Adjusting Earthdawn’s Strain Mechanic

RedBrick Limited‘s third edition of Earthdawn has been a big hit so far with my Saturday gaming group. The system is providing us with a solid internal consistency through which we can interact with the rich setting.

But like most groups, we’ve come up with a few tweaks to the system to make it better fit with what we want out of our game.  The biggest is that we’ve decided to try a slight re-working to how strain is handled.

The concept of strain is that it is a key balancing feature to the game – there are a vast number of talents, skills, and maneuvers which include a strain cost to use them.  The disconnect for many members of my group is that this is basically taking hit point damage any time they want to do something.

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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.

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Earthdawn 3rd Edition: Initial Paces

ed3rdI finally got a chance to try out the Earthdawn Third Edition rules last Saturday when a friend ran Misguided Ambitions, the demo adventure available on the Earthdawn home page.   Though there were some obvious tweaks and mods to the Step System to help streamline play, the game still feels very much like Earthdawn.   Considering how much I enjoy the Eartdawn game – both the system and the setting – that’s about the highest “initial impression” I can offer.

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Earthdawn Third Edition


I’ve said before that Earthdawn has been my favorite roleplaying game for some time.   I don’t get to play too often because it’s not exactly the best fit for my current gaming group (which includes one player who hates fantasy roleplaying games in general) but I still am a big fan of the game.   I used to follow Earthdawn more closely but I drifted away for a while so was a little late to see the release date finally put to Earthdawn Third Edition.

RedBrick Limited, the current publishers of Earthdawn, signed an agreement with Mongoose Publishing in March to have Mongoose handle the printing, marketing, sales, and distribution of Earthdawn products under their Flaming Cobra brand.   It appears RedBrick will retain all creative control while leveraging Mongoose’s brand to move away from the print on demand model and into an actual product that will be available at game stores across the country in July.

I have seen very little of this new Third Edition ruleset other than the implication that it will be a simplified version of the Step System common to Earthdawn and Earthdawn Classic.   Between a simplified ruleset and the increase in exposure that a physical product to sell in game stores provides, I look forward to seeing what impact this will have on the game.   Maybe I’ll be able to get it back on my gaming table.

Earthdawn – Savaged: Season 1

A month or so ago my Earthdawn: Savaged campaign wound up to a close. The early summer/late fall months brought a rash of player absences and missed sessions which seemed to sap everyone’s motivation. So although I very much enjoyed returning to the Earthdawn world our game ended rather anticlimactically.

At least I was able to do the experimentation with Savage Worlds that I wanted to. I learned a number of valuable lessons about the system from behind the GM’s screen. I plan on going into more detail about what modifications I plan on making to Savage Worlds in a short series of articles but I wanted to take this opportunity to summarize our campaign and my thoughts on it.

Our small group consisted of a few adepts who had banded together in defense of a Rex, a small village in the hinterlands north of Bartertown, and forged their group in tribute to the dwarven weaponsmith who had brought them together and gave his life in defense of the innocent. Thus The Hounds of Askari were born.

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Earthdawn – The Legend Begins

Session 1 – March 30th, 2008

GM: Dave
Players: Luke, Chad, Dan, Josh, Pat

The scene opened on the town or Rex, a battered and broken village in the hinterlands of Barsaive. The townspeople had fought a daily struggle to eek a meager living out of the dried and broken land, and just as their efforts began to pay off they became the target of a band of ork scorchers. Frequent raids kept the town on the brink of collapse but the orks were smart enough to always leave the town in good enough shape that it could recover… and be raided all over again.

Rex’s headwoman, an elf by the name of Emberica, was finally fed up with the cycle of destruction and called in some old favors which led Askari, a dwarven weaponsmith, to bring his small band of adepts to aid the town. The orks were not expecting any resistance, let alone a band of adepts, and a cunning trap sealed their doom. However they were not go quietly. Many good townsfolk lost their lives in the orks’ death rage, as did Askari himself.

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Earthdawn: Savaged

I’ve finally made my return to Gamemastering, kicking off a new campaign with my gaming group at the end of March. This time around I went for my long-time favorite: Earthdawn. Now that we’ve gotten a couple of sessions under our collective belt we’re settling into the swing of things.

Although I’ve turned to the familiar setting of Barsiave for this game I’ve decided to try a few new things as well, the first of which was converting this fantastic game to a system more suitable to my players.

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The Failure that was Earthdawn: First Dawn

In my last blarg I talked about the storyline I had put together for my recent Earthdawn game. If you haven’t read that blarg yet please do, because otherwise some of the issues or events I’ll be discussing below may not make sense.

First Dawn started well enough, with the characters interacting with the various residents of the kaer. Everyone had the opportunity to show off a bit of their character’s background and motivations (except the ork’s player who couldn’t make it) which I think they all enjoyed. After that the party was gathered together for a ceremony that ended with the kaer doors being opened and the party heading out through the traps to the surface with tokens which were supposed to disable the traps for them.

At the far end of the trapped area, the party was introduced to the obsidiman that was supposed to act as their guide. Centuries ago he had volunteered to enter the kaer and enter the Dreaming through the Scourge to be able to guide its people back to the surface when the time came. The party, being told he was how they would open the kaer doors but thinking he was just a statue/key, had drag him up to the surface with the aid of a disk of True Air which levitated him and allowed him to be floated to the front antechamber. Due to the proximity to the surface awoke while the party was resting, leading to some interesting interaction.

After some discussion with the obsidimen about who he was and then ultimately what to expect outside, the adepts finally opened the front doors to the kaer and saw the destruction the Scourge had caused to the countryside. With that visual the first session ended. In hindsight it was a successful session and had hit all of the goals and themes I had set (with the exception of the missing player).

Everything went downhill from there.

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Earthdawn: First Dawn – The Campaign that Wasn’t

As mentioned previously, for the last two months I have been running an Earthdawn campaign I had titled First Dawn. The story was originally intended to cover one kaer’s reopening to the world above and the adepts who were sent to scout the surface. The game was scheduled to run roughly six to eight sessions and start with the exploration of the valley between Southhome, the player’s Kaer, and Northhome, their sister kaer.

Unfortunately during the second session I let the campaign take a sharp left turn away from my intent and things only went downhill from there. I primarily blame myself for this, but afterwards I just couldn’t get the story back on track. I’m going to try and identify the problems I had and what I could have done to correct them below. However in order to convey the magnitude of diversion from the intended story and feel I first need to start with a description of the campaign as it was intended to be.

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Earthdawn: First Dawn, Session 1

We finally had a chance to start First Dawn, the Earthdawn campaign that I’m running, this last Sunday. After talking to the players, we decided to start this campaign a little differently than our normal style. I wanted the characters to be more powerful than starting Adepts to rationalize their choice to be leaving their Kaer, but not all of the players were familiar enough with the game system to make more advanced characters without a lot of help. So to speed character generation and to help build a more cohesive group, we met a couple weeks before our first actual game session for a character generation session where the players would design their characters and personalities and I would take those and create stats later.

After giving the group the rundown of life in the Kaer and the different races and disciplines that they might have to choose from, everyone came up with their general character concepts. From there we began fleshing out backgrounds and motivations, tying the characters together while at the same time developing the Kaer where the game would start. Before the character generation session I had known what sort of overarching plot I wanted for the campaign, but I hadn’t imagined that the players would hand me the perfect vehicle to make it personal for them during character generation.

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