25 October 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 11 - Kegel's Sword

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 31), Kegel's Sword is a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 279). Often a popular example to draw inspiration from, Kegel's Sword has a number of varied effects with an elemental theme. While not the most "famous" weapon from 1E, it is notable for all of the different things that it can do.

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.

Kegel's Sword
Spell Defense: 17
Legend Point Cost: Warden

The Spell Defense is at the middle of the suggested range for Warden tier Thread Items. It is on the low end with five Thread Ranks (though it used to have more, see below). The low number of ranks, if the guidelines were being followed, would indicate that this is lower on the power scale than most Thread Items of this tier, since the bigger effects don't start until Rank Five and really get going at Rank Seven. By the guidelines.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 8

The standard Rank One benefit for a weapon: effectively fully forged. With a base Damage Step of 5 and Size 3, that works out to be 8.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 9, for 1 Strain can illuminate as a torch for 1 hour.

A standard effect, +1 damage, and a largely inconsequential power. It's neat and for the Warden prices, perfectly acceptable.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Physical Defense, for 1 Strain gain +6 to your next Knockdown Test within an hour.

Another standard effect, +1 to a Defense, along with a useful ability. There aren't any guidelines on when you can spend that Strain - which means that this could be a Free Action immediately prior to the Knockdown Test. That seems a little counter intuitive with the time frame listed, but still. If you don't have Wound Balance, that could very well be worth the Strain. Even if you do have Wound Balance - getting knocked down is pretty terrible and costs a Strain to stand up and take an action (along with all of the things that can happen to you while you are down there).

This is a relatively potent effect, particularly for the Rank, and if you can use it as a Free Action, it's even more powerful.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 Physical Defense, for 1 Strain gain +6 Physical Armor against the next attack within an hour.

One more standard effect, +1 to a Defense, along with a very good ability. This, again, is pretty vague on how it functions. Does the attack have to actually hit, does the armor have to be relevant, when can you spend the Strain? Any GM using this Thread Item is going to have to figure those out.

Depending on the answers, it's almost certainly worth using this constantly. The only time that isn't the case is if it is "used up" as soon as you are attacked, regardless if you were hit or not. Even then, against more dangerous opponents this is very useful. Except for those pesky Armor-Defeating Hits. But then you probably have other things to worry about than that 1 Strain - unless 1 Strain is what is between you and Unconsciousness.

Another effect that is powerful, though this one is potentially very powerful based on how it is being run. Without the Defense increase, this would probably be an appropriate effect (again, depending on how you interpret it).

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 10, for 1 Strain gain +6 to your next Damage Test within an hour.

The final Thread Rank has a standard effect, +1 Damage Step, and a awesome power. The wording on this one only leaves timing up in the air (when do you have to spend the Strain?), but also requires the target to be affected by cold. Which is a very small restriction.

As for the relative power of the Thread Rank, it's high. This is when more powerful effects start to show up, but +6 to damage for 1 Strain is a good trade by any estimation. The "typical" effect with a damage boost for Strain is Step 4 (Flameweapon), so this is beyond that. Along with a boost to damage at the same Thread Rank.

How does it all stack up? Kegel's Sword has some neat effects that are worth looking at for some inspiration for your own Thread Items, but I wouldn't suggest using it as a guide for relative power. It is a fairly potent Thread Item with varied effects. The lack of clear guidance in how the effects are worded is also tricky, since the GM and player may have different interpretations on how these effects are supposed to work.

For introducing into a game, it's powerful, but not likely to grossly unbalance a game. The lack of higher Thread Ranks means that it doesn't have a lot of big numbers to throw around and players will have to add to it with Legendary Ranks.

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

Kegel's Sword (1E)
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

The biggest change is the fact in 1E it has six Thread Ranks. 3E also increased it's costs, which is almost certainly a good thing, and the Spell Defense increased accordingly.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 7.

This is pretty good for a broadsword in 1E, though slightly less than you would see in 3E. The advantage for 1E is, of course, how Forge Weapon works.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 8, for 1 Strain can illuminate as a torch for 1 hour.

Effectively identical to 3E, +1 Damage Step and an ability.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Physical Defense, for 1 Strain gain +6 to your next Knockdown Test within an hour.

Again, nothing different here: +1 Damage Step and the same ability.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 Physical Defense, for 1 Strain reduce damage from an attack of wielder's choice by 6 within an hour.

Superficially this seems the same, but it isn't. The 1E effect is more potent. First, it allows you to choose when to use it, which removes any question about if it goes off when it wouldn't be useful. Even then, it reduces damage, not improves armor. This means it will still work against Armor-Defeating Hits (though the ability to choose already works for that), work against damage that affects Mystic Armor, and doesn't have to be used if your normal armor would protect against it.

This basically means that you will be reducing damage you take by up to 5 from here on out.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 9, for 1 Strain gain +6 to your next Damage Test within an hour

This remains unchanged as well.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 Spell Defense.

Because everything else wasn't quite enough. The bonus itself isn't necessarily too much for the Thread Rank, it's just when put up against everything else this Thread Item has to offer and how cheap it is to improve (very), it is quite the attractive little package.

How do they stack up? They are very similar, though the 1E version is more powerful in three key areas: the wording on the Rank Four effect, the existence of Rank Six and the cost. This is a very powerful Thread Item in 1E,