21 February 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 35 - Bracers of Firewind

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 28), Bracers of Firewind are a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 78). These bracers tend to be popular with any Elementalist that can get their hands on them - they tend to be both fun and effective.

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.

Bracers of Firewind
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Everything is almost as expected, though they are one rank shy of the "typical" eight thread ranks. The description is neat, but the back story is on the sparse side for how interesting this item is. For some, that may be a selling point as it leaves a lot of room to make it fit in your game how you want.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 bonus to Spellcasting and Elementalism tests.

Two bonuses, but each not quite as good as a rank (which is pretty important for both of those talents) and the Thread Weaving is specific to only one kind. A little on the powerful side, but for a Warden tier item, it may get a pass. What it really means is that the target audience is exactly one Discipline at this point. For them, that is a great deal.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 1 Strain, throw a bolt of air or fire 50 yards with a Spellcasting test against Spell Defense (those without Spellcasting can use Perception). Fire does WIL+2/Physical damage and air does a WIL Knockdown effect.

Two different abilities, each decent enough on their own, though nothing to get excited about (yet). Since Ice Mace and Chain exists, that is on the weak side for damage and Air Blast is going to be more effective at knocking people over. For both to show up at the same time, it's not a big deal.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Physical Defense, and each bolt gets a +2 to the effect.

Well, that's a lot of bonuses. Depending on how you count, anywhere from three to five. Both of the abilities still fall short of the respective spells, though that is a fairly tall order for each as they are very good spells. No matter what, the bonuses found here are still good regardless of the abilities.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +1 Spell Defense, and each bolt gets another +2 to the effect.

Looking at the same level of bonuses and now the bolts just became worth it. Fire bolt, probably still not, as I would rather have the possibility for Harried and no Strain. The air bolt became a solid maybe, since Air Blast has a thread and may not always be in an Enhanced Matrix. Never know when you are going to need to knock someone to the floor.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Range for the bolts is increases to 100 yards. Gain air and fire shield abilities. Either may be used against one attack per round for 1 Strain per power - both can be used against the same attack. The fire shield is the Lightning Shield with just WIL for the Effect test and the air shield allows a WIL test against the Attack test to deflect the attack.

The increase in range is a nice bonus, particularly given the significantly shorter ranges in 3E. This puts both of the bolts as a useful part of an Elementalist's toolbox. The shields are another story. The fire shield is pretty decent, something of a free chance to do WIL/Mystic damage to an attacker. However, the air shield is going to be forgettable, unless the GM allows Willforce to be spent on these powers. That is a fairly generous reading of the talent, but one that I can see being out there.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Range for the bolts increases to 150 yards, and the wearer gains a +2 bonus to Spellcasting and Elementalism tests.

Back to that very nice bonus at the beginning and another range increase. I don't know if there is any offensive Elementalist effect with that kind of range in 3E.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +2 to Physical and Spell Defenses, and the WIL tests for the shields gain a +2 bonus.

That is two nice bonuses that make it all worth it. The extra benefit to fire shield is nice, though air shield is still useless (barring that whole Willforce thing).

How does it all stack up? This is a good item for an Elementalist, though no one else is likely to get any real use out of it. While there are only two boosts just for Elementalists, that is enough to make any other magician look for something else. While it provides decent bonuses and goes over the recommendations, the abilities aren't likely to see regular use. This is going to fall into the category of "fun" over "must have".

This particular item almost certainly isn't going to disrupt the game. The bonuses are small and don't affect the talent ranks (which would be far more troublesome) and the abilities aren't going to change the shape of how the game plays. They will add some new tools to an Elementalist, particularly for long range, but are unlikely to reshape how they see the game.


In all, this is a pretty decent item to look to for inspiration. The abilities are neat, but not amazing. They get improved at a regular basis, but are never deforming. If anything, they could stand to be improved a little more to make them viable options at an earlier point in time and then scale with comparable abilities. However, the extreme ranges make erring on the side of caution the wiser of the two paths.

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

Bracers of Firewind (1E)
Spell Defense: 15
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

The 3E version had the Spell Defense updated to match the item tier. Otherwise, things are comparable.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 bonus to Spellcasting and Elementalism talents. If the character doesn't have these, they gain them at Rank 1

Well, this is way better in the 1E version. In fact, granting that Elementalism talent means that any spellcaster who gets this will be able to start learning Elementalist spells. Which may or may not be an unintended consequence. Nonetheless, this is significantly more powerful.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 1 Strain, throw a bolt of air or fire 50 yards with a Spellcasting test against Spell Defense. Fire does Willforce+2/Physical damage and air does a Willforce Knockdown effect.

Very similar, but it explicitly calls out that Willforce is the test. That's going to make these a lot more powerful and scale with Circle.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 Physical Defense, and each bolt gets a +2 to the effect.

The same between editions.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Range for the bolts is increases to 100 yards. Gain air and fire shield abilities. Either may be used against one attack per round for 1 Strain per power - both can be used against the same attack. The fire shield is the Lightning Shield with just Willforce for the Effect test and the air shield allows a Willforce test against the Attack test to deflect the attack.

Rank Four and Rank Five were switched in the move to 3E. Again, Willforce is called out explicitly. That happens to move air shield from forgettable to a free use of Avoid Blow each round. Except better than Avoid Blow since it is likely to be all tricked out from a very high Willpower and Willforce talent. This is much better because of that

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 Spell Defense, and each bolt gets another +2 to the effect.

The same as Rank Four in 3E, just at a later point.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Range for the bolts increases to 150 yards, and the wearer gains a +2 step bonus to Spellcasting and Elementalism talents.

The same, except for this ambiguous +1 to Physical Defense. Was the intention to give a +2 to Physical Defense, or was that never supposed to be?

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +2 to Physical and Spell Defenses.

Similar, except for the lack of increase to the shields.

The two versions are pretty similar, though 1E is more powerful overall. This is because of the access to Elementalist spells (even if you can never improve the talent) and that the abilities specifically call out Willforce usage. Even with 3E giving a bump to the final two - unless the intention was all along for 3E to allow for Willforce and that just was never called out explicitly.