Earthdawn 3e: Character Generation

earthdawn At the last session with my group, we came up with character concepts and had decided to do the actual generation this week. I wanted to get it taken care on my end prior, so that I could both familiarize myself with the changes to 3e character generation enough to answer questions and be available to do so instead of needing to work on my own character.   So earlier last week I finished up my human warrior.

If you’re like me, one of your initial reactions to that last sentence is “a race and a discipline isn’t a character concept,” and you’d be right.   However, for this post I want to specifically talk about some of the changes to Earthdawn from a character generation standpoint.   So while a character back-story and personality are crucial to a good character, they’re going to be outside the scope of this discussion.

Attribute Generation

While the Derived Attribute table is mostly intact from previous editions of Earthdawn, racial mods are now done in a reverse Polish manner.   Instead of getting flat bonuses or penalties, each race has its own set of starting attributes.   Humans (being average) begin with 10’s across the board.   Other races start with slightly higher or lower stats depending on their stereotypical characteristics.   You are then given 25 points to purchase modifiers to each ability (and get refunds by lowering abilities).   Again, like previous versions of Earthdawn, the purchase rate isn’t 1:1 for higher attributes – going from a +5 to a +6 will cost you 2 points, for example.   Going up to +7 will cost 3 more.

Having the racial modifiers pre-calculated really doesn’t gain you anything new, but it really doesn’t cost you anything either.   Honestly, this ‘new’ system doesn’t feel any different than the old one, the starting point is just now 10 instead of 0 and you have less points.   You can’t lower abilities quite as far (8 is minimum now) but I don’t know anyone who went much below that too often anyway.

Racial Abilities

Sight-based racial abilities were mostly unchanged.   The biggest difference is that the Windling’s astral sight ability grants them access to that talent just like the human’s Versatility talent.   This adds scalability that was badly needed to keep the ability useful throughout the character’s career, as well as remove the need to distinguish between “windling sight astral sensing” and “Astral Sight talent astral sensing.”   A balance and a streamline: good modification.

The biggest change was on the racial front and is the new karma rules.   Every race now has the same karma die (d6) and the same cost in LPs.   The difference between races comes in their karma multiplier.   An adept can have a maximum amount of karma point equal to their Karma Ritual rank multiplied by their racial karma multiplier.   I’m not sold on the variable karma pools yet – it’s just something else that needs tracking on the character sheet – but I’m willing to give it a shot in game play to see how it works.

Discipline Flexibility

I mentioned this in a previous post, but disciplines have been loosened up to allow some choices in talent selection.   Some choices are a no-brainer.   I can’t imagine many magicians not taking the second Spell Matrix at 1st circle or any adept not taking Durability as their option at 2nd circle (yes, it’s optional… why I don’t know) for instance.   But now a character does have options instead of being on a set path.

Skills & Skill Selection

Initial language, knowledge, and artisan skills are assigned just as in 1st Edition, but now you get 8 more ranks to apply to skills any way you see fit.   However, the talent versions of some skills have been toned down (or removed) to help balance things.   Avoid Blow, for instance, can be used a number of times per round equal to your rank if you know it as a talent.   As a skill it is limited to once per round but otherwise functions the same.


The “Adventurer’s Kit” is still around – a quick one-item purchase to give you starting gear.   For players that don’t like to mess with too many equipment lists, it’s a real quick and easy way to get started.   Now though, you start with that: a set of clothing, week of rations, artisan kit (if necessary for your skill), and a dagger plus 100sp to spend elsewhere.   Basically the items that were pretty much standard you don’t have to worry about and you can spend your leftover starting funds on whatever other gear you want, which includes weapons and armor.

The characters we created this last weekend spent most of the starting cash on weapons and armor, but when the rest of your gear is already provided for you, there’s not much else left.   There were a few odds and ends picked up, but   mostly by the magicians who didn’t need fancy weapons.

One side note I’ll make, and this isn’t new but it’s something I very much like about Earthdawn.   No wonky weapon/armor proficiencies or knowledge base.   It doesn’t matter what discipline you follow (if any), you can wield/wear any weapon/armor you choose.   Want to be a wizard in plate armor?   Go ahead, the only penalty you’ll suffer is the initiative penalty of the armor – same as any warrior who wore the same thing.


Even if there are some minor differences, both the process and the end result of character generation in Earthdawn 3e still feels the same as previous editions.   A warning though: character creation in Earthdawn can still be an involved process if you don’t have an application available to help out.   The EDCG was fantastic for earlier editions, so I threw together a quick spreadsheet just to do attributes for ED3.   It wasn’t pretty but it was functional.

As I mentioned earlier, I built my character ahead of time so I’d be more familiar with the process and could help answer questions for the other players.   Still, we took a few hours to get everyone finished (not counting time to do the character concept).   So there’s a bit of a time sink, but I’ve found it to be acceptable for the level of enjoyment I get from the game and the settings.

By the end of the night we had an elven troubadour, a t’skrang illusionist, a dwarven beastmaster, and an obsidiman elementalist to go along with my human warrior.   Afterward, we started our first “adventure” and helped out a small town, despite them thinking we were someone else.   We’re such nice people.   🙂


  1. On the Karma issue, EDC standardized costs for Karma at 10, so that’s not an ED3 change. I agree with you on the “iffy” aspect to the Karma Pool size versus Karma Die of previous editions. I think its a workable concept, just not sure I like it.

    Overall, I agree with you and I personally love the new system on the whole, with only one absolute exception: IMB I’ll be house-ruling Durability as an automatic choice and the players will be able to choose a talent from the options. Durability just will not be there.

    But overall, the system for me seems much improved, yet feels the same. And gratz on your game 🙂

  2. I tossed around suggesting the same Durability-related house rule myself. It’s probably due to our experience with the older system but Durability feels like something that should be ‘free.’

    Honestly I think thread weaving (for non-magicians) could be the same, and magicians could be compensated with the second matrix free at first circle.

  3. I agree with ya on Durability.

    As for that second Matrix, yes and no. Mostly due to the changes in the rules regarding Matrices for multiple discipline mage types.

    If you are say, a Wizard/Elementalist, that factor would actually be a disadvantage or an issue to work around. As a wizard you could possibly have say, the 2 first circle spell matrices (by availability) and up to 2 more for second and third circle. The maximum Spell Matrix talents (basic types, not including Enhanced or Armored, etc.) a mage discipline can have is five. So that means, you’d get the one from your second discipline and everything else you choose would have to be talents that might for all intents and purposes be those “never used” talents.

    Now there are those that would like this setup, but there are those that would probably like to allow themselves room to choose talents from both sides that they would like to be able to use. By going your route, you would essentially make only 1 choice of spell matrix available to the players and that would be at least in my view, not such a good thing in comparison to other disciplines. At least that’s how I see it.

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