Live from Barsaive: Episode 5

Episode 5 Highlights:

  • We got to hang out with our buddies Krendar and Dakota, from RPG Squad!
  • Chad’s accidental but repeated snubbing of the FASA staff
  • In depth discussion of our favorite 4th Edition rules changes
  • An impromptue discussion of another of our favorite RPG’s, “Deadlands”

IMPORTANT! We made a couple of rules mistakes in this conversation. Legend point costs for weaving threads to items have NOT gone away. Also, the typical cost of learning a spell is 100 silver times the spell’s circle. Please refer to the relevant sections in the 4th Edition rules. Thanks to everyone who caught our mistakes corrected us.

Check out RPG Squad’s interview with Earthdawn line editor Josh Harrison. Here are the links for Part 1 and Part 2.

Ursa Gaming, Dakota’s YouTube channel

Krendar’s YouTube channel

  • Lou Prosperi

    Another fun episode, but I have a question for Rachel. Was Earth Darts really all that bad in 1e? As I recall, it was notably “better” (in either range or damage) than the 0-thread spells from the other magician disciplines. I played an Elementalist (an Obsidimen) and while it wasn’t fun casting only every other round, it didn’t ruin the game for me. πŸ™‚

    And if it *was* such a big deal, why didn’t you and your GM use the spell design rules to create a 0-thread spell that your character could learn from his teacher? For instance, I think an “Air Darts” spell that’s similar to Earth Darts, but does less damage might be a cool 0-thread Elementalism spell.

    Interesting discussion about the changes in 4e. I’m not a fan of most of the changes, particularly those around Durability, Karma Ritual, and armor-defeating hits, but I openly admit that I haven’t played in a 4e game so my objections are mostly theoretical.

    The Journeyman was an interesting Discipline. Hard to tell if the trade-off between LP cost and flexibility is worth it in the long run, but it’s still a cool concept (and fits well with the idea that humans are versatile).

    • Eric Mansfield

      Speaking for myself, and you heard me agreeing with Rachel’s pain in this one (I’m Krendar), I found it pretty painful to have to take 2 turns to cast an attack spell even as a newbie character, when no other Discipline had to. It WAS more powerful though, but its nice to have the choice between a faster/weaker spell and a stronger/slower spell. Like how Nethermancer, at least these days, has Spirit Dart/Astral Spear.

      But I agree that house rules are always an option to solve disagreements with the rules as written, sure. I do know there’s a lot of people out there that, for whatever reasons, dislike the concept of house rules and insist on sticking to the rules as written, even if they dislike those rules. Though, really, that’s their own fault in the end.

      I’m curious though, Lou, what is your disagreement with the Karma Ritual/Durability change? I personally like the fact that 2 of the most “necessary” Talents have been given free. Though on the other hand, it can be nice to have the option to pump up Durability even above your Circle if you want to. Pros and cons to both methods.

      • Lou Prosperi

        My main issue with the change is that it undermines the original design intent of the Circle advancement system. The system is based on the idea that characters advance Circle when they reach a certain level of competence at a set number of abilities, at which point they gain the ability to learn more abilities. The key point is, the manner in which they advance in their abilities is entirely up to the player/character.

        A good analogy to this approach is martial arts, in which practitioners advance as they demonstrate mastery at their current rank, and then at each new rank, they can learn new skills. For example, in karate, a Red Belt must demonstrate mastery over a number of techniques and skills before advancing to Brown Belt, at which point he begins to learn new techniques and skills. When he achieves a certain level of mastery over these abilities, he can advance to Black Belt, etc.

        This change takes a level of choice away from the player, and I don’t see the advantage in terms of game play experience that it offers. Durability is NOT a Legend Point sink. It’s an ability that players/characters consciously decide to invest in as they advance in their Circle. That choice is up to them.

        One of the criticisms of the 1e Disciplines was that characters of a particular Discipline tended to be similar due to the limited number of talents available at each Circle. With this change, now *all* characters of a particular Discipline at a particular Circle will *all* have the same Durability. Why is that better?

        Another reason for my distaste of this change has to do with setting/genre emulation and the relationship between the game mechanics and the game setting. My (strong) preference is that the mechanics be a consequence of the setting, not the other way around. The way things work in the setting should drive how the rules are designed. Admittedly, this can cause some balance concerns and there are places where certain restrictions and limitations need to be in place to prevent things from getting out of hand, but as a general rule, the rules shouldn’t dictate how things in the setting work.

        To use the advancement system as an example, in ED 1e, Adepts gain in magical power as they do things that contribute to their legend (represented mechanically by them earning Legend Points). As characters train in their various abilities, they increase their proficiency in them (represented mechanically by players spending Legend Points to increase the Rank of their existing Talents), and when they reach a certain level of proficiency, they can advance to the next Circle in their Discipline, and then begin to learn new abilities (represented mechanically by players spending Legend Points on Ranks of new Talents). In this model, the rules are used to emulate how the things work in the setting.

        IMO, the 4e Durability/Karma Ritual change doesn’t fit with this model, and is an example of the rules dictating how things work in the setting.

        I know… a long answer, but you did ask! πŸ™‚


        • It’s really interesting to hear the reasoning behind the game mechanics. I definitely noticed that Earthdawn’s rules are more tightly integrated with the setting than a lot of other games, but I never really thought about that, as it related to the Durability issue. I can kind of see it both ways.

          I definitely see the logic in the 1ed way, but I also kind of like how the 4ed rules play. We started this campaign over with 1st circle characters though, so it will take some time to see how the 4ed rules about character advancement work.

          I think the magic system is the place where the rules and setting being intertwined is most apparent. When I first started GM’ing, I was a little overwhelmed with how magic works in the game. It took me a while to wrap my head around not just the rules, but the concepts that went along with it (what a pattern is, what a thread is, etc.). But you really couldn’t remove any of those rules without diminishing the setting. Magic is so front and center in the Earthdawn universe that a simpler magic system would feel out of place.

        • Eric Mansfield

          Hey, a long answer is good! Gives more details, makes it easier to understand the other person’s meaning.

          This is a bit like what I mentioned, where you said it can differentiate people at the same Circle. Maybe one Swordmaster is Second Circle and wants Durability at Rank 5, he’ll be pretty tough! But on the other hand I just like the idea of being able to save my LP for use on the more “active” Talents.Maybe this is just me coming from a greedy player perspective and liking being able to save my LP to use on other things. Same for how I feel about the Karma Ritual changes too.

          A side effect of this, and maybe the main reason I like it, is that this means when I am picking my 1st/2nd Circle Talents, since I don’t have to spend those choices on Karma/Dura, this means I can choose another Talent, and have more things I can do available to me, and spend my LP on those instead.

          Of course, this doesn’t address the idea that some people will care more about Karma than others. Archers use quite a lot of it, for example. But maybe others won’t care as much and would have left it at a lower Rank overall, anyway.

          Everyone needs Durability though! πŸ˜€

          • Lou Prosperi

            Just to be clear, I can understand the appeal of these changes from a player’s perspective, I just disagree with it from a design and setting/genre emulation standpoint.

          • Eric Mansfield

            Oh yeah, I understood that, no worries. I just liked discussing it and hearing both sides of things.

    • I think Rachel’s main objection was that it just slowed her down in combat, due to not having a zero-thread spell. We probably should have done spell design, but back then, in 1996, I hadn’t really gotten into that aspect of the game (I was brand new, to GM’ing in general, not just to Earthdawn).

      I think what I like best about the new “Free Talents” that automatically upgrade is that players don’t end up spending as many points on things that feel like boilerplate. So when they spend legend points, the focus is on customizing, not just “I really should upgrade that other thing.” I’m not 100% sure on this, but I think some of the math has been tweaked on costs of some other things to balance it out, so that the overall cost of advancement is fairly similar. (Somebody can correct me if I’m wrong.)

      Honestly, I never had a problem with the 1ed way of doing things, and we didn’t mean any of that as a criticism of 1ed. But a couple sessions into using the 4e rules it does seem to play very well. I haven’t really seen anything in 4ed that’s completely incompatible with 1ed, so it’s pretty easy to mix and match rules depending on preference.

      In a lot of ways, 1st edition doesn’t feel like a first edition. It is amazingly polished and runs very smoothly. I think a lot of other games would have had to have gone through a few revisions to get to the point that 1ed was right out of the gate.

    • Lava Monkey Games

      Lou- Sorry for the delayed reply, Chad is 100% right. Especially as a new player it left me feeling helpless, my stats weren’t the best. If I weaved a thread on round 1, I could whiff on spell casting and then I’m up to round 4 before I can do anything helpful. I loved the spell and used it a lot when I made it up to higher circles because my chance of success was much higher. However as a starting character it made me feel like a liability to my group rather than an asset.

      • Lou Prosperi

        Hi Rachel,
        I understand entirely. As a player I whiffed plenty of Spellcasting tests myself, and was glad when my character got to 3rd Circle and could cast Ice Mace and Chain. πŸ™‚

        But even if your character did less than an equal share of the fighting, Elementalists have lots of support spells that can help the party in other ways (Heat Food comes to mind).

        • Lava Monkey Games

          So funny you mentioned “heat food!” My first character was an Elementalist named after that spell!! We all joked he was like a dwarven microwave, so I named him “Mirico.”

  • Telarus, KSC

    A quick point on Thread Items. Legend Points are still required to be spent on permanent threads, but the cost has been removed from the item descriptions – replaced by the “Item Tier” which tells you which chart Talent Advancement chart to use for LP costs.

    “Tier determines the amount of Legend Points a character has to spend to weave the individual Thread Ranks. These correlate to the cost for increasing talent ranks. For example, the first thread rank of a Journeyman tier thread item costs as many Legend Points to weave to as learning Rank 1 Journeyman talent (200 Legend Points), the second thread rank costs as many Legend Points as increasing that talent to Rank 2 (300 Legend Points), and so on.”

    • Yeah, we messed that up, along with a couple of other things. The official position is that I take full responsibility, but secretly I blame it all on Krendar.

      I put a note in the description above. We also recorded a correction in a future episode, but it won’t go out for a couple of weeks.