20 May 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 60 - Horn of the Seven Winds

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

Found in Nations of Barsaive II: Serpent River (pg. 112), Horn of the Seven Winds is a Thread Item first introduced in The Serpent River (pg. 129). I dimly recall this item from long ago. It never graced the table, perhaps because of the first sentence of the first effect. We'll get to what it is shortly.

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.

Horn of the Seven Winds
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Nothing notable here - Spell Defense is as expected and with seven ranks, it is one shy of expectations, but I have a feeling the number has more to do with a theme.

Thread Rank One
Effect: The item may be used like a crystal spell box to capture one Elementalism spell.

And there it is. Even back in '96 when I was much, much younger, I didn't want anything to do with this. The decision may have been premature and based entirely on prejudice, but it was a well-founded prejudice based on empirical evidence. Nonetheless, it's a more limited version of a cheaper item.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Rank to Spellcasting and Willforce talents for capturing spells into the horn and casting spells from the horn.

This is pretty similar to the equivalent crystal spell box rank (so this entry into the series may get a little recursive), though a greater emphasis on power than making it work. For my Legend Points, I would rather have the Spellcasting bonus so I don't end up with something terrible up in my business on accident.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The horn can hold up to two Elementalism spells.

Again, just like the crystal spell box, only one quarter as useful.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: For the purpose of capturing or casting an Elementalism Air spell, the Rank bonus to Spellcasting and Willforce is +3.

Even more specific and a bigger bonus. This is almost cripplingly specific and makes me want to count the number of Air spells which are either threatening or worth capturing. So I did. Only two, and just barely: Winds of Deflection and Lightning Bolt. The former to store for your own use and the latter in case some silly Elementalist is using it instead of Ice Mace and Chain. In which case you should really encourage them.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +2 Ranks to Battle Bellow.

If you felt this bonus came out of nowhere, you may be right. This is a good bonus (two effects) to a powerful talent. However, it's problematic in that if you don't already have the talent, you will not be throwing a lot of dice and the overall effect is going to be pretty weak because of the low ranks.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The user may cast an Elementalism spell into the horn.

This rank directly acknowledges the shenanigans players get up to with a crystal spell box and removes the necessity for your friend to cast spells at you. However, the character with the horn probably isn't an Elementalist, because the Elementalist is the one casting spells at it. So the ability to directly put your own spells in the horn isn't quite as good. However, if there are already two spellcasters in your group, odds are they will pick up at least one other spellcasting discipline. Probably two.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: The horn holds three Elementalism spells. Once per year, the user may summon a pack of 16 storm wolves for 24 hours as an escort.

The crystal spell box gets four spells by this point, but you also cannot cast directly into the box. The pack of storm wolves is pretty awesome, but with a limit of once per year, it is pretty limited.

How does it all stack up? Eh, I would rather have a crystal spell box. It does the whole capturing spells thing much better in every way. Not the least of which it can capture spells other than Elementalist spells. For the costs associated with this item, it cannot actually do much. That being said, I still wouldn't bring it into a game for all of the same reasons I wouldn't introduce a crystal spell box: it will bring only pain.

This isn't a particularly good example to build items from. It copies an item already in existence, yet manages to be both more expensive and worse. The interesting bonuses are too limited to be truly useful and in doing so becomes worse at the primary function of the item.

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

Horn of the Seven Winds (1E)
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

The only change is the Spell Defense.

Thread Rank One
Effect: The item may be used like a crystal spell box to capture one Elementalism spell.

Nothing different here.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 Rank to Elementalism, Spellcasting, and Willforce talents. If the wielder is not an Elementalist, they do not gain these bonuses.

This is considerably different. Instead of bonuses to capturing, the character gains three good effects. As long as they are an Elementalist.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The horn can hold up to two Elementalism spells.

Same here.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 Rank to Elementalism, Spellcasting, and Willforce talents when casting an Air spell. If the wielder is not an Elementalist, they do not gain these bonuses.

This is pretty good. While it may not be worth screwing around with capturing Air spells in the box to unleash later, a blanket bonus to casting them is something else entirely.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: The wielder may use Battle Bellow with at CHA +5.

A much more useful bonus for anyone who does not have the talent. Which will almost certainly be the character using this horn.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The horn mimics the effects of the Hold Thread talent for 1 Elementalist spell. The step number of the test is PER + Thread Rank.

These two effects are completely different. The ability to cast a spell into the horn pleases me more because of how self-aware it is, but it is also more powerful. Hold Thread is good, but not terribly difficult to pick up eventually.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Once per year, the user may summon a pack of 16 storm wolves for 24 hours as an escort.

The ability to hold another spell is missing in 1E, otherwise it is the same.

Overall, the 1E version is the more powerful version. This is due wholly to the bonuses to the caster, rather than to screwing around with capturing and releasing spells. What is particularly notable here is how divergent the 3E version is from the 1E version. Of the two, I would be far more likely to include the 3E version in a game; it is open to more characters, not just Elementalists, and the bonuses are going to be less abusive overall. All of this being said, I still don't really care for the item. Never again.