Michael here with a new Earthdawn developer’s blog. I hope everyone is as excited for our Vasgothia/Champion’s Challenge Kickstarter as we are. Last I checked we were hovering dangerously close to unlocking our 30K stretch goal, so if you haven’t already, please check out the link above and consider supporting the campaign. In any case, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss something completely unrelated to that ongoing project: conventions!
As we slowly get reacclimated to gathering in person again, I had the opportunity to attend Origins Game Fair this year and was able to run three sessions of Earthdawn. I was actually quite pleased to see my games sell-out during preregistration and ended up with people specifically looking to try Earthdawn rather than simply signing up for something new. I ran two sessions of a freeform romp through Blood Wood, something I think I’ve mentioned here previously, and also hosted the first full playtest of LoB-113: Wild Horses. For some weird reason (slightly on accident, somewhat on purpose), almost all the games I signed up to play in my free time were part of living campaigns for other game systems. I thought I’d spend today’s post discussing how my games went and some inspiration I took from other living campaign implementations.
Each of my Blood Wood adventures went in completely different directions, which I think is interesting given the information presented at the start was exactly the same in both sessions. One group of players picked the B&E job, while the other went for an escort mission. I actually recall players at my first table saying “escorting an NPC sounds boring” and the second table saying “thievery isn’t very heroic”. It’s fascinating how different the perspectives of six random convention goes can be. These differences stayed pretty consistent throughout the sessions, with the players on the escort mission just trouncing straight through the Wood in a more-or-less straight line towards their objective and the B&E group traveling along the outer edge of the forest for as long as possible. Both groups avoided capture and death, so all-in-all I think these went pretty well.
I wish I could say my LoB session went as smoothly as the other two games, but I learned the tried and true lesson that more than one playtest is essential for modules destined for publishing. I ran LoB-113 during our digital FASA Con for three players, and in that instance the adventure went fairly smoothly. At Origins, however, I ended up with an extra full table of seven and the complex nature of the module’s objective made the entire session grind to a halt. I think the combination of players new to the setting/system and my tired Saturday brain created a situation where I didn’t finesse things behind the scenes enough to keep everyone engaged. In hindsight, there is definitely some streamlining that needs to be done in order to make the adventure flow better while still keeping the original vision.
I played in several other living campaign systems, each of which had pluses and minuses when compared to Legends of Barsaive. One of the consistent negative experiences I had across multiple systems was coming in with a fresh character and playing with people who had leveled up through play over a couple of years. This was always one of our fears when crafting the LoB series: introducing first circle characters next to second or third circle ones with more talents and equipment. As it so happens, I ran a group of third circle characters next to a single first circle ones (for other reasons) and the biggest gap I noticed was the karma pool. I had to give the first circle player some bonus karma midway through the final fight, but other than that they were able to keep up and contribute throughout most of the session.
A positive thing I came across in many of these games was good rules aids for whoever wanted them. For some reason I never thought to print out my rules and setting spiel for people, opting to give this verbally instead. Part of me thinks that some people wouldn’t read the info and would rather have it told to them, evidence by one of my tables not realizing their thread items had special abilities. On the other hand, I like the idea of saving my voice and giving players who show up early something to do. Thinking about it as I write this, I’d be surprised if someone in the community hadn’t already put a player aid document out in the world somewhere. Maybe I can get something more official looking put together…
This post turned out a bit more mish-mashed than usual, but hopefully this was at the very least entertaining to read. I’m looking forward to 2022 being a bit more convention-friendly for more people and getting to run games more consistently. I think we have month or so before GenCon planning starts, which always a little strange for me to think about in December. I’ll probably talk about my convention plans for next year as soon as I get a plan together and run out of ideas for this blog. Until next time, thanks for reading!