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> All-Ritual Magic?, Just a possible idea I’m exploring
JanessaVR
post Jul 4 2017, 04:03 AM
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As I continue to (oh so damn slowly, it seems) assemble our new and improved House Rules file, I've gone over old posts here for some good ideas I've come across that I promised myself I'd revisit one day. One of those ideas was in this thread. Namely, the idea to increase the casting time of all spells to one minute.

At the time, I wasn't that enamored of the idea, but I've had over a year now to reconsider, and I think Koekepan might be onto something here. Even I, an admitted magic supremacist, will admit that a properly-built mage can dominate the game. Outside of decking, anything you can do, they can do better. A lot of problems can be solved by saying "talk to the Manaball." This idea would go a long way towards getting mages to stop "thinking with their wands."

Obviously, this won't go over so well in a Pink Mohawk game, but might fit in very well in a Black Trenchcoat / Mirrorshades campaign. The proposed compensating factor for this was to remove the Karma cost for spells, so that mages could more easily expand their versatility to compensate. Provisionally having already ditched Karma as a reward (see here), I'm thinking that cutting the price and learning time in half would be a good equivalent.

Some possible variations
* Have one minute be the minimum casting time. If you do well enough on the Spellcasting (or Summoning) roll, it's only a minute. If you don't roll so well, it takes even longer (another minute or two).
* Some sort of bonus for voluntarily spending more time than normal on the casting ritual?

Some possible issues
* Having both Spellcasting and Summoning take one minute can work, but if Counterspelling or Banishing take a minute or more, they're nearly useless. Using Counterspelling to unravel an existing spell can take some time, but if countering a spell headed for your face takes a full minute, you're screwed. And good luck getting a spirit to stand still for a minute-long Banishing ritual.

Your thoughts? And Koekepan, you still out there? How did this turn out in practice at your gaming table?
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Tecumseh
post Jul 4 2017, 04:30 AM
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This change would largely invalidate Combat spells, unless it's an ambush situation.

Everyone has their own experiences, and in my experience Summoning needs to be reined in more than Spellcasting. (I grant that if you're playing 4E then stunbolts do need revision so that they aren't the go-to choice 95% of the time. I actually like 5E's treatment for Direct combat spells.)

My concern would be that this change would lead magicians to rely on their spirits more, which is potentially problematic unless you have house rules revising spirits as well.

A potentially interesting middle-ground would be to require the casting of spells to take an entire Combat Turn rather than a full minute. That keeps Combat spells in play but introduces more of an opportunity-cost consideration. What is the magician not doing while they're working a full three seconds on this spell? Like a grenade on a timer, the spell would go off 1 CT after casting begins. Complications include the target moving, the spellcaster needing to move, or dodge, or do something else that breaks LoS, and so on.
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JanessaVR
post Jul 4 2017, 05:04 AM
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QUOTE (Tecumseh @ Jul 3 2017, 09:30 PM) *
My concern would be that this change would lead magicians to rely on their spirits more, which is potentially problematic unless you have house rules revising spirits as well.

Any suggestions here? I confess that with my Hermetic bias, I usually focus more on Spellcasting than Summoning, as I tend to distrust spirits on general principle. I've had more than one PC with Summoning 1, Banishing 6. Whenever I see a spirit, my very first thought is "get rid of it." Ally Spirits are about my only exception, but that's only because their loyalty is hardwired into their formula.
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Blade
post Jul 4 2017, 08:57 AM
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One of the biggest problems I see with spirits is this one:

A mage can get rating X in Magic, Summoning. If the Mage is a summoner, these are likely to be his best stats.

Since he rolls 2X against 1F (where F is the spirit's Force), he can quite safely have F=X or even F=1.5X. Drain will rarely be an issue, so I won't take it into account.
What this means is that the summoner will be able to easily summon a spirit whose base stat will be equal or even superior to the summoner's best stat. The spirit is not a support NPC, he's actually more powerful than the summoner.

Also spirit powers are hard to counter and spirits have many options not available to regular characters (ability to go through non-warded walls, floors and ceiling, ability to fly for some of them, etc.) which already make them a strong opposition against an unadapted defender.

So not only will the summoned spirit be statwise better than the summoner but it will also have very powerful and difficult to counter options.
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JanessaVR
post Jul 4 2017, 04:50 PM
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@Blade:

It sounds like the real problem is with the spirits themselves, not Summoning per se.

If it helps, we've also banned overcasting completely, so if you've got Magic 6, the best you can summon is a Force 6 spirit.

Do you think spirits need a full redesign to reign them in, or just nerfing of some particular Critter Powers?
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Tecumseh
post Jul 4 2017, 08:07 PM
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I think this is Blade's point but I'll say it a different way. An F6 spirit will appear with anywhere from 49 to 53 attribute points spread across the eight attributes. Compare that to a PC with Attributes A, which gets you 24 points + 8 (from all Attributes starting at 1) = 32 attribute points. So an F6 spirit has 50% more attribute points than an Attribute A runner, plus Immunity to Normal Weapons, plus all of the default spirit powers and 2 optional powers for being F6. And if a spirit gets disrupted then you summon a new one with a single Combat Turn. I love magic and I love spirits but they are so overpowered that it pains me. I really like what SR5 did for Direct Combat spells and I wish they had applied some moderation to spirits too.

Koekopan had some ideas in the thread you mentioned, like having spirits roll Edge to resist summoning. This is something I have considered but haven't ever experimented with myself. It will effectively double the resist pool if the GM rolls pre-Edge, or make the resist pool 1.67x higher if rolling post-Edge.

Your average magician with a power focus and a specialization will be rolling 14-16 dice to summon, so they're still going to beat an F6 spirit rolling 10-12 dice to resist more often than not, but the drain from 10-12 resist dice might make them think twice. Since drain is hits * 2, then that makes your average drain on an F6 spirit rolling Edge anywhere from 6S to 8S in the above example. That's probably enough to tag the summoner with 2-4 boxes of drain, which might not stop them but will at least curb spirit spamming, i.e. using the spirits as front-line cannon fodder.

If that approach is too broad then you could add some nuance based on the spirit's Force vs. the summoner's Magic rating. For example, for an Magic 6 summoner:
• F1-3 spirits won't roll Edge
• F4-6 spirits will post-roll Edge (1.67x dicepool)
• F7+ spirits (oversummoning) will pre-roll Edge (2x dicepool)

If you don't like that, then alternatives include making the base Attribute value for a spirit (before modifiers) Force/2 instead of straight Force. For example, an F6 Spirit of Earth would have Body of (F/2)+4 = 7, instead of (F+4) = 10.

Another option is not to double the Force rating when calculating Immunity to Normal Weapons. Instead of giving an F6 spirit 12 points of hardened armor, give it 6 points instead. This is even more important for SR4, since the weapon DVs are lower than they are in SR5.
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JanessaVR
post Jul 4 2017, 08:47 PM
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@Tecumseh:

I should have mentioned that we also ditched the Critter Power of Immunity to Normal Weapons - they get Hardened Armor equal to their Force/Magic rating, which was one of your suggestions. I've never really liked that whole Priority method for character construction, and we just use the simple rule that spirits get one Critter Power per point of Force (in addition to their free powers of Astral Form, Sapience, Materialization/Possession, and Hardened Armor when Materialized).

As for quickly replacing disrupted spirits, my one minute rule for Spellcasting was intended to apply to Summoning as well (sorry if I didn't clarify that). However, we can tighten that even further - how about a summoning time of one minute per level of Force? Lost your Force 6 spirit in combat and now you want another one? Ok, do you have six uninterrupted minutes in the middle of combat to summon it?

Also, we use a spirit's Force rating for all its Attributes, so a Force 6 spirit will have Body of 6, not 7 or 10.
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ThreeGee
post Jul 4 2017, 09:05 PM
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I'd say any timings in minutes is effectively putting the action out of the Combat Turn Sequence anyway. I'd be pushed to remember GMing many SR combats that went on for 20 turns.
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JanessaVR
post Jul 4 2017, 09:21 PM
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QUOTE (ThreeGee @ Jul 4 2017, 02:05 PM) *
I'd say any timings in minutes is effectively putting the action out of the Combat Turn Sequence anyway. I'd be pushed to remember GMing many SR combats that went on for 20 turns.

Exactly. This makes combat the primary province of Sammies and Adepts, which gives them something to do in a firefight beyond standing off to one side and surfing the Matrix on their commlinks while the mages wipe out their opponents with a few spells, or an endless steam of summoned spirits.

If mages want to help out in a firefight, they need to buy a gun and go spend some time down at the shooting range.
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ThreeGee
post Jul 4 2017, 09:46 PM
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Why would anyone bother playing a Mage at all?
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KCKitsune
post Jul 5 2017, 08:54 AM
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QUOTE (ThreeGee @ Jul 4 2017, 05:46 PM) *
Why would anyone bother playing a Mage at all?


Because they would still have a function outside of combat. Not much other than healing and information gathering, but still not appealing for a spell slinger.

@JanessaVR: If you do go with this route you find yourself with a lot more summoners than normal mages. If you're having problems with Mages having a "I WIN!!!" button in the form of mana combat spells, then get rid of them. Honestly, I don't know why those spells were allowed in the first place. They can be too easily abused.

If you don't want to get rid of mana spells then make it that the target resists with Willpower + Logic or Intuition (whichever one is higher). Hell, I can even see the corps having a training course that would allow mundanes to more easily resist mana spells (Mental Fortitude Training. +1 per level for resisting mana based spells.).

Maybe add extra dice against mana spells for those people who have lower than normal Essence (6 - Essence, round to nearest whole number) to reflect that there isn't as much spirit there to affect with a mana based spell.
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Koekepan
post Jul 17 2017, 11:18 PM
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OK, I've been lurking, but I've given some thought to this issue, and I have some additional commentary and observations.

We really have to differentiate a few things that mages in Shadowrun do that are overpowered, nerfed, or stupid.

Overpowered: APOCALYPSE NOW

Bog the Trog was having such a fun day ripping the arms off samurai and beating them with the hydraulic fluid leaking end. Then suddenly something happened, there was a bright light, and ... somehow he's bound, gagged and being pegged by this elf girl who keeps calling him her little puppy.

Max the Merc was having a great day piloting his T-bird through the urban canyons, blasting limos like it was going out of style. Then suddenly something happened, and a stream of gravel was running through his main engine, while an invisible hand scrawled on his main viewport: "The scope is clear." Oh well, the ejection handles are right there.

Nerfed: CLUELESS

Sean the Shaman hates team debriefings. Not because of the damages, or the arguments about payment and how hard Johnson screwed them. Because every time it's the same deal: "Hey, Sean, it woulda been great if your magic coulda turned their guns to goo." "How come your magic can't see monofilament, Sean?" "Sean, do you think you could magic us up some beer?"

Suzy the Sorceress could really use just a month off. Just. one. fragging. month. Just so that she can study this damned spell. It'll make her rich - Herpes-b-Gone. Starting with herself, of course. But noooo, no such luck. "Oh, hey, Suzy, wanna come raid Ares?" "Lookin' good, girl! Unrelated, Renraku needs a favour." "Hey, Suzy, wanna go dig a CEO's mistress out of a hive of ant spirits? Shouldn't take more than the afternoon."

Stupid: POLTERGEIST

Sam the Summoner was having a good day. A great day. Debt collection is hard, dangerous work. It's so much easier when you show up with a pair of earth spirits, each the size of a FrosteeFreez vending machine.

--------------------------------------------------------------

The fact is, shadowrun mages were designed for combat. Five or six spells, fired off more or less ad lib, and ... nothing else. Oh, except for spirits, which are like tanks on demand.

It's pathetically obvious that the result will be immediate, devastating and inflexible. That's what they were designed to be. On the other hand, the moment the mission goes off the beaten track, your magician can become irrelevant in a moment - and an outright liability in two. Alternatively, it's not hard to design a magician with extremely limited and improbable application.

I have not yet had the opportunity to put my ideas to exhaustive tests, because somehow players are nervous about being my guinea pigs. Something about madness, humiliation and self-loathing - the details escape me. I put it down to reflexive reactionary impulses in notoriously hidebound hobbyists such as roleplayers. Still, where they've been tested they've worked OK.

The real question is to ask what magicians are for, in a sense. What do they do in society? Most magicians surely would have little use for combat spells.

In the narrow realms of runs, you have a few different formats, but the majority of them can be described as: Find the place, kick in the door, geek the mook, take the widget. Sometimes they really change it up, and add a spoiler factor such as taking the right widget, or geeking the right mook, or for the really advanced roleplayers, some element of personal tragedy thereafter, but nine times out of ten that formula is not far wrong. PC mages can help you find the place (mind reading spells, watcher spirits, astral projection), kick in the door (sundry forms of destruction), geek mooks (you don't need me to explain this) and take the widget (OK, sometimes it's data or something like that, but quite often they can, at a minimum, identify the correct widget). A mage with a trode net and deck, and some lead time, could solo a lot of runs (in principle, some limitations apply, batteries not included).

And if you wanted deeply complex heart-felt campaigns full of angst and drama, why aren't you playing Vampire: the Adultery, emoboi?

Outside of the shadows, magicians supposedly change everything - really, they change manufacturing methods, they change entertainment, they change all the things. They spend their days researching new things to change in new and different ways. And corps pay them big, fat, juicy bucks to do exactly that. The corollary is that magicians are really crazily flexible, and can be expected to master many different things during their careers, and turn on a dime to master something else. This is exactly what PC mages don't do. As in: PC mages violate the fluff, the fundamental concepts of the game.

So let's ask ourselves how to correct this:

Right now, mages have a limited deck to play with. They can't do much - they have their spells, half of which could be adequately replaced with a Predator, some stick-n-shock rounds, a pack of drugs, a medikit and some explosives. Getting new spells is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Every spell is pretty locked down in its application, but devastatingly effective where it is. This is a problem, so let's turn it on its head:

Mages can do damn near anything with magic, but it's difficult, time-consuming, and exhausting. A new spell, assuming they know what they're doing in the first place, isn't a huge issue to come up with, but casting a spell in a hurry is extra-difficult and extra-exhausting. However, your typical spell is about as effective as a bic lighter, rather than a thermite charge.

Right now, mages can summon nearly godlike assistants of hideous power and monstrous toughness at the drop of a hat. It's like having a pet gang of trolls in power armour all the time. This is a problem, so let's turn it on its head:

Mages can summon spirits, but they have to kiss serious spirit hoop with major tongue action to get the spirits to be compliant, let alone friendly. It's hard, time-consuming and generally involves serious quid pro quo. Summoning spirits is just not done for giggles.

Right now, mages can fire off spells with a snap of the fingers and a toot of a horn. Need a spell? Wait ten seconds and it's already done. Need two spells? Bring an aspirin, and they'll be cast by the time you're back with the aspirin and a glass of water. This is a problem, so let's turn it on its head:

Mages can do any spell on the spot - but you have to wait a minute. Even so, it's very draining and a pain in the ass. Better yet, prepare the spells into single-use spell-grenades that anybody can use. Not too expensive, not crazily powerful, but highly variable.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Where does this leave us?

Now mages are not front-line bazookas on legs, field hospitals and intel units. They are soft and crunchy REMFs who can solve a wide range of problems as well as equipping their best buddies for the big fight. This is a hell of a lot closer to the fluff in spirit. So what's left?

The original poster had questions around countering and dispelling. Here are proposals to address those:

First, split countering and dispelling into two departments each.

Countering magic on the spot.

A magic defence pool works well for this. It doesn't have to be a conscious effort, but an innate ability to screw up magic in his area, should he so choose.

Unweaving established magic.

This takes study to understand the spell before her, so she needs to sit down, take some time, puzzle it out and then unweave it as a matter of deliberate skill.

Interfering with a charging spirit.

"Time out! Let's talk. You made a deal with that guy, but I gotta deal you just hafta hear, Big Fire!"

Banishing a spirit.

She settles down in her lodge with the Cursed Diadem of Ramen Possessed, and a thermos of soykaf. Gonna be a long night.

Now mages are not unstoppable, but opposable. Magic is not a guarantee, but a chance. And rather than rolling some dice and making magical tanks appear, mages actually have to negotiate to make things happen with spirits.

Hope this helps clarify some of my thinking.
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Blade
post Jul 18 2017, 09:57 AM
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For interfering with spirits I like the house-rule that allow a mage to use his Banishing skill against Spirit powers the way Counterspelling can be used against spell. It also makes Banishing a bit more relevant, since it is often defaulted on Manabolt, which is just as effective (if not more) and can be used for other purposes.

For the spell range problem Koekepan mentions I've got three remarks:

1. The spells that are written in the books are spells a Shadowrunner is likely to use. In Style over Substance (link in sig), I've written a few "fluff" spells (though many could probably see a use in a run) that are likely to be quite common outside of the Shadows.

2. Some spells are "must-haves", they're very powerful (stunbolt/stunball in SR4), can be used in many situations (levitation, influence) or are needed very often in most runs (invisibility, heal). Other spells are fun stuff that can have some uses in some cases, but aren't as interesting investments as the others (Animate, Poltergeist, Control Dreams (not sure about the name for this one), etc.). So with limited BP/Karma, most mages player will go for the better investments.
I've seen a GM apply a simple solution: for the cost of a spell, the mage could learn either one "powerful" spell or two "lesser" spells. I guess you could have a finer-grained mechanism by having cost for each spell (maybe using the drain code as a base value for the price, since it's often related to the power of the spell, but there might still be a need for some adjustment). Another solution would be to be more flexible on what spells a mage could cast (either using broad domains rather than individual spells, or allowing a mage to cast a spell he doesn't know with a modifier, etc.).

2a. On that note, lowering the cost of learning new spells, while it would help fix this, would also still suffer from it. You'd likely get mages who'd quickly learn all the "must-have" spells before potentially moving on to lesser spells (though powergamers are more likely to spend their karma elsewhere instead, mages have so many things to do with karma)

3. A spell is cast with Magic+Spellcasting. These are the same two stats no matter which spell is cast, and spellcasters will often try to get them pretty high. Same goes for the drain stats. So whenever a mage learns a new spell, he can cast it at "full" power. It's not just getting a new option/feature, it's getting it at the higest rating. If your combat mage (who's got more or less the same firepower as the team's dedicated fighter) learns an invisibility spell and a lock-picking spell, he's suddenly better than the team's dedicated infiltrator. He learns some mental manipulation spell, and he can now influence people better than the non-mage face ever will.
A solution is to divide the spellcasting skill into one for each type of magic, but then you pretty much force the mages to specialize in order to be efficient.
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Tecumseh
post Jul 19 2017, 06:22 AM
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I think Koekepan is smart and I enjoy reading his posts, but I respectfully disagree with most of what he just said.

QUOTE (Koekepan @ Jul 17 2017, 04:18 PM) *
The fact is, shadowrun mages were designed for combat. Five or six spells, fired off more or less ad lib, and ... nothing else. Oh, except for spirits, which are like tanks on demand.
...
On the other hand, the moment the mission goes off the beaten track, your magician can become irrelevant in a moment - and an outright liability in two.
...
The corollary is that magicians are really crazily flexible, and can be expected to master many different things during their careers, and turn on a dime to master something else. This is exactly what PC mages don't do. As in: PC mages violate the fluff, the fundamental concepts of the game.

The combat mage has always been a staple in Shadowrun, but to say "shadowrun mages were designed for combat" is a vast oversimplification. Judging by Koekepan's SRGC he's been playing since 1st Edition, so he's got me beat there, but let's look at all the sample character mages from 2nd Edition, when I picked things up, through 4th Edition. We'll count the combat spells per build and see if shadowrun mages really were designed for combat.

2nd Edition
Combat Mage: 3 of 10
Former Wage Mage (Fighter): 4 of 5
Former Wage Mage (Healer): 0 of 6
Prowler: 0 of 6
Shaman / Street Mage / Street Shaman (Fighter): 3 of 3
Shaman / Street Mage / Street Shaman (Healer): 0 of 3
Shaman / Street Mage / Street Shaman (Deceiver): 0 of 4
Shaman / Street Mage / Street Shaman (Detector): 0 of 4

Total: 10 of 41 = 24%

3rd Edition
Combat Mage: 5 of 7
Street Mage: 1 of 7
Street Shaman: 0 of 6
Tribal Shaman: 1 of 6

Total: 7 of 26 = 27%

4th Edition
Combat Mage: 3 of 8
Occult Investigator: 1 of 5
Radical Eco-Shaman: 2 of 6
Street Shaman: 1 of 4

Total: 7 of 23 = 30%

So, our grand total for SR2-4 sample characters is 24 combat spells out of 90 spells, for 27% of the spell selection.

"But Tec," I hear you say, "the sample characters aren't well-made, or representative of how most people play." I certainly can't answer for how most people play, but my personal experience over the last 24.5 years is that PC magicians mirror what Koekepan describes as the fluff, which is to say that magicians are the flexible Jacks of All Trades that can hurt you, heal you, embarrass you in public, make you fly, and make you cry.

Since Chummer makes it easy, let's look at the spell counts for each school of spells in SR4:

Combat: 49 spells
Detection: 46
Health: 33
Illusion: 43
Manipulation: 78

So, out of 249 available spells, Combat spells make up 20% of the total. Looking at these breakouts, an independent observer might conclude that Shadowrun mages are manipulators first and foremost, with combat being a distant second in case the manipulation didn't work.

If combat is over-represented in spellcasting, and I'm far from agreeing with that, then it's a function of the overall game and its focus on characters whose lives are nasty, brutish, and short. The traditional Shadowrun protagonists aren't morally-compromised corpers and shopkeepers but rather morally-compromised face-shooters and brain-melters. The available rules for spellcasting support those functions, since they are integral to the setting, but combat only represents a small fraction of what spellcasting can accomplish.
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Jul 19 2017, 02:23 PM
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As an Anecdotal comparison...
My Last SR4 Magician had Magic 5 and 68 Spells... 2 of them were Combat Spells, and nonstandard combat spells at that.
One was a Stun Grenade Spell, and the other was a Stun Only Mana Bolt Spell Limited target to those with Cybernetic parts (it scrambled the signals between meat and machine).
So... a pretty minimal percentage of my spells (only 2.9%) even dealt with Combat at all...
His preferred spells fell into the Manipulation/Illusion/Health categories, with a hearty does of Detection sprinkled in...

Over the years I have found that it is the Utility functions of the mage that really, really stand out, rather than the Combat Abilities of a mage (which can be strrong, no argument).

That said... in Missions, I understand that the utility functions often take a backseat to the straightforward power of High Magic, High Force Combat Spells.
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Koekepan
post Jul 19 2017, 04:57 PM
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Tecumseh and Tymaeus aren't wrong in what they're saying. Yes, there are non-combat spells. Yes, you can accumulate a wide range of them. Yes, there's some variety evinced in the examples in the books.

Since my point was missed, let me see if I can revisit it with greater clarity.

The magic system as presented is a minor tweak on vancian magic. Instead of firing off a given spell once per day and then needing to prepare it again, there's the drain system. You can learn new spells (at a cost to your IMMORTAL SOUL ... er, I mean, karma) and you can study new spells at a snail's pace, and yet greater cost.

Firing a spell is like firing a Ruger no. 1 rifle chambered in .45-70, loaded to the max, with no padding nor recoil reduction. You can do it! And again, and again, as often as you like until the pain signals in your shoulder overwhelm your consciousness and you declare guns a tool of the devil. (For those without a frame of reference, it's the same, in momentum terms, as being smacked in the shoulder with a bowling ball. Good times! However, the round is adequate for elephant.) Eventually, the drain gets the better of you, and you keel over.

However, while a spellcaster might figure out a new spell, and another new spell, and thirty more new spells (tip of the hat to the one with 68 ...) they come slowly, at great cost, and each one, individually, does one thing at a time. Each spell is a bullet that says on the case: "Read mind" or "Pleasure illusions" or "Insta-baykon flava" - the fact that it may or may not be specifically combat-oriented is really a side element. What is central to the issue at hand is that you can ask a magician to do something magical, and the answer is a binary: "Sure! *F*W*A*A*S*S*S*H*H*H* did you like it?" or "Aww ... jeeez. Um, shit. Look, give me that pile of money and I'll see you in six months." (assuming that the spell in question is feasible in the first place, obviously). From a function perspective, the magician is, with respect to any given run, a toolkit with a limited set of single-purpose tools. Those tools can be intelligently, creatively used, and they can be very powerful (Manaball, anyone?) or as irrelevant to the need of the day as a manaball when what you need is a gallon of water.

My position is that the whole foundation of how magic is presented needs to be overturned. Think of it this way:

If the problem is MagicRun, then you need to reduce the Cosmic Power of magicians. That's right, you run around the metroplex with a nerfbat, spanking every magician you can find. Unfortunately, there's a very narrow window of viability, beneath which you might as well not have bothered, and above which there's no point doing anything with magic and you should reconsider CP2020. You can do it in a number of ways (spells always fire off last in every round, drain is always deadly, drain is always physical, drain is never less than some number, and so on) and you can pick and choose between preferred techniques, but you're basically stuck with the problem that a manaball is a manaball until it isn't a manaball any more - or somehow becomes an irrelevant manaball, or more of a manatickle, or a manaball after everyone's already left and you hit the janitorial robots cleaning up the mess.

So if straightforward nerfing (or boosting), which has more or less been the official ShadowRun™ approach for all time didn't work in the past, and isn't working now, and shows no promise of working in the foreseeable future, the question is what else you do? The only available response is to rework the fundamentals of the magic system in such a fashion as to produce a more usable outcome, or throw up your hands and go back to smacking flies with your nerfbat until you knock over a kerosene lamp and start a fire.

What I'm proposing is to rework the system in such a way as to be as compatible as possible with the fluff while improving the differentiation of the activities of magicians from the activities of other roles. OK, so differentiating magicians from deckers was (technomancers aside) never a real problem, but the problem is, as has been reconsidered time and again, how to get magicians out of the front lines and leaving it to the ninjas, tanks and crazed botmasters. What model does shadowrun in general offer ... oh wait, deckers. Soft and crunchy, generally don't have anything bigger than an Uzi, and bad at using that, but vitally important for their given mission. Can we do that with magicians?

Si, se puede!

First, make them less combat-relevant by making magic take more care and precision. This isn't to say that they can't do the magical equivalent of planting a bomb, but that they aren't (adepts aside) ninja warriors. In a pinch, they can pull out a Predator and make with the bang-bangs, but really if a mage is throwing lead, things went badly wrong.

Second, make spirits take a lot more work by adding worship/propitiation/dedication requirements. If every summoning depends on how hard you worked to build a relationship, choices look different. Now they're not just tanks on tap, they're not just the backing singers to the magician's prima donna, they're a dangerous and questionable ally.

Third, pump up the drain. Even if you threw a manaball (slowly) that managed to really turn the tide of battle, that's probably the most you'll be doing for the next ten minutes at least.

With these three steps we already make mages a lot less useful on the front lines, leaving the tanks, ninjas and assorted badasses to drop their shorts and show off how bad their asses are. The open question is then how mages could be otherwise useful.

The answer lies in flexibility. And not just 68 spells (one short of 69!) but open-ended possibilities. The fluff is crystal clear that research magicians are researching all kinds of researchable questions in magic, for lots of money, and presumably at justifiable profitability for major corps to dump vast quantities of cash into them. If every single mage were effectively dumping their karma into the corp-o-pod, never to be seen again, and every single tweak to a spell took book values of time, money and so on, the outcome would make no sense for either mage or corp. You'd be paying through the nose for a single magician to come up with two, three, or MAYBE four things during their entire career (and a lot of dead ends) after which they'd be useless to you, except maybe as washed-up consultants.

If instead you have a model where research is just a thing that gets done, with a useful, if limited outcome the same way that a graphic artist can produce an oil painting without having to slit their wrists every six months, but can't make the picture come to life and offer you tighter buns in twelve hours, it becomes feasible to have the magician in a shadowrunning team be a sort of cross between a professor and a master machinist, the way that a decker is. A spell designed to solve one particular problem at a time is insane in the current shadowrunning rules, but would be very relevant under this altered regime, rendering a magician both incredibly useful, and much less dominant.

"Listen, we're gonna come up against a team of trained cockatrices. Can't you just fireball them for us?"

"Not really, Grog, but how about I design you a cockatrice pacification spell?"

"Sweet. Less noise, same great flavours!"

What makes them even more useful, in a way analogous to some of the things that deckers can do, is if they can instantiate spells.

"Look, Grog, I'm just not fit enough to climb the wall, dodge the Krazee Kanyns and then cast the cockatrice spell, but how about I give it to you in talisman form? All you do is pull the ribbon to let the scroll unwind, and throw it at them. Effective range, 100 feet."

"Kinda like a paper grenade. Sure, that works. Can you make me two?"

"Yeah, no sweat. But they expire in a week, so I'll make them closer to D-day."

Now you have a model for useful, but not dominant mages that are capable of addressing the weird stuff.

And drop the vancian magic. It was a bad idea then, it's still a bad idea today.
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Blade
post Jul 20 2017, 09:38 AM
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That reminds me of a concept I had when I discovered that spellcrafting was a skill that didn't require you to be Awakened of a Mundane spell-crafter who'd solve runs by crafting the one spell designed specifically for the run, and then have the team's mage cast it.
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Titan
post Jul 20 2017, 01:06 PM
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This is an area that SR5 might be better.

QUOTE (Koekepan @ Jul 19 2017, 11:57 AM) *
Second, make spirits take a lot more work by adding worship/propitiation/dedication requirements. If every summoning depends on how hard you worked to build a relationship, choices look different. Now they're not just tanks on tap, they're not just the backing singers to the magician's prima donna, they're a dangerous and questionable ally.

Third, pump up the drain. Even if you threw a manaball (slowly) that managed to really turn the tide of battle, that's probably the most you'll be doing for the next ten minutes at least.


Astral Reputation (Street Grimoire pg. 205, 206) is a value that acts as a dice pool penalty to all rolls used while interacted with spirits (summoning, binding, etiquette, negotiations, backgammon, etc.).

You can take actions to improve your relationships with spirits to reduce it.

As for Drain, 5e states flat out that Drain can't be healed magically (I don't remember if 4e stated that anywhere) and a character needs at least one hour before Stun can be healed.


The following doesn't make sense to me:

QUOTE (Koekepan @ Jul 19 2017, 11:57 AM) *
First, make them less combat-relevant by making magic take more care and precision. This isn't to say that they can't do the magical equivalent of planting a bomb, but that they aren't (adepts aside) ninja warriors. In a pinch, they can pull out a Predator and make with the bang-bangs, but really if a mage is throwing lead, things went badly wrong.


How do you reconcile "make mages less combat relevant" with "if a mage is throwing lead, things went badly wrong?"

Are you saying that mages should prevent all combat? (Eliminating the need for any combat based character.)
Are you saying that mages should not be anywhere near combat? (Turning them into the new bastard red haired step child that used to be the Decker.)
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Koekepan
post Jul 20 2017, 04:20 PM
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QUOTE (Titan @ Jul 20 2017, 03:06 PM) *
How do you reconcile "make mages less combat relevant" with "if a mage is throwing lead, things went badly wrong?"

Are you saying that mages should prevent all combat? (Eliminating the need for any combat based character.)
Are you saying that mages should not be anywhere near combat? (Turning them into the new bastard red haired step child that used to be the Decker.)


I'm suggesting that smart mages should be at least four steps behind the thick-necked bruisers, along with the deckers. If they're not instamatic destructozoids, there's less reason for them to get up front in combat.
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Jul 20 2017, 04:27 PM
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QUOTE (Koekepan @ Jul 20 2017, 09:20 AM) *
I'm suggesting that smart mages should be at least four steps behind the thick-necked bruisers, along with the deckers. If they're not instamatic destructozoids, there's less reason for them to get up front in combat.


ALL of my mages are at least 4 steps behind the stupidity that is front line combat, Even the heavy combat ones. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/cool.gif)
Does not always help, though. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)
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JanessaVR
post Jul 20 2017, 07:49 PM
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Ok, let me sum things up a bit:

Changes We’ve Already Made
  • Overcasting (and summoning) is banned. If you’ve got Magic 6, you can cast Force 6 spells and summon Force 6 spirits.
  • The Critter Power of Immunity to Normal Weapons is banned and replaced with Hardened Armor equal to the critter’s Force/Magic rating.
  • A spirit’s Force rating is used for all their Attributes.
  • Spirits get one Critter Power per level of Force (in addition to their free powers of Astral Form, Sapience, Materialization/Possession, and Hardened Armor when Materialized/Possessed).
  • Karma has been phased out completely. Cash (and equipment/weapons/programs/formulae) are used instead for rewards. So new spells only cost nuyen (and development time, for totally custom spells).

Possible Changes from This Thread
  • Casting spells takes one minute – or perhaps one minute per level of Force.
  • Summoning spirits takes one minute – or perhaps one minute per level of Force of the spirit.
  • Magicians need to be reclassified to something akin to Deckers – critically necessary, but shouldn’t be on the front lines of combat.
  • New spell research shouldn’t be excessively arduous.
  • We might increase spellcasting Drain? I’m more inclined to just up the casting times into the multiple minutes.
  • Exactly how do we quantify "kissing serious spirit hoop" for summoning? Require a material cost on par with binding just for summoning?
  • For countering spells or other magical effects headed at you right now, we can just use Counterspelling as-is.
  • Exactly how do we quantify "Time out! Let's talk." when a sprit’s charging at you?

So far, my group is a bit skeptical about this. They’re talking about possibly doing a one-shot campaign with some throw-away characters to test this one weekend and see how it goes.
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Koekepan
post Jul 21 2017, 03:38 PM
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QUOTE (JanessaVR @ Jul 20 2017, 09:49 PM) *
Possible Changes from This Thread
  • Exactly how do we quantify "kissing serious spirit hoop" for summoning? Require a material cost on par with binding just for summoning?
  • Exactly how do we quantify "Time out! Let's talk." when a sprit*s charging at you?


A test run with new rules is always a good idea.

The kissing of spirit hoop goes beyond the single spirit, and to the whole topic of spirits. It should be less like hiring a taxi, and more like asking your church's congregation to chip in for a kid's wheelchair. If the congregation likes you, no problem. If they think that you're a heretical beast doomed to burn, burn BURN in the fires forever, odds are bad. So it goes to a roleplay question. I would propose keeping a Devotion score, relating to time and resources spent on spiritual matters. After all, this is why shamans are supposed to look and act weird, no?

The time-out thing that I was envisioning, was more like raising a flag, and buying seconds while wrangling over the magical bonds than a literal negotiation or discussion - but hence also not just an on/off banishing switch. The results could come down to letting an unwilling spirit escape its current mandates - or even just wander off to do something else entirely.
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pbangarth
post Jan 10 2021, 07:16 PM
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I was led to this thread from a recently started one and would like to contribute.

The subject has relevance to me since I recently started a PbP game (SR3) with Koekepan as GM in which my PC is the sole character, a shaman. In that game, my PC has just made an encounter in which it might be possible to test the usefulness of pre-made spells my PC has, from character creation, in contact with hostiles. Such items have already proven useful to curry favour with other characters and contacts.

As an aside, I do wonder how the pre-making of spells deals with variable Drain codes. A Heal spell, for example, has a Drain code based on the level of damage the subject has incurred. This is not known at the time of creation of the spell item.

In terms of dealing with the potentially overpowering presence of a spellcaster in a game, I have long felt that we GMs have often failed to utilize the constraints given to us by the game, one straight on and the other requiring a minor (?) tweak to the rules. I recognize that both have been discussed elsewhere. But we're here, now.

Straight on is the issue of background count. What I see as the ubiquitous nature of this phenomenon presents both an opportunity and a bother to the GM. The Sixth World is rife with social, environmental and magical warps and twists that would allow a GM to pester an Awakened PC. Of course, overuse could lead to PCs feeling the dreaded 'nerf'. On top of that, administering the ever changing fields of effect would be a pain for the GM. But surely in the polluted, desperate back streets of any city 50 years from now, connecting to Gaia would be a little more difficult than in a Druid's grove of oaks.

I can see why many would hesitate to go down that rabbit hole.

The second idea seems so logical to me, though. Why not make all Direct Spells suffer the same penalty that Heal spells do when dealing with someone who has a depleted Essence. If magical healing has trouble connecting to the target's Essence directly, why would a Stunbolt not? Immediately the go-to spells for any SR mage don't look like 'win buttons'.

In the game mentioned above, my PC is an Owl shaman. Obviously a bit of min-max going on there, as so much of what shadowrunners do is at night, but damn, so many things seem to be happening in the daytime! My PC started the game not as a shadowrunner, but a good little corporate magician, pumping out profits for a biotech firm. So his spells all work in the research and security aspects of that job. Now he's on the run from a triple-A that took over.

Some of those spells will be a pleasure to use in unexpected ways, hopefully for both of us.

As far as spirits go, this PC and every other Awakened I have played has tried to keep on good terms with the spirits he summons. Again clear in the canon , misuse can lead to negative effects. Once you get higher in Force, the damn things are smarter and more wilful than the average PC. An example of interaction between a PC of mine and a spirit is here. Yes, the spirit sounds like Yoda, but then, wasn't Yoda's speech modeled on someone's Jewish grandmother?
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KCKitsune
post Jan 11 2021, 03:58 AM
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OK, since this thread has been resurrected, I'll add in my two cents. Yes Mages need a little nerfing, but honestly, if you go to the extent that everyone is going on about, then why can't that be applied to other types of characters as well. I mean Technomancers, Hackers/Deckers, or even Riggers. I mean Riggers can steal drones, wipe the previous owners info, and then use the drones for their own purposes. Why not nerf them as well.

We want to play Shadowrun rather than Cyberpunk 2020 because there is Magic. I agree with pbangarth that Mana spells should affect characters with lower Essence just like Healing spells do. Also overcasting should be done away. That would go a long way to nerf mages without destroying the character concept.
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Ka_ge2020
post Jan 19 2021, 10:47 PM
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QUOTE (Koekepan @ Jul 20 2017, 11:20 AM) *
I'm suggesting that smart mages should be at least four steps behind the thick-necked bruisers, along with the deckers. If they're not instamatic destructozoids, there's less reason for them to get up front in combat.

FWIW, the first game that I ran for a group (the same that I'm pulling together a game for now), they consisted of--if memory serves--a Sam, Decker, a Rigger, and a Mage. The first encounter of the published adventure had a quick combat. Everyone rolled initiative and, when it was time for the Yak's to go, they burst fire from an Uzi. The result? The mage goes down in a few seconds. The look of wide-eyed shock by the player of the mage was hellishly funny. Not wanting to spoil the fun, however, that D wounded was turned into an M and he just had the look of shock rather than annoyance with a character dead within the first few seconds of combat.

Suffice to say, the tone of the game changed from that point. The so-called "Mouth" was renamed as "Mouse" and he was a mite more paranoid after that time.

I also wanted to add that I have recently dabbled with finding a balance between "combat" magic and ritual magic by borrowing from another game system. On the face of it, it seemed to work well until I decided that I was trying to push too many concepts onto Shadowrun.
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