them being in gigantic shield wall formations as on an individual level, and on the individual level the discipline to me just feels like the wall that stands between their squishy friends and their enemies who want to squish said friends, and simply refuses to die while the enemy gets ground to a pulp :P

so while i see the argument that missile weapons are the superior ranged weapons when melee combat isn't really an option... i'm just not sold on that really being the role that warrior calls out for. control and survival is where i see their strengths, and missile weapons doesn't do as well as throwing weapons in either of those areas, in my opinion.

Posts: 192
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:59 am

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by sigfriedmcwild » Thu Dec 26, 2019 8:13 am

Sharkforce wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 7:25 am
[...] but seriously, only windling sky raiders can use the 5th circle karma ability [...]
p105 wrote: Karma: The adept may spend a Karma Point on Damage tests made with melee or throwing weapons at or above the character’s one-handed Size limit.
I’m not sure I understand your point: there are many melee weapon of size 3+ (1h limit for most namegivers) and several thrown weapons at that size in the core (hawk hatchet, spear, throwing axe).
Mystic paths adds troll sized weapon variants which include a couple of size 4 throwing weapons.

Regardless of the additions in mystic paths, the karma ability has always been usable by any sky raider with melee weapons, which is the core of their discipline anyway

Posts: 283
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:39 am

Re: Access to ranged weapon skills by discipline...

Post by Sharkforce » Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:07 am

hmmm... apparently i've been failing to notice the "at or" portion of that line for quite some time. wonder what else i've missed =S

i did forget to clarify that (as context might have suggested) i was thinking it was for thrown. obviously, there were plenty of melee weapons that were above that size, so even having failed to notice the "at or" portion i was expecting sky raiders to be able to use the melee portion...

Post Reply