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Why are Elder Powers so... awful?

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  • Why are Elder Powers so... awful?

    Seriously. Some Elder powers are so mind-bogglingly terrible that I have ZERO clue how anyone thought they were worth the Generation, EXP and Freebies associated with them. Plenty of Level 6 powers are potent, such as Farsight and Loyalty and Flesh of Marble... but most, in my experience, are hyper-situational and underpowered.

    Lore of the Bloodlines has some really... wonderful examples.

    Calling Song is a contrived plot device power which is clearly not for PCs, yes, but it's also not very powerful at all. It's a Level 8 power and it's just... Presence 4? With some minor and situational benefits which could easily be outstripped by taking Presence 6?

    Marrow Sucker... makes me angry. It upsets me how awful this power is. It lets your PC/NPC (a member of the 7th Generation, who is old enough to have Mastered Thanatosis up to level 6) get a meager amount of totally unsatisfying blood... from bones. Note that this is written in the same book as a 3 point merit which lets you get 5 points of blood from the bones of a body, and this power gives you 1 point from the bones of a body. This feels like a Thanatosis 1 + Necromancy 1 Combination power. And it cost the dumb NPC who chose it 25 EXP!

    Rewind and The Re-Embrace are not TERRIBLE powers, but they are level 8 and 7 (respectively) and deliver... situational and under-whelming benefits.

    Vicissitude is a bloody treasure trove for this. Cocoon. Ever worried you might be killed? Well now you're utterly immobile and protected by an underwhelming layer of defensive goop! That's certainly better than, I don't know, taking Blood Form. Wait, actually, yeah, you could just take Blood Form. Kraken's Kiss. Ooh! Your face is Cthulu now! And it's... mechanically underwhelming. You need to succeed in a difficulty 8 roll to just summon them, and they do lackluster damage and drain some blood, and are a bit harder to break out of than a normal Grapple. Or you could, I don't know... grapple and bite them? The silly bit is that you've grappled someone 4 feet away (yeah, they're not that long)... oh, wait, that was a joke. It's 1 foot. A 1 foot long set of tentacles. Regardless, someone just has to chop the calamari off of your face and you're now looking like the silliest Tzimisce (say that fast 10 times in a row while drunk) in the Pack. Breath of the Dragon? Wow! Something inferior to Lure of Flames 3, a power you can get for far less EXP? Definitely worthy of being a Level 8 power.

    Thanatosis. Oh, you thought you were off the hook? No. At level 7 you have a power that makes Ash Form... not shit. It literally just makes Ash Form somewhat akin to Mist Form, as you can move and retain your senses. Oh, but you are still a clumsy pile of ash traipsing across the floor. Ash Form should just do this stuff already. Level 8, you get Putrescent Servitude. Oh, a Ghoul who is utterly mindless and obedient, and looks like a bloody zombie. Oh, how wonderful. Except you can get a Ghoul who is mindful, fully obedient and looks like a normal person using Dominate, Presence or just the bloody blood bond! This is a slap in the face of game-balance, piss in the mouth of mechanical consistency, vandalism of the very concept of Elders being potent unstoppable forces of destruction and manipulation.

    Valeren and its cousins... nothing feels horrifically underpowered, just boring powers which fail to stick to any coherent theme, making you a Bard at level 7 who can help other people heal and overcome derangements and fight and march etc. using the Power of Song. I wonder what power this is stepping on the toes of?

    Serpentis. Hello you beautiful mess. Cobra's Fangs at level 6 requires you to grapple to bite, making it worse than the DA version of 2. It's also one of those potent powers which... kills mortals. Hurrah. Its effects against Cainites are good, killing most Neonates easily, but are you really struggling to kill Neonates? It's a good power, but in some regards it is clearly inferior to a Level 2 power. Ooh. Divine Image. Nice idea, but it's just horribly underpowered. +2 and +1 to a few Attributes. Hurray for level 7 powers. +2 Willpower, but limited to 10, because it's not like the Manifestation of a God could ever exceed the limits of human Willpower, is it. Heart Thief is nice and I won't rag on it, but I feel like Level 8 is overkill despite it being a cool power.

    Potence. Oh dear.

    "What if an Elder could show off their strength by leaving their hand print on solid steel?"
    "That sounds like something they could do anyways by blood pumping their Strength a bit, since their Generational Maximum blood expenditure is at least 4 and their Potence is at least 5, making leaving a dent in Steel a small jump upwards... and speaking of jumps, can't they just do a literal jump, which their Potence will make laughably easy, rather than squeezing handholds into the surface? Besides, you're leaving the imprints behind, which is a horrific Masquerade Breach (if an odd one) and also makes it easy for someone to pursue you."
    Imprint lets you do incredible things like... crushing a gun in your hand. You know, you could use that gun. Or throw it away. I mean you have Potence 6, is someone successfully taking anything you're holding?

    Presence is... surprisingly solid. I can't find any dumb V20 ones.

    Protean. Restore the Mortal Visage is like a shitty excuse for Obfuscate 3, at level 7. Purify the Impaled Breast is just... no. You're talking about a Level 8 power, and stakes are utterly useless against someone with (I don't know) Fortitude 5 and Flesh of Marble. There is NO chance of a stake actually putting a Generation 5 Gangrel into Torpor. At one level lower you have a power which lets you turn into Mist at will for an automatic dodge; that's infinitely superior and far less limited! This power feels so niche and pointless.

    Obtenebration. How can you go from utterly broken to laughably weak? The Darkness Within is a joke of a power. Each turn someone is enveloped they need to roll Stamina (6) and failure means you get a point of their Blood. It's not like you can, I don't know, pin them with your OP Tentacle Powers and drink them dry using your... phangs? Fangs?

    Scrawl! Obfuscate now Malkavians leave coded messages that only certain people can read! Or you could... IDK, meet with them? Talk to them? Use an actual code with redundant symbols and cryptographic methods which make it nearly impossible to decipher without the key? You could have taken Obfuscate 6; Conceal, which would make covert meetings nearly 100% safe (meeting in an invisible car after walking invisible to the car), but instead you go for... this?

    Personal Armour. You roll your Fortitude (difficulty 8) and if your successes beat those of the person who attacked you, their weapon shatters. If they have so few successes on the attack roll that your 5-6 dice against difficulty 8 can trump it, then their attack was no threat at all and likely neither are they. It's impressive and showy, but Fortitude 6's vanilla power is pretty showy as well. Utter waste of EXP. Curse the Laurel. Outside of being thematically odd (reshaping the heart feels like Protean or Viccisitude, but okay) it's not going to be a problem since no stake is breaking through an Elder with Fortitude 6. Alabastard is... okay? Ignoring Wound Penalties implies that you've taken damage in the first place, making this a tad situational for someone with Fortitude 6. Another level 6 power lets you invert Wound Penalties, making them positive, so this feels like a bit of an odd choice. Adamantine is an okay power built on a foundation made of pure bullshit. It's like Personal Armour, but if the power works you take no damage. Tell me, if you have Fortitude 8 and the attack you face has so few successes that you can override it with a Fortitude roll (difficulty 8), what are the odds of you not just soaking the damage anyways?

    All of the Elder "you're insane now top bant" powers are nothing when compared to the RAW version of Dementation 5 that all STs houserule. Babble is nice as it's like a walkie talkie but invisible, and I'll admit that it's a fair level 6 power. Restructure is cool since you can totally recreate a person, but with Auspex 7 you could find the correct person rather than renovating one you already know. Personal Scourge is DEADLY against most powerful Cainites, well worth the investment, since the stronger your mind is the harder it is to beat. Lunatic Eruption (9) says "f*** you" to a whole city. It's... good as a plot device and I won't harp on how over the top it is, since lower level powers grant you scalpel-like precision, having a nuke in your arsenal is still useful even if it's crude.

    Chimerstry... they're all great, to no one's surprise. There's a reason I write out Chimerstry and make it a set of Elder Obfuscate powers which only the Ravnos know, by and large (Chimerstry 1-3 is a level 6 Obfuscate power at my table). They're nice additions to the way the powers currently work, and each is scary in its own right.

    All of the Celerity Elder powers are neat, except for Tireless Tread, which can be emulated using Animalism 1 and a single point of Blood. That's in the DA. In modern nights it can be emulated by a car or motorcycle. You're telling me that the Elders of the Anarchs during the Revolt couldn't get a Horse ghouled and just use it? Much less of a Masquerade issue, much cheaper, much simpler.

    Flight... I can't see the appeal of Level 6 and higher in Flight. I'd argue that moving beyond Level 2-3 in Flight is a push. Yes, an ancient Gargoyle with Flight 7 would be terrifying (moving at 180kph), but they'd be scarier with literally any other set of powers. Save yourself a tonne of EXP and invest in... Thaumaturgy? Celerity? Protean? Anything but Flight. If you wanted to fix this, make the upgrades exponential rather than linear.

    Obedience lets you Dominate through skin contact. Eye contact is much more subtle and useful. If you can touch someone's skin, you can usually see their eyes. Overly situational, and feels like a Dominate 1 Auspex 3 combo, or a 3 point Merit.

    Animal Succulence would be awesome, if feeding were an issue for Generation 7 Gangrel/Ravnos/Nosferatu. Situationally good for those seeking Golconda, but beaten by Bardo 3. Shared Soul is a pile of fluff with no real crunch. Species Speech fixes a Problem with Animalism 1 that Animalism 1 doesn't state. Eye of the Szlachta is Dominate 5, but more expensive, and attached to a worse Discipline. On top of that, it's more specific and only works on your Ghouls. Conquer the Beast is mechanically inferior to Having Instinct. It's also a Level 7 power. Level 8 can make someone Frenzy, how cool! Except you can easily do that with many, many powers which don't cost tonnes of EXP to reach, like Way of Sorrow 2 and Melpominee 5 and Dementation 4. For Level 9 powers, Unchain the Beast and Flesh Bond are laughably weak. UtB does Aggravated damage to a pitifully low degree, and would easily be outcompeted by MANY other powers at level 6 and lower. Flesh Bond is... dumb. Very specific, and very dumb. If you're a Generation 4 Tzimisce you do not need to hide inside of an animal. Stop being silly. Blood Form. Disguising yourself. Using Auspex to find a place to hide.

    Mummification... if you have someone incapacitated, you don't need to wrap them in Bandages and Mummify them. You could just put them in a man-made structure which is inescapable. Utter waste. Boon of Anubis is very situational since it relies on you knowing someone might be Embraced beforehand, and only saves them if their method of death was blood-draining. And since their Sire won't have left them, their coming back to life will be short-lived (pun intended).

    Auspex. They're all great. Not necessarily balanced against eachother, and they vary in strength, but they're all worth the investment.
    Last edited by 11twiggins; 04-06-2017, 01:32 PM.

  • #2
    The WoD has always been more about an evocative collection of settings and "cool factor" than solid system design. Not that the system is terrible, mind you, but it gets very clunky in spots.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
      Alabastard is... okay? Ignoring Wound Penalties implies that you've taken damage in the first place, making this a tad situational for someone with Fortitude 6. Another level 6 power lets you invert Wound Penalties, making them positive, so this feels like a bit of an odd choice.
      Thing is just that there are 2 (a little bit weaker) level 2 powers that allow you to ignore wound penalties, Focused Mind 2 and Corpse of the Monster 2.
      Btw. the DAV20 version personal Armor is actually usable.

      Btw. what I don't get about Protean is why Shape of the Beast's Wrath is level 7, having to be 6 Gen to get a decent combat form, is a little lacklustre if other disciplines get one at level 4 or 5.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Aahz View Post
        Thing is just that there are 2 (a little bit weaker) level 2 powers that allow you to ignore wound penalties, Focused Mind 2 and Corpse of the Monster 2.
        Btw. the DAV20 version personal Armor is actually usable.

        Btw. what I don't get about Protean is why Shape of the Beast's Wrath is level 7, having to be 6 Gen to get a decent combat form, is a little lacklustre if other disciplines get one at level 4 or 5.
        Agreed, but while SotBW is underpowered compared to some other powers (even level 4 powers) it isn't atrocious and it does have its upsides. I know it isn't great, but I feel like it wasn't worth a place on the list. I'd make it Level 6 and maybe increase the benefits a smidgen.

        And yes, those powers are infinitely more attainable when compared to later powers.

        I didn't peruse DAV20 for this, and I probably should've done since I tend to treat it as the default unless there's a good reason to ignore changes. I might check it out at some point.

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        • #5
          The answer is because simple useful powers live at levels 1-5. Levels 6+ are generally dedicated to esoteric powers like Auspex mind blasts and plot devices. Because as a general rule, players will never have 6+ powers, and opponents don't track XP.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
            The answer is because simple useful powers live at levels 1-5. Levels 6+ are generally dedicated to esoteric powers like Auspex mind blasts and plot devices. Because as a general rule, players will never have 6+ powers, and opponents don't track XP.
            Well if you go by Systems for producing Elder NPCs, which most STs will on their first attempt (looking for guidance on what "Elder" means on the sheet), how much EXP things cost is a huge deal. Plus PCs can acquire Level 6 powers in some games, especially in the DA where Generation 5 is a standard thing for those who invest Backgrounds.

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            • #7
              The thing about Elder powers is that they are meant to be different expressions of the fundamentals of the Discipline. Every 6th level power should be a personal expression of the personality of the Elder who develops them. Most Elders are going to keep their good tricks secret, so the known 6th level Disciplines are probably going to be flashy or just dead end explorations Elders do not mind sharing.

              A good alternative to Personal Armor (Fortitude 6) would be something like Limited Immunity (Fortitude 6). Limited Immunity would allow an Elder to double their soak against a category of damage (fire, lead, steel, sunlight, wood, etc) for one scene by spending one blood pool. Since it is not flashy and quite useful, it would probably not be public knowledge, though it would probably be independently develop by many elders.

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              • #8
                I think it's the result of a flaw inherent in the five-point system. There really should be, and should always have been, a lot more than five low level powers to each discipline. They eventually did a band-aid on this in the form of devotions, but for a long time sixth-plus level disciplines were used in place of what either should have been a single-discipline devotion, or just outright have been part of one of the five levels. They were reeeally allergic to the first five levels having any versatility for a long time. For example, Auspex four could originally only be used to read thoughts. To project thoughts, you needed a sixth level Auspex power. RIdiculous, but that's the way it worked.

                Since those early, stupid days, they've invented devotions and given low-level powers some much-needed versatility. But the high-level powers have never completely recovered from their days as a patch on the first five powers lack of common sense versatility.

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                • #9
                  Well, Combination Disciplines, Devotions are a nWoD thing, not a cWoD thing. I really do not mind there being only one power per level when they are thematically appropriate. For example, Auspex is a sensory power, so projecting thoughts is not thematically appropriate (and would honestly make more sense for Dominate).

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                  • #10
                    Yeah. If i were to redesign the Discipline system i'd allow for multiple low level powers. You'd still need a lvl 2 power to buy a lvl 3 power but it didn't matter if you bought option 1,2,3 or 4 of lvl 2 Auspex for example.





                    English is not my native language, so i apologize for errors in grammar or spelling.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cadmiumcadamium View Post
                      Yeah. If i were to redesign the Discipline system i'd allow for multiple low level powers. You'd still need a lvl 2 power to buy a lvl 3 power but it didn't matter if you bought option 1,2,3 or 4 of lvl 2 Auspex for example.
                      I like that idea. For example, Invisible Weapon could be an alternative to Obfuscate 3, Soul Mask and Mind Blank could be alternatives to Obfuscate 5... learning a power for a level you already have (so learning another level 5 power for Obfuscate for example) is only 3x the power's level. You could have a merit called Sanguine Flexibility where learning alternative powers for Disciplines you've mastered is 2x the level value.

                      This would FINALLY make Disciplines equal to Blood Magic. Toreador would have Toreador-only Presence powers which are rarely known outside the Clan, as would the Setites and the Ventrue and the Brujah. And those variants would change everything, as it would give versatility and inexpensive powers (remember that Paths of Blood Magic are 4x current level) to non-blood-mages.

                      It would also help people with pacifist concepts or high Humanity concepts avoid powers they can't use or would never use, giving them alternatives which can be a tad niche at times. A Dominate 4 power which is entirely focused on surgically removing the most traumatic and painful details of a subject's memory, under hypnotic suggestion. A Dominate 5 power where you don't have total control, you're piloting and the Mortal (or even Cainite) can take back control easily if they want to.

                      If this system is implemented it MUST NOT be applied to blood magic. There isn't an alternative power for Path of Blood 4, it's linear magic and you don't get surprise powers, you're already getting rituals and flexibility and cheapness.
                      Last edited by 11twiggins; 04-07-2017, 08:23 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
                        If this system is implemented it MUST NOT be applied to blood magic. There isn't an alternative power for Path of Blood 4, it's linear magic and you don't get surprise powers, you're already getting rituals and flexibility and cheapness.
                        Agreed.

                        This makes Blood Magic still a bit more flexible but still makes ordinary Disciplines worthwhile and more powerful in their own way.





                        English is not my native language, so i apologize for errors in grammar or spelling.

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                        • #13
                          For reasons I've listed before "Blood Magic" is a craptastic idea that needs to go in any redesign of VtM.

                          Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                          Everyone already has magic. Celerity's slow-mo is magic. Dominate's mind control is magic. Obtenebrate's shadow manipulation is magic. Daimoinon's shitting fire out of your ass is also magic. Every superpower is magic. The problem with clanned blood magic is that "magic" should not be your magical specialty. I hesitate to say "the problem with Tremere" since Tremere have been relentlessly shat on by V20 at every turn. But back to the topic, no clan should have "magic" as their magic. Because "magic" is too large of a topic. Because mind control is magic (Path of Corruption). Because shadow manipulation is magic (Path of Shadowcrafting). Because shitting fire out of your ass is also magic (Lure of Flames).

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                            For reasons I've listed before "Blood Magic" is a craptastic idea that needs to go in any redesign of VtM.
                            Magic /=/ Supernatural powers. Obviously Celerity is somewhat "magical", but it's a Power Without Paradigm. No one has to believe anything to use Celerity. You can think what you like, you can believe what you like, but it's a power which you don't have any real editorial control over. You can't research a way to make Celerity 1 more stable, it is what it is.

                            Blood Magic has a kind of paradigm associated with it. You can't just click your fingers and expect the world to change, you need to Study and Practise. A Vampire can rise from the Embrace with Celerity 2 and Potence 1, ready to kick arse. The same is not true of Blood Magic, which is learnt through knowledge.

                            Discipline: A power inherent to the blood, created by Vampires. These are, broadly speaking, the same for all who have them. Setite Presence is the same as Toreador Presence, with a few exceptions. Regardless of a person's thoughts on something, these powers are inherent to the Vampiric condition and do not care for the personal beliefs of those who use them.

                            Blood Magic: Quasi-disciplinic powers which are not native to the blood. These are controlled by belief, cultural norms and research. New Paths and Rituals can be created with (relative) ease and can be very niche and extremely limited. This is demonstrated by different types of Blood Magic, types with Desecrated Shrines, types where the blood spent must be spilled onto the floor, types with different rituals and paths and different ingredients... Blood Magic is cultural.

                            Let me say it louder for those of you at the back; Thaumaturgy is not, in reality, a Discipline. It is listed as one in corebooks, In-Clan Disciplines, the Discipline of Thaumaturgy, but if you go to V20 Rites of Blood you'll see that it's linear magic powered by Vitae, nothing more, nothing less. Unique to Vampires and Ghouls? Almost. Some non-Ghoul humans have practised it, but it devours their health levels and quickly kills them. Blood Magic is a distinctly separate entity, like the difference between Qi and Magic in DBZ.

                            The books haven't always obeyed this distinction. Ogham has always wanted to be a Discipline when it's clearly Blood Magic, and it's been changed to suit this in DAV20, getting a Secondary Path in Genius Loci.

                            Just look at the difference. Jane spends a point of blood, grows claws. Harry focuses on the power granted to him by his infernal Master, sacrifices a point of blood and green flames pour out of his mouth. Thaumaturgy can sometimes feel like "Spend Blood, Thing Happens", but this isn't the case as the powers rely on a paradigm of mathematics, hermetic forces, cultural symbolism... this is more obvious in Rituals, but still present in Paths.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                              For reasons I've listed before "Blood Magic" is a craptastic idea that needs to go in any redesign of VtM.
                              1st Edition core Thaumaturgy is a perfectly acceptable Discipline -- but that's because it was originally a 'closed' set of powers like all the other Disciplines at levels 1-5. There were only 4 known Paths (originally called Forms), and no rules for adding more. Even the original Players Guide, which introduced Discipline levels 6-10, is unclear about whether you can pick up any Thaumaturgy Path from the start, or whether new Paths can only be added once you have Thaumaturgy 6+. (A strict reading of the text actually supports the latter interpretation, which would make 1st Edition Thaumaturgy much more in line with other Disciplines than in any later edition of the game.)

                              All of the ambiguity went out of the window with the redesign of Thaumaturgy for 2nd Edition, of course, which is the version everyone is familiar with, and where, as far as I can see, the real problems with the Discipline started.

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