Live from Barsaive: Episode 16

Part 1 of our Earthdawn Crash Course:

  • How to get your first Earthdawn game up and running quickly
  • Lightning fast overview of the world of Earthdawn
  • Learn which gaming supplies are required and which are optional
  • Dougansf

    This was your best episode yet. Your energy and focus are great. It’s like a teaser trailer for Earthdawn.

    I think this should’ve been what you guys started with. I can’t wait for the next Crash Course episode.

    • Yeah, I’m wishing we had started with this also. The main reason that we didn’t was that at that time I didn’t have any 4ed books, and I didn’t want to wait until I had a chance to read them. Honestly, I was also pretty rusty on Earthdawn as a whole, since I had just recently gotten back into it after many years.

      Crystal Raiders was fresh on my mind since I had just read it, so we started with that. In retrospect, that was not a great decision because it’s one of the hardest settings to get into. Cool material, but tough to work into a campaign.

      We’re intending for the Crash Course to be a reference that people use for years to come, so we did put quite a bit of extra time into show prep and recording. I wish we could give the same attention to every episode, but it took us probably six times longer to produce. Unfortunately, we can’t devote that kind of time every week, but we are trying to steadily improve quality as we go.

  • Gorta

    Impact Miniatures has hard resin versions of the original Earthdawn Miniatures for sale.

    • Thanks for reminding me. For some reason, I just wasn’t thinking about it, but Josh Harrison mentioned that when he was on the podcast. I’ve made a note to bring this up in Part 2.

      I’ve gotten a couple of emails about other items I could have mentioned…dice roller apps, whiteboards, and a few others. I think I’ll start Part 2 with a quick mention of some of these things.

    • Greg Pettigrew

      The rest of the licensed miniatures are currently being cast as part of one of Impact!’s other Kickstarters. They should be available for retail purchase Julyish.

  • Lou Prosperi

    Another great episode!

    I agree that this was one of your better episodes, but I have a couple of (hopefully) constructive comments and questions.

    Do you plan to describe the different races and Disciplines in part 2? I was a little surprised you didn’t provide an overview of those at the outset.

    Something else that might help for part 2 would be to provide a link to a map of Barsaive. You mention where some of the areas are (Parlainth is in the north east, Iopos is in the north west, but no mention of where Throal is for instance).

    I think the strongest part was the history and tour of Barsaive. You both did a great job at portraying Barsaive as a cool place for adventuring.

    Looking forward to part 2!

    • Yes, Part 2 will have overviews of the races and disciplines. I ended up shuffling a lot of things around in my show notes, trying to find a good order to make things flow. It was a little bit of a challenge, because certain subjects required prerequisites, and some material really could belong to a couple of different sections.

      I decided just to briefly mention the concept of race and discipline up front but then to put a more detailed descriptions in Part 2 when we talk about character creation. Originally, I put character creation toward the beginning, but then I realized we’d first have to go into related concepts, like magical theory, etc. I wanted listeners to have a good understanding of the feel of the setting before getting too much into the nuts and bolts.

      Adding a link to the map is a good idea. We’re kind of assuming that players will have access to at least the basic books, which would include a map, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a link here also.

      I’m glad you liked the history section. Out of all of it, that was the most challenging. The history is so deep and nuanced that it’s really tough to boil it down to the bare minimum without losing a lot of what makes it great.

      I’m thinking that we’ll probably do another episode (or a short series) at some point about the overall history and lore, but take the time to go into more detail. That will probably be a while though, because I need to finish the 4ed GM Guide to make sure I’m up on all of the timeline changes. We’ll probably also pull a lot from the 1ed Barsaive Campaign Set, which I think is one of the best resources for overall lore.

      By the way, I found myself thinking about the Imagineering Pyramid concepts quite a bit while organizing this. There is obviously still a lot of room for improvement, but I’m finding it to be very helpful.

      • Lou Prosperi

        Glad to hear you found the book to be helpful!

      • Sonny Thomas

        Well it all started a friend of mine posted a link to a 7 RPGs your not playing and earthdawn was one of them so I go over to Reddit do a search find the sub for earthdawn and someone linked you guys and Bam I’m a fan of live from and earthdawn . So much lore it’s crazy .

        • Yeah, the lore has always been my favorite part (which is why we decided to focus the podcast on lore). There definitely is a ton of it, and it’s very high quality writing and very well thought out.

          I’m always amazed at how one book will drop some hints about something from another setting, then we you read the other book it fits together perfectly. Barsaive feels like a real place. I also love that the setting can lend itself to so many completely different styles of campaigns.

  • Sonny Thomas

    This is a great podcast I had never heard of earthdawn before stumbling on to this and now I’m happy and sad that I went my whole gaming career not playing this I immediately bought the 4ed books and await the new releases . Thanks for the enlightenment and great podcast.

    • Wow, that’s really cool! Just out of curiosity, how did you find us? Twitter, or somewhere else?

      Glad you’re enjoying the podcast, but REALLY glad you’re enjoying Earthdawn. If I had to pick only one game to play for the rest of my life, it would be Earthdawn, hands down.

  • Bjoern Kharramson

    Great show, this would have been extremely useful when I was doing an Earthdawn one-shot for some friends who have never played Earthdawn before. This would have saved me some time giving the introduction to Barsaive. From this experience I would like to add a few points:

    One of the defining features of Earthdawn (for me at least) is the fact that the Horrors are still around. This has to do with the strange stagnation in the decline of magic that is probably a topic of the next episode. Not only have the Horrors shaped the landscape during the Scourge and left dangerous horror constructs, some of the Horrors themselves have remained. And while the most powerful Horrors are gone, the ones left are stil dangerous. Even the weakest are sufficient to threaten small communities if the namegivers are not vigilant. This makes the threat of Horrors and Horror corruption prevalent in the minds of the people of Barsaive. When I am GM, this threat is real but rare, and at the same time overly present in the mind of most NPCs. I compare this to the time of the whitch hunts, with the added twist that sometimes you really find a whitch (Horror) and boy are you in trouble then.

    Another group I found a bit underrepresented in this episode is Dragons. I think it should be at least briefly mentioned that Dragons in Earthdawn are intelligent, arrogant, powerful, inherently magical, and are almost guaranteed to pull at least some political strings while completely staying in the background. I always liked how this played with the established fantasy tropes of dragons. Imagine a group of adventurers coming into a village and being asked to sort out the problem of a Dragon eating the sheep of the villagers. This has totally different implications in Earthdawn than in, say, DnD.

    Another thing: Player Characters are expected to be the good guys. This may of course for each group and each GM, but in my eyes the setting of Earthdawn is founded in the assumption that PCs try to improve the situation as a whole (but perhaps this is just my playstyle).

    • All good points. We’re planning to record Part 3 sometime this weekend,
      so I’ll start out the next episode with some clarifications.

      It definitely wasn’t my intention, but I think that I did accidentally give the impression that ALL horrors had left the physical world, and that is definitely not true. I’ll make sure to clarify that.

      I’m also not sure how I managed to completely overlook dragons. A detailed discussion of them is definitely outside the scope of this series, but I do need to at least mention their place in the setting. Especially for players coming from D&D, etc., they would definitely tend to make some wrong assumptions about dragons in Earthdawn if not told otherwise.

      I have also always played campaigns where the player characters tend to be heroes. Although they are not 100% moral all the time, I think the general assumption of the game is that you will play “good guys” of some sort. But I can’t think of anything in the rules that would prevent players from playing characters with more sinister intentions, and the setting is full of mentions of adepts who do evil things.

      The very first RPG I ever ran…very briefly…was Marvel Comics. (I don’t remember what edition it was, but this was back in ’93 or so.) I let players play whatever kind of characters they wanted, and we ended up with about a 50/50 split between heroes and villains. Those were some interesting sessions, but it ended up being train wreck. If I had limited the players to all being on the same side it probably would have been somewhat manageable, but even then, a villains campaign would be more challenging.

      I think the problem is that heroes can afford to be somewhat reactive, solving problems the GM throws at them. However, if the players are actively plotting their own mischief, they would probably need to cooperative with the GM to plan that outside of the game session, since the GM tends to know more about the game world then players do. I could see the potential for a campaign where the player/villains work with the GM to flesh out an evil plot, then the GM does some planning of things that could go wrong. Then the game session is the players trying to overcome the situations that didn’t go according to plan.

      I’d be curious to hear from any Earthdawn players who have run a player/villain campaign. I’m sure it would be doable, but it would be a very different way of playing.

  • Eric Mansfield

    I kind of wish these episodes had been out before RPG Squad started our campaign. It would have helped the other guys a lot, as they’re coming in blind as newbies.

    • Yeah, in a way it would have been better to start with them, but it’s probably a good thing we didn’t…

      I figured that a crash course would have a little more shelf life to it (we hope). I also figured, correctly as it turns out, that our first several episodes would be the roughest. Lots of um’s and ah’s and bad microphone placement. I wanted to get those episodes out of the way first.

      Also, as it turned out, each Crash Course episode took about five times longer to produce than anything else we have done. It was good to be able to crank out some semi-conversational episodes early on.

      • Eric Mansfield

        The show definitely sounds quite good now, though! Your mics sound a bit smoother than mine now, even, I think.
        Why did they take 5x longer to make?

        • Just because I wanted to be as precise as possible, not just with what I said, but with the order that I introduced the topics.

          I try to have a logical flow to it in any episode, but if I botch some small details, experienced players can usually get the idea of it and be fine. But it may be more difficult for a brand new player to sort out if things are unclear.