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> Tough time with the mage, A GM seeking solutions
garner_adam
post Aug 5 2008, 02:12 AM
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Been playing SR4 now for about five months and have been generally having a horrible time but that's another issue. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif)

One of my players happens to be running a mage and he seems to out class his "gun toting" compatriots quite a bit. (To the point one said toter has not fired his rifle in many sessions). The mage in this case usually has a combat sense 6 and reflex enhancement 3 foci active at all times. Prior to combat he tends to astrally project and scout for foes. Then should the drek hit the fan he "bombs" distant opponents with a force six elemental while blasting spells from the safety of a heavily armored vehicle.

Pretty standard stuff I'm sure but here's the dilemma for me. I know that I could easily geek his elementals or even him with some similar strategies. For example I could have a mage astrally scout and "spirit bomb" him too. But it'd be unreasonable to expect that every (or even most) opponents have their own summoner on hand. Not to mention as a GM I'd feel dirty wiping them out with that trick.

Any body have this happen before? My mage seems to dominate all the combat encounters. Even ones with vehicles. (Often taking them out with the accident power or simply engulfing the pilots.)

Thanks to all who read this wall of text.
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Abschalten
post Aug 5 2008, 03:03 AM
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QUOTE (garner_adam @ Aug 4 2008, 09:12 PM) *
Been playing SR4 now for about five months and have been generally having a horrible time but that's another issue. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif)

One of my players happens to be running a mage and he seems to out class his "gun toting" compatriots quite a bit. (To the point one said toter has not fired his rifle in many sessions). The mage in this case usually has a combat sense 6 and reflex enhancement 3 foci active at all times. Prior to combat he tends to astrally project and scout for foes. Then should the drek hit the fan he "bombs" distant opponents with a force six elemental while blasting spells from the safety of a heavily armored vehicle.

Pretty standard stuff I'm sure but here's the dilemma for me. I know that I could easily geek his elementals or even him with some similar strategies. For example I could have a mage astrally scout and "spirit bomb" him too. But it'd be unreasonable to expect that every (or even most) opponents have their own summoner on hand. Not to mention as a GM I'd feel dirty wiping them out with that trick.

Any body have this happen before? My mage seems to dominate all the combat encounters. Even ones with vehicles. (Often taking them out with the accident power or simply engulfing the pilots.)

Thanks to all who read this wall of text.


Does he take the time to clean up all of his astral signature each and every time he casts one of those big spells? If not he's leaving TONS of magical forensic evidence, and possible ritual links.

If he's in a "heavily armored vehicle," are you giving him any LOS modifiers? For example, looking out of a narrow porthole could easily give concealment modifiers to the enemies. If he not a metahuman of some type and he's got no cybereyes, chances are he's also getting some penalties due to things like darkness, mist, and other things like that.

Enemy teams are known to employ their own mages, who use their own foci, and supply their own counterspelling. A mage with the Adversary mentor spirit, for instance, could easily sling 7 or 8 dice for Counterspelling your own magician's spells, and that's WITHOUT the proper Counterspelling focus.

Enemy mages also probably have the trusty standby Manabolt. That's great for taking out spirits of any caliber. And if you want them to have something beefier, just give them Mana Static. Discussions abound about how that's probably one of the best spells in SR4. That spell can wipe out your mage's entire crew of spirits for (28 - Force) days. And it can't be counterspelled. You can dig up a thread somewhere using the search function to learn more about it.

Sounds like you're giving him too much leeway in certain things as well. Accident power uses require the pilot to make a Crash Test, but it's not a 100% surefire way to take a vehicle out of a fight. A skilled pilot will probably make that test. Additionally, it takes a Complex Action for the spirit to Materialize BEFORE he can even Engulf, meaning the pilot or somebody else in the vehicle with him can do something about it. And even then, Engulf is an opposed test... It's not sure to succeed.

Better yet, have the insides of those vehicles WARDED. It's perfectly legit, as the ward stays inside the vehicle and moves relative with its movement. Spirits can't get in short of collapsing the ward or pushing through, both of which slows its down and alerts the magician that the spirit has done so. Additionally, wards provide protection dice (akin to Counterspelling protection) against targets on the otherside.

Want to really screw up your mage? Have the enemy magicians make use of Polarized Wards. If he's projecting or perceiving, they are opaque walls and he can't get LOS to target them. Meanwhile mages on transparent side see him just fine, and can cast spells on him with impugnity.

If your enemy mage is making use of area effect spells, realize that trained corpsec probably have had anti-magic training, and they'll stay around corners, out of line of sight, and avoid getting clumped together so that they can minimize their casualties in case the magician tosses them.

Magicians using Masking will appear to be mundane to your own magician, which will surprise the hell out him when they disrupt his astral form using Stunbolt.

And finally, make use of Background Count situations. They're nasty, especially if the opposing magician is using a tradition aspected to a certain domain.

Hope these help you. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)
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Cold-Dragon
post Aug 5 2008, 03:14 AM
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EDIT: Darn, someone else beat me to the first. Ah well....

My first question to you is this: What he is doing with all that drain?

My comment is otherwise the expression of putting my face into he palm of my hands and shaking it in pain.

If he did one of these things here and there, I could understand the problem - because he's probably taking a healthy risk in drain. Doing all those things, however, begs the question of how he's not suffering drain frequently...

If you're (referring to the mage) powerhousing that much, there should be some point where that drain is a problem. There's the penalty modifier in that as well.

Lessee, counter measures...mana barrier on the physical plane helps - spells that have to go through it are weakened (layering would be helpful). Even if the spirit is flinging the spell, that still applies. Bad karma with the spirits themselves would work too. Depending how often he's using the spirit trick, high power spirits start to get annoyed if they have to do it too much. On a side note, wards (and possibly the mana barriers again), are a good way to disable foci if you can force the mage through. Too much interaction automatically fizzles them out if you're not careful.

Beyond that, his notoriety/public awareness may sky rocket the longer he does it. One does not fling spells like mad with impunity - people notice that. As more people get hit, they will start to team up or share details on it, trying to crack down on the source. You'll end up with a bounty on your head if they can identify you well enough to place it. There are ways to screw a mage over that can be created on the spot, given enough effort.

What other spells does this mage know? What's his Magic at? Is he kicking ass as a 'regular' mage, or is he a potent spellslinger?
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Cang
post Aug 5 2008, 03:15 AM
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Well Abschalten pretty much said it all. Also the mana tech in arsenal can be pretty deadly to mages. Also consider awakened critters for guard animals or just really attacked to the mages aura that is burning like a flame in astral.

Remember the motto, whatever you can do, they can do. So don't feel bad for from time to time, countering the players ideas with something that is directed just to a player. I mean, its a game and everyone should have fun. I had a mystic adept who ran around invisible punching peoples faces in. So what i did is included more environment (rain, sand, dirt, foot tracks and stealth roll for him) and more magical resistance (mages, its not just corps that have them. There are street witches and many gangs have mages in them).
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Abschalten
post Aug 5 2008, 03:17 AM
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QUOTE (Cold-Dragon @ Aug 4 2008, 10:14 PM) *
My first question to you is this: What he is doing with all that drain?


Seriously. I forgot all about this aspect. I'm playing a magician right now, and with all the casting I do, I still get nickel-and-dimed on Drain after I've casted enough spells... a box here, two boxes there. OP, I second Cold-Dragon's question: how's your guy handling all that Drain?
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VagabondStar
post Aug 5 2008, 03:47 AM
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Sounds like it's time to play Geek the Mage.
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User McUser
post Aug 5 2008, 04:01 AM
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"Geek the Mage first" isn't just a cliche. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/biggrin.gif)

Beyond what others have said, here's my ¥2:

* A well concealed sniper with a Walther rifle and ADPS or AV ammo should make quick work of that vehicle he's been hiding in. Sniper Rifles have a range up to 1500m. Does he usually search the area that far out?
* Does the offense use smoke grenades for cover? They should consider it.
* Even a low force spirit can keep the guy busy for a combat turn or two while the mundanes take up superior position.
* Has he pissed off the wrong corporation recently? This could call for an escalation of force to equal his own. He might even find his contacts are reluctant to help him because he's making too much noise in the shadows.
* Consider giving him a "free" (gosh, thanks!) Negative Quality such as Spirit Bane or Astral Beacon because of all the mojo he's been slinging around. This might clear up on its own or he can spend the Karma to remove it.
* Structure the runs so he can't use magic as freely as he wants. Have the runners go into an area with a background count or a wild magic area. Nothing puts the fear of God/Deus/Big D into a mage like being down 3 points of magic.

Most of all, make it clear that actions can have consequences beyond the immediate situation. (Of course you don't want to be a total dick about it either; it's a balancing act.)
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kzt
post Aug 5 2008, 04:14 AM
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Force 6 can be serious drain. The damn spirit can generate 12 drain. No starting mage can soak 12 drain, even with edge. (Remember it's twice hits, not twice net hits). The average is going to be 4 hits, but 6 to 8 will be fairly common, which will do damage. Once you take damage your chance of casting goes to hell fast.

Second, there may not be a mage on site, but there is probably a security mage on contract or staff within 10 km. Who will pop in with his stack of bound combat spirits within 2 combat turns after the first magical mayhem starts. Followed by more within another combat turn or 3.

Plus a security mage can leave a bound spirit behind at HQ, and using his link to the spirit, have the materialized spirit repeat what he his is saying so everyone knows what is going on, And to do things like describe the vehicle and request someone whack it with an ATGM from one of the numerous patroling aircraft. It not like they don't know who this idiot is as soon as the see the astral sig of any of his spells.

If the players want to play in the big leagues, they need to be made to really play in the big leagues. PCs who end up in a standup-up fight with KE or LS are not going to win, and having them on your ass because you repeatedly hit facilities they have on contract should be BAD. The reason why people don't do that is that people who do this tend to have loud, bight and violent things happen to them (and anyone who happens to be near them at that time).

They are going to do stuff like send out a dozen or two spirits with search looking for his astral sig. Then they will hit him like a freight train.
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Crusher Bob
post Aug 5 2008, 04:34 AM
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Going after the player with hidden sniper type mickey mouse tricks will just piss your friends off; not actually solve you in game problem.

Take a look here at the sample security patrol writeup I did. It's not specifically spec'd to take out mages, but has some options to deal with them.

To defeat astral scouting, make sure you have plenty of stuff that can spot an astral intruded. Then the whole place can go on alert, making the job that much harder.

To reduce the effectiveness of long range spell casting, use guard shacks well protected from outside LOS, and smoke grenades when caught outside. Also, hitting the mage with flash-bang grenades, and having things like strobe lights/flash packs/etc installed as part of the installation security might help.

For the vehicle, make sure that the vehicle can't get everywhere that the mage needs to be, they have those concrete pillars, tire-shredding strips, and gates for a reason.

Remember that you are not trying to make his tactics totally ineffective, but to add drawbacks that make them not always the ideal choice.
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Synner
post Aug 5 2008, 11:09 AM
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Regarding balancing mages the people here have already addressed several issues but I'd like to reiterate some of the highlights and add a couple of my own:
  • Visibility Modifiers: Make sure you are applying cover modifiers to spellcasting. A magician casting from cover at a target using partial/good cover will automatically lose 5 dice (target has good cover -4, attacker using cover -1) and it only gets worse from there. Even security guards know the dangers of magic and are taught to maximize cover and create obstacles.
  • Drain: Make sure the magician is rolling drain right, summoning/binding and spellcasting at the level this character is doing he should be taking some drain on a regular basis. Plus drain is not healable through magical means.
  • Passive magical security: Secure sites have wards, which can be the bane of foci of all types. If something overwhelms an onsite ward or spirit in a second, the corp will know it has to respond in force and will send astral assets en masse from the nearest site within a few minutes top.
  • Active magical security: Even if the site/target does not have an active magician on site/around, it is likely that any asset that runners might be interested in has a bound spirit (or 2) watching over it.
  • Security magicians: Use them defensively. Throw up mana barrier spells between the security guards and the runners, then complement that with Counterspelling all round. For spirits try barriers/wards or nuke/weaken spirits with Mana Static.
  • Leaving signatures: Any magician using flashy magic effects and not cleaning up after himself risks.
[edit]somehow that last line got cropped, was meant to be: getting tracked down by a corp if he does enough damage.
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Isath
post Aug 5 2008, 12:43 PM
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QUOTE
Leaving signatures: Any magician using flashy magic effects and not cleaning up after himself risks.


...and that can get you a nice bounty on your head, a police record and quite some visits of people that you never wanted to meet. Aside from that it is not always magic that you need, aside from things already mentioned, a regular street samurai with a submachinegun can easily give your mage some additional "drain". Be careful though a long burst can sometimes be deadlier than you expect. Gas grenades can work wonders aswell (or grenades in general).

Somewhat quoting the other posters I like to say, use advanced tactics for your npcs, geek the mage first. It is also advisable to have all of the team in one boat, making every single one of them deal with consequences of the others dealings (including your mages). It is one thing if the storyteller is in dire straits trying to keep the mage in line, another if the teammates tell him to be less obvious.

Last but not least: You may have encountered the question, but...what about his drain? (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)
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BRodda
post Aug 5 2008, 02:37 PM
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QUOTE (garner_adam @ Aug 4 2008, 09:12 PM) *
Been playing SR4 now for about five months and have been generally having a horrible time but that's another issue. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif)

One of my players happens to be running a mage and he seems to out class his "gun toting" compatriots quite a bit. (To the point one said toter has not fired his rifle in many sessions). The mage in this case usually has a combat sense 6 and reflex enhancement 3 foci active at all times. Prior to combat he tends to astrally project and scout for foes. Then should the drek hit the fan he "bombs" distant opponents with a force six elemental while blasting spells from the safety of a heavily armored vehicle.

Pretty standard stuff I'm sure but here's the dilemma for me. I know that I could easily geek his elementals or even him with some similar strategies. For example I could have a mage astrally scout and "spirit bomb" him too. But it'd be unreasonable to expect that every (or even most) opponents have their own summoner on hand. Not to mention as a GM I'd feel dirty wiping them out with that trick.

Any body have this happen before? My mage seems to dominate all the combat encounters. Even ones with vehicles. (Often taking them out with the accident power or simply engulfing the pilots.)

Thanks to all who read this wall of text.


First thing is " 3 foci active" screams "Your mage is a focus addict". Lots of people forget that yes it is a negitive quality and yes if he keeps it up his essence will drop. Having foci with high ratings are definitly a crutch and the addiction rules are there to balance them out.

Next, are you keeping track of background counts? Lots of corps and gangs pick places based on having an abnormally high background count if they are short on mages.

Third is send in the drones. Corps love them becasue they are cheap and expendable, and magic doesn't work as good against them. 2-3 rotodrones should make short work of that car he is casting from and they should be hard to get line of sight on.

As for the elemental, background counts work against them too. For extra crunch have the place Aspected to boost corp mages and hurt runner mages and spirits (Geomancy is great for just that reason). Lets see how great he is on a run whne the place is aspected to Shinto mystics. And if he loves his fire elementals, don't forget to trigger those fire supression systems.
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Cthulhudreams
post Aug 5 2008, 02:41 PM
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how's he passing his drain tests after the first two foci are active? Or his spellcasting. Assuming he's go conjuring 6 because he's summoning force 6 spirits, he has sorcery 4 + 6 of the stat for a DP of 12 (mentor spirit), down to 8 dice, and what, 10-12 dice on the drain test down to 6-8. Not good!
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darthmord
post Aug 5 2008, 03:32 PM
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QUOTE (Cthulhudreams @ Aug 5 2008, 09:41 AM) *
how's he passing his drain tests after the first two foci are active? Or his spellcasting. Assuming he's go conjuring 6 because he's summoning force 6 spirits, he has sorcery 4 + 6 of the stat for a DP of 12 (mentor spirit), down to 8 dice, and what, 10-12 dice on the drain test down to 6-8. Not good!


What does having multiple foci active have to do with the drain test for summoning?

I don't recall anything in BBB or SM that says multiple foci = dice pool penalty for summoning.
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Shiloh
post Aug 5 2008, 03:35 PM
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QUOTE (Synner @ Aug 5 2008, 12:09 PM) *
...drain is not healable through magical means.


Is this a call, Synner, or did I miss something along the way? I thought Heal couldn't do anything about stun damage... so if the Drain is physical, you *can* use magic to heal it...


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Mr. Unpronouncea...
post Aug 5 2008, 05:56 PM
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It's explicitly noted as NOT magically healable in Street Magic.

By the way...he stays in the van? Ever hear of a shadowrun taking place inside a building or something?
And force 6 spirits aren't exactly unkillable by mundanes - I've seen force 8 spirits popped while manifesting by a couple simple action bursts by a 10-12 dice npc.
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Ryu
post Aug 5 2008, 06:42 PM
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- Did someone mention wound modifiers so far? Use low-damage attacks from behind, wide bursts etc.

- Much the same thing with spirits, try shotguns and edged rolls against spirits.
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Rasumichin
post Aug 5 2008, 07:00 PM
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I'll have to second that most armored vehicles don't really fit into corporate laboratories...unless it's a PMV with a rigger cocoon.

I'll second using IR smoke (preferrably combined with UV goggles) as a method that is both effective and cheap enough to be used even by low- to medium security installations.


If you're going to use dual natured guard critters, keep in mind that a projecting mage can just hover out of reach and zap them with manabolts.
Corpsec will probably know this, so equip them with biomonitors and let the guards pay attention when the hellhounds start to bark madly at something invisible before they start to break down in spastic convulsions.
In such cases, they'll be advised to call in serious astral backup, which can lead to "it's a shit sandwich and we're all gone take a bite" type situations.

Which reminds me, don't just go ahead and change over from a game world with nonexistent astral security to arcane alcatraz runner nightmares.
Let the next Johnson warn them that astral sec is gonna be tight, hinting at some of the countermeasures.
If the layers screw up, don't let it appear like a frustrated GM tried to throw something invincible at them.

Even better, talk to them out of game about your problems with GMing for the group.
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Isath
post Aug 5 2008, 07:12 PM
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Also cars tend to be hackable...
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ravensoracle
post Aug 5 2008, 07:49 PM
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Ok I am not a SR magic specialist (still a relative newb to SR4 but have played SR3 for several years) but I have a question about what I am seeing for the OP.

I guess it starts with what is the distance from the armored vehicle the mage is hiding in to the combat. Is it in LOS or is the mage suppose to be doing this from a distance thru astral projection? If LOS then you can limit how close the mage can get in his little protected tank. If It is thru remote means then how is he doing so much?

If the magician is Astrally Projecting from the safety of an armored Vehicle some distance away, then how can he be casting spells at remote targets without ritual spellcasting? If he is astral how can he target the physical plane? Isn't it stated in the BBB that you cannot target auras, only astral or dual-natured targets? Or am I missing something like the magician's astral form materializing on the physical plane and then targeting physical objects? Is that even possible in SR4? and if possible would the magician be vulnerable?

Also wouldn't using spirits remotely mean they would have to be sent on remote tasks. Meaning using valuable bound spirit services or by summoning a unbound spirit, with all the entailed drain, and sedning it remotely to fight?

Help me understand this if I am wrong. But my understanding is mages are very useful in combat "When they are physically present" or using Spirits with remote tasks but would not be so deadly from a distance(since there is no LOS) without using ritual magic which takes a lot of time, well beyond any normal combat scenerio.
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Hank
post Aug 5 2008, 07:59 PM
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Background count is good...folks intentionally find places with high background counts (or make them) to keep their facilities secure. (At least they do in my games...)

Wards and patrolling spirits should slow down the astral scouting, although astral scouting isn't a bad thing. As long as it's under control.

Also, kzt mentioned combat mages from off-site popping up and summoning spirits. They could show up with spirit'o'man's whose only purpose is to use innate spell to cast Mana barrier...that would slow things down.

Enemies should absolutely have SOMETHING on hand to deal with elementals...they might have a clip of APDS or an adept on each team just in case.

But here are my two best ideas....they involve the vehicle.

1) Enemy rigger takes control of the vehicle and drives it to the nearest Stuffer Shack.

2) When the enemies figure out that there's a mage in the vehicle, the street-sam blasts the vehicle with a long-burst of paint-balls. Then let's see your mage get LOS.
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sunnyside
post Aug 5 2008, 09:07 PM
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I could almost see a dealing with mages sticky being made at some point.

Anyway I think this has all been mentioned in passing. But I think it bears a bit of elaboration.

First wards are cheap in SR4. They should be all over. This isn't even a "screw the mage" thing. They are made to be cheap, long lasting, and common like maglocks, cameras, and RF paint. Force 3 type wards should really just be everywhere on buildings while military vehicles and secure installations should have higher.

Now while you mage cold probably push through a ward if given a while the key thing is that the wards caster is alerted. Which means that it's rather like setting off the alarms before even starting the run.

The mage can get around this by walking in physically and only then casting the spells into the foci, but then he has to deal with the drain inside.

I suggest just telling your people that you didn't realize wards were supposed to be so common. Your bad. Now they're all over.




The second thing is drones. Drones are very cheap in SR4 and should also be used in large numbers. They're good against mages due to having their high object resistance and total immunity to mana spells.

Finally while elementals are awsome they also go down easily in this edition. Regular weapons do fairly well but elemental attacks just rip into them.
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Wounded Ronin
post Aug 5 2008, 10:09 PM
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This is why they never should have gotten rid of grounding. Hellblast and you're done.
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Tarantula
post Aug 5 2008, 10:13 PM
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I'm curious to how you let him get a force 6 sustaining foci. If hes been able to pick up one of those, surely your other characters have gotten similar upgrades.
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sunnyside
post Aug 5 2008, 10:23 PM
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Just to make it more clear. If a place has wards if your mage wants to get in with his sustaining foci active he either has to "push" through with enough successes, which could take while, or just try and step through (more popular with internal wards or when making an escape). However just stepping through might knock out the foci.

Either way the mage that cast the ward will know of the attempt and would therefore call in that there is a security breach.

This could result in the mage in question being deployed. I.e. if there was some gunplay the corp might not call in the security mage, figureing they can deal with this using assets on hand or that it wouldn't be worth it, but if they already have their mage on the line and know they are dealing with a magical threat.....
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