21 January 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 28 - Orichalcum Shield

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 137), Orichalcum Shields are a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 73). These were pretty much the best shield in the game and amazingly expensive (150,000 silver!). Available only in Theran territory, which may include Vivane - worth the trip.

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.

Orichalcum Shield
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Master

Given that these aren't Legendary, in fact you can buy them, they are already breaking the guidelines by being Master tier. The Spell Defense is at the bottom of where that range can be extrapolated to (18-24). With only six Thread Ranks, this seems like an ill omen for paying any attention to the nice, clean guidelines that were established in 3E.

It is worth noting that this starts of with Physical and Mystic Armor of 4, Initiative Penalty of -3 and a Deflection Bonus of +5. For comparison, a crystal raider shield is PA/MA 3, IP -2, and DB +3, and a body shield is PA 5 (no MA), IP -2, and DB +4.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 6.

So that didn't take long. That is four standard effects in the first rank. This is officially better than crystal plate (PA/MA 7, IP -5). Can it get better? Oh yeah, it gets better.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Initiative Penalty -2.

Only one standard effect? That's almost disappointing compared to the first rank. Still, that is a good bonus. Not like it really needs more armor at this point.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor of 7 and +1 to Spell Defense.

Of course it needs more armor! Oh, and a bonus to Spell Defense while we're at it. That is three standard effects. Three.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Initiative Penalty -1 and Deflection Bonus +7.

That Initiative Penalty is pretty endangered at this point. Really the only thing holding the raw power of this in check. May as well throw in a Deflection Bonus in case your game actually uses Parry. Because with a +7, you can count on never getting hit again. That is another three effects. It's hard to emphasize this enough.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor of 8 and +2 to Spell Defense.

Yeah, why not make a shield objectively better than the best armor in the game in every way? Sure, it was kinda expensive to get here, but totally worth it. Three more effects. Man, that rank two just looks silly, now. What was it even thinking, having the temerity to actually follow the guidelines? Loser.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: No Initiative Penalty and Deflection Bonus +9.

Capping it all off with three more effects. Just one rank below when you are supposed to see two for the first time. It's pretty much impossible to muster any incredulity at this point. There is no downside to this item and it gives a +9 bonus to Parry. It has more armor than crystal plate and a nice bonus to Spell Defense in addition.

How does it all stack up? Amazing. Bonkers. Utter madness. This particular Thread Item laughs at the guidelines before you even start looking at the Thread Ranks. Then it gets worse. So much worse.

While it doesn't have any powers that will specifically cause problems, the sheer level of the bonuses from this item are going to lead to issues. It's hard to really put in terms how much defensive power this brings to the table, both passive and active (through Parry). All with no downside. The cost is on the high side, but not compared to what you are getting out of this. Combined with Thread crystal plate? Yikes.

This is a terrible place to look for inspiration. It is horribly overpowered compared to the costs and level of investment required. Perhaps the worst sin is that for all of the power it brings to the table, it doesn't actually do anything interesting. It's just lots and lots and lots and lots of big numbers. And you can buy this thing. 

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

Orichalcum Shield (1E)
Spell Defense: 24
Legend Point Cost: (Master)

Well, the Spell Defense is significantly higher in 1E and more what you would expect from something crafted of orichalcum. A notoriously magic resistant material. Also of note, this one only has five Thread Ranks. This is going to get bumpy. The basic stats are the same between editions (only without that Deflection Bonus that was introduced in 3E).

Thread Rank One
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 5 and Initiative Penalty -2

Well, it's only three effects instead of four. So that's something. Still, everything about it just got better. So it's not good. Just better. Which is an awfully low bar.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 6 and Initiative Penalty -1.

Oh, well this is familiar territory. Three more effects, the same ones as before. It is now officially better than 3E, though only by an Initiative Penalty. Still, completely insane. Though it's not like 1E should be looked to for consistency in any way. 3E should just know better (it doesn't).

Thread Rank Three
Effect: No Initiative Penalty and +1 to Spell Defense.

Only two effects. Which puts it ahead in terms of Initiative and behind in armor. Rough math puts them roughly the same now.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor of 7 and +3 to Spell Defense.

Well, that didn't take long - that is four effects and now 1E has pulled ahead! Except for the whole Deflection Bonus thing, which didn't exist.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor of 8 and +6 to Spell Defense.

Closing it out with five effects, way to go! Wasn't sure that it had it in it, but clearly it was in it for the win.

How do they stack up? Well, the 1E version manages to have +4 Spell Defense on the 3E version in one less Thread Rank. That's right, the 3E version of the orichalcum shield was toned down. Also, some of those bonuses were tossed to Deflection Bonus, instead of just finding their way to Spell Defense. No wonder you get 2500 Legend Points for finding one of these.