15 April 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 50 - Neverburn

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 34), Neverburn is a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 82). This item has appeared occasionally in my games over the years, but no player has ever woven a thread to it. Instead, Neverburn was always used as a trade good for something they actually did want.

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.

Neverburn
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Novice

At the top end of Spell Defense, but still within norms. There are also five ranks, which is beyond what a Novice tier item should have.

Thread Rank One
Effect: It produces the Light spell and cannot be put out.

It creates light and cannot be put out. This is a little underwhelming for 100 Legend Points. There are pretty common magical items which do this. You can even get them mounted in your gear. They're not expensive.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wielder can turn it on and off.

Remember that whole, "there are fire ranks," thing from before? Well, clearly they're wasted. That's right, after 300 Legend Points, the owner can now turn his torch off. Bonus: This rank requires a Key Knowledge.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The wielder gains heat sight.

This is actually pretty good, though it makes both of the previous ranks seem awfully silly - now you don't even need them. A downside is that you must be wielding the torch to gain the ability. Not just own it.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 bonus to tests made to resist ghoul poison.

That's a decent bonus against something extremely specific. It's a toss-up if I even include ghouls in a game at all. Given they are Second Circle enemies and this is a Rank Four ability... well, it's probably verging on useless by the time you get it. Another Key Knowledge here - bring this item up to four total for five ranks. That's a record in so many terrible ways.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +3 bonus to tests made to resist any poison and +5 against ghoul poison.

+3 against poison is a good bonus. It will probably come up at some point and getting poisoned is rough. Shadowmants are one of the biggest killers at my table over the years just because of their poison. The bonus against ghouls as well means this rank offers a lot, but I think the ghoul bit can be safely ignored. Why the ghoul stuff? Well, this item was wielded by a troll Illusionist who got killed by ghoul poison. My big question is, why were they wielding a torch against ghouls in such a fashion when they died? I don't know any trolls who use torches except to light things on fire - they have heat sight. 

How does it all stack up? It's pretty terrible. My players over the years did well to avoid this one. What it realistically has to offer is heat sight and a bonus against poison. If you really want those, I suggest going after blood magic and saving this thread for an item which offers Durability boosts.

Probably the biggest problem in this item's design is how true it tried to be to a nonsensical back story. In the epic struggle against some ghouls, this was what a troll Illusionist imbued with a True Pattern, really? I know magic works in mysterious ways and all that, but this is something someone created on purpose. I'm having trouble divining that purpose, other than trying to be "different" without thinking about actually being useful. Bottom line: if no one wants the thread item, why both spending the word count on it?

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

Neverburn (1E)
Spell Defense: 9
Legend Point Cost: (Novice)

The only difference is the Spell Defense, which is five less here.

Thread Rank One
Effect: It produces the Light spell and cannot be put out.

Unchanged.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wielder can turn it on and off.

Still the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The wielder gains heat sight.

No changes.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 bonus to Toughness tests made to resist ghoul poison.

Pretty much the same. This specifies Toughness tests, if that matters.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +3 bonus to Toughness tests made to resist any poison and +5 against ghoul poison.

Still the same, just with the Toughness note. 

It's the same in both editions. It couldn't have even been bootstrapped into usefulness when updating it.