Adepts rarely face the dangers of Barsaive alone. In addition to their adventuring group, many adepts surround themselves with loyal animal companions. Known as familiars, these creatures share a strong bond with their master—almost similar to the one between a Cavalryman and his mount. Those ties are sealed with a familiar oath and infuse the familiar with the adept's magic and other special abilities. Familiars are most common with Beastmaster and Magician characters but may serve adepts of any Discipline.
One of the features of the Earthdawn setting is the magician's use of spell matrices, to protect them from the harmful magical energies and astral taint the Horrors brought into the world. In the Step System, spell matrices mainly serve as a mechanic for restricting the number of spells a magician can cast safely. The simple rules in Earthdawn: The Age of Legend do not necessarily require restricting spells, so the use of spell matrices is implicit: there is no mechanical impact unless your story has actual demand for such detail.
Some of you still want spell matrices to be more prominent in their games, however, so the following optional rules add mechanical detail to all magician characters. They also change the way spells affect the narrative of your game.
The magical energy flowing through the world of Earthdawn can be separated into strands called threads, and one of the unique applications of the workings of magic is the use of thread magic. Adepts can use thread magic to activate a Legendary Item’s abilities, magicians use thread magic to supply the power needed for their spells, and groups use it to unite their fates for a common goal.
In this article, we will be exploring the core elements of our FU-based games, Equinox (using the Equinox Storygame Guide) and Earthdawn: The Age of Legend. We will identify the thoughts behind the game design, going beyond the unique resolution mechanics that only appear to be at the center of it all.
When composing adventures in traditional roleplaying games, many gamemasters approach design from an event-centered point of view, trying to arrange events happening in the adventures into a pre-determined order. However, even with a few triggers and if/else combinations, the structure of adventures written this way is very rigid. Such a rigid structure makes it hard for the gamemaster to adapt the adventure to his players’ needs, often leading to frustration when railroading them to his intended goal or shutting their ideas down until they have one that meet his line of thinking.
Sounds familiar? We have all been there at some point.
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Earthdawn: The Age of Legend uses standard six-sided dice. We suggest to use a slightly larger die as the main die and smaller dice to represent bonus or penalty dice. Using dice of different colors to represent their meaning is helpful to keep them separate. Of course, you can play the with a single die, but that might be a bit tedious.
The image below shows one setup of regular dice. The white one is the main die, red ones are penalty dice, green ones represent bonus dice.
One of the scenes that happened to our sample character Ilareon after he arrived in Spencer Hill after his falling-out with the Warrior Gwen was the one given in the Example of Play below. It will give you a good idea of how the game feels at the table.
Gamemaster: You suddenly wake up in the dead of the night. You're not sure what woke you, but you are unable to go back to sleep.
Ilareon: I'd definitely try. It has been a long day.
Gamemaster: You roll around for a bit, but to no avail. You are wide awake.
Ilareon: Okay, I get up. What are my companions doing? *looks around the game table, the other players shrug*
The following character was played in one of our playtesting sessions last year. As an elf haunted by his past, Ilareon is a new arrival in Spencer Hill, a remote mining town on the edge of the Caucavic Mountains. He hopes to find other adventurers aiding him in his quest.
We'll use this character for an upcoming example of play, which will also shed more light on some of the stats and abilities you'll find in here.
Here's a small preview of the layout. It's still work in progress, so the end result might look a bit different from what you see here:
The book—planned as 8.5"x8.5"-sized hard- and softcover—will come out at approximately 232 pages in total. It is organized into three sections and contains the following chapters:
The first part discusses the setting background and core mechanics used to run the game—the information that tells you how to play. Starting off with An Earthdawn Primer, you get a basic overview of the game world. Traits discusses the basic building blocks player characters are made of, Beating the Odds describes how to roll and interpret the dice, and Running the Game discusses how you set a scene as well as providing advice and guidelines for the gamemaster.
The second part of the book contains everything you need to create your own characters, the places they will frequently visit, and the people they will meet. The Setting the Stage chapter gets everyone started building the main environment you will be playing in, while Character Creation shows you how to build the actual heroes of the game. The Disciplines, Talents, Spells, and Equipment chapters contain additional information you need to reference when building your characters and settings for them. Finally, Experience & Advancement provides a simple framework to improve your characters over the course of several adventures.
The last part of the book provides rules and game statistics for vehicles and the opposition, mainly in the Airships & Riverboats and Creatures & Adversaries chapters. Passions & Questors details the twelve Passions worshipped by the people of Barsaive, and adds options for player characters wanting to become questors. The Appendix holds information on Earthdawn background material you can use with this game, as well as various sheets for your games (including the Stage and Character Sheets), and an index for easy reference.