Hello, Barsaivians (and beyond)!
2020 has been pretty strange so far and has had a pretty serious impact on our gaming habits and the way we, as players and GMs, engage with our ‘tables’. The FASA team hopes everyone is staying safe and enjoying games in a responsible way. As we work on more quality content for the community, we’re also keenly aware that one of our favorite ways of engaging isn’t really a possibility. For my part, running Legends of Barsaive games at conventions is a highlight of the year. It’s always fun unveiling new chapters for veteran fans and introducing new players to the Earthdawn system and the chaotic place that is Parlainth.
But you don’t need to wait for conventions to enjoy the Legends of Barsaive adventures! While initially developed for convention play, a new Compendium (including a revamped Haven Guide) is available as part of the current Kickstarter for Empty Throne! Taken all together, the adventures and guidebook provide a narrative that updates Haven and Parlainth to the Fourth Edition timeline. They also introduce players to many of the personalities and rivalries that make Haven the lively place we know and love.
I know, I know, there’s one big question hanging over this post as you read it: aren’t there a limited number of adventures for this chapter of Legends of Barsaive? Well yes, there sure are! Along with the new sourcebooks, the Earthdawn team is committed to producing new adventures that help bring the events in Haven to a thrilling conclusion. In the meantime, however, the question of how to use them in your home games–or how to build home games from the ground up using this material–is a good one. If you can’t play at conventions, how do you bring the fun home? Here are a few approaches.
The Episodic Approach
For groups that like to play fast and loose with chronology, meet irregularly, or take turns with different campaigns or even systems, the Haven adventures can be played chronologically, stretched out over a long time. You can play the Legends of Barsaive material straight through, in order. In between each adventure, however, your table focuses on different adventures, campaigns, or even games. Whatever else your group is doing (whether it’s related or not), you can always come back to LoB as new material comes out.
In all honesty, this is not my preferred approach, since as a player or GM I tend to develop a pretty tight focus on one story, with player narratives and development interwoven throughout. This makes Haven feel more like a “monster of the week” kind of setting than something to explore deeply, and may not work for every group. But if you have a lot of different campaigns or games on your “want-to-try” list, it can be fun to switch gears, then revisit the classics. As long as players are clear on this in advance, it can be a fun experience for the right table.
The Adventuring Hub Approach
Haven isn’t just a place of intrigue and big plots, it’s also a place where adventuring companies work together to take on internal and external threats. Even though the ruins of Parlainth are on the fringes of Barsaive, Haven is part of a larger world. While the adventuring companies primarily focus their efforts on the town and ruins, they have contacts in Throal and beyond, so tables shouldn’t feel constrained to keep all the action local!
A lot of what ties Haven to the rest of Barsaive can be approached through weaving in personal character plots, spinning the history and deeds related to thread items into plot threads of their own, or even adapting existing adventure material into a broader campaign. The caveat here, of course, would be that the players return to Haven to refuel, recharge, and look in on their adopted home.
This approach allows for a GM to spread out the plots that develop in Legends of Barsaive while leaving plenty of space in between to help your heroes build their own legends. It’s similar to the episodic approach on the surface, but here, players can rest and recuperate with their adventuring companies and see their home develop over time. It can be a powerful way to compare and contrast Barsaive-wide developments with those in Haven, using developments in the latter as a microcosm of what’s happening in the former. Haven’s setup is also great for an adept-centered “home base,” which can help with questions of reliable places to get items forged or research obscure pre-Scourge knowledge. In the end, the timing between Legends of Barsaive adventures is fluid (usually “weeks” in a general sense) so characters can fill that time how they best see fit.
The Campaign Seed Approach
It’s commonly said about creative work that the creator no longer owns it once it’s consumed by others. A book or song or painting will mean different things to different people, and inspire them in different ways. Settings and adventures are no different! Our team puts forward a number of seeds for further investigation in Haven and Parlainth, providing an overview of some of the major players. But that doesn’t mean this canon is the only way to play things. There’s lots you can change about the backdrop of Parlainth and of Haven, and validity to taking different plot threads and making them your own. There’s not only a supernatural threat looming over Haven, but internal and external political tensions to play with as well.
As you run or play in this environment, some of these plots, tensions or NPCs may end up being more interesting to your group than others, and taking note of what your players respond to (or what inspires you as a GM) can lead to a very solid foundation for an entire campaign, setting things up but firmly letting you as a group make the entire arc your own. Does your party have wild theories about the major threat involving Haven that you want to see played out as an entire arc? Do they really want to dig into the machinations of Twiceborn? Are they just focused on helping the hapless Belaron finally get the Almshouse sorted? Great! All of these have the potential for an entertaining campaign, and with Haven and Parlainth broadly defined, the published material helps you skip past the nitty-gritty and get right to plot development.
If you haven’t had a chance to experience what Legends of Barsaive has to offer, check out our current Kickstarter, where you can pick up Legends of Barsaive: Haven Volume 1 (as well as Empty Thrones, an adventure framework sourcebook that lets your characters get directly involved in major shake-ups in Barsaive). The LoB compendium has some spit-shine applied, as well as tweaks and improved visuals for the Haven guidebook. We hope the product makes it even easier to run adventures in the plucky community of adventurers at the edges of Parlainth’s ruins. And above all, that it gives your table the inspiration for a ton of new gaming and adventure.
We derive a lot of joy from our community taking the building blocks we’ve provided and making something personal, meaningful and exciting out of them. It’s true of our setting books, and it’s true of our adventures as well. We may not be able to enjoy new LoB adventures with you all in person this year, but we’re excited to hear about your experiences in the Fourth World!