Tuesday, December 14, 2021

(Earthdawn 1e) Skypoint Adventures

 I have only one complaint about this book. When an adventure sends you across the countryside of Barsaive, it lists one of the hazards as "savages." Ouch. That's literally my only complaint, though, and I more or less forgot about it until I went back and checked my notes (although it was kind of a gut-punch moment - my notes say "eek!"). My overall impression of the book is positive.

If I were to sum it up, I'd say that Skypoint Adventures is a collection of "filler episodes." It's three short adventures, meant to wrap up in a single session, that each have a quick, but complete arc.

In "Chasing the Snakeskin Boots" you're hired to find some rare antique (and magical) coins. You track the thief by asking people about his distinctive snakeskin boots. You recover the coins and have to decide between returning them to your employer or their rightful owner or keeping them for yourself because your employer and the coins' owner both kind of suck.

In "A Message to Vivane" you're tasked with delivering key intelligence to the anti-Theran resistance, but literally an hour after you hand it over, the rebels suffer a devastating raid. The guy with the info escapes and sells it to a crime lord and if the rebels are to ever have any chance of surviving (let alone paying you back), you've got to steal it from the crime lord before he sells it to the Therans.

In "Shadows" a slave trader near Skypoint discovers a (whited out for arachnophobia) magical spider that will burrow inside peoples' heads and paralyzes their free will. A friendly NPC, who hopefully the GM remembered to establish long enough ago that it feels organic, has lost his son to these experiments and wants you to rescue him. Ideally, you do, and in the process destroy all the research so no one attempts to replicate this atrocity.

And with one slight exception in "A Message to Vivane" ("should the adventurers lose the scroll through sheer incompetence, return it to them by a stroke of luck or even a deus ex machina"), there is no railroading at all. The stakes are presented fairly and success or failure each bring reasonable consequences. It's not like Shattered Pattern, which put the whole fate of Barsaive at stake, but you still have an impact. Do the wrong thing with the coins and you'll make a powerful enemy. Succeed at recovering the intel and the resistance can bounce back from the raid, stronger than ever (plus they cough up the money they owe you). Fuck up with those spiders and they become a standard part of the Theran toolkit.

This whole book is just another example of Earthdawn releasing a solid, well-made supplement. It never quite takes the big risks necessary to elevate it to true greatness, but it also doesn't screw up the basics. Its ideal use, I think, is to act as an interlude between more prep-heavy sessions. Your characters are near Skypoint and you want to start sowing the seeds for an epic anti-Thera campaign, you can use one of these adventures to tread water while you introduce the PCs to the locals. Or they've just come back from delving into a kaer and you're not ready to start a new dungeon dive, this will buy you a week. Which isn't meant to diminish the book or anything. It's hard to do a filler episode well, and Skypoint Adventures manages it three times in a row.

Ukss Contribution: My absolute favorite thing in these adventures is a shitty bartender, Rapier, who likes to pose as a dashing retired hero. If you get him talking about his alleged adventures, he'll just appropriate various legends, casting himself in the lead role. But what I loved about him was the book's suggestion that he might put his foot in his mouth by unknowingly taking credit for the PCs' more famous exploits. That strikes me as just an incredibly fun interaction for both the players and the GM.

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