10 January 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 26 - Forest Robes

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 135), Forest Robes are a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 71). These are one of the different varieties of spellcaster robes, which are still a tradition even though they can (and do!) wear armor in Earthdawn if they would like. It is worth noting that this can be worn over actual armor.

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.

Forest Robes
Spell Defense: 16
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

With Spell Defense and Thread Ranks (6) within the expected ranges, everything is looking good so far.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 rank to Spellcasting.

A standard effect, but a very good one.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Mystic Armor 1 and +1 to Spell Defense.

We have just hit two standard effects and it's only Rank Two! This isn't really a good sign. It's not game breaking, but it sets a bad precedent when compared to other items of similar cost.

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

Another rank with two standard effects, the same as before. This is getting to be quite a bit for very little investment. These are solid bonuses that are always going to be useful.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The robe holds a spell matrix that is permanently attuned to the Earth Blend spell.

While it lacks the versatility of an empty spell matrix, Earth Blend is a useful spell and has no threads. That last part means that anyone can cast this spell - you don't actually have to be a spellcaster at all. Remember, the first rank gives you a rank in Spellcasting.

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

Remember those really good bonuses? Yeah, they weren't gone long.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Up to four items may be hidden within the robe.

This ability is hard to discuss since there isn't much else like it in the game. What is important is that it is different and fun. It gives a neat ability that can be very useful, but isn't likely to generate issues outside of specific circumstances.

How does it all stack up? For the costs associated, this is a very good item. Every rank gives something solid and half of them give two solid effects. Any spellcaster will likely be delighted to come upon this particular thread item. While technically any character can use what it offers, spellcasters will get the most use out of it (wanting that +1 to Spellcasting).

If you put this in your game, it's not going to deform things, but the level of bonuses it provides may cause some envy from other players. As a Journeyman tier item, this has a lot going for it and anything that follows the guidelines is going to look lackluster in comparison. 

This is a great item to look at for ideas. It is technically usable by any character due to the early Spellcasting rank and the effects are interesting without being powerful, well, half of them. The other half are too much and could easily be toned down without changing the overall flavor of the item. Removing the Spell Defense boosts at Ranks 2 and 5, and the Mystic Armor boost at Rank 3 would make this a perfectly acceptable item in any game and dilute the interesting parts of it in any way. 

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

Forest Robes (1E)
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

The Spell Defense is lower and it has two less Thread Ranks. Curious.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Spellcasting Step and grants a rank in Spellcasting if you don't have it.

This is quite similar to the 3E version, but doesn't directly grant a rank if you already have them, making it slightly worse since Spellcasting Ranks affect spell duration.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Mystic Armor 2 and +2 to Spell Defense.

We have Ranks 2 and 3 all rolled up in one rank here. This is insanely good.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Earth Blend spell, just a little different.

Very similar to the Rank 4 effect in 3E, though not quite as good with a reduced effect test.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Up to five items may be hidden within the robe.

Again, very similar to the Rank 6 effect in 3E, but it holds more objects and they are harder to detect.

How do they stack up? They are very similar overall, but there are some differences. The 1E version has lower bonuses overall, though gets them faster, and a better concealment effect, but a worse Earth Blend effect. The additional investment required for 3E isn't significant, particularly not compared to what you are getting out of it. In all, the 3E version represents an increase in power on a thread item that didn't particularly need it.