Earthdawn is a fantasy RPG originally published by FASA and
now by Living Room Games. A second edition will be available soon.
What made Earthdawn distinctive when it was published were in-game
reasons for levels(called circles) and classes(called disciplines) for the characters as well as justification for a large number of evil wandering monsters.
Earthdawn was intended to have an epic feel. Advancement was
moderately quick, and each discipline gained access to two to six new
magic enhanced skills known as Talents at each level.
Spell casters had powerful spells which were slow to cast and few
were published. While some magic item were created by
spell casters, the majority were items that hero had
previously used, and the more legendary the hero the more powerful
the item. In addition, these items became more powerful the more you
bound the item to the current wielder, to a limit based on the
item and a common Talent.
Any given action a character attempted had a step value
determined by the relevant stat plus the relevant skill or
Talent(or more complex formulas for spells and items). By
looking up the step value on a table you were told to roll a
specified number of d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20. You
summed the total and compared it to the difficulty value to determine
success. If you are using specific Talents you may spend karma
(bought using advancement points called Legend points) to add a
race specific dice's result to your total.
The short background history of the official game setting is
that hundreds of years ago, the kingdom of Thera discovered that
things(later called Horrors which feed off of magic and pain were coming to invade
when the mana levels were high enough, and discovered how to hide in
underground caers until they went away again. They traded this
knowledge to make a large empire and many people went and hid. The
devices used to detect when it was safe to come out to the surface
again acted odd, and people started emerging from their safe
underground fortresses. Some Horrors are still around, and many
parts of the old thera Empire are refusing to return. Not
every caer was successful in defending against the Horrors, so
there are many underground ruins full of treasure, traps and monsters.