Bolt vs Chain Attack, Thematic Metagaming Magic in WFRP 4e

After considering picking up another spell for a Wizard character I started comparing Bolt and Chain Attack in WFRP 4e.

Bolt is the default go-to spell for inflicting single target damage to an opponent. It is simple, relatively low CN (being CN 4), and as an Arcane spell gains all the great aspects of the Wizard’s chosen lore/wind.

Chain Attack is complicated. On first read I did not follow its strengths at all, and after pondering for a little while I’ve decided that Chain Attack is a thematic choice, and represents a less optimal choice from a purely mechanical perspective.

I didn’t understand why anyone would learn Chain Attack – especially when each extra spell is going to cost the character XP, and it has a huge element of risk in it (meaning I’ve read forums discussing that the additional targets are random – big assumption, wording isn’t clear). Given that Bolt can also use overcasting to strike additional foes, and that the caster can pick who they strike instead of it being random; it seems a terrible spell choice.

Then take off the spell mechanics hat, and consider the setting. It is amazingly thematic for Lore of Heavens though. Meaning specifically, I can’t think of a better spell to express how dangerous a lightning charge should be, and in hindsight (and support from a group of players) perhaps I should have taken up Chain Attack to really lean into how dangerous magic is supposed to be. Not so dangerous for the Wizard though; but terribly risky for their allies in close range to the nasty monsters.

I could see Chain Attack being renamed Caress of Shadow, or Cascade of Flames, or somesuch for each Lore and feel while it is a poor general choice it would be situationally bloody great.

Chain Attack = Same damage as Bolt, higher CN to cast (4 vs 6), a low probability to strike an additional target, and no control of who the additional targets are.

If you are designing a nasty NPC Wizard then the choice is clear … Chain Attack every time!

Review: Sullasara’s Spells of Unrivalled Utility, by C7

Overall product review: It’s OK. Three spells per Lore isn’t a huge contribution, and while it cost less than a cup of coffee, I’d have preferred if it had a bit more material in it. Read the product launch details. That said, I’m glad I bought it.

For:

  • It has more spells for us to use in games.
  • Many of the spells have long durations. This was a noticeable issue/design flaw for a few spells in the core rulebook, which would be useful if they lasted longer, but are often not worth ever casting (and therefore not worth spending xp on).
  • A few of the new Beasts, Metal, and Life spells really might be useful, adding some utility to these Lores.

Against:

  • I think (?) some of the spells are from prior editions, which any GM/player could have hiked out of a book anyway.
  • Three spells per school is a bit limited.
  • No arcane spells.
  • the spells are cards feature isn’t something I think many players will use, but its there.

I say that as a fan; the disappointment comes from also being a fan of mages and Wizards in general and having contributes hundreds of spells to the Ars Magica community. Could have had more in it.

Blogcomplot: Ars Magica Story Seeds

This is a special blog post sourced from the Ars Magica community to create short story seed to publish on each page/blog/journal.

“A group of Ars Magica lovers have conspired to present, in the different channels we use, a creative exercise using this game as a base.The proposal behind today’s simultaneous entries is to take six common narrative elements (False revelation Undeserved reward, Fair trial, Surprising wound, Magus running, The coup de grace) and, with them, each author generates a story seed for Ars Magica. Readers will enjoy comparing how each of these elements plays a different, equal, central or residual role in the different seeds. We hope you enjoy these readings and their analysis as much as we have enjoyed writing them. “

The combined efforts of many blog writers is:

My version of the story seed is…

False Revelation

Rumors reach the covenant via banter and drunken ramblings of a small run down village with a functional but ordinary chapel where a bedraggled leper has been temporarily cured, but only whilst on the holy ground of the chapel.

A leper named Frix graciously thanked God for his cure, but also bemoaned the plight of his starving family from many miles away, and the broader plight of other lepers. The local townsfolk and Vincent the elderly priest believe the leper to be truly grateful and make for the leper a small lean to, and allow donations. Thus Frix becomes a curiosity and a beggar, begging for alms for his family, whilst serving god’s unknown purpose at the chapel.

In truth Frix is named Fredrich, a clever but lazy opportunist and con man. While he does have some grievous old wounds and scars from prior misadventures and an abandoned family far away; he is not a leper, and the alms and donations are his for the taking.

Undeserved Reward

As Frix sets up his new life he gains the confidence of Vincent’s young adolescent priest in training named Albert who is himself questioning his purpose due to a plutonic relationship with a young unmarried girl named Herine. The Albert and Herine cannot court officially but are doing so anyway. The family of Herine do not yet see the relationship as dangerous, partly due to their own arrangements to soon marry Herine away to a boy from a craftsman family in a far away town.

Frix’s intent is to use the friendship with the young priest to reenforce the story of his cure, and to garner favour with all involved. By taking up Albert’s confidence and presuming their friendship, Frix gains angles to manipulate the families of all involved. Some weeks later if Frix has not been exposed fortune will smile on his as Herine steals her dowry and gives it to Albert, who in turn hides the money. Unfortunately for the couple Frix eavesdrops to learn of the stolen dowry and intends to either return the money to Herine’s family, and/or claim a reward or steal the dowry fully if he can.

Fair Trial

Of course the story comes out before the couple can leave, and while Albert has true feelings for Herine, he is worried because he has very little prospects to support their life together. A trial of sorts is performed for both Albert by his superiors, conducted in a manner befitting a priest – Albert professes his love marking the outcome as obvious.

In punishment Albert is sent away. Herine is punished by having her head shaved and her potential marriage withdrawn. The disgrace to her family open for all to see.

Surprising Wound

Shortly afterward all is not well for Frix, as he discovers his fake ailment has become a manifest malady. Frix finds himself healthy and fit when walking around the chapel, and then with severe joint pain, sore teeth and gums, and bruises to any bump of scratch when he leaves the grounds of the chapel. He begins in earnest to try to pray and atone for his lies, still looking for opportunities to exploit others but also understand more of what has ailed him. Frix begs any who will hear to seek help for the curse which has afflicted him.

This is made worse when Frix is accosted by old thieving friends, who figure they can rob the leper and suffer very little consequences. Unbeknownst to the thieves the malady is infectious, and will now spread among the thieves. The folklore spreading of leprosy has become real.

Magus Running

Another scholar decides named Camus visits the chapel and meet with Vincent and Frix; his own interest in supernatural stories is less to cure Frix, but instead to document the events and add this to a compiled book of lore. Vincent believes that the evils of the world are drawn to the corrupt and the weak of spirit, and he loathes any talk of magik!

The scholar finds what he has dreamed of; a true supernatural malady which appears to be a divine punishment of some sort. If any Magi are involved here their behaviour and “Gift” may well turn the blame onto the covenant. As people outside the laws of the Church they are suspect.

Perhaps after meeting a magus Frix dresses as a magi, and seeks to implicate them in another part of the wrong-doing? Thereby creating an additional layer complexity for the players to try to unravel.

The coup de grace

After all his dealings and twisted lies Frix (should) finally comes to a sticky end. That may be at the hands of his own infections and wounds from the supernatural curse, or perhaps at the hands of Herine who seeks to recover her families lost dowry and avenge herself on Frix for his part in the exposure of her flirtations.

A scene could play out as Frix describes to the players, or the scholar his life and times as a con-man. Potentially confessing his life of lies, to atone somewhat.

A fitting end may be Frix dying and Herine joining the covenant as a servant, as her prospects in “normal” society are ruined.

Involving the characters

Here are several ideas for engaging the characters – I’ve tried to keep the backstory very short, so that just the ideas might spark a link. Overall the story is there, but is admittedly very rough.

  • Perhaps the couple run away, and the trial is avoided? Do they run to the covenant?
  • If Frix is exposed early, or dealt with the supernatural source could strike from another source. Whilst the “normal” infection ends, a fae spirit-of-infection takes up the story, to better generate impacts and interest.
  • Additionally perhaps the role of Frix could be performed by two or three con-men working in unison as a team of beggars. This way when one actor is removed there is more to draw from.
  • The source of the curse may well be Divine but also could be Fae or Infernal in origin – if your saga has hooks into those elements already.

3d Printing is a hobby which blesses me with learning

I’ve been creating some terrain for a Warhammer tabletop game (WFB), and the bloody printer just keeps mucking up. The same printer which created a nice bridge a while ago. Painting wasn’t my doing though.

But don’t forget that 3d printing is a chaotic undertaking, as example…

Printing spaghetti, stick to the print head. This is what a mantlet looks like when the bits do not print correctly. Grr.

That said, when it works it is a wonderful thing. This lighthouse is a free model from the ThingiVerse site, and prints in small segments so tiny printers like mine can still create it. I’m really pleased that finally the machine can output reasonable terrain, and also aware that this tech is early days; I look forward to how fast and detailed printers might be in another five years. Shine on.

It’s about 70 hours of printing, plus all the prep, false starts, and clean-up. Lovely model worthy of a solid D&D or Warhammer campaign.
Painting and terrain not by me, but it’s a great looking tower.

Limit to Success – a WFRP 4e house rule

I like WFRP’s Base stat + Skill points system, except when a character can get an astoundingly solid success with only investing a few points in a Trained skill. Untrained skills are different; they are things each character can do, so don’t need a limit. Perhaps this is too much of a simulationist view; I’m not sure.

E.g. A character needs to make a knowledge check for against a Lore skill, but has only invested 1 level of advancement (say 10xp). With a high Int (say 45-50 or so) they can succeed almost 50% of the time, and potentially also roll well 3-4+ degrees of success. I feel that’s odd.

The level of investment that character has should be a logical limit on how well they can do for such a small amount of XP spent…

Rule: Degrees of success for Trained Skills are limited to the level of skill purchased.

So a character with 1 rank in Lore can only just succeed, and a scholar will be able to get a good level of success, as they are likely to invest xp more often.

Is this insanity?

First war in three decades – Photos of WFB9 game battle

Had a huge blast playing with Warhammer Fantasy Battle over the weekend. It’s been over 30 years since I played a tabletop war game and I’m now realising what I thought was Warhammer might have been something different. It was awesome.

We didn’t get to play more than two turns due to running out of time, but those turns showed just how much fun the game can be.

It’s fair to say my opponent had far more of an idea on how to deploy properly and a strategy, whereas I was enjoying taking photos and being at the table. My opponent (probably) lost more points in troops due to explosive backfires of artillery than my efforts.

Happy gaming folks.

Spells for Bjornaer magi, like Leaps, Teleports, Transmutes, and simple Clothes spells

These spells were designed for (yet another) unplayed Bjornaer magus for Ars Magica – as frustrating as it is to look back and not see the guy i play, I didn’t want to cast aside the work that went into them.

These and many other new Ars Magica spells can be found in the Grimoire section of this blog.

Firstly, some effects to conjure animals using the Muto art instead of Creo; essentially shaping the animal from material in the world around the magus.

Shape from Earth a Ravenous Wolf

Muto Terram / Animal 20, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Part

A wolf rises from the place touched by the caster. This beast is immune from the effects of the Gift, but is otherwise normal; and without additional magic the caster has no special control or relationship to the beast.

(Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +1 Part)

Shape from Earth a Lumbering Bear

Muto Terram / Animal 25, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Part

A bear rises from the place touched by the caster. This beast is immune from the effects of the Gift, but is otherwise normal; and without additional magic the caster has no special control or relationship to the beast.

(Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +1 Part, +1 size)

Assuming a crocodile is size +0, if they are size -1 then this spell should conjure 100?, and good as it means the crocodiles will be hostile in water too.

Shape from Earth a Float of Crocodiles

Muto Terram / Animal 25, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Group

A group of ten large crocodiles slip from the place touched by the caster. The beasts are immune from the effects of the Gift, but are otherwise normal; and without additional magic the caster has no special control or relationship to the beasts.

(Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +2 Group)

… Another spell invoking poisonous serpents.

Shape from Earth a Knot of Vipers

Muto Terram / Animal 25, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Group

A group of ?? poisonous vipers slither from the place touched by the caster. The beasts are immune from the effects of the Gift, but are otherwise normal; and without additional magic the caster has no special control or relationship to the beasts.

(Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +2 Group)

Then I wanted a spell to make a mundane animal easy to transport/steal.

Bringing the Mouse to Market

Muto Animal 25, R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Individual

The animal touched is transformed into a mouse.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +3 Moon)

Then a way for the bjornaer character to transform clothes and possessions, use with the D:Sun extender.

Encumbering Adornments Transformed

Muto Terram / Animal 15, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The caster’s personal items and clothes are transformed into a leather strap upon their ankle. Additional requisites may be required when cast.

(Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +1 Concentration, +1 complex items)

Encumbering Miscellanea to Stone

Muto Terram 30, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Group

The items gathered are transformed into a single small rock.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +2 Group, +1 stone)

Then spells which use the sensory magic rules – Mentem effect to change mental state to fear. A variation on Panic of the Trembling Heart (CrMe15, Ars p.148) which is designed for use with sensory magic.

Growl of the Monstrous Bear

Creo Mentem 15, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Sound, Sensory Magic

Creates an overpowering fear in all who hear the caster.

(Base 4, +3 Sound)

This item plan allows an item to detect a change of shape and trigger helpful illusions.

Perceive the Change (InAn14, HoH:MC p.24) to determine if the item is touching an animal. (Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Sun; +1 two uses/day, +3 environmental trigger
sunrise/sunset)

Illusory Robes (MuIm18) creates the image of a set of robes upon the target, so their vanity is maintained. (Base 1 to change visual appearance, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +1 moving image, +1 image can move about)(+5 levels for maintaining concentration, +5 level for 24 uses a day, +3 Linked Trigger).

This is a slightly different device sign as the wearer is expected to be moving to and from their animal shape many times per day this effect is triggered by the “Perceive the Change” invested power, and may also be cancelled or activated independently.

A wizard may also be found in the wilderness and without clothes, so this allows then to gather materials and clothe themselves.

Robes for the Demure Adventurer

Muto Herbam 10, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The targeted Herbam based plant or processed item touched is transformed into a plain cotton robe. The caster may make minor style choices for the robes thickness and cut when the spell is cast. A finesse roll is required to determine the quality and fit of the robes.

(Base 3 to turn a Herbam item into another item, +1 for a finished item, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration)

Reworked as a device …

Robes for the Demure Bjornaer – MuHe 15 (Effect Base 3, +1 finished, +1 Concentration)(+5 levels for maintaining concentration, +5 level for 24 uses a day).

Doublet of Impenetrable Cotton

Muto Herbam 15, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target’s Herbam based clothes are significantly strengthened, granting a +3 bonus to soak. Consolidations in form and usage are identical to Doublet of Impenetrable Silk (MuAn15).

(Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

Transforming Mythic Europe (TME p.107) has guidelines for teleportation and instant transportation.

Bjornaer’Step

Rego Animal 15, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The caster in an animal shape instantly transports them self up to 5 paces in any direction, provided he can see his destination or has an Arcane Connection to it. The caster must succeed a Intelligence+Finesse check of 6+ or their appearance goes awry. A Talisman moves with the caster automatically however casting requisites are required to bring along any other clothing or personal equipment. Animal forms of up to size +4 may use this spell.

(Base 10, +1 size)

Gift of the Lion’s Pounce

Rego Animal 15, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

Allows the caster in an animal shape to pounce up to 15 feet vertically or 25 feet horizontally (2 feet less for each Encumbrance point). The caster must succeed a Dex – Encumbrance check vs 0 to land without incident, and a miss indicates a Light Wound, and a botch indicates a Medium Wound. The caster can only pounce once for each casting of the spell, and that pounce must be made within ten seconds. Animal forms of up to size +4 may use this spell.

(Base 10, +1 size)

Bjornaer’Leap

Rego Animal 20, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The caster in an animal shape instantly transports them self up to 50 paces in any direction, provided he can see his destination or has an Arcane Connection to it. The caster must succeed a Intelligence+Finesse check of 6+ or their appearance goes awry. A Talisman moves with the caster automatically however casting requisites are required to bring along any other clothing or personal equipment. Animal forms of up to size +4 may use this spell.

(Base 15, +1 size)

The Fur That Turns Aside Daggers

Muto Animal 15, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Individual

The fur and hide of the caster’s form is thickened to grant a +3 Soak bonus.

(Base 5 for a slightly unnatural effect on a living animal, +1 Diameter, +1 size)

As a variant on a spell called The Fur That Turns Blades (MuAn20, see Lexora of House Bjornaer in Through the Aegis, p.43). I wrote Gift of the Bear’s Fortitude to Beasts a while ago using the Muto Corpus level 15 baseline as an equivalent, but there is precedent for this level of effect due to the base 4 used in the Doublet of Impenetrable Silk (Ars p.118) which grants +3 soak to clothing (dead animals) and the base 5 guideline in animal allows for living beasts. This is a dramatic difference in level, so troupes can choose which is right for them.

Also now that I’ve seen the comparison I find it hard to accept that the base 15 is correct for animals, given that level 15 can change an animal into an inanimate object. I’ve updated the spell Gift of the Bear’s Fortitude to Beasts to include a Terram requisite and grant a +9 bonus instead as it now has the supernatural strength from Terram.

Tailor the Tattered Handmedown

Muto Animal 15, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The targeted Animal based item is resized to fit the caster and any minor damage is repaired.

(Base 3 to turn an animal based item into another item, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 also make minor repairs)

600 posts of rpg banter

Yesterday’s post about steam spells for Ars Magica marks my 600th blog post on this blog – a milestone I was charging toward a few years ago, but have slowed the pace. The rpg space is so interesting these days, and I’m still loving the one-way-rants into the ether.

Happy gaming,

A few new Steam spells

Long ago I was discussing ice in Ars Magica as a complex material which (may) require a broad amount of magical arts to manipulate. Steam is similar. So I decided to craft a few steam based spells to see how they might look. I know steam is not a great choice for a Magus but a steam effect will be rare and far less wizards have wards against steam than steel. Transforming water or ice to steam is done with ReAq, creating steam with CrAu, and Muto for a variety of spell effects.

Transformation Between Steel to Steam

Muto Terram / Aquam 30, R: Voice, D: Concentration, T: Part

Part of the targeted metal object or jet of steam is transformed to the other element.

(Base 3, +2 Voice, +1 Concentration, +1 Part, +2 metal, +1 two way transformation)

Transformation Between Soil to Steam

Muto Terram / Aquam 20, R: Voice, D: Concentration, T: Part

Part of the targeted earth and soil or jet of steam is transformed to the other element. A volume of nnn earth may be targeted.

(Base 3, +2 Voice, +1 Concentration, +1 Part, +1 two way transformation)

These and other new Ars Magica spells are found in the Grimoire.

Aegis – a Spanish Ars Magica Magazine

A pleasure to share the news (somewhat old now, but new to me) on an Ars Magica magazine called Aegis. It is stunning. Great artwork, a variety of material, and lovingly crafted. Huge congratulations and respect to all the authors and creators.

view of a magical tower from a hill, the beautiful cover of Aegis magazine

It may be that some of my Ars Magica material gets translated and added, which is awesome; otherwise please take a bit of time to have a look. An English version would be great too, although translating over 100 pages of material is a huge undertaking.