Hello fellow Earthdawn enthusiasts! For the few of you bored enough to read this I hope you gain some insights into my thoughts about what makes a fun and engaging campaign. I will try going forward to give a director's commentary as it were about the adventures of the players and other assorted musing that I have about the setting and mechanics of the game. One of my players and friends, Brian, has been doing yeoman's work crafting a hand written journal which I have been uploading. I will try to give my insight into what were my intentions in designing the scenarios or where I thought the story might lead. So without further ado… Campaign Prep
First of all, I love Earthdawn. I've been playing since 1st Edition, and it seems like every 5 years or so either myself or a friend gets behind the screen and runs a game. Since most of my "core" players have played or are familiar enough with the system, when I get the itch, it is easy to scratch.
When I want to run a campaign I try to imagine it being built around themes as opposed to an overall story. While I have a "story" to tell, I feel if I keep with the themes then the story tends to write itself. There are many great themes within Earthdawn to explore, but I wanted the themes of Discovery, Healing, and Greatness to be the core. Discovery is about showing players, especially players that have played a LOT of games, something new yet keeping it couched in the familiar. It is a challenge that I relish as a GM. The concept of Healing (or Salvation if you will), gives the players built in motivation for their characters. Greatness is a fantastic personal motivation for every character because the setting and mechanics reward heroism and valor. Building one's legend is how characters advance in Earthdawn. Generally speaking, they are not motivated solely by coin or obligation, but for personal triumph.
The next step is determining a setting. I was conflicted about whether to start my campaign in the familiar yet well trod lands of Barsaive, or whether to start in a very different locale. I had a pretty cool idea running in my head about running a game where the players emerged from a Theran Outpost Citadel that would have been located along the coast of what would become North America. I would have had the Exploration Theme locked down! Everything would have been new to the players! Plus they would be playing the Therans, cut off from their Empire, and trying to thrive in a "new" world. The more I explored the idea, the more it became apparent how much "work" it would take on my end. I have enough experience that world building on the fly is something I am comfortable with, but the more you give, the more the players want until the cracks in your "world" start to show. Time is a commodity I do not have in abundance, so I decided to leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. The Travar sourcebook was released while I was mulling over what I wanted to do so I picked it up as a possibility. It fit in perfectly with what I wanted to do and as you will see later, leaves me enough wiggle room to world build as well. Why Travar? It is a great setting to tie various characters together. Trading houses and their politics are rife with plot hooks and the founding tournament means that Adepts and trainers are a fairly common sight. Being a wealthy city state allows for the characters easier access to equipment, research, and training as well.
The last thing I do as far as campaign prep is to create "templates" for my characters to choose from. I have done this in the past and have been very pleased with the results. Each template has a bit of information about the character's backstory, some relationships with both NPC's and PC's, and some basic motivations for them. I also make sure that the templates fit into the themes that I want. For example, the Wandering Dreamer template allows me to have a player driven to Discover what it is that afflicting them. The Champion Aspirant is on a personal quest for glory and achieving Greatness, and the Devout Scholar allows us to explore the theme of Healing. What I don't do is make them specific to race / discipline. The backgrounds are detailed enough to give the players enough window dressing to understand their place in the world but I want them to have the ownership of creating their characters and personalities.
The next post I have will discuss how I like to handle character creation.