21 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 43 - Talisman Statue

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 135), Talisman Statue is a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 43). The current game I am running is, curiously, the only one where this particular item hasn't shown up. Perhaps inexplicably, I have a curious soft spot for this guy.

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.

Talisman Statue
Spell Defense: 15
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

Everything is within norms.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Spellcasting tests.

A solid bonus. Not quite as good as an actual rank, but given the farther reaching effects those have, it's not unexpected.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 to Thread Weaving tests.

Another good bonus, and also within expectations. Giving out ranks to any Thread Weaving talent is dangerous ground. First off, it can give access to normally restricted abilities (like spells) and opens up room for more permanent threads. That this is a generic bonus is very good and expected for an item meant for any magician.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 to Spell Defense.

Another perfectly good effect that is also within the guidelines.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense.

More of the same, but still good. On the whole, I would have preferred more bonus to actual spellcasting. Most spellcasters tend to have plenty of Spell Defense.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 to Mystic Armor.

Two effects and this shouldn't show up until Rank Seven. Still, it's not the end of the world.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +1 Karma Step when using Karma on Spellcasting, Effect, or Thread Weaving tests.

Yeah, this is really good (even with the cost). It is, effectively, a bonus Karma step on all of those tests that magicians actually care about. Combine this with a 3ER windling or human and Bands of Fortune - you will have a potential problem on your hands. Realistically, this is a lot like +1 to three different tests. 

How does it all stack up? If you're a magician, you are going to want one of these. The investment is low and the return is good. Every rank is something good and the capstone is phenomenal. 

While the bonuses aren't amazing (don't mistake that - they are very good), for whatever reason that Karma boost can cause trouble at the table. This isn't a blanket statement for every group, but I've seen that kind of bonus cause subtle problems and recriminations that there is no equivalent for combat disciplines. Which is a fair statement. For those games, they simply crafted a melee equivalent and life went on from there.

While the Karma ability isn't like to cause serious trouble on its own, in conjunction with enough other bonuses it can start to deform the game. 

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

Talisman Statue (1E)
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

3E increased the Spell Defense, which is probably a good call, but not an incredibly important one.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 rank to the Spellcasting or Thread Weaving talent.

A similar, but better bonus since it gives actual ranks (which is problematic as described above). A hitch with the Thread Weaving bonus is it implies the character only has one. Which we all know is rarely true for spellcasters. What is notable is that there is a choice, maybe? It's unclear if the GM decides this when introducing the item, or the character does when they weave the thread. I always went with the former because it simplified my life.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 ranks to the Spellcasting or Thread Weaving talent, or +1 rank to both.

If you remove the choice, this is a lot like the 3E version. Only with actual ranks. Again, I chose when the item was introduced.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 to Spell Defense.

The same between editions.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense.

Again, nothing different.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to Mystic Armor.

For whatever reason, in 3E it was decided this needed a boost. Also, to break the guidelines in the process. Curious.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: 1 permanent damage, +1 Karma Step when using Karma on Spellcasting/Thread Weaving tests.

This is good, but not extremely powerful. There is a steep cost and the bonus is more limited. I daresay this is pretty balanced, perhaps teetering towards a touch weak, but it's difficult to say. I know that my players never balked at the costs. 

How do they stack up? The 3E version is overall more powerful because of Ranks Five and Six. Ranks One and Two of the 1E version are better since they give actual ranks to the talent, but that pales to the generically more powerful later ranks. On the whole, I prefer a mixture of the two versions - early ranks from 3E and later ranks from 1E.