29 November 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 20 - Spike Gauntlets

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 141), Spike Gauntlets are a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 277). Always the bridesmaid and never the bride; Spike Gauntlets seemed to be relatively common, but rarely got the attention of many of their more exciting peers. Which may be odd when you consider that they are spiked gauntlets that go all Wolverine. 

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.

Spike Gauntlets
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is normal, but with eight Thread Ranks, this is certainly beyond the guidelines on Journeyman tier and into the Warden tier.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 Physical Defense.

Standard effect, but always a welcome one.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Spell Defense.

Another standard effect, and another good one. So far everything is within the guidelines.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Physical and Spell Defense.

Two standard effects at Thread Rank Three. That's a Rank Seven effect. So it's a little outside of where it should be. Also, very good.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: For 1 Strain, the spikes lengthen and can be used as a STR + 4 weapon. Additionally, for every 1 Strain, the wearer may add +1 to the result of a successful Attack Test; up to Thread Rank Strain can be spent this way each round.

This is probably too powerful for a Rank Four effect all together. It would be more appropriate for at least a Rank Five effect. However, it isn't that big of a deal since this particular ability isn't likely to come up very often. It's worth noting that the secondary ability can only be used in conjunction with using the gauntlets as a weapon.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +3 to Physical and Spell Defense.

We're back to two standard effects before Rank Seven. If this was a Warden or Master tier Thread Item, it may not be a thing to find this at Rank Five. However, it's a Journeyman item with eight ranks total. Which is a considerable amount of power for a low cost.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The gauntlets can become a STR + 6 weapon.

This is pretty solid. It builds on the keystone ability to this Thread Item (even though the Defense bonuses are really where it is at) and is entirely reasonable for the Rank.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +1 to Social Defense and +4 to Spell Defense.

Two standard effects, but that is appropriate for this Rank. It isn't really appropriate for there to be this many Thread Ranks on a Journeyman tier item by the guidelines - which is the larger issue. That and the appropriateness of a bonus to Social Defense, which feels strange.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +2 to Social Defense and +4 to Physical Defense.

The same story as the previous Thread Rank in every way.

How does it all stack up? Well, what should be the most notable effect of this Thread Item, spikes turning into a secondary weapon, is actually forgettable in the face of the huge Defense bonuses. If you actually remove the spikes and any mention of them and move the Defense bonuses to those Ranks, this becomes a very standard Defense boosting Thread Item. A little dull, but effective. The only issue there is that the tier is screwy. Warden tier and a little shuffling of abilities and this becomes entirely workable.

Putting this Thread Item into your game isn't likely to cause any major issues. The ability it introduces isn't particularly noteworthy (which is really the greatest tragedy). If your game has some fine balance on Defenses, then the bonuses to those could present some issues. While there isn't a whole lot else going on, they get fairly big rather quickly and at a low cost. More than anything, think about how those could change things before introducing this Thread Item.


This is a decent Thread Item to use for ideas. As mentioned previously, the biggest problem is that the defining ability is significantly less interesting that the bonuses to the point that the ability could be removed and it would still be good. With the Social Defense bonuses, it almost seems to start losing its way on what to do with a wariness to giving more Physical and Social Defense bonuses, but not willing to commit further to the ability it grants.

There is a good Thread Item hiding in here somewhere. It just needs to be found. Maybe a future piece will look into finding it, or at least offering some different visions of how it could be implemented.

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

Spike Gauntlets (1E)
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

Everything here is the same.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 Physical Defense.

No change.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Spell Defense.

Same here.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Physical and Spell Defense.

Again, nothing new. Also, still very good.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: For 1 Strain, the spikes lengthen and can be used as a STR + 6 weapon. Additionally, for every 1 Strain, the wearer may add +1 to the result of a successful Attack Test; up to Thread Rank Strain can be spent this way each round. For 1 Strain, gain +3 to Unarmed Combat for the Attack Test.

So this is clearly better than in 3E. The damage is two higher and it has a boost to Unarmed Combat. Which makes this effect crazy good for many adepts that use Unarmed Combat. Particularly if they don't have access to a native damage boost for that.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +3 to Physical and Spell Defense.

We're back to parity between the editions.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The gauntlets can become a STR + 8 weapon.

The effect is the same (+2 to damage), but the damage in 1E is significantly higher, particularly when you consider that damages in 3E tend to be higher.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +1 to Social Defense and +4 to Spell Defense.

Same effects here.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +2 to Social Defense and +4 to Physical Defense.

Again, the same.

How do they stack up? Except for Rank Four, they are identical. Rank Four was toned down quite a bit in 3E, but in doing so the "interesting" part of the Thread Item was lost in favor of just the bonuses. This just adds some more interesting data to a potential rework of this Thread Item and what it could be. Including breaking out Rank Four somewhat and spreading out among the Thread Ranks, taking the emphasis away from the Defense bonuses and placing it on the spikes.