Happy Freedonia Con, everyone! The weekend this Blog Post goes live marks the first day of FASA’s first online convention. Various talks and games are scheduled on our official Discord all weekend. If you have any free time, stop on by and see what is going on!
As I gear up for that event, it seemed the perfect time to write the first of a series of blog posts to reveal how the Vasgothia book has been coming together. I wanted to review the decisions made along the way, and peel back the curtain on how we’ve managed the process.
Many moons ago, in the before times, I got together with a British freelancer (and all around great guy) Nick Lowe. We discussed the province of Vasgothia. The province had been one of many included in the old supplement, The Theran Empire. In a few dozen pages it introduced multiple new Namegiver races, a Deep Forest of magical mystery, and a tense status quo as the native population struggled against Theran oppression. We both felt that this was a very evocative locale that would be perfect for a standalone supplement.
We knew that this might be our only time to visit Vasgothia, so we decided to focus our efforts to pursue two themes critical to the region:
- Both Theran and Native Vasgothians express savagery.
- In the Deep Forest, the frightening aspects of magic become nightmarish and alien.
The first theme is nothing ground-breaking. In many ways it is the question we’ve all heard: “What does it mean to be a barbarian?” It is a question explored in many fantasy settings. Still, it is an interesting theme on which to reflect, especially in the high magic setting of Earthdawn. The Therans practice blood magic, ritual sacrifice, and are intensely colonial. There are certainly many evils there that our modern views would call savage.
On the other side, the native population of Vasgothia has been divided into two groups: the Empirists and the Barrites.
The Empirists eagerly ally with the wealth and power of the Theran empire. They live in Lowland Theran cities and struggle to succeed in an established system. Many have grown unhappy with Thera’s restrictive controls and look to Barsaive as an example of independent but “civilized” living.
The Barrites, on the other hand, are a collection of dozens of tribes of forced to eke out a living in the Deep Forest. While each tribe is unique, the Barrites have deeply mystical beliefs. Their traditions around birth and death are singular within the known world and many even believe that they are literally reborn warriors from before the Scourge. Life in the forests is a challenge and their beliefs reflect that. Many of these Barrites, inspired by the Second Barsaivian War, have united under a banner with the intention of striking back against the Therans and reclaiming the Lowlands for themselves and their culture.
The Barrites are intricately tied to the second theme. Things in the Deep Forest are alien and unknowable. It is said that the Horrors (or “ulks”) and the native Passions of Vasgothia battled to the death in these woods, and the Passions lost. Throughout the forest, creatures known as “half ulks” roam. While their original nature is unknown, what is clear is that nothing this nightmarish should be able to survive on flesh alone. Astral dead zones float through the deep forest, Namegivers exposed to these zones appear to transition into Talven, or “ulk men.” Some view these mutated Namegivers as Horror Constructs, others question whether they might be something entirely new to the world. In any event the message should be clear, venturing into the woods is frightening, and the magic is not fully understood by even the most learned of the Fourth World.
With these themes in hand, we were able to set up a project timeline and milestones. With this, Nick Lowe got to work crafting the drafts. He had a lot of writing to do, and I had a lot of reviewing! But that is a topic for next time!
About the Author: Kyle Pritchard is a second-generation tabletop gamer who has been slinging dice since before he was crawling. He’s been working with FASA Games since 2014 and has been a member of Earthdawn Team since 2018.