Destiny of Legends: An Earthdawn 4th Ed Game

BLOG of a Gamemaster
Kicking things off

     In previous posts I shared my thoughts on some of the steps that I go through when crafting a new campaign. Now I want to impart some of my ideas on how you kick things off and get the players hooked on what the campaign is going to be about. I have already written before about the importance of giving the players some built in motivations for their characters and basic background information for them to frame their characters around. When we created the characters we used that session to establish the relationships they may have with one another and provide more detail about the setting and their individual backgrounds. I have definitely been guilty of "murder hobos meet in a tavern" in my earlier GM days and have fell back on the old "you are all from the same Kaer / Small Community" trope as well. This time I wanted things to be a bit more unique for each player, which provides its own challenge on why they would band together. I will cover that as well.

     I always recommend that whatever your first session consists of, it should be both grounded in the familiar yet with filled with enough twists to keep things fresh. I mentioned before that I wanted the campaign to revolve around 3 themes, and that the themes were tied to 3 of the "main" characters. For Novice characters there is only so much you can do to challenge the players, so a lot of what you want to do at first is develop the world and give them a mystery to solve. For some of your players you will be introducing them to they system and setting for the first time. For some you may only be introducing them to a new rule set. I already laid the groundwork that the various allies of the Player Characters can tie them all together. On this particular adventure I chose Amuze' and Jolon as the focal points because of their association with the Trading House Achura. Achura would have reason to seek out adepts and hire them, so I was able to introduce the others with the promise of silver and a chance to begin their adventuring. 

     The tried and true, albeit, familiar entry level method of fantasy adventuring is the Caravan Guard job. It's easy to grok for the players. It lets ANY person that has ever played a fantasy game go in with the expectation that SOMETHING will attack the caravan, allowing them to get familiar with the combat system. There is nothing wrong with this. It is a great entry level adventure idea and simple to execute. The problem is of course that if you have ever played an RPG in ANY form, you have done this before. I knew I had to twist it up a bit. I decided to bring the players very quickly into a mystery and some of the politics of Travar. The job they were being publicly sent on was to ensure that  caravan of trade goods would make it to the mining community of Kaer Blackrock and back. The real reason was to go and investigate the disappearance and attacks of other Achura caravans. I also let it be known that similar minerals mined from Blackrock were being traded by a rival of House Achura at prices that were undercutting them. I wanted to establish three ideas before I even sent the team on their first adventure.

1. This was going to by a mystery/investigation adventure. They were going to be integral to gathering information for House Achura about what may be happening to their caravans. 

2. By making this an Achuran operation, and having a character whose background was Achuran, I established a party leader. Leadership can evolve naturally, but by making someone responsible for "making the call" right off of the bat it tends to streamline the analysis paralysis that happens when a group does everything by consensus. 

3. I let slip a bit of info that sets up a potential enemy, this rival House to Achura may bear some responsibility for the misfortunes. It puts something on the radar for the players to at least inquire about on their travels. In my mind I know whether this is a Red Herring or if there is truth to this, but it gives the players some base line to start their investigation.

     With a goal to achieve, a decision maker in place, and a potential foe in mind, they are ready to set out and begin their adventures. In the next post I will discuss what I feel are appropriate challenges for 1st Circle characters and how I set up encounters and frame the adventure. 

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BLOG of a Gamemaster
Character Creation

One of the most entertaining sessions for any campaign is Session 0, character creation. I have players that probably created 3 characters on their own once I told them I was planning to run but I feel that a good character creation session sets the tone for your players on the themes of the campaign and establishes some of the starting relationships. Character creation has always been a fairly simple affair in Earthdawn, and thankfully they have kept that tradition in the 4th Edition. For this campaign I handled the character creation in "rounds".

In the previous post I mentioned that the I crafted "templates" that I wanted the players to play. I made a decision to give them certain background benefits based on the "template" they chose. More privileged characters born into wealth started with bonus knowledge skill ranks, better gear, and additional starting funds. The less privileged received more general skill ranks to show their more practical upbringing and experience in the world. After they record the bonuses that concludes Round 1.

After they told me what Race and Disciplines they were interested in playing I had them allocate their Attribute Points for round 2. After they had done that we did a quick "Background Scene" that focused on their early life and the defining moment that led them to choose their Discipline (or have it choose them).  

Round 3 was where the players assigned their starting Talent Ranks. During  this round we role played their initiation into their Disciplines and covered how they met some of the Allies and Antagonists. 

The final round had them assign their Skill Ranks. Even though I gave the players bonus ranks to assign, I still stuck to the rule of having no more than 3 ranks at creation. I wanted to ensure that there was some breadth to their abilities as well as depth. After equipping their characters they were ready to step into adventure. 

Next Post: Starting off an adventure for 1st Circle Characters.

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BLOG of a Gamemaster
Musings of a GM starting a new campaign.

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.

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