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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:10 pm 
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A number of magical things are restricted by spell category, from Totem bonuses to the Aid Sorcery power to the restrictions imposed by certain Aspected Magician types. Unfortunately, the categories aren't balanced against each other at all—the most obvious example of this being Manipulation Spells, which is further subdivided into four subcategories, the smallest of which is still nearly the size of the whole Combat Spell category (Illusion Spells are also subdivided, but this is an indication of mechanical differences in the resolution of the two subcategories rather than a result of the category being absurdly huge). Consequently, the list of Totems that do nothing more than take up space is inflated, as all of those totems that give bonuses to mediocre categories or give penalties to more significant categories join those whose mechanics were simply poorly-thought-out (Pegasus, I'm looking at you). Really, it's an embarrassment that they spend fifteen pages on this garbage (two in SR3, a further 11 in MitS), especially considering how completely and utterly neglected Hermetics are.

But that's another thread. It seems clear to me that we need to modify the categories; part of this may involve modifying specific spells so that a category has more utility, and part of it will probably involve rearranging categories in some way. I don't have time to dig into the actual process right this instant, but I'd like to propose some things to consider:

First off, the categories need to be distributable in a reasonably-balanced way to the different Elementals. This matters for Elementalists (if they remain in something like their current form) as well as for the Aid Sorcery power. I think it's acceptable for there to be overlap (so that, say, Earth Elementals and Water Elementals both Aid a category) as long as that overlap isn't total; I'd say a baseline for acceptability is less than 50% overlap between any two elemental types, and at least some level of uniqueness.

Second, it's not actually necessary to make every category balanced against every other category, but they should at least clearly line up into "tiers" that are sufficiently well-populated that we can balance overall distribution. So, for example, it's ok if we end up with four or five first-tier categories and four second-tier categories, as we can have each Elemental Aid one first-tier and one second-tier category; totems can work similarly.

Third off, we need a review of what things have mechanics based on spell category, just to make sure we have a clear idea of what we're messing with.

~J

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:57 pm 
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Will re-read this later, but the first, and quickest, fix is to move elemental manipulations from Manipulation to Combat. That's where they belong anyway, frankly. SR4 does this, and it's terrifically easy to backport.

Other than that, I think the categories are fairly well stacked together. Combat has nearly all the damaging spells; Detection has Clairvoyance and Analyze Device; Illusion has Invisibility and Hot Potato; Health has Heal/Treat and Increase Reflexes, and Manipulation has Levitate and Shapechange.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:05 pm 
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Further, distributing spells to elements is easy:

Fire -> Combat
Air -> Detection / Illusion
Water -> Health
Earth -> Manipulation

That may sort of short-change Water, but then they get Heal/Treat and Increase Reflexes, so I have a hard time saying they're too bad off. I do wish we had a fifth element, though, so we could just give one to each; this is another area I think SR4 did a good job to be honest.

I'm also concerned about Wujen; don't they have six elementals?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:27 pm 
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Now that I think about it, it may be a good idea to switch around Air and Water:

Fire -> Combat (now includes all Elemental Manipulations, aka Indirect Combat spells)
Air -> Detection / Telekinetic Manipulations
Water -> Health / Illusion
Earth -> Control Manipulation / Transformation Manipulation

mostly because Air elementals already get Psychokinesis as a power, so it sort of makes sense for them to have dominion over the TK manipulation spells.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:15 am 
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The Fifth Element is HEART.

Overall though I agree. I think if we rework some of the illusion spells (such as Agony) so that the penalty to the bad guys is higher than the penalty to the caster, that spell grouping could be brought into balance. We could also put a few more creative Health spells (maybe turn to goo? :) ) Once you bust up Manipulation, things seem pretty good.

One house rule we have is elementalists can also cast Elemental Manipulations based around their Element. That just seems like common sense.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:03 pm 
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Well I guess that's a little better than SR4; they say the fifth element is Man.

Hm. Well, I guess I can see that, but it does take away from fire elementalists; combat spells are all that they have.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:41 pm 
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It was our fire elementalist who asked for that change, since she couldn't even cast fireball. Of course, there's nothing stopping us from shifting the values around a bit. Waterburst probably shouldn't cause as much damage as fireball.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:12 pm 
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Well frankly Indirect Combat spells (which is what the elemental manipulations basically are) should be grouped with Direct Combat spells, and all of them should be under the fire elementalist's purview:

Fire -> Combat (now includes all Elemental Manipulations, aka Indirect Combat spells)
Air -> Detection / Telekinetic Manipulations
Water -> Health / Illusion
Earth -> Control Manipulation / Transformation Manipulation

This splitting gives everyone something offensive to do: Fire gets combat; Air gets TK stuff like Clout and Magic Fingers; Water gets offensive Illusions or Health spells, and Earth can use Ignite or Petrify if he wants to, but he'd be better off using Shapechange or a Control Manip.

The only thing I'm really worried about are shamanists at this point. Seriously, we really have to look at totems and what bonuses they provide: IMO all totems should provide bonuses to one spell category, one spirit category, and maybe one mundane skill, to keep shamanists from being such a mixed bag. Of course we're still going to have to seriously look at the shaman/hermetic balance at this point; hermetics get too much of a raw deal these days. Maybe shamans have a +1 TN penalty on any magic not granted a bonus by their totem?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:20 pm 
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I don't disagree, but does anyone think it odd that an air elementalist can't actually conjure a gust of wind?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:28 pm 
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Well I tend to view "elements" as more abstract than the physical elements themselves, but okay, I can see that. Only problem is that sort of shafts the fire elementalist compared to the others; should we give him another spell category?


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:40 pm 
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Fire has plenty of utilitarian uses. If you're concerned that the other elemental types now all have a free combat spell, I'd say make the non-fireball elemental attacks weaker. I honestly can't imagine that 'squirt gun' is going to cause as much damage as flamethrower.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:30 pm 
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"Squirt gun" maybe, but how about "Firehose" or "Ice Shard"? What about "Acid Ball" or "Lightning Bolt"?

The thing is, even without an actual evocation spell, the various non-fire elementalists will likely never feel the lack of offensive powers. An air elementalist will have a host of TK abilities (note: these are the same as the air elemental's primary mode of attack; even the air elemental doesn't have a physical attack); a water elemental... might have a problem, but is the only elementalist with healing and Increase Reflexes; an earth elemental has, strangely enough, Ignite if he really wants an evocation-like spell, but is more likely to pick other spells.

I guess I'm just not seeing the problem.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:48 pm 
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which problem are you not seeing? If you're happy with my suggestion, I'll stop talking : )


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:58 pm 
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What I mean is, I'm not seeing the problem that requires giving air elementalists access to Lightning Bolt/Ball, earth elementalists access to Acid Stream/Ball, or water elementalists access to... well there isn't a water elemental manip yet, but assuming we created one, why do they need access to it?


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:02 pm 
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Like I said, it just seems to be common sense. If you draw your power from water, call yourself a 'water elementalist' and so on, it would seem to be reasonable that you can actually do... water things. Otherwise, what, you can only cast spells on water when it's hurt, or to turn it invisible? At that point, why not just drop the pretenses and call yourself a healer/illusionist.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:13 pm 
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You're not drawing your power from physical water; you're drawing your power from the element Water. Alchemical elements are not the same as the physical objects which share their names; in fact, in alchemy the physical substance which contains the purest elemental water is in fact not water, but Aqua Regia, because it can dissolve gold, the substance with the purest Earth elemental content.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:16 pm 
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So then do you want to put a blurb in the book explaining alchemical concepts/elements as totems to players? Because otherwise not many people are going to get that connection.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:28 pm 
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We could, but I think we can also safely assume that people reading the book are not complete mouthbreating idiots, and don't assume that a hermetic water elementalist must be like Kitara from Avatar: The Last Airbender and derive their power from actual water. :)


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