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 Post subject: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:59 am 
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Hey there. It is my first post and I would like to say hello to everyone here. I've recently started playing Riddle of Steel and am blown away by the system. I run it as a mechanic for my own low fantasy setting. They fit perfectly. Magic is a rare and powerfull thing in my world as it is in tros. In my setting, sorcerers are mostly haunted and considered great evil. My group has got into situation where they have to face one of magicians. I read and roughly understood magic system in core rules. I love the idea of freedom and perhaps future teams will have a sorcerer in their ranks. But at that moment I need some inspiration from more experienced game masters as how to stage a interesting and exciting final combat against a sorcerer and few of his bodyguards.

Now, I do understand there is some alternative magic system availible but in general, I do try to understand and achieve high level of profficiency in core rules of any game before I start to manipulate them and use expansions. So my question relates only to core rules.

I plan to have a confrontation in an abandoned elven astronomic observatory which ignorant humans treat as some kind of old temple. My group is cautious and I am pretty sure they will scout the terrain and try to climb onto walls so they can use bows from the huge hole in the ceiling that used to allow optical instrument to move vertically (sorry, I have poor vocabulary, don't know the proper term). That means a sorcerer will most likely die from first arrow. Not really an electrifying final stage.

Regardless, I was thinking on few spells that magician could use in this sort of situation (3 armed man come into your reaserch facility and want to kill you). Spells of three take too much time. I need something acting fast and deadly but not too deadly. I figured example spell PAIN from Core Book seems nice. But it takes a lot of time. I was thinking about using Vagaries that let him manipulate objects and change their compostion. 3 seconds for destroying one's sword seems reasonable enough. Yet konwing that an archer can kill him next second will make it useless. Logicaly mercenaries will not try to fight for a dead master and will negotiate their retreat. I would like this scene to be intense, destroyed sword seems to be a cheap way out. I was considering making those spells (cutting the swords in half along the X axis in range of sight) formalized but then it only takes a second and would be too risky. I do not mind death of a player every now and than, it is a dangerous world, but not all of them.

Would you guys have any interesting spell effects that you tried and tested? Or just thought about them? Please, let me know :)

PS: Excuse my english, it is not my first language.


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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:20 pm 
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MrKDJ wrote:
Hey there. It is my first post and I would like to say hello to everyone here.


Welcome!

MrKDJ wrote:
...I need some inspiration from more experienced game masters as how to stage a interesting and exciting final combat against a sorcerer and few of his bodyguards.


Integrating magic with combat is difficult in most systems but TRoS, with its cinematic combat flow, makes it even harder.

In TRoS, non-sorcerers have little if any defense against magic. Often they don't even get a saving throw -- once the spell is cast successfully, that's the end of the story.

Given that the PCs do not have a wizard you'll need some sort of reason why the NPC wizard doesn't destroy them with magic once he becomes aware of the threat:

1) Perhaps he is in the middle of a high-SP ritual and cannot break his concentration to cast another spell.

2) Perhaps he has expended his SP setting up magical defenses against another entity that occupies this magical place. If the PCs kill the sorcerer, those defenses begin to fail...

3) Perhaps he has cast some spells to empower his bodyguards with temporary magical abilities -- abilities that wear-off as the final combat scene unfolds...

4) Perhaps he expended his SP summoning some sort of creature, a creature that appears at some point during the final scene?

Having limited the sorcerer in some way so that the PCs have some chance to win the epic final scene, the other thing you'll need to run the scene successfully is an easy way to determine when the sorcerer's spells go off when he's casting something at a specific PC. Does it go off at the start of the first Exchange? The second Exchange? Spell casting time is measured in seconds and this tells you next to nothing about when the spell should go off during a combat exchange.

Good luck with your final scene! Should be awesome!

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:36 pm 
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Thanks for your post. I do indeed have a ritual that needs few dices from sorcerer to upkeep but size of his pool is not an issue I am worried about. I cannot predict 100% what players will do but having played with them several sessions I would assume that team's scout - archer and thief - assassin (I love the way tros makes characters more than just warrior or thief or rouge) would deal with front guards quietly by sucessfully contesting their perception against their sneak. After that I would risk an opinion that scout will climb into the ceiling to have a look on a layout and tactical situation. They were informed already there is a sorcerer there so one guy who isn't a big brute with longsword would automatically become priority target for his arrows.

What will they do after that - only session will tell. Will they enter the "temple" and start talking or will they attack straight off the bat. Or maybe an archer will simply assassinate mage after contest of sneak vs perception? Thats the thing. This particular sorcerer might die before he even has a chance to throw a spell. Let alone spell that could kill everyone at once. Or maybe I am just unimaginative with the way sorcerers work in tros? This scene isn't really main battle scene for the players, this will happen eralier but I wanted them to have a feel of powerfull force that wizards wield. They won't feel it if their first sorcerer will die before he can do anything.

Coolest spells like teleportation seem to be taking forerver. If I want to show them anything I am bound to have quick and fast acting solutions. And the only things I came to is that: pain, destroying weapon (CTN: 3), SW style throw or some illusion to get away from the scene. Surely, your players must have inveted hundreds of spells for such an occasion?


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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:54 pm 
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I think Ian's ritual idea is a good one. Have him be shielded by a spell cast by his apprentice. So, the characters must take down the apprentice first by either getting rid of the bodyguards, or by getting past them somehow. If the protection sphere is invisible and they try to take the main sorcerer down at once, they'll alert everybody as the energy field incinerates the arrow.

I didn't catch your party size, but this should give something interesting to do for your players. They can use Terrain rolls to get past the guards or press them to the damaging protective sphere. Since you have an archer, perhaps spreading out the guards from the apprentice would do the trick of getting him sniped.

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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:28 am 
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Apprientice shielding his master seems to be a nice idea. It will give the archer a good shot to kill the sorcerer (if he reduces preparation time) but he won't be able to do it at full speed. In the meantime sorcerer will either cast pain/destruction of an item on an archer if he is aware of him or attack the main group of warriors depending on the situation. Perhaps they will even send an assassin to open lock at the back and take out apprientice. Anyhow it gives me what I want, gives me time to show magic a bit but also lets the players win if they do well in terms of tactics.

Thank you for your advie.


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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:15 pm 
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MrKDJ wrote:
Thanks for your post. I do indeed have a ritual that needs few dices from sorcerer to upkeep but size of his pool is not an issue I am worried about.


If SP isn't reduced then the wizard can have quite a range of maintained spells running -- that archer won't get near him. Unless you want the sorcerer to make intentional tactical errors.

And keep in mind that a high CTN spell, even an Instant spell, can be maintained by allocating 1 SP if the wizard gets enough Successes.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 12:36 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
If SP isn't reduced then the wizard can have quite a range of maintained spells running -- that archer won't get near him. Unless you want the sorcerer to make intentional tactical errors.


What sort of spells?

Quote:
And keep in mind that a high CTN spell, even an Instant spell, can be maintained by allocating 1 SP if the wizard gets enough Successes.


Well, yes, of course. But he would do that only if it comes to a long fight as a last breath thing. I don't expect it to be so long. But of course I am not the person with experience here.


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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:34 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
And keep in mind that a high CTN spell, even an Instant spell, can be maintained by allocating 1 SP if the wizard gets enough Successes.


MrKDJ wrote:
Well, yes, of course. But he would do that only if it comes to a long fight as a last breath thing. I don't expect it to be so long. But of course I am not the person with experience here.


Maintained spells last until the sorcerer returns the SP die/dice to their SP pool (that is. deliberately cancels the spell) or their SP is reduced to 0 (through wounds or other outside influences).

As such, rather than maintaining spells as a preparation for combat most wizards will maintain a suite of defensive spells as part of their normal routine.

So each wizard will develop a series of defensive spells -- based on their vagaries, one or more of which will have been selected for their defensive capabilities. These defensive spells are then formalized, to minimise CTN.

Then, as a standard routine, many wizards will prepare for a journey by getting these defensive spells into a maintained state with as few SP as possible allocated to each spell. In effect, the aim is to get a cast where the number of Successes on the roll reduces the maintenance cost of the spell to 1. This can take several attempts, so the sorcerer will allow a number of days of preparation for this activity.

So let's say the CTN of a spell is 7. The wizard needs 6 Successes to get the maintenance cost down to 1. Their SP is 11. So they roll 10 dice, getting 5 Successes. The maintenance cost would be 2. They drop the spell, wait for SP to recharge, and try again...

As spells are being maintained SP is reducing, so these defensive spells are cast in order of CTN from highest to lowest.

Now for an NPC wizard you can just assume that their defensive spells have a maintenance cost of 1 per spell and that they are running when the PCs encounter him/her.

Of course mundane PCs, not understanding magic, will have no idea that spells can be maintained -- and so may well believe that if they shoot the wizard from behind that he will die unless they miss.

The list of useful defensive spells is near-on endless. It all depends on the Vagaries you have. I've seen many inventive approaches to this issue.

1) On taking damage, the wizard was instantly teleported to a safe location.

2) Arrows that entered the wizard's proximity were converted into wooden balls.

3) Anyone thinking hostile thoughts towards the sorceror had their mood altered.

4) The sorcerer dressed and behaved as an apprentice while his 'master' was a carefully crafted illusion.

5) The wizard saw in her mind's eye anyone looking at her.

6) Animals, usually birds, were Conquered and used as the eyes and ears of the wizard.

and many, many more.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:40 am 
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That's exactly what I wanted, some kind of fast acting, powerfull spells that will not kill the PCs but inject a fear of magic into their hearts. I must have missed the pharagraps regarding maitained spells. Thank you for explaining this to me.


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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:03 am 
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Whew, haven't been there for a while... hope you still take suggestions :)

Mine would be: If you really want them to be afraid of sorcerers, don't play by the rules. It's a final scene, it has to be quite dramatic and rolls sometimes don't go as you plan them.

I also read the rules for magic and found them at the same time very liberating and a little bit complicated - so, until one of my seasoned players (I would never allow newbie to such a power) asks to play a sorcerer, I just use mages as capable of anything the story needs (except for the basic rules found in the rules - no fireballs).

But if you really want to go by the rules, I would suggest following: Take all suggestions from this topic and mix them. And don't let them fight the sorcerer!

Why? As I remember, one of the easiest spells lets the sorcerer desintegrate anything he wants. And if I were a sorcerer, I would not care for a bow, but I would want the archer dead - poof and his head is gone. Presume, that if the sorcerer wanted to destroy them, he could. So, make him unable to do so. Don't let him fight.

Let them catch the sorcerer in middle of very dangerous and powerful ritual. Let them find out that out that if he succeeds, they will not be able to stop him. He needs all SP he has for the ritual, so he will try to avoid casting at all costs, while trying to finish it and then deal with the foolish intruders. He can maintain few simple spells - for his protection. I would go with glamour magic - he could create several illusions of his own body, so the archer will have to shoot several times before he hits the right one.

Also, insert the appretice and let him shield the sorcerer. Of course, if they make the appretice lose concentration, the shield goes down, so you should let the guards/mercenaries protect the appretice (as long as the mage is under shield, he is safe).

And if you want to make them really afraid, after the sorcerer dies, you should show them a glimpse of power he was harnessing - whole building starts to crumble and collapse because of failed ritual. No explosions (could be deadly for the group), but they will have to run quickly, jump over newly created rifts/cracks in ground and dodge falling debris, columns and anything you can think of.

Good luck :)

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 Post subject: Re: NPC Wizards in combat
PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:01 pm 
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Ladislav wrote:
Whew, haven't been there for a while... hope you still take suggestions :)


Always :). 2 weeks ago one of players was ill. 1 week ago the other went to buisness trip. Hopefully sunday will be the day :)

Quote:
Mine would be: If you really want them to be afraid of sorcerers, don't play by the rules. It's a final scene, it has to be quite dramatic and rolls sometimes don't go as you plan them.


I know where you are coming from but the way I am running my sessions now is a mix of narrativism and symulationism. I want the fights to be deadly, I want players to prepare for them to scout ahead to make a plan etc. So rules are kinda important so they know what to expect the next time.

Quote:
Why? As I remember, one of the easiest spells lets the sorcerer desintegrate anything he wants. And if I were a sorcerer, I would not care for a bow, but I would want the archer dead - poof and his head is gone.


Yes, exactly. But than again, my npc sorcerrer doesn't have to be master sculpturer ;).

Quote:
Presume, that if the sorcerer wanted to destroy them, he could. So, make him unable to do so. Don't let him fight.


Than I loose entire idea of showing a bit of terrible magic ;)

Quote:
Let them catch the sorcerer in middle of very dangerous and powerful ritual. Let them find out that out that if he succeeds, they will not be able to stop him.


Regarding ritual - it's locked by the story, I can't have anything done here. And ritual is nowhere near as important as his life. He wants to keep it up to keep his several months experiment going but it isn't woth his life.

Quote:
And if you want to make them really afraid, after the sorcerer dies, you should show them a glimpse of power he was harnessing - whole building starts to crumble and collapse because of failed ritual. No explosions (could be deadly for the group), but they will have to run quickly, jump over newly created rifts/cracks in ground and dodge falling debris, columns and anything you can think of.


Naw, words won't scare them ;). They need to see that magic is not to be approached easliy. With a feeling that enemy was very powerfull induced by a narration my players won't feel it. With seeing what magic can do by their own eyes - they will.

The way I plan it is to use maitained spell that Ian wrote about - arrows to wooden ball spell. When assassination attempt will fail there will be a combat with bodyguards that should go well for players (their faith and maybe some other spirtual atributes will be working). In the meantime sorcerer will be using spells as pain and destroying objects for their weapons. So it might be a bit tight risky thing with dices - players might win or might die by my assessment. And that was general idea while projecting scene's difficulty. Who knows. Maybe my thief/assassin will pick the back door's lock and kill a mage with one dagger thrust? :)

But thank you for posting, if the players feel like hunting mages again, I will certainly engineer some important ritual and apprientice in there :)


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