Editors Note: This blog entry is brought to us by Tom LaPorta, one of the minds behind the recently released character sheet and Compendia for the Foundry VTT. With the imminent release of the Gamemaster Guide Compendia, we invited him to provide his thoughts on this tool.
Hello, Barsaivians. I wanted to take a moment to formally announce the first release of the complete Earthdawn core rules on virtual tabletop (Foundry). For the first time ever, officially licensed Talents, Skills, Spells, Creatures and more are available to make your online games as exciting and feature-packed as your home games in the world of Earthdawn have been.
Like many TTRPG fans, I first started out in the new world of online gaming when the pandemic really took hold in March of 2020. I had no idea how long my game (50 Fathoms at the time) would be online, but I knew that I wanted to really master the available tools to present the best game that I could. The very first time I saw Foundry, I fell in love with it. I’d done a little bit of sheet development in other VTT’s, and they always felt partially baked to me (I specifically left one platform because I hated the way it scaled handouts).
I chose Foundry to develop Earthdawn because it’s my Virtual Tabletop of choice. I like its open architecture, the powerful automation capabilities, the supportive community, and the little bells and whistles. It makes a campaign a lot easier to run when your players have access to a high-quality, zoomable world map with pins showing points of interest at their fingertips. Foundry doesn’t hold any features back behind paywalls (one purchase of the software and it’s yours forever), your game data is yours, and it has an extremely robust ecosystem of modules that are freely available and expand the capabilities of the system. Moreover, the Earthdawn system is open-source (licensed under the MIT license), so contributions to the code are encouraged from anyone who would like to help improve the experience.
The goal of the Earthdawn system in Foundry is to balance two competing priorities: automation and flexibility. We all know that Earthdawn players love our optional and house rules, and the system had to accomodate that. On the other hand, the online environment presents the opportunity to abstract away some of the work of playing the game. It’s truly a thing of beauty to see the step system in action without having to actually consult a step table. The system, then, makes copious assumptions and presents its assumptions as the default, but allows for them to be overridden at will. To give just one example, the system will remind you that you probably can’t spend Karma on rolls that aren’t talents by presenting the default Karma use as 0 when you are rolling a skill. However, it will allow you to override that, just in case you’re an Air Sailor on an airship (to give just one example of a time that the defaults would be inappropriate).
While the system is built with the current 4th Edition in mind, the upcoming release of version 0.1.2 will offer support for legacy step tables. If you enjoy using the Classic Edition step table for your games, we’ve got you covered.
For those new to the world of VTT’s (and specifically Foundry), the basics are this: one player runs the game on their internet-connected computer and stores all the data (for the game world, the ruleset, and the characters). That player is the only one who has to purchase the software (either Foundry or the Earthdawn premium content). Games can be played with the free Earthdawn system that comes with Foundry, as long as you are willing to input the data from your own copies of the books. To make that process smoother (as well as faster), we’ve made available the contents of the two core books already formatted for the system, so that it is truly a drag and drop experience. Creating a new character from scratch takes about 10 minutes, since all the math is done for you and the Talents are already formatted for everyone to use. If your players should be foolish enough to get in a fight with Charcoalgrin, you already have the Great Dragon statted up and ready to drag into the world (many of the pre-made creatures have tokens with official artwork from the books, if it was available). The full rules are available for everyone in the game to reference, hyperlinked and customizable.
The plan right now is to keep releasing Earthdawn material for Foundry as long as people want it. Next up, naturally, is the Earthdawn Companion, to be followed by Questors and then Mystic Paths. We’re currently considering some of the setting-based materials or pre-made adventures (Foundry’s campaign management tools are excellent, and I’m excited to see what GM’s come up with in their games. My development team and I are available in both the FASA and Foundry Discords to help, and written documentation of the system is ongoing and available at: https://gitlab.com/fattom23/earthdawn4e/-/wikis/home.
About the Author: Tom LaPorta made a special trip to the comic book store to pick up the Earthdawn introductory pamphlets back in 1993. He always plays T’Skrang when he’s not GM’ing or developing software, and maintains that Earthdawn is the greatest world-building that’s ever been done in an RPG. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and twin boys.