28 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 45 - Oratory Necklace

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 135), Oratory Necklace is a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 41). Any of my games which has a dedicated social character tends to end up with one of these. It doesn't tend to be stock from the book, for reasons we'll get into shortly, but it shows up nonetheless.

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.

Oratory Necklace
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

While it's not listed, the maximum threads on this item is five. Which is an awful lot. Why does it need so many? Beyond that, the Spell Defense is normal, but the eight threads is not regulation for a Journeyman item.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Charisma-only tests.

It is probably safe to assume this means Interaction tests, but it's not a sure thing. Regardless, it's a standard effect for the rank. One that is a lot better if it means Interaction tests.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Social Defense.

Another standard effect.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Charisma-only tests.

Again, everything is entirely appropriate so far.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: 1 Karma Point on Charisma-only tests.

For a dedicated social character, this is going to be gravy. Interaction tests are pretty hard to get bonuses to and this throws in another die to even out the results. The character will probably already have this through their discipline, so that means two Karma. Which is double-plus good.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Ability that gives a social bonus to crowds but is way too wordy.

The Deed to get here is... it's dumb. It honestly seems like whoever wrote up this item fell in love with the background of the example of an Oratory Necklace (this isn't unique), possibly from their game, and wanted to include it. Beyond that, the ability here may not be as complicated as I make it out to be, but it is certainly more complex than it needs to be.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 to Social Defense, +3 to Charisma-only tests, and for 1 Strain, the wearer gains +1 to any Charisma-based test.

Well, that's quite a bit right there. Three different effects, two of them solid and the third, while it has a cost, applies to everything that involves rolling Charisma. So that's, you know, pretty good. It's a rank early for two effects, let alone three. 

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +4 to Charisma-only tests, and for 2 Strain, the wearer gains +2 to any Charisma-based test.

Here is two effects at Rank Seven, which is appropriate. Despite having Rank Seven on a Journeyman item not being up to code. This also presents a dilemma: does the new ability to spend Strain replace the previous one, or is it in addition? If the cost was still 1 Strain, it would clearly be a replacement. This is far more ambiguous.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +3 to Social Defense.

This is quite underwhelming. It's a rank where you get two effects and here is one. The final rank and it offers a single bonus to Social Defense. 

How does it all stack up? For a social character, this is still a must have. The bonuses to social tests are great and there aren't many stock items that give these bonuses.

Any character who has this is going to be significantly more potent in social interactions. Probably not in a way that will alter the fabric of your table, or even cause other players to be jealous, but they will definitely be able to get some mileage from that system.

This item is a decent place to look for ideas. It supports the primary theme well, but doesn't follow the guidelines terribly well. It's not egregiously bad, but it has some ups and downs. The biggest issue is when the effects are abilities rather than straight bonuses. Those tend to be less clear than they really could. 

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

Oratory Necklace (1E)
Spell Defense: 8
Legend Point Cost: (Novice)

Well, between editions the tier increased by one and the Spell Defense by 6. The number of Thread Ranks remained the same. This was a hell of a deal in 1E.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Charisma.

Yeah, that's a bonus to an attribute at Rank One. It's not as impressive as it seems, since it will take up to three to net an entire Step increase and up to two for a Social Defense bump. Still, that's good for long-term growth. It also amuses me the character is described as "wielding" the necklace, rather than wearing it.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Social Defense.

The same between editions.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Charisma.

Here's another boost to the attribute.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: 2 Karma Points on Charisma-based Interaction tests.

More Karma than 3E, but more specific in application (even if that is the primary Charisma-only test out there). This is similar, but much more pretty potent.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Crowds are one degree more favorable.

The Deed here has the entire boring story I mentioned earlier; the 3E version put it in the description of the item. The story is just strange and tedious. It may just be me, but it adds nothing other than word count. However, the effect in 1E is less versatile, but significantly more direct. I prefer it significantly.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 to Social Defense and +3 to Charisma.

This loses the ability and maintains the equivalence between the editions of Charisma = Charisma-only tests. I'm curious why the ability was added; was it to replicate the broad benefit of the Charisma bonus? 

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +4 to Charisma.

Again, the ability is missing here. Otherwise these are the same (noting the above equivalence).

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +3 to Social Defense.

And this is identical. 

How do they stack up? The 1E version is more powerful, if nothing else than for the reduced costs. It lacks all of the more obtuse mechanics that were grafted on and grants a direct bonus to Charisma. While that isn't quite as good for specific Interaction tests, it applies to every test. There is also the whole "two Karma on Interaction tests", which pretty much makes up for losing the static bonus. All of that being said, both of these need some help. They are a little erratic with the bonuses (the biggest bonuses are at Ranks Five and Six, which is strange) and the costs are pretty low. This just needs some cleaning and can be a great addition to a game.