in the Shadow of Greatness

 

July 3, 2007

sorcery and conjuring as plot benders

Originally Posted by F
I always found the lynchpin system of Sorcery to be interesting, yet quite limiting. The net effect seems to be that Sorcery becomes virtually worthless unless exacting conditions can be met, and a clever opponent can manage to maneuver around those conditions if he/she is aware of them in advance.

I know that this effect is intentional because the intent of the ADRPG is to simulate somewhat Zelazny's books, and Sorcery is clearly inferior in the source material.

Still, where other powers appear to be useful in many circumstances, Sorcery appears to be useful in very few.


Intentional and desirable.

The canon obviously intends for this to be true. Or to put it another way, name a place in the canon where sorcery changes a scene or plot direction. There is drama and flash to sorcery (style points, if you will), but seldom a spot where blade and fist don't carry the day.

P said:
In fact, the duel between Merlin and Dara and Mandor is entirely sorcerous in nature. They throw lots of magic back and forth.

O added:
Aren't there also some sorcerous duels over the Keep of the Four Winds?


The end-battle between Merlin, Dara and Mandor is a bad example (or a great one depending on what you think of the plot.)

While the narrative doesn't give us much insight into how Mandor and Dara have prepared for that fight, the battle of two experienced, aggressive Chaos intriguers against Merlin is not really in doubt from the build-up. It's purpose in the plot is to chop the 'apron strings' that have been a subplot throughout Merlin's story.

Two advanced spellcasters against one savant with a spikard? I think Zelazny gives us plenty of foreshadow on how this fight is going to go. Sorcerers quickly run out of prepared material: Merlin makes this comment. Once the skillful preparations are exhausted, it is raw power being splashed around, and spikards will win this kind of fight against a gaggle of opponents.

The sorcerous duel at the Keep of Four Worlds is a better example. What shifts that battle to resolution? Julia taking a dagger to the side and Jurt deciding to teleport out with her.

Magic against an unprepared opponent works fine. Violent magic against a prepared opponent is largely flash without plot impact.

The very best scene where the plot takes a new direction based on use of magic is Mandor interrogating the ty'iga about stalking Merlin. That is much of what magic does in my games: information. Magic reveals layers and this is quite significant.

Magic is the third eye leading to things intangible and hidden.


What I've been doing is using magic as a tool for information. The best use of magic might be getting hidden info before a fight or discovering other magic so you can defend yourself.

I ask sorcerors to have spell lists, so I can anticipate functions/impacts desired. I treat most 'combat' spells as wounding attacks with special effects.

I base all magic damage on the same premise as tech damage or blade damage: that is each is designed to do enough hurt to lame/kill a mortal. This means magic has much less impact on a healthy amberite (roughly 25% the harmful force, YMMV.)

With these assumptions, I've never had trouble getting sorcerers to understand the genre expectations.


Asked by O:

A gun or a blade is designed to maim or kill a mortal, but a stick of dynamite or a tank gun isn't. What if a spell is designed to flatten a castle?

Which is the same question, I suppose, as "what if a megaton fusion bomb is used on a command post?"

In my genre game experience, if sorcerers create these megaspells they rarely have any place to use them. That would change if you had a king/army you wanted removed in an impressive fashion.

And Eric did use nukes on Corwin/Bleys' army. Canon support and all that.

So my judgment tries to define the 'backstory' to the spell/tech/weapon. Tech has its own style and manners. You can order a fanatic to use a fusion bomb on strangers. You can steal a fusion bomb. You can know enough tech to set one off, even if you didn't design it.

There is little point in telling a PC that s/he can't do this (or that it isn't canon). So as GM, I want the story behind the device. How did you corrupt the officials to get the bomb? How long did you search shadow?

This answer informs the answer about the spell for flattening castles. The difference (favorable, IMHO) is that sorcerers can steal spells, but still have to do the prep and carry around the racked energy. (Setting aside that you could just get a sorcerer to do this for you.)

So again, I don't say "no"... I ask about style and process. In this, I use a rule of thumb tweaked from the ADRPG ranks: ranking up is about 1.5x to 2x as good.

Castle flattening is killing something like 100 to 1000 people in one brute attack. That would be six to nine rank steps. Starting from the basic magic premise that 'wounding' magic levels are the starting point, the PC needs to show six to nine times the effort to create and maintain the 'flatten castle' spell.

If a basic spell takes two hours to rig: 'flatten castle' takes 18 hours. Time is a resource that is strictly monitored by the GM. Fast-time shadows work oddly and spells constructed in fast-time are less predictable.

The spell still needs a lynch pin, local magic key and line of sight delivery. Basic rules of discovery, defense and dispell still apply. Discovery/attunement of magic spells to a strange shadow takes a couple hours.

Now if your question was more: "Can I kill a couple of amberites in yonder castle by spell from a nearby hill with my megaspell?"

The GM answer is maybe but that's sloppy and don't count them dead until you see the bodies.


Filed under : Amber at 03.07.2007
comments
Randal Trimmer says...

Color and info. I think my all-time favorite spell was Quinn's "find, map and contact descendants of Oberon within range" spell in Doyce's game. Done while high on magic endorphins, the little Unicorn contact sigil started dancing, it contacted everyone at once... Good times.

Posted July 3, 2007 8:33 PM
Paul says...
If a basic spell takes two hours to rig: 'flatten castle' takes 18 hours. Time is a resource that is strictly monitored by the GM. Fast-time shadows work oddly and spells constructed in fast-time are less predictable.

The spell still needs a lynch pin, local magic key and line of sight delivery. Basic rules of discovery, defense and dispell still apply. Discovery/attunement of magic spells to a strange shadow takes a couple hours.


It's also possible that large spells that are intended for a Real place need to be constructed in that Real place in order to be successfully cast. Magic of Shadow is one thing, but dealing with Pattern and Logrus Energies might require the construction of the spell actually occur in that real place or else it would fall apart when brought across. Posted July 8, 2007 8:14 PM