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The Problem Rune Spells (and a quick-fix for most)


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6 hours ago, g33k said:

Ummm ...  because Death?

Sword skill, sure; but because the Sword *IS* the Death-rune, and it's for killing -- not fancy "swordplay."

Sever Spirit is, arguably, even more a central "sacred" spell for Humakt than Sword Trance.  My POW v Your POW...  and I say: DIE.

 

This... and I always visualize the Humakti using his sword to invoke this spell anyway... swinging away from a distance with a dark bolt off lightning or a ray of some type blasting from its tip to deprive the meat from its ghost.

SDLeary

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Yes.  Oh, very much yes. Our Storm Bull and our Humakti were the party main big hitters for a while.  The Humakti is tiny and fast, and breaks easily when hit.  The Storm Bull is SIZ 19 and can tak

I disagree as to just about every "Problem Rune Spell". These spells are written as we at Chaosium intend them to work. If you want to house rule them to reflect how you want things to be, go for it.

For the original topic, I don't see the spells above as problems at all.  No, things aren't balanced.  That's a MMORPG thing that doesn't need to exist in a paper and pencil RPG.  Also the "bad guys"

13 hours ago, Darius West said:

On the other hand, sureshot is a pretty weak spell, if it weren't for the point that you can take up any missile weapon and use it with 100% proficiency for one shot.  Rather than spending 9RP on turning into a bear, why not do the smart thing and man a ballista or arbalest?  Situations are about using your abilities in the most creative and productive ways available to you in the situation.  If all you can think of is turning into a bear...

Maybe because that's literally all the Odayla cult has? They don't have Sureshot.

Bear's Strength, though, is pretty dope.

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18 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

Not at all. Once the spell has been cast, the boosting MP are gone. They have no further effect.

@PhilHibbs Thanks for clearing that one up for me.  I guess I'd read how boosting spells worked and just assumed it affected dismissing/dispelling/neutralising as well as getting through countermagic and shields.  However now, rereading the core book, there's no mention of boosting helping make spells harder to dismiss.

So dismissing is still a valid way to get rid of sword trances.

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1 hour ago, Tupper said:

@PhilHibbs Thanks for clearing that one up for me.  I guess I'd read how boosting spells worked and just assumed it affected dismissing/dispelling/neutralising as well as getting through countermagic and shields.  However now, rereading the core book, there's no mention of boosting helping make spells harder to dismiss.

So dismissing is still a valid way to get rid of sword trances.

I think so. Personally I don't think that the MPs in either Sword Trance or Heal Wound should have any effect on either countermagic or dispelling.

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56 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

I think so. Personally I don't think that the MPs in either Sword Trance or Heal Wound should have any effect on either countermagic or dispelling.

I'm not totally sure it's RAW, but I think it's a good interpretation that probably makes it play better.

6 hours ago, Crel said:

Bear's Strength, though, is pretty dope.

It is "pretty good" if you're careful with character creation. For instance, Nathem (the pre-gen character), has STR 14 and SIZ 14. The sum is 28, which gives him +1D4 Damage Bonus. With Bear's Strength, the sum goes to 42 which, luckily, is just enough to get to +2D6, which is, indeed a nice bump. Allocate just one less point in either STR or SIZ and you only get bumped to +1D6 which is absolutely miserable and not worth the Rune Points. So make sure you not only coach your players accordingly if they want to play Odayla, but also consider not using the old-school pure-random stat roll, which makes it hard to get the "proper" stat scores in the first place.

On a semi-related-and-off-topic note, I totally hate these spells and effects that change a stat and tell you "feel free to recompute all your skill category bonuses, and apply that to your skills for the next 15 minutes". This is super annoying (those tables are not exactly friendly to use, even during character creation, let alone during combat), and the rules don't even recommend pre-computing those bonuses in advance (which you should do, but it would have helped if the rules gave examples of this, with standardized 3-letter shorthand for skill categories). I would have preferred it if they just gave, like, a flat +15% or +20%, as it plays faster.

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4 hours ago, lordabdul said:

On a semi-related-and-off-topic note, I totally hate these spells and effects that change a stat and tell you "feel free to recompute all your skill category bonuses, and apply that to your skills for the next 15 minutes". This is super annoying (those tables are not exactly friendly to use, even during character creation, let alone during combat), and the rules don't even recommend pre-computing those bonuses in advance (which you should do, but it would have helped if the rules gave examples of this, with standardized 3-letter shorthand for skill categories). I would have preferred it if they just gave, like, a flat +15% or +20%, as it plays faster.

In practice, what you actually do is to calculate them once and make a note of the bonus, then use that bonus each time. You only need to change the result if your Characteristics change. sure, it takes a minute or so to work out the first time, but after that you just refer to a note on the Character sheet.

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1 hour ago, soltakss said:

In practice, what you actually do is to calculate them once and make a note of the bonus, then use that bonus each time.

Yeah that's what I was saying... experienced gamers will do it, but maybe not newbies. I was basically questioning the worth of having spell rules rely on skill category modifiers in the first place, as opposed to simpler, more "direct" bonuses. I love tables when you roll on them. I don't like tables when you just look things up on them :)  (especially those tables, which for some reason are slow for my brain to process... probably a mix of horizontal orientation, looking up numbers inside ranges, etc.)

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23 hours ago, lordabdul said:

On a semi-related-and-off-topic note, I totally hate these spells and effects that change a stat and tell you "feel free to recompute all your skill category bonuses, and apply that to your skills for the next 15 minutes". This is super annoying (those tables are not exactly friendly to use, even during character creation, let alone during combat), and the rules don't even recommend pre-computing those bonuses in advance (which you should do, but it would have helped if the rules gave examples of this, with standardized 3-letter shorthand for skill categories). I would have preferred it if they just gave, like, a flat +15% or +20%, as it plays faster.

That's actually one of the reasons I started making character creation spreadsheets, to take the effort out of calculating derived attributes.

Makes it a lot easier to play around with your stats, seeing the effects on damage bonus, strike rank, etc. updating in real time. Nice for munchkins, anyway, but I was never a munchkin.

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On 2/22/2020 at 4:53 PM, lordabdul said:

I'd love to hear more examples of tactics to use against Humakti (and other bad-asses), especially when it comes to making sure the GM isn't coming down to hard and ending up frustrating the Humakti player (one good tactic I've read, which was actually maybe from you, was to stretch out combat past the 15min mark, by having the NPCs retreat and hunker down in some other place where they have tactical advantage). I get the feeling that one alternative way to go is to let the players use all kinds of awesome/overpowered spells all they want, but to deal with short term repercussions like enemies seeking revenge soon enough that they don't have much time to recharge their Rune Points.

 

There are many, as Runequest is very much a 3D combat system.  The basic way to fight, swords and axes at bad breath ranges, is totally dominated by the Humakti types.  But everyone knows this. 

Spirit Magic solutions (i.e. the classics)

Befuddle him -- 200% sword doesn't matter when he can't figure out who to hit.  Demoralize him -- cut his original skill back down to half.  Also only defensive and healing magic is allowed, so you just shut down Truesword, Sword Trance, Sever Spirit.  Disrupt him -- a bit weak sauce, but while 10 Lunar soldiers may not be able to take down a Tranced up Humakti, but they should be disciplined and trained enough to volley fire Disrupts as he comes in.   Dispel him -- again, the hallmark of a trained specialist, or perhaps a shaman leader.  Debuff him  -- Dullblade, Darkwall, and Lightwall all reduce his chance to hit.  Yelmalians should use the Lightwall directly in front of the Phalanx, Trolls a Darkwall in front of a shield wall.  In free flowing combat this would not be as effective, imo.    Shimmer can add to the effect.  Consider a Yelmalian Phalanx with the front row all with Shimmer 4, standing behind multiple Lightwalls.  This sort of combined or group effort should bet eh hallmark of the more organized foes.   And you don't need an army to do that trick, just a defensive position, the knowledge of the spells, and enough training and discipline to actually do it.    Fanaticism ironically may be an option, as it prevents a parry, and halves dodge.  That is really a desperate measures type solution though.  You lose one to two guys for some free hits, basically.  

Rune Magic Solutions are very cult based.  If you can just zap him, then by all means, this is your primary target.  You may have an alternative, like Harmony or Crack If you can't, then stack enough Shield on someone to take the hits, and let him tank the Humakti (hoping for no criticals, of course), while you deal with everything else/come up with an alternative plan.  And you never know, your tank may roll the 01 and take out the avatar of death.  Fight enough times and it happens.  Some of the elemental types that do damage without needing to defeat a parry may be able to wear a Humakti down in numbers, or if he is busy attacking something else.  Shades come to mind.

Melee based solutions aren't really viable.  Well, not practical.  Unless you have a small horde of impaling types you can just throw away at every serious problem.  Oh!  Like trollkin.  Sure you are fishing for crits and impales, but Trollkin have little to no other value to their Troll leaders.   Broos might also do the trick, with the added bonus of disease later on in the adventure session.  Although they are probably doomed to get slaughtered, a mob still can always get that lucky critical hit, which is really how you expect most Humakti to die.

Missile based solutions are mainly about volley fire.  First at anyone with Death Runes, and then at anyone rushing to heal him.  A prepared ambush from competent opponents can be absolutely brutal, with multiple PC's taken out before they even realize that they are being attacked.   There are many, many situations where this should be happening, or at risk for happening.

Poison solves a ton of Humakti problems.   You can apply it via arrow, bolt, gas attack (try parrying that!), or put it in his food or drink.   Now all you have to do is survive a few rounds and your problem may die puking.  

A party that is poor at woods craft should be at extreme disadvantage against many foes.  Aldryami, Telmori, outlaws, ducks, and other wilderness dwellers.   This sometimes happens when the party is all about the size of their Rune spells and forgets some of the basics.  These types of foes should be experts at taking them unawares, possibly unarmed, or just using natural terrain to keep the group at arms reach.   Gorges, gullies, deep fast streams, and dense vegetation all offer wonderful obstacles for the plate armored death dealer to slog through while the woods-wise try out their various solutions.   So sure, this may not kill the kill problem outright, but it keeps you from dying, gives you safe chances at dealing with the problem, and you may be able to lead the Humakti into a flora or fauna encounter that is entirely unpleasant for him.  Lots of nasty things in Glorantha for a stranger to the area to get led into.

 

Well, that's a lot. How would this all play out?  Well, it is important to be reasonable, or at least "realistic".  Establishing the rules of the game early are huge, and I don't mean what's in the MRB.  I mean how the world is understood and acted upon by the NPC's (and ultimately the PC's).   Example:  A random bandit encounter is waiting on the road.  Rolls indicate that the party is clueless and un-alert.  Do they try to take on 6-8 well armed, armored, grizzled warriors?  Heck no!  They slink away or stay hidden, waiting for easier opponents. 

But what if the Humakti has vowed to hunt down this particular band of outlaws and just isn't giving up?  They know that they cannot evade detection forever, plus hiding all day prevents them from hunting, robbing, that sort of thing.  They decide to turn and deal with this great warrior and his friends, who are doggedly trying to bring them to justice.  If they can, they will look for local plants to make a poison out of.  If really desperate they may try to buy some.  Let's say that they have some potency 12 on hand.  They will try to use local contacts or knowledge of the land to ambush the dangerous Humakti, as none of them relishes meeting him sword to sword.  The best shot, with the best missile weapon gets to hold the poison vial.  Now a stalking sort of game happens.  Both groups consult local contacts, possibly bribe them, maybe make orate rolls to persuade them, etc.  Then both parties in the wilderness and start makeing rolls such as track, spot, hide, plant lore, whatever the groups try to do.  Weather happens.  Random events may happen.  This goes on for a couple of days in game time, about 10 minutes in real time as both sides vie for the advantage.  If the outlaws are superior to the PC's, and win these contests, the GM may decide that they have managed an ambush under favorable terms. 

In this case the GM decides that the PCs are alert and armored, but have stopped for water.  Right where the outlaws were waiting for them.  One PC or hireling type is getting water and the bandits take their chance.  The best archer applies his poison vial, someone casts speed dart on him and he attacks.  The rest also attack or cast spells.  If they are too far away for spirit magic, they probably use the time to buff.  If the GM decides that they are close enough for spirit magic, then they let fly with whatever they have. 

If 2 disruptions hit for 3 and 1 points, and the arrow/bolt does say.....3 points, then the Humakti is already behind the eight ball.  If he passes his opposed roll versus the poison, he can expect take 6 more points damage.  That's 13 points already, he doesn't know how fast acting the poison is, and he is being barraged by missiles and spells.  Does he heal himself?  The 3 wounds are pretty minor and you can only get one at a time.  Cast Protection?  Won't help against the coming poison damage nor the disruptions.  Counter magic?  Will block the Disruptions, but not the missiles.  Cast Bladesharp, True sword, Sword Trance?  Total losers as he'll almost certainly get dropped the next turn.  The best play is Shield.  He basically has to burn Rune points just to expect to stay alive.  If the save versus poison is a failure, or the missile is a heavy crossbow bolt, or happens to impale or critical, the situation is nothing less than dire.  He's down, needs healing or is dead (depends on where he is hit), and will need multiple turns of healing as the poison damage compounds the physical damage.  Up the poison to 20, and the bandits have a real shot at this. 

Now the players may bust out Heal Body, Shield, offensive magic of their own, and likely will (and should! in these circumstances).  But take a look at the opposition.  They are just nobodies with no rune magic, no clan.  Just some herb lore, some outdoor skills (or luck), and the ability to brew or buy a fairly "meh" potency poison.  With the right circumstances they should be taking down the Humakti, and then they can keep pouring it on the hopefully weaker fighters, negotiate ("we'll let you heal your friend if you vow never to hunt us again!" -- because the Humakti will be bound by that oath.), or if the PC's bust out 10-15 points of Rune magic to Zap themselves out of the situation, or get a lucky (or expensive) divine intervention to recover, then the outlaws retreat.  They aren't trying to win at all costs.  They want favorable conditions or not to engage at all.  And if they can't get that, they may attempt to scatter, or surrender.   If they do get good conditions, then even bronze plate (which is rough when swimming or climbing after light armed bandits), won't save him.   The Humakti needs some time and/or distance to really get going, and if he lights up like a Christmas tree then that's a signal to vamoose across the rough terrain where there is the best chance of ditching a heavily armed and armored warrior.

After the PC's drag themselves back to the Tula, depleted but perhaps victorious, they are told of another serious danger which they must now face......possibly down 5 PoW points and 10 RPs to some very weak bandits. 

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39 minutes ago, Dissolv said:

Befuddle him -- 200% sword doesn't matter when he can't figure out who to hit.  Demoralize him -- cut his original skill back down to half.  Also only defensive and healing magic is allowed, so you just shut down Truesword, Sword Trance, Sever Spirit.  Disrupt him -- a bit weak sauce, but while 10 Lunar soldiers may not be able to take down a Tranced up Humakti, but they should be disciplined and trained enough to volley fire Disrupts as he comes in.   Dispel him -- again, the hallmark of a trained specialist, or perhaps a shaman leader.  Debuff him  -- Dullblade, Darkwall, and Lightwall all reduce his chance to hit.  Yelmalians should use the Lightwall directly in front of the Phalanx, Trolls a Darkwall in front of a shield wall.  In free flowing combat this would not be as effective, imo.    Shimmer can add to the effect.  Consider a Yelmalian Phalanx with the front row all with Shimmer 4, standing behind multiple Lightwalls.  This sort of combined or group effort should bet eh hallmark of the more organized foes.   And you don't need an army to do that trick, just a defensive position, the knowledge of the spells, and enough training and discipline to actually do it.    Fanaticism ironically may be an option, as it prevents a parry, and halves dodge.  That is really a desperate measures type solution though.  You lose one to two guys for some free hits, basically.  

 

And do not forget the common Rune Magic, Multispell!

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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On 2/23/2020 at 4:33 AM, Dissolv said:

Balance is not a great concept for a paper and pencil RPG

I don't think that the concept of balance should be regarded as entirely irrelevant, but its certainly a much looser concept. 

I don't find the idea that only warrior cults (generally) have Shield, or that Shield is a really good spell, unbalancing. It means the warriors are the guys in the front line, and have an advantage in confrontations, and that is fine. I don't find the idea that Spirit Block trivialises Spirit Combat to be unbalancing - instead, it shows that the balance of world is that human worshippers can deal with spirits (at least for 15 minutes, when they really need to do something, now and then). I don't find these unbalancing the way the OP does. 

I don't find Sever Spirit unbalancing - Humakt should have the best Death magic, and it is sometimes super awesome, but it tends not to be unbalancing against other religions when it gives you one shot, is unreliable (and very unreliable against effective high power opponents, like all Rune Lords and Rune Priests), and many opponents will have defences. 

I certainly don't find the idea that, eg, river cults don't have a lot of combat magic, but are good at dealing with rivers, at all 'unbalancing'.

I do find, though, that some spells have a mechanical effect of game balance that tends to go far beyond what seems right for modelling the world. 

So I do dislike Sword/Axe Trance as written. Humakt should be one of the most effective fighting gods (and BG too), but this spell, on its own, means they can easily totally outclass other cults that don't have it, when the balance of the world should be that they are better, but not overwhelmingly better. So that one, I rewrite to push it way down - while still being pretty awesome. I use the rewritten version, and limit it to doubling skill. So it's effectively a calm version of Berserk in game balance, which seems about right. Its still pretty good, and makes Humakt the post powerful warrior cult in hand to hand combat still (except maybe BG), but not totally dominating. 

Morale is so powerful I find it a big issue - but then, other cults can accomplish similar things with wyters and such, and Humakt is (in the Gods Book draft, anyway) no longer the only cult that has it. 

So, don't ignore game balance entirely but make it reflect what the balance of the world is supposed to be. I can understand the idea that most of the 'problem' spells the OP listed are not really a problem according to the designers, while still thinking a few spells times the spells are probably far too powerful than they were intended to be. 

 

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3 minutes ago, davecake said:

Morale is so powerful I find it a big issue - but then, other cults can accomplish similar things with wyters and such, and Humakt is (in the Gods Book draft, anyway) no longer the only cult that has it.

Can you tell us who has it? (Please be Yelmalio please be Yelmalio)

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On 2/23/2020 at 10:34 AM, Shiningbrow said:

Who's got 6 buff spells active, can disappear, and Tap your soul away in seconds... 

err... quite a lot of seconds, two rounds at least. 

And to have six buff spells known  - thats a professional sorcerer who happens to also be in Lhankor Mhy, but devotes more of their time to non-Lhankor Mhy sorcery. 

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On 2/23/2020 at 10:59 AM, Shiningbrow said:

Well, when GaGoG comes out, there's the possibility that Sword Sages of LM will have those spells and Runes available at character creation... 

GaGoG draft I have does not substantially change the spells and Runes available to Lhankor Mhy at character creation. Command, Truth, and spells from Torvalds Fragments only at character creation. 

Admittedly, the final version may change, but I see no reason to expect it will. 

Some temples might have other spells in the Library, but they don't teach them to Apprentices, so learning them happens in play. FWIW, IMG they are generally not written in the same language either, in most temples you are going to have to learn Western or Auld Wyrmish or Pelorian or something to read them. 

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On 2/23/2020 at 5:19 PM, Crel said:

Maybe because that's literally all the Odayla cult has? They don't have Sureshot.

Bear's Strength, though, is pretty dope.

Its kind of annoyingly ambiguous, but I assume that almost every Odaylan that is a professional Hunter is also a member of Foundchild if they want to be, and people don't even think of it as being a separate cult much (Foundchild is very vague on general cult organisation). Same for Yinkin. It's how I (admittedly very generously) interpret that 'can participate in the Great Hunt' wording. I also think they (as described in the Sartar Companion for HeroQuest) generally get access to spirit magic Binding Enchantment for animal spirits if they find a shaman to teach them. Odayla gets a raw deal. 

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13 minutes ago, davecake said:

Its kind of annoyingly ambiguous, but I assume that almost every Odaylan that is a professional Hunter is also a member of Foundchild if they want to be, and people don't even think of it as being a separate cult much (Foundchild is very vague on general cult organisation). Same for Yinkin. It's how I (admittedly very generously) interpret that 'can participate in the Great Hunt' wording. I also think they (as described in the Sartar Companion for HeroQuest) generally get access to spirit magic Binding Enchantment for animal spirits if they find a shaman to teach them. Odayla gets a raw deal. 

Back in RQ2 I think Odayla and Foundchild used the exact same cult, just under different names. I wonder why they changed that.

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Diss

4 hours ago, Dissolv said:

The basic way to fight, swords and axes at bad breath ranges, is totally dominated by the Humakti types. 

And Dissolv then lists a whole bunch of tactics to use against Humakti.

Worth noting that many rival warrior cults are good at several of these tactics (eg Orlanth is good at missiles and mobility, Yelmalio at group action, Seven Mothers at spirit magic (everyone has befuddle)), but the Humakt cults greatest rivals, Zorak Zoran, are good at most of them. Delaying tactics and missiles by extensive use of trollkin skirmishers and slings, several good debuff spells, using rune magic including elementals to get past their parry and armour, often able to effectively use terrain against them if attacking in darkness. And in addition are nearly as good in melee, and can exploit on the Humakti weak healing by using hit and run tactics, healing themselves between encounters but using Seal Wound. There are good reasons why Humakti tend to not find Zorak Zoran too easy to beat. 

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37 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

Can you tell us who has it? (Please be Yelmalio please be Yelmalio)

Polaris. (not yet published, subject to change, treat with caution, etc)

I tend to assume that lots of regimental wyters, and sub-cults and such also either have it, or something like it, or just people are often buffed by being inspired by their Loyalty passion, which isn't quite as good but reduces the huge advantage from Morale to something less extreme. Which makes Humakts ability to cast Morale still really significant - a mercenary group assembled from rag-tag warriors yesterday can fight very well together - but not overwhelming vs established units or forces fighting to defend their home etc. 

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4 hours ago, davecake said:

I don't find the idea that Spirit Block trivialises Spirit Combat to be unbalancing - instead, it shows that the balance of world is that human worshippers can deal with spirits (at least for 15 minutes, when they really need to do something, now and then).

Is this the impression we have of Glorantha, though? That even very powerful spirits are mere nuisances that can be easily defeated by men?

My problem with this is that it's anti-dramatic. The shaman goes up against a very powerful spirit, in a fight that should be very dangerous and challenging... except that the Shaman pops a big Spirit Block and is now invincible in Spirit Combat. It's only slightly less anticlimactic than if the shaman had an "I Win" spell, which automatically just wins the spirit combat outright.

The mere existence of this spell means that spirits (of any but the very most powerful types) can never be an interesting challenge against people who know it, at least not in spirit combat. (Yes, you can now start to argue that the GM might throw multiple spirit combats in one scenario and so on, but that just proves the power of the spell, if you have to deliberately play around it in order to create an interesting situation.)

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11 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

Is this the impression we have of Glorantha, though? That even very powerful spirits are mere nuisances that c

Well, first off, the answer to that is kind of yes - Spirit Block has always been in the game and is considerably less powerful than it used to be. But it is also a lot more accessible with Rune points. 

But there is more to it than that. 

A spirit can generally retreat away from corporate attackers - usually entirely, right into the depths of the spirit plane. So a lot of the time, it does not allow you to defeat the spirit, only to drive it off for 15 minutes, after which it may choose to return. Look at the Visibility spell, a human has few options to attack a spirit that is Visible. So a human may be able to take on a spirit, but most are incapable of chasing it down. 

A really good question is does the sentence 

Quote

If the current magic points of the attacking spirit fall below the value of the Spirit Block they are unable to continue spirit combat with the protected recipient, and the spirit combat ends.

mean that the spirit combat ends with the defender victorious and the defender can Bind it or similar, or just that the attacking spirit can no longer threaten the defender, but can just leave if it wants. This makes quite a bit of difference to shamans - it becomes an emergency last resort, but one that is usually avoided, if the latter is true - and I suspect it is. 

And last, of course, spirits can learn magic too,, or have other powers. Spirit Block is great for warding off spirits that have no nifty powers. But spirits might be able to attack physically with a bite or a spirit weapon or a spirit dart, take on a physical form, attack using magic like  a Spirit magic spell or even some Rune magic (even defend themselves with Spirit Block!), or attack indirectly using its powerful (such as commanding incomplete creatures to attack, or curses, etc). Never underestimate them - if you are running a shaman heavy game you will want them to often encounter powerful spirits with a range of abilities, keep them on their toes. 

 

 

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