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Limiting RSR rolls


Mr. R
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This is a follow up question to the side effects question.  Now I own a fair bit of Fantasy Hero stuff including the NPC books for Turakian Age.  One element that I REALLY dislike is the inflated skill rolls on magic skills.  Yeah I'll buy up the skill to 26- because even at minus 8 I still have a 18- roll.  So why even have a RSR skill then?  At that time the points saved from the RSR limitation are being spent just to remove the limitation.  So they want it so that 1 time in 216 they may get a failure.  

 

RSR should be a factor.  A limitation that isn't limiting, well how did the saying go?

 

So question, do you limit the RSR?  Like an 18- sounds great, but tack on a minus 5 from Active points (45), and this goes to 13-!  Want to get it to 19-, maybe?  What would you do?  And what do you do?

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I do limit RSR, but fair warning:

 

I am _not_ the best example, because I am the first guy here to defenestrate the rule book in favor of what works at the table and keeps the game fun.  With that in mind, I am likely not the guy you really want to hear from.  ;)

 

 

Things I have done in various Fantasy campaigns in the past regarding RSR:

 

If your RSR was for a Skill with a level above 16-, the value of the Limitation was cut in half.  If the Skill is is 21-, I cut the value in half again.  (this works because despite the rules, I allow -1/8 Limitations (mostly for situations just like this) and +1/8 Advantages ( it seems to stop the quibbling over the -1/8 value Limitations).

 

Anything attached to a Skill of greater than 21- is a -1/8 and _must_ take a second RSR at -0 (obviously not on the same Skill or Characteristic).  In some campaigns, I have instead mandated an additional -1/2 Limitation.

 

 

While it doesn't _stop_ theoretical abuse, it does make it significantly less attractive.  One this it does is to help prevent over-powered starting PCs, as they are rebated fewer points to spend elsewhere.   Yes, as the campaign progresses, a Player can spend his EXP wherever he would like, but I have found in practice that they tend to broaden Skills and abilities rather than deepen them, so the Skill upon which the RSR is based doesn't climb as much it potentially could.

 

Again, it's not a cure-all solution; it simply makes that particular exploitation less attractive.

 

 

In campaigns where RSR is mandated (and usually at -0), I have done something slightly different.  Using the same or similar (sometimes I have started at above 14- instead of above 16-, depends on the "grittiness" of the campaign and the prevalence / reliability of magic in that campaign) and required additional side effects.  To explain:

 

A Character with an RSR on a skill of, say 13-, would not have to take this additional side effect.  A character with a skill of 21- would.  Before shooting this down, let me break it down a bit:  

 

Because of penalties inflicted by the AP of the magic being used, the 13- wizard is only able to manipulate a certain...  "volume?" of magic.  This lesser amount of magic is less troublesome against the physics of the world-- the universe can recover more quickly and more easily, in a manner of speaking.  The wizard with a 21- roll can conjure a much greater volume of magic, one that is more difficult to control, and to which the world is more opposed, resulting in some sort of backlash.

 

Further, (remember what I said about chucking the rulebook to keep things fun and moving?), I have no problem (in such a campaign, mind you) with the 21- guy announcing that he wishes to use a "smaller" amount of magic and voluntarily dropping his target number to avoid additional side-effects.   (again, for the audience: I know the rulebook would sprain itself over this idea; I am not suggesting that it is remotely supported by the rules, unless you custom value the additional Limitations based on some sort of sliding scale, etc, and call it a "custom Limitation" that works, at certain skill levels, very much like some normal Limitations work all the time.  However, I don't bother to do any custom pricing for them)

 

 

I tinkered with an idea that there be a requirement to have two RSR rolls: one to determine how much magic you could wield, and one to determine how well you could cast it.  That is, you could buy "manipulate magic" up to whatever skill level you wanted-- say, as I keep hitting it, 21-.    The idea was that for every X points by which you beat your target roll, you could summon enough magic to cast Y real points of a spell.  Then you would cast your spell against the "cast magic" or "cast this particular spell" skill (keeping in mind that there are AP penalties against this particular roll, etc).

 

This never got off the ground for a couple of reasons:  It required that the spell book be built so that each spell was written per "level."  That is: per die, per line on the chart,-- such as that.  No one minded it, but it was a bit of front loading that might bother some players or GMs, but for me it just didn't feel like "magic."  I suppose I should say it felt _less_ like magic, because the "doesn't feel like magic" is sort of a long-running problem with me and HERO: when the spell is built the exact same way my horse is built, it feels far more like a utility than a mystic ability.  Again, that's _my_ problem, and not anyone else's.  ;)

 

 

The biggest reason it never got off the ground (we played with it in a couple of test sessions, but have yet to try it in a campaign) is that I am not really super-excited by fantasy.  I am a science fiction fan at heart, with a healthy does of western fiction, a dabbler in good occult fiction (meaning "not Buffy" and "not VtM"-- both entertaining, but as-presented, occult was a backdrop, really, and not even necessary to tell the story), and _willing_ to run supers.  Not a big fan of supers, but I am a fan of the players having a good time, and I am not really _opposed_ to supers.  Fantasy just isn't my trigger-tripper, I suppose, and for the most part my Players are kind enough to go elsewhere when the just _need- a Fantasy fix.  Perhaps one day we will give it a go, but who knows...?

 

 

Again, I don't expect anything in there to really appeal, as most of it violates some significant part of the RAW, but perhaps something in it will get you thinking toward something that works for you.

 

 

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I simply ignored the point cost of the spell. I would limit rolls to 16 or less, but subtract nothing from the role due to difficulty of spells, but add difficulty due to environmental factors and situational difficulties. Such as if the spell require gestures and incantations and was done in cold weather thst imposed Dex minuses, then the same minuses applied to the magic rolls. Too much math made things a serious bother for me so I tended to ruthlessly simplify magic systems. I am an artist and therefore am afflicted with math anxiety and an aversion to numbers, so modt minuses we’re applied to all similar activities. 

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So many different paths to take in HERO.

 

I am not going to answer along the path of Superheroic. On that oath rolls really may not make narrative sense.

 

I will go down the Heroic path, and there are some branches I am taking.

 

First, you want rolls to not power escalate upwards? Just change the -1 / 10 AP to -1 / 20 or higher.  There is also the ability to buy specific Skill roll levels for an individual spell.  If a Wizard has a spell which is outsized in AP, they rest being just a clustered around a similar AP total, buy a couple of those Skill lvls.

 

You can have a rule that more Limitations on a spell than Advantages, gives a + to Magic roll, every - .5 gives a +1 or every -1.

 

You  can always institute a Jammed Limitation for RSR over a certain amount, like 16-,

 

An idea I have used is going to Delayed Effect.  Wizards can use the calm and safety of a base or camp, 'rack' the spell and then give a big bonus to Magic roll to cast to rack the spell. Less pressure to buy up the roll and when  combat comes around, those out of combat bonus' mean some real risk.

 

Next is complimentary skills to that RSR Magic roll.  Having an Apprentice or other mage to increase the roll with a complimentary skill would lessen the pressure to have high skill rolls.

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For heroic / gritty levels of play, I normally apply a skill maxima across the board, which incidentally applies to magic systems that require skill rolls.

 

Skill Maxima is one of the rows in my "Assumptions" checklist I use for various campaign settings; you can see it in detail along w/ links to various "paradigms" such as High / Epic / Low fantasy, and a worksheet for you to fill in your own if you wish, here:

http://www.killershrike.com/FantasyHERO/HighFantasyHERO/campaignParadigms.aspx

 

And here is an example from an actual campaign:

 

Assumptions
The following options are assumed to be in effect for this paradigm.

Option

Selected

Option

 
No NCM   X NCM
Powers Available O   Powers Not Available
Super Skills Available O   No Super Skills Available
Combat Luck Allowed X   No Combat Luck Allowed
No Deadly Blow Allowed   O Deadly Blow Allowed
 
Literacy Standard X   Literacy Not Standard
No Weapon Familiarity   X Weapon Familiarity
No Armor Familiarity X   Armor Familiarity
No Transport Familiarity   X Transport Familiarity
No Skill Maxima   14- Skill Maxima
No STR Minima   X STR Minima
Superheroic CSL Conversion   X Heroic CSL Conversion
 
No Encumbrance   X Encumbrance
Knockback   X Knockdown
Generalized Damage   X Hit Location Damage
No Long Term Damage X   Injury & Impairment Damage
Normal Damage Default   X Killing Damage Default
No Long Term Endurance   X Long Term Endurance
END Cost = Active Points / 10 X   END Cost = Active Points / 5
 
Equipment Costs Points   X Equipment Doesn't Cost Points*
Bases & Vehicles Cost Points   X Bases / Vehicles Don't Cost Points*
Followers Cost Points   X Followers Don't Cost Points*
 

*Resource Pools as described in the Starting Character guidelines are in effect

O: By Origin X: Selected

 

 

@Mr. RNote: as you are interested in using my Metier magic system, it might be relevant for you to know that I consider it to be a low to mid power level magic system and suggest it as being serviceable for Sword & Sorcery and Epic type settings.

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RSR works to concept, especially for over the top skillful gadgeteers and mages in the comics.  Tony Stark or Doctor Strange should have incredibly high skills, and RSR lets those skills do something - or to put it another way, pays for them.  Sure, you could just take 15- activation or something and say the special effect is you're incredibly skilled at some skill that has no application outside of making that power work practically all the time.  But, then, y'know, what about backing off on a power to make sure it works or it being harder to control if you take it to the limit?  That seems like a dynamic worth modeling.

 

RSR is the same point savings as 14- (excuse my versionitis if that's changed since whatever edition I'm remembering), but costs you points to buy up a skill that otherwise may do little or nothing, so it seems like it being able to tune it to working even on a 17- isnt entirely unreasonable.

 

My eponymous character had a variable-fx VPP that used different pool-change or RSR skills, and a GM once pointed out to me that I was saving maybe 3 points overall, and still looking at checks as low as 13- in some cases.  Yeah, but Opal started out as an alien so unfamiliar with earth that she couldn't /tell/ technology from magic, and she slowly mastered both over years of play, so there was a lot of fun getting to that inefficient point.  ;)

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First an observation. There are many players that do not enjoy failing at something that is supposed to be their characters schtick. When shooting a fireball at an enemy, they want to know that they can rely on that ability, and wouldn't even take RSR if it wasn't required by the game rules. To them, failing that roll is "Not Fun". This same thing happens with people who don't want to miss in combat. To that player, missing in combat makes the game "Not Fun". There is nothing necessarily wrong with this mindset. It is simply a different way to play.

 

I posit, that if this is an issue in your game, then you might need to sit down with the players and have a discussion about tone, genre conventions, and what everyone expects out of the game.

 

Now, that being said, there are a couple things you can do system-wise to reinforce this. You could enforce all, some or none of these suggestions as fits your particular magic build.

 

I will echo from above, enforce your Skill Maxima. If the player wants to run the skill up, well, that's how they want to play.

 

Remove RSR as a limitation (a -0 mandatory limitation). It is just "how magic works" and there is no expectation of getting points back.

 

Set magic ranks that ramp up the skill cost more aggressively as the AP goes up. AP 1-20 gets -1/20, 21-40 gets -1/10, 41-50 -1/5, etc.

 

If you want to tax the mage a little more, make them pay for access to each rank.

 

And probably more options. This is getting kinda long.

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So here are some things you might consider

 

You can house rule that buying the skill roll over 18- costs double (like Normal CHA Maxima), so players are less likely to go there.  But then give them an automatic +1 to the skill roll for Complimentary Knowledge Skills (or other appropriate skills).  That encourages your players to make more scholarly wizards with a coherent set of KS and spells

 

You could also require that mages have a Magic Skill.  But all spells must take a -1/4 Variable Limitation instead of RSR.  That limitation could be RSR, but since Foci are more reliable, most mages will use Foci and then only resort to RSR in a pinch.  This has multiple benefits.  First, most players will spend fewer points in Magic Skill to buy it high since they aren't using it as often.  Second, since they aren't making all those skill rolls, game play goes faster.  Third, it is a lot more dramatic when the wizard has to get off a spell when he has been disarmed, but it also means the wizard isn't completely helpless without Foci.

 

 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/15/2021 at 7:04 AM, theinfn8 said:

 

First an observation. There are many players that do not enjoy failing at something that is supposed to be their characters schtick. When shooting a fireball at an enemy, they want to know that they can rely on that ability, and wouldn't even take RSR if it wasn't required by the game rules. To them, failing that roll is "Not Fun". This same thing happens with people who don't want to miss in combat. To that player, missing in combat makes the game "Not Fun". There is nothing necessarily wrong with this mindset. It is simply a different way to play.

 

I posit, that if this is an issue in your game, then you might need to sit down with the players and have a discussion about tone, genre conventions, and what everyone expects out of the game.

 

As a tangential note to this, what if you just House-Ruled and changed what RSR does for the purposes of Magic?   Something I have been toying with (but not tested)  is basically setting up a Pass/Pass with Consequence setup for RSR magic rolls.   This way players don't have the double fail threat (passing RSR only to miss DCV and then watch Warrior just shoot a bow and only have 1 chance of failure with almost no points spent).  

Roughly the idea would be if you make your check spell works as intended and move forward,  if you fail the spell STILL works but would be at Half AP or perhaps x2 END or some other side effect.  It still keeps magic feeling reliable but  if you don't harness it properly then you will not have as good effect as you wanted.

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On 6/15/2021 at 6:39 PM, Ockham's Spoon said:

So here are some things you might consider

 

 

 

You could also require that mages have a Magic Skill.  But all spells must take a -1/4 Variable Limitation instead of RSR.  That limitation could be RSR, but since Foci are more reliable, most mages will use Foci and then only resort to RSR in a pinch.  This has multiple benefits.  First, most players will spend fewer points in Magic Skill to buy it high since they aren't using it as often.  Second, since they aren't making all those skill rolls, game play goes faster.  Third, it is a lot more dramatic when the wizard has to get off a spell when he has been disarmed, but it also means the wizard isn't completely helpless without Foci.

 

 

 

 

And 

 

5 hours ago, greypaladin_01 said:

 

As a tangential note to this, what if you just House-Ruled and changed what RSR does for the purposes of Magic?   Something I have been toying with (but not tested)  is basically setting up a Pass/Pass with Consequence setup for RSR magic rolls.   This way players don't have the double fail threat (passing RSR only to miss DCV and then watch Warrior just shoot a bow and only have 1 chance of failure with almost no points spent).  

Roughly the idea would be if you make your check spell works as intended and move forward,  if you fail the spell STILL works but would be at Half AP or perhaps x2 END or some other side effect.  It still keeps magic feeling reliable but  if you don't harness it properly then you will not have as good effect as you wanted.

 

 

Looks like you have similar ideas.  I will have to look into this!

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The way our group does requires a skill roll is that you are only allowed to make a single roll per phase.  You can activate multiple power but you have to add up all the penalties for all the powers you are activating that phase.  So if you are bringing up your defenses while making an attack you take the penalty for both.  You also suffer any side effects for both if you fail.  So if your attack spell is 60 active points and your defense spell is 50 you make a single roll at -11.  Since all spells require END to use they go down if you are stunned or knocked out.  That puts some teeth into the requires a skill roll because even with a high roll there are going to be times you are still not guaranteed to make the roll. 

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I have been on both sides of the GM screen when it comes to the RSR argument and most of the best experiences (both char and game) were centered around the proper use of this annoying roll.  At the time it's made, your gritting your teeth hoping for that success.  If success comes,  then the power does what it's supposed to do. The fun is found (with both players and GM) on the occasion of the failed roll. Great hilarity will befall everyone as they figure out what the aftereffects shall be. 

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If I am building a character for a Fantasy game, and the magic system imposes a strong probably of failure if my mage tries to do as much damage as my fighter or archer build could do without risk of failure (other than hit probability), then I am NOT building a mage. Done deal. Yes, there are loads of utility spells one could have a mage around for, but I am not interested in playing the jack-knife support character. I want to be able to shine when push comes to shove.

 

Now it may well be thematically appropriate for your campaign setting that magic is NOT particularly useful in a combat situation. Gandalf did use a sword. But it is germane only to a rather small subset of fantasy RPG settings I think. The VAST majority of people playing such games (usually using other systems) have mages either at the top of the damage dealing spectrum, or on par with other character archetypes.

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Ah yes, that is a frequent question.

 

Personally, when I run games I like to limit the RSR roll to the Characteristic it is tied to. In my games it can be INT or EGO, depending on the type of magic wielded. If the Skill Roll is based on INT, and the character has an INT of 18, they cannot exceed 18- in their RSR limitation. They can, of course, always raise their INT, but they have to pay for that AND raising their Skill Roll as well. Of course, Normal Characteristic Maxima still apply.

 

But, since I like more flexibility in my games, RSR is not a required Limitation for all domains of magic. You can have mages that only need Gestures and Focus to cast their spells, or RSR and Incantations, or Extra Time and RSR and Side Effects, what have you. RSR is not required. In my games, RSR represents "unpredictable" magic, or spells so complex that errors are likely. But it is not mandatory.

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Here's an idea.  Fantasy Hero gives the GM a lot of leeway in designing their magic system.  So, how about this:  all spells take RSR for no Limitation value.  

 

"Tier 0" spells require a Magic Skill Roll at no penalty.  

 

"Tier 1" spells require a Magic Skill Roll at -1 per 20 Active Points. 

 

"Tier 2" spells require a Magic Skill Roll at -1 per 10 Active Points.

 

"Tier 3" at -1 per 5 Active Points.  

 

Additionally, casters can take various KS, PS, SS, and so on, related to the types of magic they can cast.  Someone with KS: Fire Magic and SS: Chemistry might be able to use both of those as Complementary Skill Rolls to their Magic Skill when casting fire spells.  

 

Further, the Mages' Guild has a ranking system.  Mages of the First Circle cast their spells as listed above.  Mages of the Second Circle move everything down one level in difficulty, so that Tier 0 and 1 spells are at no penalty, Tier 2 spells are at -1 per 20, Tier 3 are at -1 per 10, and then they gain access to Tier 4 spells at -1 per 5.  And so on. 

 

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