13 December 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 23 - Spike Bomb

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 141), the Spike Bomb is a Thread Item first introduced in the original Earthdawn book (pg. 276). Here is a classic item that is certainly interesting, but (much like the Frost Pouch) I've never heard many tales of its use.

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 Bomb
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is normal, though with seven Thread Ranks it is a little more powerful than would be allowed by the guidelines.

Thread Rank One
Effect: May be used as a throwing weapon with the range of a dagger. The damage is a Willpower + 6 Effect Test against Mystic Armor. The wielder may make an immediate Willpower (8) Test to recreate the bomb. If unsuccessful, they may try again, taking 1 Strain for each retry.

Very, very similar to the Frost Pouch, there are a few moving parts in this. It has pretty spectacular damage and against Mystic Armor (!) as well. The cost on reforming it is a mystery - could be nothing, could be a bundle. For the characters that will likely be using this, it will likely be on the low side. Any other character is probably going to have some issues. The catch is that the damage is based on Willpower rather than Strength and it is phrased as an Effect Test. All of this implies that Willforce could be used here (which 1E spells out). However, Willforce works explicitly for spell Effect Tests. So there is some ambiguity there for a GM to sort out before introduction.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The Effect Step is now Willpower + 8.

So that is a +2 bonus, which is two effects and not supposed to show up for another five Ranks.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Compare the Attack Test result against the Physical Defense of all characters within 4 yards of the target. On a good result, the character is affected by the explosion.

Yeah, so that is really, really good. It may affect your friends as well, but still quite powerful. Well beyond what an effect at this rank should be doing.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The range increases to that of a throwing dagger.

This effect should really be at a lower rank. It looks comical here compared to the previous two.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: The Effect Step is now Willpower + 10.

Another +2 bonus, only two Ranks early this time. Also, that damage is ridiculous.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The range increases to that of a flight dagger.

One more range increase. Now this is starting to look like a solid piece of artillery.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: The Effect Step is now Willpower + 12.

While finally appropriate to the Rank, this is a whole lot of damage and also a Rank that shouldn't be present on a Journeyman Thread Item.

How does it all stack up? If you can find the right character the hand this over to, it can be very powerful. With the ability to be used every turn as a throwing weapon with incredible damage (that may even scale - see Willforce), and an area effect: this item has a lot to offer. That is really the trick, though - finding the right character to use it.

You are looking for a character that has Throwing Weapons. This is somewhat rare territory, but the Frost Pouch entry goes into detail about the windling Archer/Elementalist that will abuse this Thread Item.

Putting this Thread Item into your game can cause problems. Your players may not be setup to really take advantage of what it offers. The above example is pretty specific, but not outlandishly so. It can be frustrating to invest in what feels entirely like a gimmick item, since they may not really know where it is going and how it works before they begin to attach Threads. If there is a character that this is suited for, well - prepare for your encounters to start suffering. The damage that this can throw out there on a regular basis is going to be significant and likely outpace anything else available for a long time (or ever).

This isn't a good place to look for ideas. The basic effect at Rank 1 is very powerful and most of the ranks afterward continue that trend through significant increases to damage. 

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

Spike Bombs (1E)
Spell Defense: 8
Legend Point Cost: (Novice)

The Spell Defense is significantly lower and the tier is reduced as well. There are a lot of fundamental differences between the two iterations of this Thread Item. One of the biggest is that the 1E version is plural - you get a bunch of them and you have to advance to Thread Rank 5 before they can be reformed.

Thread Rank One
Effect: For 1 Strain, a spike bomb can be thrown with the range of a throwing dagger. The damage is a Willforce + 6 Effect Test against Mystic Armor. The spike bomb affects the closest character within 3 yards of the blast.

Superficially, they're similar, but there is quite a bit going on differently. To begin with, it costs a Strain to use a spike bomb, making them more expensive. However, there is the implication that you don't need to hit anyone - someone is getting blown up. Also, the use of Willforce is explicit here and the range is greater.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The Effect Step is now Willforce + 8.

The same in both versions.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: All characters within 3 yards of the blast are affected.

The area is lower than in 3E (which uses 2 yard increments as a basis for everything), but it doesn't require a Good Result, making it more powerful overall.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The range increases to that of a spear.

The same kind of effect, but this is a better range increment than the 3E version ever gets.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: The spike bombs can be recreated with a Willforce Test against the Spell Defense of the target character. Success reforms the bomb and returns it to the thrower's hand. A character may try to recreate the spike bomb whenever the target character is in throwing range.

This is different than the 3E rules for recreating the bomb and, obviously, has a Rank of its own.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The Effect Step is now Willforce + 9.

Just a +1 increase to damage, which is normal, but less than the 3E version at this point.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: The Effect Step is now Willforce + 10.

Another one step increase and it is now two below the 3E version.

How do they stack up? As discussed, there are some fundamental differences. It is hard to gauge them because of how many of the mechanics are open to interpretation. In the end, I am reminded why I never used this Thread Item - they look like more of a hassle to work with (from a GM perspective) than they are interesting. Which is unfortunate, because they are pretty interesting. Who doesn't want to be throwing hand bombs around?