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how do you make your mages? [Sep. 13th, 2009|02:59 pm]
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[low_delta]
I had a mage, not too long ago, that was a little to generalized. Some players make very specialized characters, but I tend to go a little more generalized. Sometimes that's *because* my teammates are so specialized, that I have to take a broader variety of skills to cover for them. But mainly it's because I don't like min-maxing. I'm not a cheese gamer, and I like to put my points where the character history and personality dictates (not that I'm complaining about the opposite tactic, or that I always do it this way). Anyway, this time we had a very large team, and I was able to perform well.

But last week, I died a horrible death. Actually, the death wasn't so horrible - it was my utter ineffectiveness leading up to it. There were only three of us on the mission, so my inadequacy was apparent.

Problem #1: Drain. I only had eight dice for drain. I hate walking around with 2's for attributes, so most of mine were 3's and 4's. A 2 body means you can't wear an armor jacket. And you also have fewer dice for damage resistance. I wanted him to be okay with guns, so he needed a 3 AGL. Reaction powers initiative. Strength was the only 2. Mental atts needed to be high, of course. I didn't want to take a mentor spirit, so there goes one of the few ways to increase drain dice. Centering is the only other one I can think of, offhand.

Problem #2: Spellcasting. I only had eleven dice for launching spells. Skill of 5, Magic of 4, power focus 2. Leaving my magic low, cost me 1 die (I wouldn't have started with a 6). Again, no totem dice. No other foci.

My intention was to be the mage/heavy weapons specialist. We had seven on the team, and I was the "other" mage. I'd have a variety of spells, and sit in the back and sometimes use spotters (my spirits, if necessary). I had gun skills of 1, just in case, but ten dice with my LMG. What ended up killing me was taking 1 drain every time I cast a spell. An injury modifier of 1 is a big deal when you have that few dice. And then you get a real injury, and can't do *anything*. After three combats, the three of us were sneaking out the back, and had to roll stealth. At -4, I rolled a 1 on one die. "The rotodrone overhead opens fire." I take enough damage to put me at dead with no overflow. The second burst killed me. I was so unhappy with the character at that point, that the GM had gone into shorthand mode and pretty much just made me dead.

It was an ineffectual build. But how do you build a mage? I'm not looking for specific answers to my specific problems. I'm wondering what you do with your characters. What are your requirements? How do you make them effective? How narrow is your focus?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: danfossydan
2009-09-13 10:05 pm (UTC)

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You need Ok Charisma. and OK Int and good Willpower.

So make sure you start with one off racial max for Willpower and your traditions drain stat.

Being good with guns as a mage seems a waste. Its a waste of skill points on the guns skill, and a waste of money on the gun.

4 sorcorery group, and 1 conjouring group, and the level 2 powerfocus are good. Buy a sustaining focus. Buy Stim patches that let you ignore stun damage modifiers (No-Pain is even better)

Spell choise wise: 1 AoE spell, and one single target spell + 4 utility spells.

My mage had Lightening Ball, and Mana bolt, the other mage in the group had Mass mind control, and Powerbolt (I think). We both had Increased Actions in a spell sustaining foci.

I was amazing with a sword, which I used only ever for parrying. My fellow mage never used his gun that he had since the start of play and had to roll his dodge twice...

With the drugs the drain isn't such a problem. With good drain stats and good spell choise we won alot.

Oh Edge is amaizing. I had 5 edge and used it in combination with the Lightening Ball to be able to take the drain much more effectivley.

All shadowrunners need Stealth group, Athletics group and Ettiquette in my mind. (though may be if you can leveitate you don't need Athletics)

USE your spirits: use Concelment at all stealty times. Invisibility is a good spell.

Keep bound spirits on hand.

Drones murder people. Use astral projection to scount the scene, flee from enemy spirits, use a hacker to find where drones might be (Finding hidden nodes isn't normally impossible.) Try very hard to not get shot.
[User Picture]From: rel13612
2009-09-14 04:09 pm (UTC)

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I strongly disagree with the guns skill being a waste, but you don't need the group, just the single gun you need. I tend to use shotguns as part of the point is for the weapon to be seen. Why? First and foremost because NPC's w/o magical protectuion should be followers of the geek the mage theory. The guy not shooting at you is either the shadowrunners decker or mage, either way an asset security teams should feel threatened by. to help the diversion I have frequently been able to negotiate pulling the trigger on the shotgun with no chance to hit for about a 2 die distraction penalty while casting.

As for magic your first priority should be stacking drain resistance dice so you can use your spells. I tend to depend on a high force stunball as my main offensive spell as its Willpower resisted and won't kill if any friendlies are caught in the blast. Improved invisibility needs to be in a spell focus, as being invisible is of little use if you show up on all the sensors. All in all I don't see the physical spells as worth their nasty drain unless its for the secondary elemental effect then I recommend lower force levels to manage drain.

After that I do the rest of my build to the mages personality/role. Personally I frequently incorporate pain editors into my builds, but lower magic rating and the cost in nuyen is a high price to pay. Its not for every character.

[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-15 03:04 am (UTC)

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With regard to your first paragraph, I agree. Though the reason I took the heavy weapons skill was so I could hit targets that I couldn't see. I also had FA group at 1, but I was part of a merc team, so had to be at least somewhat combat ready (and had a few extra BP to compensate for that).

The guy not shooting at you is either the shadowrunners decker or mage, either way an asset security teams should feel threatened by. to help the diversion I bring a giant troll as a distraction. ;-)

WRT your second paragraph, I've apparently just learned that. Or maybe relearned it.

I like a manaball (good on groups of gunbunnies), a power bolt (good on doors and mages), and some kind of stun spell. Or stunball instead of manaball if I'm skimping on spells. Cyberware is very expensive, essencewise, in SR4. You're basically spending an extra 10 BP for a point of magic you can't use.
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-15 03:18 am (UTC)

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Thanks for the input. Good thoughts, for the most part.

So make sure you start with one off racial max for Willpower and your traditions drain stat.
That's about what I'm thinking.

Being good with guns as a mage seems a waste. Its a waste of skill points on the guns skill, and a waste of money on the gun.
We were playing a merc team, and expected to have combat skill, and given extra BP for this. But my theory was that if I couldn't see it, it could hit it with indirect fire. I like to find new approaches.

Conjuring 1 doesn't seem very useful. With a conjuring of 4, I couldn't reliably summon a force 5 spirit. I had spellcasting 5, counterspelling 4, no ritual.

We both had Increased Actions in a spell sustaining foci.
Increased Reflexes is king. Unfortunately I assumed I'd be able to pick one up shortly after beginning the campaign. I was wrong - we were in the field for five missions straight, and never had a chance to spend cash. And never fund any in loot.

All shadowrunners need Stealth group, Athletics group and Ettiquette in my mind.
I agree except that the only essential stealth skill is infiltration. The other stealth skills are only necessary on a team basis, not for each member.

USE your spirits: use Concealment at all stealthy times.
I never did get the hang of using my spirits at every opportunity.

Thanks again!
[User Picture]From: danfossydan
2009-09-18 09:21 am (UTC)

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I lowered Conjouring to start with a better powerfocus. Rating 4 powerfocus, and 1 Conjouring seemed like a better buy than 4 skill.
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-18 05:43 pm (UTC)

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Not a bad thought. Especially if you don't use conjuring all the time. If I did that, my GM would try to make it difficult for me. He'd put up a lot of wards, making me shut down the power focus, for example. And at least once, he try to destroy it.
[User Picture]From: danfossydan
2009-09-18 05:44 pm (UTC)

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All sorts of nastyness RE Foci addiction. But don't use it much, just when it matters alot.
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-14 02:27 pm (UTC)

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You didn't ask for specifics, but here are a few:

Off the top of my head, mentor spirits increase your casting dice but not your Drain dice. The Focused Concentration quality can increase those by 1 (10BP) or 2 (20BP).

Secondly, if you're going to have a Magic below six, take some cyber/bioware, it will help you survive. (Ask your GM if he's willing to houserule Essence loss subtracting from the cap on your Magic/Resonance as opposed to your current maximum if you're having trouble with BP). On the other hand, if you don't plan to mix in any 'ware at all, qualities like Sensitive System are basically free BP you can spend on other things.

Spells like Physical Barrier, Increase Reflexes, Armour, and Improved Invisibility coupled with a sustaining Focus will increase your durability. Heal is also a must.

Conjuring spirits (or having them bound) to do your dirty work can wreak a fair bit of havoc, as well as giving your opponents a target which isn't you!

Stat-wise, Willpower is a must for every tradition. The other stat can be either Logic, Intuition (also contributes to initiative) or Charisma depending on what kind of mage you are (see Street Magic). Charisma is good if you like binding spirits and/or plan to do any Face work. Agility and body are useful for everyone. Edge can save you from bad Drain rolls and perma-death. YMMV of course.

I would not combine a magician with a weapons specialist unless I was going to go Phys Ad or Physical Magician.

Sample builds in my next response, both pure Magicians; you can make badass infiltrators and gunbunnies out of Phys Ads/Physical Magicians, though, ask if you'd like ideas for those as well though.
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-14 02:27 pm (UTC)

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Sample Hermetic magician (combat mage):

Human

Body 3, Agility 3, Reaction 3, Strength 2, Charisma 3, Intuition 2, Logic 5, Willpower 5, Edge 3, Magic 6 (180BP)

Qualities
Magician, Focused concentration (2), Sensitive System, In Debt (10BP - gets you 10k free resources to start with; discuss with your GM how you'd pay it off) or any other few negative qualities of your choice (net +5 pts here)

Skills
Sorcery 4, Conjuring, Infiltration 2, Pistols 2, Dodge 2 (104 BP), plus 21 pts of free knowledge skills of your choice

Spells
Manabolt, Stunball, Heal, Increase Reflexes, Armour, Improved Invisibility, Physical Barrier, Hawkeye, plus one Rating 3 sustaining focus (92pts including the Magic 6; replace as appropriate for your playstyle)

9BP left to spend on resources and contacts, if your GM doesn't give them free (the sustaining focus would set you back 30k aka 6BP, but you've potentially got a free 10k from In Debt to spend too)


This is a run of the mill combat mage. Use karma to buy specialisations in combat, health, and manipulation spells (or take the Dark Goddess mentor spirit for +2 dice each to the first two), and of course initiate. To start off with you'll roll 12 dice for drain and 10 dice for spellcasting.
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-14 02:29 pm (UTC)

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Sample Shaman (conjuring junkie):

Elf (30BP)

Body 3, Agility 3, Reaction 2, Strength 2, Charisma 7, Intuition 2, Logic 3, Willpower 5, Edge 2, Magic 6

Qualities
Sensitive System, Simsense Vertigo (or any other), net -20BP

Skills
Conjuring 4, Sorcery 3, Influence 3, Pistols 2, Dodge 2, plus 15pts of knowledge skills

Spells
Stunball, Influence, Alter Memory, Improved Invisibility, Chaotic World, Heal (or whatever you feel like; this guy's much less of a frontliner though; 83BP. Don't spend your BP on binding spirits when you can do it for free in game as run prep)

plus an additional 21BP to spend on resources or whatever else.


That's 12 dice for Drain (add in Focused Concentration and you'll be laughing), 9 dice for spellcasting, 10 dice for your social skills (yes, this guy can double as a Face), and you can have up to 7 (!) bound spirits at max four tasks each to do your dirty work for you in combat.

And sorry about repeatedly reposting this comment, I'm being an HTML-tard today ;)
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-15 02:52 am (UTC)

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I didn't get any multiple posts in my e-mail, so no problem there. (But feel free to edit the hermetic post, and fill a number in for the Conjuring skill.)

So you try to get your drain as high as possible? Eight dice for drain pretty much guaranteed me one damage. Ten would give me one sometimes. With twelve, I'd usually be safe with regular spells, but be able to cast more powerful ones when necessary. I guess it had been a while since I'd played a mage. I feel kinds stupid basing my drain on two 4 attributes. Or maybe I expected the power focus to be used on drain. I bet that's it. I remember having that discussion near the beginning of the campaign.

Only five skills? I think it's physically impossible for me to make such a character! ;-) But, I don't see unarmed combat there anywhere. Or counterspelling. I'd take a melee skill before a gun skill.

The theory behind the weapons specialist was - oh, it was *heavy* weapons specialist" - that if I can't see it to cast at it, I can use indirect fire. We were playing a merc team. I had FA group 1, UAC 1, heavy weapons 4. Not too extreme.

Thanks for the input!
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-15 04:03 am (UTC)

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Just found the other posts in my e-mail. I'm e-mail impaired, apparently. :-)
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-15 08:40 am (UTC)

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So was I, yesterday ;)

Sorcery is in there as a skill group, so yes, they do have counterspelling. I'd edit that first one except I'd have to delete it YET again... My first reaction when I started making Shadowrun characters was also to give them quite a lot of skills at low ratings (how many people are computer illiterate even now?) but it seems you just. Can't. Afford it. :(
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-16 03:36 am (UTC)

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Oh, I always forget that basic users can't edit their comments. :-(

From a numbers standpoint, it makes more sense to load up your build points in high ratings, and pick up the low numbers with karma. But I hate to be too munchkiney.

There are too many things a character needs - all the stuff that you think is really cool, all the stuff everyone else expects you to have (what do you mean you don't have a heal spell?!!), all the sstuff that your character background dictates you have, all the stuff that's essential for any shadowrunner...
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-16 01:54 pm (UTC)

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Which is why, when I convinced my partner to start running a game, the point cap for character creation slowly crawled up to 500 when we realised just how expensive it is to build a mage... (Yes, I'm the GM's Girlfriend. But you should see how nasty the rest of the party is with 500BP... :P)

It seems to me that when building well-rounded mundanes, you can generally sacrifice stats and skills and make up for them with implants; this isn't impossible with magicians, but it's certainly less viable. One possibility to make up for the gap between Awakened/Resonant characters at creation and their clanking buddies might be to ask your GM to make the 3E nuyen/karma exchange available to the players?

Technomancers seem to have it worse because they can't even catch up with sustained spells; you should've seen the look on my face when I realise that for a non-augmented technomancer to have multiple initiative passes, they need an advanced Echo!
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-17 02:29 am (UTC)

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500, wow, that's huge! And though you feel like you can play the character like it was meant to be played, everyone else is that much better!

It seems like mages *stay* behind. They can always do amazing things, but they have to be played carefully, no matter how much karma they've spent. And you have to be comfortable with the fact that there will always be things you can't do. Though their successes are big ones, they're fewer and farther between. It takes a mindset to accept that. I can accept that, though it's always frustrating the first few missions, until I can log a little karma and cash. I think I'd need 450 BPs, before I stopped feeling like something was missing.

Our latest campaign started a little different. We played about four missions, and then started with new characters. After the next four, the two teams got thrown together and we chose which of our two characters we'd play. After that mission, we got all the karma that *both* of our characters had earned, plus a bonus 20, plus 250K¥. So my troll samurai now has a quarter mil to spend, along with 60 karma. And we started with 450 BP. OMG!

Technomancers... They're not bad, but you have to want to play one. The worst part is that they're such karma sinks. You can get as good as a hacker, but cash doesn't help - it's all karma.

Edited at 2009-09-17 02:29 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-17 01:20 pm (UTC)

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500pts, yeah. You should see the face. He can look like anyone, impersonate anyone, charm anyone... He has tons of different personas, maintains a lifestyle for each...and one of said personas is Elvis. Thankyouverymuch. The gunbunny PhysAd has a plane, and the third guy has DOZENS OF KILOGRAMS OF MILITARY GRADE EXPLOSIVE. It makes the corporate expense account my character gets for playing quasi-Johnson, organising the run, going on the run and making sure those three don't kill each other during aforementioned run look minor by comparison...

Especially since, on our first mission, Boyfriend Dearest gave us a kennel full of twelve biodrone Fenrir Wolves. Not much I can do given each of them counterspells, although I got lucky and Pulsed down their tactical network. The one who took them out was the demolitions expert, using about a kilo of C4 and getting about fifteen net successes (!). Sooo outclassed. Maybe next game I'll just play a troll street sam... :P
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-18 02:49 am (UTC)

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Extra BP at chargen is gold, for mages. You buy foci, and more foci. Bonding with them then is really cheap.

Tons of counterspelling? Okay, not your moment to shine. :-)
[User Picture]From: elegy_of_flames
2009-09-18 02:53 pm (UTC)

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Oddly enough, I didn't bond any foci. I have ten dice for spellcasting, twelve for combat and health, and that's with spellcasting only at four, so... ;) I did get my chance for a Crowning Moment of Awesome this time though. I had two friendly earth elementals on call, so when a sniper with an HK PSG Enforcer blew a hole in my stomach (7 points of physical out of 9) and my nice friends got him to duck down with suppressing fire, I told said elementals to bury them. Goodnight... It also appears my character's nice High Lifestyle apartment is being watched. Meep, so much for the GM's girlfriend having it easy ;) Mind if I friend, btw? Recounting these anecdotes has been fun!
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-09-18 03:05 pm (UTC)

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Sometimes spirits are the only way. Like against targets in an armored vehicle. :-)

Feel free to add or delete me, as you see fit. I don't really talk about gaming much there. Actually, I haven't been posting much at all, lately.
From: (Anonymous)
2009-10-09 04:13 am (UTC)

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Never, ever give a character the negative quality In Debt! It cost 10 BP, and only gives the character 5k for 5 BP. The normal money you would get for those same 5 BPs would be 25k (5,000x5). So it makes no sense to even get this disadvantage. The only real benefit of this quality is it allows the character to start with above 50BPs of resources. Which even then, i think the BPs spent on In Debt would be put to better use some where else, like getting the skill of Arcana (Street Magic) and form a magical group and Initiate as soon as possible. In the above example of a combat mage with 10 BP spent on In Debt and then only having 9 BP for resources, they could have used tat 10 BP for 19 BP for resources instead.... thats an extra 50,000 instead of 10,000 from In Debt.
From: (Anonymous)
2009-10-25 07:25 am (UTC)

In Debt doesn't *cost* bp, it *gives you* bp

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That's why I think it's one of the more harmless Negative Qualities - you get bp PLUS cash, with the relatively minor requirement to pay some money every month. Why is a lifelong debt "minor"? Hey, the character may die, the campaign may die. If it does last a while you should be getting the juicy big paying gigs so $1500/mo will be chump change.
From: (Anonymous)
2009-10-23 02:37 am (UTC)

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Dwarf(25BP)

Body 2, Agility 1, Reaction 1(2), Strength 3, Charisma 3, Intuition 2, Logic 6(9), Willpower 7, Edge 3, Magic 6(5) (235BP)

Qualities
Magician, Mentor Spirit(any, I took Lion I think), Restricted Gear x3, Aspected Magician (Sorcery), Focus Addiction, moderate(unrealistic not to have it with these focii), Asthma, SINner (0BP)

Skills
Assensing 3, Counterspelling 4, Spellcasting 6(Combat spell specialization), Arcana 2, Perception 1 (66 BP), plus 33 pts of free knowledge skills of your choice

Spells
Powerbolt, Improved Invisibility, Silence, Armor, Increased Reflexes, Manaball; a Spellcasting Focus 5 and a Power Focus 4(both above 12 avail) and a Blood Fetish tied to Powerbolt

Cyberware/Bioware
Single Cybereye (3) +Low-Light+Smartlink+Thermo+Vision Enhancement (3)+Vision Magnification, Reaction Enhancers (1), Cerebral Booster (3)[the third Restricted], Sleep Regulator

Basically I wanted to see what I could do with a Mage with a Cerebral Booster, and the rest filled out the 1 Essence. You can cast through anything you have paid essence for, so rangeless LOS for Powerbolt. The mage essentially became a Sniper Mage. 24 dice to cast a Force 10 Powerbolt, so it's almost certain to get the 10 hits, and 16 dice to soak the 6 drain(not as certain, but I could afford to use a focus to drain instead; which would e 20 dice/20 drain soak). Alternatively, this Mage still has 10 dice/12 drain soak for Powerbolt or Manaball at Force 5 while maintaining Imp Invis(F 10), Silence(F 10), Armor(F 9), and Incr Reflexes(F 3){which is all told, a hard guy to detect}. Manaball is for Astral combat on this guy, and Scent Removal is an obvious spell to go for next.

This character is sadly a little min/maxed, but it's hard to stay viable as a mage with cyberware.

-----

Also, as a mage of any sort Spellcasting is a combat-skill.
From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-26 11:33 pm (UTC)

Mistake in sniper mage calculations

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Nice build, but you made two errors:
Only one focus can help with anything so you can't use both your Spellcasting and Power focii at the same time.
Errata clarified that NO focus can help with drain.
This still means you have 20 dice (instead of 24) for your powerball and 16 dice for drain, so it's still a brutally effective combat mage.

Have you considered dropping the Reaction enhancers and Sleep Regulator for a Trauma Damper? It's essentially a free hit on drain resistance tests. Less useful when you overforce the drain to physical, but still worth it IMHO.
[User Picture]From: moriatti
2009-11-09 04:21 pm (UTC)

Only two months later, but...

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I'd always go with a lower overall skill rating for specialization, since that essentially allows you a 1/1 ratio for your dice to BP for up to two die.

I'm currently writing a mage myself, and I think he's going to be an illusions/manipulations specialist (Raven mentor, specialization in illusions) and an overall manipulative bastard type guy.

The GM for this scenario knows I'm rolling a mage, and wants to one-up me, so I'm going to give him increase attribute spells and blades (Sp Katana) letting my illusions take the fire as oft as possible while I cut them open.

With this kind of build, your physical stats become secondary to your spellcasting, since the former can far increase the latter.

Not sure if this is a perfect build, but I'll let you know how it turns out.
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-11-29 03:40 am (UTC)

Re: Only two months later, but...

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Have you tried him out?

Illusions can be very powerful. Facsimile Lone Star patrol cars rolling up are always fun!

I was having trouble finding BPs to make up a secondary skillset, like your sword abilities. Let me know how it turned out.
[User Picture]From: moriatti
2009-11-29 04:08 am (UTC)

Re: Only two months later, but...

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He turned out great, as for BP, I'd go with Foci, and used illusion/suggestion to negotiate further foci in game.

Basically he ran around the grunts and PCs, got the guys with the guns in easily and frightened off all of the guards towards the end, ensuring escape.
[User Picture]From: low_delta
2009-11-29 06:18 am (UTC)

Re: Only two months later, but...

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Heh. Excellent.