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TOPIC: Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antagonists

Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antag­o­nists 3 years 1 week ago #3212

  • JacobJ
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I was GMing for my three play­ers: A mil­i­tary man, a spy­mas­ter and a wiz­ard. They were assault­ing a gang boss’ HQ and reach his per­sonal cham­ber. He knows they’re com­ing from the noise, so he and three gang mem­bers are wait­ing behind a bar counter with cross­bows trained on the door. The heroes open the door and cross­bow bolts fly. Two gang mem­bers man­age to have quick­ler reflexes than the heroes and fire first. One misses, another hits, but does no dam­age. The spy­mas­ter and wiz­ard, nei­ther hav­ing any mis­sile weapon pro­fi­cien­cies, fire their own cross­bows and drops two of the gang mem­bers. The gang leader and remain­ing gang mem­ber charge the mil­i­tary man, who charges them right back. Now comes the big finale, where the two accom­plished swords­men would bat­tle it out. But before the com­bat­ants reach each other, the wiz­ard uses Hand of Doom on the gang leader. He is already rather tainted so he does not put much effort into it, and the gang leader man­ages to resist hav­ing an organ pulled out, and “feels merely intense pain”. So his com­bat pool is now reduced by about a third and the would-​be cli­mac­tic bat­tle is reduced to the mil­i­tary man cut­ting him down is a sin­gle exchange, with lit­tle effort, and also tak­ing out the remain­ing mook in the same com­bat round.

So I guess the best strat­egy going for­ward would be for the Wiz­ard to never really chance his cast­ings, thus avoid­ing taint and keep­ing a large SP for Hand of Doom, and sim­ply using this arcane secret, putting maybe a sin­gle die into the roll, intend­ing to fail, to dis­able any antag­o­nist with the pain effect. Does this strike any­one else as game-​breaking?

The play­ers were not intent­ing to break the game, and were only using their abil­i­ties as best they could, but I worry that real­iz­ing how pow­er­ful this trick is, will be doing it all the time going for­ward. And indeed why wouldn’t they?
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Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antag­o­nists 3 years 1 week ago #3214

  • Anarak
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Well, it is sup­posed to be the most fear­some sor­cery in the book and then sor­cer­ers are known to be very pow­er­ful. The sys­tem and genre cer­tainly doesn’t go out of its way to make sor­cer­ers and mun­danes bal­anced. Plus your antag­o­nists should be bet­ter pre­pared.

Either way, what’s the goety and necro­mancy of the wiz­ard? Since you take the worst of either prof­i­cency and you sub­tract foe’s TY from pain, it might not be THAT bad. On the other hand, if you have a sor­cery pool of 1214 (power 67 + goety/​necro 67, which is high) you’re dish­ing a lot of pain. Unless you only count the pool made for the spell and not the con­tain­ment (since it says noth­ing about suc­cessess). If you don’t count the dice spent to con­tain then it gets more bear­able.

Even if it’s not the case i’m not both­ered if its that pow­er­ful. I mean, most of the time it’s sup­posed to be the other way around, PC’s bat­tling the evil wiz­ard who is stun lock­ing one player while the other is fight­ing the gar­goile mooks and another is fig­ur­ing out the tem­ple puz­zle to drain the wiz­ard power — or what­not.
Since your player is that wiz­ard, it should be attract­ing all sorts of trou­ble and atten­tion. Plus, its your wiz­ard trick, if the thing is not caus­ing at least huge pain then he is in seri­ous trou­ble, spe­cially since he can only focus on one foe and he’d be defense­less should said foe still have a bit of mp left to repel the mage. I mean, ide­ally a sor­cerer should have the upper hand against sin­gle foes, requir­ing them to be smarter or out­right flee­ing, at least in open ground.

If i’d have to home­brew it, i’d say pain caused is equal to total dice used to form spell plus any suc­cess rolled OR full sor­cery pool minus QoS of defender TY check OR it works like pain from mend­ing, rolled suc­cesses x3 or x4 pain, minus TY QoS for more ran­dom­ness.

Shesh, that’s actu­ally a good post mate. Part of me wants the spell to be even more pow­er­ful, part of me wants the defender to have it eas­ier if rolling good.
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Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antag­o­nists 3 years 1 week ago #3216

  • JacobJ
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Nor do sor­cer­ers and fight­ers need to be bal­anced. They’re apples and oranges to me. My antag­o­nist couldn’t have been bet­ter pre­pared in this sit­u­a­tion. The party moved quickly through the build­ing, remain­ing silent for as long as pos­si­ble. The antag­o­nist could not for exam­ple have had time to put on armour. If I were to make my antag­o­nists always ready for any­thing, I would be remov­ing mean­ing­ful choices from the play­ers, and the game would be reduced to a series of D&D-style encoun­ters. I don’t want that. Also, I have no prob­lem mak­ing the fight dif­fi­culty very depen­dant on player fore­thought. I digress.

As I recall the SP with taint sub­tracted was around 6, caus­ing that amount of pain, reduc­ing the antagonist’s MP from 13 to 7, mak­ing him just a mook.

My prob­lem is not directly with a lack of bal­ance between sor­cerer and figther, but with a lack of bal­ance between the sor­ceres effec­tive­ness and penalty (taint). When the sor­cerer can dis­ble any­one with cer­taintly of never suf­fer­ing taint, he becomes reduced to a bor­ing one-​trick pony. As the play­ers and I real­ized this simul­ta­ne­ously, one player exclaimed “wow, that’s bro­ken”. And it is. ‘Bro­ken’ not being a ques­tion of the sor­cerer being too pow­er­ful, but of his pow­er­ful actions hav­ing no neg­a­tive con­se­quences, bypass­ing the cen­tral taint mechanoc com­pletely.

I like the idea to make the pain depend om QoS. This would be a sim­ple way to fix the prob­lem, and very game consistent.
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Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antag­o­nists 3 years 1 week ago #3217

  • Anarak
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JacobJ
Nor do sor­cer­ers and fight­ers need to be bal­anced. They’re apples and oranges to me. My antag­o­nist couldn’t have been bet­ter pre­pared in this sit­u­a­tion. The party moved quickly through the build­ing, remain­ing silent for as long as pos­si­ble. The antag­o­nist could not for exam­ple have had time to put on armour. If I were to make my antag­o­nists always ready for any­thing, I would be remov­ing mean­ing­ful choices from the play­ers, and the game would be reduced to a series of D&D-style encoun­ters. I digress.

Agree with you 100%, did not mean that it should play like a pre-​set encounter. I meant that maybe you aren’t play­ing your antag­o­nists viciously enough. I mean, the boss is a boss because he’s good at some­thing, and a boss has min­ions, some­times more pow­er­ful (at least combat-​wise) than him­self.
The PCs, dis­tin­guished as they are, should bring enough atten­tion that the boss should at least know who is up against him, and pre­pare accord­ingly (set up sen­tries, focus on the wiz­ard, set traps, pay the locals, etcetera). If he’s not then he’s not antag­o­niz­ing the PCs and he’s not really an antag­o­nist, just an obsta­cle.

I’m not try­ing to say you’re play­ing wrong, I totally under­stand not want­ing to rail­road encoun­ters and agree with it, but at the same time we (play­ers and most impor­tantly the nar­ra­tors) are build­ing a story, and as your­self put it it, seems like your cli­max went a lit­tle lack­lus­ter, so its not rail­road­ing to up the game of the oppo­si­tion, mak­ing them smarter and vicious.

Sure there might have times where things goes this smoothly and you cer­tainly don’t want to take these things from your play­ers — because they invested hard in those diplo­macy and stealth skills and what­not — but if every cli­max is a walk in the park some­thing is wrong (not say­ing you’re doing this). For every 23 guards that misses the pcs there should be a scream­ing naked woman com­ing out of her bath and alert­ing their pres­ence, for every abyss jumped a roof should col­lapse. It’s a dance :woohoo:
(again, not say­ing you played it wrong, just that its pos­si­ble, through what you wrote, that you might have not played your antag­o­nists enough, or tried to be too soft on your PCs)
As I recall the SP with taint sub­tracted was around 6, caus­ing that amount of pain, reduc­ing the antagonist’s MP from 13 to 7, mak­ing him just a mook.

Only 6? That’s count­ing his power + prof­i­cency ? Seems rather low. Either way, Tenac­ity sub­tracts from all pain sources, so your 6 dice=pain would be sub­tracted by boss TY. If he’s got 4 (the stan­dard) he would be at –2 mp, not a high amount.
My prob­lem is not directly with a lack of bal­ance between sor­cerer and figther, but with a lack of bal­ance between the sor­ceres effec­tive­ness and penalty (taint). When the sor­cerer can dis­ble any­one with cer­taintly of never suf­fer­ing taint, he becomes reduced to a bor­ing one-​trick pony. As the play­ers and I real­ized this simul­ta­ne­ously, one player exclaimed “wow, that’s bro­ken”. And it is. ‘Bro­ken’ not being a ques­tion of the sor­cerer being too pow­er­ful, but of his pow­er­ful actions hav­ing no neg­a­tive con­se­quences, bypass­ing the cen­tral taint mechanoc completely.

To tell you the truth i’m not com­pletely sat­is­fied with taint mechanic and was about to write a topic on it (might still do). The prob­lem is that hand of doom is a very spe­cific case. It’s the only “com­bat” spell that is use­ful despite sor­cerer not beat­ing the oppo­si­tion suc­cesses. I dis­agree on it being bro­ken, I don’t think it is because of every­thing we have dis­cussed already: sor­cer­ers should be pow­er­ful; arcane secrets are VERY RARE and VERY POW­ER­FUL; the upside of “only’ feel­ing pain is not instantly dying; he’s in trou­ble should foe still have mp left that’s why antag­o­nist sor­cer­ers have cultists and PCs sor­cer­ers have friends (or why fail­ing is still use­ful enough to at least con­trol a sin­gle foe).

Now, I get what you say­ing about being cheap and risk free, that’s why i think it could use a lit­tle rework done, either on attack or defense, else you’re always using one dice to cast and every­thing else on con­tain and always get the high­est amount of pain.
I like the idea to make the pain depend om QoS. This would be a sim­ple way to fix the prob­lem, and very game consistent.

Just bear in mind that there’s no QoS on part of the sor­cerer, not that mat­ters any­way. If he beats foe by a sin­gle suc­cess, he killed him. Now, if the QoS of foe’s defense sub­tract­ing from the over­all pain, that might do the trick.
Last Edit: 3 years 1 week ago by Anarak.
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Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antag­o­nists 3 years 6 days ago #3220

  • Michael
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JacobJ wrote:
So I guess the best strat­egy going for­ward would be for the Wiz­ard to never really chance his cast­ings, thus avoid­ing taint and keep­ing a large SP for Hand of Doom, and sim­ply using this arcane secret, putting maybe a sin­gle die into the roll, intend­ing to fail, to dis­able any antag­o­nist with the pain effect.

Well, that’s of course not the intended use of Hand of Doom, but it is also noth­ing that needs fix­ing.

To have access to Hand of Doom at all, the player needed to sink his A Pick into Sor­cery, so even with B and C in Attrib­utes and Profien­cies his SPs can’t be all that huge, unless of course he was built with a lot of Karma. If the player really wants to have his PC be that kind of one-​shot gun, that’s fine. He has paid very dearly for that, and is con­tin­u­ing to pay dearly by hav­ing his PC – vol­un­tar­ily! — con­fined to the wings of the action and of all achieve­ment by hav­ing him abstain from most other sor­cer­ous activ­ity, if your wor­ries about him doing so are cor­rect. Kinda like self-​castration for the entire ses­sion just to shine once – and not really brightly at that, if he uses Hand of Doom really to just assist his bud­dies in shin­ing by tak­ing out the oppo­si­tion. If that’s that player’s thing…

What you can do to make it harder on him is set­ting up oppor­tu­ni­ties where his sor­cery would come in really handy. Make pre­vent­ing Taint so as not to risk being unable to crip­ple the main antag­o­nist later on a painful choice.

Then, don’t for­get to use Order of Lime­light to your advan­tage in the main con­fronta­tion. It might often not be pos­si­ble for the sor­cerer PC to have his Lime­light before the other PCs, mean­ing that the main oppo­nent won’t be crip­pled yet on those PCs’ Lime­lights.

And don’t for­get the use of mooks. The main con­fronta­tion might well be set up by you so that there are a lot of mooks between the PCs and the main antag­o­nist. The sor­cerer PC might use his first Lime­light to crip­ple the main antag­o­nist – but if there are super­nu­mer­ary mooks attached to his Lime­light, he is as good as dead if he just ignores them. This isn’t D&D where the wiz­ard can safely hide behind the fight­ers. Blade oper­ates under the real-​life assump­tion that foot­work is impor­tant for com­bat, that a lot of both vol­un­tary and forced move­ment is required, and that not to budge from where one is sit­u­ated requires an active effort. For the com­bat­ant PCs to effec­tively shield the sor­cerer PC from all oppo­nents will thus require suc­cess­ful Ter­rain Checks. If they aren’t suc­cess­ful, the sor­cerer PC will have one or more mooks to con­tend with dur­ing his Lime­light, pre­vent­ing him from using Hand of Doom on the main oppo­nent…

So there are quite a few things you can do to make the tac­tic you are wor­ried about at least hard on both player and PC at least some of the time. As for the rest – well, like I said, the player has paid dearly to be able to do what he is doing.

And, on a slightly dif­fer­ent note, you might actu­ally encour­age the player to use Hand of Doom prop­erly by por­tray­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal impact of this incred­i­bly grue­some sor­cery. I ref­eree Hand of Doom so that, when they see their buddy’s chest burst open and his still beat­ing heart leap across the room into the sorcerer’s out­stretched hand, that’s when the tough guys are shit­ting their pants, if you par­don my French. A pity for the PC to forgo this pleasure.
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Hand of Doom — risk free way to dis­able antag­o­nists 3 years 4 days ago #3296

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@Anarak
Sure, I get what you’re say­ing. This guy wasn’t the end-​all be-​all either. I guess really the play­ers were antag­o­niz­ing him, more than the other way around ;) Still, he was sup­posed to have been a chal­lenge is my point. They party bet­ter believe they’re going to in for a tougher ride going for­ward :) None of us we pre­pared for the sur­pris­ingly pow­er­ful ‘fail’ mechanic of Hand of Doom, and that of course put a damper on the fight.

For sub­tract­ing TY, you don’t do that for HoD, just for every­thing else. So again, the HoD intential-​fail tac­tic is basi­cally a pain-​ish spell with the whole SP giv­ing auto-​successes, unre­duced by TY, and with no taint risk. The house rule could be that it _​is_​reduced by TY, since as you say the QoS won’t work here.

And whether it’s rare, well, that’s a mat­ter of per­spec­tive, since any group can start with a Mys­te­ri­arch with HoD.

@Michael
It is a very good point that it might not be in the sorcerer’s best inter­est to behave this way. To me it just feels like a D&D wiz­ard dis­cov­er­ing how pow­er­ful the Sleep or Haste spell is, and now he feels at sub-​optimal effi­ciency if he does any­thing else. Sure, Blade is not D&D, and should be played the same way, and I don’t. Like I said, my worry is the play­ers dis­cov­er­ing a one trick pony, and mak­ing them­selves ride it too hard. When the rest of the sys­tem, includ­ing the sorcery/​taint sys­tem, is so care­fully bal­anced, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Does that make sense?

I will take your advice on the lime­lights and forced move­ment. I’m still adjust­ing to the Blade com­bat sys­tem, and there’s def­i­nitely a lot of depth to exploit there :)

I too ref the mooks to be very adverse to dying, and fairly easy to spook with supe­rior force or use of magic. Their egos obvi­ously aren’t going to rec­og­nize their own inher­ent mook­ness and let them throw their lives away for their non-​mook mas­ter :)

@Both
Thanks for all your input both of you. Still think a failed cast­ing shouldn’t be that strong, so still going to nerf it. To each their own :)
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