05 November 2012

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 01 - Sinistral Puppet

This is the first Anatomy of a Thread Item in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

This is (kinda) the first entry in a new feature for my ongoing series about Earthdawn. The "Anatomy of..." will take a deeper look at a specific element within the setting with discussion regarding the mechanics in particular. The "Anatomy of a Thread Item" features will each take a look at one of the Thread Items that I have introduced in my games.

Before
This Thread Item was based on the Puppet Familiar; I always liked that item, but never found it appealing in its native form. It broke one of the cardinal rules (or, at least what I always took to be one): no more than one spell matrix in a Thread Item. One of the character's in the Group is a Nethermancer and a tailor; the later being somewhat important to his identity. He is also (bless him) always game for whatever creepy and weird thing I throw his way. Consequently, he must think that I am a particularly ;disturbed individual.
An aspect that I wanted to play up with this Thread Item is that despite appearing as a traditional fantasy game magical item with extra work, personality and trappings, in Earthdawn these items are actually their own entities. They have Names and goals, even sentience in their own way. The Blood Magic ritual a Rank 3 created a Pinocchio scenario, though infinitely more unhealthy. Prior to that, everyone was uncomfortable around the doll, after that everyone was deeply uncomfortable around the doll.

After
Part of the premise is a play on "sinistral", being both "left-handed" and "evil". The puppet is a dark reflection of the owner (and it can only have one at a time), which has lead to a number of uncomfortable questions regarding that particular character. He Named it Regia; prior to the ritual it was asexual and came out identifying as female (thus far no one has admitted to "checking"). Not a lot of digging has gone into this Thread Item's past, which may or may not be for the best. Perhaps what little is known has encouraged everyone to leave well enough alone.

From a mechanical standpoint, this is primarily a casting aid - it grants a bonus spell matrix, which becomes more powerful, and bonuses to the spell(s) in that matrix. It has somewhat more utility than a common melee equivalent, but the costs (in both Legend Points and in personal investment) are also increased. It only affects one spell, but with sufficient time it can affect whatever spell is being cast; during combat the most potent spell in the character's arsenal typically reside in here (the not at all Freudian "Astral Spear").

This is an example of taking an existing item and tweaking it just a little bit; personalizing it for a character and player. Fairly simple in practice, but it can go a long way to making it more interesting at the table.
Sinistral Puppet
Maximum Threads: 1
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: Warden


The Sinistral Puppet is a small puppet, 18 inches in height, of wood and cloth in the shape of an elf. It is dressed in simple black clothing with limp black hair and a dark stain on the head. The face is an exaggerated sad clown.

What he sees.
Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The character must learn the puppet’s Name.
Effect: The Sinistral Puppet is an inanimate puppet whose enchanted wood has been shaped to hold a spell matrix of a Rank equal to the Thread Rank. The owner uses this as any other matrix.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The user gains +1 to Effect, Spellcasting, and Thread Weaving Tests for spells stored in the Sinistal Puppet’s spell matrix.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The character must learn the Name of the person who created the Sinistral Puppet.
Deed: The character must re-Name the Sinistral Puppet and redress in their likeness. The blood magic ritual animates the Sinistral Puppet. The owner Names the Sinistral Puppet, and sacrifices six drops of blood that cause 1 Blood Magic Damage.
Effect: The Sinistral Puppet comes to life, it has the talent Silent Walk with the Shadow Hide Knack at a Rank equal to the Thread Rank. Its Attribute Steps are equal to the owner’s corresponding natural Attribute Step-2. The Sinistral Puppet has the same Death Rating and Wound Threshold as its owner and shares its owner’s Recovery Tests. The Sinistral Puppet is completely loyal to its owner, though may also possess many of its owner’s personality traits, for better or worse. The user only has access to the Sinistral Puppet’s spell matrix if it is within twice the Thread Rank in yards.

What she sees.
Thread Rank Four
Effect: The user gains +2 to Effect, Spellcasting, and Thread Weaving Tests for spells stored in the Sinistal Puppet’s spell matrix. The Sinistral Puppet's Dexterity and Perception Steps improve by 1 (owner's natural Attribute Step-1) and gains an additional Talent at a Rank equal to the Thread Rank (GM's discretion).

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: Sinistral Puppets are made from enchanted wood. The character must learn what type of wood was used and the find the tree where the wood originated.
Effect: The Sinistral Puppet’s spell matrix is improved and the Sinistral Puppet now holds one enhanced matrix.

What everyone else sees
Thread Rank Six
Effect: The Sinistral Puppet’s Enhanced Matrix is improved and is now an Armored Matrix. Additionally the user gains +3 to Effect, Spellcasting, and Thread Weaving Tests for spells stored in the Sinistal Puppet’s spell matrices. As well, the Sinistral Puppet gains an additional Talent at a Rank equal to the Thread Rank (GM's discretion).

Thread Rank Seven
Deed: The character must craft a puppet in the same fashion as the Sinistral Puppet (the Dextral Puppet) and perform the same ritual as the Rank 3 Deed.
Effect: By performing an hour-long ritual and taking 1 Blood Magic Damage, the owner can convert the Sinistral Puppet’s Armored Matrix into a Shared Matrix; another ritual is required to turn it back into an Armored Matrix, allowing the owner to heal the damage. 
Additionally, the owner may possess the Sinistral Puppet and animate it. While possessing the Sinistral Puppet the user perceives through it and may utilize any talents the Sinistral Puppet possesses. The Sinistral Puppet's Dexterity and Perception Steps improve by 1 (owner's natural Attribute Step) and gains an additional Talent at a Rank equal to the Thread Rank (GM's discretion).

Backstory
It is unknown who originally created the Sinistral Puppets, though it is commonly known they were one of the more advanced examples of a pre-Scourge spell matrix item. Currently only the Cathans of the Servos Jungle continue the tradition. They are powerful tools, particularly interesting to Nethermancers, though not many have the frame of mind to deal with their peculiarities.

Key Knowledges
Rank One: Sinistral Puppet
Rank Three: Layrs Ullrich, Human Nethermancer
Rank Five: Ash wood, Ashdown Forest.
Rank Seven: To expand on the Deed, when the Dextral Puppet is completed and given life and a Name, at that point the Sinistral Puppet will murder it as it opens its eyes and speaks its Name for the first time. This will cement the bond between the two in blood. The owner will be able to regain the Blood Magic Damage from the ritual and may be deeply unsettled by everything that transpired. Perhaps even encouraged, but at that point, maybe not.