Burstback: the Return of Manaburst

The members of my Saturday gaming group are all adults with busy lives so it’s no surprise that most Saturdays at least one person winds up being late for our weekly session. Instead of starting our sessions early and having to catch people up, we’ve recently started breaking out some Magic decks and playing a few games to pass the time.

During one of our games a player mentioned that he thought a role-playing game set in a heavily Magic-inspired setting would be a lot of fun, but that playing beings like planeswalkers didn’t seem like it would work. He was surprised when I replied that not only did I think it would work fine, I had done it before.

I’m not about to usurp the Earthdawn game we have running – I enjoy it too much. But with the interested around the table it seems like it might be time to break out my Manaburst notes and look at making some revisions.  I’ve already started getting ideas on how to improve over our first attempt.

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Adjusting Earthdawn’s Strain Mechanic

RedBrick Limited‘s third edition of Earthdawn has been a big hit so far with my Saturday gaming group. The system is providing us with a solid internal consistency through which we can interact with the rich setting.

But like most groups, we’ve come up with a few tweaks to the system to make it better fit with what we want out of our game.  The biggest is that we’ve decided to try a slight re-working to how strain is handled.

The concept of strain is that it is a key balancing feature to the game – there are a vast number of talents, skills, and maneuvers which include a strain cost to use them.  The disconnect for many members of my group is that this is basically taking hit point damage any time they want to do something.

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Revolving Door Villains

"That will be 25,000 gp worth of diamonds, please."

"That will be 25,000 gp in diamonds, please."

There’s a running joke that in high-magic fantasy games, death is naught but a revolving door and the party cleric is the doorman.  I haven’t played much 4e myself, but I’ve heard many of the epic-level abilities start out “Once per day, when you die…”  If there’s a bigger way to hang the “death doesn’t matter” out for everyone to see, I haven’t found it yet.

What about villains, though?  Unless everyone is playing a pulp-style adventure, having the villain inexplicably escape every time he’s encountered can seem contrived and simple GM-fiat, but can the revolving door be used as a plot device to present the players with a unique challenge?

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Earthdawn 3e: Character Generation

earthdawn At the last session with my group, we came up with character concepts and had decided to do the actual generation this week. I wanted to get it taken care on my end prior, so that I could both familiarize myself with the changes to 3e character generation enough to answer questions and be available to do so instead of needing to work on my own character.  So earlier last week I finished up my human warrior.

If you’re like me, one of your initial reactions to that last sentence is “a race and a discipline isn’t a character concept,” and you’d be right.  However, for this post I want to specifically talk about some of the changes to Earthdawn from a character generation standpoint.  So while a character back-story and personality are crucial to a good character, they’re going to be outside the scope of this discussion.

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Earthdawn 3rd Edition: Initial Paces

ed3rdI finally got a chance to try out the Earthdawn Third Edition rules last Saturday when a friend ran Misguided Ambitions, the demo adventure available on the Earthdawn home page.  Though there were some obvious tweaks and mods to the Step System to help streamline play, the game still feels very much like Earthdawn.  Considering how much I enjoy the Eartdawn game – both the system and the setting – that’s about the highest “initial impression” I can offer.

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BACKSTAB! +4, x5

Sometimes getting a group of characters emotionally invested in their adversaries can be tricky.  There are tried and true methods like having the adversary take something (or someone) of value from the characters but if done poorly it can come off as an uncreative cookie-cutter set up.  Not only can it fail to get the players invested, it can actually divest them from the plot as well.

wizThere’s also the issue of the omnipotent adversary.  Inexperienced gamemasters can fall into the trap of giving their adversaries full knowledge of the party’s actions even if said adversary lacked a sufficient means to gain such information (by spying, scrying, etc).  But again you can run into the trap of the cookie-cutter with things like the traditional wizard with a crystal ball.

When my turn to gamemaster came around in our current game, I decided to use a little trick to get the party invested in one of their adversaries as well as explain why the characters had been oiled in their recent attempts to accomplish their goal.  Unbeknownst to the players, I made one of their characters the adversary.

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Refreshed by the Rotating Gamemaster Campaign

I feel that my last few stints in the gamemaster’s chair have been less than successful.  There was something that happened in each campaign that made the game unsatisfying to me.  So when it came to my turn gamemastering in our current rotating gamemaster-style campaign, I was pretty nervous.  Turns out, though, that this particular format bypassed some of my biggest weaknesses as a gamemaster.

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Earthdawn – Savaged: Season 1

A month or so ago my Earthdawn: Savaged campaign wound up to a close. The early summer/late fall months brought a rash of player absences and missed sessions which seemed to sap everyone’s motivation. So although I very much enjoyed returning to the Earthdawn world our game ended rather anticlimactically.

At least I was able to do the experimentation with Savage Worlds that I wanted to. I learned a number of valuable lessons about the system from behind the GM’s screen. I plan on going into more detail about what modifications I plan on making to Savage Worlds in a short series of articles but I wanted to take this opportunity to summarize our campaign and my thoughts on it.

Our small group consisted of a few adepts who had banded together in defense of a Rex, a small village in the hinterlands north of Bartertown, and forged their group in tribute to the dwarven weaponsmith who had brought them together and gave his life in defense of the innocent. Thus The Hounds of Askari were born.

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Earthdawn – The Legend Begins

Session 1 – March 30th, 2008

GM: Dave
Players: Luke, Chad, Dan, Josh, Pat

The scene opened on the town or Rex, a battered and broken village in the hinterlands of Barsaive. The townspeople had fought a daily struggle to eek a meager living out of the dried and broken land, and just as their efforts began to pay off they became the target of a band of ork scorchers. Frequent raids kept the town on the brink of collapse but the orks were smart enough to always leave the town in good enough shape that it could recover… and be raided all over again.

Rex’s headwoman, an elf by the name of Emberica, was finally fed up with the cycle of destruction and called in some old favors which led Askari, a dwarven weaponsmith, to bring his small band of adepts to aid the town. The orks were not expecting any resistance, let alone a band of adepts, and a cunning trap sealed their doom. However they were not go quietly. Many good townsfolk lost their lives in the orks’ death rage, as did Askari himself.

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