WHFR 4e - Are Wizards playable?

Cubicle 7 // 2018
CapnZapp
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Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:19 am

Here are some advantages, as I see it:
- changing Casting Numbers mid-campaign feels more intrusive than telling the player he wakes up one morning having "lost the connection" as it were.
- However. I don't actually have to take back the Magic Points I have given out. I just need to throw one more encounter at the heroes before they have a chance to rest up. That is, Magic Points run out. Lowered CNs don't.
- Even though the player CAN pay off the cost of a high-CN spell to make it equal to a CN 0 Petty spell, it will still feel like there's a definite cost differential. The player is expected to still keep using Petty spells, because they're cheaper, even when they're not actually easier to cast.
- When it comes to an enemy spellcaster, let's face it, their entire purpose in practical play is to get off a frightening spell or two before they're cut down. Giving them Magic Points ensures this - NPCs only need their resources for the one combat they're in after all. Just lowering CNs don't - most interesting spells have absurdly high CNs.
- I believe my players like having a resource to manage. Getting the power to decide "now is the time when my spells don't require channelling or any of that rubbish" gives a player control. Both are things we consider fun. (Others won't)

Don't take this to mean one approach is absolutely wrong, and the other absolutely right. I just chose an approach I consider more cautious and/or fine-tuned without being difficult to understand or use. Hope I have answered your question without dissuading you to simply lower CNs if that's what you want!

PS. The nostalgia callback to 1st edition of having Magic Points once more comes without extra charge! :)
fluminor
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Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:42 am

Thanks Zapp! I can see why you chose this approach and it does have more flavor, which probably justifies that bit of extra work. Still thinking about what to do for our game, but it’s nice input indeed.
CapnZapp
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Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:30 am

Yer velkomm!
easl
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Fri Sep 06, 2019 7:29 pm

fluminor wrote:
Thu Jun 20, 2019 8:35 am
...My understanding from what Cap wrote is that, at a high level, a reduction of CN could be a good idea.
Every starting wizard PC can be built to about the same % skill than a combat character can be built for combat. +18 to base attribute in build, +5 for savvy, +5 Int advance, +10 skill. For humans, 58%. (if you want higher, go Elf Druid. Elf gets you to 68%, and the life wizard special ability gives you an additional +10% to casting in rural or wooded areas).

The significant difference is that spells have to straight-out succeed as well as get more successes than the opposed roll; other combatants only have to get more successes - you can fail your roll, but if you fail less than they fail, you still hit. So it seems to me that if you're looking to houserule magic to make it even with other fighting techniques, the easy and minimalist change that brings it into line with regular combat is to just use the standard fight rules: ignore 'must succeed at casting'. Instead both roll, you hit if you score more successes - even if you both fail your roll. Now your wizard just has to worry about how they're going to defend themselves...

Having said all that, wizard-types are useful to the party because of all the special stuff they can do that nobody else can do. Fly. Teleport. Shapechange. Protect the entire party from arrows. Heal people. Burn away corruption. Melt away a steel door. It doesn't particularly bother me that they can't also go toe-to-toe with the pit fighter at chargen, because of all the other things they'll be able to do that nobody else can do. So personally, I don't feel or see any need to tweak. The apprentice wizard is an academic career. Comparable to the Apothecary etc. It's not a soldier career. It doesn't fight as well as a soldier career (but with WS as a starting attribute and two melee skill in it's skill selection, it fights really darn well for an academic). At least for me, that get's a big "shrug", not a "problem!!! must fix!!!"
CapnZapp
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Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:51 am

After having tested out the v4 rules in practice, I can establish that the rules simply don't work.

Specifically, the way Advantage and wizard spells interact.

Put simply, I can confirm the earlier fears:
1) you never need another attack spell than Bolt or Blast.
2) you never use Channelling (in time-constrained situations like combat)

The tactic to spend a few rounds amassing Advantage and then unleashing a seemingly "low level" spell is overwhelming.

If you roll well, that can decimate the entire enemy. (That in itself is not my issue. The issue is that you never use high-CN spells to do this)

Example: the idea a Wizard can get a +60 bonus to his spellcasting check is not nearly so outlandish as you might think. +40 from Advantage, +10 from some Talent and +10 from some story- or circumstance-based bonus and you're there. Assume you have an effective score of 60% and you roll 29. This means the "unassuming" CN 0 spell Bolt will target three people, and in addition deal +4 damage to all of them.

This quickly gets out of hand. The exponential factors are much too exponential... not because I'm denying the Wizard a chance to shine, but because you never want to use high-CN spells, where you by design never achieve many SLs.

So, our extensive testing can confirm that Wizards start out incredibly weak but end up very strong, perhaps brokenly so. That might not be a bad thing in itself if you like the idea. However, it comes across as an entirely unintentional consequence of how different parts of the rules system interact. You are definitely much better off by not playing your Wizard the way the rulebook seems to think you should.
CapnZapp
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Sat Sep 07, 2019 3:14 am

This has confirmed that my own houserule, to give out Magic Points (name is a deliberate call-back to 1E) to Wizards much like everyone gets Wounds, is a sound and fair rule that resolves many of the issues with 4E magic.

You have (Will Power Bonus x 2) + Toughness Bonus + Intelligence Bonus = Magic Points. You can spend as many MPs as your Will Power Bonus at any given time. Each MP spent temporarily lowers the CN by 1, for this casting only. (To a minimum of CN 0 of course). You must always spend at least 1 MP as long as you have any remaining (even when you're casting a spell that's already CN 0; including petty spells). You regain half your spent MPs by a good night's rest.

What does this do?

It specifically means evil cultists and monsters (and high-level PCs!) can make use of the cool and strange high-CN spells, with very little impact on game balance.

Why?

Because it adds back the bonuses from Overcasting into these high-CN spells that the devs forgot to.

By this I mean that some CN 6 or CN 10 spell might read as more powerful than the CN 0 staples. But once you take the fact you will often Overcast with the "small" spells but not with the "big" ones this advantage evaporates completely.

And to be fair, if an evil spellcaster is supposed to come across as powerful and dangerous, he pretty much needs this boost. Those high-CN spells might be more damaging than the low-CN ones, but the difference isn't that great. In order to threaten a whole party, they pretty much need the boost.

Without this houserule, those chaos sorcerers would have been much better off simply plinking away with Bolt or Blast, and not bothering to use their signature spells (that make them stand apart) at all. Nobody wants that.

At the same time, this change mean the chaos sorcerer or whatever doesn't have to stand around doing nothing but mumble for several rounds. That is, the entire idea of Channelling doesn't work - it prevents cool NPCs from doing their thing before the heroes kill them.

Finally, the rules for dispelling (counterspelling) are very generous to those disliking magic. Let me assure you the evil NPC need the boost just to get off his spell at all, since a skilled PC Wizard effectively lowers the spellcasting ability of any NPC sorcerer present.

(Another indication the rules are written by people that run very different WFRP adventures than most 2E adventures I've seen. Sure, if Gotrek and Felix team up with a player Wizard, and then face scores of goblins together with half a dozen chaos sorcerers, the impact of dispelling is suitably minimized. But in nearly all adventures I'm accustomed to, there is at most one (1) evil spellcaster at a time!)

So in short, by handing out Magic Points, you ensure that every spellcaster gets a couple of chances to go for the really cool spells, their high CNs notwithstanding. :)

PS. Impact on play:

Mostly that it sidelines Channelling. On the other hand, it doesn't work anyway. On the third hand, it still works just as well as before for any situation where you have time to spend (such as before combat).

That is, a Wizard will still want to save Magic Points by using Channelling whenever possible. Not to mention that the number of Magic Points is limited. After you have spent them all, the Wizard is back to using the rules as written.

I consider this a small price to play to ensure that NPCs actually get off their cool spells. (Since most NPCs only live for a single encounter, they can spend their MPs aggressively) After all, the reason they're there is to scare and impress the players with their wicked magics, before they're righteously cut down as the chaos-infested dirtbags they are :)
easl
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Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:34 am

CapnZapp wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:51 am
Put simply, I can confirm the earlier fears:
1) you never need another attack spell than Bolt or Blast.
2) you never use Channelling (in time-constrained situations like combat)

The tactic to spend a few rounds amassing Advantage and then unleashing a seemingly "low level" spell is overwhelming.
I respect your desire to have a game where wizards are more combat effective, but as I said above, I don't personally think 'not spectacular at combat at low Exp' ganks the career(s), because of all the other non-combat things they can do. Your complaints are all about combat and the lack of any need of more than 1-2 combat spells.

As a prospective player, I'm perfectly happy to know that I don't have to ever take more than 1-2 combat spells to be effective, because that means I can make my character more than one-dimensional. It means my magic can be useful in combat scenes AND many other types of scenes, without the investment of hundreds of Exp just to keep pace with the fighters. I'd much rather build a character like that, rather than 'the big gun.'

Of course, that's just my preference. I fully agree that for players who want to build 'the big gun,' if the higher CN, specialized, combat spells are so poorly designed that they don't provide any benefit over the basic spells, then it makes sense to either redesign them to provide some special benefit worth the investment in yet another combat spell, or use that text space for more utility spells.

As for evil sorcerers etc. casting giant cool spells, I thought that was what Warpstone was for. Isn't that kinda the in-game, in-theme solution? Don't mess with the necromancer with the giant green glowing stone, because he's going to draw monster power from it? Warpstone lets your villains constantly double their casting SLs.
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Sword of Solkan
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Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:59 am

I’ve been running a 4th edition game for the last 12 months, and one of my players is a Wizard. We certainly haven’t found the class unplayable, or even underpowered.

Dart is his go-to spell in combat, and we’ve found it exceptionally effective in combat. The damage output is (usually) minimal, but it wipes out an enemy’s Advantage, can hit an extra opponent for every +2 SLs he rolls and there’s absolutely nothing most opponents can do to block it. We’ve found that combats in 4th edition are normally won and lost based on Advantage, and dart’s a godsend to the party in that regard. There’ve also been occasions when he’s rolled a critical, and taken multiple opponents out of the fight with a single Dart.

His other spells (particularly Eavesdrop) are also very useful outside combat, and have been very useful to the party in solving more investigative adventures.
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
CapnZapp
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Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:44 pm

easl wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:34 am
I respect your desire to have a game where wizards are more combat effective, but as I said above, I don't personally think 'not spectacular at combat at low Exp' ganks the career(s), because of all the other non-combat things they can do. Your complaints are all about combat and the lack of any need of more than 1-2 combat spells.

As a prospective player, I'm perfectly happy to know that I don't have to ever take more than 1-2 combat spells to be effective, because that means I can make my character more than one-dimensional.
I know there are complaints against low-Exp Wizards, but that was not what I was discussing...

You might feel content with Bolt and Blast, but that doesn't change the fact that everybody else should choose these spells too.

Once you want to explore all the other combat spells (all the high-CN spells), such as when you take up gamesmastering, you will likely change your view, once you find out how the fundamental game mechanism makes them underpowered relative to the low-CN staples.

I feel that the choice between several rounds of Channeling just to do a colorful version of Blast ain't worth, especially since you could be much more useful Bolting away in the meanwhile.

My fix does not mean you have to take more than 1-2 combat spells. It just ensures you don't feel a need to always take the same two :)
CapnZapp
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Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:47 pm

Sword of Solkan wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:59 am
I’ve been running a 4th edition game for the last 12 months, and one of my players is a Wizard. We certainly haven’t found the class unplayable, or even underpowered.

Dart is his go-to spell in combat, and we’ve found it exceptionally effective in combat. The damage output is (usually) minimal, but it wipes out an enemy’s Advantage, can hit an extra opponent for every +2 SLs he rolls and there’s absolutely nothing most opponents can do to block it. We’ve found that combats in 4th edition are normally won and lost based on Advantage, and dart’s a godsend to the party in that regard. There’ve also been occasions when he’s rolled a critical, and taken multiple opponents out of the fight with a single Dart.

His other spells (particularly Eavesdrop) are also very useful outside combat, and have been very useful to the party in solving more investigative adventures.
Let me just note that none of this counters or even touches upon what I was discussing.

As long as you're happy with Dart - good for you. Go back and read my suggestions once you tire of always picking Dart :)
easl
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:58 pm

CapnZapp wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:44 pm
I know there are complaints against low-Exp Wizards, but that was not what I was discussing...

You might feel content with Bolt and Blast, but that doesn't change the fact that everybody else should choose these spells too.

Once you want to explore all the other combat spells (all the high-CN spells), such as when you take up gamesmastering, you will likely change your view, once you find out how the fundamental game mechanism makes them underpowered relative to the low-CN staples...
Well, I've game-mastered for decades (though not this system), and in that time I've never tweaked rules systems merely because I, as the GM, didn't like the way some spells or mechanic worked. If the players complain, yep that's a good reason to look into it. But if they're happy with it, then generally speaking, I'm happy with it.

As I said in my earlier post, if the other combat spells are written in such a way that there's no reason to take them, that would say to me that they're poorly designed and should be re-written. But it doesn't give me any urge to add magic points or otherwise revise how the spell system works. A fix for "good 'ol dart, nothing's better than dart" could be as easy as lowering the CN of arcane, color magic missile spells. Dart gives about +3+SL for 0 CN for beginning wizards. So reset the CN for arcane magic missiles to [damage bonus-5], and they'll be worth taking not only for the special effect each color gets but also in terms of damage.
CapnZapp
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:16 pm

easl wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:58 pm
As I said in my earlier post, if the other combat spells are written in such a way that there's no reason to take them, that would say to me that they're poorly designed and should be re-written. But it doesn't give me any urge to add magic points or otherwise revise how the spell system works. A fix for "good 'ol dart, nothing's better than dart" could be as easy as lowering the CN of arcane, color magic missile spells.
Well, I am not so sure. After all, that was my first idea before I realized it wasn't as easy as it sounds.

My personal belief is that it is better to attack the problem at its root - that for a few rounds of combat each day, it would be nice to be able to cast something.... flashier... without having to contend with the rather heavy baggage generally attached to high-CN spellcasting...and to do so without turning every attack spell into a CN 4 staple. (That is, that CN 10 spells remain CN 10 is actually something I consider a feature of the system)

Anyway, now my Magic Point rule is there for those who like it. I would argue it actually is the easier option...! :)
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