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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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:52 am

On that latter point, an analogy might be helpful since I seem to be thinking about things as matters of significance TO AN ADEPT'S LEGEND whereas you seem to be thinking in terms of significance TO THE WORLD.

Let's take any competitive sport. Maybe karate.

As someone trains in karate, the advance in belts (Circles). As the adavance, they compete (challenges). They win rural, then city, then county, then state, then region, then country, then world champion.

All of these are "meaningful" in the sense of the sport (world). However, they're only significant to the individual (legend) when they achieve the next tier up or maybe a second or third at their current tier. An 8th Level black belt (Master) could go compete in and win a rural championship. It still has the same meaning it did before in the sport (world) sense. But it is a meaningless/insignificant footnote for the individual (legend).

My perspective is that High-Circle play really needs to focus on those high tier competitions- country and world competitions. An individual may still need to qualify by winning lower competitions, but it isn't noteworthy among the dozens of other times he did the same thing. However, those high tier competitions are few and far between. It's not enough to say that this individual is now world champion so s/he will have to content himself with competing in the more numerous rural/county competitions.

Telarus
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Telarus » Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:10 am

I don't think it's splitting hairs. Falling into the line of thinking that a "2nd Circle Challenge" is worth a "2nd Circle Legend Award" is a trap in thinking, that was Lys' whole point. That is _specifically not_ how the current edition was designed (but did influence previous editions where a Bog Gob is always worth 100 LP). Challenges for high-circle play should involve all of the world, not just the "high circle challenges", but should ramp up the complexity of the situation. This is similar to the distinction between old-school D&D "something from random a lower dungeon level can appear from a wandering monster roll so be prepared", and the new-school D&D "the players experience X number of carefully balanced encounters of the appropriate challenge rating before resting".

High circle play is about large conflicts, higher stakes, etc, but still involve the whole spectrum of powers, creatures, spirits, etc. Similarly, a low challenge rating Horror who stays hidden, is crafty, and REALLY fucks with the players until they figure out what is happening is worth an appropriate Goal and/or Obstacle Legend Award for the _Player's Circle_, even if no-one took enough damage to fall unconscious. Similarly, with mobs of lower circle opponents, don't try to track LP for each one killed. See what kind of challenge it presented to the players and then give an appropriate LP award based on how they did/ how much of their resources you expended.

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The Undying
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:18 am

Again, debating when to award LP and how much was really not my intent here. I sincerely regret broaching that topic in my initial post, even though it was beside the point and the questions.

In hopes of not perpetuating it, I just wanted to acknowledge your entry, Tel. Yes, there are recommendations for when and how to award LP. Yes, the GMG provides guidance on how to frame an adventure to ensure that there are sufficient opportunity of relevant challenge/significance to award LP in line with those recommendations. Yes, that's all good information. However, people will disagree on what constitutes threshold to achieve each of those award markers and whether players should be given LP at any point outside of that framework and for what reasons.

AAAAALLLL of that aside, I'd really like to hear about people's experiences with creating or running High-Circle adventures. Talk about what constitutes relevant challenge/significance is great as that is part of the heart of the matter:
  • how fertile is this space
  • how easy is it to develop meaningful custom adventures
  • how much published content is there
  • how difficult is it to allow multiple avenues of approach given the extremely varied capabilities and relative strengths of players at these Circles
  • is combat painful to get right given the extremely varied strengths and weaknesses of players at these Circles
  • does it all feel too constricting or difficult past a certain Circle
  • etc.
Whether the play group gets full LP, partial LP, or no LP for any intervening 'encounters' (be they combat or not) other than the framework-defined markers doesn't affect anything.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Slimcreeper » Wed Mar 15, 2017 11:33 am

I've never gotten a game to high levels. Actually, more than content - which I think FASA Games is super good at - I'd rather see a big marketing push. Brand awareness, GM training, sales, etc. Boring stuff that would make it easier for me to find people to play with. I've started a business (Good Day Studio), a visual arts teaching studio, and I know how tedious that side is, but it is super important. Think about how much work goes into making a book, between everyone who writes, draws, and edits: that's how much work marketing is.

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Flowswithdrek
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Flowswithdrek » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:19 pm

I dont think any of my group ever got beyond 5th or 6th Circle. The thing that held progression back in our case is the increasing knowledge of all the new talents. My group generaly needs a bit of hand holding and thats an ever increasing burden on the GM. So when a campaigm ends, often the characters go into retirement.

So yeah, while i will get the companion for the intetest factor. I probably wont use much of the higher circle material.

As an adventure writer I think it might take a bit more thought to write higher circle adventures but shouldnt be impossible. Might be worth seeing what elements folks think higher circle adventures require?

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:52 am

I have been playing on and off since 1st edition came out, and have ether played in or GMed maybe 5 or 6 campaigns.
They have all been low level.
The longest is my current campaign which is almost 18 months old now and the characters are just approaching 6th circle. The game is online on roll20, and we have huge player retention problems. So many players ask to join 20 minutes before a scheduled session, play once (with a pregen) and then we never hear from them again. The regular players and I discussed restarting the campaign at first circle in the hope that it would be easier to retain players if they only had to figure out a first circle character.
I would really love to continue the current campaign, as I would like to GM a journeyman campaign. So once again, this is the first time I have gotten into the Journeyman stuff, let alone warden or master.
So the only interest I have in the high level stuff is in deep background. So far the PCs in my campaign have rarely even met anybody higher than a journeyman, but it is nice for me to have an idea of what such characters can do.

BRW
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by BRW » Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:34 pm

I think that grouping together two questions: "do you think it's good that there is high-level stuff in the books"? and "have you actually had a high-level campaign"? is a bit misleading. There is a bunch a stuff you use rarely as a player, maybe more often as a GM, but in general, it's good to know it's there. How often do you actually introduce old dragons to your play? Still, admittedly, Earthdawn would be something significantly else without them. And if the book would say: there are 15 circles of disciplines but we will describe only first 8, since you won't use anything else anyway would be, to my taste, deeply dissatisfying.

This should be taken with more than a grain of salt, since I have never actually played Earthdawn and acquired books only recently. I have solid experience in other roleplaying systems though. What made me go into Earthdawn is exactly that it presents a very high fantasy setting in a way which does not seem silly setting-wise, but rather make the classical tropes of heroic fantasy shine. If this stuff were cut down, I would probably never bother to choose this system in the first place. Even if in my games I won't actually use any of high-tier material, I'm really pleased it is there.

ragbasti
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by ragbasti » Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:55 pm

I don't really want to get into the overall discussion here but wanted to add my own eperience based on the OP.

To set the baseline:
I have been playing ED 2 regularly with the same group for well over 6 years now. We were basically the same group with some characters actually existing for the entire time, some players changing but usually starting their new characters where the old one left off LP-wise. We'd play around once a month, and maybe took a longer break (up to 3 months) two or three times during all these years. We did value roleplaying but when it came down to it the dice would decide. So there was no such thing as "playing over" difficulties. Our chars had to have the respective talent/skill or just role the base attribute and hope for the stars to align.
We've only recently started a new group now based on ED4 because the power level of the characters had basically trivialised anything that wasn't strictly "epic" in nature.

Our average circle was late circle 6-7 with a second descipline around 4 or 5.
During all this time we were using the values more or less by the books and our GM was constantly aiming to keep it challenging.
We were not a group of min-maxers but the overall power level of the characters was up there I'd say. Yet, unless our GM presented us with Horrors or particularly rare high circle adepts, we were basically always able to handle the threats directly.

The higher circles (10+) were always something that was seen as something that was already out of the ordinary. Personally, I still think they are, even in ED4. Yet, we were still able to have very epic campaigns.
Seeing how much power a character gains every circle and how they compare to mundane threats, any adept beyond circle 5 is what I would consider hero material.
Overall, ED offers a lot of content for those circles under 10, basically anything can be achieved at this power level if the group is (what I would consider) resonable.
Of course Dragon Hunting or the complete healing of the scourge or (insert rediculously epic encounters) does not fall into this realm but I don't think that deminishes low/mid level content. And if anything I would agree that high circle content seems impractical.

The more powerful a group gets the less there is to do. Simply for the lack of information on those threats that require warden or higher characters, or due to the simple fact that even a group of high level Adepts would probably still fail against the greatest of threats presented to us in the material if the GM really plays them to their fullest potential.

Personally, I think what these high circles and legends should be seen as is inspiration. Something to work towards that is not achievable. Everybody wants to BECOME a legend. Just being one ultimately isn't all that interesting.

TLDR:
I played low/mid circle for years, with the same group of characters
Anything that a single group of characters can reasonaby achieve falls under circle 10
I agree, high circle content is impractical, yet inspiring.

Telarus
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by Telarus » Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:10 am

I GM'd a group through 1st & 2nd edition up to around 11th-12th Circle. The core of it was the epic adventure path: Infected -> Shattered Pattern -> Blades -> Prelude to War -> Barsaive at War... with various home-made stuff interspersed through it all.


It did start to break down at 9+ Circle, but we had also shifted to 2nd Ed around 7-8th Circle and there were problems in the higher circle stuff in 2nd (IMO). Circle 8+ stuff can really get interesting, but I do agree that it can seem impractical (which is a cry for more advice for that kind of play).

Some of the things my players did at higher Circles (8+) and had an Airship to get around and were dealing with the Dragon level politics leading up to Prelude to War. (Spoilers minimized, mostly focusing on the player initiated plot arcs.)

Elf Warrior (who started a romantic relationship with Maloniel from Infected, who I had made an elf maiden):
- Wrestled a leviathan to submission and won a set of Named Legendary blades (the shorter of which acted like Scorpion's chain-whip, which saved him from falling off the airship many a time). Various adventures (some done as "blue-book" solo play) spent researching the Legend of the blades.
- Cleared a "hex" in the Throalic Mountains, and was awarded it as his land after various favors from the crown (Shattered Pattern stuff). Became a passion-honest "landed Lord" with his Lady.
- Hired as many elven architects from Bartertown and various outlying communities as he could to cover "his valley" with elven "blends so well with nature you can almost overlook them" towers and small fortifications on the ridges, passes, and near important places like fresh water.
- Trained up a Warrior Order, using as much pre-scourge elf martial arts as he was able to recover from various kaers (& politics at the edge of the Blood Wood). Non-adepts welcome!
- Repulsed major raids and scorcher incursions while this was being setup. Various tribal politics to get his people a safe place and building ties to the nearby dwarf/human/orc towns. Started inviting all other elves who didn't want to put up with Alachia's bullshit to come and live an "authentic" elf life. Dealt with the bad blood that stirred up and ousted multiple of Alachia's "Songbirds" and a couple of Assassins from his community (it helps when your Lady is a High Circle Thief, low Circle Illusionist).
- Discovered and suffered from Cave Crabs raiding all their shit from the highlands above the valley. Mapped out the cave-system with the help of another player and bunch of his Order (mid circle adepts and lots of non-adpets). Discovered he had a Cave Crab breeding ground in a huge underground lake above his valley. Leveraged this into proving Cave Crab meat to all the dragons the party was semi-friendly with, earning HUGE gold-stars from all of them. These favors were called upon during Barsaive at War.
- Manages to get the attention of Thystonious (personal appearance in public, think Eris at the end of Sinbad and the Seven Seas) after some major skirmish action during the lead-up to Prelude to War, and then he convinces the Air Sailor Captain to fly over the enemy lines performing a war-dance on the ship's railing (gods, THE EXPLODING DICE). Oh, as this arc involved some of Blades, this was also a fight over the Shrine housing the remains of the original ork warriors that owned the Blades with both Therans and the forces of Cara Fahd wanting to snatch the players and everything they had pulled out of the tomb.


Human Airsailor, Captain of their Airship:
- Improved relations with the more open Trollmoots. Was taught shipbuilding, started a small shipyard in Throal & one in the elf's valley. Hired a bunch of specialists for the shipyard. Built her own ship & trained up/hired the best crew she could find from various parts of Barsaive (the crew was super abstracted as the 1st/2nd Ed Ship rules really leaned that way).
- Raised a Griffin familiar from a cub & invested enough magic that it wouldn't get splatted by high level play. Took up a few Circle in Cavalryman (woman?) to further advance her as a Named animal companion.
- Crafted her own Legendary Treasure, a spear made of orichalcum laced ironwood tipped by the worked tusk of a "Crystal Boar". Bound a Named spirit to it by acquiring Pattern Items, some Thread Magic and some on-the-fly Test-of-Wills. After forcibly binding it, convincing it that she had it's best interest in mind by protecting and cleansing the holy high places in the Twighlight and Throal Mountains.
- CRAZY shit during the 2nd Battle of Sky-Point. Inverting her ship to drop the marines (who aren't strapped in like the crew) onto enemy vessels. Direct attacks on ships wile her ship was dealing with other targets, etc. I tried to get creative, but that's where the existing mechanics weren't helping me out.

I hope this is inspirational. Let's talk about what kind of advice we all would like to see for such "High Circle Campaign Play". :D

Edit:: Oh, one more thing that jumped out at me from my memories. At this point, the preferred method of the Assassins (from the Castle of Assassins in the Mist Swamps) to first engage with the party was to throw an orichalcum orb with a bound and very angry earth or fire spirit at them which was set to release upon contact with earth or wood. Preferably from like, the next rooftop while the party takes ranged and spell attacks, and then sniping at them from cover while they deal with it. I sincerely apologize to any group that now has to suffer from this tactic.

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The Undying
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing

Post by The Undying » Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:38 am

BRW wrote:
Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:34 pm
I think that grouping together two questions: "do you think it's good that there is high-level stuff in the books"? and "have you actually had a high-level campaign"? is a bit misleading.
I could be missing it, but I don't believe anyone has asked "do you think it's good that there is high-level stuff in the books?" From my posts, I've asked how relevant it is. "Good" and "relevant" are very different. More content is pretty much always "good," with the exception that it means that designers are focusing attention on product A rather than product B. "Relevance" is debatable, which is why I started the thread.
ragbasti wrote:
Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:55 pm
The more powerful a group gets the less there is to do. Simply for the lack of information on those threats that require warden or higher characters, or due to the simple fact that even a group of high level Adepts would probably still fail against the greatest of threats presented to us in the material if the GM really plays them to their fullest potential.

Personally, I think what these high circles and legends should be seen as is inspiration. Something to work towards that is not achievable. Everybody wants to BECOME a legend. Just being one ultimately isn't all that interesting.
Thanks for the lengthy input, ragbasti. I'm curious - was there a primary motivation behind restarting at Circle 1 with new characters for ED4 versus doing a conversion to ED4? There is some weirdness as Talents appear/disappear, Talents increase/decrease in relevance/value with rule/text changes, etc, but it was workable. It just seems like kind of an interesting point if the edition change served as a 'good excuse' to start from the beginning with a new set of Adepts versus continuing pressing towards High-Circle content where the simplicity and availability dries up. At least for our GM, much of our content is old published stuff with smatterings of original content, but that seems to only work for Low- to Mid-Circle.
Telarus wrote:
Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:10 am
It did start to break down at 9+ Circle, but we had also shifted to 2nd Ed around 7-8th Circle and there were problems in the higher circle stuff in 2nd (IMO). Circle 8+ stuff can really get interesting, but I do agree that it can seem impractical (which is a cry for more advice for that kind of play).

...

I hope this is inspirational. Let's talk about what kind of advice we all would like to see for such "High Circle Campaign Play". :D
I definitely agree that the Circle 8+ stuff can get really interesting. I guess my concern is kind of two-fold. First is level of effort - developing the first idea of something warranting their Circle involvement, fleshing out the details, making it sufficiently challenging, and giving each character a chance to shine. This level of epicness just feels HARD, at least in comparison to the Circles below it. Your call to arms, as it were, is great - community-develop seeds for High-Circle Play is a great thing, whether it's just that fragment of an idea or something more developed (full on shard or most of the meat of a campaign) - and I in no way want to dissuade that.

My second concern is just that much of Barsaive fades into the background. Random encounters are pretty much a non-thing. Much of the perils of travels through the world, other than really super dangerous places (e.g., Badlands, Wastes), have little to no impact anymore, just hassles or time delays. The world could start to feel like more of an IMPEDIMENT to doing all the epic things. Granting, for truly roleplay heavy groups, I don't see this happening, but for groups that want to hussle from A to B, there's really not much to put between them and their waypoints to draw them into other subplots, etc.

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