Thread Items - how many is too many?

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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Thread Items - how many is too many?

Post by MadJaymilton » Mon Dec 07, 2020 9:38 pm

I'm a long-time ED player and first-time ED GM. I have started a new campaign, with players new to Earthdawn entirely. Although I've given them the basics of the setting and major players, we're all in our 30s/40s and they just don't have time to sit down with the books. Instead I'll be teaching them about the setting as we go and I figure thread items are a good way to do that--you have to uncover their history anyway so it makes sense to tie those histories to the communities that made them and give the players a view of Barsaive through that. I've already introduced one, will be handing out another next session, and plan on each player having a thread item by the time they hit Circle Four so they can learn the mechanics behind them; then I'll cool it for a couple Circles so as not to overload them.
I've got a list already of potential items i can introduce from the books and Panda's site; I also intend to ask them for their ideas so as to increase buy-in. This list is already.... substantial, and I'm obviously not going to hand out every item as that's impractical for many reasons. I want to supplement the characters, not distract from them--the game's less fun if your sword is more of a star than you are. But it can also be a thrill to get that new cool item. Which leads me to wonder, what is the "sweet spot" for Thread Item count? What is the tipping point between playing your character, and playing a vehicle your thread items? What do other GMs have to say on the subject?

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Re: Thread Items - how many is too many?

Post by Bonhumm » Tue Dec 08, 2020 2:01 am

There is many 'schools of thought' concerning Thread Items. Some GM are very generous with them, some uses them very rarely and there is anything in between.

First of all, the Thread Item mechanic in Earthdawn is rather crunchy and can be hard to understand for a new comer. Personally, I find it still MUCH better than, say, D&D where you can just pick up that +5 sword of kickass and use it. But for new comers (or even old players) the whole 'I have to find a weaponsmith, who will then spend a week to PERHAPS find one (or more) 'questions' and then I have to find someone who has 'Research' to spend time in the library and/or have myself travel across Barsaive to find the information I need (while the rest of the group need to do the same but (in all likeihood) elsewhere, and then keep track of the legend points I spend on it and make sure I have enough Threads available to use it and/or progress in level to it... phew, it CAN be a pain.

So 'multiple time this' for each players? Meh.

Anyway, beside the 'mechanic' thing there is, as you asked, the 'does the thread item become the star' and I guess that's a question of how you, as the GM, consider thread items to be common. If your characters have many thread items, it means, usually, that thread items are relatively common for other people as well; so your characters do not have 'Excalibur' that everybody in the world is after but he instead have a Bugatti that a Ford driver might drool looking at it but with plenty of other drivers around owning Lamborghini and Ferrari so that you don't have 'the world at your feet'.

Maybe its just how the GM I had were doing it, but I played Earthdawn for around 20 years now and I'd say that until a game I started playing a little more than a year ago, I think ALL my characters together owned MAYBE 5 Thread items ever. But then again, that one game from last year I think I owned 5 thread item just for that character so.... different ways of seeing it I guess.

Finally, keep in mind that Thread Items are Legend Point guzzler. Give them many and this might very well seriously slow down their progression (which is, sometimes, what you might want, of course) and that all the Item History and Research involved is also a Silver piece guzzler.

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Re: Thread Items - how many is too many?

Post by ragbasti » Tue Dec 08, 2020 9:51 am

For a classic campaign, 3-4 meaningful ones plus 3-4 novice tier ones with little buffs is what I shoot for.
Now that is longterm, and not what PCs should have by mid Journeyman.

Anything more than that and players often just forget about their bonuses and abilities, or rounds get too long because of all the extra stuff introduced on top of the plethora of talents that they already have.

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Re: Thread Items - how many is too many?

Post by Sharkforce » Tue Dec 08, 2020 10:28 am

bear in mind, in many groups there will already be a group pattern eating up 5 threadweaving spaces.

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Re: Thread Items - how many is too many?

Post by Mataxes » Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:34 am

A trick I've used in the past is to link significant thread items to each other so that the Key Knowledge for multiple items can be learned from a single adventure. For example, a magician-themed staff and a thread sword could have belonged to adepts who adventured together and their legends are interwoven.
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