08 November 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 15 - War Helm of Landis

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 142), the War Helm of Landis is a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 277). It was the only helmet in the initial release and one of the few period. 

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.

War Helm of Landis
Spell Defense: 16
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

Entirely normal Spell Defense for the tier. With only four Thread Ranks, it is coming in a little light. In general, I would take that as a cue (as a GM) to have it gain some Legendary Ranks a little more easily than I normally may. Even if they aren't powerful, or necessarily interesting mechanically, Legendary Ranks are some of the most fun because you are leaving a mark on the setting. It is about you and your legacy. That's powerful stuff.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 Physical Armor, +1 Social Defense, +1 to Charisma-only Tests.

So it may not have many Thread Ranks, but that first one is a doozy. That is three standard effects and each of them is good. Armor, Defense and (essentially) a bonus to all Interaction Tests? Yes, please. This is incredible for only 200 Legend Points.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 Social Defense, +2 to Charisma-only Tests.

Another two standard effects. This is well beyond where it should be based on the guidelines. Way, way beyond where it should be. Particularly since these things weren't unique.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Spell Defense.

On any other Thread Item, that would be a solid bonus. Not exciting, but a bonus to a Defense is always welcome. Here, it is lackluster. Perhaps because it actually follows the guidelines.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 Physical Armor and the helmet does not cause Perception Test penalties.

Effectively a standard effect along with a (potentially) small benefit. It depends on how your group handles helmets. For my current game, they are an aesthetic thing - they don't grant bonuses, but also don't have penalties. So this would be meaningless. Otherwise, it is pretty much another standard effect to negate the -1 Perception penalty from a helmet. In all, that isn't a big deal for this Thread Rank in a vacuum.

How does it all stack up? Poorly. This Thread Item is very front-loaded and tapers off at the end. The best Thread Rank is the first one and they go downhill mostly from there. Only the second rank actually follows the guidelines, and at this tier this Thread Item should really be following them rather closely. 

Putting this Thread Item into your game isn't likely to endanger any carefully crafted balance. The bonuses it grants are relatively varied and are strongest socially, which is also likely the weakest area of the character most likely to wear this Thread Item. A curious state of affairs. 

This is a pretty poor direct template to use for Thread Item creation. Bonuses scale in the opposite direction that you will likely want - getting worse as the Rank gets more expensive. There aren't any interesting effects to use as inspiration, either. What it does do well is give a variety of useful bonuses that are all thematically appropriate to the Thread Item itself. They focus around protection and leadership.

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

War Helm of Landis (1E)
Spell Defense: 9
Legend Point Cost: (Novice)

That is a very low Spell Defense and tier. The number of Thread Ranks is the same, which matches up the 3E expectations of tier (Novice) and Thread Ranks (4) better. However, if the bonuses are the same, that makes this even more ridiculous.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 Physical Armor, +1 Social Defense, +1 to Charisma Step.

So that's pretty close except for the fact that the bonus to Charisma Step is totally bonkers. On it's own, that would be amazing. Along with two other good bonuses, that is madness. For 100 Legend Points. Oh, and if you complete the Deed that you have to do anyway and isn't really hard, you get 800 Legend Points. So all of that and profit on top of it!

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 Social Defense, +2 to Charisma Step.

3E and 1E match up for the most part. Except for that whole "Step" thing. Which is still far too good even by itself. To put it in perspective, Charisma only gives you two things: Social Defense and a Step. Those two bonuses together is like getting ~+3 to Charisma. Twice. And you also got a Physical Armor bonus in there as well. So far, you have gained 500 Legend Points from this process on top of it.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Spell Defense.

Again, a mere standard effect, and the same one as in 3E. More-or-less where this Thread Item should be at.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 Physical Armor.

The effect for 3E actually added a small bonus here. Other than that, they are the same. Why the Charisma bonuses weren't stacked at the end, I do not know. It would have made a little sense.

How do they stack up? They very close to identical, except for instead of a bonus to Charisma-only Tests (in 3E) they give a bonus to Charisma Steps. Yeah. This is crazy powerful. Also, the Deed from Rank One means that to weave up to Rank Four will cost you a grand total of 300 Legend Points. That's it. While 3E decreased the power considerably, it could have done a lot more in that arena.

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