14 February 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 34 - Bloodwall

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 28), Bloodwall is a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 77). This particular shield actually made an appearance in an Earthdawn game that I ran 16 years ago.

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.

Bloodwall
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Everything is almost as expected for this shield, though it is one rank shy of the "typical" eight thread ranks. It starts life as a crystal raider shield (3 Physical and Mystic Armor, -2 Initiative Penalty).

Thread Rank One
Effect: 5 Physical and Mystic Armor.

That is the standard Rank One benefit for 3E, which is also very good for these more heavily armored items.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: An additional +5 to Physical and Mystic Armor against heat and fire attacks.

Well, that's quite a bit for Rank Two, though it is rather specific. Still, more than should probably be provided at this rank.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The wielder may make an Avoid Blow or Parry test against any attack that relies on eye contact, even if it would target his Spell or Social Defense. The shield is now Initiative Penalty 1.

First off, the Initiative Penalty reduction is solid and an effect all on its own. Moving on from there, that is an interesting effect - it's pretty specific and may only affect a few abilities (Frighten and Steely Stare are given as examples, Death's Head is probably another one). Part of me always thinks this is a little silly, particularly the 3E inclusion of Parry (unless you are using 3ER, a troll sword will have a better bonus) meaning that you can hide behind your shield and ward off the "attack" with your sword.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 6, and Deflection Bonus of +4/+4.

Well that is three bonuses right there, which is well beyond expectations for this rank. The increased Deflection Bonus means that the wielder is probably going to use the shield to ward off those "attacks".

Thread Rank Five
Effect: No Initiative Penalty and +10 to Physical and Mystic Armor against heat and fire attacks.

A big increase to a situational bonus, which will render those attacks somewhat trivial at this point. Also, no more Initiative Penalty. That is probably about another three effects right here.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 7, and Deflection Bonus of +5/+5.

And three more effects.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +3 ranks to Astral Sight when looking through the shield and any Astral Sight tests automatically count as Sensing tests for illusions while looking through the shield.

That is another three-ish effects, though it is at least at the rank when two is normal.

How does it all stack up? This is a very good shield. It's not Orichalcum Shield good, which is a good thing. It also manages to be more interesting with the vision-based abilities. However, the benefits that it provides are potent given the number of ranks and the costs associated.

This item isn't likely to unbalance a game that it is introduced to, but it could cause some envy if the other items out there don't measure up to the excellent benefits per rank that Bloodwall provides. It is likely to be the most significant issue with any thread items introduced to a campaign. It has a lot of flavor, but some serious bonuses to go along with it. Essentially, this item makes no sacrifices for the benefits that it brings to the table.


While the direct numerical bonuses don't provide a great template to follow, the other effects are interesting and worth using for inspiration. The construction of the item itself is interesting (a shield made primarily of transparent red crystal) and the effects build on that by using it as a filter for the wielder's vision.

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

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

Everything is the same between them at this point.

Thread Rank One
Effect: 4 Physical and Mystic Armor.

While not the 3E standard benefits, this is still good by 1E standards with a bonus to each.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 5 Physical Armor and an additional +5 to Physical and Mystic Armor against heat and fire attacks.

Three-ish effects, but still behind the 3E version. That isn't unexpected, however. It is also worth noting that there is no Deflection Bonus in 1E to increase.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Mystic Armor 5 and the wielder may make an Avoid Blow or Dexterity test against any attack that relies on eye contact. 

The same number of effects here, but now it only lags behind on Initiative. The abilities are functionally the same between the editions, though the wording is slightly different.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 6, and Initiative Penalty is now 1.

That is a lot of bonuses and now they are pretty much equivalent, what with 1E not having Deflection Bonuses.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: No Initiative Penalty and +10 to Physical and Mystic Armor against heat and fire attacks.

Exactly the same.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Physical and Mystic Armor 7, and +15 to Physical and Mystic Armor against heat and fire attacks.

Instead of an increase to Deflection Bonus, this stacks on more against fire damage.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +3 ranks to Astral Sight when looking through the shield and any Astral Sight tests automatically count as Sensing tests for illusions while looking through the shield.

The same.

The two versions are pretty consistent, excepting for differences between the underlying assumptions of each edition. When I introduced this into my campaign so many years ago, the various bonuses were reduced without the player ever realizing. It worked out for the best that way, as we were teenagers and thread item envy could be quite a thing. The Rank Seven Deed did elicit an amusing response, "You want me to do what?" Also, he fell into Death's Sea. To hilarious, though not life ending, results.