This is the eighth Anatomy of a Thread Item in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.
This post, and more in the future like it, will look at the mechanics of a published Thread Item and see how they work together. In addition, they will be compared to the guidelines for Thread Item creation presented in the 3E Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 46) to see how they measure up, and possibly some comparable Thread Items that have already under gone this treatment.
Here is one of the quintessential Thread Items in Earthdawn, Lorm's Axe. It was made famous in the prologue fiction, Inheritance, that has graced the beginning of every Earthdawn Player's Guide in 20 years.
Spell Defense: 7
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman
Right off, that Spell Defense is remarkably low, roughly half the minimum recommendation. A typical Journeyman Thread Item will have up to six Ranks, though Legendary items can go beyond that, and this is a Legendary Item. However, with five Ranks, it is sitting good there.
Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 12
This is the standard Rank One benefit for a weapon: effectively fully forged. A battle-axe (Damage Step 7, Size 5) will be right there.
Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 13
A standard effect available to weapons at all Ranks, +1 to Damage Step.
Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Physical Defense
A standard effect available to any item at all Ranks, +1 to a Defense.
Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 14, +1 Spell Defense
Here things break from the guidelines. This bonus, two effects available at all Ranks (+1 Damage Step and +1 Defense), is hypothetically available from Rank Seven up, which tends to put it in Warden and Master territory. When designing my own Thread Items, it isn't uncommon to see that level of bonus appear at Rank 5, but the item is at least Warden tier.
Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 Physical Defense, +2 Spell Defense.
Another bonus hypothetically available starting at Rank Seven.
How does it all stack up? Well, this Thread Item is certainly above the curve from what is presented in the guidelines, though not grossly so. Rank Five tends to note a gradual increase in power, but those are some solid bonuses for little investment. All of the effects are standard bonuses, so there is nothing particularly interesting going on. However, the effects are also solid and a welcome addition to any character that mixes it up in melee combat - damage and defense are always welcome additions, particularly to Spell Defense that can be a weakness to many front line adepts.
Tragically, the battle-axe is a sub par choice for those looking to use a two-handed weapon. Compare the Rank One Effect of the battle-axe (Damage Step 12) to that of a pole-axe (Damage Step 14), or even a troll-sized pole-axe (Damage Step 16). A fine argument can be made that the two extra bonuses from Rank Four and Five make up for that slight disadvantage.
In all, this is a fine weapon to include in any game, but doesn't necessarily make a good reference template for building your own Thread Items. Unless you are looking to increase the overall power level of your game.