07 February 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 32 - The Blade of Alemvor

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 38), The Blade of Alemvor is a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 76). This is an item that I tend to come back to for ideas over the years. There may not be a particular reason why, but there is something about 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.

The Blade of Alemvor
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

It sits in the middle of the recommended Spell Defenses, but with five Thread Ranks it weighs in pretty light. If nothing else, the back story on this weapon is interesting and gives some ideas on how Thread Items can make their way in the setting. It's not part of the effects, but there are Wizard spells that can be learned etched into the blade. Which is a bonus.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 8.

The basic effect for Rank One on a weapon.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Can cast light in a 5-yard radius and can cast Divine Aura for 2 Strain (no Threads).

The first effect is just neat for flavor, while the second is more interesting. Technically, that is an effect that becomes available at Rank Five and up, but give the short number of Thread Ranks, it can get a pass.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Damage Step 9 and contains a Spell Matrix equal to the Thread Rank.

Here is two standard effects and both are solid for the right character. That character being one who engages in melee combat and casts spells. For just one or the other, the costs aren't quite worth it, though it is probably a better deal for a non-spellcaster since they can still get access to the spell in the sword.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +1 Rank to Spellcasting and Wizardry.

So that's really good. Two effects (a Rank Seven ability) that will help out any spellcaster. Also, officially give the wielder the ability to take greater advantage of the sword if they aren't already a spellcaster.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 10 and for 2 Strain, the wielder gains +3 Ranks to Ethereal Weapon for 5 rounds.

We'll call that two effects. Which, again, is showing up early and they are pretty solid. The damage on this weapon is low on the whole, but Ethereal Weapon can be awfully handy to have around.

How does it all stack up? If you are the right character, this is a great weapon. Specifically, if you are a Wizard/melee character. It brings a lot to the table for that combo. For just a magician, there is almost certainly something better. Though a melee character may be intrigued enough by the added abilities to play with this weapon.

The balance on this is a little strange. It doesn't have many thread ranks, but it stretches those it does have considerably. In all, it doesn't provide any significant bonuses to one area. The damage is on the low side and while it gives some interesting abilities, they are highly unlikely to change the landscape of the game. They will add some interesting tricks to the character that can take advantage of them. A Warrior/Wizard (for example), will find some excellent support for their archetype.


There is still something about this weapon that is intriguing. It does a lot of different things that support the theme, but none of them push it into overpowered territory despite giving a sizable number of bonuses for the number of Thread Ranks. A lot of ideas on how to structure other items can be found here. This is highly recommended for some inspiration.

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

The Blade of Alemvor (1E)
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

Starting out it looks the same, though in 1E it has a Damage Step of 6 without any threads woven to it.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 7.

While lower than 3E (which is fairly typical), this is rather high for a 1E broad sword.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Can cast light in a 5-yard radius and can cast Divine Aura.

Similar, but to use Divine Aura here you are going to need Wizardry. This makes it significantly less friendly for anyone that isn't a fighting Wizard.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Damage Step 8 and contains a Spell Matrix equal to the Thread Rank.

The same bonuses across the editions.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +1 Rank to Spellcasting and Wizardry.

Again, the same. Now the Rank Two effect can be used by anyone. That is a long time to wait, however.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Damage Step 9 and for 2 Strain, the can use Ethereal Weapon by using their Dexterity Step for the Attack Test.

Again, this is similar to 3E, but significantly less friendly. Trying to hit anything with just your Dexterity Step is brutal even at First Circle, let alone whenever you get to this point.

How do they stack up? They are similar, as expected, but the 3E version is better. The reason for that is simple: it is useful to a significantly wider range of characters and can give those willing to do something different more options than they would normally get. Which keeps things interesting and its not uncommon for that to be appealing.