Brainstorming a campaign concept

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
Post Reply
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 5:05 pm

Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Coinneach » Thu Nov 01, 2018 5:33 pm

Hi all,
I am returning to gamemastering Earthdawn after twenty years. I ran a few Earthdawn campaigns in the '93-'97 timeframe but haven't touched it since. I've been trying to get caught up on all the material that came out after I stopped collecting and I find that I have a wide range of possibilities regarding the theme and setting of my nascent campaign. I am writing here to seek some advice. Here's what I've got so far:
  • PCs are crew of an airship
  • said airship and her crew are agents of the Theran Empire
  • In a period of growing unrest following Theran defeat at Sky Point, the Therans need teams of highly mobile troubleshooters
  • The PCs are one such team, traveling with a cover story as an independent airship but also a magical seal of authority, should the need arise to present credentials to local Theran authorities.
My question to those of you who have are familiar with all the source material that's been published. Is there enough material out there describing the wider world of Earthdawn that I won't have to write reams and reams of my own material? I know there is the Thera sourcebook and I saw that there are a couple books on a Far East setting.

The reason I'm going to a Theran agent game is that once we'd decided, as a group, that we wanted to do an airship crew, it didn't really make any sense to do a Barsaive-only game. When the PCs can travel hundreds of miles per day, you kind of have to broaden the scope of the game world.

I also intend to include the moral and ethical ambiguity around being agents of Thera. I picture it as no different than if I were to run a game in historical Rome. I'm going to dial back the mustache-twirling villainy that the Barsaive-centric voice of the published game material highlights, but I'm not going to turn them into a force for good in the world either.

Anyway, I'd welcome thoughts regarding the feasibility of this campaign concept and any guidance regarding sources I may have missed that could help me.

Tattered Rags
Posts: 359
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:04 am

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Tattered Rags » Thu Nov 01, 2018 6:30 pm

Thera has no reason to love Iopos. Being agents attempting to end their influence technically helps Throal, but now they have to balance between stopping Iopos without tipping things towards Throal.

And, of course, any campaign set around Iopos brings out Dragons. Flying. Around their airship. Their Theran airship.

Then there is the upcoming Elven Nations sourcebook. If I have my geography right, that puts things further north?
Adventure I'm running:
Under the Stars

Adventure GM post-mortem:
Under the Stars Postmortem

Posts: 403
Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:43 pm
Location: Right behind you

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Bonhumm » Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:37 am

Reading the book on Thera will definitely be a must then. As for what you said about the books on the Far East, the 3rd Edition Cathay books are not considered canon by FASA.

I agree with Rags that Iopos would be a good idea. With Throal currently in turmoil and closing itself up to the rest of Barsaive, Iopos might seems more of a threat to Thera at the moment, especially post Jerris-annexation. AND there is a Iopos resource book incoming (I think) in Q1 or Q2 2019.

You'll have to be careful about the size of the airship. Too small = the entire team needs to be competent in air sailing cuz there is no space for NPC crewmen BUT too big = too many NPC crewmen (loyal to Thera) could put too much pressure on the team if/when they feel the need to make a more 'moral' decision that counters their employers orders. Also, they might try to fix all their problems with fire cannon arguments (it works surprisingly well).

The experience of the players with Earthdawn would have to be taken into account too. If they know next to nothing about the universe, sending them to the 4 corners of the Empire would seriously slow down their immersion since they would have no time to 'learn' and get used to the nature and ways of wherever they currently are.

Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 5:02 pm

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by LouP » Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:49 pm


I think the Theran Empire book is an ideal fit for this campaign. Given the unrest in Barsaive, your PCs could venture to other parts of the Theran Empire to troubleshoot other potential uprisings.

I think the Therans consider Barsaive a lost cause in the short term, and would instead focus their energy on shoring up the rest of the empire and rebuilding their forces so they can, one day, return to Barsaive and reclaim it (at least that was how we were going to treat things following BaW).

Take Care!

Lou Prosperi

Posts: 911
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:44 pm

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Slimcreeper » Fri Nov 02, 2018 9:09 pm

I think it sounds like a lot of fun. My thoughts are to treat the ship as a setting itself. Think about Star Trek!

Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 5:05 pm

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Coinneach » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:11 pm

Sorry for the late reply; I thought I had reply notifications set up for this post.

Firstly, thanks for the replies and thoughts.

-Great points on Iopos. Lots of intrigue there. Could be home to a long (or recurring) story arc.

-re: slowing down immersion
It's true that none of the players has much knowledge of Earthdawn, though they are veteran Shadowrun players. However, given the style of campaign I'm proposing, I wonder if that isn't as much benefit as hindrance. For one thing, they won't have as much built-in bias against Thera, having never played Earthdawn before. I'm more worried about game concepts like Threads and Naming than I am about immersion into a particular place. I think I can counter the problem of place immersion by not having them traveling constantly. I can divide the overall campaign into story arcs that require that they stay in a particular region for a while. That will let me give them enough local flavor to give them some immersion.

re: ship size
This is a good point. I'd been thinking of keeping the ship pretty small but I haven't reviewed the air sailing rules. Maybe I can get away with one or two PC sailors and a handful of NPC crew. I certainly don't want the PCs to be flying around in a large, conspicuous ship.

re: solving all their problems with "the last argument of kings"
I recently ran an airship-based steampunk game (sense a pattern here?) and the fact that they were in a relatively lightly armed airship kept them from getting up to too many shenanigans. If I need to tweak the rarity of airships in my version of Earthdawn to keep them humble, I can easily do that. Also, dragons.

So, my to-do is to read up on Iopos, read the Thera sourcebook, and read up on the actual air sailing mechanics. Thanks again for the replies!

Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:32 am
Location: Australia

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Taffy » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:08 pm

In regards to the airship and crewing, you could always rule that each player starts with two ranks in airship sailing skill as a freebee to represent their initial training (or recruiting) as a crack theran air squad.
Melbourne, Australia

Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:16 am

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by zoidberg » Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:19 am

It's clear to me now! I don't know what this all is about. One thing I know for sure, I want to be an outstanding player? That's why I want to find led jump rope review. There are many options anyways.
Last edited by zoidberg on Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Hey pal, do you want to talk? What do you think about virtual gaming? You know, it's pretty simple. I can play at for free. Isn't it cool?

User avatar
Posts: 151
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 8:20 am
Location: Paris, France

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Marzhin » Sun Dec 23, 2018 10:29 am

Bonhumm wrote:
Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:37 am
Reading the book on Thera will definitely be a must then. As for what you said about the books on the Far East, the 3rd Edition Cathay books are not considered canon by FASA.
As far as I know, FASA has never said that the Cathay books were not canon, just that there were no plans to revisit that area. Here's a quote by Josh about it:
Mataxes wrote:
Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:42 pm
The Cathay books are okay. I don't have any plans to revisit the area, or tie it into current Barsaivian events that much. Nothing in ED4 supersedes or contradicts anything in them (as far as I know -- I haven't done a deep dive on those books at all).
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
(Groucho Marx)

Posts: 911
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:44 pm

Re: Brainstorming a campaign concept

Post by Slimcreeper » Sun Dec 23, 2018 1:59 pm

your steampunk with an airship wasn't 1879, was it? If so, we'd love to hear about the adventures further down the forums!

Also, if you haven't played 1879, check out the free adventure ( ... ts_id=1155). It's super cool.

*edit: by we, I mean I. Can't speak for anyone else, but I'd like company in the 1879 forums <grin>

Post Reply