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Power of spellcasting
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Werecorpse

Deuce


Joined: 28 Nov 2012
Posts: 34

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:47 am    Post subject: Power of spellcasting Reply with quote

I have not yet run a hellfrost game so dont have any direct experience with the magic system but I have run & played in standard savage worlds magic games.

We found in those games that the spell casting edge was the most powerful edge, even if you never took another spell or power boost it was still worth it. The effect was that the magic casting characters were just more powerful in combat, at little cost. It seems in hellfrost that it is even more so.

And I know some players are happy playing below par power characters but for the sake of this topic I am talking about the power balance issues between spellcasting and non spellcasting characters

Am I right in assuming if you are a priest with access to all boosts and d8 spellcasting you can just get up each morning, say your morning prayers, then over a 10 minute prayer period get a bunch of rolls to just boost your fighting, vigor and strength and something else ( ? Faith, shooting ?) & that's set for the day.

I get that the siphoning is a deterrent for arcane spellcasters but not for priests ( and there seem to be ways to minimize the effect of the siphoning on presetting your spells as well but that's not the point)

Does this mean that pretty much all characters who want to be relevant in combat are ( or end up) as spellcasters?

( I don't have a problem with this - its a bit like RQ if that is the case, I am just trying to get a feel for the game)

What ( if any) benefit do non spellcasting characters get over spellcasters?

How does this play out in practice?

Thanks
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wmarshal

Deuce


Joined: 13 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a similar concern, though it was more of a fear that the clergy with the Healing power could drastically affect mortality with almost unlimited healing.

Wiggy has provided some Alternate Casting rules that my campaign has been able to use to good effect.

http://www.tripleacegames.com/Downloads/HellFrost/Alternate%20Spellcasting.pdf

At the beginning of a session I give the spellcasting players a number of tokens equal to the number of times a day they can cast a power per the Alternate casting rules. It still results in a lot less bookkeeping than tracking power points per standard SW rules, and still allows them to be powerful without being almost limitless.

Having said the above, if your campaign was only going to allow non-Miracles casters, then just the potential bad effects of the Siphoning should be enough to keep the casters from going overboard. A couple of bad Siphoning results for our skald has made him much more cautious about how much he uses his powers.

In our group of 5 players we have only 2 casters. One is the aforementioned skald and the other is a priest of Scaetha. The other three are basically fighter types with different focus for each. (Melee, ranged and mounted) Also, each character developed their own idiosyncrasies that make them interesting.

You could wind up with a bunch of casters. There's not anything necessarily wrong with that. However, some of those forms (clergy, elementalism, heahwisardry) often come with some obligations that need to be observed.
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Enno

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:21 am    Post subject: Re: Power of spellcasting Reply with quote

Werecorpse wrote:
And I know some players are happy playing below par power characters but for the sake of this topic I am talking about the power balance issues between spellcasting and non spellcasting characters


Then Hellfrost isn't really the right setting for them, because magic is a major part of the environment - even if its power is waning and most of the old arts are lost.

There are a few less powerful magic variants for those to try. Using power points like in the SW core rules is always an option, if it works better for you.

Its your game, remember?!

Werecorpse wrote:
Am I right in assuming if you are a priest with access to all boosts and d8 spellcasting you can just get up each morning, say your morning prayers, then over a 10 minute prayer period get a bunch of rolls to just boost your fighting, vigor and strength and something else ( ? Faith, shooting ?) & that's set for the day.


Yep, thats the routine for any spellcasters in your group. But you have to remember, that only a very few clerics (Tiw, Dargar, Scaetha, come to mind here) can become decent fighters, despite miracles like Warriors Gift. Having two ways to follow - fighting and magical edges - is a very limiting factor.

In practice most spellcaster fill a supportive role, where they cast their magics on their followers, or teammates. They are better from the rear, where they are protected from most direct attacks (see below).

Werecorpse wrote:
I get that the siphoning is a deterrent for arcane spellcasters but not for priests ( and there seem to be ways to minimize the effect of the siphoning on presetting your spells as well but that's not the point)

Does this mean that pretty much all characters who want to be relevant in combat are ( or end up) as spellcasters?

( I don't have a problem with this - its a bit like RQ if that is the case, I am just trying to get a feel for the game)


Yep, Hellfrost has a very RQish approach to magic...

Hellfrost is a world of powerful magic, that encompasses every part of the daily life, even though it is a declining art.

Even though many spellcasters are very powerful, most of their magic is limited by casting time, sins, siphoning, temperature and other factors.

Then there are the social rules, that limit the use of magic even more. What would you think, when a group of heroes come to a peaceful hall with their Deflection and Smites activated and running? There are dos and don'ts as always and even more then in other settings, because they balance the rules.

No, spellcasters are not the lords of the battlefield, even though they can deliver a very decent Bolt or Blast at times.

Remember that Hellfrost magic uses no power points, so ALMOST EVERY spell is considered maintained. So spellcastes beware, because a simple punch, thrown stone, push, Trick, or Test of Will may break all your precious spells you are currently maintained. Just with the blink of an eye. And it is extremely difficult to recast your combo of spells again, because it takes time - time you usually don't have on the battlefield.

In my games i saw a lot of fights going awry because the spellcaster in the group lost his batch of supportive spells.

Warriors mastered a bunch of traits, skills, and edges that increase their survival in conflict situations. Magicians concentrated their efforts on their arts and knowledge mostly, so without their arts they are very vulnerable. Fighters can't really loose their abilities, except when badly wounded. Wizards loose theirs simply by being Shaken.

Werecorpse wrote:
What ( if any) benefit do non spellcasting characters get over spellcasters?


No side has any benefits. Spellcasters have their parts of magic where they excel, Non-Spellcasters are better in mundane abilities like fighting, tracking, etc.

Alchemy, Hedge Magic and supportive spells are widely and relatively easy to obtain, so even normal persons can deliver a mean magical punch - if they have the ressources.

Werecorpse wrote:
How does this play out in practice?


Both sides benefit only if working together.

Hellfrost for me is a very heroic, magic rich and somewhat gritty setting, where BOTH spellcasters and warriors have to work as a team to guarantee their survival. This is no world of lone wolves!

Warriors, thieves, and woodmen are the backbone of any group. They protect the group, scrutinize the surroundings and take care of ressources, like food, water and a warm camp at night. They are the Tanks and Scouts.

Spellcasters on the other hand are more Supporters and Controllers. They work mostly from the second or third row from where they cast their spells on their comrades before them. If the fighters are shaken they don't loose the magics cast on them, which would be the case when the spellcaster casts his magic only upon himself. This way is much more effective...

So always remember, Hellfrost is a team sport, and NO ONE stays behind.
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Werecorpse

Deuce


Joined: 28 Nov 2012
Posts: 34

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I guess I will see how it works in practice.

I have a very competent group of players who are happy to play along as a balanced group and share the spotlight but i have one player in my group who has to build the bestest strongest guy ever, then try and dominate the game. the character build is a big part of his enjoyment. So if there is a 'better' edge with no real drawback he will take it. If that edge is 10% better it's no big deal but if it's equal to say 3 other edges it is a big deal. Once he starts pushing this button everyone else ( to not feel redundant) usually follows.

Maybe there is some help in the hindrance? How have you played the orders obligations hindrance ?
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Enno

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He has to follow orders, take care of the people below him, honor "the rules" and has to take jobs he normally wouldn't take.

Since most of my players with spellcasters take the Curious or Loyal hindrance too, i never had to enforce this hindrance. It is mostly a tool for me that his character has to follow my orders, despite his rank or fame.

As i said before, Hellfrost is no setting for Lone wolves. If he take the "one edge" he thinks as the ultimate Hartholzharnisch (google for it), i can ensure that there a hundreds of ways to fairly disable his advantage without being unfair or breaking the rules.

The easiest way is to choose types of adventures where his advantage doesn't come up or isn't helpful at all.

Let's say he made the ultimate warrior out of his character. How does he function in a peaceful, social and investigative scenarion, where drawing blood would cost him dearly (wergild) or is faster a wanted person, then he realizes. And it is never good to anger the wrong influential persons.

Example from my play, where my more combat oriented legendary characters (almost) lost to the Soulbound Philosopher monster in Descent into Madness, because their social skills relied mostly on intimidation then persuasion.

Every "unbeatable" character has an achilles heel somewhere, you only have to look for it. Sometimes it is simpler, then you might think! Smile
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Energy

Deuce


Joined: 25 Jan 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Does this mean that pretty much all characters who want to be relevant in combat are ( or end up) as spellcasters?

What ( if any) benefit do non spellcasting characters get over spellcasters?

How does this play out in practice?


The system supports three kinds of characters: those that cast spells directly at the enemy, those that exclusively cast maintained spells and second-class citizens.

Hellfrost is a setting with ridiculously powerful magic. Much as an Amish PC is at a significant mechanical disadvantage in a cyberpunk game, characters who don't use the readily available, aforementioned magic are going to be a lot less powerful in Hellfrost. They're not irrevocably useless, and they can have their effectiveness improved if the people who read the setting before showing up decide to augment their non-magical pal, but if they're going to end up reliant on buffs anyway, they probably should've gotten their own magic in the first place.

So what can a mundane character do well? Maintain their normal level of effectiveness after having taken a wound? Of course unless they were buffed by a party member, their 'normal level of effectiveness' is well below the bar the magically enhanced have set, especially since Deflection, Armor and a boosted Fighting score make it much more likely for the buffed to avoid taking a wound in the first place.

Oh a definite advantage for the non-casters. Foes will target them last because they're less of a threat. Laughing

Bottom line, casters are just better. The game I'm playing in right now is an all-caster party. Having experienced it, I can't imagine any of us ever making a non-magical character to replace a casualty.

Edit: I thought of another potential route for the non-magical: specialize in that which cannot be enhanced by magic. So not skills, combat edges, mobility, healing, super powers or combat. That's not leaving a lot, but I can think of a Noble PC specializing in high social status and having a lot of money as a viable niche in a party. Might be a bit boring/frustrating any time the game is focused on anything outside of his niche though.
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DRsmitty

Deuce


Joined: 30 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Bottom line, casters are just better.


Myabe this true if one plays Hellfrost like some sort of MMORPG hack-n-slash fest, where the game is mostly focused on full-on combat. But I'm not sure this would be a fair to say of all campaigns. If there is more role-playing, social conflict, some mysteries, and a few puzzles to solve, then having a bunch of arcane buffed out tanks become perhaps a little less important. In such cases other skills would come into play, as well as the thoughtfulness of the players themselves.

Besides, alchemy and artifacts could be used to level the playing field between spell casters and non-spell casters, if needed. Artifacts are supposed to be quite rare, so maybe the non-spell caster is the one who manages to acquire the really potent item.
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Energy

Deuce


Joined: 25 Jan 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DRsmitty wrote:
Quote:
Bottom line, casters are just better.


Myabe this true if one plays Hellfrost like some sort of MMORPG hack-n-slash fest, where the game is mostly focused on full-on combat. But I'm not sure this would be a fair to say of all campaigns. If there is more role-playing, social conflict, some mysteries, and a few puzzles to solve, then having a bunch of arcane buffed out tanks become perhaps a little less important. In such cases other skills would come into play, as well as the thoughtfulness of the players themselves.


That's a false dichotomy though. There is nothing that precludes a spellcaster from 'role-playing, social conflict, mysteries and/or puzzles'. A fairer distinction is that in an RPG there are going to be situations where problems are resolved with the game's mechanics and situations that are resolved without using the game's mechanics. Want to hit an orc? That's resolved by some chunk of the rules. Want to decide how to deal with the mayor's problem with the neighboring town? That's probably entirely up to player (not the character) skill. If there's a problem that requires you to roll dice at any point, there's probably a spell that would make it easier for you. If you've got a problem that can't be resolved with game mechanics, then character builds don't matter. One class of situations is easier for spellcasters, the other class treats everybody at the table equally. Put together, it's still better to be some sort of magic user.

Quote:
Besides, alchemy and artifacts could be used to level the playing field between spell casters and non-spell casters, if needed. Artifacts are supposed to be quite rare, so maybe the non-spell caster is the one who manages to acquire the really potent item.


There's also nothing that says that a character with an Arcane Background feat can't use alchemical items or artifacts. If you think that characters without an arcane background warrant extra GM charity, then we are effectively in agreement. Laughing
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raikenclw

Deuce


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Energy wrote:
If you think that characters without an arcane background warrant extra GM charity, then we are effectively in agreement. Laughing


This seems - at least to me (not - yet - owning the rules under discussion) - rather a circular discussion:

If arcane characters must maintain lots of spells in order to be buff enough in combat not to get Shaken and therefore *lose* all those maintained spells, where's the net advantage?

It sounds rather like someone who's about out of gas increasing speed so they can make it to the gas station before they run out . . .
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Werecorpse

Deuce


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

raikenclw wrote:
Energy wrote:
If you think that characters without an arcane background warrant extra GM charity, then we are effectively in agreement. Laughing


This seems - at least to me (not - yet - owning the rules under discussion) - rather a circular discussion:

If arcane characters must maintain lots of spells in order to be buff enough in combat not to get Shaken and therefore *lose* all those maintained spells, where's the net advantage?

It sounds rather like someone who's about out of gas increasing speed so they can make it to the gas station before they run out . . .


The premise being put forward is not that casters ( divine are better than arcane due to the siphoning) must maintain a lot of spells in order to be be buff enough to avoid being shaken and therefore lose the spells.

The premise is that the caster is easily able to maintain spells that make it hard to be shaken, and in doing so is a lot more powerful than a non spellcaster.

So using the car analogy in Hellfrost you never run out of fuel ( power points) . Under normal power point rules spell buffs are like a short turbo boost. In hellfrost it seems you can keep the turbo boost on almost all the time
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raikenclw

Deuce


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Werecorpse wrote:
The premise is that the caster is easily able to maintain spells that make it hard to be shaken, and in doing so is a lot more powerful than a non spellcaster.

So using the car analogy in Hellfrost you never run out of fuel ( power points) . Under normal power point rules spell buffs are like a short turbo boost. In hellfrost it seems you can keep the turbo boost on almost all the time


Yes. I got that.

But - assuming this is the same No Power Points Option as in the core rules (Deluxe Explorer pg 109) - each held spell inflicts a -1 on all spellcasting. And you can't hold spells at all while unconscious or sleeping.

So it would seem that a party which includes a couple of mundane (but well built Skill/Edge-wise) fighters would have better long-term survivability than an All-Miracle-Worker-PC party.

Of course, the A-M-W-PC party could hire mundane fighters as bodygaurds, but that's just asking for trouble. Particularly as it doesn't sound like the typical M-W PC is the sort who's into leadership Edges (instead of more arcane Edges). Life as a "meat shield" for such a party would likely be nasty, brutish and short. Not a lot of Loyal NPCs in that bunch, I'm thinking . . . Twisted Evil
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Enno

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's the point in the whole discussion. Maintaining a number of spells incurs a -1 per spell after the first to your spellcasting/faith skill, that applies also to the resistance roll against disruption. Ingame that's a very limiting factor. It becomes more and more difficult to maintain a handful of active buff spells.

See this thread for more detail: http://tripleacegames.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=23328&highlight=maintain+spellcasting#23328
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JDSampo

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Enno wrote:
It becomes more and more difficult to maintain a handful of active buff spells.


Unless it's really difficult to put the caster in the position of losing his spells in the first place. Yes, it's a house of cards once the caster takes damage. With the right buffs in place, it's nearly impossible to damage the character enough to make him drop his spells. It has happened in our game but always from unusually lucky (or unlucky) rolls.

That same caster tends to hang on to a lot of bennies as well, again because it's both hard to damage the caster and as a cleric the cost of spell casting failure is negligible. If the caster enters the combat already buffed you don't even have to worry about the cost of failure at all.
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R˙che

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JDSampo wrote:
Enno wrote:
It becomes more and more difficult to maintain a handful of active buff spells.

Unless it's really difficult to put the caster in the position of losing his spells in the first place. Yes, it's a house of cards once the caster takes damage. With the right buffs in place, it's nearly impossible to damage the character enough to make him drop his spells. It has happened in our game but always from unusually lucky (or unlucky) rolls.

Really? I guess it depends on what buffs he has. Also, the disruption roll is against the damage taken not the wounds. So if he gets hit for 13 points of damage (and it causes at least a shaken result), he now needs to make a arcane roll against a TN 13 plus wound modifiers and maintained spells.
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JDSampo

Deuce


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

R˙che wrote:
Really? I guess it depends on what buffs he has. Also, the disruption roll is against the damage taken not the wounds. So if he gets hit for 13 points of damage (and it causes at least a shaken result), he now needs to make a arcane roll against a TN 13 plus wound modifiers and maintained spells.


Well, I guess if my dice rolling wasn't so epicly bad... Smile

The issues that Energy and I have noticed is it isn't hard for a cleric to make himself a really hard target, both to hit and to damage. This may really be a function of the Unknowable One who has a Veteran spell at Novice (shape change) and no limits on what he can Boost. Combine that with a d12 Arcane die (or more if boosted) and you have someone who can make himself next to impossible to hit.

I so far have been reluctant to introduce a party-killing AoE monster just so I can beat his ass as that only exacerbates the original problem which is "how to leverage the rules to prevent specific character builds from dominating the game." We could easily just decide that this PC build is ridiculous and we should tone it down voluntarily but that suggests something is broken. If things aren't actually broken then the problem is tactical and that's why we're looking for advice.

And you're right, if he really does get hit\hurt the number he has to roll to avoid disruption will be really high. But if he spends a bennie, he's suddenly not Shaken and doesn't have to roll. If he rarely actually gets hit\hurt he'll often have a lot of bennies to spend. If you don't make casting spells somewhat limited or dangerous he doesn't really have much else to spend his bennies on in a combat oriented session.

--JD
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