11 February 2014

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 33 - The Ice Blade of Omifan

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

Found in the Gamemaster's Companion (pg. 39), The Ice Blade of Omifan is a Thread Item first introduced in Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive (pg. 80). Another of my favorite items to use as inspiration. While it has never directly appeared in a game, it has certainly influenced a number of weapons over the years.

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.

The Ice Blade of Omifan
Spell Defense: 18
Legend Point Cost: Warden

Everything is almost as expected for this weapon, though it is one rank shy of the "typical" eight thread ranks.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Damage Step 4 and for 1 Strain the wielder gains a D6 Frost Die for the next damage test.

Let's be honest: this breaks the rules. However, the "standard" Rank One bonus for a windling sword is not so good at just +1 Damage Step. The bonus effect is like Flameweapon, but doesn't cause Strain if it explodes, but must also be activated every round. That makes it cause significantly more Strain in the end, but it doesn't feel quite as bad, go figure. In the end, this is effectively +5 damage for 1 Strain, which is a good trade.

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

This is a good ability for anyone that is a fighter/magician. Just magician's aren't going to get anything out of the combat benefits, which are the majority of the effects. Only fighters will get some from the spell matrix, but not that much.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Frost Die is now D8.

This is basically a +1 Step to damage, though slightly worse since it isn't always in effect.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Damage Step 5.

A standard effect, though always a good one on a weapon.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Frost Die is now D10.

Again, it works out to be a +1 to damage, but isn't as good since you have to pay to get it.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Damage Step 6.

More damage, though given this has seen three improvements in that category, it is a little sad. This is now effectively a short sword at Rank One.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Frost Die is now D12 and +3 to Physical and Mystic Armor against cold-based attacks.

Entering into the realm of two effects, that is what is available. The slightly-weaker-than-standard damage boost and a good benefit against cold attacks. That is very specific, which makes it roughly on par with a single bonus at this rank. Particularly given the Deed that has to be performed for this rank.

How does it all stack up? A Windmaster/Elementalist will get some good use from this weapon, and be able to do the Rank Seven Deed without help, which is certainly a bonus. Just a melee character may get some use from the spell matrix, but it's a toss up. They will certainly benefit from the damage boosts, which are very important for a windling. Windmasters are specifically referenced above because of their high Durability, which means they can take the greatest advantage of the Frost Die. This is basically a pile of damage with a spell matrix stuck in the middle. While Rank One may be a little much, the rest of the ranks are very staid and it is expensive to take advantage of that Frost Die over time. Also, windling melee characters need some help.

This is pretty balanced, all things considered. It brings a lot initially, but the costs associated with it even out. The low base damage is expected, but helps to keep everything in perspective. Effects per rank are, for the most part, as per the guidelines or come in a little low. I would be surprised if introducing this Thread Item caused any game issues.

It doesn't do a lot, but there is something fun about this little weapon. It is always a struggle to play a melee windling character, particularly when you look at how anemic your weapons are compared to everyone else (exacerbated by the Rank One bonus in 3E). They already have an unfortunate Strength. This manages to deal with that in a fun way that doesn't upset the overall balance at the table by simply giving the windling more bonuses than is normal. The background is relatively sparse, but there is enough meat to allow for interesting stories to spring forth.

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

The Ice Blade of Omifan (1E)
Spell Defense: 14
Legend Point Cost: (Journeyman)

Well, this is looking different already. The tier is lower, with a Spell Defense to match. Same number of Thread Ranks. Without a Thread attached, it does Damage Step 4, but has a penalty. The Thread removes the penalty.

Thread Rank One
Effect: Willforce + 5 cold damage for 1 Strain and contains a spell matrix of rank equal to the Thread Rank.

Well now, that is pretty different from the 3E version. A magician that likes to get into combat is going to have a very powerful weapon on their hands. The intention of this is probably as a damage replacement effect, instead of a damage adding effect, though the wording is somewhat ambiguous. I'm going to treat it as the former, since the latter is madness.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: Willforce + 6.

This is the effect you are going to see every rank from here on out.

Thread Rank Three
Effect: Willforce + 7.

One of the benefits of switching to Willforce from Strength is that it will allow a windling to bypass their 1E racial limitations.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: Willforce + 8.

Also, it gives a spellcaster a major incentive to engage in combat, particularly a windling fighter/magician.

Thread Rank Five
Effect: Willforce + 9.

As you can see, the damage on this just keeps scaling, just like their Willforce talent will.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: Willforce + 10.

Which means that the windling that was once doing sad damage, is now a dominant force.

Thread Rank Seven
Effect: Willforce + 11.

The Windmaster from 1E, if combined with a spellcaster, would find this to be amazing. The original Dive Attack didn't replace Strength for the damage test, but added directly.

Yeah, this is pretty different than the 3E version. That is a lot of damage, particularly in the hands of a character that actually has Willforce as a talent. Keep in mind, back in 1E Willforce didn't cost any Strain. So you were looking at a serious benefit for any windling, though pure casters would have many problems with regard to melee combat. Starting with the Strain and quickly moving to the dangers of being near enemies that have pointy things that make them scream and bleed, stopping finally at not having access to all of the sundry talents which support combat and are necessary to keep pace.

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