The following interview was held between me, Carsten Damm and Hank Woon, regarding the upcoming Earthdawn sourcebook Cathay: The Five Kingdoms.

Is there a cover preview?

Carsten Damm: Sure thing, have a look. The cover is being done by Paul Tobin, who also created the cover for the Name-giver’s Compendium. It’s an early draft, of course, and not yet finished—proper coloration and detail are yet missing.

Tell us about the Five Kingdoms--what are these?

Hank Woon: The shining empire of Cathay has fallen on dark times. Shortly after the Scourge, the imperial dynasty that ruled over the land for countless generations ended abruptly and without an heir. Dictated by ancient custom and tradition, the Five Guardians of Cathay—great dragons of incredible power—seized the Five Symbols of Imperial Power and set out across the land in search for a new ruler. Each found a champion and bestowed upon him or her one of the symbols along with the words, “One must rule.” The five kingdoms were born, and the empire has been locked in civil war ever since, with none of the kingdoms so far able to gain an advantage in this, one of the bloodiest conflicts the Earthdawn world has ever seen.

Will there be new Name-giver races? If yes, mind to tell us about them?

Hank Woon: Yes, there will be four new playable Name-giver races (and one familiar Name-giver race will be unavailable in Cathay). The new races are the ki mao, a xenophobic race of elves whose bodies are striped with the markings of a tiger and whose eyes resemble those of a cat’s; the po na, a race of monkey-like humanoids, driven by curiosity and with a love of practical jokes, and who are the traditional enemy of the ki mao; the gar, a race of savage warrior-elves who, long ago banished to the harsh northern steppes to a certain doom, have not only survived but have become a great threat to the Five Kingdoms; and finally the storm children: sometimes, during the most violent thunderstorms, lightning kisses the ground and leaves behind a fully grown Name-giver who resembles a human, but whose solid-white eyes give away their true nature as storm children. Born with essential knowledge for survival, storm children are driven with an insatiable need to explore and learn as much as they can. Over time, they can even unlock their innate powers, which mimic those of the tempest.

Will there be new Disciplines? If yes, mind to tell us about them?

Hank Woon: There will be eleven new Disciplines for Cathay. They are the Beastlord, an adept who can awaken the animal spirits from his past lives within himself and manifest these powers through talents, abilities, and summoned creatures; the Daughter of Heaven, an adept who dedicates her life to protecting and healing those innocent souls who are caught in the middle of the violent conflicts that ravage the once mighty empire; the Gar Warrior, a nomadic raider who is part Archer, Cavalryman, and Warrior; the Guardian of Cathay, elite adepts whose noble order has protected the interests of the empire since its founding, but now, like the empire it was created to defend, has split into five distinct factions; the Merchant, entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of the war to seize a profit; the Monk, adepts who seclude themselves from civilization to dedicate themselves to Lung Do, or The Way of the Dragon; the Pugilist, an exhibitionist fighter who uses his fists to pummel his opponent into submission; the Samurai, an elite warrior caste found in the neighboring island nation of Jih’Po; the Scholar, adepts who, trained out of Cathay’s fabled Tower of Secrets, search the lands for knowledge, both magical and mundane, for the interests of the empire; the Sorcerer, a magician whose transformation spells make them feared throughout the land; and finally the Sword Dancer, Cathay’s exotic adepts whose martial dances tell the legends and stories of heroes past, carving the legends of tomorrow with steel and blood.
Each new discipline has new Talents, new Talent Knacks, and new fiction, similar to the entries found in the Earthdawn Player’s Compendium and Name-giver’s Compendium that explains their unique philosophical outlooks.

Is Cathay a Theran province?

Hank Woon: No, Cathay is not a Theran province, though the Therans do have a presence—both political and militarily—in one of the Five Kingdoms…

What about the relations between Barsaive and Cathay? We know Urupa is the only port for folks from the East, so how come there is a connection now?

Hank Woon: While there have always been the occasional western smuggler, Cathay long ago sealed its borders to the West. However, the civil war has finally forced the Five Kingdoms to redact their official isolationist policies in order to secure the resources they need to continue their bloody conflict.
Barsaive has only recently made contact with Cathay, pioneered by the human merchant of Bartertown, Daylen Jagaro (fictional writer of the sourcebook and protagonist of the upcoming Earthdawn novel: Dark Shadows of Yesterday).

About Cathay in general—what can we expect?

Hank Woon: You can expect it to be very Earthdawnish. While some have voiced their concerns about Cathay being nothing more than another “Ancient China” setting, unless you feel that Barsaive is “just another” Medieval Europe or Renaissance-type fantasy setting, we can assure you that it is anything but. You can expect several new magical items, a new Goods and Services chapter that details dozens and dozens of new Cathayan weapons, armor, and items, a Bestiary chapter with over 60 new creatures, Horrors, Named Horrors, Horror constructs, and unique dragon entries, new spells for both the new Sorcerer discipline and the familiar magician disciplines, new Secret Societies, and a whole lot more.

What will the approximate pagecount and price be?

Carsten Damm: We think that the Cathay book will be about the same size as the Name-giver’s Compendium and Nations of Barsaive, Volume One. Can’t say for certain at this point, as the book is still in development.

When will the book be out?

Carsten Damm: We don’t have deadlines and don’t announce release dates. Cathay: The Five Kingdoms is scheduled to be released after Kratas: The City of Thieves, but things might take a bit longer as it consists of all-new material and needs an entire set of new artwork. There’s a Cathay novel coming out (Dark Shadows of Yesterday, mentioned above), and you might even see Nations of Barsaive, Volume Two earlier than Cathay in case we need more time to get it right.

It's a completely new Earthdawn book. Was it harder to write and develop it? What problems did you encounter?

Hank Woon: There have been no real problems with the creation of this sourcebook other than the time it takes to ensure a solid product. There are a lot of new talents, talent knacks, spells, magical items, creatures (with new powers), and so forth, all of which must pass through the gauntlet of editors for quality and balance. Special care was taken to not create anything that is redundant—or that overshadows—existing material.
We also had to make sure that the sourcebook will be useful for those gamemasters who don’t intend on taking their players to the East, which is why there are plenty of new Disciplines, spells, magical items, and creatures that gamemasters can use to bring new life to Barsaive. Likewise, we wanted to make sure that each of the new Disciplines have plenty of inherent reasons for adventuring, so as to take the burden off of gamemasters, making it easier for them to rationalize their involvement in whatever epic tale in which they will be swept up.

Finally, share some personal comments about the book and the work on it!

Hank Woon: When Cassy Petrich, Craig Guarisco, and I wrote the original draft of this sourcebook three years ago, we were very mindful about one thing in particular: conflict. Conflict drives drama, whether it be man vs. man, man vs. beast, man vs. self, and so on, and all can be found in the pages of this sourcebook. It was our goal to seed Cathay: The Five Kingdoms with inspiration on every page, from the seemingly trivial fluff to the game mechanics. It was our hope to not only create an exciting and richly detailed setting, but a sourcebook that gamemasters might be able to flip open, read a paragraph or two, and be inspired for that evening’s session.
The editing and development team at Redbrick is currently busy ensuring that our original goal will become a reality, while at the same time, being careful to make certain the sourcebook rings true with the existing Earthdawn products we all know and love, both structurally and thematically (hence why we resisted the use of overly flowery names when a simple one would do: in Earthdawn, a thief is just a Thief, a warrior just a Warrior, so too is a monk just a Monk and a samurai just a Samurai).
Together, we will make sure the door to the East will finally be opened, revealing dozens of new and powerful antagonists, incredibly exotic settings, priceless treasures, and a whole new realm of adventures…

I want to thank Carsten Damm and Hank Woon for the interview.

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