Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Campaign Preparation: Smoke on the Water - Shaman/Witch

It's magic, bucko.
So, I've gotten an idea in my head for a more serious campaign after this somewhat farcical introductory adventure/campaign I'm running wraps up. Something a bit less "fight and take" with more political maneuvering, but I wanted to play with a bit of an interesting angle. The thought that came to me was a super low tech level game. I still like magic, so we'll throw that in too, but otherwise I want a less cinematic and combat oriented game.
For no particular reason, today, I start off planning by focusing on a professional template that require a lot of attention because it encompasses great detail but I want to keep point values low: a magic user. Let's see if I can manage to make an economically viable version that won't take too much flexibility from my players.

Shaman or Witch

For me, because I don't get many opportunities to invoke it, I want to use Ritual Path Magic. I think I am angling for a 50~100/-25~50 kinda character (spoilers, I did succeed in making the template fit in just under 100 points.) 
To keep the game from going into crazy cinematic super-power territory, I am outright forbidding Ritual Adept right now. I want to focus on a character that can heal and commune with spirits, and I want to deal with the really steep hurdle of the "12+Magery" ceiling of Ritual Path Magic.
Mechanically speaking, I want to try the Effect Shaping system from Pyramid #3/66 as well, but precluding Ritual Adept makes the stats for the template the same whether I was using the original or not.
The big hurdle, like I mentioned, is the ceiling. There are a few tools that let us cheat around it though a little bit without directly house-ruling it away:
  1. Higher Purpose
  2. Talent
  3. Grimoire
Number 3 is right out as this is a TL0/1ish tech level with no literacy, so I have 1 and 2 to work with. I think in hindsight, Higher Purpose is a bit more thematically appropriate, but I went with the mechanically hard and fast Talent option instead; I fear that otherwise I might get into a hair splitting contest of when the modifier for "intercessory for the departed" exactly applies. I also leave a bunch of fields more open ended, like other advantages, disadvantages, and attributes, because I want to leave some characterization available for my players, but I want to give them enough guidance so that they don't flounder with a character that isn't good at anything, especially his or her main role, casting magic in this case. Let's see what we have then.


75 points
Attributes: ST-1[-10]; IQ+4[80]; HT-1[-10]
Secondary Characteristics: HP+1[2]; FP+1[3]; Will-3[-15]; Per-3[-15]
Advantages:  Magery 0[5]; Natural Caster 1[15] Choose 10 points worth of talents with no overlapping paths between them, or 2 levels of the same from Pyramid #3/66: Ritual Path Specialists: Anatomist[5/lvl], Conduit[5/lvl], Crafter[5/lvl], Dark Walker[5/lvl], Insight[5/lvl], Introspection[5/lvl], Mentor[5/lvl], Mortalist[5/lvl], Mystic[5/lvl], Neuromancer [5/lvl], Nourisher[5/lvl] Pararchaeologist[5/lvl], Tempered by Fire[5/lvl], True Traveler[5/lvl];
Skills: Path of Body, Path of Chance, Path of Crossroads, Path of Energy, Path of Magic, Path of Matter, Path of Mind, Path of Spirit, Path of Undead, and Thaumatology all (VH) IQ-2[1]-12

With this 75 points, one has all path skills at an effective 12 at least, four will be at 13 (or two will be at 14) I strongly recommend looking at the skills enhanced by the talents chosen as a guide for more support skills. I also specifically strongly recommend the Anatomist and Introspection talents. For most games, this template already monopolizes the -50 in disadvantages, but I play by the house rule that attributes and secondary characteristics don't count against the nominal disadvantage limit. Or... I could allow -100 in disadvantages, but use compartments to say -50 may only be allocated to attributes and secondary characteristics.
Beyond choosing anatomist and introspection, I'd recommend raising both to level 3 as well to give what I consider minimum competency in what I consider to be 4 of the most important jobs for the task. Besides that, advantages and skills for interacting with spirits and the undead, as well as healing are probably important, and those talents and Natural Caster give a lot of bonuses to skills like esoteric medicine, exorcism, and surgery. Finally, ritual mastery for a few key rituals, or one extra point in a few of the favorite paths can help a lot for getting that much more energy per gather/soaking penalties if using effect shaping instead. For a (99/-50) character, you can afford 16 in 4 paths without buying a single level of magery beyond 0, and still have... 1 point + potentially 50 more from disadvantages + 5 more from quirks to personalize it a bit. 


  1. This is an interesting build! Thematically, I have a couple of objections to the attribute choices. It seems like either physical strength or mental toughness enables the shaman to wrestle with the forces of the spirit world and guide them to an intended end, so having negative modifiers for both Will and HT seems odd.

    For a shaman at such a low point value, it seems odd to have points in all the Paths. 75 points is pretty close to a commoner, so for an important role in society that would be a novice level person. A beginning shaman should probably have only a couple of Paths above default. A more experienced shaman could have all the Paths at varying levels, but would probably have a higher point total to reflect that experience.

    1. Well, this particular template is not meant to take up all the points, so it is not a template for a 75/-50 character, but more like... a prerequisite for a 100/-100 character. A lot of official templates in, for example, Dungeon Fantasy or After the End assume the templates are meant to take up the entire point budget, but I am trying to design these for my players who:
      1) are starting to get good enough at character creation that they could use some more freedom
      2) still need a bit of guidance to make sure they are making a character that fits the theme of the game I'm trying to make.

      I definitely agree that the will is probably too low though, and I'd recommend a player to buy it back up, but not because their will be a lot of spiritual warfare.

      Also, I did focus most of the ability into 4 paths, and only gave *every* path because it was cheap to do so. Maybe it was a bit of min/maxing, but I thought either:
      A) My players can get a whole five points back
      B) They can have a bunch of path skills that will enable some extra options but in a way that does not look to be a game breaker to *me*.


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