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More doubts about shamans


Jose Luis

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Hello there!

I have some more doubts concerning shamans, mainly due to one of my players being too fond of power gaming.

1) Magic sight: the shaman has this spell permanently; the spell description states that if there are many creatures in the range of the spell, it will be difficult to know the POW of each of them.  How does this translate in the game?  Does it refer to the situation where the criatures are very close to each other and there are many of them?  Basically I would like to know which is the limit in the amount of creatures and if this "confusion" only applies if they are very close to each other.

2) Spiritual combat: the shaman has a powerful spititual screen/shield spell of 10 points.  He has only two spells, this one and a countermagic spell of 8 points.  And as he has the shamanic ability of inner power, he can just access any other spell (although at 1 point level only).  This makes him a powerhouse and virtually invincible in spiritual combat: does it make sense that powerful spirits have this spell (the spiritual shield) too, and at this level?  I guess it could be, as I find this the only way to provide a challenge to this shaman.  Also, many spirits (even powerful ones) have POW but not CHAR, how can you calculate the damage they inflict in spiritual combat?  It does not make sense to me to just use the POW as a reference.

Also, I have another general doubt applicable to all players: when the players have a prisoner and they wish to interrogate him by torturing him, how do I know if they succeed?  A WILLx(something) roll?

Many thanks,

Jose

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32 minutes ago, Jose Luis said:

2) Spiritual combat: the shaman has a powerful spititual screen/shield spell of 10 points.  He has only two spells, this one and a countermagic spell of 8 points.  And as he has the shamanic ability of inner power, he can just access any other spell (although at 1 point level only).  This makes him a powerhouse and virtually invincible in spiritual combat: does it make sense that powerful spirits have this spell (the spiritual shield) too, and at this level?  I guess it could be, as I find this the only way to provide a challenge to this shaman.  Also, many spirits (even powerful ones) have POW but not CHAR, how can you calculate the damage they inflict in spiritual combat?  It does not make sense to me to just use the POW as a reference.

Spirit Screen only lasts 25 rounds.  There's a gift you can get that makes it indefinite but you haven't specified that the shaman has it.  Since spirit combat has specials (double damage) and criticals (double damage which bypasses spiritual armour), I doubt the shaman would be so cocky to think himself immune anymore than a fighter wearing plate.  Also casting Inner Power causes 1 HP of damage and he can only cast heal 1 through inner power which is a tad pointless.  So the shaman is tough but brittle.  

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1 hour ago, Jose Luis said:

Basically I would like to know which is the limit in the amount of creatures and if this "confusion" only applies if they are very close to each other.

Think of it like looking at bright lights. If there’s only one, it’s easy to spot, and determine how bright it is. The more lights you add, and the closer together they are, the harder it is to distinguish any individual light. For me you also need to concentrate to sense the power level- that might work for 1 or 2 individuals, but unless you’re spending multiple rounds looking at each one in turn, you won’t know all of their POWer levels. 

1 hour ago, Jose Luis said:

the shaman has a powerful spititual screen/shield spell of 10 points

Remember that it will take a full round to cast a 10 point spell, and that the spell only lasts for 2 minutes- not to mention taking lots of magic points that might be needed in that spirit combat. More powerful spirits definitely have access to the spell as well, not to mention the more powerful Rune version Spirit Block. 

1 hour ago, Jose Luis said:

Also, many spirits (even powerful ones) have POW but not CHA

The only spirits I can think of that don’t have CHA are Healing and Disease spirits- every other one listed in the Bestiary has CHA. If for some reason they don’t, you can always just double their POW to calculate their spirit damage. 

1 hour ago, Jose Luis said:

he has the shamanic ability of inner power

Inner Power 1 is not all that useful- most good spells (Befuddle, Coordination, Fireblade) are 2 or more points, and even variable ones need multiple- you need at least Heal 2 to stop bleeding, for example. Not to mention taking damage each time you use it, and most shamans don’t have high HP or good armour. 

1 hour ago, Jose Luis said:

interrogate him by torturing him

I’d be very careful about allowing this at my table- just like I wouldn’t allow Chaos cultists. Even in the real world torture is of limited value, with victims saying whatever they think the torturer wants to hear, not necessarily being truthful. 

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3 hours ago, Jose Luis said:

Spiritual combat: the shaman has a powerful spiritual screen/shield spell of 10 points.

As soon as the spirit strikes this it will leave (one round of combat). The spirit will not be able to gain anything from this encounter. Spirits a with Spirit combat damage of less than 2D6+3 will leave. The spell is effectively useless after the first round of combat, although much larger spirits will certainly see this as a challenge. Generally with larger POW comes better Spirit Combat (POW x5%)

2 hours ago, Jose Luis said:

Also, many spirits (even powerful ones) have POW but not CHA, how can you calculate the damage they inflict in spiritual combat?  It does not make sense to me to just use the POW as a reference.

Per the Q&A, 14.15 Spirit Combat Damage (page 56):

Quote

 

If a creature does not have CHA (e.g. animals), do they only use their POW to calculate their spirit combat damage when attacked?

Yes. Although a GM may choose what level of damage is appropriate from the Spirit Combat Damage table on page 56 depending on the needs of the story. It’s either a D3 or D6.

 

 

2 hours ago, metcalph said:

Spirit Screen only lasts 25 rounds.

Spirit Screen is a temporal spirit magic spell, so lasts two minutes (ten melee rounds).

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Spirit magic spells at level 8 and 10 should be extremely rare, even for a shaman to find, and probably even harder to obtain because they would most likely be held by powerful spirits. So the core of your problem here is allowing the shaman to power play this and gaining such spirits. I have a shaman in my game and he has managed to get spirit screen 6, and that needed not only excellent roles to find the spirit, but an extremely risky fight to wrest it from that spirit. 
I get as GMs we need to accommodate many player types to maximise game fun, but ultimately it’s our Glorantha and we decide. So interpretation of things like second sight and mass power sources is down to you, faced with a power player I might have this effect even with small groups of 4 standing closely together and moving for example. I would also allow that using the skill means a lack of attention in the real world…you don’t see that power source draw it’s bow and aim it at you for example.

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5 hours ago, Jose Luis said:

when the players have a prisoner and they wish to interrogate him by torturing him, how do I know if they succeed?

That one is easy, anyway: they never succeed — the tortured NPC always gives rubbish information (the first thing that comes into their head to make the pain stop). No one ever believes the truth, so why offer that? 😉

There are better ways to interrogate prisoners: feed them, give them a beer, charm them, and get them slowly but surely stoned. Then the information will just pour out.

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6 hours ago, Jose Luis said:

does it make sense that

the only thing that makes sense is when GM offer challenge to their players. If you have to create more powerful spirits than what a scenario proposes because one pc is too powerful, do it. If you have to reduce the number of opponents because the pc are too weak, just do it. If your pc dislike a specific event and a scenario propose too many instances of it, then change some of them in other contests.

All is a question of balance and scenario designers cannot know exactly how powerful is your table and how they play. You, as a GM, is the full world, do what you want to create a good story (of course not too sadic, and not too soft, the key word is challenge)

So as you asked, you already knew what to do before my answer 🙂 

 

6 hours ago, Jose Luis said:

Also, I have another general doubt applicable to all players: when the players have a prisoner and they wish to interrogate him by torturing him, how do I know if they succeed?  A WILLx(something) roll?

there are in my opinion (just house rule in case of, I never had this point)  different things :

will pc continue to torture a pc, depending on their runes and passions ? you may ask at different steps to roll a passion to identify if a pc will stop or not. A lot of things count :

harmony rune (stop) or death rune (continue). earth, light, -air- ? (stop) darkness, chaos (continue)

hate xxx (if the victim is xxx) (continue), loyalty group, (continue if the leader says continue, etc...)

of course as you may have conflict between passion/rune , in that case roll an opposition.

the pc rolls (every pc has to roll, they may disagree - orate, etc between then...-) and decide if they follow their passions or not (reduce the passion then by 10)

now what could be done :

for me there are 5 step.

If runes are used, i would, at the end of the session reduce or augment the rune(s) by 1/2/3/5/8 the rune depending what step is the last.

 

step1 : roll victim con x 5. if success, the victim decides if they want or not to say something. If the vicim want to lie (or act), standard fast talk roll (act). If failure , roll a pow x5, if success the victim can decide to lie or say the truth. If pow test fails, the victim says the truth. in the other side the pc passion's roll are normal.

step2 : it is harder: con x4, fast talk -10%, pow x4. if passion are "against the torture", roll penalty +10, if passion are "for", then the pc starts to "fall" in sadism, so roll bonus +10

step3: con x3, fast talk -20%, pow x3, passion +20 (penalty / bonus)

step4: con x2,fast talk -50%, pow x2, passion +40

step 5: con x1, victimcan't lie, pow x1, passion +60

con fumble means victim's death.

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12 hours ago, Jose Luis said:

Also, I have another general doubt applicable to all players: when the players have a prisoner and they wish to interrogate him by torturing him, how do I know if they succeed?  A WILLx(something) roll?

First of all, I’d recommend ruling this sort of player behaviour out of order through a Session Zero discussion about lines and veils. If you do decide to indulge your players’ fantasies about torturing helpless victims, though, remember that we know torture does not work: at best, the victim will tell the torturer what he wants to hear, whether or not that’s the truth.

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4 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

I’d recommend ruling this sort of player behaviour out of order through a Session Zero discussion about lines and veils.

Agree with that. 

If you are attempting to get information out of a prisoner, I'd keep it abstracted through the Intimidate skill. If the victim is a minion, no opposed roll. If it is the villain, then they can oppose with a POW x5% roll.

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18 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

step1 : roll victim con x 5. if success, the victim decides if they want or not to say something. If the vicim want to lie (or act), standard fast talk roll (act). If failure , roll a pow x5, if success the victim can decide to lie or say the truth. If pow test fails, the victim says the truth. in the other side the pc passion's roll are normal.

I'd also consider the passions of the NPC (if they've been written up - and if not, make them up).

If the NPC has a passion of "Hate (PCs)" (ok... their clans, loyalty or whatever), then they'll be prone to lying. If, however, they don't have that, and they don't really have a reason to lie, then it's a different matter.

I'd also be using Insight to resist a Fast Talk.

Applying physical pain increases an Intimidation (or Fast Talk or Orate) roll.

Otherwise, yeah, CON rolls are appropriate if they don't want to talk. ..

 

But, that Insight roll would be necessary to see if any PC believes what's coming out of the tortured NPC's mouth... (or, a good (Special/Crit) Fast Talk from them).

 

Perhaps... to bypass the problem, a simple Fast Talk v Insight roll off...

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On 7/10/2024 at 3:44 PM, Jose Luis said:

the shaman has a powerful spititual screen/shield spell of 10 points.  He has only two spells, this one and a countermagic spell of 8 points.

Firstly, to repeat what's been mentioned - both generally only last 2 minutes, and if this is happening on the spirit plane (while Discorporated), I would have it that they don't have any access to MPs from other sources, such as bound spirits... (or even Powered Crystals). 2 minutes would go really fast... And as @Scotty said, most spirits wouldn't bother... and if they're intelligent, they'll just pop back in a couple of minutes to take your shaman out (with a greatly reduced MP pool). Granted, Spell Extension would be super handy here, but as also said, it hasn't been mentioned. (So would a POW-Enhancing crystal!)

 

It may not be relevant to this discussion, but you know that Spirit Screen and Countermagic are incompatible, right?? Also, Shield doesn't defend against spirit combat (although, Spirit Block does... which is a common Rune Spell... and would work for 15 minutes (not including Extension... which might be a wise thing to do), which again, is not a lot of time. Most spirit plane journeys last a few hours.

 

On 7/10/2024 at 3:44 PM, Jose Luis said:

This makes him a powerhouse and virtually invincible in spiritual combat:

Until he meets something that's waaaayyy beyond anything he can handle 😛

 

 

On 7/10/2024 at 4:24 PM, metcalph said:

  Since spirit combat has specials (double damage) and criticals (double damage which bypasses spiritual armour), I doubt the shaman would be so cocky to think himself immune

Well, not after the first time...

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On 7/10/2024 at 8:44 AM, Jose Luis said:

Hello there!

I have some more doubts concerning shamans, mainly due to one of my players being too fond of power gaming.

1) Magic sight: the shaman has this spell permanently; the spell description states that if there are many creatures in the range of the spell, it will be difficult to know the POW of each of them.  How does this translate in the game?  Does it refer to the situation where the criatures are very close to each other and there are many of them?  Basically I would like to know which is the limit in the amount of creatures and if this "confusion" only applies if they are very close to each other.

2) Spiritual combat: the shaman has a powerful spititual screen/shield spell of 10 points.  He has only two spells, this one and a countermagic spell of 8 points.  And as he has the shamanic ability of inner power, he can just access any other spell (although at 1 point level only).  This makes him a powerhouse and virtually invincible in spiritual combat: does it make sense that powerful spirits have this spell (the spiritual shield) too, and at this level?  I guess it could be, as I find this the only way to provide a challenge to this shaman.  Also, many spirits (even powerful ones) have POW but not CHAR, how can you calculate the damage they inflict in spiritual combat?  It does not make sense to me to just use the POW as a reference.

Also, I have another general doubt applicable to all players: when the players have a prisoner and they wish to interrogate him by torturing him, how do I know if they succeed?  A WILLx(something) roll?

Many thanks,

Jose

If players create one trick ponies like this, rather than trying and undermine the character give him lost of problemsm to deal with that arent spirit combat. scoial, physica and skill absed probelsm. Whn he spells and skills arent there to deal with these issues the penny may drop.

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Looks to me as if this two spell shaman is vulnerable to being provoked into draining his MPs for protection.  The O P has not said what his and his fetch's POW characteristics are, but it doesn't sound as if the shaman has been played enough to build up a powerful fetch.

I suggest that a series of hit and run attacks will cause him to squander his MPs.  Shoot two arrows, cast one spell, and break contact.  Wait a few minutes and do it again.  Then hit him with the real attack including a couple of spirits and a couple of physical opponents.

Having only one-point spirit spells will mean he doesn't get past his opponents' countermagic unless he  boosts his own spells, another MP drain.

 

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On 7/10/2024 at 7:55 AM, mfbrandi said:

That one is easy, anyway: they never succeed — the tortured NPC always gives rubbish information (the first thing that comes into their head to make the pain stop). No one ever believes the truth, so why offer that? 😉

There are better ways to interrogate prisoners: feed them, give them a beer, charm them, and get them slowly but surely stoned. Then the information will just pour out.

Agreed. While Hollywood films suggest that torture is a good way to get accurate information, in reality those being tortured say whatever they think their torturer wants to hear and rarely give accurate information. So unless someone actually has a dedicated Torture skill, I'd say the victim just tells the PCs what they want to hear. 

Remember that the god of Torture, Ikadz, is a Chaotic god. His worshippers may well have spells that enable them to extract accurate information via torture (such as Detect Lie or Compel Truth through Torture), in game terms torture is an evil up there with rape and incest and cannibalism (Chaotic activities all), so players should not be rewarded for something the game explicit frames as evil. Following the Gloranthan principle that those who engage in chaotic activity may become chaotic (rapists start to turn into broo, cannibals start to turn into ogres), players who insist on torturing may start being approached by a spirit of Ikadz.

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1 hour ago, Bohemond said:

So unless someone actually has a dedicated Torture skill, I’d say the victim just tells the PCs what they want to hear.

Nah, I wouldn’t even give them that. Make the torture skill the chance of selling the “information” extracted from the victim and then scarpering before anyone realises it is worthless, or the chance of being able to face lunch after a hard morning in the chamber, or the chance of being able to sleep at night, or … well, you get the idea. But this is only sarcasm, of course: if torture doesn’t work, there is no torture skill.

Edited by mfbrandi

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44 minutes ago, mfbrandi said:

Nah, I wouldn’t even give them that. Make the torture skill the chance of selling the “information” extracted from the victim and then scarpering before anyone realises it is worthless, or the chance of being able to face lunch after a hard morning in the chamber, or the chance of being able to sleep at night, or … well, you get the idea. But this is only sarcasm, of course: if torture doesn’t work, there is no torture skill.

If a player somehow has an actual Torture skill, it has to be useful in some way--otherwise the player is going to feel cheated, especially if they put points into it. But I would generally reserve a skill like that for an NPC character, like a worshipper of Ikadz. If they don't have an actual skill for that, I'd use Intimidate instead and make the test to see how much work they have to put into it before they get something that they decide is the truth. 

And while we know that torture doesn't work in the real world, the idea of a professional torturer is such a stock thing in fantasy literature (like that other nonsensical trope of fantasy, the Thieves' Guild) that I'd concede an NPC could actually have a skill that doesn't exist in the real world. I suppose this also depends on how gritty and morally grey you want your campaign to be. 

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14 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

If a player somehow has an actual Torture skill, it has to be useful in some way — otherwise the player is going to feel cheated

Let them have their points back, then they can buy something actually useful … like flower arranging or tea brewing. How invested is a player going to be? If there is an option to tick “torture” on their character’s CV, they might try it out of curiosity, but it is not as if your players are all torturers manqué working out their frustration at not being allowed to apply the thumbscrews to “that bastard in human resources.”

I suppose one could write a didactic game in which torture “works” and have things turn out even worse than in real life, but who would want to play it?

In an example of a fairly sensible retcon, Ikadz now has harmony :20-power-harmony: (which is a prison — just ask Gark and Danfive X) and not truth :20-power-truth: (which in our dreamier “hello, trees; hello, birds” moments we might think sets us free).

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On 7/11/2024 at 3:53 AM, Nick Brooke said:

remember that we know torture does not work:

But... it does! And has for centuries and revealed very important information (IRL And I doubt there's any reason to suggest that it doesn't in Glorantha).

The problem isn't that it "does not work", but that it's unreliable. Especially if the person judging the answers is unable to determine whether the victim is telling the truth (which is inherently where the problem lies). I'll also point out that it's unreliable when you only have one prisoner to ask...

However, Glorantha is a magical world, and there are magics wehre that problem is alleviated. There is the Detect Truth Rune spell... (granted, it's only supposed to be available to Humakti, but if someone else got their hands on it, and then combined it with the torture, then you'd have a sure fire way to get the answers you actually are after, and not just what you want to hear.

A Mind Read would be a more accessible spell.

Glorantha also has healing magic....  which adds another dimension to it.

 

However, as @Bohemond points out, it would be on the way to embracing Chaos, so the vast majority of PCs won't indulge in it... much. (which makes me wonder - where's the line? A little roughhousing (which, for a Stormbull, is like getting out of bed in the middle of the day)? Threats (which are pretty standard fare to almost anyone)? Stabbing in the arm or leg (a common occupational hazard)?)

Besides which, again in a magical world, it's rather pointless for the most part. If a N/PC really wants that information at any costs, they'll simply invest in the right spells. No, not the Truth detecting spells which are hard to get, but the spells which control/dominate spirits... and then simply kill the person, and control them. (is this less Chaotic than torture if done intentionally to a prisoner??)

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Spirit Screen is fantastically strong, especially as when Shamans go up against spirits with the same Spirit Combat skill, they often inflict brutal damage and have a bigger MP pool to work with. Smaller spirits you beat up anyway, but when you go up against 35+ POW spirits, you really want it. The idea isn’t to be immune to spirits you would beat regardless, but to earn time against the big ones.

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6 hours ago, Shiningbrow said:

But... it does! And has for centuries and revealed very important information (IRL And I doubt there's any reason to suggest that it doesn't in Glorantha).

The problem isn't that it "does not work", but that it's unreliable. Especially if the person judging the answers is unable to determine whether the victim is telling the truth (which is inherently where the problem lies). I'll also point out that it's unreliable when you only have one prisoner to ask...

However, Glorantha is a magical world, and there are magics wehre that problem is alleviated. There is the Detect Truth Rune spell... (granted, it's only supposed to be available to Humakti, but if someone else got their hands on it, and then combined it with the torture, then you'd have a sure fire way to get the answers you actually are after, and not just what you want to hear.

 

At the risk of completely derailing the original subject of the thread, most experts who study torture argue that it is generally an ineffective and inefficient way to get reliable information. It generates such a large volume of false confessions and misleading information that even in cases where it produces some useful information, it can be extremely difficult to find the accurate information amidst all the 'noise'. Wikipedia has a page with some good sources, if you want to chase this down further. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interrogational_torture#:~:text=Beyond torture's moral repugnance%2C most,and impairs subsequent information collection.

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39 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

At the risk of completely derailing the original subject of the thread, most experts who study torture argue that it is generally an ineffective and inefficient way to get reliable information. It generates such a large volume of false confessions and misleading information that even in cases where it produces some useful information, it can be extremely difficult to find the accurate information amidst all the 'noise'. Wikipedia has a page with some good sources, if you want to chase this down further. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interrogational_torture#:~:text=Beyond torture's moral repugnance%2C most,and impairs subsequent information collection.

I can't find any english language informations about it (mostly because I don't know how that can be translated in english), but during algerian independance war, french army (that used much torture themselves with very few results) mounted an a disinformation operation (called operation 'bleuite') that led the FLN to use torture on it's own members because they believed that some were traitors. That led to more FLN death than the whole war's military operations because tortured FLN partisans told everything just to stop what was occurring ... and everything was false because they were not traitors. That led named people to be kidnapped themselves, being tortured and thus giving other names ...

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10 hours ago, Bohemond said:

...most experts who study torture argue that it is generally an ineffective and inefficient way to get reliable information. It generates such a large volume of false confessions and misleading information that even in cases where it produces some useful information, it can be extremely difficult to find the accurate information amidst all the 'noise'.

Which means - unreliable. (not "it does not work".) In both worlds, there are ways of getting people to answer questions. But IRL Earth, we don't have effective and reliable ways to determine whether someone is telling the truth or not. In Glorantha, there is.

And yes, I agree that it's possibly derailing the thread (although, it was in the OP...)

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