21 June 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 07 - Es'Caliban Part 1

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

Part 2 of this series

This marks the beginning of an experiment of sorts. I've shown some Thread Items that I have created for my home game in varying degrees of detail. Often going into detail about the choices that I made to get to the finished product. What I haven't done is actually show that process as it occurs.

A significant reason for all of these articles on Earthdawn is to give others some tools to make getting into the game easier. Given that, the goal of this article (and the subsequent parts) is to make the process of creating a Thread Item more transparent and approachable. To help this process, I would like it to be more interactive and I will be paying particular attention to the comments for suggestions and questions.

For the final entry, I will go into the mechanics of how the Thread Item could actually be created with the system. This will just be an extended example of someone starting from scratch and actually creating the Thread Item with a particular technique. Hopefully all of the different options will be explored at some point.

The first Thread Item that is going to be created will be one from my game that I never particularly intended for a PC to get (or be used against them, for that matter). Which means I have done virtually no development on it, thus making it perfect. Later entries into this particular series will (hopefully) include requests from readers. Do you have a Thread Item you would like to see developed?

Es'Caliban

A brief trip into the back story of this Thread Item as it currently exists in my game. It is worth mentioning that this is not canon. If you like it, feel free to use whatever suits you.

Es'Caliban is the ancestral weapon of lost human kingdom of Landis. The heartblade was crafted by an obsidiman Named Uthar the Dragon long before the ScourgeIt is the symbol of leadership, of the true ruler of Landis more than any crown could ever be.

Prior to the Scourge as twilight set on Landis, the last king in a fit of madness or tragic wisdom sent Es'Caliban back to Ayodhya. His fear was that it would not survive the coming of the Horrors in Landis and would be lost forever, but if it remained safe, Landis would return. Some say that this act doomed Landis.

Nonetheless, it has remained within Ayodhya waiting for the true heir to return and claim their birthright. They must prove they are worthy of the legacy to the Shivalahala V'strimon at Lake Ban.

That background can be expanded on, but that much cannot be changed because it has been introduced already.

Es'Caliban is a broad sword. Since it was crafted by an obsidiman, it should be elegant, but simple and functional. Not overly ornate. It should also look particularly bright and shining. Not only is that appropriate for what it represents, but there will be at least one Effect around that.

Using the guidelines from the Third Edition Gamemaster's Companion, since this Thread Item was crafted it tops out as Rare General Treasure. I'm going to be honest, I don't necessarily understand why the particular terms were selected, nor why Rare Thread Items and Typical General Treasure are their own categories. Regardless, we forge ahead.

Rare General Treasure has a limit of 8 Thread Ranks, a Spell Defense of 16-20 and a Legend Point Cost of Warden. The biggest influence Spell Defense has is how difficult you want Item History to be. Weaving the Thread is done in downtime generally, so given enough of it hitting ridiculous numbers isn't that much of a problem (if time isn't of the essence, I don't make players roll to Weave a Thread).

For somewhat arbitrary reasons having to due to prime numbers, I choose 19 as the Spell Defense. The other piece is the Maximum Threads. 2 is the standard number, but since this Thread Item is more than just a weapon, it's a symbol of legitimacy and heredity, there may be a need for multiple generations to have Threads attached at the same time. So I set it at 3. Here is the current stat block:

Maximum Threads: 3
Spell Defense: 19
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Now comes the difficult part: Thread Rank Effects. There will be at least eight Thread Ranks, with a Key Knowledge and/or Deed at each odd Thread Rank. I'm just going to start listing places to start at each Rank as place holders for the most part. Have to begin somewhere.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the sword’s Name.
Effect: The sword is now Damage Step 8.


This Rank is very standard - learn the Name, damage is as though it is fully Forged.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The sword is now Damage Step 9?

I'm using italic text for things that are currently under consideration. This is a standard and useful, if boring, bonus. Probably appropriate here. I generally like to bring out the interesting Effects at Rank Five (but not always).

This through Rank Four could easily have some other kind of bonus if the prevailing opinion is that it is more interesting and/or appropriate. The best options would likely be a Defense (Physical or Social, most likely) or Talent (Inspire Others, Leadership, Tactics, something social, maybe Lion Heart?).

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the Name of who created the sword.
Effect: The sword is now Damage Step 10?


Thread Rank Four
Effect: The sword is now Damage Step 11?

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: ???
Deed: ???
Effect: ???


Yeah, not helpful. What I want here is an Effect that works off of the sword being drawn and emitting a bright light. This can be expanded on at the later Ranks. This effect should inspire comrades (buff) and/or blind, cause fear, or something bad to enemies (debuff).

If this interacts with a particular Talent, one of the earlier Ranks (2 - 4) needs to provide that Talent.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: ???

This Effect should to build on Rank Five somehow. Obviously Rank Five needs to be written first, this just means that it should be developed with the idea it can do more things, or be improved in some way. These kind of things will often undergo significant tweaking as the whole Thread Item comes together.

It also may not be a bad idea to give a minor (+1) bonus to something here, depending on how powerful the Effect is. Since Warden is fairly pricey, I tend to start giving some extra bonuses a little earlier than is suggested. As a curious aside, the only Thread Items I have introduced that have adversely affected game balance are ones largely unchanged from how they were originally presented. Go figure.

Thread Rank Seven
Key Knowledge: ???
Deed: ???
Effect: ??? + Damage +1


It is always my preference to have cool Effects that get cooler as you increase the Thread Ranks. That being said, the basic functionality of the Thread Item shouldn't entirely suffer because of that. This means the damage should probably increase. If not the damage, then likely something related to the options introduced in Rank 2.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: ??? + Damage +1

This is more of the same from Rank Seven. The earlier Thread Ranks will shape the later ones considerably, so I'm not terribly concerned about this right now. Since this Thread Item has considerable history and has done some stuff, it isn't out of the question for it to have additional Thread Ranks that grew from those legendary deeds.

If those are added, their Effects should build on the general themes of the Thread Item, but have more latitude in what they can be. They were generated from a specific event, which should be indicated from the Key Knowledge and/or Deed associated with the Thread Rank. That legendary event will also shape the Effect to a significant degree.