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Old 11-11-2020, 01:43 PM   #1
Plane
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Default protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

looking at M152 there seems like a natural concern that someone who wants to hijack your zombies could just "brute force attempt" with Control Zombie until they succeeded.

It only takes 1 second to cast, and it's possible someone might just try this every half hour (regenerating 3 FP in between) until they succeed in the quick contest.

To have better chances in the "Quick Contest of Spells" what sort of thing (other than staying alive and within 100 yards) might a caster do to improve their chances?

M14 says "A spell resists using the casterís effective skill when he cast the spell" so it sounds like you'd want to pull out all the stops (Ceremonial Magic, pump in extra energy for skill bonuses) when initially casting zombie to get the highest possible effective skill you could.

It also means (a general note for Counterspell and Suspend Magic too) that any time you cast a spell you should keep a record of the "effective skill when cast" number until that spell is over, since that could come up.

If someone succeeded in using Control Zombie (they become the new master) and a 3rd party wanted to get that zombie and ALSO cast Control Zombie, it makes me wonder how you would resist in that circumstance:
1) do you still roll against the effective skill of the original creator, so new master's competence doesn't matter?

2) would you roll against the effective skill of Control Zombie instead?
If it's #2 then it would actually seem like a good way for zombie creators to guard their zombies would actually be to "steal control from themselves" by casting Control Zombie to "gain control" of a zombie they already control.

The reason for that is because it's much easier to pump up the power via Ceremonial Magic, since Control Zombie has a lower energy cost (3) compared to creating the zombie in the first place (8).

To get +4 to skill for +100% energy for example, would only cost 6 energy for Ceremonial Control Zombie, so you've spent a total of 14 towards that zombie. Getting that +4 to skill by using Ceremonial (Create) Zombie OTOH would cost you 8 extra energy (total of 16) which would be more expensive.

Not to mention that Ceremonial Magic's time demands are much worse, you're talking 10x 1 minute (10 minutes) whereas creating a zombie in 1 minute and then "Ceremonial Control" just tacks on a paltry 10 seconds, so it's also faster to make "skill-boosted" zombies more resistant to others' Control Zombie interference this way (assuming of course that you can actually resist Control Zombie with a casting of Control Zombie... I'm not sure if that's legal)

This is even more important if you rely on Mass Zombie (M153) since that has even higher energy and casting requirements.

Another benefit is you can make a magic item to give yourself +2 to Control Zombie, but there's no item like that for creating them.

- - -

Spellguard (M127) doesn't mention being able to use the bonus it provides against Control Zombie (only meta-college spells), but would that seem reasonable? Should we have a "Zombieguard" variant of this?


- - -

There doesn't seem to be any way of finding out if someone has stolen control of your zombie (until it ignores/disobeys, at least) because it's not like you'd detect loss of control as a spell: it's a permanent spell which doesn't count as "on" (you don't maintain it)

Is there maybe some spell anyone can think of you could cast on a zombie which would alert the caster:
1) if someone attempts Control Zombie on it (succeed or fail)
2) if Control Zombie is successful on it
Without something like that, I'd be worried about some mage slowly sneaking around wresting control of your zombies without you being aware of it, like they might not give any new commands (things go on as usual) until they've turned enough to overpower you.

I'm thinking you could "Analyze Magic" on your zombies to see if they're under the effect of someone else's "control zombie" but that would require constant active scans, so I'm thinking something a bit more preparatory.
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Old 11-12-2020, 07:17 AM   #2
Michele
 
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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Originally Posted by Plane View Post

If it's #2 then it would actually seem like a good way for zombie creators to guard their zombies would actually be to "steal control from themselves" by casting Control Zombie to "gain control" of a zombie they already control.

The reason for that is because it's much easier to pump up the power via Ceremonial Magic, since Control Zombie has a lower energy cost (3) compared to creating the zombie in the first place (8).

To get +4 to skill for +100% energy for example, would only cost 6 energy for Ceremonial Control Zombie, so you've spent a total of 14 towards that zombie. Getting that +4 to skill by using Ceremonial (Create) Zombie OTOH would cost you 8 extra energy (total of 16) which would be more expensive.

Not to mention that Ceremonial Magic's time demands are much worse, you're talking 10x 1 minute (10 minutes) whereas creating a zombie in 1 minute and then "Ceremonial Control" just tacks on a paltry 10 seconds, so it's also faster to make "skill-boosted" zombies more resistant to others' Control Zombie interference this way (assuming of course that you can actually resist Control Zombie with a casting of Control Zombie... I'm not sure if that's legal)
I don't know if it's legal, but it sounds like a good textbook example of munchkiny.

If you want a zombie guard, it seems reasonable that you have to accept that zombies have some strengths, in comparison to living intelligent guards, but also some weaknesses.
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Last edited by Michele; 11-12-2020 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 11-12-2020, 07:18 AM   #3
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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so you've got a little wiggle room. the way in which the commands are transferred isn't specified. It could be verbal, it could be a mental link activated by concentrating, it could be some weird programming thing.

Control Zombie is fairly specific that the creation spell for the zombie is the one that exists. So by RAW, option #1 is used. Despite that, I think #2 makes more sense, and if you asked if you could do it at my table, I'd be all for it.

spell-guard is in a similar situation, but its rather a weaker situation: control zombie isn't exactly tampering with the last control zombie spell, its just overriding it. Though that way you can end up with a stack of permanent spells and as you dispel each one the zombie gets a new master.

I suspect the zombie line of spells were thought of as NPC spells when first written.
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Old 11-13-2020, 12:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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Originally Posted by Michele View Post
I don't know if it's legal, but it sounds like a good textbook example of munchkiny.
It'd probably be more munchkinny to go around just stealing a zombie army created by some other guy by brute-forcing him, so allowing zombie-creators to "pre-control" them to boost up the skill control-stealers would roll against sounds like a good way to make stealing them harder.

It won't really eliminate brute-forcing though since you can just keep going until you get a critical success on Control Zombie because then it's irresistible.

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Originally Posted by Michele View Post
If you want a zombie guard, it seems reasonable that you have to accept that zombies have some strengths, in comparison to living intelligent guards, but also some weaknesses.
You accept that so long as Zombie is the only spell you know, but if you know other spells to buff them, you'll probably think to use them.

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
Control Zombie is fairly specific that the creation spell for the zombie is the one that exists. So by RAW, option #1 is used. Despite that, I think #2 makes more sense, and if you asked if you could do it at my table, I'd be all for it.
I guess a similar thing would come up if you were casting Steal Spell against someone who got that spell via Steal Spell in the first place: technically resisted by the "subject spell" (per original caster effective skill) and not the "Steal Spell" used to steal it?

I think you're correct about this being the RAW in either case... it results in spells which are hard to steal, not just from you, but ALSO from anyone who successfully steals from you: it's hard to get it back!

In that case I'm wondering if maybe you could pre-program a spell to suffer a penalty resisting certain targets trying to steal/counter/suspend/control it... such as the original caster, or maybe your apprentice necromancer who you want to lend control of the zombie to.

If this were a maintainable spell like "Control Elemental" then I'd say make it into an enchantment via Ensorcel and then use Name/Password to be able to shut down the zombie independently if someone manages to control it.

Since Zombie / Control Zombie are permanent instead of maintainable I don't think I can do that.

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
you can end up with a stack of permanent spells and as you dispel each one the zombie gets a new master.
I don't think it's even possible to dispel permanent spells based on M10... ah wait I'm wrong, M126 allows on Perms just not Enchants...

It isn't selective and says to use Counterspell to be specific, but M121 doesn't allow that on permanent ones...

M126 doesn't mention Zombie or Control Zombie but DOES mention Ensorcel, weirdly...

I guess you'd need to use Thaumatology enhancements for spells to get 'Selective Effect' to get the required amount of control on Dispel Magic to guarantee you only got rid of the top layers of "Control Zombie" without threatening the original spell
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Old 11-13-2020, 01:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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Originally Posted by Plane View Post
It'd probably be more munchkinny to go around just stealing a zombie army created by some other guy by brute-forcing him, so allowing zombie-creators to "pre-control" them to boost up the skill control-stealers would roll against sounds like a good way to make stealing them harder.
I think we have different definitions of munchkiny.

To me, munchkiny is a behavior that complies with the letter of the rules while violating logic, common sense and/or realism.

Subversion operations are a thing that happens in the real world. With a military unit made of living beings, propaganda and bribery are the tools. By extension, if you face a magical zombie unit, you might opt for a magical attempt at subversion. It is something that is entirely conceivable, logical, realistic, and makes sense. Whence the existence of Control Zombie - which is clearly designed to take control of someone else's zombies.

If you know the password of your computer, "stealing" the password from yourself does not make the password safer. Concluding that it would have that outcome is illogical, reality-defying, and against common sense.

On the contrary, using a spell that is designed to take control of someone else's zombies on one's own zombies, for the opposite end (not stealing control but making that control firmer), might not violate the letter of any rules, but it is clearly twisting the rules so as to obtain an advantage that the rules were not designed to grant.

Munchkiny. YMMV, of course, but this is my take.
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Old 11-13-2020, 06:40 AM   #6
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

Zombie is a really cheap spell for what it does, and it would not be unreasonable for a necromancer to increase their base skill to 35. At a base skill of 35, it would cost a necromancer 3 energy and take them 4 seconds to make a zombie (it would also make Control Zombie very unlikely to work). While some people would consider such an individual to be a one trick pony, it is a really effective trick, as a necromancer could easily raise a couple dozen zombies a day without much effort.

In fact, such a necromancer might want to think of operating in a low mana area. While they would need to spend 4 energy and take 8 seconds to cast Zombie, as their base skill would become 30, any potential opponent with Control Zombie would suffer a -5 to base skill, probably reducing it from 25 to 20 (as there is little use for a caster to have Control Zombie beyond 25). Of course, the vast majority of necromancers are not quite that dedicated, so a character with Control Zombie-25 is probably going to easily end up with a horde of zombies if they want them.
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Old 11-13-2020, 06:54 PM   #7
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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a behavior that complies with the letter of the rules while violating logic, common sense and/or realism.
Keeping in mind we are talking about magic spells to control animated undead.

Subversion operations are a thing that happens in the real world. With a military unit made of living beings, propaganda and bribery are the tools. By extension, if you face a magical zombie unit, you might opt for a magical attempt at subversion. It is something that is entirely conceivable, logical, realistic, and makes sense. Whence the existence of Control Zombie - which is clearly designed to take control of someone else's zombies.

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If you know the password of your computer, "stealing" the password from yourself does not make the password safer. Concluding that it would have that outcome is illogical, reality-defying, and against common sense.
It's a matter of perspective: is Control Zombie stealing a password, or CHANGING a password? The latter is done regularly to increase security.

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Originally Posted by Michele View Post
On the contrary, using a spell that is designed to take control of someone else's zombies on one's own zombies, for the opposite end (not stealing control but making that control firmer), might not violate the letter of any rules, but it is clearly twisting the rules so as to obtain an advantage that the rules were not designed to grant.

Munchkiny. YMMV, of course, but this is my take.
Semantically it's worth noting that it's "Control Zombie" not "Steal Control of Zombie" so I don't think "cementing one's control" is necessarily straying too far off-path.

M28 spells (vs Elementals) have sort of a similar argument to be made for them.

"Create Elemental" gives you some initial control over your creation (an hour) where eventually you're probably going to lose sway over a contest w/ combined IQ+ST of the creature.

"Control Elemental" could be a good backup because it doesn't add anything to the ST of the elemental: it will just substitute Will if it's better.

Control costs halve as much energy as Create so it can be a lot cheaper to beef up the effective skill via Ceremonial Magic (extra energy) to make sure you'll win that contest. It's also a one-time save so long as you maintain it.

Control Elemental can be used to steal control from an elemental who's serving someone else, I think? That's interesting since it's the elemental themselves who resist, not the spell which created them, nor even a pre-existing "Control Elemental" spell currently acting on them. It's like a "last to cast dominates" kind of situations AFAIK per the RAW?

If in both cases these can't be used to retain control then I gues the next best bet is to combine either w/ Delay so that the spell goes off on a condition like "someone else controls my minion" at which point it activates and tries to steal it back for you?

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
a character with Control Zombie-25 is probably going to easily end up with a horde of zombies if they want them.
Largely why I'm wondering about countermeasures.

When it comes to an elemental that you create, you could just give them "Magic Resistance" to make it harder to work Control Elemental against them (since THEY resist)

But in the case of a zombie, the zombie doesn't resist control zombie, your spell does...

So unless it's possible to cast Magic Resistance on a spell, the closest is probably Spellguard, which is explicitly for meta spells but not for non-meta spells like Control Zombie and... maybe there's some other one like that?

Kinda wonder how that works with (Animal) Control too... is there no option for an existing mind control spell to work like a guard against a 2nd competing one?
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Old 11-14-2020, 12:09 AM   #8
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

I imagine that poaching a fellow necromancer's zombies is likely a lot like ripping off fellow drug dealers. Meaning that the Omar Little factor is likely very high.

Similarly, poaching the corpses of a priest's flock's (Final Rest aside) likely has a similar retribution forthcoming.

While not a countermeasure to theft:

Depending on the circumstances of the demise of the person that became a zombie, one thing that could be useful here is that a spirit could be available. The original Necromancer may be able to use that to understand what is going on with the body that the spirit inhabited.

Timeline: Character kills someone, character animates their soulless body, other necromancer character poaches it, original character necromancer summons spirit that was associated with the body, original character starts whistling "A-Hunting We Will Go".

You might also allow for divination at some level, but gurps doesn't get into the grit of necromancy much. It's not like mass zombie forms much of a relationship.

If you wanted to make a countermeasure to left:

I would look at buying a perk that said that the zombies you create are just that much harder to steal (or turn)

I have encountered the the bind spirit spell, where the necromancer has bound the spirit of the dead person to their corpse (or rather to their spouse). If the zombie body was obtained, the spirit would not be and that wouldn't be good for the necromancer thief.

If the original necromancy was not magery based, but rather power investure ... this might open a whole new world of challenges. A mage stealing a death priest's zombie seems to have some opportunities to work through.
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Old 11-15-2020, 01:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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it's possible someone might just try this every half hour (regenerating 3 FP in between) until they succeed in the quick contest.
Unless something interferes with this idealized free retry process -- like someone killing the mage while they rest. Like, oh, the zombie guard he just failed to control, along with all the other zombies in the horde. And the other forces that the necromancer mixed in to cover weaknesses of zombies.

This seems like just one of those constructed white room problems.
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Old 11-15-2020, 02:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: protecting your Zombies from Control Zombie

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It's a matter of perspective: is Control Zombie stealing a password, or CHANGING a password? The latter is done regularly to increase security.
Changing a password only 'increases security' if it happens after the attacker has already made progress on an attack. Not a very good analogy for the argument you're trying to make here.
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Unless something interferes with this idealized free retry process -- like someone killing the mage while they rest. Like, oh, the zombie guard he just failed to control, along with all the other zombies in the horde. And the other forces that the necromancer mixed in to cover weaknesses of zombies.

This seems like just one of those constructed white room problems.
It would be practical if you've already abducted the zombie and chained them up in a controlled environment, but at that point the zombie is probably already written off by its original owner anyway.

Given that it's a regular spell, it would be hard to hide for hours in effective range of the target.
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