Thread Items

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
Anoush
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Thread Items

Postby Anoush » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:49 pm

I'm running an Earthdawn campaign where the PCs are all mid-level Journeymen. By now, they all have one Thread Item. But what I'm running into is a general feeling of disappointment about the items.

For example, there's a Scout, who's also a Questor of Jaspree. He has threaded armor that gives him defense bonuses as well as ranks in Passion Lore and Wilderness Lore, things like that. Every time we meet, he talks about how he wishes the armor did something else instead.

I get the same sort of comments from other players about their items, as well.

I'm about ready to decide that the PCs will NEVER get their hands on another thread item.

How do other GMs handle creating thread items that are both story-appropriate and good matches for the PCs?

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Panda
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Panda » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:43 pm

Greetings Anoush,

In my experience, there are a few keys to successful thread items. If your players don't have access to many, then those they do have should be notable and exciting. I'm sorry to say, but ranks in knowledge skills aren't particularly exciting. Defense bonuses are useful, but if you have only one thread item, they do not make it particularly memorable. At the same time, being laden with custom effects isn't the answer - my preference is to have a particular theme for an item, then build around that. Generally this means one (or more, depending on the nature and purpose of the item) key effect and the rest of the ranks support that effect in some way. I know this is pretty vague, but it's a nebulous area.

To be more specific: when first imagining a thread item, I like to think about what would be fun for the player based on what I know of them and their character. Part of this is if I don't think it's fun, there's not much reason for me to think it's fun. In your example, has the character been buying up those knowledge ranks at every opportunity? At some point, I may talk with the player about what they want. There's not necessarily any reason to be coy about this - it's a game where everyone should be excited. There's a difference between handing players victory without adversity and not giving them toys they are explicitly excited about.

I like to give players thread items they didn't even know they wanted, but this comes with a lot of trust on both sides. If something didn't work, I'm not above sitting down and figuring out how to fix my mistake. It's supposed to be fun and something like a thread item that isn't working out may seem like a minor thing to me, because I have the rest of the game to worry about, but to a player it's a significant part of who their character is and requires a significant investment on their part.

For example, the Scout in my game has this somewhat sentient and symbiotic fernweave armor. When he first encounter the armor, it was a large nut. After attaching a thread, it cocooned him in vegetation, then sloughed off into just the armor. It's color and form reflect his mood and wants most of the time, sometimes its own. It gives him bonuses to defenses as well as talents he likes, but in really unique ways. Stealthy Stride is improved by the armor taking on a form similar to the area, even in urban areas. It improves his Danger Sense by reacting to warn him. Later on, it will have a fairly significant unique effect. However, even what seem like banal effects are more interesting to the player because of how they emerge.

Hopefully this is helpful. If there is anything else I can do, including helping with your thread items, please let me know.

Best regards,

Morgan
Earthdawn Developer and I have a gaming blog, though, let's face it, it is really an Earthdawn blog which also happens to have some reviews.

Pixel01
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Pixel01 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:58 pm

In other systems I would hand characters items with abilities they cannot duplicate on their own like elemental weapons, instead of boosting their existing abilities. Either that or items that feel awesome to yield, maybe with visual effects.
Mechanics are one thing while esthetics are something else entirely.

Anoush
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Anoush » Wed Jul 27, 2016 2:42 pm

Thank you for the suggestions. It makes a lot of sense when you describe it like that -- I never thought to ask the players ahead of time what they might want. Nor did I think of giving the items abilities special effects like that. Very fun!

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etherial
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Re: Thread Items

Postby etherial » Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:04 pm

Anoush wrote:Thank you for the suggestions. It makes a lot of sense when you describe it like that -- I never thought to ask the players ahead of time what they might want. Nor did I think of giving the items abilities special effects like that. Very fun!


When in doubt, make them too powerful. You can always contrive for the players to sacrifice their Thread Items for the Greater Good if they end up too powerful.

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Tattered Rags
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Tattered Rags » Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:18 pm

Also, when in doubt, retcon.

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Mataxes
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Mataxes » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:24 pm

Another aspect to look at when trying to make items interesting is to look at their story and how best to integrate it into the campaign. While a good item can have interesting powers, or it might have unusual manifestations, those aren't strictly necessary.

Classic exmple: The Blades of Cara Fahd. This is an item that has a fairly simple power; it grants bonuses to group pattern use. While this allows the individual in the group to customize the bonuses they get to suit them, the real impact of the item (and a useful template for looking at thread items as a campaign story asset) is found while the characters learn the key knowledge. They become entwined in events and find they need to break a curse.

That sword isn't just any broadsword, it's The Falcon Blade lost before the Scourge during the collapse of Landis, symbol of one of the fallen kingdom's noble houses. The adept who wields it will become the focus of much attention, and unlocking its mysteries will require delving into the corrupted ruins of Landisian citadels.
Josh Harrison -- The Lore Merchant
Troubadour and Magic Theorist
Line Developer: Earthdawn

Anoush
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Anoush » Thu Jul 28, 2016 5:57 pm

etherial wrote:
Anoush wrote:Thank you for the suggestions. It makes a lot of sense when you describe it like that -- I never thought to ask the players ahead of time what they might want. Nor did I think of giving the items abilities special effects like that. Very fun!


When in doubt, make them too powerful. You can always contrive for the players to sacrifice their Thread Items for the Greater Good if they end up too powerful.


Really? I can't imagine my players giving up a thread item, or anything powerful, for the greater good! How do you manage it?

Anoush
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Anoush » Thu Jul 28, 2016 6:01 pm

Tattered Rags wrote:Also, when in doubt, retcon.


retcon?? I don't know what that means.

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Tattered Rags
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Re: Thread Items

Postby Tattered Rags » Thu Jul 28, 2016 6:44 pm

Anoush wrote:
Tattered Rags wrote:Also, when in doubt, retcon.


retcon?? I don't know what that means.


"Retroactive Continuity"

It means that you change some part of the past to justify something in the present. In your case, you could basically rewrite what the thread items are and then say "they were always like that". It doesn't feel good to do that, but when we make mistakes, sometimes that's the only way to fix them.


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