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Old 07-01-2023, 01:43 PM   #1
Shostak
 
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Default Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

Spellcasters who want to learn this Thrown spell need an IQ of 10 or better. While the spell's description strongly implies that they would also need one of the Staff spells, this is not directly stated, so if you are planning a character who carries a mundane walking stick that you plan to be the subject of the spell, make sure your GM is going to approve. At the bargain cost of 1ST, the spell transforms the wizard's own staff to a snake for 12 turns, and it may be recast to make it last longer. The summoned snake is not a boss combatant by any means, having a low MA and only a modest ST, but DX is good enough that they hit five times out of six, and they can be used tactically to engage foes to keep them at a safer distance from the wizard. On top of that, snakes are difficult to hit, with attacks against them made at -3DX. If the wizard's staff that is turned into a snake holds mana, the wizard can still draw on it even though the snake is not in hand. For all practical purposes, the snake's bite delivers the staff's occult blast, and does so without an additional ST cost to the wizard.

Staff to Snake can, of course, be countered. Do this the Old Testament way by turning your own staff to a snake and letting the serpents fight each other--hopefully yours wins. Or, Remove Thrown Spell can turn your opponent's serpent back into a staff, now lying useless on the ground. Control Animal is also a possibility, but less certain. Or just smite the snake with an axe to kill it. Once dead, it reverts to a staff--but a broken one bereft of all magical energies.

With the TFT Bestiary soon to appear, one wonders about if different snakes might be possible. Could a wizard transform their staff to a constrictor? Could a higher level of Staff to Snake bring a venomous serpent? Or a giant snake? Or perhaps a somewhat modified spell could let sorcerers turn things like an opponent's staff (or spear, or axe handle) into a snake?

I like Staff to Snake a lot. One character in one of the campaigns I GM has Staff to Snake as pretty much her only directly offensive spell. She's a wizardly thief whose staff is a rosewood hair pin. When things get dicey, she whips it out of her sable tresses and hurls it at the feet of her enemies. I once played an assassin known professionally as "The Cobra" whose preferred method was to use Staff to Snake to create a self-propelled weapon with which to infiltrate the private chambers of his targets and deliver surprise attacks, or to create distractions that allowed him to close in on and eliminate his target.

Conversation starters:
  • How often does Staff to Snake see use in your games?
  • Have any questions come up?
  • Do you have any alternate versions of the spell in your games?
  • What combinations with other spells offer compelling synergies?
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Old 07-01-2023, 03:38 PM   #2
Axly Suregrip
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

I get the snake is a bargain at 1 ST for 12 turns to create something that can engage and stall foes. The -3 DX just fits this roll perfectly.

But there are downsides:

- the biggest is that mana-staffs (level 2+) are extremely valuable to wizards. If a foe gets lucky and slays your staff, you just lost your mana battery.

- snakes have a low MA and if the foe does not engage it, it may take it a few turns getting to the foe.

- as you stated, the damage is low so this is not an offensive spell.


I do like the spell for beginning wizards but once they are putting mana on the staff they stop using this spell. I think it may still be handy once the staff is drained of mana, since that is the perfect time to cast a spell that is a bargain for the ST cost.
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Old 07-01-2023, 04:09 PM   #3
hcobb
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

  1. Got wood? Does this spell work on daggers? (And is it worth breaking a fancy silver dagger instead of some twig you picked up on the side of the road?)
  2. Do the level one and two snake bites have the full effect of occult blasts on critters that ain't harmed by weapons such as slimes, elementals, wights and so on?
  3. Did you ever even consider this spell in Classic before the big buff (along with everything else that's wizards only fools!) in Legacy?
  4. The only downside from using your last point of mana to S2S your ordinary wooden wand is that then you don't have anything left in hand to defend yourself.
  5. Do the full creation spell rules apply to S2S, passing along Mage Sight and such?
  6. If the snake goes away with only 1 hit left is it at full strength next time?
  7. Is the break a clean one that's easily fixed with the Repair spell? (And a recasting of Staff V)
  8. Does the level 3 snake get a bonus to hit and a ranged bite?
  9. Do you really have the four mana to cast Shadow, Mage Sight, then S2S to block the narrow passageway you'll escape down? (Multi-hex Shadow and multiple illusion duplicates of the snake for extra credit.)
  10. And once the snake is in HTH do you always go for the 11 or less head shot with Snake-V? (If it hits that's auto-stun and 50% KO.) Or do you settle for biting the hand that's trying to stab your snake for a 13 or less?
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Old 07-01-2023, 04:39 PM   #4
Axly Suregrip
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shostak View Post
While the spell's description strongly implies that they would also need one of the Staff spells, this is not directly stated...
I think it is clear that it requires the staff spell. ITL pg 21:

"Staff to Snake (T): Lets wizard turn his own staff..."

and

"The snake’s bite does damage equal to the occult damage (usually 1 die) of the staff"

Since only a Wizard's staff (and not a mundane quarterstaff or club) does occult damage, this clearly means it can only be a Wizard's staff.

I also want to point out that it does say "his own staff," so no you cannot do this to another wizard's staff.
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Old 07-01-2023, 05:46 PM   #5
Shostak
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Axly Suregrip View Post
I think it is clear that it requires the staff spell. ITL pg 21:

"Staff to Snake (T): Lets wizard turn his own staff..."

and

"The snake’s bite does damage equal to the occult damage (usually 1 die) of the staff"

Since only a Wizard's staff (and not a mundane quarterstaff or club) does occult damage, this clearly means it can only be a Wizard's staff.

I also want to point out that it does say "his own staff," so no you cannot do this to another wizard's staff.
Oh I agree. But, it does not outright declare the prerequisite in the same way that Breathe Fire requires Fire and the advanced Staff spells require the lower ones.

Having a version of Staff to Snake that can be cast on any of various shafts that belong to people other than the caster would be cool. Of course, by RAW you could just add flavor to Drop Weapon so that the affected weapon briefly comes to life as a writhing snake, prompting the wielder to drop it. Not the same thing, but still cool.
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Old 07-01-2023, 06:04 PM   #6
hcobb
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

  • Staff 5 fatigue, -1 adjDX per hex to the target
  • Staff to Snake 1 fatigue, same range adjustment
  • Having the ogre's own club bite him? Priceless.
Esp. if your wizard's astrology sign is Ophiuchus.


Note that starting from a twig costs you half as much as a wolf-minute.
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Last edited by hcobb; 07-02-2023 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 07-02-2023, 09:05 PM   #7
timm meyers
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

The spell never really appealed to me. Seemed very thematic, so I have never had a wizard who learned it, until I joined a game and was given an NPC to play.
Having used the spell for the 1st time in 40+ years I must say I appreciate the low cost and tactical benefits. The character is by no means a close combat enthusiast but with thrown spells she needs to be pretty close to the fight so the snake summons worked very well in keeping the enemies busy.

Since it is a (T) spell could you be adjacent to your target and turn your wand to snake and immediately fang the enemy in the same turn? (there seems to be a case for this being a surprise attack as well)
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Old 07-03-2023, 05:28 AM   #8
hcobb
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

AFIK this acts like a creation spell. The snake moves to an adjacent hex at the moment of casting then can move and attack the next turn.
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Old 07-03-2023, 11:44 AM   #9
alforno
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

Staff to Snake becomes even more powerful with Staff III/Staff of Striking, since the damage bypasses armor. I'm not sure how it could do more than 1 die of damage, but it must be possible.

ITL 21: The snake’s bite does damage equal to the occult damage (usually 1 die) of the staff, and bypasses armor if the occult damage does.

Does the snake get an extra +1 hex range and +3DX to hit with Staff III?
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Old 07-03-2023, 12:00 PM   #10
Shostak
 
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Default Re: Talent/Spell of the Week: Staff to Snake

Quote:
Originally Posted by alforno View Post
Staff to Snake becomes even more powerful with Staff III/Staff of Striking, since the damage bypasses armor. I'm not sure how it could do more than 1 die of damage, but it must be possible.

ITL 21: The snake’s bite does damage equal to the occult damage (usually 1 die) of the staff, and bypasses armor if the occult damage does.

Does the snake get an extra +1 hex range and +3DX to hit with Staff III?
Staff V/Staff of Mastery does 1d+2 occult damage.
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