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TheWizKid
I'm playing a magician in my SR4 game who has the Control Thoughts spell. When faced with a sniper who was attacking a teammate of mine, I decided that the best way to deal with this guy was to cast Control Thoughts on him, make him point his sniper rifle into his mouth, and pull the trigger. The Force of the spell was 6, so he was able to do this within the 6 Combat turns I was allowed to control him with before he got another Willpower roll to break free.

The guy blew his brains out, and the GM didnt even bother rolling for damage to kill the guy. Obviously, the GM did not want me to continue to make his difficult encounters blow their own brains out in an anti-climatic fashion with one spell, but he could not find anywhere in the rules where it said I could not do this. He made a house rule which lowered the drain value of the spell by one and did not allow any suicidal actions to be used with the spell.

I'm curious how other groups have handled this problem, or if our group has simply overlooked a rule somewhere which covers this problem. Thanks!
Stahlseele
don't people get an instant roll to see if they resist a potential harmfull/lethal controlling?
FrankTrollman
Casting Control Thoughts is a Complex Action. Actually making them do anything is a Simple Action. So they always get an action to try to shoot you in the face or something. If you just want to kill a dude, you're much better off with Mana Bolt.

-Frank
Stahlseele
but if you just wanna have him throw his weapon down a flight of stairs of jump down or run into a wall face first, it's your best choice *g*
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Stahlseele @ Jun 30 2008, 01:12 PM) *
don't people get an instant roll to see if they resist a potential harmfull/lethal controlling?


Do they? Thats what I'm curious about. I haven't been able to find that rule in the books or errata yet.

QUOTE (FrankTrollman @ Jun 30 2008, 01:21 PM) *
Casting Control Thoughts is a Complex Action. Actually making them do anything is a Simple Action. So they always get an action to try to shoot you in the face or something. If you just want to kill a dude, you're much better off with Mana Bolt.

-Frank


Alright, so my first turn I take that Complex Action to cast the spell on some guy with a gun. Now, it doesn't say anything about the victim of the spell knowing that he's under the spell (like Mind Probe does.) So he's not going to automatically shoot me in the face, especially if he's either unaware of me or distracted by somebody else in the fight. Unless there is some rule, like Stahlseele suggested, that they get an additional roll or something to resist harmful actions, wouldn't this spell be perfect for auto-kills when the target is holding a lethal weapon? Mana bolt still does a set amount of damage to a target, whereas a few bullets through the head is kind of hard for the GM to explain how he survived and is not in a coma at the moment. (This is assuming the target is just some normal metahuman without some kind of bullet-proof head. Helmets can be ordered to be removed if they are wearing them.)
DireRadiant
Casting a spell, especially powerful ones, at high force, can be noticed by anyone.

Also don't forget that vision modifiers will apply when casting the spell on the sniper.
Jrayjoker
The only limits I recall being explicitly stated are from that other game, here is the text from the BBB:

"The caster seizes control of the target’s mind, directing everything
the target does. The caster mentally gives commands
with a Simple Action and the target is compelled to obey." SR4, p203.

It seems to me that control thoughts is a misnomer if the spell allows you to, "direct[] everything the target does."

AS a GM I would ask what thought is put into the target's head. Was it, "I am infected with VITAS, I have to kill myself to save myself the agony," or, "I think shooting myself in the face is a good idea?"

In my game, one might work, the other would get a free roll to see if it can be resisted more.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (DireRadiant @ Jun 30 2008, 01:47 PM) *
Casting a spell, especially powerful ones, at high force, can be noticed by anyone.


Are there mechanics for mundanes to detect a spell being cast, or is it at the GM's discretion? And even if they know a powerful spell went off, can they determine the source or even the direction at which it was cast?
Jrayjoker
"NOTICING MAGIC
Just how obvious are magical skills? Not very, since most
spells and spirits have little, if any, visible eff ect in the physical
world (unless the magician prefers to have fl ashy eff ects, or her
tradition calls for it). An observer has to notice the magician’s
intense look of concentration, whispered incantations, and
small gestures. Magicians of some traditions display a more
visible change when practicing magic known as the shamanic
mask. Th e shamanic mask typically changes the magician’s
features temporarily to display characteristics appropriate to
her mentor spirit or tradition—an eagle shaman, for example,
might seem to have feathers or beaklike features while spellcasting
or summoning.
Noticing if someone is using a magical skill requires a
Perception Test (p. 117) with a threshold equal to 6 minus the
magic’s Force—more powerful magic is easier to spot. Th e gamemaster
should apply additional modifi ers as appropriate, or if
the perceiver is Awakened themselves (+2 dice), astrally perceiving
(+2 dice), or if a shamanic mask is evident (+2 dice).


A sneaky shaman is working up a spell to control
Zack’s actions, so the gamemaster rolls a secret
Perception Test for Zack to see if he notices it coming.
Zack’s not Awakened, but the Raven shaman’s birdlike
shamanic mask adds 2 dice to Zack’s dice pool of
6. Zack rolls 8 dice and gets 3 hits. Th e shaman’s spell
is Force 4, so Zack only needed 2 hits (6 – 4) to see him
working up the spell." Page 168, SR4
Jrayjoker
I would apply a minimum threshold of 1 and if the target is not watching the caster add to the difficulty.
TheWizKid
Alright, so its not like they get a cold shiver down their spine or some other kind of sensation? They just have to see me staring at them hard and maybe waving my arms around and chanting a spell? (Not that spells require chanting or small gestures, unless Centering, so I'm confused as to why that was used in the example.) A simple Invisibility spell should make this Perception check obsolete, right? I mean, I know the conditions for this scenario are becoming more specific, but it still seems pretty damn cheesy and more effective compared to a regular combat spell.
DireRadiant
It's up to you how you describe, in a way it could be every mundanes un awakened astral/assensing that's giving them the hint.
Jrayjoker
I think you played the game right per the RAW (rules as written). I can also see the GM's point not wanting a game breaking spell overused.
TheWizKid
Yeah, totally, I would do the same thing as a GM. I was just wondering if other groups encountered this, or if there was something we overlooked in the rules. (I'm a noob, and the GM admitted that Magic was his weakest area of knowledge with the game.)
Jrayjoker
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jun 30 2008, 02:40 PM) *
Yeah, totally, I would do the same thing as a GM. I was just wondering if other groups encountered this, or if there was something we overlooked in the rules. (I'm a noob, and the GM admitted that Magic was his weakest area of knowledge with the game.)


Welcome noobie grinbig.gif
RunnerPaul
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jun 30 2008, 12:57 PM) *
or if our group has simply overlooked a rule somewhere which covers this problem.

Many sniper rifles have barrels long enough that sticking the end in your mouth makes reaching the trigger an unwieldy proposition?
nyahnyah.gif
Of course, SR4 has neat toys like wireless-enabled smartgun hardware which could negate this limitation, but all the same, just sayin'.
Apathy
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jun 30 2008, 02:23 PM) *
A simple Invisibility spell should make this Perception check obsolete, right?

A successful invisibility spell (which is itself resisted) would apply an 8-dice modifier to the target's perception check. That would make the Perception test much less likely, but still theoretically possible.

So in the scenario listed
  • Force = 6 => Threshold 0 (minimum 1)
  • Target mundane => -2 perception dice
  • If shamanic, then +2 perception dice. I don't remember anything in RAW indicating that the mask is negated by invisibility (could also have the etherial baying of hounds in the background of the dog shaman, or the swamp stench of the gator shaman, I guess)
  • Apply visibility modifiers as appropriate (smoke, darkness, partial cover, etc.) Note that these same visibility modifiers would apply to the mage's success test for casting the spell. It's not stated, but I assume that the caster is not invisible.
  • As a sniper, he's probably got decent perception and int, so more than likely he is aware of the spell being cast unless the caster is invisible.
  • Casting the spell is a complex action. The mage will have to wait until the next combat pass to issue any instructions since he doesn't have a simple action available this pass. During that time, the sniper can use his available action to take out the mage.
  • A force 6 manabolt would have taken the target out more easily, with lower drain, and not given the sniper the opportunity to shoot back.
  • Just like PCs, the NPC target could burn a point of edge in order to escape their certain death.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Apathy @ Jun 30 2008, 04:15 PM) *
A successful invisibility spell (which is itself resisted) would apply an 8-dice modifier to the target's perception check. That would make the Perception test much less likely, but still theoretically possible.

So in the scenario listed
  • Force = 6 => Threshold 0 (minimum 1)
  • Target mundane => -2 perception dice
  • If shamanic, then +2 perception dice. I don't remember anything in RAW indicating that the mask is negated by invisibility (could also have the etherial baying of hounds in the background of the dog shaman, or the swamp stench of the gator shaman, I guess)
  • Apply visibility modifiers as appropriate (smoke, darkness, partial cover, etc.) Note that these same visibility modifiers would apply to the mage's success test for casting the spell. It's not stated, but I assume that the caster is not invisible.
  • As a sniper, he's probably got decent perception and int, so more than likely he is aware of the spell being cast unless the caster is invisible.
  • Casting the spell is a complex action. The mage will have to wait until the next combat pass to issue any instructions since he doesn't have a simple action available this pass. During that time, the sniper can use his available action to take out the mage.
  • A force 6 manabolt would have taken the target out more easily, with lower drain, and not given the sniper the opportunity to shoot back.
  • Just like PCs, the NPC target could burn a point of edge in order to escape their certain death.


Well, the Force 6 spell against a sniper was just the example in my gaming group of when it happened. The Force of the spell could be much lower, as it doesn't take many Combat turns to point a gun to your own head and pull the trigger. Doesn't have to be a sniper, obviously.

Also, under the description of the Shaman tradition, it says "This phenomenon is called a shamanic mask
(see Noticing Magic, p. 168). A player can choose whether or not this effect is apparent for her character." on page 170 of the SR4 book. So yeah, I choose not to have that effect apparent.

That is a good point about the Edge though. But now its the difference between doing raw damage with a Manabolt in my first turn without stealth and doing an action on my second turn with stealth which forces the GM to use the Hand of God rule.

Stahlseele
i think the GM did a good thing with that . . you don't have to make them kill themselves to get them out of your way, it is enough in the case of the sniper to have him throw his rifle down from the roof top . . and could one use this spell for lasting effects? like:"from now on, every time you aim for me, you will miss by at least 5m"?
or better yet, take over the sniper and have him snipe for you *g*
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Stahlseele @ Jun 30 2008, 04:30 PM) *
i think the GM did a good thing with that . . you don't have to make them kill themselves to get them out of your way, it is enough in the case of the sniper to have him throw his rifle down from the roof top . . and could one use this spell for lasting effects? like:"from now on, every time you aim for me, you will miss by at least 5m"?
or better yet, take over the sniper and have him snipe for you *g*


That sounds more like the Influence spell. Control Thoughts is sustained for as long as you retain net hits on the target. Your original spellcasting roll and Force determines the hits you get, compared to the target's Willpower (+ Counterspelling if they can.) Every Force amount of Combat Turns, they can roll their Willpower again, and those hits reduce the net hits you gained orginally, until the spell is broken at 0 net hits.
DireRadiant
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jun 30 2008, 03:27 PM) *
Well, the Force 6 spell against a sniper was just the example in my gaming group of when it happened. The Force of the spell could be much lower, as it doesn't take many Combat turns to point a gun to your own head and pull the trigger. Doesn't have to be a sniper, obviously.


Don't forget that the Force caps the hits for a spell. This may make it less effective.
Mx
Your mage must have pretty good perception dice pool to be casting spells on a sniper.
TheWizKid
Yeah, lets just forget I said the word "sniper." I think its distracting people from the point here. nyahnyah.gif
Irian
To be honest, I don't see many problems here. Most Sams should be able to kill someone with three simple actions, why shouldn't a mage be able to? A stun spell is much more dangerous than that. If I would want the NPC to survive, I simply would give him Edge... So whats the problem?
Apathy
Control Thoughts is much more effective when it's used to make the teammates kill one another, instead of just kill themselves. It's an evil GM (grin) who makes the mage kill the sammy because the sammy just got mind controlled and will pull the pins on his grenades at point-blank range on his next available turn.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Irian @ Jun 30 2008, 05:57 PM) *
To be honest, I don't see many problems here. Most Sams should be able to kill someone with three simple actions, why shouldn't a mage be able to? A stun spell is much more dangerous than that. If I would want the NPC to survive, I simply would give him Edge... So whats the problem?


Can a Sam do it from LOS, rolling only against their target's Willpower, and make it all look like a suicide to local authorities? Death from a Sam can be countered with Edge as well, but after that Edge is spent, that NPC knows who just tried to kill him and is most likely staring him right in the face. A mundane spending Edge against Control Thoughts most likely will just be confused, unless he has some decent knowledge about magic.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Apathy @ Jun 30 2008, 06:05 PM) *
Control Thoughts is much more effective when it's used to make the teammates kill one another, instead of just kill themselves. It's an evil GM (grin) who makes the mage kill the sammy because the sammy just got mind controlled and will pull the pins on his grenades at point-blank range on his next available turn.


Heh, yeah, I definitely agree that against multiple targets, using one to fight the other would be more effective. I was just hoping to clarify the Control Thoughts rules about suicide, since a lot of other table-top games restrict suicidal actions in their domination-type spells.
Mx
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jul 1 2008, 01:13 AM) *
Can a Sam do it from LOS, rolling only against their target's Willpower, and make it all look like a suicide to local authorities? Death from a Sam can be countered with Edge as well, but after that Edge is spent, that NPC knows who just tried to kill him and is most likely staring him right in the face. A mundane spending Edge against Control Thoughts most likely will just be confused, unless he has some decent knowledge about magic.


Well Sam can definedly do it from LOS using sniper rifles and while target does get resist the damage, most target aren't gonna survive multiple shots. And atleast Samies don't have to stand there for multiple IP:s erasing their astral signature like the mages.
Irian
The suicide trick may be an advantage for mages, but not one that makes it horribly wrong balanced, esp. as they need to stand there to erase their signature to do so. It still doesn't make the spell especially powerfull - perhaps the "signature erasing" rules are a little bit to simple smile.gif
Sma
QUOTE
But now its the difference between doing raw damage with a Manabolt in my first turn without stealth and doing an action on my second turn with stealth which forces the GM to use the Hand of God rule.


If you´re willing to drop a drain 5 control thoughts on someone to kill them, you should be willing to field a force 9 Manabolt or even a force 11 stunbolt on them the way the drain works out.

The control line of spells is incredibly useful and a strong choice on any character able to pull them off. Direct combat spells simply tend to be more efficient in terms of removing those red dots from your radar. Control spells tend to be rather more versatile than this, but any abuse lies in other fields than killing people dead.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Sma @ Jun 30 2008, 07:10 PM) *
If you´re willing to drop a drain 5 control thoughts on someone to kill them, you should be willing to field a force 9 Manabolt or even a force 11 stunbolt on them the way the drain works out.


With a Magic attribute of 6, wouldnt a force 9 spell end up being physical damage? Thats the difference between 5 stun damage to resist and 4 physical damage to resist. My Willpower is much higher than my Body, so I'll want to avoid overcasting. One Control Thoughts at DV 5 stun damage to kill somebody seems better to me than multiple Manabolts each at DV 3 stun damage (or one really powerful Manabolt at DV 6 physical damage).

Also, I didnt think about those astral signatures. Good point to those who brought that up. I'll need to read up more about those.
Da9iel
Common mistake: physical drain is resisted by the same stats as stun drain, but yes the physical vs stun damage is a disadvantage.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Da9iel @ Jun 30 2008, 08:06 PM) *
Common mistake: physical drain is resisted by the same stats as stun drain, but yes the physical vs stun damage is a disadvantage.


What I meant was that I have less Body, which means I cant take as much Physical damage as I can take Stun damage.
Shiloh
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jul 1 2008, 02:15 AM) *
What I meant was that I have less Body, which means I cant take as much Physical damage as I can take Stun damage.

But Heal can cure Physical Damage (not Stun) and I think the suggestion is you'll only take a couple of boxes of Drain damage from either spell. So if you can bop a Force 3 Heal spell through a Sustaining focus (and get enough hits through the damage penalty), you can suck up a little P Drain... Or more, if you're going to have time to get First Aid-ed before Healing yourself.
TheWizKid
Hmm...my GM told me I wasn't allowed to Heal any Physical damage I took from spell drain with the Heal spell. Are you normally allowed to do this? If so, I guess its a house rule of his.
Zaranthan
Check the errata. Spell drain cannot be healed by magical means. I don't think there's been a new printing since it was added.
Sma
I was going in with the assumption that you´d be casting at DV you can either soak or are in a situation where you are beyond caring for a few boxes of drain, what with snipers supposedly being able to oneshot you anyway.
Jonny Reload
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jul 1 2008, 07:18 PM) *
Hmm...my GM told me I wasn't allowed to Heal any Physical damage I took from spell drain with the Heal spell. Are you normally allowed to do this? If so, I guess its a house rule of his.


You'll also note that some people tell you their House Rules... But neglect to tell you the "House" part. Dumpshock is a ridiculously useful source of information but treat it like a all you can eat Chinese Buffet, look at the food and ask how long it's been kept out. (Check the Errata)
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Jonny Reload @ Jul 1 2008, 06:31 PM) *
You'll also note that some people tell you their House Rules... But neglect to tell you the "House" part. Dumpshock is a ridiculously useful source of information but treat it like a all you can eat Chinese Buffet, look at the food and ask how long it's been kept out. (Check the Errata)


Well yeah, like Zaranthan said, that healing physical drain restriction is in the errata, so it wasn't a House rule, its a real rule. Which makes my original point still valid, since I can take more Stun damage than Physical damage (higher Willpower than Body), I should be avoiding overcasting unless its a desperate situation. Meaning that Control Thoughts makes for a better spell without overcasting than Manabolt for killing somebody.
Mx
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jul 2 2008, 02:52 AM) *
since I can take more Stun damage than Physical damage (higher Willpower than Body), I should be avoiding overcasting unless its a desperate situation. Meaning that Control Thoughts makes for a better spell without overcasting than Manabolt for killing somebody.


Stun or physical shouldn't matter, usually the plan is not to take damage from casting. So you should avoid casting spell with a drain code you can't reliably negate, unless its desperate situation ofcource. cyber.gif
TheWizKid
I have a drain pool of 17 dice. Whats the max drain code that I should be able to reliably negate?
Mx
Statistically speaking: 17/3 = 5.67 so you should be able to handle 5 points of drain, most of the time.
Juca Bala
Also, this poor sniper guy does needed a really long arm or a really small rifle to be able to shot himself in the head with it...
Jrayjoker
QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jul 2 2008, 02:07 AM) *
I have a drain pool of 17 dice. Whats the max drain code that I should be able to reliably negate?



4, just to be safe.
Jrayjoker
QUOTE (Juca Bala @ Jul 2 2008, 06:34 AM) *
Also, this poor sniper guy does needed a really long arm or a really small rifle to be able to shot himself in the head with it...


He could have used his toes...

Or a smartgun link to fire the weapon, as stated before.
Tarantula
I'll address two of your posts.

QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jun 30 2008, 01:27 PM) *
That is a good point about the Edge though. But now its the difference between doing raw damage with a Manabolt in my first turn without stealth and doing an action on my second turn with stealth which forces the GM to use the Hand of God rule.

Why does manabolt happen without stealth? They are equally noticeable spellcasting actions. Control thoughts as a spell isn't any more stealthy than manabolting someone.

QUOTE (TheWizKid @ Jun 30 2008, 04:37 PM) *
With a Magic attribute of 6, wouldnt a force 9 spell end up being physical damage? Thats the difference between 5 stun damage to resist and 4 physical damage to resist. My Willpower is much higher than my Body, so I'll want to avoid overcasting. One Control Thoughts at DV 5 stun damage to kill somebody seems better to me than multiple Manabolts each at DV 3 stun damage (or one really powerful Manabolt at DV 6 physical damage).

Also, I didnt think about those astral signatures. Good point to those who brought that up. I'll need to read up more about those.

Quick math crunching here.
I'll assume the sniper has a willpower of 4 (slightly above average, not stupidly high).

Manabolt is f/2 drain.
Multiple spells add +1 to the drain for each spell added.

Casting 2 force 6 manabolts is 6/2=3 +1 (for 1 extra spell) = 4 drain each.

You said you have 17 resist dice. And with a magic of 6, I'd assume you'll have a spellcasting of 6 to boot, this gives you 12 dice to divide up between the spells.
Doing 6 dice a spell means that you'll usually have 1 more success than him. Both spells go through, hes dead. Don't forget the net hits adding to the damage also to boot. If you have power foci/combat foci/specializations/mentor spirit bonuses only increase the dice you get to screw him up royally.

With your drain resistance pool, you won't even notice casting the spells either. At minimum, he'll be taking 7 damage from each spell if it goes through, and likely more with how the dice roll out. Faster than the control thoughts, and not any worse for drain.
TheWizKid
QUOTE (Tarantula @ Jul 2 2008, 01:49 PM) *
Why does manabolt happen without stealth? They are equally noticeable spellcasting actions. Control thoughts as a spell isn't any more stealthy than manabolting someone.


I assumed that since its a spell you are shooting at someone, they would be able to tell which direction they got hit from. But with a Direct Spell, in the form of pure mana...I suppose its not really as obvious as like a lightning bolt being thrown at you.

Good point with multiple castings. I forgot about that rule. Two manabolts in the same turn would certainly be more effective.
fulcra
QUOTE (FrankTrollman @ Jun 30 2008, 10:21 AM) *
Casting Control Thoughts is a Complex Action. Actually making them do anything is a Simple Action. So they always get an action to try to shoot you in the face or something. If you just want to kill a dude, you're much better off with Mana Bolt.

-Frank


Well, the spell says that "the caster seizes control of the target’s mind, directing everything the target does." A player would be on very good grounds suggesting that the person can't do anything unless they use a Simple action to give a command. If I used a spell with that description in it, and then the target took a sword out and hacked off my head, I'd be pretty pissed at the GM.

I'd say allowing targets to act normally until given an explicit countermanding order is fine, as a house rule, but as written the spell, in fact the way almost every other spell works, flies in the face of that suggestion.
Mordinvan
QUOTE (fulcra @ Jul 2 2008, 11:57 PM) *
Well, the spell says that "the caster seizes control of the target’s mind, directing everything the target does." A player would be on very good grounds suggesting that the person can't do anything unless they use a Simple action to give a command. If I used a spell with that description in it, and then the target took a sword out and hacked off my head, I'd be pretty pissed at the GM.

I'd say allowing targets to act normally until given an explicit countermanding order is fine, as a house rule, but as written the spell, in fact the way almost every other spell works, flies in the face of that suggestion.


I'm strongly inclined to agree with you. If i mind control you, and you pull your gun out and kill me when I'm directing all your actions, I see it as being a bit of a problem.
Glyph
Frank might have been confusing Control Thoughts with Control Actions, which does work that way (controlling someone takes a simple action, and they may act as normal when not directly controlled).

Personally, I don't find mental manipulation spells too unbalancing, but I do dislike how there is no staging, no threshold of difficulty. Just one net success, and bam, you can make someone stick their pistol in their mouth and pull the trigger. SR3 at least had a mechanism for the target to resist commands that they would be deeply opposed to.
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