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Thoughts on magic: Spell timing; Kennoc [Jun. 27th, 2011|03:05 pm]
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So there are two things that have kind of nagged at my mind for a while concerning WT's magic system, and I'm wondering how some people reconcile them.

The first one, the one that's bugged me the longest, is (of course?) the chance of Kennoc spells to fail. Let's face it, one in twenty is horrible odds for anything of significance. Mere statistical prediction is generally considered unsound unless you can speak with at least 99% confidence, if not 99.9%. Granted, that's because you might at any time hit on the odd one out, and statistics never offer a guarantee of anything; but nevertheless... There are so many spells invoking Kennoc, and so many of them seem to be taken for granted (Measure the Life Force has its particular use; Eyes for the Small is specifically noted as making microscopes pointless) despite their chance of failing outright or, worse, giving completely misleading results.

Although I can understand not wanting to give reliable information for game-balance purposes, the expressed reason for Kennoc spell failure (Pararenenzu not paying attention) doesn't always make sense, either. The example in the rulebook about Am I Observed? is actually one of the rare cases when it makes perfect sense: Pararenenzu could just slip up in some silly way and give the wrong answer. In general, the main spells where it does make sense are those which ask a question and receive an answer.

Some informative spells get subtler information. It makes sense that the caster could interpret that information as though it's accurate when it isn't - Measure the Life Force and some other healing-assistive spells, for instance. But it doesn't make as much sense that it goes so wrong in the first place - not for the cited reason. Maybe Pararenenzu is playing a joke, but such spells produce awfully detailed and elaborate answers for it to just be a matter of not watching what zie's doing.

And then there are the spells which alter perception, but don't actually plant any information beyond that - I don't mean scrying, I mean things that change the way in which the subject perceives the whole world around them.

If you're trying to look through a wooden wall, or if you're greatly magnifying your vision, or if you're peering through fog, or if you cast a spell on someone that makes them see through dead Co/Hr material... how the heck does that go wrong outside of just plain not working? Even the base 1/20 chance of failure is a bit much for a discipline cited as a foundation of some branches of natural science - microscopes may be relatively crude, but they cost no cley (and the rulebook isn't always consistent on how willing your average person is to throw cley around, or how much they have...) and they always work to their full ability.

Not only does an inaccurate result from any of things require a very elaborate ruse on Pararenenzu's part, in many cases it should be blatantly obvious that something isn't working right. To make it consistent with what the caster or subject could otherwise see, yet have the things they normally couldn't, be flawed... yes, a god could probably read the subject's mind and make up bits for the things the subject wouldn't be aware of without the spell, but at that point it's becoming an extremely elaborate ruse, no accident.

Anyway... that's a bit of a digression. I guess the core question is, why the heck is Kennoc so common and apparently trusted, when it has such a crippling flaw? (1/20 chance of not working, well, that's a nuisance as long as you can tell that it didn't work. But a 1/400 chance of giving outright wrong information? That is crippling for any serious purposes. One spoiled cast could undo years of progress in research if it's taken as accurate.)


The second concern has partly been lurking around for some time as well, but also I recently had another thought about it, and that is the timing of building spells.

The first issue is targeted spells. In some cases they're described as being targeted by a gesture. A gesture to target e.g. a bound spell is specifically stated as requiring an action. But what about a Fire Dart? Or a Bone Dart, which I know can't be resisted because the dart is created near the caster and flung, not created near the subject? If it were a fast spell, that'd be fine and dandy; the spell is cast, it shoots forward at the caster's gesture/concentration. Fine.

But it has to build first. Which means that by the time the spell is ready to fling forward, the caster might well be in the middle of doing something else.

But if the caster doesn't retarget them, or have any need to keep concentrating on the spell, the dart will probably go completely the wrong place because the target will have moved.

How can this be reconciled?

Also, a somewhat bigger concern comes in the form of Heal the Awful Wound. If someone doesn't get healed within... some places say three initiative counts, at least one (the spell description for HTAW) says 2-6... that many seconds, anyway, HTAW alone won't do the trick.

But HTAW itself is a build spell. Which means that a bound HTAW has more than half odds of having no chance to work by timing alone, because it can randomly take up to 12/13 seconds(depending on whether you use cards or dice to count initiative).

Best rationale I can think of there is that while HTAW is itself building, its "signal" effect helps to anchor the spirit to the body. It remains, though, that it often seems to have been treated as a fast spell when it really shouldn't be; someone will generally be out for some seconds at least before the spell gets them back to consciousness (unless they're Gormoror, in which case the bound spell's usual conditions might not suffice in the first place).

Or should HTAW in fact be a fast spell? Much of the material kindasorta seems to assume it is...

[User Picture]From: mharreff
2011-06-28 04:25 pm (UTC)
The latter bit is what I've been thinking of too, for that matter. If you're asking Pararenenzu a question, you might get an invalid answer; but if you're trying to shift your senses rather than get abstract information, that will generally work

Note about incapacitation: Although there is no strict time limit given, the rulebook does say that if someone is not tended, they will probably die - fairly soon, if they're bleeding. But that's on the order of minutes, not seconds, so usually doesn't mean much in the context of combat.

The problem with having spells go off when you're incapacitated is that they have to know it. It's also mentioned that playing dead can fool your bound spells. Similarly, that's what I was getting at when I mentioned Gormoror - if they trigger Berserk Life, they're sure not going to "look" incapacitated where the spell is concerned. Making the bound spells more sensitive not only goes against the maximum intricacy of the condition, but also makes them more likely to go off when they're not needed - and in the case of HTAW, that makes it totally useless.
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[User Picture]From: terrycloth
2011-06-28 05:19 pm (UTC)
How is the spell supposed to tell whether you're dead or just incapacitated? Those would look more similar than incapacitated or playing dead.
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[User Picture]From: mharreff
2011-06-28 05:43 pm (UTC)
That's rather my point: it can't.
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[User Picture]From: terrycloth
2011-06-28 05:54 pm (UTC)
Well, then why were you arguing when I said HTAW would usually go off when you're incapacitated? It can't tell 'owner is bleeding and not moving because he's incapacitated' from 'owner is bleeding and not moving because he's dead' so it'll go off, and since it takes a pretty decent chunk of damage to take you all the way to dead in one hit, you'll probably just be incapacitated when it does.
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[User Picture]From: mharreff
2011-06-29 04:11 pm (UTC)
If you specify that you need to be bleeding for HTAW to trigger, you'll be in trouble if you get burned to death, now won't you?

Back to the point, I've never been trying to argue that you should try to mark a distinction between "dead" and "incapacitated" where HTAW is concerned; much the opposite. Since it works either way (unless it's already been exhausted, legitimately or erroneously), since the spell is (as already discussed) CAST as soon as the trigger is satisfied, trying to get the spell to understand such fine distinctions is counterproductive.
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