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Author Topic: Looking to GM/DM Earthdawn's Barsaive (those unfamiliar preferred)  (Read 439 times)

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Offline PatricioTopic starter

Wait!  Stop!  As one who prefer to do this with one unfamiliar with this setting, don't look it up!

What I want is to be a DM/GM for one writing partner in an established and rich world created by FASA a couple decades ago. If you are familiar with it, good, I am willing to negotiate. But the truth is I rather play with someone who knows NOTHING about it.  What I want to do is to run a world around one character, yours, similar to playing a game like Skyrim for the first time.  And for you, it might have some surprises due to a few differences in that setting. 

I do have a document of several pages typed up, which include optional rules – this can be freeform or dice based, though I default to a hybrid of the two – but can't post it.  Here is what I can say about it.

Be forewarn this setting is MASSIVE.  This will NOT be a casual RP!, and I was turn down in the past because it was just too big for some people to handle. I do have some prerequisites for your character. You will be playing a human. In Barsaive, magic got to such of a high level that monsters from the astral planes called Horrors invaded. People had to lock themselves in kaers, which were usually underground complexes a community lives in, though it is not always underground. Your character, a young adult, has never seen the outside world since its been more than 400 years since the Scourge started. The kaer your character has been living in is about to open up after all these decades, and no one knows what is outside. 

Earthdawn fans will know what I am talking about. What I am hoping to find is a fan of fantasy willing to RP with one who like to be in control of the world and all the other characters in a setting that breaks or bends traditional cliches while giving surprising good arguments for dungeoneering or why being good with this ability makes one better at another ability. And please, if you do not know of Earthdawn, do not cheat and look it up! I want genuine surprise not just from your character but you yourself too! 

As for classes available, there is a core 15 but they don’t always match up well with D&D. In our OOC discussion I will need you to tell me basically what you like to play and I'll work it in. But your character will be inexperienced. If you are familiar with Earthdawn, this is waved. Reason, again, is because Earthdawn is not D&D or Pathfinder!  In fact, if you prefer a game without combat heavy rules and instead focus more on actual roleplaying, all the better.

What is motivating me to doing this?: To recreate, from the other side for someone else, the sense like playing an Elder Scrolls game for the first time. That is, being plopped in the middle of a fantasy world ripe for self-discovery while not hitting on all of fantasy’s cliches. Earthdawn has something for anyone who likes any of the following: exploration & discovery, political intrigue, Lovecraftian horror, or general dungeon looting.

How familiar are you with this setting / What if I know Earthdawn?: It was my favorite fantasy table-top RPG and got several of the books, though of course not all. I have since then got the 3rd edition rules. That said, its been YEARS since I last played it and might get certain details wrong. I am a major fan of FASA and still sad they closed their doors even now. And a curious note to any Shadowrun fans out there: Earthdawn is set in the same world! I don’t know if the current holders of the game is building on FASA’s hint the Scourge will return.

Why underground?: The whole premise of Earthdawn is for 400 years everyone must go to hiding as Horrors rampage the world. The knowledge how to do this is given by the primary political antagonist, Thera. Called kaers, they are/were underground towns and cities with protective wards. A few, not wanting to be in debt to Thera, tried their own methods. One attempt like this ended in disaster. This will be set in the early years when exploration and rediscovery was high. I am less familiar with the events during the 2nd and 3rd edition rules.

What if I want to play a non-human?: Technically you might be able to. But I still prefer your character to be young and ignorant of the world outside. Which means being locked up with a bunch of humans. What I am willing to spoil is the following. Of the eight races, Dwarves make up roughly a third of the population and are the dominant race. Humans are not the top of the social chain, nor do all Dwarves live underground by default. Everyone speak the Dwarven language as they are the dominant race. Elves has their home, called Wyrmwood, but note if you play an elf you won’t be starting out there. Aye, I am avoiding a spoiler here. Check TVTropes if you want the spoilerage. I want to keep silent of the other races, including the traditional orks. K, not C. Oh, and there is one race unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a fantasy setting.

How about magic?: Might as well say, “What about threads?” There is typical spellcasters in four varieties: Wizard, Elementalist, Illusionist, and Nethermancer. But as magic is so high, EVERYONE, including a bare-fisted tank of a warrior, will be using magic. Non-spellcasters that use magic are called Adepts and both go through their Disciplines via Circles. (That’s class and level to you D&D players out there) However, the game itself is very much a ‘skill’ based system. Except many of these skills are magical talents and not mundane skills.

Magic (spells, talents, and magical items) are divided into two facets: patterns and threads. Everyone are called Name-Givers because the ability to name something is by itself magical as it creates a pattern. Threads are woven into patterns to form spells, argument abilities, or unlock magical potential. It is not as complicated as it sounds and, as I rather you begin as a “Level 0” something, this isn’t important early on. Oh, and if you want to use magical items, being a Weaponsmith, Troubadour (think Bard), or a human will help out.

What Disciplines (classes) are there?: I don’t want to list all the core 15 of them (or the few race specific ones) as two of the 15 are, to me, spoilage for an Earthdawn newbie who wants to be awed. One will be bulky to work with. Combat classes are more specific: Swordmaster, Archer, Warrior for example. The latter should do for barbarians and monks for you D&D players. There is two rougish classes, the classic Thief and the less criminal and highly perceptive Scout. I have the four spellcasters and two others listed above. No druids but there is a Beastmaster. Others I either don’t want to spoil (or let you play as... ugh, the human only discipline!). Its best if you tell me generically what you want to play and let me figure out which Discipline works out the best. Picking up two different Disciplines, ‘multi-classing’, is possible but difficult.

And Clerics? Or religion in general?: There is no clerics or groups of gods in the D&D since. Rather, there is Passions. Instead of being a god of a certain group (a certain race or class) or thing (magic), these superbeings - which a few don’t even believe exists - represent activities and/or emotion. They represent what drive people, hence their name. They are followed, not worshiped, more than anything else. That said, it is possible for a you to become a cleric like follower of a Passion (Questor), gaining new abilities in exchange for acting true to your Passion. You can’t start out as one though even if you follow one in spirit. Again, I rather not list them as some are huge spoilers. Including #13 that is rumored to be under a certain sea which many sane people reject. No god vs. god or the generic cleric vs. hordes of undead. Horrors are bad enough.

What are these Horrors?: This is not Planescape. They reside in astral space and resemble typical Lovecraftian monsters. When magic got too high in level, they broke into the world. Mass death is possible, but many rather drive people insane or slowly eat away at them, as they ‘feed’ on suffering. Being Marked is a Very Bad Thing. Being sloppy in spellcasting or even thinking about them may get you Marked and hunted by a Horror. If you become Horror Marked you got two options: kill it or let it destroy you on its own terms. Nethermancers are perhaps the best Discipline against them, but they run a high risk of getting Marked, which is why so many of them end up evil or simply insane.

The FAQ above is all you need to know. Since this is based on a tabletop RPG, I have additional information for those who want it. In general though, I rather not use dice or the like but do use rules that involved character creation and development.

Swordmaster (or any one particular weapon, + social skills)
Warrior (generalist, thinks Swordmasters just like to show off)


Nethermancer (difficult!)

Troubadour (bard)

Note there are three others, but two are spoilerish and all three are cumbersome.

Offline PatricioTopic starter

Re: Looking to GM/DM Earthdawn's Barsaive (those unfamiliar preferred)
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2014, 08:27:34 PM »
Rules Introduction

Since this document was designed for written RP, rules can be totally ignored, strictly followed, or (my choice) do a middle ground.  Expect the limits the rules place, but ignore dice rolls for example.  The most important thing to note is in Earthdawn the game, Barsaive - the setting - comes before everything else, both combat and plot!  It is heavy in magic and roleplaying. A lot of emphasis is placed on not just playing a particular race right but Disciplines even more so.

As such, if you just want to play a normal written RP and not do dice rolls, Character Advancement is all you need to read, Spellcasting if you are playing one of those disciplines, and Magic Items may eventually have to be read.  Otherwise, if you want to know what else the game has to offer, I summarize those bits below too.

It is not so much “Which Discipline should I choose to be a Ranger from D&D” and more of “If I want to roleplay my character this way, which Discipline should I follow?” Each Discipline require a particular mindset and view of the world from their Adepts; those that practice a Discipline. Also, each Discipline uses magic, even if you can’t cast spells. There will be times when I might seem to exaggerate what your character knows (or sudden health changes like heart beating faster or stomach aches), but really its no different than saying “Your character sees a man dressed in a red robe walk by.” When your character is being true to your Discipline, his or her intuition will pick up on things non-Adepts will never notice by being attuned if you will to magic. If you don’t roleplay your Discipline correctly (i.e. a thief who don’t hide in the shadows), he will loose this ability as he is no longer attuned to magic.

In short, Earthdawn put most of its emphasis on Barsaive itself, then magic, roleplaying, and finally further down combat. Of the approx. 330 pages of 1st Edition core rulebook, 22 pages went for describing magic and how it works in the world, 32 to spells, and then after that only 14 to combat. I know there has been at least one if not two rules expansion books for magic, but for advance combat rules all I remember is a chapter from Earthdawn Companion. I will describe combat later, but for magic, its best done within the RP. (Most of the pages are devoted to character creation and talents Discipines use.)

Basic Concept

Many talents (not all) and skills has a rank and attribute associated with it. Its sum is called the Step Number. For example, if you have 1 rank in Melee Weapons and a Dex Step of 7, Melee Weapons will have a Step Value of 8. This value is then translated to a dice roll.  (The following is from the 3rd ed)

4 D6
5 D8
6 D10
7 D12
8 2D6
9 D8+D6
10 2D8
11 D10+D8
12 2D10
13 D12+D10
14 2D12
15 D12+2D6
16 D12+D8+D6
17 D12+2D8
18 D12+D10+D8
19 D12+2D10
20 2D12+D10

The idea is the Step Value should approximate the average value of the dice rolled. If appropriate, any die of max value (i.e. a roll of 6 on a d6) will be rolled again and added to the current total. If all dice come up to be 1, it automatically fail and may be a fumble. The roll must exceed the difficulty number, which may be a physical/magical/social defense of another character. In addition, some talents allow one to spend Karma points, allowing them another die to roll. Some talents require at least one point of Karma to be spent. (Note: as of now this is not an option till your PC learns Karma Ritual after being trained)

Character Advancement
I am going into more detail on this so you can be planning for it. ED is also a major reason I did a massive hack-job on D&D leveling system! Note first of all when you start the RP with me, assuming you know nothing about the setting, you will be coming out of a kaer without being ‘Level 1’, or First Circle. I can give you a sample character sheet with some options left to be decided on. As I reveal the world, you will eventually find another of your Discipline, be trained (for free), and then be a real starting character.

The experience points in ED is called Legend Points. In addition to keeping a running total, LP is spent to improve talents, which in turn increase one’s Circle. Its a level-based system in reverse. Instead of leveling up and then getting improvements across the board, you improve your talents, and after certain requirements are meet, ‘level up’ and new talents and abilities are unlocked... but not given. I will go into detail what your character can spend their LP on as we go along.

A Legend Award is earned for the following:

1) Completing a session goal during an ongoing adventure (i.e. the end of an act)
2) Two Legend Awards for completing an adventure goal (i.e. after completing a major feat)
3) Defeating creatures or opponents (in or out of combat)
4) Acquiring treasure (not general loot, but specific ones... many creatures have body parts that can be included in this)
5) Creative roleplaying and/or heroics (a full Legend Award for sticking to your character/race/discipline, a half of an Award for heroics)

How much each Legend Award is and how much one earns per session depends on your Circle and the GM. For First Circle characters, 50-75 per Award and 100-450 total is suggested.

Note you won’t earn any LP till your training is done, but that training is free. Basically, I am more focused on getting you use to the setting and how Adepts in Barsaive view and interact with magic. Once you are done with training, I’ll start adding LP and after a certain event I have planed after it, and can give you a link to a free (but ugly) PDF FASA gave out of the 1st edition rules.  (Note, since this site don't like certain links to certain sites, it will have to be done via e-mail)  This was when the Earthdawn line was not very profitable and an effort to build interest for it.  Due to its awful formatting and being out of date – again, it was free, so what do you expect? -  it won't be pleasant reading, but it should help as a quick reference manual.

The conditions for advancement into the next Circle is to have (Next Circle + 3) talents at (Next Circle) in rank, one of which have to be a talent you unlocked from your current Circle. So to be of Second Circle, you must have 5 talents at rank 2, one of which have to be a 1st Circle talent. For Third Circle, 6 talents at rank 3, one of which have to be a 2nd Circle talent... and so forth.

Note Versatility, which is a human racial trait, and any talents learned from it will not count! Nor can you use Versatility to learn a talent you will learn at a later Circle!  Many GMs have house rules on this talent. Use it to give yourself that little edge, but don't abuse it. Not to mention such talents cost extra due to having to develop Versatility first.

I am going to make training to 1st Circle free, making the excuse Adepts view that as a duty and not something to earn profit from. After that, it will cost you money. However, I plan on executing a ‘house rule’ to keep the story moving. Normally you have to train 40 hours under one of a higher Circle over 3 weeks, but I am going to make that as if you had no trainer. If you do have one, I will lower it to 15 hours over one week. Those of higher circles have an additional option I won’t mention here.

You can also learn additional Disciplines, but they are freaking expensive early on. Also they demand a larger roleplaying challenge as each Discipline require a certain view and mindset of the world.

LP can be spent on the following:
  • One Attribute per Circle (value, not step), with each +1 per Attribute costing more. It cannot be saved for a later Circle.
  • Increasing Talent Ranks, with later Circles costing more, up to rank 15. The bulk of your points will be spent here. Note this generally don't require time to train.
  • Increasing Skill Ranks. Note skills are not talents! They will cost more, require time to actually train it, and limited to rank 10. Consider using Versatility instead.
  • Buying Karma Points via the Karma Ritual, which I will describe in the RP. This is cheap and should be routine.
  • Weaving Threads, a form of magic everyone can use. Not going to explain here as it is actually more story than rules, and non-spellcasters don’t unlock this talent till Fourth Circle.

Combat Rules
When a combat round begins, the first thing everyone does is roll for initiative. This is their Dex Step minus any penalties for armor, while some talents may be substituted. After this, most combat actions involve the following die rolls: roll to attack, roll for damage, and effects of damage.

Attacking is usually Melee Weapons, though other talents may be used (Missile, Unarmed) including those that are more magical. There may be some modifications of course. Medium or Long range for Missile Weapons will have a -2 or -3 Step modifier. This will be compared to Physical Defense of the target. If it is higher, the attacker hits. There is three types of Defense for three types of attacks: Physical, Magical, and Social (i.e. taunting your opponent) Defense. In addition, each difficulty number has a range of success (and failure). If the attack roll hits and is above an extraordinary result (i.e. rolling 15 or more with a 7 Defense), armor is ignored.

Rolling for damage is your Strength Step plus the weapon’s Damage Step. Damage is the roll minus Physical Armor, or Mystical Armor if the attack is magic based and is added to current damage. There are several characteristics for damage: Death Rating, Wound Threshold, Unconscious Rating. Tallies include current damage, wounds, and blood magic damage.
  • Death Rating: If current damage is equal or above this, the character is dead.
  • Wound Threshold: If, in a single attack, one gets enough damage to equal or exceed this, he gets one wound and must make a knockdown check. All actions have a (# of Wounds - 1) Step penalty.
  • Unconscious Rating: If current damage is equal or above this (but not dead), the character is knocked out.
  • Blood Magic: There is extremely powerful spells and magical abilities that require one’s life force to be cast. Current Damage may not be lower than this number.
All Disciplines have the Durability talent as part of their Second Circle talents. Ranks in this will increase one’s Death and Unconscious Rating. Each character also have a number of Recovery Tests per day. When used, one rolls their Toughness Step minus current Wounds and deducts that much damage. (For example, if one rolls 8 and have 2 wounds, they deduct 6 from current damage) If injured, one must spend it after waking up, an hour later after being injured, or an hour after taking a Recovery Test. For a wound to heal, one must first have 0 damage and spend a Recovery Test upon waking up.

Its more flexible than D&D (never touched 4th ed BTW), but magic overall is freaking complicated. If it is not the Step system, its the magic system that scares people. Spellcasting though is not that bad. But it has a lot of prerequisite talents. A thread weaving talent for any of the four spellcasting disciplines, spell casting itself, at least one spell matrix, and preferably Read/Write Magic.

First thing is to weave a thread forming a pattern. The rules never describe it, but the way I see it the mage (unseen by others, though Adepts might sense it) takes a small tiny thread from astral space and forms it into some design. The harder the spell, the harder the thread to weave and/or requires more threads. There is a chance for failure, especially when you need a spell fast in a combat situation. It is then locked into a Spell Matrix, where the pattern is stored. As long as it is there, one can cast from the Matrix as often as one likes. Its like ‘memorizing’ a spell in D&D but not ‘forgetting’ it once its cast.

It is possible to weave multiple threads at once, but comes with an increase chance for failure. It is also possible to cast a spell without using a Matrix, but it comes with risks. It can be done from a grimoire not his own, but there is a chance a Horror will notice and will track your character down. If Horror Marked, he is screwed. Casting raw magic is like yelling into Astral Space through a bullhorn “Come eat my sanity!” Being Horror Marked is nearly guaranteed. Do it only if there is no other choice and you are suicidal.

Depending on the spell, the result is compared to a target number (like a roll to hit with melee weapons) and a roll is done to determine the effect (like damage). To learn new spells, you must write it in your own grimoire using R/W Magic from another grimoire or spellcaster.

Magical Items
This is what those who hate ED more often than not point to. Ironically, those that adore ED point to this too! This is very much a love it or hate it. I don’t know of any other system for magical items like this. This is not a setting where one picks up a +1 Sword and just use it. In fact, one the most legendary swords, Purifier, has a secret society looking for it and can be an entire campaign by itself!

The first thing to know is all items have a pattern. If one thinks a certain weapon or item is magical, they must give it to one who knows Weapon History (Weaponsmith) or Item History (Troubadour).  Of course humans with Versatility might know either talent. (3rd Editon combine both talents into one... I don’t know if it is available to other Disciplines without looking it up) The adept must spend a week with the item to learn information concerning it. This is where rules and story intertwine.

Magic Items have ranks. Each rank unlocked require LP and a weaving of a thread. This in turn makes a weapon more powerful, turning it into a +1 (or +2, or higher) weapon in D&D terms, or unlocking a special ability with the weapon. This is good, as a weapon can ‘level up’ along with you.

Now here is the kicker. When Weapon/Item History is used, it reveals another requirement for some ranks. Called Key Knowledges, the character must go out into the world and actually learn the history of the weapon. Weapon/Item History does not tell you the answer, it just reveals the question. For example, majority of Rank 1 requires one to learn the name of the weapon. Using Weapon History, the adepts finds this requirement out. The answer has to be done by... ADVENTURING. In fact, instead of knowing something, the requirement may instead be to perform a deed... an adventure by itself!

So, in summary:

- Either use Weapon/Item History yourself or by someone you can trust to learn what Key Knowledges need to be known.
- Discover the answers to those Key Knowledges or perform a deed, if required for the next rank.
- Spend LP and weave a thread unlocking that rank

And thread weaving is a First Circle talent to spellcasters, Fourth Circle to everyone else. To some, this is too much work. To others, its full of story opportunities as a single item can lead to tons of story ideas. And this is why how magical items work is a love it or hate it thing. That said, if one finds a magical item First Circle, there is nothing stopping him from doing all this legwork before he reach Fourth Circle.

What to Read?

Don't... at least until I say so!

Of the 1st Edition line, which I consumed when in my high school years, there is two free products. One was an ugly looking printout of the rules FASA released when the Earthdawn product line was in decline, and the second was their unfinished product they were working on when they did stop making Earthdawn products. They closed their doors a few years later. I do have both of these freebies to share.

For a newbie, a better option is Earthdawn Player's Compendium (Classic Edition), which is available at RPGNow. Sorry, the system says I can't give you the link.  Note even the description have spoiler info as I rather play one new to the setting differently, as the setting breaks a number of fantasy tropes (while making excellent excuses for others!). It is a massive 524 page book that has everything a player needs to know from the core rulebook and multitude of rule expansion supplements from 1st Edition; the Adepts Way in particular.

I am most familiar with 1st Edition, but upgraded to 3rd edition in 2012 and is what I use now.  RPGNow does have a freebie demo of it, titled, "Misguided Ambitions - An Introduction to Earthdawn Third Edition"

Offline Zeth

Re: Looking to GM/DM Earthdawn's Barsaive (those unfamiliar preferred)
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2014, 11:27:45 AM »
I'm in. I only played Earthdawn once before then the game froze at the first sex scene after the first fight! Let's kick some butt! But  have read the book so you might not  want me.

Offline PatricioTopic starter

Re: Looking to GM/DM Earthdawn's Barsaive (those unfamiliar preferred)
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2014, 11:55:50 PM »
Okay, I am now running three of these plus two more currently in negotiation!  I am going to start getting picky.  And since none so far (except maybe Zeth as he made no mention of what Discipline he would like his character to be) are spellcasters, that would help me approve you.  This is a magic heavy, magic focused setting and no thread weaving spellcasters yet?  Everyone else, unless this post is old, beware my head is getting befuddled with three different versions of my standard first act.  For example I have a character named Fah'd who is a Scout in this RP, a Beastmaster in this other RP.  *sigh*

Offline Zeth

Re: Looking to GM/DM Earthdawn's Barsaive (those unfamiliar preferred)
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2014, 01:50:42 AM »
Well I'd like to be a Swordmaster. The Earthdawn game I am currently in is 3rd Edition and your game is 1st edition, so treat me as some one who has never played Earthdawn before.

Offline TaurusBeresford

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Re: Looking to GM/DM Earthdawn's Barsaive (those unfamiliar preferred)
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2014, 06:26:09 AM »
I have no idea what Earthdawn is, but this does sound interesting. I'm confident enough to play a spellcaster too, though I think I'd have a difficult time actually creating a character for a story I know nothing about. Willing to accept a premade character if you would like, or would need help creating one.