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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:37 pm 
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Strictly speaking the gimp is for Hermetics, not for the Elementals themselves. The chief issue is cost; a Full Hermetic can burn through huge amounts of cash with elemental use, and unlike other archetypes this cost is only avoidable through very significant sacrifices (a Rigger or Sam can elect to not use that Great Dragon ATGM with less of a sacrifice than giving up every use of Elementals).

Unfortunately, Elementals are really pretty darn powerful. The Elemental Attack Pack alone is sufficient to make elementals being free or near-free a complete non-starter.

I don't have anything like details hammered down, but I think I came up with an approach that we can use to give Hermetics the ability to use Elementals without them becoming a Win Button. The basic idea is to play off of the portrayal of Elementals as double-edged swords, as requiring control to keep them from running amok. Summoning elementals would become free or nearly-free; calling a bound elemental into the near-Earth planes (physical and astral) and using its services would be free or nearly-free. However, calling multiple elementals to the near-Earth planes at once would incur some mixture of risk, penalties, and cost.

Obviously a lot hinges on the details that I don't have, but this construction means that (in general) Hermetics can use Elementals like Nature Spirits for free or nearly-free, while forming up a massive Friends-in-Melee force would come at an appropriate price.

Other than the lack of details at the moment, my main concern is the power of a single Elemental. Aid Sorcery and Spell Sustaining can be pretty potent. On the other hand, it's not like Nature Spirit powers are slouches either, so that may not be a problem.

Any general opinions?

~J

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 7:32 pm 
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Throwing ideas at the wall to see if anything sticks. For brevity, I'm going to use "call" to mean "ordered to appear in the near-Earth planes".

Calling one elemental is free (alternately: calling some number based on Charisma? Magic? Charisma and Magic in some unholy combination? Should it be based on Force? There are issues with that, see below).

Exceeding this limit without paying some cost—could be simply impossible (inelegant), could cause penalties or risk.

Penalties: model after either Drain or Sustaining penalties?

Risk: things can cause elementals to go uncontrolled. Presumably if penalties are light or nonexistent, elementals would be very touchy (possibly requiring tests to maintain control whenever mage performs a task requiring substantial attention, or when distracted by incoming attacks/sudden noises/etc); with more penalties, risk could be relatively uncommon (test to maintain control when taking damage) or even nonexistent.

Paying the cost: not really sure how to represent this in-universe, or when the actual payment should occur. The most obvious in-universe approach would be to have materials used during summoning cause the elemental summoned to not count towards the limit, but beyond the bookkeeping issues I'm not sure I'm happy with requiring that degree of advanced planning from anyone who wants to go Hermetic. Cost should somehow be related to Force and Number, but how? Elemental powers don't make this easy—six F1 elementals aren't even vaguely worth one F6 elemental for most services, but can be dramatically more valuable for spell sustaining purposes. Attack packs operate on similar principles. Maybe the limit to total number of elementals in the stable handles the number issue and we should just concentrate on Force?

Also, we should consider adding a few more powers to Elementals. They nominally have five, but one of them is just "go do one of the other services somewhere outside my radius of control", another is just "materialize and do stuff", and then Aid Study… well, it is kinda nice, but it really isn't satisfying. That leaves just Aid Sorcery and Spell Sustaining, which are granted some pretty potent abilities, but… I don't know, I'm left feeling like an elemental is a focus that you can order to beat people up.

Thoughts?

~J

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:30 am 
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Brainstorming a few ideas for the mechanics of multiple calling. In order to control multiple elementals simultaneously, the hermetic:

Price: expends costly materials.

Possession: holds or brandishes a ritual possession. This possession is presumably distinctive and obvious, such as a staff or orb, identifying the hermetic as a mage and rendering him or her memorable.

Substitution: enters a trance-like state, becoming inactive—the elementals act in the hermetic's place.

Consumption: feeds the elementals with temporary attribute loss or damage.

Action: performs some kind of setup, such as drawing a magical circle or placing mystic seals, consuming time and actions. May also restrict actions thereafter (remaining within circle, etc.).

And that's all I can think of at the moment. Discussion of these to follow.

~J

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:32 pm 
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Some more thoughts:

Price: the big issues here are, I think, with integrating into the world—how are the materials consumed, how do we feel about the tradeoff between recordkeeping (for expenditure during downtime ritual) and nitpicky details (for carrying the materials around—the properties of the materials become important, the hermetic can be deprived of them, etc. etc. etc.), that kind of thing. Curiously enough, I think there's a good argument for making the price linear-ish with Force, since time expenditure also goes up linearly and expected services drop off supralinearly.

Possession: I like this idea, but not as the only way to safely deploy multiple Elementals. The biggest problem I see is that I can't come up with a good name (focus, totem, and fetish are all taken). Unless something comes up or it looks to just be One More Thing™, I think I'm going to push to have this as an option.

Substitution: eh. Seems like it would mostly be useful for Elemental Attack Packing things. This does lead me to consider that we might want to give players direct control over Elementals on non-Remote Physical Service (possibly also for Nature Spirits), as otherwise spirit-centric combat seems like it would get dreadfully dull for the player.

Consumption: eh. Very fine line between "too cheap" and "crippling", and it's a little weird anyway. If it makes it in at all it should be as an emergency-only sort of thing.

Action: I like the idea and the mental image, but spending the first few actions of combat doing something that isn't either reducing the opposition's numbers or increasing their TN mods seems like a less-than-fantastic tactical decision. Maybe as an option?

~J

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:05 pm 
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First off, I'll go ahead and say I don't think we need to add new powers to elementals. The whole point of hermetic magic is that it's dry, stodgy, and academic, and as such their elementals are dry, stodgy and straightforward. If you want neat, flavorful powers, you go shaman and use nature spirits; if you want elemental flavor then you pick wujen.

BTW, isn't Movement an elemental power too? I swear I've seen more than those four powers for elementals; did you look up their actual stats?

As for lowering costs for hermetics while still keeping them in line power-wise, I like the idea of a concentration check to avoid elementals going wild. Either you pay for expensive components to bind the elemental to your will, or you take the cheap route and bind it with will alone, and risk the elemental breaking your binding and trying to eat your soul. In fact, I'd like to see the same sort of trade-off for shamans; it wouldn't be particularly useful pre-initiation, but afterwards, when your shaman has picked up Invoking and has a half dozen Great Form nature spirits with him, it would be good to introduce that same risk: pay up-front or risk a nature spirit taking offense and eating your face.

The rest of those are a little... eh. I can see the flavor as interesting for another magic system, but I swear I've seen half of those in anime, and as for the possession thing we already have totems, foci, fetishes, talismans, gris-gris bags, libraries, circles, lodges and radicals; do we really need a ritual athame too? :)

At the same time, we need to reduce the cost for hermetic circles and libraries (keep them quadratic, but make them based on F^2 * 100 inatead of 1,000), increase the costs of shamanic lodges (make them F^2 rather than linear), and, if we don't allow cheaper ward construction, give hermetics some analogue to lodges, so they can ward up their house on the cheap too.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:25 pm 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
BTW, isn't Movement an elemental power too? I swear I've seen more than those four powers for elementals; did you look up their actual stats?

I misspoke. Those are the five Services that Elementals can perform—the distinction between "Service" and "Power" is mostly discarded for Nature Spirits. For powers (presumably used as, or in pursuit of, a Physical Service), they've all got Engulf, Elementals other than Fire have Movement (is that a Physical Service? If not, we should add a way for the mage to request it), Air Elementals have Noxious Breath and Psychokinesis, and Fire Elementals have Flame Aura, Guard, and Innate Flamethrower.

So it's not actually as bad as I thought.

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The rest of those are a little... eh. I can see the flavor as interesting for another magic system, but I swear I've seen half of those in anime

That would presumably be because they're pretty much straight out of Hermetic and Western Mystic traditions.

More when awake.

~J

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