in the Shadow of Greatness


June 19, 2002

Warfare and Sorcery: Points Matter

Here's a tough question from Epoch:

At ACNW 2001, I had a conversation in which someone relayed the following anecdote: Two PC's were arguing. They were approximately two meters apart. One PC had first ranked Warfare. The other had low-ranked Warfare (I want to say "sixth," but I could be misremembering), and Sorcery. The PC's arrived upon a simultaneous desire to murder one another. The Warfare guy wanted to draw his sword and kill the Sorceror. The Sorceror wanted to fry the Warfare guy with a spell, which was hung but not specifically tailored to be no-lynchpins or whatever. The Sorcery guy's action went off first and he won the fight. Now, we were all bitching about that, and then someone said, "Well, I think it depends on how much Sorcery the person had. I mean, if he had as much Sorcery as the Warfare guy had Warfare, then he should've won." That's where a lot of people's analysis ends, and I think that your article suggests a similar analysis. Let me scream, "No!"

No indeed. There are so many things to consider here, both ingenuity and mechanics. But let's make the example as tough as possible in order to see how the system handles it.

Adam is the best in Warfare; he has a 50, his Endurance and Strength are 15, his Psyche is 10 and he has some ability with Pattern 25. A con character of 115 pts.
Sparky is the Sorceror. He has Sorcery 15, Psyche 35, Strength and Endurance of 0, a Warfare of 5 (he wants to hit things with his spells), and good Pattern at 50. He has ten points in Items, including a rack for his spells. Another con character of 115 pts.

These two decide to kill each other, plain and simple. Let's say, very artificially, that they both reach this conclusion at exactly the same moment, and scream it out to the GM.

As a GM, I'd ask a lot of questions of these two players before the shit actually hit the fan (a frozen moment of game info), but we can't do that in our example, so I'll just muddle through and answer questions from the audience later. OK?

In the above example: Who dies? Easy answer: the Sorceror is toast. Why? Psyche opportunity comes before Warfare opportunity. So Sparky unlimbers his spell from his Psyche rack, pronouncing two words to kickoff the lynchpins (source::Adam). The words are Strength actions, having to do with the body, but the GM does not penalize Sparky with a slower second action, just notes Sparky's speed of Strength. Strength opportunity is still faster than Warfare opportunity so the words start before Adam draws steel. And Adam cuts the bugger's throat, silencing the second word. The spell never fires. Sparky had first choice and even started his action first, but didn't have the raw speed to beat Adam.

But there are situations where Sparky might have beaten Adam. I'll leave those to your imagination.

Rule of thumb: never challenge a Warfare guy in close quarters.

In detail:

A Warfare 50 is in conflict with a Psyche 35 + Strength 0 + some deadly spell of Sorcery 15. (Let us not consider right now whether there is such a thing as an "instant-death-to-immortal spell" for 15 points, it would be a hard sell in my campaign, just as a pistol shot rarely kills with a single wound.) Nothing suggests that the Sorcery 15 is adding capability to the Psyche 35, for the Sorceror wants a killing physical strike, not some intangible mental benefit. Initiative actions are simultaneous, with speed applied to every Attribute used in the conflict. Even given the Psyche opportunity starts first, the physical speed of Sparky is no where near the Warfare character. Even if Sparky had a Strength of 20, the GM does not add his Psyche 35 to that because he's used Psyche in the same moment to activate the spell. This is a Psyche action at speed 35 channeled by Strength. There is no contest really. Change it around, say that Sparky is across the room, or that Sparky is behind a chair, or that Sparky is wearing an item that "protects him from harm", and it still comes out the same. Note that "protection from harm" does not stop Adam fouling Sparky's mouthed words with a blade thrust. If Adam's player knows what he's doing, Sparky is toast. Sparky doesn't have a high enough Attribute to go toe-to-toe with Adam. He needs to find a way to get Adam by surprise, or when Adam has already commited to a move and Sparky has held his action for last. When I read the rules, the above order and effect is what I imagine.
ps. Yes, I've been in con games where the GM announced 75% of the way through the game that "now that combat had started, each player will take turns in order of Warfare." This means that Strength guys never get an action, that Psyche guys might as well run away from a fight. I don't do it that way. In my version, higher Attributes face off against each other. With faster ones having first chance, but not last word. If Sparky had Psyche 55, then he would have zapped Adam. But then again, in my campaign, burnt and crisped Adam still would have gotten a reply to that attack because few spells can kill someone of Endurance 15 instantly. Endurance 15 is a good counter to Sorcery 15 (without entertaining a lot of environ and tactical questions).

Filed under : Amber at 19.06.2002