Thursday was the long-awaited character creation session for Laban’s nascent Earthdawn campaign. Armed with the hearty BLT with smoked gouda from Martone’s Market — my grinder of choice when the Thursday night game group was going strong in 2008 — I felt like I was ready to participate in character creation as the enthusiastic newcomer to the Earthdawn system. I would soon learn of two linked mistakes I had made.
The first I should have twigged to early. Laban dug out his Earthdawn books and, on flipping through them, I might have realized that the world didn’t really match the one he had described via email in the run-up to Thursday, particularly in terms of the player character races. As it turned out, Laban’s using the Earthdawn system to run a campaign in a brand new world of his devising. Whoops. I clearly missed that part of the email.
And this leads to the second mistake: not thoroughly reading Laban’s orientation material. I skimmed it, thinking it was the canonical Earthdawn setting and I could pick it up from the books and Wikipedia as needed. So that was a little embarrassing to inadvertently admit that no, I hadn’t done my homework properly, and then take up time making Laban recap player character material.
Once we got that out of the way, creation went forward without a hitch. Having one book, Laban led Wayne and I, the two players, through the process. There was stat rolling — which surprised me, because I’d been told it was point-buy with a class system; which it is, it’s just the stats are still generated randomly. Then came the point-spending, allocating them to Talents and Skills. I haven’t looked them up, specifically, but as I understand it, Talents are generally magic-fueled abilities, whereas Skills are everyday abilities. In the default Earthdawn world, there’s so much magic sloshing around, some people spontaneously develop magical talents that express themselves in various ways. The same must be true in Laban’s world, too, given that the ocean and sky have inverted and people living on magically-charged rocks floating below the ocean, but above a tempest.
Instead of the usual complement of Earthdawn races, this world has cat-people, draconians, humans and beast-men, which are magically corrupted human offspring. Amusingly, both Wayne and I chose non-humans. His character’s a cat-person and mine is a beast-man with fox tendencies.
Going with the fox characteristics, I decided to go with a straight-up corebook thief. Partly because I’ve never had the opportunity to play one, but also because it seemed one of the more readily grasped classes in the corebook and I have a thing about playing a game with corebook material before branching out in supplemental classes and such. I also have a thing about not diving into a game’s magic system, which is really a pretty specious thing, but I let it deter me from an elementalist this time. Meanwhile, Wayne chose the cartographer class for his cat-person. I can already see the synergies and reasons to partner up for a thief and cartographer making their way across the floating islands of the world, dropping down to the blasted, desolate surface world to explore ruins of the previous age.
I have no idea about how this campaign will go, but I have a feeling it’s going to be along the lines of an old school game, part go-anywhere sandbox and part “there’s the dungeon; do your thing.” Which is what I’m ready for and have been wanting to play for a while.
Now that we’ve made characters, we have to take three, maybe four, weeks off while people go on business trips and such. Everyone needs to be on the ball to make sure this doesn’t go like the one session wonder we tried to play last year, a sort of “Mega A-Team” that used Mutants & Masterminds. And once we get a couple sessions in, I’ll bring this up with some other roleplayers I know who would probably like to get into a game.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this session was the sense of history that emerged as we broke out Laban’s Earthdawn collection for what must have been the first time in ten years, if not longer. A past character’s equipment list fell out while flipping through Denizens of Earthdawn, there were penciled notes from times when the group decided it made more sense for a particular class to get this Talent rather than that one, and, of course, stories about when a now-legendary, long-gone player pulled off some exceptional stunt. That’s something missing from my own roleplaying library, the investment of emotion and fond memories that comes with use and time.