24 January 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 29 - Pathfinder

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 36), Pathfinder a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 83). This was one of the more evocative items in the setting. It was always one of my favorites, but there was never just the right character for it.

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.

Pathfinder
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

This is a Legendary item, which means that (nearly) anything goes as far as structure is concerned. That being said, the Spell Defense is entirely reasonable (in the middle of the range) and it only has six Thread Ranks. Not mechanical, but it has one of my favorite backgrounds and has inspired a number of other Thread Items over the years.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 9.

The standard effect for a weapon. To be honest, it's a little disappointing because I never really considered this a weapon first, or much at all.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 Ranks to Tracking and +2 to Perception tests.

While Rank One may have been a little lackluster, this more than makes up for it. That is four standard effects. Depending on how you interpret the +2 to Perception tests, it is either good (+2 to Perception-only tests), or freaking crazy good (+2 to every test that uses Perception). I strongly recommend the former. That is still a lot of good stuff for only one rank.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 Ranks to Astral Sight.

Two standard effects. A good talent that not every character has access to and above the standard one effect for this range of ranks.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 10 and +1 to Physical Defense.

Another rank with two standard effects, though most characters that are serious about combat will probably have an actual Thread weapon for fighting, rather than using Pathfinder. The Physical Defense boost is always good, however. With all that in mind, this rank is fine (its 1300 Legend Points for +1 to Physical Defense).

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 Ranks to Safe Path.

This is in the same category as Rank Three - it's a good talent and even less Disciplines get access to it. Also two effects before Rank Seven. The Deed involves going to Blood Wood, which can make for some interesting times (depending on your game).

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Create a rough map of the places Pathfinder has been in Barsaive.

The capstone is one of my favorite abilities. Any group that does a lot of traveling is going to have fun with it and it is possibly going to change the way that group looks at the world. Accurate maps are pretty rare and this is a big deal in that regard. The Deed itself is difficult and exciting - you have to explore a place that some of the most dedicated explorers in the province have never been.

How does it all stack up? It is definitely above par for what it brings to the table, offering four ranks that have at least two effects. That being said, none of the effects are particularly powerful and either serve to give the character a thematic bonus, or basic access to a new talent. The damage bonuses can generally be ignored in favor of the other benefits. Distributing the effects across the ranks would even things out more - mostly Rank Two.

While it is well above average for the number of Thread Ranks, all of the bonuses are small enough to a variety of abilities that this shouldn't cause any issues. If your group doesn't have a Scout, this will allow an interested character to perform some of those functions. This is going to be more appropriate for groups that spend considerable time traveling, rather than those who move between cities (or stay in one city) exclusively.

This is one of my favorite items to look at for inspiration. From the background to how the various ranks build on each other to create a theme. The final effect is unique and fun; easily one of the most interesting in the game. Everything about this item speaks of adventure, exploration and excitement. The group with Pathfinder is probably going to wander into some very strange places. 

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

Pathfinder (1E)
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

So far, everything is the same between the editions.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 3 and +2 to all Perception tests.

The damage is considerably lower in 1E, though that is generally to be expected. The effect from Rank Two is also distributed here. Good to see that the ambiguity on what the bonus applies to is consistent between editions.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 Ranks to Tracking.

Essentially the same, with the other bonus being provided at the previous rank.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 Ranks to Astral Sight.

Again, the same between editions.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 5 and +1 to Physical Defense.

A bigger boost (+2) to damage, but it is still far below 3E and laughable on the whole.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 Ranks to Safe Path.

Nothing new here.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Create a rough map of the places Pathfinder has been in Barsaive.

The same fun ability.

How do they stack up? They're functionally identical, beyond the change in Damage Step. Which isn't terribly relevant for this particular item. The distribution on effects is better in 1E, but that is just centered around Rank One and Two. In 1E it gets you right into what the item is about, while 3E makes it seem like a weapon first.