Michael here, back with another Earthdawn blog.
Since Fourth Edition has given all Disciplines access to Thread Weaving at First Circle, player characters can now use thread items earlier than they could before. This makes the system more interesting from my perspective and allows players to give their characters a more unique feel than just a few optional talents/skills. However, keeping things interesting and balanced at low circles with custom thread items is something a GM needs to put proper care into.
I have a home campaign that is a few adventures in and the group just got their first set of thread items. Each member got a custom item specifically for their characters, which I created based on their behaviors. In place of bonuses to their existing capabilities (which are limited at Second Circle), I tried to give them the ability to do something their player wanted to do but the character couldn’t. Some items gave the owner early access to their next Discipline talent, while most were given a special ability that could be activated with a Strain cost. The following are short descriptions of the player behaviors I observed that inspired the thread items I made.
One of my players leaned hard into a Sky Raider pirate motif. He invested in Great Leap and a grappling hook at character creation so he could swing around like a movie hero. While jumping and swinging around makes for a more dramatic description in combat, mechanically there is little benefit to doing this. In addition, the group often found themselves in combat situations where there wasn’t a logical place to set a grappling hook. I started to get a bit sad when I had to tell him “Sorry, there is no place to attach a grappling hook to in this open field”.
To solve both of these, I created a grappling hook that can be affixed midair and used to make a swinging attack with a slight damage boost.
Another player created a windling Archer. Not known for their strength, the character does struggle to deal a worthwhile amount of damage to the average opponent. This doesn’t bother the player, however, as she is often more interested in being a mischievous windling than dealing damage. Did she try and help when her party mate (and real-life husband) was knocked down by a major NPC? No. She instead decided to pick the NPC’s pockets hoping to find some extra silver.
When deciding what kind of thread item the character would want, I though of either a bow with some form of damage boost or something to assist with the mischief. I asked the player which one they preferred and mischief was her reply. To that end, I gave the character a set of gloves with an effect that can be activated similar to the Fingers of Wind Elementalist spell.
I’m looking forward to seeing what both these characters end up doing with these items. I’m expecting some shenanigans in the near future, which will make the game more fun for all involved. If there’s one piece of advice I can give on creating thread items, it would be this: use them help players have more fun with their characters. For some, that will be a more powerful weapon or armor. Others may just want to allow their characters to do something they normally couldn’t. Legendary figures in Earthdawn come in all sorts of different forms and the thread items that exist in the world should be equally diverse.
Until next time, thanks for reading!