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> The Astral Chameleon/Astral Impressions edge/flaw, Why only for the Awakened?
Shev
post Jan 19 2021, 07:52 PM
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I'm running a 3e game that includes a cybered up infiltration adept. I'm talking the works: eyes and ears that record and send to headware, perfect vocal mimicry and the ability to store speech patterns, gills, ruthenium sheath over the entire body to camouflage...if its handy for infiltration, they got it. As a result, their Essence is of course in the gutter. I quickly realized that this was a bigger flaw than it seemed; it's one thing to expect the social cybered butterfly to talk their way around the heavy-duty cyberware scanners, but any random Joe mage or shaman could take an astral peep and with 3 or more successes on a TN 4 intelligence test (not hard) they could see this person has cyber everywhere. If they were an infiltrator adept its a problem that would be solved with Masking; cybered infiltrators get no such option.

Then the player asked about Astral Chameleon. They liked the lore behind it (of their aura being more prone to blending into the background) but it said it was only for Awakened characters. I was about to explain it wouldn't give any benefit for a mundane...and then I saw the +2 TN penalty it gave to being assensed.

Talk about a game changer! I'm strongly leaning towards lifting the Awakened restriction on this one because I just can't see a reason for it in either lore or game balance. However, I am always open to being weong and I was curious if any of you grogs happened to see something I missed.
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Sendaz
post Jan 20 2021, 12:45 AM
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The character is so bland even their aura fades into the background.

I could see allowing it for a mundane as its not going to give all that much more to them.
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pbangarth
post Jan 20 2021, 06:39 PM
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QUOTE (Shev @ Jan 19 2021, 02:52 PM) *
I'm strongly leaning towards lifting the Awakened restriction on this one because I just can't see a reason for it in either lore or game balance.


Yeah, you make a good point, of which I didn't think either until you mentioned it. What is the name of the PC? Ghost? Shadow? Nemo?
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Shev
post Jan 20 2021, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE (pbangarth @ Jan 20 2021, 01:39 PM) *
Yeah, you make a good point, of which I didn't think either until you mentioned it. What is the name of the PC? Ghost? Shadow? Nemo?

Right now it's Pearl. She's a former Tir agent that's been burned without warning and stuck in Seattle Burn Notice style.


QUOTE
The character is so bland even their aura fades into the background.


Actually, she's a female elf with maxed charisma and the "Good-looking and knows it" edge. The player describes it as her metaphysical blandness stemming from an intrinsic desire to "fit in" with whatever group she's mingling with, which made sense to me. The fact that it covers the weakness of cybered infiltrators is a happy accident.
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Cochise
post Jan 20 2021, 10:06 PM
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QUOTE (Shev)
Then the player asked about Astral Chameleon. They liked the lore behind it (of their aura being more prone to blending into the background) but it said it was only for Awakened characters. I was about to explain it wouldn't give any benefit for a mundane...and then I saw the +2 TN penalty it gave to being assensed.


You might want to re-read the description of that Edge (Flaw) and the core rule definition of "signature" (p. 172 core rules):

These Edges and Flaws reflect how well an Awakened character's astral signature sticks out on the astral plane. The Astral Chameleon Edge means that a character's astral signature blends into the background of astral space more quickly: treat each astral signature left by the character as if its Force was 1 less. In addition, the character's astral signature is harder to read and recognize; add +2 ro attempts by other characters to assense the signature.
[..]


  • Neither the Edge nor the Flaw have any affect on a character's aura and how that aura can be assensed.
  • Only awakened characters leave signatures (both temporary and pemanent ones) via the use of magical skills (mainly spellcasting, conjuring, enchanting). Note here that Adepts typically do not leave signatures with their powers due to them usually not having a Force rating (some exceptions do exist though)
  • It's even debatable whether the aura of an Awakened character itself will reveal its signature outside of situations where the Awakened character has recently cast a spell onto themselves


QUOTE (Shev)
Talk about a game changer! I'm strongly leaning towards lifting the Awakened restriction on this one because I just can't see a reason for it in either lore or game balance. However, I am always open to being weong and I was curious if any of you grogs happened to see something I missed.


You primarily missed the part where the Edge deals with signatures which mundanes don't leave any
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Shev
post Jan 20 2021, 10:49 PM
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Thats a good point, and I did indeed miss the fact that it continued to use "signature" instead of "aura" (which is what I typically see in association with assensing). That said, I'm definately making a separate edge/flaw for this that does in fact have those effects on a character's aura.

It does make more sense why it was Awakened only, at least.
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Cochise
post Jan 20 2021, 11:06 PM
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QUOTE (Shev)
That said, I'm definately making a separate edge/flaw for this that does in fact have those effects on a character's aura.


Some warnings there:
  • Don't make the TN modifier against assensing too high. I'm not sure if a +2 / -2 ends up being too strong. Alternatively do not make it an TN modifier but rather a success modifier as far as the Assening Table is concerned: The Edge could require 1 or 2 more successes for each Information Gained category. The Flaw could then reduce the number of successes required for each of the Information Gained categories (and making failure impossible)
  • Be aware that a + and a - modifier with regards to the aura is both an Edge and a Flaw at the same time: If a character is harder to assense that will be the case regardless of whether the intentions of the assensing person are "bad" or "good" for the character
  • Such an Edge / Flaw would still have no effect on the general astral visibility of the character: Any astral entity will still see the aura "clear as day", they just won't be able to read it in finer detail that easily => That stealthy /physically near invisible character would still be seen by patrolling spirits or projecting mages without any problems
  • Consider making this Edge / Flaw exclusive to mundane characters

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Shev
post Jan 21 2021, 02:24 AM
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An intelligence 6 mage making the test at tn 6 can still get the required 3 successes to suss out the cyber, it's just no longer a sure bet. It does not interfere with the normal ability of mages to see auras on the astral or anything like that, so no worries there. Overall, since the mundane character doesnt really get any other way of hiding their cyber from magical eyes (that comes from them and not an external source), I don't see any issues with a +2.

QUOTE
Be aware that a + and a - modifier with regards to the aura is both an Edge and a Flaw at the same time: If a character is harder to assense that will be the case regardless of whether the intentions of the assensing person are "bad" or "good" for the character

Similar to the magic resistance trait, sure. That being said, I can count the number of times I've seen a magician assense an aura with the targets best interests in mind on one hand.

QUOTE
Such an Edge / Flaw would still have no effect on the general astral visibility of the character: Any astral entity will still see the aura "clear as day", they just won't be able to read it in finer detail that easily => That stealthy /physically near invisible character would still be seen by patrolling spirits or projecting mages without any problems

Yup. There isn't any kind of "astral stealth" anyways, so a +2 on a nonexistant roll wouldn't have much effect regardless.

QUOTE
Consider making this Edge / Flaw exclusive to mundane characters

You betcher bottom dollar. That's what Masking is for.
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Cochise
post Jan 21 2021, 06:49 PM
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QUOTE (Shev)
An intelligence 6 mage making the test at tn 6 can still get the required 3 successes to suss out the cyber, it's just no longer a sure bet. [..] Overall, since the mundane character doesnt really get any other way of hiding their cyber from magical eyes (that comes from them and not an external source), I don't see any issues with a +2.


I guess at this point it boils down to different gaming experiences and interpretations of the Assensing table:

  • By RAW 3 and 4 successes on the Assensing Table will only roughly tell where cyberware is located but without indepth (medical / cybertechnology) knowledge skill an assensing character doesn't have a clue what that actually means (while players obviously have their meta knowlegde which they aren't supposed to use). Even at 5+ success - which gives him explicit knowledge of actual implant locations - he still wouldn't automatically know what type of ware he's dealing with there.
  • While Intelligence 6 player character mages are quite common (too common for my personal taste and again mostly due to meta knowlegde reasons about pool sizes ) I tend to look at these things with my GM glasses on: My NPC's that have access to astral perception don't necessarily all have intelligence 6 nor do they by default possess the Aura Reading skill to complement their tests (with a further halved probability of success). And that's where a +2 modifier on the Assensing test shows the problem I'd be having: For you INT 6 mage the chance of rolling 3 (or more) successes - without other modifiers like wounds, background count, etc. - drops from 65.63% to 6.23% which might look "okayish" (rather than a "sure bet") at first glance but that's a quite significant drop nonetheless. However, more importantly an INT 4 mage would drop from 31.25% to a 1.54% chance of getting the rough location of implants and that certainly looks quite harsh to me. If you instead were to shift the required number of successes by 1 the numbers look like this: 31.25% down to 6.25% for the INT 4 mage and 65.63% down to 34.38% for the INT 6 mage. To me that looks slightly more desirable ... particularly when also looking at the percentages for the INT 6 mage when dealing with the "know phyiscal implant location" situation: Against TN 6 for 5+ successes we're talking 0.06% vs. TN4 but 6 successes at 1.57%. The latter still being far from a "sure bet".
  • I tend to believe in the concept of "what goes around comes around" => If I were to introduce such an Edge / Flaw chances are that every once in a while the player character magicians would encounter an NPC with that particular Edge (even on NPCs that aren't even cybered up to a noteworthy degree). Dropping the Assensing chances for a protagonist to such degrees also rubs me a bit wrong there.



QUOTE (Shev)
That being said, I can count the number of times I've seen a magician assense an aura with the targets best interests in mind on one hand.


Again more of a matter of playstyle I guess. I've seen many PCs assening without malevolent intend and certainly not all my NPCs that employ their astral perception are doing so for reasons that work against the assensed player character ... I regularly see character's being assensed for "good" medical reasons.

QUOTE (Shev)
Yup. There isn't any kind of "astral stealth" anyways, so a +2 on a nonexistant roll wouldn't have much effect regardless.

Let's better say that it's
  • ... uncommon for GMs to consider certain skills to be applicable when it comes to astral space and the perception used therein.
  • ... rather demanding but not strictly impossible for magicians to actually create a form of astral stealth


QUOTE (Shev)
You betcher bottom dollar. That's what Masking is for.


In a way .. but not entirely as far as the effect is concerned

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Don't get me wrong there: I'm not saying that the choice that you're inclined to make is bad because it can certainly work for you and your players. All I'm saying is that I would make a different choice and therefore gave you the warnings that instantly rang in the back of my head due to my personal experiences as GM.
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Shev
post Jan 24 2021, 07:06 AM
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QUOTE (Cochise @ Jan 21 2021, 01:49 PM) *
I guess at this point it boils down to different gaming experiences and interpretations of the Assensing table:

  • By RAW 3 and 4 successes on the Assensing Table will only roughly tell where cyberware is located but without indepth (medical / cybertechnology) knowledge skill an assensing character doesn't have a clue what that actually means (while players obviously have their meta knowlegde which they aren't supposed to use). Even at 5+ success - which gives him explicit knowledge of actual implant locations - he still wouldn't automatically know what type of ware he's dealing with there.
  • While Intelligence 6 player character mages are quite common (too common for my personal taste and again mostly due to meta knowlegde reasons about pool sizes ) I tend to look at these things with my GM glasses on: My NPC's that have access to astral perception don't necessarily all have intelligence 6 nor do they by default possess the Aura Reading skill to complement their tests (with a further halved probability of success). And that's where a +2 modifier on the Assensing test shows the problem I'd be having: For you INT 6 mage the chance of rolling 3 (or more) successes - without other modifiers like wounds, background count, etc. - drops from 65.63% to 6.23% which might look "okayish" (rather than a "sure bet") at first glance but that's a quite significant drop nonetheless. However, more importantly an INT 4 mage would drop from 31.25% to a 1.54% chance of getting the rough location of implants and that certainly looks quite harsh to me. If you instead were to shift the required number of successes by 1 the numbers look like this: 31.25% down to 6.25% for the INT 4 mage and 65.63% down to 34.38% for the INT 6 mage. To me that looks slightly more desirable ... particularly when also looking at the percentages for the INT 6 mage when dealing with the "know phyiscal implant location" situation: Against TN 6 for 5+ successes we're talking 0.06% vs. TN4 but 6 successes at 1.57%. The latter still being far from a "sure bet".
  • I tend to believe in the concept of "what goes around comes around" => If I were to introduce such an Edge / Flaw chances are that every once in a while the player character magicians would encounter an NPC with that particular Edge (even on NPCs that aren't even cybered up to a noteworthy degree). Dropping the Assensing chances for a protagonist to such degrees also rubs me a bit wrong there.

So, let's say the infiltrator is going in to do their job. They want to record on their cybereyes and ears a bunch of stuff to take back to the team. In order to do that, they have to hide the fact that they have them from security. So, they go in under an identity that only has a datajack registered, because everyone has those and the rest of the stuff is alphaware, hard to detect. The infiltrator going in, gets their aura scanned, and WHOA. They've got cyberware everywhere! They mage may not know what it all is or does, but they know it's in places that wage-slave isn't registered for. Flags are thrown up and the infiltrator is most likely captured because of something any joe blow mage can do.

In general, I don't think assensing should be as easy as it is. Maybe it needs to stop being just "magical perception" and have the Assensing skill become the primary skill, defaulting to intelligence if they don't have it.



QUOTE
Again more of a matter of playstyle I guess. I've seen many PCs assening without malevolent intend and certainly not all my NPCs that employ their astral perception are doing so for reasons that work against the assensed player character ... I regularly see character's being assensed for "good" medical reasons.

Really? The only think it gives you are diseases and toxins affecting the patient. The second case is the only case where it's time sensitive, and that's highly situational.

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Cochise
post Jan 24 2021, 10:35 AM
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QUOTE (Shev)
So, let's say the infiltrator is going in to do their job. They want to record on their cybereyes and ears a bunch of stuff to take back to the team. In order to do that, they have to hide the fact that they have them from security. So, they go in under an identity that only has a datajack registered, because everyone has those and the rest of the stuff is alphaware, hard to detect. The infiltrator going in, gets their aura scanned, and WHOA. They've got cyberware everywhere! They mage may not know what it all is or does, but they know it's in places that wage-slave isn't registered for. Flags are thrown up and the infiltrator is most likely captured because of something any joe blow mage can do.


Our different perspectives on play style shine again

  1. I simply do not consider aura scans as a typical procedure that NPC entities use on a regular basis on just about anyone - particluarly not in corporate environment "against" ordinary wage-slaves. For general purpose cyber detection there are cyberware-scanners which are easier to come by than magicians. While a scenario of such a scan occuring certainly isn't impossible they - at least in my world - neither happen that often as a standard part of the general human ressources vetting process nor do security mages patrol corporate grounds (physically or via astral projection) constantly scanning for aura abnormalities without proper cause.
  2. If such scans do occur I tend to want to see them still being a real danger for the (N)PCs involved. Thus even with such an Edge I wouldn't want to see a probability drop as excessive as with the +2 TN mod like I showed you because that would mean that I would have to make INT 6 NPC mages the default (which I indicated isn't to my liking and thus not the norm in my games) to even remotely have a chance of posing a threat to such an infiltrator PC or I would have to accept that even on those occasions where such an infiltrator is subjected to a deliberate aura scan the chances of their cover story being blown are slim to none ... the latter in turn meaning that player characters also would end up having similarly low chances of noticing things whenever they encounter a NPC with the same Edge.


QUOTE (Shev)
In general, I don't think assensing should be as easy as it is.


Oh we certainly can agree that the Assensing table reveals way too much info with just one roll of dice within the various success brackets that RAW defines. I'm just not looking at this from a somewhat limited perspective where INT 6 mages are the default assumption (and might even have specialized in that regard via an additional Assensing 6 skill).

QUOTE (Shev)
Maybe it needs to stop being just "magical perception" and have the Assensing skill become the primary skill, defaulting to intelligence if they don't have it.


Shifting the deliberate act of assensing from being a subset within "magical perception" via Intelligence (as a rough equivalent to "observing in detail" on the physical plane) to the Assensing skill IMHO doesn't change the situation that much. Instead of an INT 6 mage you'd then need Assening 6 mages as the default assumption when using a +2 TN modifier.

Personally I would still approach the issue by changing the required number successes via such an Edge. In addition to that I would consider making the information gained within the various success brackets of the Assensing table more granular (like splitting the 1-2 and 3-4 brackets into disctinct success levels with different amounts of information gained and also having cyberware grades affect in which success bracket implants are recognizable in terms of general pressence and location). I might also consider forcing the assensing characters to explicitly decide which type of information they want to gain per Assensing test (emotional state vs. general health conditions like toxins / diseases vs. magical properties vs. Essence / implant related info, etc.).

The main problem of such an approach being that Assensing would get seriously more complex and thus might slow down game flow.

QUOTE (Shev)
Really? The only think it gives you are diseases and toxins affecting the patient. The second case is the only case where it's time sensitive, and that's highly situational.


No more "situational" than (wage) mages assensing new wage slaves as part of the onboarding HR / security vetting procedure or as a default part of a on premise security scan.

Ultimately everything is very situational and not necessarily malevolent even when trying to gain the same information.
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