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Magic house rules

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street.mage

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« on: <09-03-10/2051:08> »
I have a question to everyone about magic, direct spells in general.  I'm fairly new to Shadowrun and have recently started a game. 

I have a Shaman that is pretty buffed.  Magic 5.  Spellcasting 7 (with the positive quality that makes it higher).

Not sure what the willpower is, but it's pretty high too.  He rolls like 12 dice on drain, and most of the direct spells have low drain.  Basically, unless he gets unlucky, he can cast force 5 spells all day long and never take damage.  I know there's an optional rule in the book, and we're using it (the one where he has to roll an extra drain for each net hit).

The problem is overcasting.  A rocket launcher can't take out a dragon, but a maxed out manabolt might?  (OK, maybe 3-4 manabolts)  Seriously?  Not knocking on dragons or anything...but it seems there are checks and balances for keeping other characters in check with various weapons (forensics, for example), but a magic user can erase his signature, thus pretty much making a kill undetectable if needed.  I know the drone is the weakness of the mage, but does anyone have suggestions on bringing my character down to earth?

Critias

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« Reply #1 on: <09-03-10/2102:19> »
One fairly popular house rule is to not cut spells in half when figuring Drain.  It'll make magic more of a "last resort," something that you'll use only when necessary, and something that costs to use.  It's not a perfect fix, but it's one I've heard a lot of positive results from.

FastJack

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« Reply #2 on: <09-03-10/2132:21> »
Send some Great Dragons or those 'Immortal' Elves at him... Or a Cyberzombie or two... That should take him down a peg or two. :D

gruegirl

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« Reply #3 on: <09-03-10/2338:44> »
Have an insect spirit snatch his meat body while he's astral.

Happened to me, had to burn TWO edge that run.

Adrick

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« Reply #4 on: <09-04-10/0018:51> »
Dragons should and would be prepared for a mage. And can do the same thing back to the mage.
Either with hired defenses or there own skills, counter spelling and sustained foci w mana barrier are helpful as well.

don't be afraid to use comparable power npc's against him and/or astral beasts. to keep him busy, He can't sling mojo all over the place if he's busy trying to banish a spirit.

think of ways to break line of sight as well, smoke grenades, flashbangs etc. work well for mundanes as a defense if you keep some nasties in astral space when he tries to use astral perception.
Bacterial smoke would break his line of site from astral as well.
Snipers will keep his head down to.

Also consider while a dragon might be able to take a rocket it can't take several in a row.  And anyone can pick up a weapon and throw fire downrange at something, plant a bomb, or run a semi trick into the dragon and they don't have any risk of getting tired and passing out at its feet from a bad roll.
The mage can just do it without having to carry the weapons around at the expense of possible fatigue.


That said we have used the optional rule for extra successes to limit the abuse of stun spells.


Glyph

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« Reply #5 on: <09-04-10/0228:14> »
I've never been fond of that optional rule.  It penalizes mages for success, and actually encourages overcasting.

One optional rule I do like is, for overcasting, increasing the Drain by one for every point of Force over the mage's Magic.  Overcasting seems to be where most potential abuses happen, and I personally feel, flavor-wise, that overcasting should be a desperation move, not something done as a regular tactic.  I don't like it for normal spellcasting, though, because that's what mages do.  I don't want to make one of their core functions something that they only break out in an emergency.

Remember the weaknesses of spellcasting - line of sight, successes (not net successes, all successes) capped by the Force of the spell, and possible background count or hostile counterspelling.  Also remember that Shadowrun is a very tactical game, where the person who attacks first is often the one who attacks last.  Spells are only one of many instant-kill attacks that characters are capable of.

Adrick

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« Reply #6 on: <09-04-10/0815:16> »
I've never been fond of that optional rule.  It penalizes mages for success, and actually encourages overcasting.

One optional rule I do like is, for overcasting, increasing the Drain by one for every point of Force over the mage's Magic. 

ah sorry should have mentioned we allow the caster to pick how many successes they use from what they have gotten. 
with added houserule the extra not used for damage is still used to overcome counterspelling and to damage mana barriers and spellls etc.
strain is based of damage pumped into the target.
That way they still can do something more than a less skilled mage but aren't a walking nuke.

I really like your optional rule and reasoning behind it, also its easier to manage. might give it a go in our game.

Adrick

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« Reply #7 on: <09-04-10/0836:34> »
(forensics, for example), but a magic user can erase his signature, thus pretty much making a kill undetectable if needed.

Forensics doesn't matter as much in shadowrun depending on the tone of the game  and in games were it is important you can get around it with periodic gene therapy.

But if the ease of removing magic signatures is a recurring issue you can raise the difficulty and time required to erase signatures. 

Also consider the mage assensing the spell is the one that has to assense the mage to make the connection he can't store, copy or pass the knowledge on.
So on the street the likely hood of a left behind signature coming back to bite you is rare enough that it should nearly be a plot device.
In court i would think physical forensic evidence would be needed to get a solid chance of conviction with asenseing from experts being more of a witness testimony type thing.
So you don't have to be to afraid of making it harder to erase signatures.

street.mage

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« Reply #8 on: <09-04-10/1239:29> »
True that about signatures Adrick.  Erasing them hasn't even come up in my game, but I'm afraid it will because of an occult investigator at a recent crime scene.

I've a nasty Jarhead that will be on the trail of a certain shaman.  His direct spell only effects living targets, so his physical wall spell is really the only help he has.  He's really a one trick pony - I think he has a pistols rank of 1 or 2, and that's the firepower he has.  No indirect spells.

I really liked the overcasting +1 for each force above magic rule on drain instead of net hits.  You're right, Glyph, it does punish magic users.  But someone with a 5-6 magic is still possibly going to lay the smack down for someone who isn't a caster.  I guess I really don't like that every other combat situation a defender can react and roll to resist damage.  But with direct spells, they can't.  Indirect at least gets half impact armor.  But a hapless troll street sam gets to roll his willpower (and that's it) of 2 to resist a stunbolt.  Well, and edge is a given if it's available anyway.  I guess that's why magic is always a great ally and even greater enemy. 

I'm just afraid to throw too many opponents at the party and create a TPK situation or lots of deaths to make up for the shaman's "vaporize the enemy at will with my complex action spells." 

Stan

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« Reply #9 on: <09-04-10/1415:24> »
Out of curiosity, street.mage, what kinds of runs do your PCs usually wind up going on?  From your posts I get the impression that the PCs, or at least this mage in particular, likes to solve problems by going in with the proverbial guns blazing.  Is that accurate?

My preferred way of dealing with the issue you're describing - PCs who can kill or incapacitate foes in one shot - is to create runs where raw butt-kicking power isn't enough to win.  If the PCs are doing a run on a corporate enclave, I promise you that no amount of really big manabolts will be enough to let him survive the waves of well-armed, well-trained guards that await if the PCs trigger a major security alert.  Just to be clear, I'm not recommending that you unleash so many guards that you get a TPK.  I'm saying that the threat of that type of response should (hopefully) teach your PCs to modify their tactics appropriately.

But of course, this assumes that your PCs behave rationally.  YMMV.  :)

redrigger86

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« Reply #10 on: <09-04-10/1424:04> »
you could look in to the rules on mana warps and ebbs.  have the space around mage mess with him.

Glyph

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« Reply #11 on: <09-04-10/1702:16> »
I think one of the things that makes magic seem so overpowered is that you can't really counter it with anything but magic.  Unless you break out the gnome with astral hazing, that is  ;D.  Direct combat spells are similar to ranged combat in that they are a test of Attribute + skill + other potential modifiers, versus a single Attribute for the defender.  The difference is that 1) The defender doesn't get a separate damage resistance roll for direct combat spells, and 2) There is no equivalent of full defense.

The thing to keep in mind about 1) is that for spellcasting, the mage's hits are capped before the target even resists, so while combining dodge and damage soaking for the target may seem less fair, the mage still won't usually be doing any one-shot kills unless overcasting.  Mundanes have an easier time than they did in SR3, at least, where a 6D manabolt would usually fry them.

For 2), I don't see why there couldn't be a similar mechanic.  Say, getting to use your resisting Attribute x 2 if you expend one of your actions to do nothing but resist a spell.

I think that while magic may seem overpowered at first, you also need to look at what their mundane counterpoints can do.  A street samurai with a good dice pool, firing a heavy pistol, gets to go twice as often per action as the mage, and most mages are not good at soaking up weapons fire.  Sure, in theory, a mage has access to all of means of resisting mundane attacks that anyone else has.  In practice, though, mages are BP and karma sinks, so they will usually remain physically vulnerable.  That's not to say you can't make a troll tank who can sling spells and scoff at small arms fire, but such a build is like the gnome with astral hazing vs. magical attacks - an exception to the general rule.

inca1980

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« Reply #12 on: <09-04-10/1723:57> »
Another thing you need to remember is that mages are pretty vulnerable.  They are almost always the focus of all firepower.  You need to make your NPC's use common tactics like taking cover.  The problem with shadowrun (which in my opinion is actually the great thing about shadowrun 4e) is that it's rules are manageable, but still realistic and that makes gunfights and magic are very lethal.  The only way you can survive if you are up against an evenly matched team is to use different strategies to bring their dice-pools down.  Keep the probabilities of success tests as low as possible by using tactics.  Alot of teams approach a gunfight as if they were in melee.  When guns come out you got to head for hardened cover.  Cover and visibility modifiers work against magic too because LOS is needed just like with all ranged attacks.

street.mage

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« Reply #13 on: <09-04-10/1930:02> »
It's awesome to get some other glances and looks at a topic. 

@ Stan:  Only have done two runs so far.  I've played in several SR games, this is my first time running it.  I've GMed D&D for about a decade prior to branching out to other games...and SR is differentl to run than D&D in many ways.  Also, when I played, there was no magic.  (Aside from a physical adept, that is.)  So it was a completely new experience.  For me, it is much different to read a rule in comparison to seeing it in game-play.  As far as the runs we've done, the first one was an extraction of a person from a little corp, the second was protection of an individual for a few days.  The second one didn't go well.  I guess it was fine overall, but I felt really frustrated after the game because of the one shot kills.  I had some thoughts on an investigator reading his signature since he didn't erase it as well as the aforementioned jarhead.  But that's really all I had aside from various drones involved in combat.

But I also can't make all my runs anti-shaman either.  That's punishing the player and focusing way too much of my attention at one character.  He has to be able to do his thing sometimes without feeling frustrated, or it won't be fun for him.  A lot of you gave me several ideas on how to keep the game challenging without taking the nerf bat to a player's character.  That's appreciated, so thanks everyone!

Walks Through Walls

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« Reply #14 on: <09-04-10/2040:46> »
@Street Mage:

I agree that when you first start GMing shadowrun magic is the hardest thing to compensate for fairly. I also understand your frustration with the one shot kills. I had a mage in a SR3 game that I ran for a year that became quite powerful and could kill almost anything and not worry about drain.

You can give the opponents some magical backup and you aren't "picking" on the shaman for a good concept, but are making the game more enjoyable for everyone. My players always seem to enjoy the games where they just survived the most. The couple times a player died it was actually at a teammates hands (once the afore mentioned mages hands)

Another possible tactic is a spirit or two that keeps the mage busy while the others have to deal with everything in the real world.

Something else I just thought about was the rules for notority, public awareness and street cred. If the mage keeps nuking everyone let them know that they are getting a reputation for it. This also sets up for when the magic support or mojo comes out in the future that they brought it on themselves.

Glad to hear that the ideas are helping and hope you continue to run games
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