19 November 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 17 - Whip of Defense

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 143), the Whip of Defense is a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 278). Here's the part where I normally write some banal fact about the item in question, but this is a curious entry and I am left wondering if any PC has actually used a whip as their primary weapon. 

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.

Whip of Defense
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is a bit on the low side of normal, but nothing notable. As well, the six Thread Ranks is entirely appropriate for the tier.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 4 and produces 1 cord. Cords add a bonus to Physical Defense equal to the number of cords, against a number of attacks equal to the number of cords.

Right away, this is a strange entry for effects. Typically a weapon will be fully Forged at Rank One, which would be Damage Step 6 (Damage Step 3 + Size 3). Instead, it gets a standard effect of +1 Damage Step. As well, it gets the somewhat gimmicky effect which this Thread Item largely takes its name from. The Physical Defense bonus simply is not as good as the equivalent standard effect of +1 to Physical Defense, so this gets a pass for this Rank.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 2 cords.

+2 to Physical Defense against 2 attacks per round. It's not very good.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Spell Defense.

A standard effect and, tragically, the best effect yet on this Thread Item.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 5 and three cords.

The same effect as Rank One, and just as underwhelming. Granted, there is more going on here than just a bonus to the Damage Step, but it has just reached the lofty heights of a broadsword at Rank Four, even if it has a range of 3 yards.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense and four cords.

This is actually a pretty good effect. Since we have hit Rank Five, effects tend to be a little more powerful. A standard effect with a boost is pretty appropriate here. The bonus to Spell Defense is always welcome and the bonus to Physical Defense is starting to become (ish) equivalent to just a straight bonus. Still not there yet.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +3 to Spell Defense and five cords.

The exact same thing as Rank Five. Which is perfectly fine, though I always expect there to be something wacky that the cords do when you get to the end.

How does it all stack up? It's pretty underwhelming as a Thread Item. Anything that takes a hand to use had better be worth it, and the cords require you to be wielding the whip. For a weapon, the damage on this is extremely disappointing. The bonuses to Spell Defense are good, but would be probably have a better home on a non-weapon Thread Item - which is a fact that defines many of the problems with the Whip of Defense.

The cords mechanic is neat, but requires too much work for too little benefit. It requires keeping track of how many times your Physical Defense has been attacked in a given round, then adjusting it after that magic number has been reached. It's almost certain that a few minutes every game (if you have a combat or two) will be lost to trying to sort out how many times someone has been attacked in a round. The visuals it produces are fun and there is something to be done with the idea, this just isn't a very practical implementation. I'm also a strong believer that weapons should be proactive in what they do. They tend towards being a projection of force. This is entirely passive in function. 

Putting this Thread Item into your game isn't likely to endanger any carefully crafted balance. If anything, this is underpowered and an adept that invests in it may be disappointed with the results. Magicians may get more out of it, as they are unconcerned with weapon damage. However, they should be looking for Thread Items that improve their Spellcasting and Willforce talents


This is actually a decent template to use for getting Thread Item ideas. It does some interesting things, which is always a good thing when looking for examples, but there is nothing unbalancing about the various effects. It isn't suggested as a template to use directly for design, but as an example of some different things that can be explored.

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

Whip of Defense (1E)
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

Nothing different here: same Spell Defense, same tier and same number of Thread Ranks.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 4 and produces 1 cord. Cords add a bonus to Physical Defense equal to the number of cords, against a number of attacks equal to the number of cords.

The same effect between the two editions. 1E does tend towards lower damage overall, so that is slightly better than the 3E version. Technically the wording on how many cords are produced is different (the number is equal to the Thread Rank), but the actual effects are exactly the same.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 2 cords.

Again, the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Spell Defense.

Nothing new.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 5 and three cords.

Ditto.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense and four cords.

Still the same.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +3 to Spell Defense and five cords.

At the end, nothing is different.

How do they stack up? They are essentially identical. With the generally (but not always) lower damage of 1E, it is slightly better in that department, since it can be improved with Forge Weapon still. However, it suffers from all of the same issues as the 3E version.