15 November 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 16 - Monturk's Carpet

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 33), Monturk's Carpet is a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 280). It was part of a not uncommon trend in 1E to create magic items that play with expectations for those coming from D&D. This one obviously played with the idea of a flying carpet. Interesting in concept, though with somewhat mixed results.

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.

Monturk's Carpet
Spell Defense: 19
Legend Point Cost: Warden

At the upper end of the range for Spell Defense (16 - 20), but nothing particularly notable about that. With only six Thread Ranks, Warden items can go up to eight, this comes in somewhat below expectations for potential. That doesn't mean that this is the end of the story, since Legendary ranks are still available. However, this Thread Item may meet with mixed reviews, depending on your players.

Thread Rank One
Effect: The carpet comes to life and can act independently, but can only carry up to five pounds. Also, it doesn't like to carry things.

So, right off the bat this isn't what you thought it was going to be, as most people would likely expect a flying carpet. With the appropriate research, this shouldn't come as a surprise to players. Shouldn't. It might anyway. Well, what can it do? At this point, not much. Besides a freakish Toughness (Step 13!), there isn't anything notable other than it can fly. Not fly quickly, just fly.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: It can make tones and whistles in an attempt to communicate. +2 to Initiative, Attack and Damage Tests.

It can start to communicate (which I imagine is a lot like communicating with R2-D2), which might be useful if it could be a decent scout. A generous GM may give it that by fiat, but it's abilities don't support that beyond they ability to fly at a reasonable pace. The bonus to Initiative (Step 10 now) makes it go pretty quickly. But the entirely lackluster Attack (Step 8) and Damage (Step 6) Steps means that it doesn't really have anything to do.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Transfer Recovery Tests to the owner with a Spellcasting Test against the owner's Spell Defense. Use the carpet's Toughness Step for the Recovery Test (which cannot be improved in any other way). A maximum number of Recovery Tests may be transferred per day equal to the Thread Rank.

This is a good effect, granting you potentially six bonus Recovery Tests at Step 13. If you don't have access to regular healing magic, that is going to be awesome. However, the carpet's Spellcasting Step is 7. Which means that you will probably need to reduce your Spell Defense to make that anything other than an exercise in frustration. Even then, one out of the six Recovery Tests will likely fail the transfer.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +4 to Initiative, Attack and Damage Tests; +1 to Physical and Spell Defenses.

That is a big pile of bonuses, taking Initiative to Step 12, Attack to 10 and Damage to 8. Which is still pretty sad for a Group that is likely Journeyman at this point. The Defenses are also unimpressive, at 8 and 10 respectively. To be fair, it's unlikely that anyone would actually consider the carpet a real threat. Keep in mind we are just shy of 3000 Legend Points into this Thread Item. 

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Telepathic link with owner up to 250 yards; +2 to Physical and Spell Defense.

Now you can effectively communicate with the carpet. It's defenses aren't terrible, but why bother? This Thread Rank also requires 2500 silver in repairs to the carpet, in addition to the 2100 LP (bringing us up to 5000 total).

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Levitate up to 2000 pounds in a 3 x 6 yard area behind the carpet, maximum altitude of 10 yards. The area of levitation follows behind the carpet.

Flying carpet! Ish. Not quite, but practically. Just couldn't back away entirely from the premise that it's not a flying carpet, which is fine. However, it took 8400 Legend Points to get there.

How does it all stack up? Well, you may have noticed that I never bothered referencing the guidelines once things got underway. The reason for that basically comes down to: what do you even compare this to? It's a separate entity, and beyond Rank 3 and Rank 6, not a very good one. So even though the bonuses were continually huge, they still weren't worth it.

The problems with this Thread Item are largely indicative of the issues with animal companions in general. They don't really have a niche to fill and are never actually useful, particularly in combat. Even at it's peak, I would rather have a First Circle Windmaster in my corner - they can even fly faster than the carpet. To put it bluntly, it is expensive and ironically doesn't pull it's own weight (right up until Rank 6). It tragically doesn't even have any abilities to support its owner in combat, like Distract or Buzz. All it can do is damage. Poorly.

Handing this to your players is tempting fate. They may be amused by the antics of this little guy, or they may feel like they are throwing good resources after bad as they try to figure out when it is going to get useful. Their initial research into the carpet may return stories of it having legendary fights with its owner and carrying a literal ton of stuff! Which are all true, but the reality is significantly less impressive than the legend.

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

Monturk's Carpet (1E)
Spell Defense: 19
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

Same Spell Defense, tier and number of Thread Ranks (fsix).

Thread Rank One
Effect: The carpet comes to life and can act independently, but can only carry up to five pounds. Also, it doesn't like to carry things.

The basic effect is the same, but the attributes are different. They are worse. That's right, this thing was pretty much improved across the board (except for movement, which was reduced).

Thread Rank Two
Effect: It can make tones and whistles in an attempt to communicate. +2 to Initiative.

Similar, but only a bonus to Initiative, raising it as well to Step 10.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Transfer Recovery Tests to the owner with a Spellcasting Test against the owner's Spell Defense. Use the carpet's Toughness Step for the Recovery Test (which cannot be improved in any other way). A maximum number of Recovery Tests may be transferred per day equal to the Thread Rank.

The same effect and probably the best one available. Unfortunately, there are still better Thread Items out there for this kind of effect. Better in every way.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Initiative Step 12, Spellcasting Step 8, +50% movement.

The Initiative bonus is the same, but the other two are different. Given the limitations, this is probably the better set of bonuses, since they actually improve two things you may want. 

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Telepathic link with owner up to 250 yards; +50% to movement.

A very similar story to the previous Thread Rank. Even with the high speed, there isn't much to do with it.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Levitate up to 2000 pounds in a 3 x 6 yard area behind the carpet, maximum altitude of 10 yards. The area of levitation follows behind the carpet.

Exactly the same, which is both good and disappointing because this is still underwhelming.

How do they stack up? They're pretty similar. Unfortunately, it's in all of the worst ways. The 1E version is significantly faster and slightly better at transferring Recovery Tests (but that bonus Step reduces the chances of failure against the minimum Spell Defense of 3 to just rolling snake eyes). Which makes it a little better, but almost certainly not worth the investment to get there.