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.

25 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 44 - Spell Sword

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 135), Spell Sword is a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 42). This particular item has made it into one of my games before. Just once. To find out exactly why, see below.

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.

Spell Sword
Spell Defense: 15
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Everything is on the low side (six thread ranks) for the tier of Warden.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Contains a spell matrix of rank equal to the thread rank.

If this was just a thread item to assist in spellcasting, this would be fine. However, if it is expected to be useful as a weapon as well, this is pretty terribly for 3E. It is going to be playing catch-up in damage for every rank.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 6.

While this is a standard effect and appropriate, if the order of effects was switched, this would be a Damage Step 8 weapon and actually useful as a weapon.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Two spell matrices.

I do not care for thread items that have more than one spell matrix. That is what a Shared Matrix is actually designed to do. It also sets an unfortunate precedent with regard to spell matrix objects, which are already pretty sad.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 7.

Another damage increase that is uninspiring, particularly when compared to the number of matrices that have been piled on thus far.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to Physical and Spell Defense.

Two effects, which shouldn't show up until Rank Seven.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Damage Step 8 and three spell matrices.

By the end, it has reached what would normally be the starting damage and holds three spell matrices(!). That is quite the bargain for three extra spell matrices. This is two effects (probably more - a bonus spell matrix is generally better than a +1 to something, let alone three of them). 

How does it all stack up? If you are a magician, this is a good thread item to have access to. Even if you don't plan on whacking someone with it. The three bonus matrices allows for quite a bit of versatility. If you do plan on having a weapon to actually use, you will probably want a different one. This is... quite sad for that purpose. Really, really sad.

The sheer number of extra spell matrices that it provides can give a spellcaster more versatility than is really intended for a very low cost. It means they will have access to significantly more spells than normal. While none of them are enhanced (phew!), they will have significantly fewer difficult choices to make in that regard. It's unlikely to truly deform the game, but they are going to be able to steal the spotlight more frequently.

This is a pretty poor thread item to use as an example. It violates some guidelines, doesn't support its stated theme well, and worst of all is uninteresting. Cleaning it up into something more usable shouldn't be difficult. Switch Ranks One and Two. Then, instead of extra spell matrices, provide bonuses to the spell contained within the sword. At Rank Five, consider improving it to an Enhanced Matrix. This should encourage a core combat spell to be stored in the weapon and enable it to be effective as an actual weapon as well. 

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

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

The Spell Defense and tier are both lower. Interestingly, the number of ranks is consistent with expectations for a Journeyman tier thread item, rather than a Warden.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 6 and Spell Matrix of rank equal to the thread rank. The wielder may cast the spell with their Perception Step if they don't have Spellcasting.

This is better than the 3E version, but a little too much. The last bit is interesting, but will require another character to attach a thread so that they can stick a spell in the matrix for the non-spellcasting character to use. That is an awful lot of work for something that probably isn't worth. Any likely why it was cut (also a very long stat block to explain all of this).

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Damage Step 7 and +1 to Spell Defense

Another rank with two effects. Lower cost and more effects out of the gate compared to the 3E version.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Two spell matrices.

Here it is the same between editions.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 8.

Same effect, but 1E does more damage. Which is decidedly strange for these two editions.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to Physical and +2 to Spell Defense.

Again, the same effects, but Spell Defense had already gotten the bump previously.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Damage Step 10 and three spell matrices.

Similar, but with two increases to damage and that extra spell matrix. 

How do they stack up? The 1E version is more powerful in every way and less expensive. The one game this appeared in, it was simply two powerful. With good damage, bonuses and the spell matrices, it was just enough to make an already very effective character the star of the show in most scenarios.

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.

18 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 42 - Espagra Saddle

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 135), Espagra Saddles are a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 40). Every windling Cavalryman that ended up with one of these.

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.

Espagra Saddle
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

There is really nothing notable here. Which is almost certainly a good thing.

Thread Rank One
Effect: The rider may add +1 to their mount's Movement Rate if the choose.

Probably a standard effect. The ability to choose not to apply this is useful when figuring out the optimum charge.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 to the mount's Physical Armor.

Nothing ruins a Cavalryman's day like attacking their mount. But it's so effective.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: The rider may add +2 to their mount's Movement Rate if the choose.

More is definitely better in this case.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 to the mount's Physical Armor and +1 to the mount's Physical Defense. +1 to the rider's Physical Armor.

That's a lot of different bonuses; three effects in total. All of them are good - that's just quite a bit.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: 2 Strain per round, the mount can fly at its normal movement rate.

This is a very good effect. Unless you are a windling on a zoak. In which case it is utterly irrelevant. If you are an ork on a thundra beast, then you are basically a thing of nightmares.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Both rider and mount gain +1 Recovery Test per day.

Two effects and both quite good. With Blood Share and Heal Animal Companion, these are even more useful.

How does it all stack up? If you're not a Cavalryman, it's pretty unlikely that this will be notable to you. If you are a Cavalryman, you are almost certainly going to want one of these. The only downside is for windling Cavalrymen (otherwise known as pretty much every PC Cavalryman ever). If they have a zoak for a mount instead of a kue (otherwise known as every PC windling Cavalryman ever that didn't have some cruel GM make their character for them), their mount already flies. For everyone else, the flight ability may be a little on the powerful side, but given that it is just limited to the mount, it is hard to judge.

Other players being jealous probably isn't going to be an issue and the benefits provided aren't likely to cause issues. Except for the whole mount flying thing. If there is an ork on a thundra beast at your table - expect to see it flying all of the time. Why is that? Because if I were that player, I know that is exactly what I would do. Even when there is no reason to do so. It would be like a very angry version of a sky bison. That's a gift I cannot help but feel would be my responsibly to share with the world. I can hardly expect others to not feel the same way.

The limited nature of the item in the first place makes it tricky to use for inspiration. The Espagra Boots offer a much better example of a flight effect for everyone else. It's not a bad choice, but there are better options out there. 

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

Espagra Saddle (1E)
Spell Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

The Spell Defense was increased by 2 moving to 3E and the number of thread ranks reduced to six from nine. That is quite a change.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Increase the mount's Combat Movement by 15 yards and its Full Movement by 30 yards.

3E added in the choice to increase it. Also, the scales changed quite a bit between editions. We're going to assume that those are comparable because I don't particularly care if they are not.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 to the mount's Physical Armor.

This is the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Increase the mount's Combat Movement by 25 yards and its Full Movement by 50 yards.

Close enough.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 to the mount's Physical Armor and +1 to the mount's Physical Defense. +1 to the rider's Physical Armor.

Everything here is the same.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Flight, but cannot benefit from the movement increases when flying.

This is very powerful - flight for no cost, other than giving up the increased movement. Would there ever be a reason not to buzz everything with your flying thundra beast? I cannot think of one.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Both rider and mount gain +1 Recovery Test per day.

Also the same.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Flight with increased movementIncrease the mount's Combat Movement by 50 yards and its Full Movement by 100 yards. +1 to all Action tests the rider takes while in the saddle. +5 to the mount's Physical Armor.

This was cut in 3E and it's pretty clear why. That is a lot of bonuses. A whole lot. Very powerful bonuses.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +2 to Physical, Spell and Social Defense to the mount and rider.

Wow. That's another big pile of bonuses. Also not appearing in 3E with good reason.

Thread Rank Nine
Effect: +3 to the rider's Physical Armor and +3 to all Action tests the rider takes while in the saddle.

The final ability is... there aren't many words for this. It's pretty insane. Why would a Cavalryman ever leave the saddle? It's dangerous off of that saddle! Particularly when you have a supersonic flying thundra beast and are going to do a flyby on the control tower..

How do they stack up? The 1E version is a lot more powerful. Really, just freakishly more powerful. The 3E version has a few excesses and I'm not necessarily sold on the idea of a flying mount for such low costs, but if you know where this came from... yeah.

14 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 41 - Espagra Boots

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Guide (pg. 134), Espagra Boots are a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 39). There was once an elf Thief that swore by these things. I think it was that they made him fly.

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.

Espagra Boots
Spell Defense: 17
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense could be average-ish, it could be above the limit. Two different entries for Journeyman tier... it does not help anything.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 rank to Avoid Blow.

It's hard to turn down that effect. Also, within the guidelines.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 ranks to Avoid Blow.

If it was good once, it's better twice, right? Another rank within expectations.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 rank to Silent Walk.

Also good and also within guidelines.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 ranks to Silent Walk.

It's not really exciting, but the benefits are solid to any character that doesn't want to get hit and likes to not be noticed. Which is nearly everyone.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +3 ranks to Avoid Blow and Silent Walk.

The first rank to break the guidelines by offering two standard effects.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: 2 Strain per round, fly at Movement Rate 5. Each additional Strain increases the Movement Rate by +2. This cannot be combined with any other abilities that affect movement.

This effect is a lot of fun (unless you are a windling, in which case it is pretty worthless). It may not come up a lot, as it's rather expensive, but it does make for an excellent escape measure. Which is why it is so popular with Thieves.

How does it all stack up? Espagra Boots are a good item that are mostly within expectations. There is nothing egregious here and the benefits are going to be useful for a variety of characters. Except for the final effect and windlings who will be (understandably) pretty disappointed.

Nothing here is going to affect the balance of a game or is likely to cause the green-eyed monster to rear its head. The most disrupting effect is the flight, but it is expensive enough that it isn't likely to be a constant factor. Besides, windlings have a better ability from day one. If coping with flying characters is a problem, Earthdawn is a poor game choice. 

Given the background, this is a thematic item and entirely reasonable to use for ideas. The final effect is fun and balanced. It gives a new capability without changing how things play out for the most part. 

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

Espagra Boots (1E)
Spell Defense: 19
Legend Point Cost: (Warden)

There were actually some significant changes to these two entries between editions. 3E reduced the tier to Journeyman and the Spell Defense accordingly.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 rank to Avoid Blow.

This is still the same.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 ranks to Avoid Blow.

Again, the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +1 rank to Silent Walk.

More of the same.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +2 ranks to Silent Walk.

Still no changes.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +3 ranks to Avoid Blow and Silent Walk.

Nothing of note here either.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: For every 3 Strain, the wearer can fly 100 ft. This can only be used once per day.

This is a notable change. 3E reduces the total distance quite a bit, also provides a speed; how fast is that 100 ft? The 3E version also allows for usage more than once a day, which makes it significantly more versatile.

How do they stack up? The differences are in the costs and the flight offered. 3E's version is cheaper and the flight is more versatile, but more expensive. In all, the 3E version is the superior one, both in usage and balance.

11 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 40 - Amulet of Agamon

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 27), the Amulet of Agamon is a Thread Item first introduced in Gamemastering Earthdawn (pg. 38). Perhaps sadly, the most memorable things about this item was Rank Six, where there is a wall of text for the Deed followed by an itty-bitty amount for the actual effect. I also recall the Wizard getting a lot of use from this way back in the day.

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.

Amulet of Agamon
Spell Defense: 24
Legend Point Cost: Master

There are a couple of notable things going on here. First, the Spell Defense. That is an awful lot of Spell Defense. It will take a small miracle for anyone to find out anything about this item, then weave an actual thread to it. The second is this item was explicitly crafted and is Master tier, which is a big no-no by the guidelines established in 3E. There's also only six thread ranks, which is a little spare for the tier. With all of that, this promises to had some serious power under the hood. Let's see if it holds up to that promise.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Mystic Armor.

It's a nice benefit, but keeping that under a Spell Defense 24 lock and key and Master tier? There are Journeyman items that put this to shame.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 to Mystic Armor.

Another standard effect and entirely appropriate to the guidelines. Which only serves to make the first part all the more incongruous with what is in the meat of the mechanics.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense.

There we go - two standard effects at Rank Three. Very good, but nothing outlandish compared to other entries on this peculiar journey.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: +3 to Spell Defense.

Back to a single standard effect. So much for that little walk on the wild side of playing it fast and loose with the guidelines.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Spell matrix equal to the thread rank.

This tends to work out as a standard effect, for the most part. Actually, this is the rank where they tend to turn into an Enhanced Matrix. So that's a little underwhelming.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: +2 ranks to Steel Thought.

Two standard effects one rank before seven. While it doesn't strictly follow the guidelines, this item is incredibly expensive.

How does it How does it all stack up? This has shaped up to be a pretty reasonable Journeyman tier item. Just two ranks that give a slightly better benefit, but that is hardly a notable offense in the litany we've encountered prior to this item. Except this is a Master tier item, so that's pretty sad. For all of the promises and "whoa" when you first encounter it, there is no delivery. It's expensive and boring.

Will this negatively impact game balance? Not a chance in the world. If a player that invests in this and gets all the way to the end (which is really easy - there's only Key Knowledge at Ranks One and Five) and isn't hopping mad, count your blessings. There is nothing about this that warrants the costs and the Spell Defense. It is simply not worth the investment.

Treating it like a Journeyman tier item, it's not a bad example. However, it also doesn't do anything interesting, so there's not much of an example to begin with.

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

Amulet of Agamon (1E)
Spell Defense: 24
Legend Point Cost: Master

While that is the same, there are some significant differences between the editions. There are eight thread ranks for the 1E version. Not only that, but there is also Key Knowledge at Ranks Three, Five, Seven and Eight, along with a Deed at Six. That is a whole lot of effort. There are some "curious" inconsistencies with the structure of those that will be addressed in the appropriate ranks. These are the kind of inconsistencies that are tragically common to 1E.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Mystic Armor and Spell Defense.

Rank One and it's already different. That bonus to Spell Defense is quite nice.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +2 to Mystic Armor.

This, however, is the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Spell Defense.

And so is this. The Key Knowledge for this rank in 1E is the same as Rank Five in 3E.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Spell matrix equal to the thread rank.

The spell matrix shows up one rank earlier in 1E. Why was it pushed back for 3E?

Thread Rank Five
Effect: +1 to Social Defense.

Here is a benefit that never shows up in 3E at all. The Key Knowledge for this rank also doesn't make an appearance.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Two spell matrices.

Completely different - one gives a couple of ranks to a talent, the other another spell matrix. I don't care for having two spell matrices in a object - that is what a Shared Matrix is for. This is also the home of the incredibly long Deed. Which involves killing the Horror that killed Agamon. This is going to be relevant in just a moment.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: +2 to Social Defense.

This is pretty much uncharted territory, but it's just a single bonus, which is not so great for the cost. Also, the Key Knowledge here requires the wearer to learn the Name of the last hero that wore the amulet. That is a statement this thread item gained this as a Legendary Rank (same with the previous rank). Groovy. However, for anyone to actually get this rank, they have to destroy that Horror first. Unless the Horror respawns, or they're operating under a different definition of "destroy" than I am.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: +3 to Spell Defense, Social Defense and Mystic Armor.

Another rank that doesn't show up in 3E. That is a very nice benefit, with three different bonuses. This rank requires you to go back and learn about Agamon. Which is fine and good, but it seems like this would have been significantly more relevant before the whole "avenge my death" Deed that clearly was his last entry on the item.

Comparing the two is a little difficult because of how different they are. On the whole, the Key Knowledge and Deeds for the 1E version are just rife with consistency issues. But the bonuses are more appropriate to the tier. The 3E version is an overpriced piece of junk as written. Neither of them live up to the tier and Spell Defense listings, though 1E has the defense that they really didn't know what they were doing and consistency was never a thing for thread items in that edition. 3E should really have known better.

07 March 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 39 - Soulsafe

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 37), Soulsafe is a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 86). This item made it into a game and has a cute background, but was generally forgettable. Well, except when it came time to thrown down with a Horror. Though it was still expensive for some characters.

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.

Soulsafe
Spell Defense: 16
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

The Spell Defense is either at the high end or middle of expectations, depending on which row you are using. Something that has never helped anyone, ever. With only four thread ranks, it never quite felt like this was really living up to its potential.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Physical Defense.

A standard effect. Nothing really notable, other than when I read "Soulsafe", I don't really think that it's going to keep me from getting beaten to death. More that it will keep terrible mystic effects from ruining my day.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 to Social Defense.

Another completely normal bonus. That seems to have very little to do with the Name.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Physical Defense.

This is all by the numbers. Except that none of them improve Spell Defense or even Mystic Armor. The background introduces some amount of ambiguity in how much it actually protects you from magic. However, it is also played straight in that same background and the initial Deed requires you to return this item to its original state, implying that it was broken and never useful.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: 4 Strain, +4 to Spell Defense for 4 rounds. During that time, any attack by a Horror, Horror construct, Horror power, or spell that mimics a Horror power requires 1 Result Level higher than normal to affect the wearer.

Clearly, this is the effect from which the item derives its Name. It's definitely a powerful ability, possibly too powerful for the rank. The cost is high, though it has a duration. Given the downside of most Horror powers, it's generally worth paying the costs to avoid them. An ounce of prevention... well, it keeps your skin in the right place.

How does it How does it all stack up? This an item that follows the guidelines pretty closely. It doesn't really live up to its Name for most of the ranks, though as indicated above, this may be due to someone being far too clever with a background and having much of the tone lost. Anyone who has ever been on the internet should know the dangers of the written word being a poor carrier for that information. The last ability is quite powerful, even if very specific. The odds are good it will come up in any given game. It is probably more appropriate for a Rank Five or Six effect, rather than four. This item could easily stand to have another two ranks added to it, just to flesh it out a little bit.

Outside of an encounter with Horrors and their ilk, this is going to have minimal impact on a game. In the aforementioned situation, it will definitely give that character a boost in what they can survive. However, it by no means guarantees they will come out the other side looking good.

There are improvements that can be made, but the last effect isn't a bad place to go for some inspiration. Other than that, this is some very standard stuff. Which is not a bad thing. Just a little confusing when you read the Name. Yes, I am a little hung up on that.

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

Soulsafe
Spell Defense: 13
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

The Spell Defense was increased for 3E. Possibly to reflect the Name? I got nothing.

Thread Rank One
Effect: +1 to Physical Defense.

The same.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: +1 to Social Defense.

Again, the same.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: +2 to Physical Defense.

Still, the same.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: 4 Strain, +4 to Spell Defense for 4 rounds. During that time, any attack by a Horror, Horror construct, Horror power, or spell that mimics a Horror power requires 1 Result Level higher than normal to affect the wearer.

And no changes here.

Not much to say here. Nothing at all different between the editions.