12 June 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 06 - The Kinslayer

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

If you happen to be a player in this game, please do not read this series. There will be spoilers and some of this information is subject to change.

The back story of this Thread Item is not going to be revealed in this post for a few reasons. First, it hasn't been introduced into my game yet and I would like it to remain a mystery if impenetrable barrier that is red text is ignored. Second, there are few details that haven't been set in stone yet, because the relevant "decisions" haven't been made. Third, in an effort to make this more useful for another GM to appropriate, I think the lack of a complete back story will make it easier to adapt. That being said, if anyone does want to know, ping me and I will give you the low down. It is pretty screwed up.

It was designed for a Nethermancer and they, by far, stand to get the most out of it with their particular selection of spells. That isn't to say that another Discipline may not be able to use it effectively, simply that their risk (mostly in the form of Strain) would be greater. Given the offensive and damaging nature of this weapon, whoever is using it will definitely need access to some powerful defensive abilities.

A major theme here is risk and reward. This Thread Item encourages very risky behavior for a spellcaster, but also offers some unique rewards for doing so. It is all about the fine line between awesome and dead. Also, blood. Above beyond all else, this item is about blood. There is nothing comforting about The Kinslayer, not for the person using it and not for anyone on the other side of it.

The Kinslayer
Maximum Threads: 2
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

It is a common mistake to assume that The Kinslayer is the more commonly depicted sword, when the truth is that The Kinslayer is the right-handed glove missing the middle and ring fingers. The glove is ornate and otherworldly in appearance, of black leather with small metal plates set irregularly. The sword is a bone broadsword, organic and barbed. It does not look like it was fashioned by someone who knows how swords actually work.

A spirit of blood has been bound to the glove, but remains dormant until the first Deed is performed. At this time it begins to make its presence and hungers known. It should be a given, but it mostly hungers for blood.

The mechanics are pretty standard, though the Spell Defense is on the high end of normal. I wanted the description (and the associated Names) of this Thread Item to seem equal parts sinister and ridiculous. Pretty over the top, like a metal song; evoking a 90's aesthetic that might not be very self aware, but still manages to be awesome despite that.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the glove’s Name.
Effect: For 1 Strain the wearer and summon a bone broadsword into existence as a Simple action. The weapon’s Damage Step is 4 and Strength Minimum is 8 (this is a normal bone broadsword). The weapon lasts for a number of minutes equal to the Thread Rank. For 1 Strain, as a Free action, the wearer may sustain the weapon. The glove must be worn to have access to any of these effects and any Strain taken from this item may not be reduced or redirected in anyway.

Summoning a weapon like this is a good, low-end effect. Since the weapon is not very good, and the user of this Thread Item is almost certainly not going to be a strong melee combatant, this is pretty much a holding place for later powers. The damage of the weapon isn't fully forged because that Effect is only available at Rank One and that is occupied summoning the thing in the first place. Also, I don't want to make the weapon too powerful too quickly; it is going to get a lot of other powers. 

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The glove holds a spell matrix of Rank equal to the Thread Rank. This spell matrix has a Death Rating of 25 instead of the normal 10.

A pretty standard Effect for spellcaster Thread Items, though the Death Rating of the spell matrix is higher than normal. This is because of the intention to bring it into combat and there is a spirit actively protecting that spell matrix. I have debated (and still do) switching this Effect with the Rank One Effect. It comes down to a question of awesome versus practical. Rank One is awesome, Rank Two is practical.

Thread Rank Three
Deed: The wearer may perform a ritual that binds the glove to him in a blood magic ritual that causes 3 Blood Magic damage.
Effect: The wearer may now make melee attacks with the blade using his Spellcasting Talent in place of the Melee Weapons skill or Talent. If, for any reason, the wearer summons the weapon and does not draw blood with it, the wearer must suffer 1 Strain upon dismissal. The blood can be seen drawing from the wearer into the blade. This occurs even if it will put the wearer below their Death Rating.

Here is where it starts to get good. The Effect is quite powerful, allowing a character that has no talent for melee combat whatsoever to begin wading in there. With that in mind, there are some drawbacks here. First, the Blood Magic damage is costly for a spellcaster. Second, the temptation to engage in melee combat is also something of a trap for right now. Third, you have to use it and actually physically injure someone, or you take more damage. This Thread Item is designed to encourage the character to engage in poor decision making, take risks, and draw some blood - theirs and others.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Before making a Melee Weapons Test (including the Rank 3 Effect) with the weapon, the wearer may pay Strain equal to the spell contained within the glove's Circle. If the attack is successful, the wearer may make a Spellcasting Test to cast the spell as a Free action. The spell must include (and be centered on, if relevant) the target of the attack as a target of the spell. The origin of any spell is considered to be the weapon, not the character. Any Threads required for the spell must have been woven previously.

This is an example of how I like to create my Thread Items: have multiple Effects that build off of each other. While there will always be sundry Thread Items that grant the bonuses which are quite important, these are the kind that are my favorite. They also tend to stick with players for a long time, which is really the ultimate goal.

The Effect itself is a big risk/reward type of Effect. To take advantage in it, you have to wade into melee combat, but you can potentially get two attacks out of this. The Strain cost isn't insignificant either; it can certainly add up. Part of the idea behind this was to keep those First Circle Nethermancer spells (Spirit Dart and Spirit Grip) relevant after you get an Enhanced Matrix.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge:  The wielder must learn the Name of the glove’s creator and the spirit bound to the glove.
The weapon is now Damage Step 5. Additionally, for 1 Strain the wearer may make a Thread Weaving Test for the spell contained within the glove as a Free action. No more than one Test may be made in this fashion in a single turn. 

A damage boost, which isn't much, but the Effect creates a pseudo Enhanced Matrix, just with a cost. Since turning into an Enhanced Matrix is the standard ability at Rank Five, I wanted to switch it up just a little with a reminded that the glove is hungry. The damage bonus worked with that as well, and also brought the Effect up to the more appropriate power level.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The weapon is now Damage Step 6. Additionally, before making a Melee Weapons Test (including the Rank 3 Effect), the wearer may take 1 Strain. If the attack causes a Wound, the opponent takes an additional 2 Damage Points each round until they die or make a Recovery Test.

Another Effect that builds on previous Effects. This is significantly easier to pull off if you are pushing a damaging spell through it with the Rank Four Effect. The biggest downside here is the amount of bookkeeping I may be setting myself up for.

Thread Rank Seven
Key Knowledge: The wearer must learn the origins of the glove.
Effect: The weapon is now Damage Step 7. If the wearer uses the Rank 6 Effect and causes a Wound, the target loses additionally loses a Recovery Test and the wearer may immediately make a Recovery Test. If the target has no Recovery Tests remaining, they instead suffer an additional Wound.

For whatever reason, I had a lot of trouble with this Rank, the last iteration held a Thread, but that was... dull. I wanted this Thread Item to be about violence and blood. There is a lot of potential here to burn through a lot of Strain, but also cause some horrible damage. Which is about perfect. This encourages the usage of an earlier Effect even more. However, this Rank has the potential to give back to the wearer for the first time.

Thread Rank Eight
Deed: The wearer must locate Nightwish and Weave a Thread to it. The spirit must then be rebound to the glove. Immediately after doing so, the wearer may bind the glove and spirit to him in another blood magic ritual that causes an additional 1 Blood Magic damage.
Effect: The weapon is now Damage Step 8. Additionally, before making a Melee Weapons Test (including the Rank 3 Effect), the wearer may take 3 Strain. The attack is now reduced by Mystic Armor instead of Physical Armor.

Make no mistake, this Effect is powerful. My biggest reservation with this Effect is that it roughly replicates something combat focused characters will get significantly later in their careers. However, the ability to take advantage of Ethereal Weapon is minimal here since the weapon itself isn't that powerful and the character using it won't be built around combat. The requirements for this Rank are also steep, including gaining access to the sibling Thread Item to this one, and there is some heavy investment at this point.