I fell in love with Earthdawn the first time I laid eyes on the 1st Edition rule book and then, as I read through the history, setting, and rules of the game, that love grew even more.  A lot of folks believe the system is clunky, over-burdened, and tough to learn; however, understanding the game is not as difficult as a lot of people think, if they can suspend their understanding of how role-playing games are, typically, constructed.  That is to say those things most folks attribute to a game system, which are not normal to the setting of the game, are part of the setting in Earthdawn; for example, many games have levels, which only designate in the game system that a character has advanced, and are also a means of letting players know their character's are advancing.

      In Earthdawn these levels, known as Circles, are represented as part of the game world itself; they may only signify to others of the same Discipline -normally known as Classes in other games- the height to which an Adept -known as PCs, or Player Characters in other games- has come in their career as a Disciple, though the improvement in countenance, in gear and tools of their trade are readily evident to others.  As well, Adepts and non-Adepts are further separated by the ability of Adepts to use magic naturally, in ways foreign to those of typical High Magic or High Fantasy RPGs.  These, and many other things throughout Earthdawn not only make the game a totally new concept and fantasy world set in a post-apocalyptic age, but make it utterly unique to all other role-playing games, fantasy or otherwise.

      This game was originally released in 1993 by FASA Corporation, who closed their doors in 2001 after a twenty-one year run of releasing amazing role-playing and combat simulation games.  Some of these games, such as Renegade Legion -another FASA property I enjoyed quite a few times- dipped into both of those realms, role-playing and combat simulation, though they were hardly ever seamless.  Living Room Games picked up Earthdawn's license from the IP holders remaining of FASA to produce 2nd Edition in late 1999, and then RedBrick Limited was able to obtain that license in 2003, producing compiled versions of the "Classic" material followed by a 3rd Edition.

      In August 2012, FASA Games was incorporated from former members of FASA Corporation, RedBrick Limited, and other relevant enthusiasts and are producing a Revised version of the rules.  As well, editions of this amazing setting have been produced for both Savage Worlds and Pathfinder; however, as unique as Earthdawn is, translating the game into another system may be easier for others to play, but it drowns out the utter uniqueness of the game itself, how the background, setting, and system interweave with one another to make the whole truly unique, making it impossible to play the game in its entirety through these other game systems.

      On a personal note, except for information purposes and the superb workmanship on these projects by RedBrick, all newly produced material has not held the same feel as the original; the changes made in formatting, rules, and setting have been logical, well-planned moves on the parts of LRG and RedBrick, but the magic, if you will pardon the pun, is not there for me, anymore.  I still wish to play this game because of what I knew it to be, and what it hopefully it will be, again.

      Between early '93, when the game first came out, and February '94, when I left to serve in the Army in Germany, the original Rocky Mountain Knights played this game as often as possible under the Mastery of Lee L., a long-time friend of mine; we played through Mists of Betrayal, perhaps the best adventure module I've ever owned, as well as other adventures, both written and free-playing.  While in Germany, once my new wife and I were able to get into Army Housing, I invited several friends to join us, and we alternated sessions of Earthdawn and Millennium's End on weekends.  I do not remember the details of the campaign we were playing as, admittedly, my design was not all that good, but we had several extremely smart players who actually preferred role-playing to combat, and we were not able to complete it because I deployed to Bosnia in August '96.

      I was finally able to get a group together in 2006-7 to begin my Dragon Lord campaign, and we were moving forward on that before two of our players deployed to other posts, and have just not picked it up since; I hope one day to finish this campaign.

GAME: Earthdawn - FASA Corporation, c. 1993
GENRE: Very High Magic Dark Fantasy / Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
TAG LINE: The Age of Legend
DIFFICULTY (0 - 10): high 5 to low 7
DICE TEAM: (D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20; sometimes multiples); Difficult use of Talents/Skills - Moderate; Combat - Heavy
IN-GAME CURRENCY: Karma - improve dice rolls, re-rolls, reduce damage; Open-ended dice - any natural roll is re-rolled and added to the previous roll.

GAME IDEAL: The Books of Harrow were found in an ancient temple 1,000 years ago.  Those who read these books eventually went insane, but the message was very clear: an age of magic had come so stout that the ethereal plane and the real joined together, unleashing hell on Earth thousands of years before.  The warning in the books was that it was a cycle, that it would come again, and by all accounts, it would come within the next thousand years.  Magic is used in everyday life, for everything from simple farming to filing books in the Great Library of Throal, and the warning went out that this time of desolation was approaching again, because of the magic.  The Therans, who originally found the books and published the warnings, made slaves of the denizens of the continent of Throal in exchange for the secrets of how to protect themselves.

      Over the course of the following six-hundred years Kaers (huge underground warrens) and Citadels (huge above-ground cities) were built, each laced with heavy amounts of protective magical elements and runes drawn by Dwarven masters and blessed by all of the holiest members of each race, imbued with extraordinary magic.  When the ethereal opened onto the planes of the Name-giver races, the Kaers and Citadels that were complete closed and locked themselves within magically, to wait out the apocalypse of that time.  Everyone and everything remaining on the surface was scoured away in what became known as the Scourge.

      A way to determine when the magic level would fall low enough for the surface to be inhabitable, again, was taught to each civilization, and for centuries the elders watched these devices within their own habitats.  The magic never fell low enough for this to happen, so after waiting for so long, the Dwarves decided on alternate means of determining if it were safe, again.  They were the first to send out vessels to see if the Scourge was over, and the Earthdawn (an airship Captained by the Troll Air Sailor Vaare Longfang) returned to report they had found safe places on the surface, again; they began to move out from their Kaer in the Throal Mountains and established new towns and began seeking others out to get them to open their Kaers, as well.

      Not wanting to be made slaves, again, to the Theran Empire, the Dwarves took the lead and worked hard to coax others forward, to aid them in the defense of Barsaive, with the Dwarven kingdom of Throal at its center.  The Therans began emerging 50 years later, and sought to regain their territory, but the Throalian Name-givers wouldn't have it, and there has been a very uneasy cold war since.  The world is not completely free of the Horrors, or of Dragons, and there is tension between races, between the Throalians and Therans, and there is a world to rebuild, as forces across the continent build their forces.

SYSTEM TYPE/UNIQUENESS: Character Generation is in-depth, and would take quite a bit of time to do a full group of characters at one time.  Everything in the game, including the names of everything in the game, are extremely important; there is no element of this game, as it's written, that does not correspond to something real in the game world.  Each character has a magical discipline, with talents that are high magic, with magic items, and a very extensive system of defenses and types of damage that can be taken.

      The game system works on steps, which represent median rolls for dice; ie - a Step 10 would correlate to the roll of 1d10 + 1d6.  Maximum rolls on any dice type, and all dice -up to d20- are used in this game, gains an additional roll and total of that dice, and almost everything you roll for in the game is an opposed roll, requiring certain values of success for some things.

      Regardless of how difficult this may all sound, the system is robust, beautifully done, and so versatile that, quite literally, anything can happen, and one can make anything of their character.  There are eight races in the game, from the typical Human, Elf, and Dwarf, to the relatively new Windling (large pixies), Orcs, Trolls, Obsidimen (huge rock men), and T'Skrang (flashy lizardmen); each have their own bonuses, Discipline limitations, histories, sensibilities, and ways of seeing the world and other Name-givers.  This is the most unique game system I've ever had the pleasure to play in, though running it is a bit more on the difficult side.
LAST UPDATED: 29 January 2017

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