05 November 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 14 - Silvered Shield

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 140), Silvered Shield is a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 276). It was the only shield in the initial release and, to be honest, there haven't been a whole lot since. 

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.

Silvered Shield
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

It's at the high end of the Spell Defense for the tier, but not unreasonable. What is really notable here, even though I don't list it, is that it can have four Threads attached to it. That is a lot. A whole lot. Why, I'm uncertain, but that is how it has been since 1E. With eight Thread Ranks for a non-Legendary Thread Item, this is pretty powerful and already sets about breaking some guidelines (Journeyman items are limited to six Thread Ranks). Starting out, it has 3 Physical Armor, 1 Mystic Armor and -1 Initiative Penalty. Which is good straight away.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Physical Armor 5 and Mystic Armor 2

The standard effect for the first rank on any piece of armor, fully Forging it, which adds half again (rounded up) of each armor type. So 3 + 0.5*(3) = 4.5 goes to 5, and 1 + 0.5*(1) = 1.5 goes to 2. Given that you are more likely to come upon Threaded armor before your Weaponsmith will get Forge Armor, this always feels like a huge boost for very little investment.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Mystic Armor 2.

This is probably a typo since the shield already has that. Let's call it Mystic Armor 3 and a standard effect.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: 1 Strain and a Reserved Standard Action for a Spellcasting Test to reflect a spell back at the caster.

This is certainly an interesting effect, but as it stands it's usually a bad trade. Unless you are already a spellcaster, this is almost certainly going to fail; you will be defaulting to Perception. Even if you are a spellcaster, it's risky. However, if you can deflect a spell that has taken more than one turn to cast for a single action, that is a good trade. This means spending Karma (at the very least) on the roll.

While this is the defining ability for this Thread Item, it may be a little early to bring out a big effect like this when there is already some more standard ground to cover first.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: No Initiative Penalty

A standard effect that would likely be best served by swapping with Rank Three. 

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to Spellcasting Test to deflect a spell.

I like when the primary effect is built upon by later effects; it always serves to make it more useful and, in turn, drive home the purpose of that Thread Item more. Given how specific this effect is, it possibly wouldn't hurt to bump it to a +2 instead of just a +1. Particularly considering how this is more likely to appeal to the fighter-types than a spellcaster. Unless the GM provides some information to steer in that direction (which is recommended - it makes everyone happier in the long run). The Thread Rank (5) also indicates that the effects should start to trend upwards slightly in power.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 to Spellcasting Test to deflect a spell, +1 to Recovery Tests.

A standard effect (+1 to Recovery Tests) along with the previous bonus. That's a pretty good setup for this Rank and appropriate given the Thread Rank.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 5.

While this is entirely acceptable for Rank Seven (two standard effects: +1 to Mystic Armor twice), this Thread Item has now gone beyond where crafted Journeyman Thread Items are supposed to be. The reason for those limits are almost certainly to do with the associated costs. Since they are a step below Warden, they don't get access to the higher level effects (specifically the two standard effects level) due to the reduced costs.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: Increase the level to inflict an Armor-Defeating Hit by one.

This effect is, quite simply, way too good, despite what you have to complete to actually get here. Even though it has too many ranks, things were looking pretty good right up until here. This really is an insanely good effect, while this rank would almost certainly be best served as a capstone on that whole spell reflecting thing this Thread Item is supposed to be all about. Which now seems almost like an afterthought, because, unless you already have Spellcasting at a good rank, it's not going to happen.

How does it all stack up? Pretty well. This is a good example of a Thread Item with three exceptions. The first is the number of Thread Ranks, followed by the Rank Eight effect, and finally, the lack of bringing the spell reflecting effect to the fore. The second is really the biggest issue here, as the other two are a guideline and personal preference thing.

While it's not likely to deform a game, there are a few ways that this Thread Item can go wrong. Given how the primary effect works, this needs to get in the hands of a spellcaster that isn't just dabbling (their magician Circle needs to be very close to their highest Circle). Luckily, a magician can use a shield just as well as anyone else. Warriors and Sky Raiders may tend to be drawn to this, but unless they can make it work with a second Discipline, this will be somewhat wasted. Besides that Rank Eight effect.


Ignoring Rank Eight, this is actually a good template for a Thread Item. It does something interesting, builds on it a little (though could do more) and mostly sticks to the guidelines. Make it a Legendary Item, rather than something that was directly crafted, and it is doing quite well.

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

Silvered Shield (1E)
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

The only difference here is the Spell Defense, which is somewhat inexplicable. It may have been increased for 3E because of the number of Thread Ranks.

Thread Rank One
Effect: 2 Physical Armor, 2 Mystic Armor, -1 Initiative Penalty.

In 3E, this is based on a Footman's shield with bonus Mystic Armor. This is considerably less powerful.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 3 Physical Armor.

A standard benefit and still falling well behind of where it's 3E counterpart is. Though the bonus for 3E was to Mystic Armor

Thread Rank Three
Effect: 3 Mystic Armor and the whole spell reflecting thing.

Two bonuses at this Rank and the Mystic Armor has caught up with 3E, though the Physical Armor is still a couple points behind. 3E does not have the Mystic Armor bonus here.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: No Initiative Penalty.

The same for both.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to the Repel Test

Nice to actually give it a name, but the effect is the same across the board.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 to the Repel Test, +1 to Recovery Tests.

Again, the same effect for both versions.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 4.

While both versions get two bonuses here, this raises each Armor by one, whereas 3E adds everything to Mystic Armor. Again, 3E is a little better.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: Increase the level to inflict an Armor-Defeating Hit by one.

The same effect, but the blood magic cost is higher for this version.

How do they stack up? They are very similar, though 3E is more powerful at every Rank. It was clearly a translation across editions, though I don't think that the initial bonus to Mystic Armor was strictly necessary (giving it a +1 over a standard footman's shield). In the end, it's a little thing and this is a pretty good example of bringing a Thread Item up to code in the new edition.