Hi, dear reader! It’s your friendly neighborhood Karol, back to talk some more about Earthdawn. With the team juggling so many projects, sometimes it’s nice to step back and take a more general look at the way things play out across the Fourth World. One of those that’s been really fascinating to observe and develop is the role of Passions in different nations and Theran provinces.
With Barsaive (and its struggle against Thera) at the heart of the Earthdawn mythos, it’s natural that the most clearly developed and understood idea of the Passions would center around it. The way Barsaivians and Therans understand and interact with the Passions, and the particular Passions they recognize, are pretty much second nature to us at this point. But our team has begun exploring lands beyond Barsaive, and with a difference in locale comes a difference in local customs. Passions are no exception.
The Barsaivian relationship to the Passions isn’t formalized, so it’s not so easy to explain. They’re powerful beings that represent an ideal, but they’re not strictly gods the way we might think of in other fantasy settings. Namegivers pay their respects, but there are no formal religious organizations, worship structures or missionary work. Instead, questors throughout Barsaive and beyond help spread the ideals that Passions embody. This doesn’t mean Namegivers can be flippant or disrespectful–as with any powerful being, one should avoid offending a Passion.
The Elven Nations were this edition’s first foray into communities beyond Barsaive. Because of their closely shared history, the elves of these nations have familiar views of the Passions–though each will emphasize some over others as befits the focus and ethos of a particular nation. The philosophy of the Wheel and the Paths one can follow to achieve mastery of it also provides a new lens for how the Passions fit into an elven mindset.
The mercantile focus of Shosara, for example, gives Chorrolis a prominent place in the hearts of its people, though the practical, adaptable nature of the Shosaran mindset also means that the greatest place of honor for Chorrolis is in the great market that bears the Passion’s name. Sereatha’s focus on tradition, meanwhile, puts Mynbruje at the forefront, emphasizing order and tradition. With the Elven Nations, we get to look at a familiar group of Passions through a slightly different lens, seeing what different communities value most.
Iopos builds on this idea, but the Denairastas hold their people in an iron grip, and the Passions present an implicit challenge to that rule. Emphasis of the Denairastas as the be-all-end-all is common, and the ruling government de-emphasizes the role of the Passions. Though Barsaive and Thera try not to equate Passions to deities too often, the very implication that they might be deific is a direct threat to Denairastas rule, so questors (or even pious Namegivers) have their work cut out for them.
None of this prevents a player from following a path that diverges from the mindset. The story of a Shosaran questor of Mynbruje trying to untangle corruption in the freewheeling markets of Chorrolis sounds like a great setup for an adventure. A different take could be a tale of a pious questor of Lochost trying to stick to their convictions in the cut-throat regime of the Denairastas family. The overall guidelines, however, should offer an interesting lens for GMs trying to approach these communities and how they differ from the Barsaivian norm we’re used to. If directly challenging the new norms is how players want to engage this aspect of the Fourth World, great!
Once we shift our focus away from Barsaive and its environs, the differences become more pronounced. One of the major differences is that the Barsaivian Passions (as we know them) aren’t the only game in town. Vasgothia had its own native Passions, who are said to have died in the Scourge. The province is now split between those who adopt Theran ways, following the Passions we know, and those who refuse, seeking a way to return the Passions of their land.
Creana, on the other hand, has a very divergent tradition, with its own set of Passions reflecting Creanan values. They, too, didn’t escape the Scourge unscathed, but the Creanan Passions have always held a prominent and largely stable place in the culture. These Passions take a much more active role in the province’s affairs, with one inhabiting the Pharon, Creana’s ruler. As such, Creanan Passions are revered in a way we more traditionally associate with pantheons of deities. As much as they inspire or bless some Namegivers, they also need to be placated or honored in return, lest they make their displeasure unknown in a serious way.
While these provinces aren’t defined solely by their relationship with the Passions, that relationship gives us another way to get into the mindset of someone who lives and breathes the culture of the place. The team is, after all, exploring places that can be radically different from the now-comfortable environs of Barsaive, so we want to give our GMs and players all the tools we can to make sure they can bring these locations to life. We’re eager to get that content into your hands and hear about all the new tales that you’re able to tell beyond Barsaive!