It is the Age of Legends.
A hundred years ago, The Scourge came to an end and the surviving people of Barsaive emerged from their hiding places to reclaim the surface. They discovered a ruined world overrun by strange creatures and still tainted by Horrors, terrifying, extradimensional beings. It is not a peaceful world, but it one worth fighting for, a world where all the Namegiver races can be free.
The greatest Champions of the Age of Legends are Adepts, heroic individuals who can augment their great skill with powerful magics. They explore Barsaive, seeking the treasures of the old world and the wonders of the new. Guided by the tales of the past, they forge their own legends and fight to protect the people of these lands… or to conquer them.
EARTHDAWN is a game of legends in the making, of heroes who brave the unknown. It is less a game of epic, high-fantasy struggles between good and evil than it is about exploration and restoring a shattered land. This is not a world in need of a plucky band of adventures to defeat a titanic evil; the world already was destroyed and now it must be remapped and rebuilt.
Earthdawn is a game of adventure and exploration. It tells the stories of brave heroes, who are carving their own legends by exploring the unknown and the ruins of the past, perhaps partly out of greed or a desire to protect, but mostly because it is there. And just as its world is filled with larger-than-life heroes, so to do larger-than-life dangers and evils lurk in the shadows.
The vast, continental province of Barsaive is the primary setting for Earthdawn. An ecologically diverse region, it is home to the people of eight different Namegiver races, from the Trolls of the high mountains to the Orks of the plains to the tiny Windlings in their forests.
The people of Barsaive are still rebuilding after the Scourge and some may even still hide in their citadels. Bearing memories of their brutal pre-Scourge domination by the Theran Empire, many have turned to the dwarf Kingdom of Throal for protection, while others seek their own power in the ruins of the past.
Magic is everywhere in Barsaive. Places, artifacts, and creatures all have a magical pattern that affects their relationship with the rest of the world. These patterns are fixed by a Name; the pattern of a named thing can grow, creating a powerful legend.
The heroes of Earthdawn are Adepts, individuals who, through the following of Disciplines, can augment their abilities with magic. Adepts, able to achieve amazing feats with their Talents and spells, seek to immortalize themselves in legends, perhaps through righting wrongs, perhaps through making great discoveries, or perhaps through the acquisition of wealth and power.
Many of the modes of gameplay in Earthdawn will be instantly familiar to those versed in other fantasy RPGs. There are evil wizards to defeat, beasts to slay, dungeons in which to delve, gold to be acquired and, yes, there are dragons. But it also brings a robust system of social interaction and a detailed, turbulent setting ready to explore.
Earthdawn is a game of high action, where heroes must often fight to survive. The mechanics of the game are somewhat complex and thus battles are often significant affairs. All player characters will be expected to fight, but those who truly focus on battle will find no shortage of opportunities to ply their skills.
At the time of the game, the Scourge has been over for roughly a century and Barsaive is still recovering. While some areas remain much as they were before, much has been lost. Trade routes have been destroyed, entire populations wiped out, even the very landscape was altered by the Scourge. Much of the land is virgin territory and so brave and ambitious explorers venture across the land, recovering what was lost, discovering what is new, and weaving the world back together with their legends.
Player characters will participate in this rush, not simply traveling from civilized region to civilized region, but exploring what lies between. In terms of gameplay, this puts great weight upon survival, navigation, and even the knowledge of operating airships or the great riverboats. In other words, characters who focus on practical skills will be greatly rewarded.
As explorers map Barsaive and warriors push back the darkness, other, more human threats loom, for with great opportunity comes great intrigue. The great powers of Throal and Thera battle each other with words and politics far more than soldiers. Sinister forces manipulate the populace for their own ends. Powerful magic-users use any means to obtain lost knowledge. Horrors hunt in the minds of men as much as in the flesh. And the mighty dragons, as they always have, play their great game with generations of mortals as pawns.
The heroes of Earthdawn are individuals of power and unlimited potential and such individuals are inevitably drawn into struggles beyond their scope, battles won not by strength of blade or raw power of magic, but by cunning and knowledge. Those who pursue such avenues are truly a force to be reckoned with.