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> Limiting Magic
Ziploxx
post May 23 2012, 04:42 AM
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My group and I are on probably our 3rd shadowrun 4th Edition campaign(the last ones only lasting between 2-5 sessions) and coming up on the 4th session of this campaign. We have completed 2 runs. We have been using a lot more matrix and astral stuff. The GM played a hacker the first campaign we did, and now we have a rigger and I'm half hacker. So we have a lot of checks and balances in the matrix, but none of us really know the rules for magic, just the one player who is using it.

The first run we did with him in it the Spirit took about half the time and killed about half the people. Sure, binding it almost makes him passout. Rebinding it seems to suck to. But he has these spirits bound and rampaging through the run(given one command of kill everyone in X area, so he still had like 2), killing entire squads. This guy doesn't know anything about breaking(optimizing) this system either, he's playing a fairly "whatever" shaman and rolling between 8-14 dice. The run had a ward in each building and 2 on-sight mages. Each mage was able to take one shot at the fire spirit before getting demolished . And while his spirits doing all this crap he's rolling for other spells and junk, shouldn't he have to sustain it or something?

Now we know the GM isn't THAT read on either the Matrix or Magic. What are some extended astral security measures? Should the mages be banishing quicker? I haven't even cracked street magic, so I'm most likely way underread.

EDIT: SORRY! It's 4th Edition Magic.
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kzt
post May 23 2012, 04:59 AM
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3rd edition are very powerful, as you get magic 6 for free. Summoning spirits and having them kill your enemies works too. You can only control equal to your charisma and only get a few services, but that would do what you are describing. And when pulling up a new one doesn't take long.

The main limit is that high force spirits can be very expensive to summon if you roll poorly, and low force spirits are not invulnerable to small arms like high force spirits are.

The defending mage should still have been able to easily blow the spirit away with an overcast stunbolt, or multiples with an overcast stunball. And yes, they WILL overcast and risk physical damage compared to going HtH with a fire spirit. Most combat mages also have weapon focuses and some ability to use them.
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Umidori
post May 23 2012, 05:56 AM
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Spirits are kinda nutso. They're very binary in how they work. Low force spirits are almost useless for anything other than utility, while high force spirits are just walking (flying, actually) monstrosities. And you either summon them with little to no problems, or you practically wipe yourself out.

Most "solutions" seem to revolve around having stronger astral security to deal with player summoned spirits, or being very draconian about spirit limitations - such as having them fulfill commands a little too literally, or having them be recalcitrant and willfully resist or resent being summoned. (Since we're talking about a shaman, here, the second one actually makes sense from a lore standpoint - you're asking powerful spirits for favors, and they're gonna ask you a few in return.) Still, it's a difficult thing to balance easily.

Perhaps the simplest solution is to just throw a third mage at the spirit, and a fourth and fifth and so on, until it feels like a reasonable level of resistance has been met. Barring that, try sending drones at the player mage - it's a lot harder to take out non-organics with magic, and even a spirit will have to put itself on the physical plane to cast physical spells at a drone.

Still, I bet other folks will have way better answers.

~Umidori
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Dakka Dakka
post May 23 2012, 06:41 AM
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I would advise against an armsrace, especially with mages. They are supposed to be rare. So not every site should have lots of them around. What you should do however is play the opposition smart.
1) Give your guards SnS. They work like a charm against spirits of Force 6 or lower. One net hit hurts them. And knocking intruders unconscious instead of killing them might have its own benefits.
2) Have guards patrol in teams. Have them always delay their actions. A spirit needs a complex action to materializes so the guards should get a shot in before the spirit can squash them.

BTW Binding is unnecessary. The mage could just as well order the spirit to kill the guards with an unbound spirit. The only drawback is that, should the spirit wander off too far (IIRC 10m*Force) the mage loses the remaining services.
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Ziploxx
post May 23 2012, 08:14 AM
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QUOTE (Dakka Dakka @ May 22 2012, 11:41 PM) *
2) Have guards patrol in teams. Have them always delay their actions. A spirit needs a complex action to materializes so the guards should get a shot in before the spirit can squash them.


Wait what are the exact rules for Materialization? I see that it is a power on SR 296. How long can they materialize for? Like there were 3 squads this thing fought and was just flying over to each one and using firebreath(with line of sight casting range?!?!) every time in combat. Isn't the spirit using firebreath a service or something?
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Aerospider
post May 23 2012, 08:14 AM
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QUOTE (Ziploxx @ May 23 2012, 05:42 AM) *
... shouldn't he have to sustain it or something?

The closest thing to such a notion is the Unruly Bound Spirits optional rule. It's intended for exactly this problem and imposes a -2 DP modifier on the summoner as per sustaining spells. It shouldn't be applied generally though - just for magicians who mistreat their spirits (such as repeatedly sending them to fight his battles for him) and perhaps for all high force spirits (e.g. higher than the magician's Magic).
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Aerospider
post May 23 2012, 08:21 AM
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QUOTE (Ziploxx @ May 23 2012, 09:14 AM) *
Wait what are the exact rules for Materialization? I see that it is a power on SR 296. How long can they materialize for? Like there were 3 squads this thing fought and was just flying over to each one and using firebreath(with line of sight casting range?!?!) every time in combat. Isn't the spirit using firebreath a service or something?

It's a murky topic, but generally no. 'Kill them' is one service and if the spirit decides to use a particular power then that's its choice to make. This is important - magicians do not remote control their spirits like they are drones. Once given an order the GM, not the player, should play the spirit accordingly and there should be no unbidden coordination with the rest of the team's efforts.

Now 'Use power X on them' is a different matter, eliciting either one use of the power or repeated use of the same power, depending on how the GM decides the spirit interprets the instruction.
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Aerospider
post May 23 2012, 08:32 AM
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It shouldn't come up too often, but background count is a bitch for spirits.

There's also fighting fire with fire - spirits are not a rare security measure, from patrol duties to bodyguarding.
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Thanee
post May 23 2012, 11:41 AM
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We use a house rule for Summoning, that you cannot summon spirits with Force above your own Magic Rating.

That keeps them in reasonable levels. It is far too easy to summon higher Force spirits.

Bye
Thanee
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Dakka Dakka
post May 23 2012, 01:29 PM
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QUOTE (Ziploxx @ May 23 2012, 10:14 AM) *
Wait what are the exact rules for Materialization? I see that it is a power on SR 296. How long can they materialize for? Like there were 3 squads this thing fought and was just flying over to each one and using firebreath(with line of sight casting range?!?!) every time in combat. Isn't the spirit using firebreath a service or something?
They can remain materialized indefinitely, but then they likely lose the element of surprise. Going from the astral plane to the physical is a Complex action, so between the spirit materializing and actually doing stuff, the opposition should have an action phase to oppose the spirit, including calling for backup. Addtionally, unless I'm mistaken surprise happens during the pass when the spirit materializes, so in the pass when it does something they should no longer be surprised.
Sneaking up on the guards will take time, so that maybe reinforcemnts will be there before the first team is eliminated.

The others already said it "kill everyone" in the building is only one service, but this may not always be an option. Maybe the runners need to extract someone, maybe there are innocent bystanders, maybe there are mages not related to the run etc.
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Irion
post May 23 2012, 10:46 PM
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1) Limit access to high force spirits.
2) Limit power of spirits

For example: Spirits of force higher than 6 always spend edge to resist binding or summoning. Spirits only have an Edge of Force/2 (round up).
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Dakka Dakka
post May 23 2012, 10:53 PM
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Spirit's edge is rarely an issue as the summoner cannot force a spirit to spend edge.
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Falconer
post May 23 2012, 11:54 PM
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As a new player number 1... stay as far away from possession rules as you can... only use them as a GM threat occasionally.

2. remember spirits are NPC's... they should NOT be played by the mage who summoned them no more than you'd have a face 'play' his street sam contact who he brought in for some extra muscle.
2a. wish wording... he ordered the spirit to kill EVERYONE in the building... start with the mage and his allies :).
2b. this will make them burn through services even faster to countermand and reword orders.
2c. a spirit WILL return to the astral/wherever AFTER it completes a service. (this is in the main rulebook...).
2d. spirits automatically know if a mage mistreats his spirits...

3. spirits have edge and WILL use it to resist summoning... players CANNOT tap this edge or force the spirit to spend it... the spirit will only spend it for it's own ends.
3a... around here summoning something with a force GREATER than your magic is automatic edge to resist... (makes it possible but VERY VERY painful to get high force spirits... and practically suicidal to try and bind them). This is a house rule.

4. changes in initiative only take place at the start of a new combat turn (not initiative pass).
4a. this is dicey... but if a spirit materializes in round 1... it may not be able to act in the second pass. Most people play that it went from 3 to 2 and still give it the second action.
4b. the best time for a spirit to materialize is almost always using it's 3rd astral pass... (no grey area... uses it's last action astral to materialize... 4th pass a few if any people go... first pass next combat turn things are back to order).

5. spirits are again NPC's and don't like being treated like slaves... in Jet set there's a story of a spirit ordered to keep all drinks in a room chilled.
5a. see wish wording... spirit resorted to evaporating all drinks BEFORE they entered the room and other obnoxious tricks until it was finally released after a short time.

Another house rule which is used locally here by another GM is spirits are limited to 6 ranks in a skill. This helps to keep the higher force ones sane. This was a direct result of a force 9 guardian with the 'automatics' skill handed an AK-97 and still having 20+ dice.... see above... not my fault guns are so much better at dealing damage than anything else in the game! (I've toyed with the idea of force/2 ranks instead... seems to scale better).

Spirits tend to be the most broken aspect of magic IMO.


6. in terms of spells... spells aren't so bad... generally you'll do a lot more damage with guns than a mage will with spells. Though when the hyper-armored troll tank comes out to play... a good manabolt is your best friend.
7. Make sure NPC's get their bonus dice to resist from cover and the mage suffers appropriate visibility penalties for casting.

8. remember rent-a-cops aren't there as the primary security... they're there as a tripwire. If they go down, alarms go off... their job isn't to fight intruders so much as it is to report on them and delay them until bigger guns arrive.
8a. see above about visibility... flash paks and smoke grenades are a NPC's best friends when they're just trying to not get gunned down...

9. drones are your friend... drones have object resistance :)... they also tend to carry heavy weapons...
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TheOOB
post May 24 2012, 04:13 AM
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Kill everyone might be an over broad service for most spirits unless they really like you. I generally work with fighting in a single combat counts as a service, you have to earn some loyalty before they'll do more than that for a service.

As noted, stick-n-shock is strong agienst spirits, and spirits do take some time to get ready. Unless your spirit was following you, here's how it goes usually.

Pass 1, magician used Simple action to call a spirit on standby and give an order. Spirit comes to magician
Pass 2, Spirit materializes

Next round, spirit acts.

Since a lot of shadowrun combats are decided in the first round, that can be a long time, and having a spirit follow you, even astrally, will make you stick out like a sore thumb to any astral security, even watchers.
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Dakka Dakka
post May 24 2012, 05:11 AM
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QUOTE (TheOOB @ May 24 2012, 06:13 AM) *
Since a lot of shadowrun combats are decided in the first round, that can be a long time, and having a spirit follow you, even astrally, will make you stick out like a sore thumb to any astral security, even watchers.
Not watchers by RAW. With 2 dice they will not notice, especially if they are distracted (-2). Even if they are actively looking (+3) for that combination it is unlikely that they will identify it correctly.
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Aerospider
post May 24 2012, 07:27 AM
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QUOTE (Dakka Dakka @ May 24 2012, 06:11 AM) *
Not watchers by RAW. With 2 dice they will not notice, especially if they are distracted (-2). Even if they are actively looking (+3) for that combination it is unlikely that they will identify it correctly.

How well does a watcher need to "identify" a trespassing spirit? It's not going to confuse it for a pot plant.
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Dakka Dakka
post May 24 2012, 11:08 AM
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QUOTE (Aerospider @ May 24 2012, 09:27 AM) *
How well does a watcher need to "identify" a trespassing spirit? It's not going to confuse it for a pot plant.
While it may be obvious that the spirit is not a potted plant or any other living creature (the rules are a bit vague on that one), anyone needs one hit to ascertain whether a subject is mundane or awakened. A spirit that has not been identified as awakened, should not register, or the watcher's summoner would get a lot of false positives. To identify the type of spirit anyone need two hits. So unless the watcher patrols in an area where no spirits at all are allowed, again you will probably get a lot of false positives.
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phlapjack77
post May 24 2012, 11:12 AM
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QUOTE (Dakka Dakka @ May 24 2012, 07:08 PM) *
While it may be obvious that the spirit is not a potted plant or any other living creature (the rules are a bit vague on that one), anyone needs one hit to ascertain whether a subject is mundane or awakened. A spirit that has not been identified as awakened, should not register, or the watcher's summoner would get a lot of false positives.

I could be wrong, but I would think noticing an astrally active creature (spirits, dual-natured beings, astrally projecting mage, etc) is not the same thing as noticing mundane vs. awakened.
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Dakka Dakka
post May 24 2012, 11:28 AM
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The question is can you differentiate between the vibrant auras of living creatures and astral forms without a roll. Can you differentiate between different astral forms of the same type without a roll? The former is not clear, the latter is a definite no.
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phlapjack77
post May 24 2012, 11:42 AM
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I agree. For my own opinion, I would say that for watchers, who are creatures of the astral, being able to tell the difference between auras on the astral (living things) and actual beings that actually exist on the astral (spirits, dual-natured, etc) is something that doesn't need a roll. So telling the difference between mundane and awakened is not the subject of discussion.
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Aerospider
post May 24 2012, 12:20 PM
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QUOTE (Dakka Dakka @ May 24 2012, 12:28 PM) *
The question is can you differentiate between the vibrant auras of living creatures and astral forms without a roll. Can you differentiate between different astral forms of the same type without a roll? The former is not clear, the latter is a definite no.

I've found the RAW for the first issue:

SR4a p.191 AURAS AND ASTRAL FORMS:
"Astral forms are more colourful and brighter than auras, as they are astrally 'real'."

SR4a p.191 ASTRAL PERCEPTION:
"Without attempting to read an aura, a magician can still get an impression of what type of aura it is (spell, spirit, living creature, etc.)."
(Assuming it's not really meant to be limited to just magicians).

You're quite right that a roll is required to recognise an aura/astral form. However, I would think it a trivial exercise to concoct a security protocol whereby in the event a watcher comes across an authorised astral form then said astral form will identify itself in a pre-determined manner.
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Neraph
post May 24 2012, 01:29 PM
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I've run plenty of games over the years and I've never had issues with spirits in my games. Of course, I've also had a very small handful of characters that summon. I've even had a Possession mage and he didn't "break the game" any at all - in fact, he helped keep some PCs alive by possessing them when they dropped for extraction to reach the streetdocs.

A lot of this has been mentioned upthread, but the few things that help balance spirits specfically (and magic generally) are: backround count, wards, patrolling spirits, stick-n-shock, enemy mages. One of my favorite things is a mage (magician/mystic adept) using Control Thoughts or similar magic on an enemy spirit and telling it to "kill your summoner." That'll chew through favors real quickly.
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Irion
post May 24 2012, 01:37 PM
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@Neraph
Whats your definition of game breaking?
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Neraph
post May 24 2012, 01:46 PM
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"I win" buttons. So far, magic has been kept in check (either through my players' own actions or my magical counters I don't know) and is a non-issue. The most problematic magic-based characters I've had was a fistfighter adept with the Sonic Aura Power, a mundane 7-Edge sniper, and a bio-ninja stealth character. Fighting clever isn't a game-breaker, it's simply superior tactics. People complaining about magic just reminds me of novice Go players complaining about losing to someone who's been at it for a few years.
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Umidori
post May 24 2012, 03:20 PM
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Wait.... Sonic (Read "Elemental") Aura Power?

~Umidori
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