Myriad's Power Combat 300
Discussion - The Needs of the Sorceror
A combat sorceror needs more than just spells to smite their enemies. Most importantly, he needs a way to be able to defend himself while casting spells. He must avoid being hit or else his spells may fail or even explode in his face. The most obvious ways to do this are to not be attackable, or to have some sort of scene-long defense up.
Spells are expensive. A combat sorceror needs to take steps to maximize his essence pool, and should invest in Willpower if he is to be able to use more than a spell or two per scene. Thankfully, boosting Willpower via boosting Virtues at chargen is excellent for both boosting essence pools and available Willpower for spells.
A combat sorceror should be a decent combatant, too. Spells are big and flashy, but they won't always kill their opponent before the sorceror runs dangerously low on essence and Willpower. He should be able to directly attack his opponent fairly competently. There are many ways to accomplish this, but they can't take many Charms to acheive, because you need those Charm slots for spells.
How well can a starting level character acheive all of these goals?
An Example Combat Sorceror
In the north, the civilized folk tell their children stories of the White Sky Terror, the flying beast that spirals down onto villiages from above, commanding the winter storm...
Name: Sky Mistress Shandra
Caste: No Moon
Concept: Terror of the Skies
Totem: Great Owl
Face: 20 (Rank 1, Nain-Ya)
Strength 2 (3), Dexterity 5 (8), Stamina 3 (4) Charisma 4, Manipulation 2, Appearance 2 Perception 4, Intelligence 4, Wits 4
Archery 4, Awareness 2, Endurance 2, Resistance 2, Linguistics 1, Presence 2, Stealth 2, Survival 3, Investigation 1, Lore 3, Medicine 1, Occult 4
Backgrounds: Cult 2 (recognized as a god by a few barbarian tribes and feared as a demon by Wyld barbarians and civilized folk alike), Influence 2 (local barbarians), Mentor 1 (the No-Moon Pact representative who tattoed her, Cadmus the Great Grey Wolf), Resources 2 (pillages a fair amount)
Virtues: Compassion 1, Conviction 4, Temperance 2, Valor 3
Willpower: 7 Health: -0 / -1 / -1 / -2 / -2 / -4 / Incapacitated Essence: 3 Essence pool: 17/42 (total 59 available)
Charms: Finding the Spirit's Shape, Deadly Beastman Transformation x2 (both flight gifts, Lightning Speed), Terrestrial Circle Sorcery
Spells: Impenetrable Front Barrier, Spirit Sword, The Titan's Icy Breath, Thunder Wolf's Howl, Virtuous Guardian of Flame
Equipment: Bow, arrows, assorted small survival gear, anything she's recently pillaged, heavy coats and furs (equivalent of a buff jacket) when expecting to see a fight
Combat: Base initiative: 9 (12) Soak: 7B/4L/3A (8B/5L/3A) (Buff Jacket, 3L/4B, -1 mob., fat 2) Dodge: 8/11 (7/10 in armor) Attacks: Long Bow: Acc 10 (13), Dmg 2L (3L) (uses target arrows), Rate 3, Range 200 Spirit Sword: Speed 12 (15), Acc 11 (14), Dam 7L, Def 11 (14), Rate 3
Discussion - Does this specific build have everything it needs?
A first note, where possible, the Savant and Sorceror versions of the spells are used. If those are not available, the Exalted Errata versions are used. One of her spells, Impenetrable Frost Barrier, is from the corebook and does not have an S&S or Errata version.
Shandra is extremely mobile. She flies at 70 miles per hour (about 75-80 yards per turn) and is a flying character, capable of using the fly-by rules and quickly retreating out of the range of most hand to hand attackers. As for ranged attackers, instead of building up the stats it would take to have a strong defense using native Lunar Charms, she uses sorcery. Impenetrable Frost Barrier shaves 6 successes off all incoming ranged attacks, and Virtuous Guardian of Flame shaves off another 3, as well as rendering Shandra immune to mundane projectiles. In case someone does get within hand to hand range, VGoF provides 3 7-dice parries a turn, in addition to Shandra's own decent dodge pool.
Sorcerors need a lot of Willpower. It can be cheaper to buy Willpower up with bonus points instead of buying up Virtues, but buying up Virtues, especially for Lunars, increases the size of one's own essence pool. Thus, Shandra has a Virtue at 4 and one at 3 to get 7 Willpower and a quite large essence pool for an Essence 3 combatant. That, combined with the No Moon anima power, means that Shandra can cast an above-average number of spells per scene without exhausting herself utterly. However, her defensive spells are expensive.
Shandra is a decent archer (she's about as good as the best heroic mortals get, AKA Robin Hood-level) and can also summon up the Spirit Sword, with which she can use Occult to attack. Note that Occult is also used in other of Shandra's spells for attacking, so she gets a lot of benefit from having that one ability, without having to buy a seperate combat ability up. The fly-by rules and her high Dexterity let her attack and defend herself fairly competently, especially with the Virtuous Guardian of Flame supplementing her defense.
How can she afford all this at character creation? Well, DBT gives her the speed, flight, and high Dexterity in just 2 purchases, and the rest of her prowess comes from spells. She has a pair of direct attack spells in addition to those mentioned, which are both undodgeable, unblockable attacks with a large area of effect. As long as she has time to prepare (or time to get into DBT, dodge/flee to a safe spot and prepare), attacking her is quite difficult. Also, being a Lunar, she can shapeshift, which alone can get her into a lot of advantageous situations and positions.
Her weaknesses? Being a starting character, she's got a few. Ambush by someone she can't easily get away from or who can hit her as she flees and being caught in small enclosed spaces where she can't get out of hand to hand range is very dangerous for her, especially since she needs to get clear of all attacks before she can put up her defensive spells. Enemy sorcerors can defend against her spells with countermagic, but due to her anima power doing so may be more expensive than it was for her to cast the spells initially. Her defensive spells can also be targeted with countermagic, but only if they can get within (50xEssence) feet, which can be problematic for those not so mobile as she is. She lacks countermagic, though, and so is fairly vulnerable to many of the spells she herself uses, especially the unblockable/undodgeable ones. Enemy sorcerors, however, had better have some way of casting spells without having to worry about Shandra's arrows or, worse, her closing in on them, Spirit Sword in hand.
Example - The White Sky Terror
A disclaimer: the following serves to showcase Sky Mistress Shandra and should not be considered a fair fight. Though her opponents are certainly competent and well-supported, they lack a sorceror and are caught in a situational disadvantage against a Terrestrial Circle-weilding Celestial Exalted. They're a little doomed from the start.
An important jade mining expedition had disappeared. The disruption in tribute to the Realm, combined with the All-Seeing Eye's suspicions of an Anathema in the hills and mountains to the northwest of Whitewall, led to the Wyld Hunt being called up. The bulk of the Hunt, if it ever managed to scrounge up enough funding for the trip, would arrive in Whitewall in several months. Neither the Syndics nor the Immaculate Temple in Whitewall were pleased with the delay-- wasn't it the duty of the Realm to protect their tribituary states from predation by demons? So the Realm forces in Whitewall spared fifty their contigent of the Imperial Heavy Foot, the Syndics sent two hundred skirmishers born and trained in the Northern wastes and the Immaculate Temple appointed its five most pussiant mortal masters. The native forces were led by Long-Armed Li, a local Outcaste of some reknown, who answered to Ledaal Jal, a young Fire-Aspected Immaculate, and his mentor, Ledaal Nadina, second-eldest monk of the Immaculate Temple, a master of the Wood Dragon Style and an archer and survivalist without mortal peer who served as overall commander to the mixed forces.
The troopers are elite extras (total 50), and the skirmishers are competent extras (total 200). The monks are heroic mortal henchmen of the Immaculates. The heavy troopers feature a lot of armor, the skirmishers are mobile, and the monks are a highly varied lot. Three Dragon-Blooded-- the Outcaste features some Crimson Pentacle Blade style and has a dire lance, the Fire Immaculate has twin short daiklaives, and both are fairly young (under 50xp). The elder Immaculate has plenty of xp (probably around 200), a long powerbow, and jade armor.
Ledaal Nadina led the hunt into the mountains for three days, powerful rituals keeping the dead and the Fae at bay. They found the jade mine collapsed and the miners scattered across the landscape, their broken bodies frozen and in some cases cut open to bleed onto the snow. They buried the bodies, said the proper rituals, and after a few minutes of examining the skies, Nadina led the hunt north.
They had gone no more than a few hours when, as the sun began to set, lights appeared in the east from behind a distant peak. Nadina called to her forces to rally for battle, and as she readied her bow Supple Dragon's Reach, an icy storm crested over the mountain peak, and at the center of that storm was a warding flame, and at the center of that warding flame was the owl-woman Shandra, wings spread, streaking down on the assembled warriors.
The downside of travelling with a lot of mortal support is that you're obvious from far off. Shandra spots the hundreds of soldiers from a mile off before anyone sees her, hides behind a mountain, pumps her anima power to max and casts Impenetrable Frost Barrier and Virtuous Guardian of Flame, costing her a total of 39 motes, 2 Willpower, leaving her with 20 motes and 5 Willpower free. She then starts approaching the formation.
Few men were so pussiant with a bow as Ledaal Nadina. From a great distance, she launched arrows at the approaching storm, only to see them lost. As Shandra came into range, the troopers and skirmishers took up their bows and fired a hail of arrows, hoping that at least one would wound the Anathema, but their hopes were in vain. Instead, they were met with arrows emerging from the storm and assaulting the Terrestrial heroes, who admirably turned them aside.
Nadina can shoot arrows at over a mile out with her long powerbow, and does so. However, even if the arrows penetrated the base difficulty of 10 to hit Shandra at range, they still get incinerated by VGoF, no matter how much re-rolling Nadina does. Nadina is forced to wait to engage Shandra at hand-to-hand range, if she can get that close. The mortals try the same when Shandra gets to within the range of their shots, but as they don't count 10s as 2 successes none of the extras can possibly hit Shandra, no matter what they roll, even if their arrows weren't incinerated by VGoF. Shandra's ranged defense tactics pass the test.
In the turns it takes for her to close the last few hundred yards, Nadina fires a few arrows at the Dragon-Blooded to test their defenses. They all defend successfully, the Immaculates dodging and the Outcaste parrying.
Then, as the owl-woman approached the Dragon-Blooded, skimming over the reach of the soldiers' spears and poleaxes, the five chosen monks of the Immaculate Order sprung into action. Three were acclaimed masters of the chakram. One chakram froze in the swirling mists and shattered into icy shards, the second was battered away by the warding flame, but the third succeeded against all odds in shearing away several of the Anathema's feathers even as she cut down the throwers of the first two chakrams with arrows. One of the other two monks balanced himself on the shields of three of the Imperial Heavy Foot, and the final monk leaped onto his shoulders before leaping again high into the air to attempt to snare the Anathema with his favorite fighting chain. Alert to the danger, Shandra darted sideways out of the way before beating her wings and ascending into the sky, away from the danger.
The heroic mortals start throwing chakrams, which can't be incinerated by VGoF. One even scores the successes to get through the storm as Shandra is distracted, killing people, and barely hits her, but fails to get a damage success. The other two heroic mortals take a turn or two to set up a nifty stunt, but the difficulty on it ends up being so high that the now-alerted Shandra dodges it easily before ascending to a safe distance up into the sky, out of the range of jumping monks and even the extended range of chakrams.
Shandra chanted and called to the Thunder Wolf, gathering lightning in her hands as the white winds spiraled down onto the gathered forces beneath her. Nadina called for the mortals to scatter and flee, but the heroic monks refused to abandon their masters to the whims of the demon Anathema and many of the nearby Imperial Heavy Foot, weighed down with their armor, were unable to run in time. As one, all the birds in a mile's radius took to frightened flight as the Sky-Mistress finished her magic and the Thunder Wolf's Howl battered all those directly beneath her.
Shandra casts Thunder Wolf's Howl for 5 motes and a Willpower, and the Dragon-Blooded, heroic mortals, and a good fraction of the heavy foot soldiers all take a level of bashing damage (thanks Essence=ping!). Nadina shrugs off the stun entirely and the other Dragon-Blooded cut its duration down to 2 turns, while the mortals are all stunned for 5 turns. Also, all the fragile inanimate objects carried break, like everyone's arrows, not that they were doing any good anyway. Shandra gets 2 motes back for a stunt, and has 17 motes, 4 Willpower left.
Sky-Mistress Shandra frowned, as none of her assaults were having the effect on the hated Dragon-Blooded that she wished. She considered summoning the great Spirit Sword and assulting them directly, but doing so would put her in danger from the polearms of the soldiers. She would need to scatter the mortals, then return when her magical reserves were fresh.
So did the sorceress, as pitiless as Luna herself, hurl thunder and ice and arrows down on the poorly protected mortals from above, scattering them on the rocks and pinning their frozen corpses to the earth.
Over the course of about a minute, Shandra casts Thunder Wolf's Howl and The Titan's Icy Breath a few times at the more densely packed groups of mortals and picks off as many of the rest as she can with arrows from the relative safety of being eighty yards up in the air and largely unassaultable. The extras die without a lot of fanfare, and Shandra ends up left with just 2 motes and a Willpower.
The Anathema came to hover over the infuriated Ledaal Nadina, who covered the retreat of her Dragon-Blooded kin, and laughed down at her. "Fool dragonling! Come out this far again, and I'll freeze your corpse and shatter it into a thousand pieces!" Met with nothing but the Terrestrial's icy stare, Sky-Mistress Shandra spit down at her and fled to the west.
The lesson? Sorcery is powerful, and properly supplemented, can render you very difficult to defeat. However, enemy Exalted are often tough enough to face attack sorcery without being utterly wiped out. If Shandra had more single-target spells like Sting of the Ice Hornet, things might have gone differently, but not overly so-- the Dragon-Blooded each had powerful defensive options once they starting burning essence and each would likely have survived such an assault, albeit likely with injuries. Mortals aren't nearly as lucky-- Shandra butchers a few hundred mortals without a lot of effort or danger to herself.
An Air Immaculate or enemy sorceror would have tilted the scales back towards even in this battle. An Air Immaculate's high-accuracy chakram storms would still be hard-pressed to overcome the base difficulty of attacking Shandra at range, but would have had a good chance of getting a few successes over it and forcing Shandra to abort to dodge and removing her ability to cast spells unmolested.
This definately does showcase some of sorcerery's advantages. A sorcerer who isn't molstested can fire off Shackles of Doom, and the Flying Guillotinne (she had neither, it's just an example), and ruin even an Exalt's day, but there's some inherent problems with sorcerery in combat. You can't take any other actions while casting a spell, but that still leaves the sorcerer with the option of perssistant or passive defenses. Still, without die-adders to back them up, a Sorcerer is vulnerable to attacks against them backed up by die adders, or success adders. Her arrows, not being backed up by charms, are negated by charm absed defenses, and her fly-by-attack strategy for melee can be ruined by the right counter-attack (or better yet, counter-attack combo!). Still it's a very solid combat sorcerer build. In a fight between a combat celestial, and a combat *sorcerer* celectial, luck may favor the sorcerer, but the advantages lie with the sword swinger. Could we see a fight between a 200 xp of Sky Mistress Shandra, and someone fairly basic, and of equal XP?- ImaginalDisc
- Where is those flight gifts from anyhow?
I would like to say thanks very much for doing this example. I am going to print this out and let my player read it. -- Savare
There are lots of advantages to combat sorcerers that people don't think of. Some of my favorite combat moves come from sorcery. Just from the Terrestrial-level Sorcery, I'd grab Paralyzing Contradiction and The Tree's Many Branches. Paralyzing Contradiction buys you a turn or two so that you can put up your persistant Simple Charms or work up a new spell. The Tree's Many Branches is also easily one of the best Terrestrial spells out there.
I found it odd you didn't mention the Spell Cords in your combat sorcerer from Castebook Twilight. Even an artifact 3 version (Emerald Circle) provides huge benefits. Storing up to 3 spells for later use and pulling them out in a fight is surprisingly effective. If you've got the artifact 4 and/or 5 cords for the higher circles, it just gets plain scary.
Also, you can consider bringing out the Sorcery background for some of the spells, which is really quite helpful to a starting Sorcerer. -- Eustacio
- Spell cords are nice and all, but I didn't feel they merited notice in a general primer-- perhaps a discussion meant less for 'how can I build a believeable starting character' and more for 'what if'-type twinkdom would go into the details of that sort of thing. There's plenty of powerful tactics out there I didn't mention, but they're extremely specific and not useful for a general primer.
- It's worth noting that The Tree's Many Branches, Invulnerable Skin of Bronze, and other such spells highlight a weird quirk of casted Lunar sorecerors-- they can't use shapeshifting spells, but they have DBT to compensate pretty easily. It's the one area where they aren't easily on the top rung of Terrestrial/Celestial-level sorcerors. They give up versatility, but gain focus-- DBT gives a lot of benefits very quickly, if you concentrate on one or two things.
- The Sorcery background is more a function of certain specific character types. If my example build had been of a character type the Sorcery background is available to, you can bet it would have been in there as surely as the flight gifts found their way into this build. -TheMyriadOfShades
- Yeah, spell cords are so good they are considered twinkish. I would point out that Lunars tend to build sorcerers a bit different from other Exalted. Their virtues feed into their Essence calculation a bit more and they get DBT. Staying out of range and defending yourself while casting is a much more difficult proposition for other Exalts. Conversly, Lunars can't use about half the spells you can cast on yourself. You know, I was always unsure if Impenetrable Frost Barrier moved with you or not. Thanks. -FlowsLikeBits
- Agreed on Spell Cords being fairly twinky, but I figured they warranted at least a cursory mention as an option down in the peanut gallery section. @#;+) Personally, if I'm running a game, I'd allow maybe an Emerald, but the others just scare me too much to let in until we start hitting the really high experience levels.
- Interesting points I'd forgotten about a Lunar and the external shapeshifting. It's been forever since I put a Lunar together, so I'd forgotten that little detail. Thanks for the reminder on that. -Eustacio
- Well, I'm pretty sure Lunars don't get the Sorcery background(it was invented later. Personally, I'd allow it. Spells aren't as good as charms). Also , many of the "self-buff" spells don't work for Lunars, as they are "external shapeshifting". Tree's Many Branches probably falls under there.
- Quite cool, and up to Myriads normal standards for these things. :) Spellwise I'd mention Internal Flame(undodgeable), Flight of the Ice Hornet(unblockable) and Flying Guillatine(high damage). -FlowsLikeBits
- I'm pretty sure Lunars can take the Sorcery background from Cult of the Illuminated, if they're cult members (obviously). I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, but I think any character at the cult could potentially use that background. I'm not positive though. -Eustacio
- You could, but I'd personally prefer the extra two baseline Charms, extra Attributes, favored Attributes, and discount on buying spells with xp you get for being a tattooed No Moon instead of a cute l'il Cult pet Lunar. -TheMyriadOfShades, tattoed Lunar enthusiast