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[SR5] Requesting: your houserules for gently nerfing mages

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penllawen

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« on: (08:35:07/08-09-19) »
I am one of those people who think mages have it a bit too easy, at least in SR5e, compared to other archetypes. I'm pondering ways to (fairly gently) reign them in somewhat without tinkering with the system too much. Does your table do anything like this you'd suggest?

(Can I ask we don't derail this thread with "there's no need to nerf mages?" arguments? That can go in a different thread if it comes up.)

Here's the ideas I have so far:

(definitely) Some penalty to initiation for burnouts. For me, this the single biggest issue in modern Shadowrun compared to when I played 2e CRB: mages and adepts no longer have much reason to fear Essence loss, because they can burn out, lose Magic, but get it back with time and karma.

At the very least, I think the cost to increase your Magic rating should be on the base stat and not the modified value (so: you have Magic 6, you lose 4 Essence, you initiate, but then it costs 35 karma to take your Magic from 6(2) to 7(3) instead of 15 karma.) I could also be convinced to consider (6-Essence) as an element in the initiation cost itself. I want burnouts to be tortured souls, not any sort of META.

(definitely) Curb sustaining lots of buffs. IMO it's very easy for a mage to be walking around buffed to high heaven (both attributes and initiative) with no meaningful penalty. Drop the Quickening metamagic, look carefully at Qualities that affect sustaining, look hard at sustaining foci -- maybe change their availability or cost.

(definitely) Get rid of mysads. Munchkins love them for a reason.

(probably) Nerf spirits -- taking inspiration from 6e, some mixture of:
* increase summoning drain (say by 2x)
* lower the cap for the total Force of spirits the mage can summon at once (probably tied to Magic rating or Charisma)
* make the spirit's stats derive from Force/2 instead of Force (probably the most radical)
* remove or nerf spirit's Immunity to Normal Weapons (has the benefit that facing enemy spirits becomes more of a team event)
* remove binding / use GM fiat to stop PCs starting sessions with a high Force spirit hanging around but all drain damage healed

(probably) Restrict some spells via availability/cost of the formula -- specifically borderline-game-breakers like Control Mind, Control Thoughts, Control Body. In a more general sense, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that availability for spells is flat across all spells in a category.

(probably not) Change spell drain. I think it's OK.

(probably not) Get rid of aspected mages -- this isn't balance, I just think they're needless clutter. But I'm probably being overly grumpy here.

dezmont

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« Reply #1 on: (08:38:56/08-09-19) »
Shadowrun 5.5.1 and 5.5.1 were made by me to fix a few of the core issues of Mages without making them feel awful and in fact making them in many ways feel better.

5.5.1 is just sorta the 'no duh' update, while 5.5.2 is more radical.

penllawen

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« Reply #2 on: (08:44:47/08-09-19) »
Shadowrun 5.5.1 and 5.5.1 were made by me to fix a few of the core issues of Mages without making them feel awful and in fact making them in many ways feel better.
"Quickening being a complete joke of a mechanic that must be destroyed,"
ah I see you, too, are a man of culture

I think I read this doc ages ago, but lost the link to it; the Skillicide section also makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for the link dezmont. I'm going to ponder these at length.

dezmont

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« Reply #3 on: (08:53:47/08-09-19) »
The language choice was specific. Not houseruled out. Not fixed. DESTROYED.

You aren't a real Shadowrun fan until you use whiteout on the quickening metamagic in your SR5 core book.

Tecumseh

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« Reply #4 on: (12:45:34/08-09-19) »
I use that rule about karma costs related to advancing lost Magic - i.e. you can't buy the same Magic point twice - and it works well for me.

As for sustaining spells, the GM can add significant social and/or security penalties for walking around lit up like a Christmas tree on the astral.

I have more issues with summoning than with spellcasting. For spellcasting, my biggest issues usually come from overcasting - especially Indirect Combat spells - so those are the ones I try to discourage.

For summoning, I have the spirit resist the summoning with Edge if it's being oversummoned. That makes the lower realms of oversummoning possible but unpleasant. I probably wouldn't double summoning drain but you could make it Summoning Resist Hits x3 instead of x2. On average, that means Spirit Force = Drain.

You don't have to get rid of mystic adepts if you don't want; you just have to change their price so that there's more opportunity cost involved. Make it so that each power point costs 8 karma, so that it's only possible to start the game with 6 power points if you max out your negative qualities and put all of your karma toward power points. Or take away their free spells and/or spirit types from their priority selection, so that they have to buy their spells and spirit types for 5 karma a pop. That makes it more of a trade-off between their abilities as a caster, a summoner, and a physical adept, which is closer to what we've seen in previous editions.

Sphinx

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« Reply #5 on: (13:29:47/08-09-19) »
Lots of these issues simply haven't come up in any of my campaigns.

I have a house-rule where mystic adepts have to divide their Magic attribute between adept powers and magical skills, which effectively prevents players from choosing this path but leaves it available for NPCs.

Wards and other astral barriers are common enough in my games to make Quickening a complete waste of karma except for stationary effects.

If magicians use Edge when summoning, spirits use their Edge to resist.

The danger of focus addiction generally prevents my players from using more than one sustaining focus at a time.

penllawen

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« Reply #6 on: (18:08:13/08-09-19) »
For summoning, I have the spirit resist the summoning with Edge if it's being oversummoned. That makes the lower realms of oversummoning possible but unpleasant.
What do you mean by oversummoning - when Force > Magic? I like this. It adds some danger without making it impossible.

Quote
You don't have to get rid of mystic adepts if you don't want; you just have to change their price so that there's more opportunity cost involved.
Yeah, I know, I'm sure they can be rebalanced. But it seems to me any attempt to do so is likely to provoke massive analysis paralysis for the player trying to generate one.

I dunno, I guess it's a non-issue until someone in my group has a burning desire to roll one up. Maybe I'll just kick the can down the road until then.

BeCareful

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« Reply #7 on: (20:57:59/08-09-19) »
A house rule I've been thinking of makes MysAds, instead of being a magician & adept who can't astral project, into a spell-aspected magician & adept. So you can be an adept with a few spells or a magician with a little qi. You don't even need to conjure. Does this sound fair/workable?
"Welcome to Shadowrun, where the biggest obstacle is you!"

dezmont

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« Reply #8 on: (06:35:01/08-10-19) »
I find the core issue with Mysads is them being played 'in good faith' vs them as a mechanical construct.

TO BE CLEAR it is never bad or wrong for a player to choose to do things for mechanical reasons. Everyone has different motivations for playing and I would vastly prefer a player who enjoys playing OP characters who has good manners and understands they need to share the spotlight than with the most brilliant character actor who does not. Every type of player can be a good or bad player in equal measure. If someone 'cheeses' a mysad build, seriously evaluate if you should give a damn because like a solid 70% of the time no one at the table is going to care at all and you making a stink about it is going to be the actual problem.

However, the issue with mysads is they were designed to enable a specific kind of character: The mystical warrior. Think stuff like Ninja, think The Witcher, ect. They have these two sides that support each other and while they may lean more towards one or the other they actively are doing two things. They can toss a fireball or create a forcefield before leaping 5 feet into the air for a dramatic sword slash or dashing into the night. These characters are totally fine and are relatively on curve. They also are great because they help bridge the mystical and cyberpunk aspects of the game for a lot of players who normally would never touch magic. I find VERY often the first character someone who normally plays cyborg types to try who isn't a 'ware user is going to be this kind of mystic adept because unlike regular adepts they both feel really badass personally but provide an avenue to a fantasy that isn't replicatable by 'ware. And its REALLY cool to have cyberninjas tossing a fireball before drawing a smoke bomb, tossing it at their feet, and turning on their ultrasound goggles to go in for some katana slashes. It really does help make the magical and tech aspects feel like they belong together rather than being these two things that both exist in setting but don't mix.

The problem is the optimal way to play a Mysad is just to play a mage who also has superpowers. You aren't trying to synthesize two things at all. You are just 100% playing a mage who also has increased initiative or soak or whatever. The power level of these characters probably isn't significantly higher than mages (or at all, depending on your meta. If you allow for example upgrading gear by paying the price difference the fact that power foci exist really hurts these character's output compared to a mage who just invests in that) but it still encourages playing the least interesting version of a mage regardless of if it is the best way to build the mage.

When you divide the mysad's magic between PP and magic for casting you don't really protect the first way to build an adept, and you just kinda make them not good or interesting. A good fix for mysads would find a way to encourage the 'mystical warrior' (or mentalist face who mixes mind control with inhuman persuasion, or the magical detective, whatever is good) who is synthesizing these abilities while discouraging 'mage with augs.'

One thing I have played with is DRAMATICALLY limiting the max dice a mystic adept can gain to one thing over a regular mage, though even in that case your probably going to have to manually intervene because its still possible to really stack up things that are generically useful like defenses.

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #9 on: (09:17:14/08-10-19) »
A house rule I've been thinking of makes MysAds, instead of being a magician & adept who can't astral project, into a spell-aspected magician & adept. So you can be an adept with a few spells or a magician with a little qi. You don't even need to conjure. Does this sound fair/workable?

Making MysAds aspected sorcerers with adept powers is something I've thought about, too.

I think that's much more fair than a full magician who trades astral for adept powers.
« Last Edit: (09:18:49/08-10-19) by Stainless Steel Devil Rat »
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

Seras

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« Reply #10 on: (10:23:27/08-10-19) »
Personally I would metagame the mages. This what I do when I gamemaster shadowrun in my groups. It works very well. This is official shadowrun canon and established in the backround. It is important to remember however that you are playing with your players not a aginst them. Tell your mage player about these backround effects before play so he can plan accordingly.

Also be honest to your mage player. Tell him that if your not careful he will steal the fun of the other characters. How about a focus on spellcasting instead ? Usually they understand  ;)

1. Magical Security Remember the corporations and goverments have the power and do not share well. If your mage summons powerful spirits always assume the corporations have a more powerful one to counter...or several weak ones. It should be impossible to magic blast ( gun fight ) your way to the target !!
There are also always wards, watchers etc. to set off the alarm, delay the mage. I strongly recommend reading the GM chapter on securityand magical security.
Also corporations have access to APDS and Laser weapons with a high penetration value. In short, the big players are big for a reason and can easily curb stomp any mage in a direct confrontation.

So your mage might be king in the redmond barrens because nobody cares, but once they go to the more civilised parts of town security should increase exponentially.
Even mages need to think twice about what they do.

2. Backround counts It is firmly established in the backround that there are different magic zones. In the 5th ed Street magic there are even official rules for that.
Basically in untouched nature the mage is fine, but the more industrialised and/or polluted an area becomes the more the magic disappears or is changed in horrifing ways !!
This is also true for emotions ! Places that have seen horrible violenceand dispair or sport stadiums /rock concerts also disrupt magic !!
So in a polluted area or lets say a place were a rave is going on in the streets your mage will find his magic reduced or warped/ harder to cast in strange ways !!

3. Mages are a valuable asset Magic is rare in the world of shadowrun. Therefore a powerful mage is a great resource to have. If your mage shows off how powerful he is too often, have the mafia or a corporation find him and make him an offer of employment. Saying no to this offer is....not encouraged. This will encourage more subtle approaches and encourage more teamwork...( I rather not open that door, way to flashy and loud !! Hey Mr. Decker your turn do awesome stuff !! )

4. Anti magic stuff The 5ed edition introduced Blight and grey man tatoos. ( there in the hooder book). This stuff will significantly effect spirits and mages. so they are far from unbeatable.

Happy gaming  8)
« Last Edit: (10:25:01/08-10-19) by Seras »
I apologise for my posts beeing weird to read, I am fluent in english, but almost never write in english anymore :-(

topcat

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« Reply #11 on: (11:10:30/08-10-19) »
First, talk to the players.  Explain that you want to keep the characters close in capability so the game can be fun.  Encourage them to spend karma broadly instead of trying to get every possible die on the table.  Ask them not to spirit farm.  Most players should be okay with this - it's easy to get out of hand.  Just because the option to optimize is there doesn't mean you have to take it.

Next, don't let the rules slide.  Initiating takes time, nobody gets unlimited hours per day to rebind spritis, follow availability rules, etc.  Mages get out of hand quickly when they get a free pass on any of those things.

Finally, provide threats and situations that demand their focus.  Make them spend time in the astral.  Layer physical and magical security where approriate - even a couple paracritters with the guards will go along way.  If they call up three spirits, make sure the other side has an answer.  The GM is there to provide a challenge, don't take that lightly.

dezmont

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« Reply #12 on: (21:12:45/08-10-19) »
Personally I would metagame the mages.

This isn't an ideal solution on multiple levels. It takes a lot of GM focus for one, which is always at a premium. You are spending more time trying to reign in an overpowered archetype and less time actually running a cool game and moving the spotlight around. While really strong PCs aren't a problem in general, the fact that mages are so strong they demand spotlight time just to justify them not overrunning the setting really IS a problem.

Second, it isn't like... remotely fun for the player. Like I hope this is an obvious insight most people have about human nature, but most people would rather have X, than to be told they have X+3 but then find they actually have X. They feel like they lost something, that they are being constrained, being artificially limited. It stinks to feel under the gun like that at all times. This is part of why 'There basically always is a background count of 2 in the city" is so bad and why good game design assumes the basic task is unmodified.

Thirdly, often many of these solutions hit adepts and mages playing 'honestly' more than the mage abusing the system. Like think about it, if astral security is trying to spot your sustained spells and its going to blow your cover to use them... are you going to try to use subtle illusions to create fun scenarios and use your imagination to solve problems? No. You are going to only use spells when they give you the maximum effect possible and just douse yourself in buffs like your doing an astral ice bucket challenge the second you think the value of casting a spell at all goes above the risk of astral detection. Astral detection also is a bad solution because it is contextualized as 'security to stop magic' but in REALITY it is 'security that stops EVERYONE but ONLY mages can stop it.' Part of why magicrun feels like magicrun is that a mundane has literally no recourse against a spirit they can't see and don't know exists astrally perceiving them sneaking around. Background count literally doesn't DO anything to sustaining mages until it gets so high adepts and regular mages can't cast spells anyway, so if you routinely are tossing rating 8 background counts your really just pushing everyone to play super-sayan charge up mages.

This is why most GMs want to lower mage power, because sometimes it legitimately is a worse solution to have the GM balance the game at the table themselves rather than making things actually balanced in the first place.

3. Mages are a valuable asset Magic is rare in the world of shadowrun. Therefore a powerful mage is a great resource to have. If your mage shows off how powerful he is too often, have the mafia or a corporation find him and make him an offer of employment. Saying no to this offer is....not encouraged. This will encourage more subtle approaches and encourage more teamwork...( I rather not open that door, way to flashy and loud !! Hey Mr. Decker your turn do awesome stuff !! )

This is... honestly a really terrible solution to problems.

Firstly, it doesn't seem to occur in universe. For obvious reasons. If you are a mafioso trying to lean on an independent operator who makes a living being able to murder your enemies with their mind, the last thing you want to do is piss them off and give them a reason to view you as a threat. Runners aren't nobody 13 year old mages to pressure into signing up for a school to office job scholarship program. If you try to force em into the inside, they will use their connections and power to anihilate you for your opposition for free. Worse, those pesky runners talk and are like, lame ass 'egalitarians' or something, and soon you will find if you start trying to kidnap runner mages that runners don't want to deal with you. So what is likely going to happen is that your going to make that offer to the mage, the mage is going to nod, and instantly kill everyone in the room with you for trying this stunt, including you. Like, sure, he may DIE, but the very real odds of the super powered magical assassin who routinely deals with high level syndicate leaders not taking kindly to your bullshit and killing you on principle is real. You don't become a high ranking member of a crime syndicate by being so dumb as to try to threaten your hitmen, because, you know, they KILL PEOPLE LIKE YOU for a living. Don't get it twisted, a mob boss will desperately want a mage in pocket, but one who decides to try to achieve that by burning bridges not just with a powerful asset who already was willing to work with you, but the entire interconnected community they belong to who are in fact more capable of demolishing your organization than the FBI isn't how one gets and retains that position. The way Mafia works is that it attempts to entangle you in obligation; the more you work for them the more they try to make it feel like YOU owe THEM. They try to worm their way in. If a mob boss threatened a street samurai so overtly would you expect the PC to do anything besides casually draw their gun, kill the boss, kill all the grunts in the room, and then take their chances with whatever souped up bodyguard they had? Then don't expect the mage who is more powerful than the boss and is able to summon INVISIBILE BULLETPROOF GHOSTS TO KILL THEM IN THEIR SLEEP to do anything different.

Basically? Bullying someone who can casually alter reality and summon demigods is really dumb and not something a remotely smart character should do in setting.

Secondly, Samurai or faces of PC level skill are equally valuable to mages. Hell, faces probably, from a strict value standpoint to an org, the highest value PC because like... they are good at the things that get you more money and power, rather than just being good at security or whatever. Like if somehow you made any group capable of doing this you violate rule 0: Shadowrunners, aka extremely powerful freelancers who are essentially better than anyone else at what they do who maintain their independence, exist. I mean one of the reason mages GO to the shadows is because it is acceptable for a mage in the shadows to have no attachments, as opposed to working corporate or accademia. Like 'freedom' is literally the first thing the books tell you about when talking about why people who could do anything choose the shadows.

Finally, and most importantly, you are, essentially, threatening to kill a PC because they are too strong and by saying 'refusing this is ill advised' you are indicating the player doesn't have any agency in how this plays out. It should be VERY OBVIOUS why this isn't a solution to the problem at all and is, essentially, bullying someone for picking the mage. It is... supremely mean. Don't do this.

markelphoenix

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« Reply #13 on: (08:29:34/08-12-19) »
May I offer an alternative?

For example, if too powerful individually, violate rule one of PNP, "Never split the party". Make scenarios where 3 separate objectives have to be pulled off in close proximity in time.

Objective 1: MagicalSec can trigger a primed ritual if given 10 minutes to complete the ritual. This ritual will screw anyone on site that doesn't belong there (think of a foil, could be a damaging full area AOE that doesn't harm anyone who is included in the Rituals protection list through a symbolic link, such as a blood sample of all Sec employees on duty).

Objective 2: Simultaneously, cyber security has a trigger to scrub the system after a sequence of fail safes are initiated, destroying part of what will get you the payday. Don't let them initiate that.

Objective 3: Physical Sec has a hardline manual process, decoupled from the matrix that will physically destroy something you need to recover. Given the nature of the McGuffin, the Corp/CrimeOrg/Nation would rather have it destroyed than fall into hands of a competitor. They must be dealt with simultaneously as the other two objectives.

At the end,
Objective 4: Team reunites to overcome big bad who has opportunities for all skill sets to contribute in some way if they choose to do so or were not made unconscious from the get go.

In regards to the mage, going up against a magical specific threat,banishment, wards and dispelling are not only reasonable, but an expectation. Also, from previous point, truly high value targets have either the Foci, Awakened, or AP/Energy weapons to bypass spirit concerns.