Live from Barsaive: Episode 11

Episode 11 Highlights Include:

  • Not our usual format, more of a freeform interview.
  • Rachel’s brother, Everett, discusses his “extreme” modding and house rules of Earthdawn.
  • The airing of grievances.
  • How to be a Windling accountant.
  • Who are we kidding? This episode is freeform, an unordered list is futile.

FASA Games Store
Magic: The Gathering (CCG)
Mansions of Madness board game
Elder Sign board game
Eldritch Horror Board Game

  • Lou Prosperi

    A few thoughts on another fun episode.

    When you were talking the windling accountant, the main question I had was “what Discipline is that character?” Is he a windling troubador who regales his friends with tales of heroic battles against unbalanced general ledgers? Or is he a windling warrior who takes the metaphor of the battleground into the office?

    Extreme modding seems like a mild way of describing the changes Everett made to the game, but as long as he and his group had fun, that’s what really matters.

    I found it interesting that Everett liked The Theran Empire book so much, since that’s the book that tends to get the most criticism. The most common criticism is due to the parallels between some of the Theran provinces and real-world cultures. One of the main ideas behind the Theran Empire was that it was in many ways the progenitor of many of the ancient civilizations in that part of the world, so it stands to reason that the empire would comprise cultures that are similar to real-world cultures. Anyway, I’ll curious to hear what you (Chad) think about the Theran Empire when you eventually get around to reading it.

    Your discussion of board games reminded me of an idea I played with for an Earthdawn board game called “The Scourge.” As the name implies, the game takes place during the Scourge, with each player controlling a number of Horrors roaming across Barsaive looking for kaers to corrupt and/or consume. I envisioned it sort of like DUNGEON, but instead of heroes battling monsters to claim treasure, it’s Horrors battling Name-Givers for pain and suffering. Some kaers might have heroes that make them harder to defeat, while others might have corrupted denizens that end up helping the Horrors. I even worked up ideas for the big places such Throal, Travar, etc., so that in this game, it might be possible for Throal to succumb to the Horrors. The game starts right after the majority of kears seal themselves in, and each player starts with a couple of minor Horrors, but as the game turns progress, the raising magic level means that more and bigger Horrors become available. Then after the peak of magic, players would begin to have fewer Horrors each turn. This increasing and decreasing power level adds an interesting twist to the game’s strategy – how do you best leverage the few turns you have a full power? Do you attack as many small kaers as you can, or do you go for one or two of the big ones?

    I think that game could have been a lot of fun.

    Take care!

    • Sadly, due to scheduling difficulties, Everett and his windling accountant counterpart only appeared in two game sessions. I honestly can’t remember what discipline he was. After we get back from the break, we want to wrap up our current campaign and then bring in some additional players. Maybe Everett will be able to rejoin our game then.

      One thing is for sure though, if I were playing an accountant in Earthdawn, he would work for a government (Throal or Thera) and be a questor of Dis. Perhaps that could be a GM character, assaulting our heroes not with weapons and magic, but with bureaucracy and drudgery.

      I have flipped through the Theran Empire book, and it does look interesting, and that does seem like a logical direction for it to go. Since the concept is that Earthdawn is set in a forgotten time in our own planet’s history, a logical way to wrap it up (I believe that was the final 1ed book, if I remember correctly) would be to show the beginnings of how we got from Earthdawn to our world.

      The only reason it has been low priority for me is that I feel like there are large parts of Barsaive that I know almost nothing about. I’m sure we will get to, but I should probably learn a little more about Blood Wood first, for example.

      Your Earthdawn board game sounds amazing! Do you still have any design documents, sketches, etc? I’m sure you have a lot of other things going on and not sure if you are looking for another project. Would you have any interest in reviving it? (If we could get FASA Corporation to agree to license it, of course.)

      If so, I would definitely help in whatever way I could. I don’t know much about the production and distribution side of making a board game, but I have always wanted to learn.

      Alternatively (or maybe in addition), this could really work as a board game style mobile or desktop computer game. I’m a Unity3D developer and I could definitely code a project like that. Admittedly, my art skills are not sufficient, but I could build a fully functional semi-ugly prototype by myself.

      There are a lot of people in the Unity community that are the reverse of me…art heavy but not really coders…so I’m sure I could find an artist. I have seen some really high quality tabletop game to mobile ports (some of which, I suspect were made with Unity). Pandemic, Elder Sign, and Talisman are a few that come to mind. They do a good job of keeping the board game feel.

      I had a conversation with Josh Harrison recently where we talked about how cool an Earthdawn video game would be. If you went the route of making something like Skyrim, for example, that would obviously be a substantial investment, but a board game style app is completely doable for a single developer or small team. Still a whole lot of hours, but completely doable.

      I actually had a similar idea, but from the opposite perspective. Have a game about managing a kaer. What would it take to keep a kaer’s occupants happy and healthy for centuries? How would you deal with political and racial friction? The starting conditions of a particular kaer (racial makeup, mix of skills/knowledge, customs) could radically change the flow of the game, giving the players different challenges each time they play.

      …then again, being the horrors and ravaging the province does sound more fun.

      • Lou Prosperi

        Hi Chad,

        The Theran Empire wasn’t the last book. Following that we had Secret Societies, Crystal Raiders, and Cara Fahd (and Dragons was about a month away from being published). The idea was to do books on each of the remaining major factions that would be involved in the war that was coming in Barsaive At War (the book I was working on when I was laid off).

        The aftermath of the war would have seen Thera effectively driven out of Barsaive (for now), so we could concentrate on Iopos as the new major bad guy. Given time the Therans would have likely come back, and probably bigger and angrier than ever!

        I think I still have some notes about the Scourge board game. I even created a prototype map a copy of the map in the Barsaive Campaign Set. It could be a whole lot of fun. If it should become a thing, I’d be interested in helping in *some* way, but am not sure how much time I could devote to it (I’m currently writing the follow up to The Imagineering Pyramid).


        • Come to think of it, I think it stuck in my head as being the last book is because it was the last one that I bought. I ended up completing my 1ed collection last year, but Theran Empire was the last before taking a years-long break from Earthdawn.

          I’ve also got several other projects I’m considering at the moment, so I’d have to see if and how the game idea would fit in, but I’m very serious about this. I also don’t know whether this is something that FASA would be interested in, or how the licensing would work, but I’m going to see what I can find out. I’ll keep you updated.

          I’m thinking that having more of a multi-pronged approach could be very good for Earthdawn, creating more ways for people to come in contact with the game universe. I could see a board game (or mobile/computer game) appealing to people who may not even yet know what Earthdawn is.

          It would be cool to work on this together, even if you’re just giving feedback and ideas.

  • Lou Prosperi

    I posted some comments here yesterday, but the post seems to be gone. Bummer.

    A few thoughts on another good episode.

    What discipline was the windling accountant? Was he a troubadour who regales his companions with tales of heroic battles against unbalanced general ledgers? Or was he a warrior who carries the battleground metaphor into the accounting office?

    Extreme modding seems like a mild way to describe the changes Everett and his group made to the game, but as long as they’re all having fun, more power to them!

    Interesting that Everett likes the Theran Empire book so much, since it’s generally the least like, and most criticized books from FASA’s run on the game.

    Lastly. the discussion about board games reminded me of an Earthdawn board game design I played around with. The game was called “The Scourge”. In the game, players control Horrors during the Scourge, roaming across Barsaive looking for kaers & citadels to consume and/or corrupt. Could have been a lot of fun.

    Take Care!

    • Lou,

      I saw your comments and came here to respond and they were gone. I’m wondering if it got flagged by my spam filter. I’ll get it sorted out. I get these copied to me in an email, so if nothing else I can copy/paste them back in.

      Let me get that resolved, then I’ll respond.

  • Will Vinduska

    Is there any way to get a copy of the “Horror Heatmap”? It sounds like an awesome tool.

    • I’ll ask Everett if he still has a copy somewhere. I think that was probably a few computers ago though, so I’m hoping he can still track it down.

    • I just got a text back from Everett. He said…

      “As for my random encounters heat map thing, it is an excel sheet full of direct hyperlinks to a custom folder I made with individual pages copied from my library of sourcebook PDFs, and the rolls are based on my 15-dice type system, so it’d be of little use to him without my writing out the math of my system and then reverse engineering it to match up to the step chart.”

      So sounds like it was never really a literal “map”, but more of a system for determining encounters, but evidently it’s pretty tightly tied to his highly customized version of the game. He’s pretty much a mad scientist of rpg modding.

      • Will Vinduska

        Ah bummer, but thanks so much for asking!

        • You’re welcome. I was also hoping he had it in a form I could post, but I wasn’t counting on it.