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Single Target Combat Spells

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The Shadowrun Companion has me looking at SR6 again.  It's looking more playable to me now, though I will have to draft my own version of the rules.  The SRC gave me a lot of good choices, which is great.

One thing I'm considering is how single-target combat spells often seem to do more damage to the caster than the target.  I'm considering how to adjust that.  Right now, I'm leaning towards lowering the drain on those to make them easier on casters (or maybe a Quality that does it for just one such spell).  If it's going to do the same damage as a pistol, it shouldn't be doing worse to the caster, IMO.  Street sams get to dump bullets willy nilly and never suffer a consequence for doing so (healthwise).  Casters pay hard for even attempting to do anything mechanically similar.  Indirect spells get a triple dice pool to resist with, and my sample rolls I manage to do maybe 1-2 points per attack, but usually suffer twice that or more in return.  That feels like the opposite of fun on paper (or in the test roll offs I've done anyway).  I haven't played 6e, so I've started this thread to see what people's thoughts are.

How does it actually play out at the table?  Anyone house-ruled this themselves?

From what I can tell from some rolling dice, there's no mechanical incentive to use a single target combat spell over a gun right now -- in fact it's the worse choice from a gameplay perspective. That doesn't feel right to me.  I've come to the view that while many spells should be taxing for sure, a magician should feel like a magician, and be able to do some types of magical activities with minimal trouble.  It was never fun to have to switch to the crossbow as a wizard in D&D for example.  Is there some imbalance I'd be creating by altering these spells across the board that isn't obvious at a glance?

From table experience, direct damage spells are only ever good against hard targets... Trolls, vehicles, that sort of thing where you expect the target to get at least 3 hits on its soak.  Most of the time, indirect is the preferred type.

It's weird you say that indirect gets a triple dice pool to resist... It's one resist test of REA + WILL and then BOD to soak.  I guess you mean triple stat dice pool, not three dice pools right...

The mage in my group would probably agree with you, he's not a combat specialist but Fireball is his most used combat spell.  Area damage makes it worthwhile but single target spells are a bit punishing on the caster. 

Amp Ups help with damage, foci help, centering helps.  There are a bunch of tools that make things better, they just don't come right away.

Stainless Steel Devil Rat:

--- Quote from: Typhus on ---The Shadowrun Companion has me looking at SR6 again.
--- End quote ---

That's the highest praise I hoped for.  Glad you like it!

--- Quote ---...
From what I can tell from some rolling dice, there's no mechanical incentive to use a single target combat spell over a gun right now -- in fact it's the worse choice from a gameplay perspective. That doesn't feel right to me...

--- End quote ---

So a few things:
Direct Combat spells resist with dice pools that are harder to augment: Will + Intuition is going to be lower than Reaction + intuition, at least on combat types anyway.
Direct Combat spells have no soak.  Net hits are additional damage.  Full stop.

Indirect Combat spells might be more of a wash on the resist pool, but the dynamic can be flipped.  Big brain archetypes might have great Will and Intuition, but making them sub in Reaction can be a form of "penalty", depending on your target.  Different tools work better for different jobs, chummer!
Indirect Combat spells are then soaked, yes, but then again so is damage dealt via guns.  I'm not sure what the 'triple' defense pool you're speaking of is coming from.  Are you talking about counterspelling?  If so, consider that's much rarer to encounter than the target spending a minor action to dodge.  Smart samurai don't cash in 4 minors to attack a second time; they dodge everything coming their way.  Guess what you can't dodge?  Spells.  Not even indirect combat spells.

Of course, FA is borrowing the indirect combat area attack mechanic, so the two are fairly comparable. While guns don't have drain, you DO chew through ammo furiously, which may as well be comparable to drain when it comes to sustaining the attacks.  Also note that area combat spells don't have an AR penalty. So where the FA attack is almost assuredly not generating Edge (from AR at least) the spell suffers no comparable penalty here.  And, the actual area is twice what a FA attack generates.

There's also factors outside the raw dice mechanics.  You can carry your capability to cast spells through MAD/MMW detectors.  Even through wards/mana barriers for that manner, unless you insist on keeping quickened or sustained spells.  Spells have drain rather than ammunition, sure, but explosives are nearly impossible to slip past a chemsniffer, and guns are pretty bad without ammo. Spells leave astral signatures which can be as much of a PITA as spent shell casings going everywhere from a gun, but at least DURING combat spells aren't hugely loud BANG BOOM BANGS for the whole neighborhood to hear.  Even silencers don't do much to quiet guns when potential observers are nearby.

Some additional factors in favor of direct combat spells: you can "shoot" someone around a corner by viewing their reflection in a mirror.  You can "shoot" them through glass too, without breaking the glass.

Anyway.  If nothing above is persuading you, absolutely nothing's stopping you from house ruling that combat spells get a free Amp Up adjustment or whatever :)

Edit: Another point specific to 6e... don't forget that in this edition you can spend Edge to heal.  You'll be more likely to suffer drain in this edition, yes, but you can heal it more readily than before, too.

I think part of the complaint is that indirect spells have pretty low damage - for a starting character, probably damage 3+net hits, while a light pistol can pretty easily have damage 2+1(semi auto)+net hits, and a light pistol firing semi-auto is about as concealable/quiet/not using ammo as guns can go. Meanwhile, an AK-97 firing Burst Fire with Explosive rounds has damage 8+net hits, which way outstrips damaging spells. Pretty hard to make stealthy, but it way outpaces any damage magic can do.

I'd argue the biggest advantage of indirect damage spells is that once you buy Magic 6/sorcery 6 (Spellcasting+2) for the wide range of spells and summons it gives you, buying a pretty decent attack spell is just 5 karma, while getting similarly good with a gun costs a lot more. Sure, the street sam will be able to deal way more damage than you, but dealing damage is their thing, while it's something the mage bought as a backup.

Some quick math: 11 dice to resist drain is easily achievable for a starting mage, and gives you an average of .3 drain from Clout, and 1.5 from the elemental single target direct spells.
Meanwhile 3 damage means you'd need 11 dice to take an average of .3 before net hits, and 5 dice to take an average of less than 1.5 before net hits. So, Clout will tend to deal more damage to the victim than the mage unless a) they can cause you to miss a large chunk of the time or b) they have really, really high body. Elemental attacks are trickier - a person who's both dodgy enough to limit your net hits and tough enough to reliably get a few points of damage resistance can plausibly take less damage than you on average, though also suffering elemental effects.
Assuming 14 dice to cast spells (magic 6, sorcery 6, specialization in spell casting)
A Lone Star Swat Officer (PR 5) takes an average of 3.11 damage from a damage 3 spell
A Red Samurai (PR 7) takes an average of 2.29 damage
A Tir Ghost (PR 9) takes an average of 1.27 damage, ignoring platelet factories, or .94 damage with platelet factories (most of that damage reduction is coming from misses, the Ghost rolls 14 dice to oppose the spell casting test)
Wildcat Combat Specialists actually have the same pools as Ghosts for resisting indirect damage spells.
So, unless you're fighting Top-Tier Special Forces, damaging spells shouldn't literally be dealing more damage to you then them on average, and even against that kind of enemy Clout should deal more than you take. Though I guess even against Red Samurai level threats it's close enough with enough variability that taking more damage than you deal will happen a noticeable chunk of the time.

Thanks for the analysis.  Lots to think about.


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