22 April 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 52 - Staff of Vylir

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 38), Staff of Vylir is a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 86). There are some mechanical and flavor bits of this item which I have always enjoyed. They seem a little strange, but it gave be a different perspective on how to put things together. However, as written this has never actually made it into a game for whatever reason.

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.

Staff of Vylir
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

The Spell Defense is as expected, but with only six thread ranks this item is coming up short of where it "should" be. What is notable here is the fact this is actually a glove, rather than a staff. It's like the Butterspider Box in that regard. It may be silly, but I have always liked this idea quite a bit.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 rank to Spellcasting. 1 Strain, once per day summon a very impressive quarterstaff for Thread Rank hours from a piece of wood.

This is technically more than a Rank One should provide, but the quarterstaff is more of a trick and less of a functional thing. Also, it's once per day. The boost to Spellcasting is quite good, particularly since it is actually a rank instead of a bonus to the tests.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: 1 Strain, the wearer may throw the staff like a spear, using the Spear spirit power. The wearer makes a Spellcasting test against the target's Spell Defense, dealing WIL+2/Physical damage.

This effect is not so great. By any stretch of the imagination. It does not benefit from Wilforce, costs Strain, and affects Physical Armor. I will take Mind Dagger/Spirit Dart/Ice Mace and Chain every day of the week.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 ranks to Spellcasting.

While a standard effect, it is one which is always welcome.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Place a kernel of a True element in the staff and the wearer may use the Detect True Element spirit power for one day. The range is Thread Rank miles.

This is neat, but honestly I would rather just summon a spirit for this purpose. This seems like a big investment (1300 Legend Points) in something which isn't likely to come up very often.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 ranks to Willforce.

Two effects here, but Rank Two and Four are collectively sad enough that I won't tell anyone if you don't. 

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 bonus to any Action test made to summon or control elemental spirits.

This is actually quite powerful. It applies to a number of different functions in the summoning mechanics and they are very powerful as it is. While the bonus isn't a lot, it could go a long way. 

How does it all stack up? On the whole, this is a pretty good item, but it doesn't really live up to it's promise as a Warden tier item. It gives some pretty good effects, but also some which aren't as good.

On the whole, the only problem this presents is encouraging players to engage in summoning. This is a set of mechanics which is somewhere between broken and a big mess. It is neat in premise, verging on a nightmare in practice when played by the rules as written.

I still think this is a neat item with a strong theme. While the mechanics aren't great, they aren't absolutely terrible. Still, the ideas best gathered here are based around how it fits together, rather than exactly what it does.


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

Staff of Vylir (1E)
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Everything here is the same.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 rank to Spellcasting. 1 Strain, once per day summon a very impressive quarterstaff for Thread Rank hours from a piece of wood.

While the effect is written differently, it is the same in the end.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wearer may throw the staff as the Spear power, doing Willforce + Thread Rank.

This is way better. This is actually really, really good. Too good. Which is why it was reworked into something less powerful, it just went to far in the other direction to useless.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 ranks to Spellcasting.

The same and it's still good.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Place a kernel of a True element in the staff and the wearer may use the Detect True Element spirit power for one day. The range is Thread Rank miles.

Nothing different here.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 rank to Willforce.

This is pretty strange - it repeat the Rank Four bonus to Spellcasting, but includes a new bonus to Willforce. The single bonus to Willforce is more appropriate for this Rank, particularly given the different Rank Two effect. 

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 bonus to any Action test made to summon or control elemental spirits.

This is basically the same. 

While the are similar, the 3E version gives an additional boost to Willforce, but the 1E version has a significantly better Rank Two effect. It's very good to have around in your back pocket. On the whole, the 1E version is probably more powerful. Both need a redesign, however.