Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review - Earthdawn Player's Guide (Pathfinder edition) Updated 4-5-2012

Earthdawn Player's Guide (Pathfinder Edition)
Produced by: RedBrick, LLC under license from FASA Corporation.
Written by: Hank Woon.

Before science, before history, there was an Age of Legend... For years humanity huddled in underground kaers, as the astral beings known as the Horrors ravaged the land in an orgy of terror and destruction. Now the long, dark age of the Scourge has passed, and the brave adventurers emerge to reclaim their world.
Elf, ork, t'skrang, human, and other wondrous races explore a world that teems with strange creatures and unseen dangers; a world of lost cities, or ancient, long-forgotten treasures and idescribable wonders; a world where the very earth and sky vibrate with powerful arcane energies.
The Earthdawn® Player's Guide contains what every Pathfinder Roleplaying Game player needs to create one of these brave heroes and help rekindle the glory of days past, including new races, equipment, skills, spells, feats, and rules for being an Adept. Join the adventure and begin roleplaying in Earthdawn, the Age of Legend!

Earthdawn® Player's Guide™
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Edition Core Rulebook
Published by RedBrick LLC
Format: 284 pages, 6.14" x 9.21", B+W Interior

Wow, where to begin? Let's begin with the disclaimer, the PDF was provided to me by RedBrick for the purposes of review. Getting that out of the way; Earthdawn requires a different view of gaming, so the rules for the Pathfinder version Do Not, I repeat do not stick to pure Pathfinder Rules. This is going to upset some people looking to just have a Barsaive campaign setting using Earthdawn rules (If you want that, use the basic rules and just use the background info.) The rules presented in the EDPG (PFRPG) are more of a hybridization of Pathfinder and Earthdawn.

Remember my background, I'm a huge Earthdawn fan, I have a near complete set of 1st edition books (missing the Blades adventure, and the Earthdawn Journals). I have the LRG 2nd edition, and I have 3rd edition (all core plus Cathay). I've been involved with Pathfinder since Alpha Testing, and I am an Adventure Path charter subscriber. So I know both systems well.

The book starts out with the standard fluff that is in the Earthdawn books, including reference to spell matrices, which aren't included in the spell casting system. During Character creation you can use the standard Pathfinder point buy system, or you can use the optional point buy system that more resembles the traditional Earthdawn point buy chart. The races have different stat modifier numbers than normal PFRPG players are used to seeing, but, that is in the tradition of Earthdawn, so I see what direction the designers are coming from. Edit: This includes The prologue (16 page intro story), Chapter 1 and Chapter 2: Chapter 1 being an introduction to game concepts. Playing Earthdawn, Adepts, blood magic, karma, the importance of names, what the Horrors are and an introduction to the gods of Earthdawn, ascended mortals called passions. Chapter 2 is 14 pages of History, more fluff which is copied from the Earthdawn RPG, this covers the large amount of background information about why the inhabitants of Barsaive fled to their underground Kaers, to escape the monstrous Horrors. The history of the Barsaive province and their struggles with the nation of Thera. 

Chapter 3 launches into Character creation.  Note: This is where I need to do some play-testing and character creation to really see how everything is going to pan out. Additionally, I know there are some aspects that RedBrick is ironing out before it goes to print (these are partially being addressed on Paizo's forum, and RedBrick's forum.) Character creation is pretty Pathfinder standard, using Earthdawn races for ability modifiers, then choosing a class that qualifies for a discipline. Once you've chosen a discipline by selecting the bonus discipline feat, you gain access to the Adept skills in Chapter 5. Each discipline has access to different Adept skills. Earthdawn presents some standard races, alongside non-standard races. Dwarves, humans, and elves are the standard races, while orks, and trolls are classic monsters that are name giver races. (Name givers being the designation for the races which are true races, as they give themselves names, and all that goes along with those names.) The last three races are the capricious windlings (18" tall fairies effectively), and the pteradon-headed like t'skrang, who are the possibly the most flamboyant creatures in the Age of Legend, and the asexual beings that resemble rock, the obsidimen. One more name-giver race exists, but they are the dragons, but they are most definitely NPCs. An example of the attribute spread of the windlind: Tiny size, +1 Dex, -4 Str, -3 Con, +1 Int, +2 Cha. 

Each discipline has a prerequisite, for example, the Air Sailor currently requires the sneak attack class feature (this may change in the next week). Adepts gain adept skills as class skills, for example the Air sailor gains Air Sailing, Defense, Endure Cold, Great Leap, Thread Weaving [sky weaving], and Wind Catcher; while a Thief Adept acquires Fence, Gold Sense, Lip Reading, Quickblade, Sense Poison, Slough Blame and Thread Weaving [thief weaving]. So you can see where discipline choice is very important. 

Without knowing how Experience is going to be handled from the Game Masters guide, I don't know exactly how everything will work out, I mean will fighter based archer be completely inferior to a ranger based one simply because he has less skill points? Will the fighter based one be superior due to the extra feats. I'm still not sure how classes are handled specifically. I think that you can multi-class to your hearts content, though each of the adept feats (not adept skills) has requirements you might not meet if you aren't careful.

Chapter 4 is the fluff about role-playing these different disciplines, it covers more than 100 pages of the book.  This covers the reason adepts are different, each Discipline has its own mind-set, its way of viewing the world.  In Earthdawn 3e, this was compiled from multiple sources from the older editions, there's vast amounts of information for each discipline, and the majority of people who've played in games I've played in don't really read all this information, but those that do definitely have good direction as to how to play their characters. 

Chapter 5 covers Adept skills.
In this chapter is some of the major crunch. Adept skills are all (Su) abilities, and many are powered by karma. Karma being the magical energy all adepts tap into to power their mystical abilities. An example of an Adept skill would be the Air Dance skill for warriors, by using karma, the warrior is able to use this skill rank to add to their initiative roll. If they score high enough they even get an additional attack, as if affected by haste. Each discipline has access to skills which in some cases are unique, such as the air dance, or common, such a durability. Combining some of the Adept skills with certain feats, archetypes or class combinations in Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat or Advanced Player's Guide might have some serious balance issues, but Earthdawn is supposed to be high fantasy, so just throw bigger Horrors at them. 

Chapter 6 is Adept Feats
Adept Feats are all powered by karma, but are feat-like rather than skill based. It makes sense really, Pathfinder uses skills and feats, so Earthdawn uses both elements to encompass the slew of talents adepts in Earthdawn have. There are 113 Adept feats, from the Weaponsmith's Abate Curse to the Warrior Adept's wood skin feat. These are the heart of each discipline, the powerful abilities. The more powerful Adept Feats might require multiple karma points to use. 

Chapter 7: Magic
This isn't the spell casting chapter, this is the mostly fluff chapter regarding all things magic, from Astral space, to naming, blood magic, pattern items and of course, thread weaving. Effectively, the Age of Legend is teeming with magical energy, people places and items all have names, the more well-known it is, the more powerful those things can be. When someone says "Luke Skywalker" you automatically know who that is, where he's from, and what he's done, that's his legend, when you say "Darth Vader" you know who he is, and that his legend is different than "Anakin Skywalker", because the name change changed his pattern. 

Chapter 8: spells
This is the location of the spells for the four spell casting disciplines of Earthdawn, the Elementalist, Illusionist, Nethermancer, and of course the Wizard. While this chapter brings the specific spells from Earthdawn into Pathfinder Earthdawn, characters can still receive additional spells from the normal Pathfinder books. (Not in my game however...sorry no disintegrate or globe of invulnerability). 

Chapter 9: Equipment
Equipment, what characters need to survive, from the exotic blood pebble armor, to the horrific obsidimen skin armor. One thing I'm quite happy with is that they kept the silver standard in Earthdawn, so all the charts and tables are based around the use of the silver coin. The chapter includes all the mundane gear, and minor magic charms, plus trade goods, animals and transport. 

Chapter 10: Religion
In normal Earthdawn games, the Passions aren't truly gods, they're ascended mortals, who are looked upon as examples to strive toward. Questors attempt to gain favor by performing acts in the name of the passions, though three of the passions didn't survive the Scourge with their minds in tact. Dis, Raggok and Vestrial, are mad passions, they've taken their old portfolio and corrupted it. Each passion has a portfolio they represent thus a typical group of passions might worship them over another, Garlen the healer is less enticing to a warrior than Thystonius, who is the Passion of Physical conflict and valor, though pacifistic warriors might prefer following Garlen, as they know war is a horrible thing and aid and comfort must follow in the wake of conflict. 

Chapter 10: Barsaive (yes this is an issue in the book, two chapter 10s.)
This covers the province of Barsaive, formerly a part of the Theran Empire, one which refuses to allow Thera to regain control. Barsaive is a primarily dwarven province, with over 40% of the population being dwarves. 

There are definitely elements I wish I had seen in this edition that weren't there. I wish the spell system was there from Earthdawn, I love spell threads and spell matrixes. It is one of the things that set Earthdawn apart from D&D back in the day, the lack of the Vancian spell magic system.

Is this the game I would have done for Earthdawn Pathfinder? Not completely, I would have focused on using a different magic system which was more akin to Earthdawn.  I need to see what the Game Master's guide is like to make a really good assessment of the entire system. If the legendary items aren't an awesome system, then I don't know what to do.

I will definitely be trying the system out, there's a lot to it, and it will REALLY require some getting used to. But I might just prefer the Original Earthdawn, as it is one of my favorite systems. I think that the system has plenty of elements that bring the feeling of Earthdawn to Pathfinder. I will definitely have a different magic system in place, one that includes skill-based thread weaving, and the use of spell matrices. Without those two things in place, the threat of tainted astral space and casting raw just isn't there. Effectively all casting classes would need access to the spell matrix feats, they would have those spells in their matrix, and do a standard thread weaving check to make sure they can swap them out. This removes the 15 minute day that plagues Pathfinder to this day.

Cost: $29.99 for hard copy (when it becomes available), and $17.99 for PDF available at DriveThru RPG.

Value: Tough one, as I've stated before, Paizo set the bar on PDF sales. However RedBrick is a smaller company, so if you want to run this game, it's your call. Support a smaller game company because they're bringing something unique to the game.

Artwork: It features pretty much the same artwork from the older editions of Earthdawn (minus the crazy Mayan style covers from 3rd edition).


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Earthdawn® is a registered trademark of FASA Corporation. Barsaive™, The Adept’s Way™, and Earthdawn® Player’s Guide™ are trademarks of FASA Corporation. Earthdawn® First Edition Material copyright © 1993–2012 FASA Corporation. Published by RedBrick LLC under license from FASA Corporation—Made in the USA. Copyright © 2012 FASA Corporation, RedBrick LLC. All rights reserved. Pathfinder is a registered trademark of Paizo Publishing, LLC, and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility Logo are trademarks of Paizo Publishing, LLC, and are used under the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility License. See for more information on the compatibility license. Compatibility with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game requires the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game from Paizo Publishing, LLC. See for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Paizo Publishing, LLC does not guarantee compatibility, and does not endorse this product.


  1. this is probably the worst "review" i've ever read, since it basically says nothing. All i got out of it is that there are Adept Feats that a separate from your class and that an Archer could be either a Ranger or a Fighter. Thats a huge potential variance there and without more information is useless. If i was Red Brick, i would be very upset that this is what i got out of giving away content.

    1. My apologies to you then, I try to do reviews which are useful, but aren't 10,000 words, especially as I'm in the middle of a move right now. I plan on playing the system and posting additional comments on it later. In reality, there isn't much more to the conversion than adept feats and the spell system. (Note: I also commented on the races using non-standard +2/+2/-2 format). There's a lot of standard fluff that was pulled from the Earthdawn editions, and that covers more than half the book.

      If you're not familiar with Earthdawn then maybe you miss the points I make specifically about the magic system. This is only half of the system, so I'm making my observations based upon that half. When the Game Master's Guide for it comes out, I'll have a larger picture to view and be able to draw more conclusions.

      I will see if I can elucidate more into what I mean about the adept feats.