I've been playing in a semi-regular Earthdawn campaign for about 2 years now. Earthdawn, for those of you not familiar with it, is a VERY high-fantasy setting that served as a counterpart to Shadowrun before FASA dissolved and both games were picked up by Living Room Games and WizKids, respectively. You serve as adventurers in a world where almost EVERYTHING is magical in nature, at the cost of little technological advance. Good stuff, and this is coming from a guy who hates high fantasy settings.
We started 2 years ago with 4 people, and over the two years have both gained and lost party members as well as undergo a major group change (in Earthdawn, Names have mystical significance, and therefore it's important to name your adventuring group so you can weave magical Threads to the Name and get mad bonuses off it). It's definitely the hardest game I've ever played in, so we've got a zero-tolerance line when it comes to playing. The rules:
1) Contribute to the overall good of the party. We're not so strict on attendance as long as you make yourself useful while you're there. We do kill party members that break this rule and have done so in the past. (We devised the Load System. By mutual vote, if you screw up hard you get a Load Point. 5 Load Points gets you killed.)
2) We're good guys.. sorta. If you went by D&D alignments we'd probably be chaotic good with exceptions. We're not afraid to bust some skulls, even if they're just being jerks and not really doing anything bad. Don't get me wrong, we've brokered peace agreements between towns and saved entire cities from the clutches of evil demonic entities known as Horrors, but we've also blown up villages that fuck with us. (well, that one time was more of a diversion so we could kill a party member that broke Rule #1)
3) There is no acting like a bitch in our group. We're all heroes. Giving noble speeches and committing selfless acts of bravery is our bread and butter.
4) We... tend to exaggerate what we've done to the populace. You see, Legend Points (ED's equivalent of experience) are not only used to determine Circle (level) and abilities, but are also used to determine Legendary Status. You get 10,000 LPs, you're a Level 1 Legend and people will recognize you in the biggest cities and know that you're important. So we tend to tell grand tales about how we killed 50 dragons that were attacking 50 villages or something.
Might sounds a little harsh, but Scrub, our GM, is harsh and unforgiving. A single dungeon trap can take out an entire freaking party, and the monsters in Earthdawn will eat D&D epic heroes for breakfast. We're Circle 5 right now, probably about level 10-11 in D&D 3E terms, and we get our asses kicked harder than ever.
Wing Attack Plan R, or Sons of Odin Stomp On Some Heads
Imagine, if you will, a small encampment fortified by wooden palisades in the middle of some slums. This encampment is populated by the scum of the earth, people who would enslave their fellow man for a coin or two. These are slavers who have committed the worst atrocities against all sentient and free beings.
Then, imagine a small flying carpet hovering far above the encampment, holding only a small figure about a foot and a half tall, robed in arcane garments. Suddenly the skies part and fire rains down from the heavens onto the back gate. The slavers cower, then scramble to fight off what they believe to be an entire army of demons. Just as they regain their senses, another meteor, even greater than the first, shatters the earth with all the force of Hell and turns 40 men to dust instantly.
To the south, a storm brews...
As the skies darken, a well-lit room filled with candles suddenly goes as black as the souls of those burning outside. Filled with treasure beyond one's wildest dreams, lightning briefly silhouettes the room and finds it empty of even the barest furniture. A small figure can barely be seen at the window overlooking a 50-foot drop, and then... nothing.
Outside lightning breaks the brewing storm, and it seems as if all of Heaven has turned against the slavers. A pounding can be heard at the front gate, growing louder until a bolt of lighting shatters the wooden frame to reveal a massive troll wielding two greatswords. Behind the troll is a wyvern of truly mythic proportions, roaring in defiance. However, the wyvern's roar seems subdued compared to the war cry of the troll.
A slight elf leaps over the wall of the fort and draws his bow...
"Odin, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, and why we died. All that matters is that today, five stood against many. Valor pleases you, so grant me this one request. Grant me victory! And if you do not listen, the HELL with you!"
The troll charges the remaining warriors, the elf draws back on his bow, and a human mage channels the very essence of reality into his frame.
The skies boil and a giant appears. No, not a giant. A GOD graces the field of battle. He is in full armor riding his six-legged steed with a patch over his eye and a great lance in his hand. He bellows a cry for battle, glory, and victory and strikes his lance into the earth. The three leaders of the slavers burst into flames and melt into the primordial essence from whence they came. At the sight of this god lending his assistance to the brave adventurers, the remaining few survivors of this massacre turn tail and flee through the burning gate and into the very mouth of Hell itself.
All was still. A symbol appears in the ground out of scorched obsidian stone, that of the great World Tree with a giant mattock in the foreground.
Yeah, OK, we stole that from Conan the Barbarian, but we went biblical/mythical on those fuckers. It was singularly the best RPG session I was ever in, with that stuff going on and epic speeches being given on top of chairs and what have you. That's one of the cool things about Earthdawn: the magic system is loose enough to pull that kinda stuff off when you've got an Illusionist with you.
It's funny how Wing Attack Plan R came about, really. We were running recon on that slaver camp because we needed a map into this Horror-ridden city that had been in another dimension for the past 800 years, and while our thief was taking care of business, we needed a diversion to get him in and get the map and whatever else he could. So I go out for a smoke and the guys come with me while the thief solos and we run through a couple of plans (the benefit of being in the same group for 2 years is that you come up with advanced team strategies). How to covertly insert him, how to distract the guards quietly, and then inspiration hit me. "Why don't we just kill them all? Free the slaves and then send that fucker straight to Broadway?" We looked at each other, and then quickly sketched out an operation. It started off as a simple sweep-and-clear, but Kevin, playing our Illusionist, started throwing illusions of wyverns and lightning storms left and right, and we decided to turn this into a battle that a god was born on. He started timing the Odin illusions to correspond with our attacks so it looked like he was doing all that stuff.
Our GM does a multiple-page newsletter as a handout to keep the party appraised of happenings in the world as well as notes of our exploits. We'll see what it has to say next session.
The Sons of Odin RULE.