14 January 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 27 - Naga Scale Brooch

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 137), Naga Scale Brooches are a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 73). These were a niche item, of primary interest to characters that were social.

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.

Naga Scale Brooch
Spell Defense: 15
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

Spell Defense in the range give for a Journeyman tier item and six thread ranks. So far, this is by the book.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Charisma-only tests.

This kind of bonus can be a little subtle, but it is actually very good. That is, essentially, a bonus to Interaction tests, and those are a test that is very hard to get a bonus to. Most of the social system is built around increasing someone's attitude towards you, thus making that whole Interaction test thing either easy, or moot. When called for, most characters are looking at a single die with no modifiers. Which is going to bring back some painful First Circle memories.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 to Charisma-only tests.

More of the same, but for the right character it is quite good.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 to Social Defense.

A standard effect well in theme for the item.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 to Charisma-only tests.

Back to those precious, precious Charisma-only test bonuses.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 Rank to the Hypnotize talent.

This is the single most difficult social-type talent to learn (only Illusionists learn it before Warden tier, and even then Traveled Scholars and Troubadours are the other Disciplines that learn it) and easily one of the most powerful. This is particularly good for characters that don't have it simply because it gives access to that talent.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 Ranks to Hypnotize and +2 to Social Defense.

Two standard effects a rank early, though there is nothing here to get up in arms about. A little powerful, but no one will likely notice.

How does it all stack up? The Naga Scale Brooch is a solid Thread Item for any social character. It gives important and rare bonuses to Interaction tests, bonuses to Social Defense, and access to a very good talent. The low costs and good benefits at each rank mean that this is going to be welcome in any group that talks to people and rolls dice when doing so. That's not actually flippant - not all groups like to involve dice in their social interaction, which is their thing and more power to them for having fun on their terms.

It is extremely unlikely that this Thread Item will have any untoward effects in your game. Everything about this is reasonable and pretty much by the numbers. The last Thread Rank is beyond expectations, but given all of the previous ranks, it can hardly be called a transgression. Just a nice cap to a solid item. 

Thematic and well balanced, this is an excellent place to look to for inspiration. While there is nothing truly unique, it gives three different bonuses that all support the theme in different ways. Of particular note is the nice benefit of access to a rare talent. One that is still good with minimal ranks invested, but that isn't going to imbalance the game with those ranks. It is a tight package that isn't showy, but will never disappoint. 

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

Naga Scale Brooch (1E)
Spell Defense: 15
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

Everything is the same so far, but I am reminded that Thread Items in this book had costs listed with them. Call me old-fashioned, but the price listing on something like this (quite literally) cheapens the whole thing. 2000 silver? Yeah, I can just go buy this.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 Step to Interaction tests.

Pretty much the same thing, this just calls out very specifically what it is for. This isn't a bad thing, as I have encountered a lot of people that never considered Interaction tests were actually Charisma-only with a funny name.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 Step to Interaction tests.

Roughly the same bonus between editions.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 to Social Defense.

And again.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 Step to Interaction tests and +2 to Social Defense.

Here it breaks and gives another bonus to Social Defense, making this rank quite good.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 Rank to the Hypnotize talent.

Back to the same bonus.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 Ranks to Hypnotize.

Essentially, the bonus to Social Defense at Rank 4 in 1E was moved to Rank 6 in 3E. In all, a good change.

How do they stack up? Besides the slight adjustment to the order the bonuses come in and the greater specificity in the Charisma bonus, these are pretty much the same item. The changes made are good, though this item needed virtually no cleaning up.