So what did we learn from last night’s big magic test?
It Works! (Mostly)
The key test was the locus mechanic which handles on-going spells. When a spell is cast, the caster places one or more cards into a stack to form the locus. This locus can then be moved around and effects either people in that square or the area around it. The number of cards placed in the locus effects its range and strength so more is better. The downside being that the more cards you place in one locus, the less you have to put into other spells.
A great example of a locus is the Pillar of Flame spell which does exactly what it says. The caster creates a large pillar of flame which they can then move around the board, placing it on the monsters. Any creature that starts its turn in the pillar is attacked by the full force of stack (we maxed out at 8d6 last night) with very little in the way of defense.
To maintain the spell, the caster has to exceed a fixed score each round but this increases based on range. This allows spells to get harder to maintain the further away it is. It also helps limits the power of casters as the more powerful spells will be too hard for beginner characters to maintain. One weakness last night was that it was too easy for the spell caster to keep the spell going. This might be a problem with the mechanics or simply because the monsters were not much of a threat so the mage did not need to place any resources into defensive spells. Only further testing we find this out.
It is rare for players to complain that one of their abilities was too powerful. Even our band of experienced play-testers naturally want to do more with their characters but last night everyone agreed that a spell was too powerful.
Commanding Word is a version of the old AD&D Command spell. A spell which itself was over-powered in the 1st edition. Using the spell, the cleric can command a goblin to stab themselves to the best of their ability. As that leaves only their armour as a defense, it often dealt 3d6 worth of damage but this increased significantly for the more powerful goblins. With the average monster having little or no defense against the spell, it was generally fatal.
We discussed two ways to tone down the spell. Either make it language specific and thus limiting the spell to intelligent species that have a shared language with the caster. Or, vastly reduce the range so that to use it, the caster has to place themselves in real danger. This later option is more to my liking so we will try this change next week.
In all our playtests, there are many new rules we are trying out. This week we tried a different approach to movement.
The problem with the old system was that if a character prepared themselves, they could potentially move 5d6 squares in a round. This made missile weapons and range spells redundant. The problem was caused by the Movement card which does exactly what its name suggests. In one round a character could place their Movement, Speed and Sprint cards into the pool. Next round they play them together for 3d6 of movement and then use their 2 Flow to put Movement and Speed back in and play them again for another 2d6 of movement.
The change was to remove the Movement card and instead, allow a character to use Flow as movement. 1 Flow = 1d6 of movement. This makes it harder for the character or monster to store up Movement. This makes movement more predictable and more likely that range weapons will be useful.
In building the Goblin’s Monster Sheets I paid a lot more attention to balancing them correctly. Previous I tended to eye-ball how strong a monster was but following some problems last week, we needed to develop a better understanding of the logic.
The basic Goblin was at about 40% the points value of characters, mid-level Goblins at 70% and boss monster at about 100%. In combat, basic Goblins tend to go down with one hit with the mid-level and boss monsters lasting suitably longer. Next week I’ll play the same monsters again but this time in a more organised way that takes advantage of their numbers. This should prove a much tougher challenge than the cannonfodder (or spellfodder in this case) they faced last night.
More Testing Need
The combat did not allow too much exploration of some of the Clerics abilities or to really test the Personal or Target forms of Locus. Next session’s rematch will pump up the encounter and hopefully bring everyone’s abilities fully into play.