Much Ado About Nothing

Discussion on playing Earthdawn. Experiences, stories, and questions related to being a player.
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The Undying
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Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:11 pm

Earthdawn has been around for quite a while. Yeah, it's been through many iterations, but a lot of it is fundamentally unchanged. So, an interesting question for the old hands on here: how relevant IS High-Circle content? Or, asked differently, how successful has your Hugh Circle play experience been?

It's more or less unavoidable: as diversity sets in among the Disciplines, individual Option Talent selection between Adepts, and the Thread items unique to each Adept, the idea of "balance" in the sense of "fairness" goes out the window, and combat gets a bit whackadoo (lumbering tank enemies that ignore everyone but the player tank accompanying glass cannon casters that ignore everyone but the player caster etc). The level of story involved also becomes harder to craft: an Adept that saves a random village from a small group of skirmish should still only get a few hundred LP (LEGEND points) regardless of their Circle, whereas an Adept that managed to save the city of Throal from the machinations of a Great Dragon should get multiple tens of thousands of LP regardless of their Circle.

So, while I think the Companion material on High-Circle stuff is interesting from a THOUGHT level, it also seems a bit impractical. I actually like to see a "Low Circle Companion" - something that expands this "safer" play space with interesting stuff that is far more likely to impact the average Earthdawn table.

Lys
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Lys » Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:05 am

The Undying wrote:
Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:11 pm
An Adept that saves a random village from a small group of skirmish should still only get a few hundred LP (LEGEND points) regardless of their Circle, whereas an Adept that managed to save the city of Throal from the machinations of a Great Dragon should get multiple tens of thousands of LP regardless of their Circle.
According to the rules Legend Awards are determined by the Adept's Circle. How impressive the deed was only has bearing on whether it will be a high, low, or average award for that Circle.

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The Undying
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:57 am

I would argue that the intent is "low / medium / high for the target circle" and not "low / medium / high for the player Circle." It's kind of splitting hairs, tho: a GM for a High-Circle game is likely not going to pit the players against simple challenges (I.e., low Circle adventures) and vice versa. In the case of my example with Wardens/Masters protecting a village from simple skirmishers, you have a choice as a GM: (1) raise the adversary level to appropriate challenge, in which case how have these skirmishers not completely dominated this area without the incredibly rare Warden/Master Adept randomly able to help, or (2) use the encounter only as a time diversion when time is of the essence ("villagers see you coming and plead for aide - you can help, which will take a few days, but that means you'll be later getting to your destination, or you can avoid them, which will be a bit of a blemish of your legend") and just skip the encounter entirely (High-Circle Adepts versus a handful of Novice skirmishers really isn't even worth playing out ). And this highlights part of the problem: run of the mill chance encounters become pretty trivial for High-Circle Adepts unless the GM is suddenly saying that world-shaping adversaries are now just roaming Barsaive yet villages have not attempted to retreat to their kaers once more given that this would be pretty much Scourge Two-point-O.

BRW
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by BRW » Mon Mar 13, 2017 5:06 pm

I think one important thing to keep in mind is that high-tier stuff is crucially used by the GM, even if players will not ever reach those tiers.

E.g. the plot may require introducing some potent wizard. He is not intended as a direct challenge to players, but nevertheless they can try to get in some conflict with that NPC, not necessarily a fight. Then it is important to GM to figure out what the other guy can do. It is very likely that characters interact with such powerful characters when still relatively inexperienced.

Of course, the abilities of the high-tier NPC may be always hand-waved. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. I would say that generally it works nice when the whole system supports gritty stories where all characters are rather mundane or, more precisely, when there is no overwhelming difference between the average player character and the best possible player character available in the given world (say, Eclipse Phase, old Call of Cthulhu, pure NWoD with no supernatural PC's). Then, you can basically just narrate what the NPC can do, since you know that your players won't get there anyway, so you need not care about how to describe it system-wise.

On the other hand, in ultra-high fantasy world of Earthdawn you expect that there be the whole continuum of possible "tiers" and the difference between the guys on two end of the spectrum can be enormous. Moreover, the convention suggests that one in principle should be able to climb up to the very end of the scale.

So, if GM were to introduce a super-potent wizard whose power are not supported by the rules in any way, then in high-fantasy world this would be just lame. "She is so powerful she can move the sun but let's not worry how is it exactly covered by the mechanics, because you won't get there anyway." Seriously? In Earthdawn which is all about building the great legend?

As to your challenge worry: as you have already noted, in high-tier play one should never go with just high-tier opponents threatening a village. This would be kind of video-gamish. Of course this should be great world-changing stories, thwarting plans of named Horrors and Theran commanders, rediscovering thousand-year old curses etc.

Of course, a group of bandits in some obscure village can be introduced but not as a meaningful challenge. Rather as an opportunity to let the players enjoy their character's power for a moment. Like, for this scene in a movie, when the old, inconspicuous old guy walks into the bandit's den and says "leave the girl."

Telarus
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Telarus » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:40 am

The 5th-6th Circle party of 8 adepts meets a elite team of four 9-10th Circle adepts while on a Kaer crawl from an unknown faction of Barsaive. Those aren't "combat opponents", that's another faction's agents - so make with the diplomacy and hope they aren't after the same stuff you are here for. :D

Lys
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Lys » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:20 am

The Undying wrote:
Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:57 am
I would argue that the intent is "low / medium / high for the target circle" and not "low / medium / high for the player Circle."
From Earthdawn First Edition, "Legend Awards, a number of Legend Points determined by the character’s Circle. [...] Based on a character’s Circle, a single Legend Award should award a number of Legend Points that falls within the range given in the Legend Award column. For example, a Second Circle character should always receive between 75 and 100 Legend Points per Legend Award."

The wording couldn't be clearer, and has remained basically unchanged since. You get Legend points based on your circle whether you're beating up bandits or dragons.
It's kind of splitting hairs, tho: a GM for a High-Circle game is likely not going to pit the players against simple challenges (I.e., low Circle adventures) and vice versa. [...]And this highlights part of the problem: run of the mill chance encounters become pretty trivial for High-Circle Adepts unless the GM is suddenly saying that world-shaping adversaries are now just roaming Barsaive yet villages have not attempted to retreat to their kaers once more given that this would be pretty much Scourge Two-point-O.
If the world is to be internally consistent then players can't always be faced with Circle appropriate encounters. Novice Adepts are likely to come up against opponents that are simply beyond them, forcing them to call upon stronger parties to deal with the problem. Similarly Master Adepts will find little to challenge them. This is not a problem, this is how the game is meant to work. The type of play you engage in at high circles is not intended to be the same type of play you engage in at low circles. You don't have run of the mill encounters at high circles. Either you simply destroy weaker opponents than you, or you deal with Great Dragons, Named Horrors, and other high circle Adepts. If the game had a decent mass combat system, you could also potentially face off against nations and armies, but it does not.

Telarus
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Telarus » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:25 am

(Not yet, he he.)

As a GM, if the goal was to protect the village and the party accomplished that, they get the Session Goal Legend Award. If it was easy, they get the low end of the Legend Award. If it was so easy that the bandits were not actually a Challenge, then no Conflict/Obstacle Legend Award, so sorry.

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The Undying
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:32 am

Lys wrote:
Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:20 am
The Undying wrote:
Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:57 am
I would argue that the intent is "low / medium / high for the target circle" and not "low / medium / high for the player Circle."
From Earthdawn First Edition, "Legend Awards, a number of Legend Points determined by the character’s Circle. [...] Based on a character’s Circle, a single Legend Award should award a number of Legend Points that falls within the range given in the Legend Award column. For example, a Second Circle character should always receive between 75 and 100 Legend Points per Legend Award."

The wording couldn't be clearer, and has remained basically unchanged since. You get Legend points based on your circle whether you're beating up bandits or dragons.
This:
Telarus wrote:
Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:25 am
As a GM, if the goal was to protect the village and the party accomplished that, they get the Session Goal Legend Award. If it was easy, they get the low end of the Legend Award. If it was so easy that the bandits were not actually a Challenge, then no Conflict/Obstacle Legend Award, so sorry.
Basically, Lys, you're backing yourself into a corner if you say that putting on one's breeches in the morning (it's a challenge!) nets a Warden 100,000s of LP "because it's on the low end of the range." Something had to be a CHALLENGE, and not everything is a CHALLENGE. If some Wardens help address some podunk village's problem, a GM might be interested in throwing them a bone for LP, but to say that swatting some flies is a CHALLENGE, let alone something worth 100,000s of LP, is an untenable stretch for me. I completely disagree with the notion that Warden Adepts can ever reach Master simply by kicking over ant hills - they need to be dealing with meaningful --CHALLENGE -- like Great Dragons, Great Name Horrors, high-level involvement in wars between nations, etc.

Lys
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Lys » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:55 am

The matter of the size of the Legend Award is different from the matter of whether to give a Legend Award in the first place. You argued that the size Legend Awards are determined by the Adept's deeds, they are not, they are determined by the Adept's Circle. The GM is however free to say that accomplishing a certain goal or challenge was too trivial to award anything. However if an a Legend Award is going to be given, then it should be within the range appropriate for the circle. This is also covered by the rules. Adepts accomplish meaningful goals get Legend for it, the range of that Legend is determined by their circle, and the specific place within that range is determined by how challenging the deed was. You don't get a few hundred LP for saving a village from a small group of skirmishers, you get a few hundred LP because you're 3rd Circle Adepts and the GM felt that you did something award worthy.

The reason it works like this is that it spares you from having to assign a Circle difficulty to every challenge. Is persuading Throal to go to war against Iopos a 5th Circle challenge? 8th? 12th? It doesn't matter, what matters is that doing so was a meaningful accomplishment, at which point you give the players an award appropriate to their circle. It's simple and straightforward.

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The Undying
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:49 am

This is, again, splitting hairs. You're trying to say that LP is determined by Circle while at the exact same time acknowledging that the recommended LP range for each circle has a high/medium/low. What justifies high/medium/low? Difficulty is one, but SIGNIFICANCE is another. So my point about award based on significance is entirely valid. You're just trying to balance on a razor edge where you get to quote the text while splitting it to suit your needs.

All of this is further INCREDIBLY beside the point of this thread. My question was about High-Circle play, and you latched into a minutia about whether LP award should be performed as the individuals GM feels best or if it should be wedged into a *SUGGESTED* banding.

I would very much love to hear your experience and the experience of others in crafting High-Circle play - has your table actually reached it? How difficult is it to come up with High-Circle adventures? How success has it all been, especially from areas where "balance" (esp combat) would be considered? If you had it to do over again, would you slow down the advancement to spend more time when random encounters and travel were more treacherous?

These are the matters of this thread. Whether a GM believes that a Circle 1 Adept that saves the king of Throal should get more than the "high" LP number of whether a Circle 10 that kicks a Novice squire in the face should get less than the "low" LP number is not the matter.

Your point about challenge rating and meaningfulness, though, I do think has some applicability. First, I'd say your wrong - things DO have an inherent challenge rating. It's how GMs determine if a particular adventure is appropriate for their play ground. A GM pushing their Novice table into a Master adventure is going to have a hard time. The point about meaningfulness applies in the opposite direction. It's meaningful when a trainee flips their instructor on his back - "this guy shows promise" (legend grows). It's not meaningful when the now-Master Adept goes back to see his retired instructor and flips him on his back - "yep, expected that" (no legend change). "Meaningful" isn't so much important as "significance" in many cases. Which is why it's hard to craft "meaningful" and "significant" High-Circle content. When a Novice saves a town, it's a big deal, it grows his legend. When a Master saves a town, it is so small in significant compared to all the numerous similar or greater accomplishments that it does help grow his legend but not in any truly impactful way. Whether a GM says "yeah, here's the value of doing that, a few thousand LP, don't spend it all in one place" or says "well, that wasn't challenging, so no LP" is kind of beside the point.

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