22 October 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 10 - Devastator Spear

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 29), Devastator Spear was a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 278). If you're wondering why all of the items thus far can be found in same two books and think that may have something to do with both them being within flailing distance... I would say that there is a bunch of books within that distance; those two just happen to be right in front of me still.

There will be an analysis of how the 3E Thread Item stacks up to the proposed guidelines (pg. 46 of the Gamemaster's Companion) and what it looked like in its original release.

Devastator Spear
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is at the bottom of the suggested range for Journeyman tier Thread Items. With seven Thread Ranks, this is just beyond the normal maximum, but not a serious concern. Typically, that would be explained with Legendary Thread Ranks (those gained after the item has been constructed), but the Key Knowledge for Rank 7 strongly indicates that isn't the case.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 7

The standard Rank One benefit for a weapon: effectively fully forged. With a base Damage Step of 4 and Size 3, that works out to be 7..

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Throw a number of spears up to the Thread Rank at 1 Strain per spear. Spears can target against one or different characters. Attack is resolved with a single Throwing Weapons Test against the highest Physical Defense among the targets.

This is by far the most powerful effect on this Thread Item. Multiple attacks is always amazing and typically not available until Journeyman (skills and Air Dance aside). Considerably more powerful than the Rank Two effect on a Journeyman tier Thread Item has any right to be and the Strain cost is absolutely negligible. When fully improved, that is seven attacks. The only saving grace is that the damage is lackluster.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Damage Step 8

A standard effect available at any Rank.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 to Throwing Weapons with the spear.

This is better than a standard effect (which would be +1 to Throwing Weapons). However, the limitation to only this weapon keeps it acceptable.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 9.

Another standard effect available at every Rank..

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 Physical Defense with the spear.

This falls into a very similar category as the Rank Four effect, though the benefit is more generic (who doesn't like more Physical Defense?). However, with the higher Thread Rank, that's just fine.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Damage Step 10, +4 to Throwing Weapons with the spear.

Since two standard effects while using the spear has been established as roughly equivalent to a single standard effect just from having the Thread (which isn't necessarily true, but we will go with it for now), this effect is on par for a Rank Seven effect..

How does it all stack up? It follows the guidelines pretty well and isn't actually a horribly powerful weapon for the Journeyman tier. Even the Rank Two effect isn't going to be that big of a deal because of the relatively low damage output in the long run - though that many attacks that early isn't good design, even if it is the defining effect for the Thread Item.

Really, what Devastator Spear is most in need of is a slight rearrangement of effects (such as a bonus to Throwing Weapons before the effect that deals with throwing the weapon) which could easily bring it in line with expectations. Which is to say that Rank Five is a little sad and Rank Two would look a lot better there.

 For introducing into a game, it is unlikely to cause any particular issues simply because the damage isn't particularly high (elven warbow has the same Damage Step when fully forged as where Devastator Spear ends at Thread Rank Seven) and there isn't any way to increase the damage of thrown weapons.

As a template, it's not a great selection, but you can certainly do a lot worse. The liberties taken with bonuses that only apply when using the weapon are restrictive, but not really that restrictive since it is assumed you are going to be using that weapon you have attached those Threads to anyway.

How does the 3E version compare to the 1E version? Let's find out:

Devastator Spear (1E)
Spell Defense: 8
Legend Point Cost: (Novice)

So that is a big change. The Spell Defense is very low and the cost structure has starting point one tier lower.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 4, throw a number of spears up to the Thread Rank at 1 Strain per spear. Spears can target against one or different characters. Attack is resolved with a single Throwing Weapons Test against the highest Physical Defense among the targets.

That is a lot at Rank One, though the damage has not actually been improved from the spear default.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 5

A standard effect.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Damage Step 6

Another standard effect.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +1 to Throwing Weapons.

A new standard effect, but note that it is only +1 and it doesn't only apply to the spear.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 7.

This remains unchanged as well.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 Physical Defense.

Two standard effects is good, though doable at this Rank. Again, this does not have any restrictions to the bonus.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Damage Step 8, +2 to Throwing Weapons

Another two standard effects, though complete acceptable at this Rank..

How do they stack up? They are very similar, though 3E has higher damage in general that 1E. The new Devastator Spear has two more Damage Steps and a +4 total to Throwing Weapons (though it is restricted to just the spear). The multiple spears effect was pushed back a Rank to make room for the standard Rank One weapon bonus (fully forged). In all, it was made more powerful, but the tier was increased accordingly. For 1E, this is underpriced for what it can do (the nature of forging in 1E also made damage boosts easier to come across).