11 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 40 - Amulet of Agamon

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 27), the Amulet of Agamon is a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 38). Perhaps sadly, the most memorable things about this item was Rank Six, where there is a wall of text for the Deed followed by an itty-bitty amount for the actual effect. I also recall the Wizard getting a lot of use from this way back in the day.

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.

Amulet of Agamon
Spell Defense: 24
Legend Point Cost: Master

There are a couple of notable things going on here. First, the Spell Defense. That is an awful lot of Spell Defense. It will take a small miracle for anyone to find out anything about this item, then weave an actual thread to it. The second is this item was explicitly crafted and is Master tier, which is a big no-no by the guidelines established in 3E. There's also only six thread ranks, which is a little spare for the tier. With all of that, this promises to had some serious power under the hood. Let's see if it holds up to that promise.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Mystic Armor.

It's a nice benefit, but keeping that under a Spell Defense 24 lock and key and Master tier? There are Journeyman items that put this to shame.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 to Mystic Armor.

Another standard effect and entirely appropriate to the guidelines. Which only serves to make the first part all the more incongruous with what is in the meat of the mechanics.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense.

There we go - two standard effects at Rank Three. Very good, but nothing outlandish compared to other entries on this peculiar journey.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 to Spell Defense.

Back to a single standard effect. So much for that little walk on the wild side of playing it fast and loose with the guidelines.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Spell matrix equal to the thread rank.

This tends to work out as a standard effect, for the most part. Actually, this is the rank where they tend to turn into an Enhanced Matrix. So that's a little underwhelming.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 ranks to Steel Thought.

Two standard effects one rank before seven. While it doesn't strictly follow the guidelines, this item is incredibly expensive.

How does it How does it all stack up? This has shaped up to be a pretty reasonable Journeyman tier item. Just two ranks that give a slightly better benefit, but that is hardly a notable offense in the litany we've encountered prior to this item. Except this is a Master tier item, so that's pretty sad. For all of the promises and "whoa" when you first encounter it, there is no delivery. It's expensive and boring.

Will this negatively impact game balance? Not a chance in the world. If a player that invests in this and gets all the way to the end (which is really easy - there's only Key Knowledge at Ranks One and Five) and isn't hopping mad, count your blessings. There is nothing about this that warrants the costs and the Spell Defense. It is simply not worth the investment.

Treating it like a Journeyman tier item, it's not a bad example. However, it also doesn't do anything interesting, so there's not much of an example to begin with.

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

Amulet of Agamon (1E)
Spell Defense: 24
Legend Point Cost: Master

While that is the same, there are some significant differences between the editions. There are eight thread ranks for the 1E version. Not only that, but there is also Key Knowledge at Ranks Three, Five, Seven and Eight, along with a Deed at Six. That is a whole lot of effort. There are some "curious" inconsistencies with the structure of those that will be addressed in the appropriate ranks. These are the kind of inconsistencies that are tragically common to 1E.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Mystic Armor and Spell Defense.

Rank One and it's already different. That bonus to Spell Defense is quite nice.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 to Mystic Armor.

This, however, is the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense.

And so is this. The Key Knowledge for this rank in 1E is the same as Rank Five in 3E.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Spell matrix equal to the thread rank.

The spell matrix shows up one rank earlier in 1E. Why was it pushed back for 3E?

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to Social Defense.

Here is a benefit that never shows up in 3E at all. The Key Knowledge for this rank also doesn't make an appearance.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Two spell matrices.

Completely different - one gives a couple of ranks to a talent, the other another spell matrix. I don't care for having two spell matrices in a object - that is what a Shared Matrix is for. This is also the home of the incredibly long Deed. Which involves killing the Horror that killed Agamon. This is going to be relevant in just a moment.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +2 to Social Defense.

This is pretty much uncharted territory, but it's just a single bonus, which is not so great for the cost. Also, the Key Knowledge here requires the wearer to learn the Name of the last hero that wore the amulet. That is a statement this thread item gained this as a Legendary Rank (same with the previous rank). Groovy. However, for anyone to actually get this rank, they have to destroy that Horror first. Unless the Horror respawns, or they're operating under a different definition of "destroy" than I am.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +3 to Spell Defense, Social Defense and Mystic Armor.

Another rank that doesn't show up in 3E. That is a very nice benefit, with three different bonuses. This rank requires you to go back and learn about Agamon. Which is fine and good, but it seems like this would have been significantly more relevant before the whole "avenge my death" Deed that clearly was his last entry on the item.

Comparing the two is a little difficult because of how different they are. On the whole, the Key Knowledge and Deeds for the 1E version are just rife with consistency issues. But the bonuses are more appropriate to the tier. The 3E version is an overpriced piece of junk as written. Neither of them live up to the tier and Spell Defense listings, though 1E has the defense that they really didn't know what they were doing and consistency was never a thing for thread items in that edition. 3E should really have known better.