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> Making the most out of magic, helping the newbie in my group
Sparrowhawk
post Feb 24 2011, 07:55 PM
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Our long-time gaming group just started an SR4 game. The GM and I are both long-time fans of the setting, while two of the players are very new and one is familiar with the setting in passing (and has a strong background in Cyberpunk, so that helps). So far we've only done a single introductory run. It was more or less a milk run to get the new guys accustomed to the setting and test out their character builds.

The problem we ran into is one of the newbies. Having no previous knowledge of the setting, we had to give him a crash course in the world and walk him through character creation. He ended up settling on a hermetic mage. I don't know what his spell and skill load-out are exactly, but I think it's fairly standard stuff- manabolt, fireball, heal, silence, maybe one or two more. During the run, my character (a pretty standard wired Sam) and the group's hacker carried most of the load. The mage really had no idea what to do and he ended up feeling like dead weight.

I'd really like to be able to help this guy get the most out of his character and really enjoy all of the cooky, crazy things he can do with magic. I've got two hurdles to that though. One, I'm an old SR2 vet, so I'm still learning the ins and outs of SR4, especially the nuances of magic. Two, I've never played a mage anyway, so I'm not sure what advice to give the guy. If he wanted to chrome it up, I could easily help him there, but when it comes to magic I'm only loosely acquainted with the stuff.


So I put it to the community- What suggestions would you all have for this guy? He's new to the setting and the rules. I know he's not even scratched the surface of what he can do with his sorcery, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't even realize the whole mountain of stuff he can do with conjuring. We're starting with a blank slate.

What would you suggest for him to get the most out of his character, both in usefulness to the group (my sam, the hacker, and a stealthy adept) and in having the most fun?
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ggodo
post Feb 24 2011, 08:27 PM
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Astral scouting of sites is a great way to check stuff out without getting shot, watcher spirits are all sorts of fun for everything. Stunball is the best spell in the game, he should hang on to it. concealment on sustaining focus looks good, til you realize you're a light in the astral, use sustaining foci for low force spells that you want to maintain, I usually go for defensive spells even if the one/two force won't cause immortality, it's nice to get that extra bonus on your squishy self. Don't always have it on, but when lead/spells/arrows/trolls/dwarves start flying through the air fire it up. Spirits can do whatever you want them to. abuse it to the extent the GM allows for fun and profit.
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Mardrax
post Feb 24 2011, 09:06 PM
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You should ask him wether he wants to play a supportive caster type, the utility type, or more the combat oriented type. One doesn't preclude the other in the slightest, but it helps to know what he wants to get out of his magic.

Combat is easy. As long as you have stunbolt and manabolt covered, and possibly manaball, you should be set to handle pretty much anything. Point to the possibility of both overcasting and multicasting, both detailed in the Awakened World chapter of the core book, in the Sorcery subchapter.

Supportive and utility are trickier, Heal is a dead giveaway for most mages, beyond that, it's a huge world of possibility, mostly dependant on how far the player's imagination stretches. A spell like Levitation alone can serve a huge ammount of purposes, making the caster and his party fly, moving NPCs or objects around, even using them as weaponry, with some overcasting, it can even make for a great "get out of the way quick" spell. Clairsense spell grant great scouting and spying potential, Detection spells give huge situational awareness bonusses. Influence is massively powerful. Control, Thoughts, Actions and Emotions are almost brokenly so.

The same thing applies to spirits. The range of applications they can serve is near endless, and mostly limited by your imagination. You can use them as extra (and formidable) forces in combat , but that's just a start. Concealment is very useful indeed, the same goes for Movement. A spirit of Man can ape any spell you can cast yourself. Confusion is awesome at times. If someone's afraid of glitching, Guard will fix that. Search can track people and things down. Weather Control can change the weather in your favour, if you have some time to prepare. Binding can make anyone stick to anything. Want to keep that guard from getting his gun out? Make it stick to his hip. Or make his hand stick to whatever he just touched. Want to keep a door barred? make the guy who's trying to open it stick to both the door and the ground. Being faced with a pack of feral ghouls? They won't be chasing you now. And that guy better realise his hand is glued to the grenade before he pulls the pin.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Just imagine what you can do with a flying spirit of earth, with physical attributes to make most sams jealous.
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metonymy
post Feb 24 2011, 10:00 PM
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QUOTE (ggodo @ Feb 24 2011, 01:27 PM) *
concealment on sustaining focus looks good, til you realize you're a light in the astral


Concealment's a spirit power - no sustaining foci involved.
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TheOOB
post Feb 24 2011, 10:20 PM
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They should always have a few spirits bound, spells are good, but spirits are where a magicians real power comes from. Just spending some time to read what your spirits can do can go a long way to making you more useful. Other then that explain that spells are best for utility and not outright combat. Invisibility, shapechange, mob control, mind probe, ect. These are the kinds of spells that make magicians powerful. Manabolt and Stunball are nice tricks, and certainly have their uses, but a gun does more damage and is more reliable. Don't neglect your mundane skills and eq

As one of my best friends is known so say: "the reason mages in shadowrun are scary is this: here is my fire spirit; also I have a hand grenade"
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Mardrax
post Feb 24 2011, 10:29 PM
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Oh. Do keep in mind that a spirit can sustain an ammount of powers equal to its M (so F), with no penalties involved.
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Irion
post Feb 24 2011, 10:40 PM
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QUOTE
he should hang on to it. concealment on sustaining focus looks good, til you realize you're a light in the astral

As if this would be a problem.
If you got astral attackers you are done. Their response time is close to 0 mostly due to their insane movement speed.
So if your GM really involves astral defense you are done for it, if he does not clear out one path for you to take.


So lets get the basics covered:
First of all, usefull spells:
Magic fingers. Telecinetic powers for the cost of a spell and very low drain.
Healing: Sometimes you just need the boxes filled.
Increase willpower: Willpower is a attribute quite hard to increase. And it is important for drain AND magical resistance. Both are vital for a mage.
Stunbolt Weapon of choice for any mage. Low drain, non lethal.
Shapechange: The abbility to change into any animal on the planet for one spell.
Shapechange[Human form]: Well, if your GM allows it, it is one of the best spells. But no sane GM would allow it, I strongly suspect.
A well, and increase Refelex of course.
So I forgot a lot of spells, I think but this should do for the start.

Second I would recomand to choose a theme additional to mage:
Be it medic (Biotech group, Chemistry etc.), Face (Influance), Soldier(one weapon skill), Outdoor specialist(Survival, knowledge talents) or even repairman (talents to repair and craft stuff and some appropriate knowledge skills).

Due to choosing a hermetic mage you would make a good medic or repairam, because you already need a high logic for drain.
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Sparrowhawk
post Feb 24 2011, 10:51 PM
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Having a medic would go a long way to helping our group, I think. My sam is taking up both the primary combat and face duties. The hacker is a pure hacker/forger. The adept is pretty focused and only has minimal first aid skills. Most of our combat med is coming via a drone with a Valkyrie module.
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Neraph
post Feb 25 2011, 05:53 AM
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To get the juices flowing, have him read this: Free/Ally Spirits. Also, everyone in your group should read this: A Shadowrunner's Best Practices.

Also, my screen names and contact info is in my signature. Have him look over that material and if he has questions talk to me directly. Better yet, have him get a screen name here so everyone else here can help him also.
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ggodo
post Feb 25 2011, 06:13 AM
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QUOTE (metonymy @ Feb 24 2011, 02:00 PM) *
Concealment's a spirit power - no sustaining foci involved.

You're right, I'm pretty sure I meant invisibility and didn't have the book handy.

Irion, My concern wasn't attackers from the astral, but Watcher Spirits screaming about you. They may not fight, but they tell the folks that do.
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Ol' Scratch
post Feb 25 2011, 06:31 AM
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When in doubt, tell him to try and use Assensing in out-of-combat situations. It can help in all sorts of ways, including being able to see the emotional state of the Johnson or Fixer your team is negotiating with, judging the overall strength of a potential enemy, learning the signature of the people you run into in case they decide to screw you over in the future, and so on and so forth.

Watcher Spirits are also full of potential. Use them to help track down a target, keep watch on the astral side of things when you're unwilling or unable to use perception (even if they die while watching over you, you'll know something's going on), or annoy people in combat. Heck, unless I'm mistaking and I probably am, there used to be a trick where you could summon several of them to gain the friends-in-combat bonus in astral combat or while fighting dual-natured beings.

A lot also has to do with the spells he chose. Some are kinda blase in practice (such as Fireball; its just way too much drain associated with it to be practical). See if you can get the GM to let him rethink his grimoire so that he can feel like he's more of a contributor. Some really good spells to grab include Mind Probe, Improved Invisibility and/or Physical Mask (a personal favorite), Influence, Magic Fingers or Levitate, and Hot Potato. You can have so much fun with that last spell in combat situations. There's also other spells that you can use in creative ways, such as Ignite and Barrier. If he really wants to feel useful in a traditional way, the Heal spell is all but a must have, especially if he takes First Aid as well (just make sure he uses First Aid first).

The biggest advice you can give your friend is to just tell him to try and be creative and think outside the box. That's a magician's biggest strength in my opinion. Their abilities are some of the most versatile in the game. If he's really new to roleplaying in general, talk him into getting the Common Sense quality, too. That way the GM and even the other players can offer him advice when he's either unsure of what to do or about to do something that won't work the way he thinks it will, all without breaking the nature of the game.
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Sparrowhawk
post Feb 25 2011, 08:16 AM
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Great advice so far, everyone, TYVM.

To answer your question Scratch, fortunately we are all old roleplayers, been doing it as a group on and off for the last 15 years or so. So at least that much is well in hand. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/cool.gif)
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colton
post Feb 25 2011, 10:46 PM
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And I'm the game master in the OP. I've read a lot about shadowrun but never really ran it before... that and the fact that I haven't really run any games for about two years now.

I went over some of the magic rules with our group mage and he seemed really excited about summoning spirits. It seems as if with his spell loadout he'll be more of an all purpose combat mage. off the top of my head these are the spells he has:

manabolt
ball lightning
armor
hush
heal
physical barrier
shatter
analyze truth

I'm figuring he can have a lot of fun with those. My only concern is making sure he feels challenged. Like in the OP, he was just sitting there while the combat monkeys cleaned up. they had wiped out all the opposition before the mage even got to his turn. I'm guessing the first step is more enemies, then add in other magicians and spirits since he's the only one who can deal with them.

I've been thinking about throwing him some special magical loot too, but I'm not sure on what to give him because I don't want to unbalance the game and everything looks like it's way too powerful.

advice?
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Ol' Scratch
post Feb 25 2011, 11:07 PM
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For "magical loot," look at the more obscure types of foci. Most of them only work on specific things, such as Banishing Foci. So you can toss him a Banishing Focus (Shadow Spirits) which will only give him an advantage when, not surprisingly, fighting Shadow Spirits. A few sessions later, you can then throw one in as the Big Bad without too much worry of him being too much for the party to handle. Or at least less worry. Spell formulae and grimoires are always great, too. Even if he's not interested in learning them, he can always sell them for a tidy profit.

You can also consider giving him some exotic Weapon Foci, or at least ones for skills he doesn't possess. Even at Force 3, that'll only be the equivalence of a Skill of 1 for him. Digital Grimoire even introduces the concept of Weapon Foci that don't require bonding costs in the Unique Enchantments section, but that's not only really powerful but potentially unbalancing, too.

The only problem with giving out foci or spell formulae is that he still has to pay a lot of Karma to bond/learn them. Then again there's always more minor things like Blood Fetishes that gives +4 dice with a single spell at the cost of one box of Physical damage (also found in Digital Grimoire). As long as you're giving the other players equipment of a similar value, it shouldn't be too unbalancing. It'll just feel kind of weird if you do it too often because of those Karma requirements. I mean, what good is it to have a dozen different foci if you can't afford to bond any of them?

That said, one thing I see missing that is a "must" for most shadowrunning mages is Increase Reflexes and a Sustaining Focus (Health) to go along with it. That puts him in nearly the same league as the combat junkies as far as initiative goes. Stunbolt is a good staple combat spell as well; a mage can cast it at a Force equivalent to heavy firearms all day long with only a minimal chance of suffering drain. Works equally well against metahumans as it does spirits. With those two changes alone, he'd fit in with the combat types pretty well, and its a good start for someone new to magicians in Shadowrun.
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colton
post Feb 28 2011, 09:03 PM
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well, I thought I'd give you guys an update. it looks like our newbie mage read some of this thread, because he switched out a spell for stunball and proceeded to whip the stuffing out of any opposition. (as this was our second game session, I allow my players to make adjustments to their characters after the first game).

he also summoned a spirit and used it as a submarine

figured out the counterspelling rules

and now he's looking into buying the improved initiative spell. I'm kind of scared, guys....
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Ol' Scratch
post Feb 28 2011, 09:08 PM
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Glad we could help.
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James McMurray
post Feb 28 2011, 09:13 PM
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Are you using the optional rule that adds net hits to drain value for indirect combat spells? That goes a long way towards reigning in the power of Stun Ball. It's got a lot of detractors and fans, so you may want to read one of the many threads about it before deciding.

Also, keep in mind that area spells are not targeted. If he casts a Force 5 Stun Ball he's hitting everything he can see in a 10m diameter sphere. That could easily include himself and/or his allies. He'll have to withhold dice from the casting roll and drain test if he wants to make it smaller.
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Brazilian_Shinob...
post Feb 28 2011, 09:13 PM
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Feb 28 2011, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE (James McMurray @ Feb 28 2011, 02:13 PM) *
Are you using the optional rule that adds net hits to drain value for indirect combat spells? That goes a long way towards reigning in the power of Stun Ball. It's got a lot of detractors and fans, so you may want to read one of the many threads about it before deciding.

Also, keep in mind that area spells are not targeted. If he casts a Force 5 Stun Ball he's hitting everything he can see in a 10m diameter sphere. That could easily include himself and/or his allies. He'll have to withhold dice from the casting roll and drain test if he wants to make it smaller.



That would be for DIRECT Combat Spells, not Indirect...

And you do not withhold dice from Drain to affect your Area, Just from your spellcasting dice..
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Ol' Scratch
post Feb 28 2011, 09:17 PM
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QUOTE (James McMurray @ Feb 28 2011, 03:13 PM) *
Are you using the optional rule that adds net hits to drain value for indirect combat spells? That goes a long way towards reigning in the power of Stun Ball. It's got a lot of detractors and fans, so you may want to read one of the many threads about it before deciding.

Also, keep in mind that area spells are not targeted. If he casts a Force 5 Stun Ball he's hitting everything he can see in a 10m diameter sphere. That could easily include himself and/or his allies. He'll have to withhold dice from the casting roll and drain test if he wants to make it smaller.

That first rule is for Direct Combat Spells (ie, the elemental ones). And AoE attacks are targetable, they just affect everyone in range of the target as opposed to being centered on the caster. Unless a specific spell states otherwise, that is.

That said, if it does get out of hand, just remember that the opposition has access to all the same tactics and tricks. There's also a ton of magical defenses out there beyond counterspelling, such as Biofiber, the awakened ivy, the aforementioned FAB variants, etc.
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James McMurray
post Feb 28 2011, 09:18 PM
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QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Feb 28 2011, 05:15 PM) *
That would be for DIRECT Combat Spells, not Indirect...


Sorry, I misspoke.

QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Feb 28 2011, 05:15 PM) *
And you do not withhold dice from Drain to affect your Area, Just from your spellcasting dice..


SR4A p. 183: "Area spells affect all valid targets within the radius of effect,
friend and foe alike (including the caster). For this reason, spellcasters
often choose to vary the radius of area spells. This is done by withholding
dice from the Spellcasting Test. The caster can reduce or expand
the base radius by 1 meter for every die withheld from the Spellcasting
Test. Dice expended to change the radius of effect cannot be used in
any related test, such as resisting Drain for that spell.
"

I'm using a non-updated pdf at work, so perhaps the most recent version is different?
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Mardrax
post Feb 28 2011, 09:23 PM
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Used a spirit as a submarine? 0_o

Counterspelling is neat, but tends to fall short of the Stunbolt approach. As for Stunball (and most AOE spells) it tends to fall short of useful when teammates get involved in melee, unless you're willing to blast them as well, which won't be appreciated in general. It also makes your less than lethal heavy pistol equivalent spell have much higher drain, which really pulls down on the "able to go on all day" factor.

Improved Initiative really needs a sustaining focus to be much of any good. Keep in mind that without one, the mage is taking a -2 on every roll for every spell is sustaining. Also, a higher ammount of IPs only takes effect on the next combat turn, so he's doing pretty much nothing on the first turn of combat if he doesn't have it sustained.

A nice way to give mages a niche in combat is to have enemies make use of cover. Where a sam will have trouble hitting the hiding target, the mage can hit anything he sees. Don't eschew perception tests where they should be called for though.

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James McMurray
post Feb 28 2011, 09:26 PM
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Also, keep in mind the perception thresholds for noticing spellcasting. I forgot about those during the last session and it made an NPC incredibly hard to fight, since the one round she cast Control Thoughts she still got to use her Infiltrtion check of 5 to hide instead of the normal threshold of 1 to notice a Force 5 spell.
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Mardrax
post Feb 28 2011, 09:28 PM
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QUOTE (Ol' Scratch @ Feb 28 2011, 10:17 PM) *
That said, if it does get out of hand, just remember that the opposition has access to all the same tactics and tricks. There's also a ton of magical defenses out there beyond counterspelling, such as Biofiber, the awakened ivy, the aforementioned FAB variants, etc.

Don't forget the most important one, labelled "geek the mage first". Which really should be standard tactic for most corpsec. It's not screwing your player. It's telling him that throwing Stunballs around will catch attention.
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Feb 28 2011, 09:35 PM
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QUOTE (James McMurray @ Feb 28 2011, 02:18 PM) *
Sorry, I misspoke.

SR4A p. 183: "Area spells affect all valid targets within the radius of effect,
friend and foe alike (including the caster). For this reason, spellcasters
often choose to vary the radius of area spells. This is done by withholding
dice from the Spellcasting Test. The caster can reduce or expand
the base radius by 1 meter for every die withheld from the Spellcasting
Test. Dice expended to change the radius of effect cannot be used in
any related test, such as resisting Drain for that spell.
"

I'm using a non-updated pdf at work, so perhaps the most recent version is different?


In previous editions, you had a pool of dice to utilize for such things. SR4A does not utilize that mechanic any longer, and the above quote looks like it was a copy/past error. Especially since in SR4A, Resistance Dice gained from attributes are never reduced for any reason (at least none that I am aware of).
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