18 August 2020

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Thread Item 63 - Beyond the Surface

This is the sixty-third 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.

A thread item written for an online game I offered to help with thread items. This was written with the request of an armlet that gives a bonus to Earth Bond or Purification. Also, it goes with the previous item the character received. The second part is easy. The first part, though... ugh, that's rough.

To get into why: talents unique to Paths are locked to them—there's no other way to get them. Earth Bond is notable because two Paths have access to it (Brother of Stone and Purifier), but they each use it in very different ways through their knacks. This is entirely by design to show how the two Paths are similar in some ways, but different in application.

Paths also have a prohibition against sharing their secrets, which includes talents and knacks. This keeps humans with Versatility from getting their hands on everything under the sun (keeping some things unique) without the awkward "This talent cannot be learned through Versatility" text that became somewhat prevalent. I much prefer an in-setting justification. Though, this all goes to show Versatility has been a problem from the design side for a long time.

From my perspective (which is what counts here for many reasons), allowing a thread item with ranks in a Path-locked talent violates the oath. Attempting to create the item means you no longer have access to the talent, no more including it in the item. Which makes this request a problem at a fundamental level, even if it seems entirely reasonable on the surface. It didn't particularly matter whcih talent since they are both locked like this. Though the character only had Earth Bond of the two, so it was an easy decision.

Good news—Markus Meiser offered the fantastic suggestion I'm embarrassed I didn't think of first: require the owner to belong to the Path. This neatly circumvents the issues and allows Path followers to create thread items for each other to use. If they are stripped of their membership, they no longer fulfill the Deed and lose their threads. A tidy solution.

From there, it was a question of what to make it do since I already spent a lot of time designing Earth Bond knacks. The final result is certainly useful and powerful, but also expensive.

Beyond the Surface

Maximum Threads: 1
Mystic Defense: 12
Legend Point Cost: Journeyman

This dark gray armlet is made from a peculiar material. It feels like metal but has darker gray, black, and silver bands within like highly polished stone. Lapis lazuli and flowing runes are set into the gray material. The style of the armlet and cut of the stones were once popular in the Western Kingdoms, when trade between that region was common.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the armlet’s Name.
Deed: The owner must be a Purifier.
Effect: The owner gains +1 to Mystic Defense. The gray material of the armlet melds with the wearer’s skin where they touch, though the wearer can easily remove the armlet without damage if desired.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The owner gains +1 to Mystic Armor.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn what the gray material is and where it came from. [True earth]
Effect: The owner gains +1 rank to Earth Bond. The armlet’s gray material can be seen spreading under the wearer’s skin. This material has a faint blue sheen, as though crushed lapis lazuli is incorporated into it.

Thread Rank Four
Effect: The wearer can spend an additional Karma Point on Earth Bond tests.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The owner must learn the nature of the runes.
Effect: The wearer gains the Beyond the Surface ability. As a Standard action for a Recovery Test, the wearer’s bare feet meld with the earth. The wearer makes an Earth Bond (10) test. If successful, the owner learns about the earth and events that transpired within Thread Rank yards of that location. The adept can ask a number of what and when questions about that area for each success, though vague questions produce equally vague answers.

The gray material spreads throughout the wearer’s arm, recreating the flowing runes from the armlet in their skin. The runes have a blue sheen similar to the lines of material throughout the wearer’s arm, though more noticeable.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The wearer gains an additional Recovery Test per day. This can only be used to pay costs for Earth Bond tests.

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