04 September 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 04 - Butterspider Box

This is the fourth 4E Anatomy of a Thread Item, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

Found in Parlainth (p. 55), I don't believe Butterspider Box was updated to 3E. Just watch, someone is going to prove me wrong in the comments - in which case, I will gladly update with the location where it can be found.

It's difficult to explain why, but I have always found the Butterspider Box to be absolutely endearing. Not necessarily the mechanics, but something about it; it's weird and quirky, while still being useful. This particular thread item has shown up frequently over the years, even in campaigns that have nothing to do with Parlainth. That beat-up box gets around.

Probably with good reason. Beyond it's strange charm, it's a pretty nice thread item. It provides healing, but with limitations and a cost. They're hardly insurmountable, but it isn't free. The dispel magic effect is somewhat curious and there is a sharp increase in power where it's regrowing limbs and restoring life. Access to those ranks was significantly less common.

It's being presented as both a Journeyman and Warden thread item, allowing whoever is using it to decide how "mundane" it is an the extent of its powers. At Journeyman, it's a useful healing item - which is rare in 4E. While at Warden, it's the creation of a Passion and a potent healing item.

Butterspider Box

Maximum Threads: 1
Mystic Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman (Warden)

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the box's Name.
Effect: Once per day per person, the butterspider can be touched to an injury as a Standard action, granting the target a free Recovery test which is made immediately. Doing so melts the spider. It cannot be used again until the owner sacrifices places a fistful of lard or butter in the box and sacrifices a Recovery test, reforming the butterspider after the box has been closed for a minute.

The wording was changed a bit, though this should maintain the function as I understand it. Given some of the vagaries surrounding terminology, this may not be the case. Regardless, this effect is both interesting and balanced for the rank. Functionally, it provides some immediate healing and shuffles around Recovery tests.

A group's Weaponsmith or Elementalist (to a lesser extent) get the most mileage out of this as they tend to have the most unused Recovery tests on average. Elementalists simply already have ways to apply said unused Recovery tests to other characters. Anyone who falls into that category gets the most value from this item.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: It is Recovery Step +2.

This is slightly less powerful than the original (+3), but inline with 4E guidelines. Technically this kind of bonus is more appropriate at Rank 5, but given the limited access and costs, it works out for a lower rank.

Thread Rank Three
Deed: The owner must never knowingly harm a spider, except in self-defense from a genuine threat to their life, or the life of a blood oath companion. Should the owner break this vow, the Butterspider Box (including the butterspider) vanishes and reappears in a random location in Barsaive. Horror constructs do not count as spiders.
Effect: It is Recovery Step +4.

The first change is to the Deed. This was(-ish) the Rank Five Deed, however I moved it here to account for the modifications and that it is less something you perform and actually a ban. This means it's easy to achieve, more appropriate for the bonuses gained at these ranks. The original ban was overly restrictive and easily forced the owner to sacrifice the item due to blood oaths. It was cute, but not fun.

At this point, the typical item adds a new effect. However, I'm going to save that effect for Rank Five. Given the broad nature of the effect, it isn't appropriate for such a low rank.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: It is Recovery Step +6.

Thread Rank Five
Deed: The owner must compose and memorize a short verse explaining why the spider is a symbol of life and healing. The poem must be recited without error when sacrificing a Recovery test to reform the butterspider; an error in the recitation produces only the Rank Four effect. The owner must recipe the poem each time they re-form the butterspider.
Effect: Instead of healing the target, the Recovery test can instead grant the ability to cancel one ongoing magical effect on the target, including spells, creature powers, and Horror powers. Some Horror powers may be unable to be healed through this effect, such as Corruption Points and Horror marks (Gamemaster's Discretion). Dragon powers are unaffected. The Recovery test is made with all bonuses as normal against the Dispel Difficulty of the magical effect (treat powers as talents for this purpose).

This is the Rank Three Deed (they changed places) which makes more sense here since the new power from the original Rank Three has also been moved to Rank Five.

The power is mostly similar to the version from the original, though modified to handle various current and forthcoming changes. It's a powerful way to remove terrible effects (and at a notable low rank for the versatility of what it can do), but needs some limitations, or it can start to deform the grim reality of what Horrors still represent. The importance for GM interpretation of what it won't work on is because an exhaustive list is both impractical and impossible - there are always going to be new Horror powers, and GMs certainly are going to be coming up with their own. This item cannot be an universal panacea for everything, otherwise it likely go unused because of the disruption it can be to a game. As it is, it can be introduced as a quest for a potential remedy to some affliction. Whether it works or not.... The best use is against long-term effects, but there are some Horror powers with a short duration this is worthwhile against.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: It is Recovery Step +8.

Thread Rank Seven
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn Garlen created the Butterspider Box, and must hear it's Name from the Passion's own lips. Garlen either sends the owner on quests and/or exacts some vow.
Effect: Instead of healing the target's current damage or canceling a magical effect, the owner can regenerate a destroyed or severed appendage or organ, such as a limb withered by Wither Limb, regardless of how long it has been damaged. This effect may be used once per day.

This is when things get very powerful and why the item is presented in two different ways, as this rank means Garlen personally made the Butterspider Box and gave it potent, near unique powers.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: When used to heal damage, the target also heals a Wound.

Technically there is another power here, to restore life to undead creatures. Honestly, I don't like this being the kind of power available casually through a thread item in canon material. It sets a bad precedent and makes it mundane. Even if getting here is a helluva thing and an epic quest, the who restoring lost appendages once per day is already epic. Restoring an undead creature even once should be an epic quest. Also, this leaves room for individual games to include such items and have them be special to that game.

Instead of simply increasing the bonus, the Butterspider Box does get a new effect which, while less impressive than restoring lost limbs, is more useful everyday. This is much like a healing potion. The alternative is bumping the bonus to +12, but that's rather mundane.