One of my pet peeves when it comes to the Earthdawn system is the idea that Legend Points (Earthdawn’s equivalent of Experience Points) are real within the context of the game setting. This is, I believe, largely the result of so many other abstract concepts from other RPGs (like levels, classes, and so forth) given in-game reality (Circles, Disciplines, etc), as well as a system called “Legendary Status” that uses a character’s Legend Point total as a measure of how famous (or infamous) they are.
And all of this ties (sorry for the pun) directly to how fame and XP are interconnected. A famous weapon (like Nioku’s Bow) is powerful because it’s famous. And it’s famous because Nioku was famous, and did legendary things with her bow. You tieing your personal pattern (via threads) to the pattern of a famous weapon make both of you more potent via the fact that both of you have fame. As you make legends with an item both you and it become more potent.
Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite things about Earthdawn is how it gives in-game reasons for a lot of the common fantasy RPG tropes. But the idea that a character’s power is the result of his fame is putting the cart before the horse.
If you think about the idea of Legend Points as an in-game thing, it leads to some interesting (and problematic) places. If you can earn ‘experience’ by telling stories, does that mean an individual can become a great swordsman by telling stories about being a great swordsman? If an adept kills a horror in the forest, and he doesn’t tell anybody, does he earn the Legend Points? Neither of these really make any sense.
Take a look at the Awarding Legend Points section of the Earthdawn Gamemaster’s Guide (it starts on page 97). There are several elements that result in Legend Awards for characters:
- Completing goals (session and adventure)
- Gathering Magical Treasure
- Individual Deeds
In other words, a character earns a Legend Award for doing stuff. Telling tales (aka ‘building your legend’) certainly qualifies as doing something, but it doesn’t have its own category (depending on your play style, it could be counted as either an individual deed or roleplaying).
Legend Points are a character advancement mechanic. They are a way to model a character’s experience, placing that in a mechanical framework. They are not “real” in the setting of Earthdawn. A character may talk about their ‘legend’ but there is no in-game quantification of this — unlike “Third Circle” or “Warrior Discipline” which do have an in-game reality.
If an adept kills a horror in the forest, he has an experience that teaches him something that allows him to advance in the practice of his Discipline. It doesn’t matter if he tells anybody or not he still has the experience and would, in game mechanical terms, earn Legend Points.
Legend has a thematic importance to Earthdawn because of the post-apocalyptic nature of the setting, highlighting the importance of discovering that which was lost, it is a real thing — the history and oral traditions of the setting. Legend Points are not a quantifiable thing to the people of Barsaive, and these two things should not be conflated.
Nioku’s bow is famous because it has a lot of magical power. It doesn’t have a lot of magical power because it is famous. The last line in the post I quoted is true — as you make legends with an item both you and the item become more potent but that power is because you are doing things and those things you have done lead to legends.