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Thread: Ask a GM [09/02/08]: Magic as an Adventure-Breaker

  1. #16
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    "Realize that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and simply improvise." - yep, thats about it for me. Realize that any efforts of NPC's the party is trying to detect and thwart may have been anticipated - equipment them and their allies with ways to block, foil, or misdirect some of the efforts and powers of the PC's. Its not cheating, its just playing them smart - especially if some plot is well planned and financed.

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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    Facing a similar situation, I had a magic-phobic lord hire the group to complete a quest for a mysterious treasure. The PCs ran roughshod over a plethora of beasts, traps, and puzzles, overwhelming or circumventing all with powerful spells and discovered the chest they were seeking at the center of an intricate labyrinth. The walls, floor, ceiling, and the chest itself were covered in warnings against opening the chest. Having come to rely so heavily on spellcraft, the players didn't even figure out that the Chest of Rapadon was an anagram for Pandora ('s Box). Giving no heed to the warnings, the players opened the chest releasing a wave of energy that altered magic throughout the realm. Spells now became unreliable (I used a randomizing table to determine what would happen each time a spell was cast). The players were outraged until they began a quest to restore the magic. The campaign continued for several months before they fulfilled the quest and everything was returned to normal during which time they learned to rely less heavily on magic. The lord who had hired them became their nemesis, doing everything he could to hinder their progress during their quest and scheming against them incessantly after.

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    Many game systems pose the same problem - what keeps mages form ruling the world? Well, reduce what they are capable of by placing them in places that drain fuels or introduce spell failure. Make the attention from magic not worth using it at every turn, and temper results of divination/precognition - oracular visions, vagueness) and place counters in their way that make them not spend so freely. It all really covered in previous posts... i have the same problem in my own system and we took different approaches to solving it in the later versions of the rules.. but a lot of it boils down to role-playing. Hey, a group of warriors, if done right, can mow through anyone. Why not resort to violence to get your way at every turn? Same issues, same solutions in many ways.

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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    Quote Originally Posted by templeorder View Post
    Many game systems pose the same problem - what keeps mages form ruling the world? Well, reduce what they are capable of by placing them in places that drain fuels or introduce spell failure. Make the attention from magic not worth using it at every turn, and temper results of divination/precognition - oracular visions, vagueness) and place counters in their way that make them not spend so freely.
    To quote Lewis Carroll, "But I was thinking of a plan/To dye one's whiskers green/And always use so large a fan/That they could not be seen."

    Or, less obscurely, instead of creating world-shaking magic and then gimping it at every turn, use a magic system that is inherently low-powered (e.g. RuneQuest in all of its incarnations), inaccessible (e.g. Pendragon), or morally reprehensible (e.g. Sorcerer and the "Carcosa" supplement for OD&D).
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    multiple spiritual weapons active at the same time?

    Umm so.. a player in the campaign I'm playing in was given a rod of quickening, lesser. Since then, she uses 2x spiritual weapons on big bad enemies on the first turn, and then another 2x spiritual weapons (for a total of four on one enemy at once).

    I don't think this is how the spell works, but I can't find the rule that says so.. does anyone know if there is a rule about this kind of multiple.. incarnations of summoning spells?

    P.S. We are playing with 3.5 rules in DND.
    Last edited by Silencher; 05-09-2010 at 01:25 PM.

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    I don't see why not - the PC would have to memorize 4 spiritual weapons; round 1 - cast quickened version and then a standard version, round 2 - cast quickened version and then a standard version. I mean that sacks a lot of spell slots that could be used for buffing or healing and spiritual weapon is not an awesome great spell due to only low-moderate damage (I suppose 4 at a time does kind of make up for it though). Never forget that an area dispel magic could dispel all 4 at once and then the PC just used 4 spell slots for nothing

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    Ah yes, the good old Dispell Magic spell. That can rea`ly put the dampmr on a spell atxack quick. I would ask if the any of phe spells being'cast require tha caster to continue concentrating for it to last, then you may be able to claim that only one can be in use at any given time. Reasgn being is that/in order to cast the second spehl they are not actually concent~ating on the first spell.&nbsx; Not being very familiar with the magic rules of 3.5, I am not sure if there is some spell (or device) that would allow the concentration requirement to be overcome, though.

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    I don't know GURPS well so I cant give you a lot of specifics. But I do have a few things to add that pertains to all games.

    First thing you need to do is look over the rules well and make sure they aren't leaving parts out. I use to play with a fella that did that we will call him David so we called Davidism's. Figure out if they are doing it the correct way. If they are correct and playing their characters the legal way their are some ways you can handle this. Follow Grimwells advice and have an honest talk with your players. Explain to them that in order for this game to work their must be some limitations. Get their input if they are the honest type. You can always give them the option to change character type if the don't like the changes, that seems to settle must players fear.

    Always remeber that you are the GM, it is your playground my man you decide how high the swings go.
    You do need to be fair however. Do not hammer their weakness to often and becareful not to clamp down on their abilities to much or you ruin the joy of the class.

    Their have been many wonderful examples already posted. You can always try to turn some of their powers into positives.

    Teleportation
    As it has been said teleportation can quicken travel times. Your foes don't have to be fools, if the players can teleport so can others in the world and they might have fought against it before. You may need to give a clue to your players in your description what went wrong: "You port behind the man but he must be a veteran because he is ready for you" or "You try to port away but you sense some powerful magic preventing it" (a note about the last one if the magic is to be an item you might want to make sure it is a one shot item or you might make your problem worse in the long run). You might even add a few locations that can only be reached by teleportation, pc's makes them feel like big bad magic heros.

    Telepathy
    Look at the rules closely make sure they are doing it legally, I have seen this type of powers abused heavly in others systems. One thing comes to mind right a way. In Shadowrun mindprobe can be a very powerful spell. I limited it by ruling that the mage experiences the memories he is looking for, mindprobing someone to find out if they are the murderer might just lead to the mage experiencing the murder from murders perspective (including emotions) and be very disturbing! A simple option could be that some villains have protections against such things (maybe a temp power granted to them by the BBEG or big-bad-evil-guy)

    Scrying and precognition can be wonderful tools. They make fantastic adventure hooks. Besides the BBEG may have his own powers that block such things. Again let your players know something is up in your description "you to try to scry bigbadevilguy but you feel an overwhelming magical power countering your magic" makes the BBEG seem even well bigger and badder.


    If you decide to go the no magic for PC's reasure them the opposition will be balanced down to thier level.


    Hope that helps, If you have any specific questions fell free to ask.
    SirSlither (Apocalypse beast of the root beer cooler)

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    Even though the OP was made almost 2 years ago, I'll throw my 2 cents in because I know there may be others with similar problems and concerns.

    No character makes it into a game that I GM without first being reviewed. Part of that review process is taking into account any unusual skills, spells, powers, gear, etc. and how they might be used (or abused) during the game. If I think something might be inappropriate for the game, then I simply talk to the player and ask them to change it. Once the game begins any skills, spells, powers, gear, etc. are only available if and when I place them in the world. I never let players have free rein to add whatever they wish to their character just because they have enough experience or money. Common items are usually fine, but anything out of the ordinary is usually handled in-game by the player letting me know what their character is trying to acquire. If it is something I've already deemed inappropriate for that game, then it is simply unavailable or rare enough that finding it could be a quest all its own. Just because something appears in the rulebook does not mean it is necessarily universally acceptable in all game types; especially in a generic system like GURPS.

    If I have overlooked some "thing" that a character possesses that later becomes disruptive to the game because I hadn't planned for it, then I must adapt. This doesn't necessarily mean that everywhere the character goes and every NPC they meet will suddenly possess a counter measure. I consider that bad form on the part of the GM as its meta-gaming to have NPCs act on knowledge they could not reasonably know ahead of time. Its also passing annoying as a player to have some ability your character possesses rendered useless because everybody and their dog seems to be able to counter it right out of the gate. However, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is a pattern. NPCs who survive their encounters with the characters will learn from those encounters and may return better prepared the next time and inform their cohorts of what to expect. In that situation its perfectly reasonable to setup a countermeasure.

    Something I like to do as GM is to occasionally throw a Paper Tiger at the PCs. A Paper Tiger is a situation or adversary(s) that appears to be more of a challenge than it really is. The sole purpose of these encounters is to give the PCs a chance to strut their stuff and show off a bit. Its basically a way to stroke the players egos occasionally. I use it rather sparingly though because overcoming a real challenge is often more rewarding for the players. But this does provide opportunities for the PCs to use their abilities without disrupting the main storyline and without it seeming like everywhere they go and everyone they meet has a countermeasure up their sleeve.

    Teleportation and Divination can potentially be two of the most game breaking abilities characters can have... IF the GM hasn't planned ahead for their inclusion in the game.

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    “Teleportation and Divination can potentially be two of the most game breaking abilities characters can have... IF the GM hasn't planned ahead for their inclusion in the game.”

    I’m not going to slam some hard working GM but…you are absolutely right.
    Planning includes a hard look at the mechanics of the game world. If the power is common so will be defenses. Placed historically, consider the arms race of penetration vs. protection. As the weapons grew stronger with better metallurgy-armor thickness and coverage improved. But when Agincourt showed the superiority of the (well handled) English Longbow over the Plate of the French Heavy Cavalry (nobles who were all bunched-up on a mired field and with a chivalric disdain against running down non-noble foes) the tactics changed. With the introduction of the crossbow and musketry, heavy armor quietly left the field. Cannons brought an end to lengthy siege campaigns. Rifling. Machine-guns. Tanks. Aircraft. Radar. Stealth. Satellite Based Targeting and Fire Command Control Systems. Each of these caused radical changes to the combat environment. Each has been supreme for a time. Each has also had a counter-measure designed to deal with it, some more effective than others.

    For telepathy it might be that all persons have an innate resistance that must be overcome. There may be tell-tale signs for the scanned (a headache or the like). For those not ‘gifted’ there may be mechanical solutions. Just as ‘white noise’ generators prevent many forms of eavesdropping, there will be a demand to secure: a mayor during a budget meeting, a general in the command tent, the CEO visiting the R&D room. In the beginning, this gear may not be very effective (only blocks scans which originate outside an operational range) or have a drawback (the stealth suit that can’t use detection gear when it is ‘stealthy’.) or awkward to use (tinfoil hats).

    This could go on for a very long time. But I’ll let you exercise your skills and imaginations on the other powers. Predators cannot exist without prey and neither should your powers. Spend a little time thinking about, not just how, but why a power exists in your game and you will soon find a solution to all of these quandaries.
    Good Gaming.

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