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Fire slinging Magic in mage 20

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  • Fire slinging Magic in mage 20

    So i have been looking through the 20th anniversary rules for mage, and have found a few things i am unsure about.
    1) slinging attack spells that roll arete to attack rather than a combination of dexterity and melee/guns etc.
    how exactly is this supposed to work?
    from my reading I am understanding that it works as an attack roll in exactly the same way that the ability roll would have if the mage was using a gun as an instrument. Ie, you roll successes and the target dodges but if you have at least 2 successes remaining then the damage from the effect is dealt.
    a) does the dodge roll reduce the damage caused in this case? I cannot find anything in the rules to suggest it does, but I have heard people interpret it this way. My reading is that arete simply replaces the attribute plus talent role, and if it hits then the spell deals it's full damage. Am i wrong in this?
    b) elsewhere it is said that arete may only be rolled once in a turn. Is this an exception where an extra arete roll is made as an attack roll? Is the same roll used as is used for the effect (meaning a more powerful blast is also harder to dodge)? Is it simply a single roll with the dodge directly reducing the effects successes?
    c) If you roll to hit with arete should you use the damage chart to determine your number of successes to hit? Because arete pools tend to be so low it is really easy to dodge lightning bolts where each dice of arete only gives a single success, as you are comparing a single stat to the total of two stats. Doubling the arete successes as per the damage table would redress this imbalance.
    It seems to me that it is already beneficial to use weapons and martial arts as magical instruments in combat because of the way magic enhancing violence works. Mages relying on mystical arts such as flinging fireballs already pay a tax in terms of the action economy (with their use of their instrument and effect roll counting as separate actions), and likely suffer +1 difficulty due to fast casting. Making their effects ridiculously easy to dodge as well just seems punitive.

    2) how do area effect spells work in terms of the successes needed? I am currently leaning towards simply using the base successes chart (meaning it would take 5 successes to cast an effect large enough to affect a mob, 10 successes to cover a building, and 20 successes to affect a city (along with the necessary sphere ratings). Because damage is a function of the base successes, the bigger the area covered by an explosion the more damaging it is, which seems intuitive. Am i going about this the right way? Is there anything I have missed? Does anybody have a better solution to creating explosions and area affect spells?

  • #2
    1) You roll Arete to cast the spell. This roll doubles as an attack roll as well as the damage roll (meaning: one roll to rule it all). If your target dodges, they reduce the amount of successes they're hit with, thus reducing damage (so yes, a more powerful blast has more successes you'd have to reduce by dodging). Personally, when throwing a spell, I'd rather use an appropriate Attribute + Ability roll as an attack (Dexterity + Athletics, maybe - even though some ability related to the instrument used could be more appropriate, but that's a case by case question).
    It is way more effective to enhance weapons in this system (if you're not houseruling some stuff). Also, it's probably less vulgar.

    2) I've been thinking about this, too. It's all nice as long as my players cast their Forces 3 spells. Everyone knows how to determine damage there. Then, someone buys Forces 4 and asks, "How is area damage working?" and there's nothing to find in the rules. HDYDT states that area effects produce "environmental hazards" as described in the core rulebook. That's not exactly a helpful explanation, but at least we can work with this.
    So, how big is the effect? You're idea isn't bad, using the base successes chart. Normally, you'd have to invest a success per each additional target in your spell (divides successes rule), but in this case, it's a direct area you're attacking so I'd split successes a bit different here:
    1st Pool: Area. You'd have to invest at least one or two successes to affect an area covering a small group. 5 and up for a mob of increasing size, 10 and up for buildings (from a small house to a whole block) and finally you'd hit city devastating effects at 20 successes invested in area. Mind you, 20 successes would not be enough to roast New York but a small city could already be in problems.
    2nd Pool: Damage. Straight up, per divided success rules.
    3rd Pool: Duration. Again, as per divided success rules. A small duration may actually be enough to start a few fires on their own, so investing here may be quite kost efficient.

    Now, a mage channels his energies (or whatever he uses for Forces 4 fire effects) in an extended ritual and manages to get 23 successes (which is a lot, actually - with it being a Sphere 4 effect, vulgar, most probably with a LOT of witnesses). He could release a city wide firestorm with 1 success in damage and two in duration, the rest is spent on area. Since it's a forces spell, the damage get's upped by 1, so he'd be dealing 2/Agg Damage for two turns to the entire (small) city. He'd also get a lot of paradox in the process (then again, there's now specific rule for this, either) and will probably have the paradox burn of a lifetime.

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    • #3
      Thank you for your reply.
      so you are in favour of dodging the arete roll reducing the successes for the effect, but you would allow a mystically inclined mage to attack using a different set of attributes rather than arete? This was how I assumed it would work before reading the paragraph about mystic mages needing to attack with arete


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      • #4
        I'm generally in favor of combining magic with some for of attribute + ability roll. In my games, a mage should at least have the knowledge to use their powers reflected in their skills. Also, I tend to reward good roleplaying and good "mundane" rolls with extra successes on the Arete roll (thus, a mage who is really good in "Meditation" may gain one or two extra successes when he's trying to channel his mind on building a telepathic connection or however it works in their paradigm).

        As for magic attacks, I think it's much easier when you have a roll to target and a roll for damage. Just rolling Arete is nearly useless. Just remember not to add the leftover successes from the attack roll to the damage roll in this case, that would be way to powerful. In case of a magic attack the damage should get determined by the Arete roll alone (but maybe reward an extra success, if the targeting roll was really good).

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        • #5
          In the case of Fire Slinging Spells what you are looking for is skills enhancing magic. So if you are throwing a fireball at the target there should be an Att+Ability roll for throwing the fireball on target, this gets a dodge response from the target (assuming they are using their action to dodge). So can miss etc, with the Arete successes being used to determine the Base Damage of the Fireball or Lightning Bolt as if it were a weapon. However. If you are making a "Fire Slinging Spell" and ONLY using Arete then what you are looking for is something like the 'Curse of Friction' rote and spells like it, which isn't throwing anything at the target but simply causing it to combust using it's own motion to empower the flames. This allows for no dodge roll of any kind but also doesn't require any attack roll, also the target is now burning for the duration of the spell.

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          • #6
            So the consensus seems to be that the attack roll uses attribute plus ability, even if that is something more esoteric than melee/guns/whatever? Anybody see it differently?


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            • #7
              That's my original consensus yes, however I would say take a look at page 417 in M20 again. The only magical attack effect that is listed as "Can be dodged" are the ones for ray guns, plasma bolts, magical shuriken etc (Violence as a Focus) the Openly magical Attacks (like Lightning Bolts etc) don't have that caveat and follow what I said above as Arete Only rolls allowing for no dodge, on the flip side they are almost always Vulgar where as most of the Normal Attack themed effects (Violence as Focus) are typically Coincidental.

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              • #8
                Interesting. The openly magical section misses the caveat that it can be dodged. I had read it that it could because it says it uses arete for the attack roll, but I can see that that may not be the case.
                On page 544 however it says that 'any physical attack (fireball, mystical blade, plasma bolt etc) directed at an essentially solid target ... can be dodged...'

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                • #9
                  Yeah, anything you toss or slash with can be dodged. If it moves, you can move out of its way, simple as that.
                  And I agree that for things that can be dodged, attack roll for attacking and Arete for damage (remember that it uses the magic damage table on Page 504, and that forces automatically has +1 level on that table..) is the way to go.

                  However there are many ways of also doing fire-based attacks (or other forces) that simply cannot be dodged. Simply combine Forces with Life and you have target-seeking fireballs, or an instant lightning strike hitting them...or simply them catch on fire out of nowhere, really. Straight arete roll, damage result, no dodging. It just requires that extra sphere to make things go straight for their pattern.


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                  • #10
                    I reckon that's a slip in editing more than anything else for pg 544 as there used to be attack (attribute + ability) rules out there for throwing fireballs (Dex+sometime it was Occult sometimes it was Athletics) which is absent in the M20 descriptions. I would just go with

                    If the mage is using a plasmagun, summoning a fire bolt into his hand and slinging it at the adversary or gesturing with his martial kata poses to channel wind into a lightning strike to hurl from his hands use, Arete to Cast and establish base effect then use Dex + (Firearms or Athletics or Do etc) to attack the target with the spell (and benefit from success to attack) with the target having the option to take a Dodge Action.

                    If however the mage is calling down an unerringly accurate SoL Strike, snapping his fingers igniting the target or reaching to the sky above and drawing lightning down from the heavens through the target, then a pure Arete roll is all you want and the target gets no dodge option, but the Arete roll is all there is.

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                    • #11
                      With how low Arete pools are it seems like the fact that someone can use a full Dex+Dodge pool against it is pretty nerfy. Except--do they specify a difficulty for the Dodge roll? I think it would make sense for the difficulty to be 8 to dodge projectile magic attacks and 9 against attacks directly against the target's Pattern (ie Life or Entropy attacks). Only total cover would modify the dodge roll, and only a little--so if you dodge into total cover you'd have to hit 7 or 8 respectively.

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                      • #12
                        As a simple rule, magickal attacks that can actually be dodged use a normal attack roll for hitting, and the Arete roll for magickal damage.
                        See page 535 of M20:

                        Magickal Attack Rolls
                        Under many circumstances, you simply roll your character’s
                        Arete, plus or minus modifiers, to see whether an Effect goes
                        off. If you succeed, then the Effect succeeds as well.
                        In certain circumstances, though, you need to hit a target
                        who doesn’t want to be hit.
                        Perhaps you’re firing an energy gun,
                        swinging an enchanted sword, or flinging the archetypal fireball
                        at your intended target of misfortune. In such situations, you
                        also need to roll an attack to hit that person.
                        The Effect might
                        succeed, but its impact may go elsewhere.
                        Such circumstances apply to targeted Effects – ones in
                        which you might miss that target or ones that the target of the
                        Effect can dodge
                        . Chapter Nine covers such situations, and
                        their appropriate rolls, in the Magick and Violence section
                        So don't worry, there essentially are no situations of Pure Arete Roll vs. Dodge.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ambrosia View Post
                          As a simple rule, magickal attacks that can actually be dodged use a normal attack roll for hitting, and the Arete roll for magickal damage.
                          So don't worry, there essentially are no situations of Pure Arete Roll vs. Dodge.
                          Good to know, thanks. I don't think I will use that rule though, since it involves more rolling.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Tamuz View Post
                            2) how do area effect spells work in terms of the successes needed? I am currently leaning towards simply using the base successes chart (meaning it would take 5 successes to cast an effect large enough to affect a mob, 10 successes to cover a building, and 20 successes to affect a city (along with the necessary sphere ratings). Because damage is a function of the base successes, the bigger the area covered by an explosion the more damaging it is, which seems intuitive. Am i going about this the right way? Is there anything I have missed? Does anybody have a better solution to creating explosions and area affect spells?
                            That's really the intent with Forces. Don't forget in earlier editions Forces 4 and 5 were considered horribly underpowered, because by the time players split successes between the base effect, area of effect, duration if applicable, delay if applicable, and targeting, there generally weren't enough left (if any) to do enough damage to matter considering the potential for collateral damage, Paradox to be gleaned due to vulgarity, the high difficulties associated with high-level sphere use, and the potential for catastrophic failure exacerbated by high difficulties.

                            The fix to that was to consider area-effect innate to Forces 3, 4, and 5, so all one needs to consider is base effect, damage, then the optional stuff like duration, delay, targeting. The scales involved with Forces 4 and 5 get massive, so the base success needs to be dialed accordingly. If you wanted to do something like create a cold snap to cool down Hell's Kitchen by a few degrees in the middle of summer, that's well within the range of Forces 4 and ten successes should do the trick since it's not a particularly major Effect, it just happens over a substantial area. Remember, successes still have to be sunk into duration, so that cold snap is going to require up to five more successes if the mage wants it to last the whole summer.

                            The thing with environmental hazards is a bit trickier. There are really two ways you can do this. The most straightforward is to consider the large-scale Effect as having simply created an environmental hazard, and use their rules for affecting the difficulty and range of actions that can be done with them, and for damage. If a mage wants to create a firestorm that consumes a city block, that's going to be Forces 4 and require somewhere between ten to 15 successes. Consult the section on fire on page 434, and everyone in the city block suffers those effects. Easy peasy.

                            Or, alternatively, large-scale Forces Effects are big and uncontrollable. Environmental hazards spring up as a consequence of their having been cast. Not content to simply cause a firestorm that consumes the city block, the mage decides they want to blow that fucker up. I'd personally rule it still requires the same base success pool, but the player goes that extra mile and applies successes to damage which is dealt when the Effect goes off. The rub is, by the time enough successes go into damage to really achieve the desired effect, you're talking about 20-25 successes total anyways because the Effect needs to deal enough damage to compromise or destroy hardened materials like reinforced concrete, bricks and cinder blocks, and steel beams.

                            That's going to create environmental hazards anyways as a consequence of the explosion. The power grid's going to fail, gas lines are going to rupture, there'll be smoke and secondary fires, debris, and the like. None of which will be necessarily controllable to the mage, unless they use later Effects to mitigate or aggravate the environmental effects.

                            That's honestly, in my experience, the best way to handle large, violent Effects and the amount of damage they deal. Figure out base successes (the book lists blowing up a building as 20), ballpark the amount of damage it would take to overcome the durability and structure of the building, figure out how many successes it would take to deal that damage, and knock those successes off the top. That way you're giving the player a base success total they feel is achievable while baking partial success into the Effect as ruled, and giving the player the satisfaction of saying they did X fuckton damage while giving yourself an easy reference for resolving damage.

                            The benefit of looking at it that way, is it becomes modular. If, for whatever reason it were to come up in a game, a sub-megaton nuclear blast would be Forces 4. The natural response to that would be the base successes should be 40 or 50, that's what I estimate. But here's the rub; the Ascension book (the only hard source for this I've ever been able to find) lists nukes as doing 40 levels of aggravated at ground zero if I remember right, I could be wrong. That would convert into 20 successes' worth of damage, so that allows for dialing it back to 25-30 base successes plus however many successes the player or storyteller puts into damage. Then, the storyteller can recalibrate the narrative and mechanical effects of the blast having gone off.
                            Last edited by Theodrim; 08-04-2018, 11:49 AM.

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                            • #15
                              I'm interested in this discussion. If I'm not mistaken, there are at least three situations:

                              1) Ray guns, enhanced pistols, magic swords and the like: no brainer, you make a normal attack roll with the right Attr + Ability, if it hits you roll Arete for damage

                              2) Effects that directly affects the enemy pattern: the Forces + Life fire attack that locks on the enemy Pattern, and I would also put in the same category raw Life 3 and Entropy 4 attacks. It seems quite clear to me that they can't be dodged, you just roll Arete and damage.

                              3) Direct attacks that are not based on weapons, such as "normal" fireballs:
                              a- Some people advocate a direct Arete roll that can be dodged, which makes this less interesting than using weapons, which sort of makes sense. I would be tempted to swing that way.
                              b- Some say treat it like case 2 with an attack roll. The problem I have is, which ability ? I'm not satisfied with solutions like Athletics (I really don't see why your skill at directing fireballs would depend on your athletical abilities, except if you use some athletics-based focus) or Occult (especially in M20 where Occult is knowlege of the Sleeper occult world). Esoterica (for most mystic mages) or Technology (for technomancers) would make more sense I think, but it's giving more importance to those already important abilities. And about the attribute, the most obvious is Dexterity, but for some paradigms it makes little sense and a mental attribute would probably be better. I'm tempted to just give up this question and use Arete only if there is some doubt.

                              I'd be tempted to use rule 3a and combine it with a lax interpretation of what a weapon is. If a mage (let's consider a stereotypical hermetic mage) is desperate and casts a fireball without any instrument designed to channel violence (for example with just incantations in Enochian and ritual amulets), I would use a raw dodgeable Arete roll. If she came prepared, for example she has "wands and staves" as an instrument and she came to the fight with a blasting wand dedicated to martial deities and carved with fire magic sigils, I would let her use Dex + (probably) Esoterica.

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