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Side Effect choices


Mr. R
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I am considering using one of the Magic Systems from Killer Shrike as one of my systems of choice.  In it you buy a MP with a set list of advantages and limitations (which must balance each other so +1/2 advantage must be balanced with -1/2 limit.), each of which corresponds to a style.  One over arching limitation is RSR, every style MUST take that.   So one style has as advantages 0 End (+1/2) and Incant. (-1/4) and Side Effects (-1/4).  So I rarely use SE and I read up on them.  WOW!  They go from dangerous to totally deadly.  The default one is 30 pt effect like an EB that has no defense, so 6d6 means 6 body and 21 stun.  For a 125-150 PC this is almost certain death certainly not as dangerous as Gestures, Incantations and Extra Time.  

 

Instead I was thinking making it either a 3d6 NND to stun, or maybe a 3d6 stun drain?  Am I reading it wrong?  Are my suggestions too lenient?  Any other suggestions?

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I like the concept that DCC put out.  Magic is inherently wild and possesses random effects on the caster.  This can be as simple as messing with their senses for a time to something major like a full transformation into something strange.  It might even possess undesirable effects upon the environment as well. 

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16 hours ago, Mr. R said:

I am considering using one of the Magic Systems from Killer Shrike as one of my systems of choice.  In it you buy a MP with a set list of advantages and limitations (which must balance each other so +1/2 advantage must be balanced with -1/2 limit.), each of which corresponds to a style.  One over arching limitation is RSR, every style MUST take that.   So one style has as advantages 0 End (+1/2) and Incant. (-1/4) and Side Effects (-1/4).  So I rarely use SE and I read up on them.  WOW!  They go from dangerous to totally deadly.  The default one is 30 pt effect like an EB that has no defense, so 6d6 means 6 body and 21 stun.  For a 125-150 PC this is almost certain death certainly not as dangerous as Gestures, Incantations and Extra Time.  

 

Instead I was thinking making it either a 3d6 NND to stun, or maybe a 3d6 stun drain?  Am I reading it wrong?  Are my suggestions too lenient?  Any other suggestions?

 

If I do a "damage" effect, I always do a Drain rather than a Blast so I can put the damage exactly where I want it to happen. I think that's a good way to handle it both as a player and as a GM, so I don't think that's too lenient at all.

 

I've not tried a single Side Effect which applies to each power a character has.

 

When I can apply different SE's to each power, I like Flash. Characters being blinded for a long time as an effect of using magic is something that you see in fantasy literature but not so much in RPG's. But it makes casting the magic seem like much more of a gamble, even if it's some ritual cast outside of combat, since the bad guys always seem to attack when the magic man is involved in a ritual.

 

Drains are very versatile since you can Drain stuff like Running which forces the character to stand and fight. Or Drain his STR so that he has to drop all his stuff.

 

Transforms are very versatile as well. I remember one character who had his Riding and TF familiarities taken away when he used powerful ritual magics (treated as a complete amnesia of what horses, saddles, reins, carts, etc. were and how they worked). I'll admit that was more amusing than harmful but forgetting how to operate his horse was funny as hell.

 

Transform which makes subsequent uses of magic especially visible.

 

Entangle yourself

 

Gives you a demonic-looking tail. (Only appropriate in settings where demonic tails would be at least socially disadvantageous.)

 

Uncontrolled Flight

 

Broadcast only Telepathy which forces your deepest secrets onto others.

 

Uncontrolled Tunneling straight down

 

 

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2 hours ago, archer said:

 

If I do a "damage" effect, I always do a Drain rather than a Blast so I can put the damage exactly where I want it to happen. I think that's a good way to handle it both as a player and as a GM, so I don't think that's too lenient at all.

 

I've not tried a single Side Effect which applies to each power a character has.

 

When I can apply different SE's to each power, I like Flash. Characters being blinded for a long time as an effect of using magic is something that you see in fantasy literature but not so much in RPG's. But it makes casting the magic seem like much more of a gamble, even if it's some ritual cast outside of combat, since the bad guys always seem to attack when the magic man is involved in a ritual.

 

Drains are very versatile since you can Drain stuff like Running which forces the character to stand and fight. Or Drain his STR so that he has to drop all his stuff.

 

Transforms are very versatile as well. I remember one character who had his Riding and TF familiarities taken away when he used powerful ritual magics (treated as a complete amnesia of what horses, saddles, reins, carts, etc. were and how they worked). I'll admit that was more amusing than harmful but forgetting how to operate his horse was funny as hell.

 

Transform which makes subsequent uses of magic especially visible.

 

Entangle yourself

 

Gives you a demonic-looking tail. (Only appropriate in settings where demonic tails would be at least socially disadvantageous.)

 

Uncontrolled Flight

 

Broadcast only Telepathy which forces your deepest secrets onto others.

 

Uncontrolled Tunneling straight down

 

 

 

 

I like these suggestions.  I want to do an overarching SE as it applies to the MP, not the individual spells.  Also I want to keep things simple because I am envisioning a very plug and play type game with people who may not necessarily know Hero System rules.  

 

I really like the flash idea though.  This style is described as quick and flashy!   It would be perfect!

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Cumulative Transform is an excellent way to make casters reluctant to use magic if they don't have to without the danger of immediately killing them.  If they are slowly crippling or aging themselves, or gradually being turned into a demon or undead monster, you have some nice role-playing consequences for magic use without risking the mage dying when they blow a critical roll.

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11 hours ago, Ockham's Spoon said:

Cumulative Transform is an excellent way to make casters reluctant to use magic if they don't have to without the danger of immediately killing them.  If they are slowly crippling or aging themselves, or gradually being turned into a demon or undead monster, you have some nice role-playing consequences for magic use without risking the mage dying when they blow a critical roll.

 

Very conceptual, but the Active Points of Side Effects are so high they make this  an extremely risky option.  Even at the lowest level using that power more than once in a battle or 2-3 times in a month is a true act of desperation.

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9 hours ago, Grailknight said:

 

Very conceptual, but the Active Points of Side Effects are so high they make this  an extremely risky option.  Even at the lowest level using that power more than once in a battle or 2-3 times in a month is a true act of desperation.

 

If the side effects are automatic, that is true, but typically there is a skill roll involved, and the SE only triggers when the mage blows the roll.  In my experience, PCs usually have a pretty high skill roll just to keep that from happening, so they might start worrying about it by the end of an adventure, but not from battle to battle necessarily.

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The trick is to define the SE as an Aid to INT or Magic skill, so you can fail upward.  ;)

 

The problems with SE are: One, they're costed for supers and not fantasy, and few fantasy casters can withstand 30-60 point harmful SE; and two, powers as penalties are not balanced among each other anyway.  You almost have to choose really lightweight effects for SE, like Flash or Darkness or Change Environment, otherwise the caster risks taking himself out of the fight (if not the campaign) and that is Not Fun.

 

The alternative is for the GM to decide what happens on the spot, which means the GM has to be really good at whipping up effects on the spot.

 

You can get creative with the SE too.  30 points of Extra Limbs?  60 point (temporary) transform into a frog?   60 points of involuntarily applied Leaping?  I think my favorite SE was a STUN Drain I had on a healing spell that was applied to the victim if it went off.  Oops, my bad...

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A mix of minor effects is often better than a single major effect, like a 1d6 blast, a 2d6 flash to a couple senses, a 1d6 drain to something, etc.  The danger is that you get no defenses at all against a side effect, so a blast can be very deadly.

 

The transform effect is a good one, I agree.  All of the necromantic spells with side effects in my Codex have a transform toward aging 5 years (inspired by the sorcerer in the Sindbad movie that aged every time he cast a spell).  Eventually, you will grow old and die unless you find something to offset that, if you keep using necromantic magic, because nobody makes all their skill rolls.

 

Also I agree; instead of special effects being based on an absolute power level scale, I think it should be based on a smaller scale or percentage of the active points of the power, which ever is greater.  So like:

 

-¼ for 10 points or half the active points of the power

-½ for 25 points or equal to the points of the power

 

that kind of thing.  That way it scales well for lower powered effects as well as higher powered ones.  Side effects are much more powerful than they appear on paper because of the no defenses effect, that basically gives every power a +2 advantage (NND and does body).  So what seems minor (10 active points) actually is not.

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On 5/25/2021 at 8:07 PM, Mr. R said:

I am considering using one of the Magic Systems from Killer Shrike as one of my systems of choice.  In it you buy a MP with a set list of advantages and limitations (which must balance each other so +1/2 advantage must be balanced with -1/2 limit.), each of which corresponds to a style.  One over arching limitation is RSR, every style MUST take that.   So one style has as advantages 0 End (+1/2) and Incant. (-1/4) and Side Effects (-1/4).  So I rarely use SE and I read up on them.  WOW!  They go from dangerous to totally deadly.  The default one is 30 pt effect like an EB that has no defense, so 6d6 means 6 body and 21 stun.  For a 125-150 PC this is almost certain death certainly not as dangerous as Gestures, Incantations and Extra Time.  

 

Instead I was thinking making it either a 3d6 NND to stun, or maybe a 3d6 stun drain?  Am I reading it wrong?  Are my suggestions too lenient?  Any other suggestions?

 

I really think you have to start with the theory of the magic before looking at the point cost of spells. This goes hand-in-hand with approaching it from a world-building rather than a game-mechanics perspective. Approaching these questions from a "make it cheaper" or "control player behavior" perspective will yield less satisfying results than approaching them from a "how does it work?" or "what are you trying to simulate?" perspective. Or, more succinctly, you've described the mechanics, but what are the effects ?

 

So, let's ask this question: What style of magic are you simulating? What about magic causes side effects and what is the nature of those side-effects? Does working with magic cause psychic shock (mental blast)? Does it overload the nervous system (energy blast)? Do elemental energies get out of control and also hurt the caster (energy blast or RKA)? Does working with spectral / illusory forces lead to disassociate hallucinations (metal illusions or entangle)? Does the caster pay for power with their own life force (body drain)? Does casting spells sap the will (ego drain)? Does working with the black arts express itself as physical corruption over time (cumulative transform)? 

 

You have a mechanical / mathematic model. What is it modelling? Insofar as you have a coherent explanation for a material in-game effect the build is appropriate. Or, at least, that's my 2AP.

 

 

  

On 5/27/2021 at 7:19 PM, Ockham's Spoon said:

Cumulative Transform is an excellent way to make casters reluctant to use magic if they don't have to without the danger of immediately killing them.  If they are slowly crippling or aging themselves, or gradually being turned into a demon or undead monster, you have some nice role-playing consequences for magic use without risking the mage dying when they blow a critical roll.

 

This would be an excellent way to simulate the deleterious effects of black magic in Lankhmar / Newhon.

 

 

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On 5/28/2021 at 10:46 PM, Old Man said:

The trick is to define the SE as an Aid to INT or Magic skill, so you can fail upward.  ;)

 

The problems with SE are: One, they're costed for supers and not fantasy, and few fantasy casters can withstand 30-60 point harmful SE; and two, powers as penalties are not balanced among each other anyway.  You almost have to choose really lightweight effects for SE, like Flash or Darkness or Change Environment, otherwise the caster risks taking himself out of the fight (if not the campaign) and that is Not Fun.

 

The alternative is for the GM to decide what happens on the spot, which means the GM has to be really good at whipping up effects on the spot.

 

You can get creative with the SE too.  30 points of Extra Limbs?  60 point (temporary) transform into a frog?   60 points of involuntarily applied Leaping?  I think my favorite SE was a STUN Drain I had on a healing spell that was applied to the victim if it went off.  Oops, my bad...

 

Yeah, a 60 point SE is going to be harsh on a Heroic level character.  Our house rule is that instead of 30 or 60 point SE, you have an SE with half the active points or full active points of the spell respectively.  That makes it a little more reasonable for Heroic level campaigns, and more logical if your mage rolls an 18 while trying to cast a cantrip level spell.

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All the necromancer spells in my Codex also have a side effect now in the rebuild: always goes off, costs Body to cast spell. You pay the initial mana cost in Body as well, because Necromancy has a high cost.  Of course as you get more powerful you find ways to set up pools of Body to use for spellcasting and ways to heal body used in spellcasting by stealing soul energy from targets.

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

All the necromancer spells in my Codex also have a side effect now in the rebuild: always goes off, costs Body to cast spell. You pay the initial mana cost in Body as well, because Necromancy has a high cost.  Of course as you get more powerful you find ways to set up pools of Body to use for spellcasting and ways to heal body used in spellcasting by stealing soul energy from targets.

 

Well, yes. You build an all or nothing body transfer (or whatever the equivalent convoluted 6e method is) that requires an OAF "ritual slaughter knife" and an OAF "human victim" and Incantations "ritual mumbo-jumbo and campy creep zingers" and define the special effect as "human sacrifice driven life-force transfer" Then you take that body to fuel your necromancy spells. Even better if you are creating undead of some sort and need a Bulky OAF "suitable corpse." After all, you just made one...!

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21 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

All the necromancer spells in my Codex also have a side effect now in the rebuild: always goes off, costs Body to cast spell. You pay the initial mana cost in Body as well, because Necromancy has a high cost.  Of course as you get more powerful you find ways to set up pools of Body to use for spellcasting and ways to heal body used in spellcasting by stealing soul energy from targets.

 

To be clear, are you paying the cost in BODY or bodies?

 

Because if it's BODY, I guess that's one way of discouraging players from having necromancer PC's....

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Its Body.  Necromancy (and Demonology) is primarily meant for NPCs, although the most minor spells and a handfull of the major ones don't have that cost so some mages train a little in it for useful spells against the undead and to protect themselves.  Necromancy offers a fast road to power, at a hideous cost (the most powerful spells also have an age 5 years side effect).

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So...I think you are referring to my Metier magic system, and the Preciat style specifically? 

http://www.killershrike.com/FantasyHERO/HighFantasyHERO/MagicSystems/metierStyles.aspx

 

I'm going to assume the answer is yes, and proceed. Note: I'm going to refer to Side Effects as SE and Requires Skill Roll as RSR throughout to save typing.

 

A few things:

 

1) In both 5e and 6e Minor SEs (such as what the Preciat style has) are 15 AP not 30 AP...

image.png.8eb58180025346ea83853ba015848aba.pngimage.png.49999569ed98eb32f83a022192b2d90a.png
 

2) SE paired with an RSR occur when the skill roll is failed (unless the Always Occurs modifier to SE is also applied). In the case of Preciat and other Metier Styles that take a SE that is not also Always Occurs, the RSR is the corresponding required Metier Style skill, and thus the SE only occurs if that RSR fails.

 

3) You can do a lot of things with Side Effects, not just inflict damage.

 

Personally, I like self-referential SE's which tie back to the thing that caused the SE; in the case of magic use diminishing the caster's ability to cast further magic has a nice feedback loop component. An obvious one is a temporary penalty to the Metier Style skill itself for a period of time...dialing the penalty amount and the unit of time to suit your preferences or the situation. For endurance using magic systems I liked to use a fatigue based model. I used Long Term Endurance rules generally in most of my Fantasy Hero campaigns, and piggy backed on that for magic systems that used END. But a Drain based option also works. Anyway, I describe both approaches in detail in the following document:

 

http://www.killershrike.com/FantasyHERO/HighFantasyHERO/GeneralSpellRestrictions.aspx#SideEffects

 

You could also define a cross-cutting ambient notion (such as ley lines or Darksun-like defilers, or what have you) and have SE do something like deplete the ambient magic of the local area for some period of time...you could go further and tie it into Change Environment to apply a flat penalty to something within the affected area. And so on.

 

But, there's an entire section in the SE write up talking about all the various creative things one can bend SE to do for a reason. IMO "takes damage" is the least interesting / least creative / least useful option. If you put a little thought into it, you can use SE on a magic system or individual spell type effect to dial up the flavor and feel of that particular type of magic. 

 

4) The GM is explicitly told they can adjust the impact of SE to suit their campaign.

 

image.png.ef294fe5fbd20ec048b7101bbec1dbef.png

 

So, if even after considering the above points and possibly settling into a version of SE that isn't just "you take a lot of no-defense damage and maybe die", you still feel like SE is to punitive for your tastes...just turn the dial a bit to ratchet it down. This is how I approach universal "toolkit" type systems, and Hero in particular... ;) 

image.png.867435016ce75778029342bd7e40e9c1.png

 

I hope some part of this response is helpful, and I'm glad to hear people are still using my Fantasy Hero material...let me know if you encounter any specific things you have questions on and I'll try to answer them.

 

 

 

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I do find the "no defense" aspect of side effects problematic.  1d6 Blast, NND, Does BOD costs 20 points, but accounts for a 5 point side effect.  1d6 STUN Drain accounts for a 10 point side effect (Drain is 10 points, x 2 for being defensive, but STUN costs 1/2 CP) and does no BOD damage.  The STUN comes back 10/turn instead of recovering normally, but outside of Supers, 10/turn in combat is pretty fast recovery.  Make it slower, and it is more CP, so less damaging as a side effect.

 

Maybe it is time to revise the active points of SE to consider that "no defenses" is much more pricy for normal attacks than other attacks.  If 60 AP were a 6d6 STUN Drain or a 3d6 Blast, NND, Does BOD, that might be a little more comparable.  One is significant damage in a single combat.  The other could be fatal over an extended scenario.

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On 6/6/2021 at 4:59 PM, Killer Shrike said:

So...I think you are referring to my Metier magic system, and the Preciat style specifically? 

http://www.killershrike.com/FantasyHERO/HighFantasyHERO/MagicSystems/metierStyles.aspx

 

I'm going to assume the answer is yes, and proceed. Note: I'm going to refer to Side Effects as SE and Requires Skill Roll as RSR throughout to save typing.

 

A few things:

 

1) In both 5e and 6e Minor SEs (such as what the Preciat style has) are 15 AP not 30 AP...

image.png.8eb58180025346ea83853ba015848aba.pngimage.png.49999569ed98eb32f83a022192b2d90a.png
 

2) SE paired with an RSR occur when the skill roll is failed (unless the Always Occurs modifier to SE is also applied). In the case of Preciat and other Metier Styles that take a SE that is not also Always Occurs, the RSR is the corresponding required Metier Style skill, and thus the SE only occurs if that RSR fails.

 

3) You can do a lot of things with Side Effects, not just inflict damage.

 

Personally, I like self-referential SE's which tie back to the thing that caused the SE; in the case of magic use diminishing the caster's ability to cast further magic has a nice feedback loop component. An obvious one is a temporary penalty to the Metier Style skill itself for a period of time...dialing the penalty amount and the unit of time to suit your preferences or the situation. For endurance using magic systems I liked to use a fatigue based model. I used Long Term Endurance rules generally in most of my Fantasy Hero campaigns, and piggy backed on that for magic systems that used END. But a Drain based option also works. Anyway, I describe both approaches in detail in the following document:

 

http://www.killershrike.com/FantasyHERO/HighFantasyHERO/GeneralSpellRestrictions.aspx#SideEffects

 

You could also define a cross-cutting ambient notion (such as ley lines or Darksun-like defilers, or what have you) and have SE do something like deplete the ambient magic of the local area for some period of time...you could go further and tie it into Change Environment to apply a flat penalty to something within the affected area. And so on.

 

But, there's an entire section in the SE write up talking about all the various creative things one can bend SE to do for a reason. IMO "takes damage" is the least interesting / least creative / least useful option. If you put a little thought into it, you can use SE on a magic system or individual spell type effect to dial up the flavor and feel of that particular type of magic. 

 

4) The GM is explicitly told they can adjust the impact of SE to suit their campaign.

 

image.png.ef294fe5fbd20ec048b7101bbec1dbef.png

 

So, if even after considering the above points and possibly settling into a version of SE that isn't just "you take a lot of no-defense damage and maybe die", you still feel like SE is to punitive for your tastes...just turn the dial a bit to ratchet it down. This is how I approach universal "toolkit" type systems, and Hero in particular... ;) 

image.png.867435016ce75778029342bd7e40e9c1.png

 

I hope some part of this response is helpful, and I'm glad to hear people are still using my Fantasy Hero material...let me know if you encounter any specific things you have questions on and I'll try to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the info.  That is what I was thinking of and planned to do.  

 

How would you do a drain to a skill roll!

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12 hours ago, Mr. R said:

 

 

Thanks for the info.  That is what I was thinking of and planned to do.  

 

How would you do a drain to a skill roll!

 

Doesn't have to be a Drain vs a Skill Roll. Penalties to Skill Rolls and how long or under what conditions they apply are entirely in GM's discretion land (see rules on Skill Modifiers, generally). 

 

Obviously scope, degree, and duration considerations apply here, as does consideration of combat vs non-combat impact.

 

For instance a cumulative -1 penalty to Preciat that lasts for a Day per failed RSR: Preciat or a cumulative -1 penalty to all 3d6 resolutions made by the caster that lasts until the end of the current combat per failed RSR: Preciat might both be appropriate as a Minor Side Effect but have different ramifications. 

 

If one must mechanic absolutely every little thing however, 5th edition also offered the notion of Negative Skill Levels as a kind of No Range, Constant, END costing custom power that could be applied to a target to impose a skill penalty. One could model a 0 END Persistent version of such as an SE effect if one were so disposed. I likely wouldn't bother as I'm not uncomfortable using GM's discretion for this sort of thing, but it's an option.

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28 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

Yeah, seems to be the only way to do it in the rules at present.  If you're not sure what its worth, build the power and see what it would cost.

In 6e Skills, pg 54 an alternative is suggested of treating skills as Defense Powers and having adjustment powers only have half effect on them.

For Characteristic based skills (magic rolls are often, but not always, characteristic based), you can drain the characteristic itself, either with or without the limitation "Only for calculation of skill base" (which I would value at -1 generally). 

 

Personally, I use a mix of CE and Killer Shrike's "GM Fiat" method. If the effect is imposed externally (another caster creating a field that disrupts the ability to call magic) then I generally use Change Environment because I prefer to have mechanics available in case the players come up with something innovative to offset or mitigate the effect via their own magic. If the effects is self imposed (Side Effects or other penalties built into the system itself for improper materials, rushing, etc.) then I generally lay out those penalties for myself and don't worry about mechanics. If a situation comes up where someone has a great idea to work around it and it works for the flow of the story I just go with it.

 

- E

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