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Old 05-21-2021, 01:40 PM   #1
Mr Dalton
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Default Witches' Duel

So, something I've been planning for a while is a witches' duel between the witch in the party and a bully NPC witch who's been making trouble for them since pretty much day one. I've kinda got an idea of what I want to do, but not sure the best way to pull it off mechanically. I'm toying with ideas, but want to see if the people here have ideas.

If you haven't read my last post on how witchcraft works in my game, I'll sum it up. Basically, instead of learning individual spells and powers, witches just have a small set of spellcasting skills that they use to craft spells on the fly. The trade-off is that witchcraft is very much built around using psychology and superstition to manipulate people. Witches can only do magic that the societies they live in expect them to be able to do, so to be an effective witch, you have to learn what your society expects and play to that. Additionally, your reputation effects your magic. For example: if you build up a reputation for being a healer, you'll be better at that without actually increasing your skill as much, but you'll find it harder to do harmful magics because people don't expect it from you.

Now, a witches' duel is designed to show who has the best grasp of how witchcraft works rather than just be a matter of who has the most power. The participants have a month to prepare and during that time, all other witches in the area will seed rumors of the witches's duel coming up to get people aware and build an audience for it.

Participants prepare by spreading rumors and showing off their magical skills in ways that get attention. If you can build up your reputation enough, you can get bonuses to certain types of spells to use during the duel, but areas you neglect will have penalties. Additionally, you can sabotage your opponent by spreading rumors about them lacking certain skills, or drawing attention to their failures. This applies penalties to your opponent and after the preparation is done, the bonuses and penalties are added together to see who has the edge in what areas of magic.

The duel itself is fairly simple. The two gather in a circle and cast spells until one side runs out of energy to keep casting. This makes the actual duel more about being efficient with your FP and the risks you take. Yes, turning your opponent into a frog is an instant win, but given that it takes 6-8 FP at least (maybe more depending on the size of your opponent) to do this, you're at a huge disadvantage if the attempt fails, either because you screw up the spellcasting roll, or your opponent resists it.
On top of that, there will be an audience and they play an important role. If you can get the audience invested in you, they can grant you bonuses in the moment. Essentially, a witches' duel is the magical equivalent of pro-wrestling, where you can win just as much by entertaining the audience as by giving your opponent a smackdown.

So, how to go about this mechanically?
I was thinking that the build-up of rumors and showing off could count as a bonus to your spellcasting rolls for the types of magic you choose to specialize in. For example, the NPC has a reputation for being clumsy with magic in general, but very good at curses - especially ones that cause you to fail at something you should be good at. So, she'd focus on playing up her reputation as someone who brings misfortune and failure to others and then her performance in the duel will mostly be focused on trying to get her opponent to suffer penalties to her spellcasting in hopes that her failures will cause the player to waste all of her FP without getting a successful spell off.

I was thinking maybe each time you publicly use a spell, it counts as one point for that type of spell (a +1 bonus), but to do this, it has to be a big, noticeable display that lots of people see so that there's no question who did it. So, to get the big bonuses, you have to play a careful game of doing big, flashy spells that everyone recognizes, but without doing things that would get you in trouble with the community. Going around frogging the public for +1s would definitely get you a massive advantage for that, but it's also likely to get you arrested and if you're in jail on the day of the duel, that's a forfeit because you can't be present at the selected dueling spot.

The other way is seeding rumors of your skills in more subtle ways, like getting others to talk about your skill. Rumors are less effective if people don't actually see you do the thing, though, so this only counts as maybe half a bonus point.

If you can get your bonus points high enough, you can easily get your spellcasting skill for certain types of spells beyond the skill that starts reducing the amount of FP your spells cost and reducing the time to cast. And then, in the duel itself, you can use psychology (to read the crowd), fast talk, and simple illusions to get the audience invested in you, which could grant you more bonus points in the moment. But, if you read the crowd wrong, or play yourself against the reputation you've built, it negates some of the bonuses you've built up.

So, the question is how to best handle the preparation. Obviously, if you can arrange a scenario where you can make a big public show of spellcasting, that's just roleplaying and succeeding on the spell. But how do you spread rumors and build reputation? Roleplaying will be a large factor, but what would be the best skills to go for when skill rolls are called for.

They're going to be among the influence skills, obviously. Fast talk seems the most obvious, but that's specifically for in the moment and may not take. Intimidation could be helpful if you want to build up a frightening reputation at the risk of getting in trouble (a risky move, but one that could pay off). Diplomacy maybe? The main use for diplomacy seems to be improving the reaction of people, but it can also be used to make longer-lasting behavior changes. Would it be appropriate to use in this instance? It would take longer to use, but would be more likely to guarantee the rumor takes hold, whereas fast-talk can easily get someone to believe in the moment, but there's a chance it doesn't work long-term if you don't do something else to make it stick. And you can use psychology to get a reading of individuals to find out what would be the easiest to convince people of, improving your chances off getting a rumor to stick.

What do people here think? Any other ideas?
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Old 05-21-2021, 01:48 PM   #2
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Witches' Duel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Dalton View Post
So, the question is how to best handle the preparation. Obviously, if you can arrange a scenario where you can make a big public show of spellcasting, that's just roleplaying and succeeding on the spell. But how do you spread rumors and build reputation? Roleplaying will be a large factor, but what would be the best skills to go for when skill rolls are called for.
The correct skill is Propaganda. The "media" here is the gossip of the area, which will probably make the campaign cheaper than the rules for "Indirect Influence" on pp. 61-21 of Social Engineering.
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Old 05-21-2021, 04:14 PM   #3
Mr Dalton
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Default Re: Witches' Duel

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
The correct skill is Propaganda. The "media" here is the gossip of the area, which will probably make the campaign cheaper than the rules for "Indirect Influence" on pp. 61-21 of Social Engineering.
Hmmm. I wish I'd have known that earlier. I'd have recommended propaganda as an essential skill for witches to the player before she made the character. As it stands, the witch has psychology, sociology, fast talk, and intimidation. It looks like it's an IQ Average skill, so it would be too many points to get it at a decent level. Or she could default on psychology -4. Her psych skill is pretty good so she might be able to manage it.
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Old 05-21-2021, 04:25 PM   #4
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default Re: Witches' Duel

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Originally Posted by Mr Dalton View Post
I'd have recommended propaganda as an essential skill for witches to the player before she made the character.
As GM, you have options here. Are there traits on the character that have never been used and could be trimmed to free up some points?

Alternatively, it probably wouldn't break anything if you gave the character a loan of a couple of points for this, to be paid back out of future experience points.

Or, of course, the opponent may not have Propaganda either.
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Old 05-21-2021, 06:17 PM   #5
Mr Dalton
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Default Re: Witches' Duel

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
As GM, you have options here. Are there traits on the character that have never been used and could be trimmed to free up some points?

Alternatively, it probably wouldn't break anything if you gave the character a loan of a couple of points for this, to be paid back out of future experience points.

Or, of course, the opponent may not have Propaganda either.
Well, obviously, since I didn't know it would come up, the opponent doesn't have it now. I'll discuss it with them over email before we meet up.

Does anyone have any other suggestions on how I'm going about this?
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