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Old 12-31-2022, 02:00 PM   #1
Plane
 
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Default Secret Spells and using Ward

Pg 9 of GURPS Magic in "Secret Spells" mentions how it's rarely clear what spell a wizard is casting, and that unless it's something like Fireball there are spells "with no obvious visible effect" which can "be kept a secret".

It mentions if a spell is not cast silently then observers can make a Thaumatology roll to recognize the magic words to understand which spell they are hearing - I would figure that would first be a Hearing-based Thaumatology to hear the words (subject to distance penalties) then an IQ-based Thaumatology roll to understand what spell the words represent?

Obviously stuff like Far-Hearing (M173) could be helpful in using this to glean what spells are being cast far-off.

There also might be room for something like Far-Sight if you were a deaf mage capable of lip-reading?

There's no mention for gestures but I was thinking a Sight-based Thaumatology roll could also make sense here if you are able to have a line of sight to whatever hand movements are being made.

In either case, where seeing+hearing in concert matters, maybe the MoS in the hearing and sight rolls could act as a bonus to the subsequent IQ-based check?

- -

This is for "a spell they do not themselves know" though, so it might mean that recognition (at least the IQ-based one... I think a hearing check would still make sense) is automatic for spells you have already learned.

This creates a somewhat odd situation for Ritual Magic though because then the person in theory knows ALL spells. Should they just freely recognize everything?

Rather than that, one idea would be that if a thaumatology check fails, a person gets an additional 2nd roll against their own capability of casting a spell (if applicable).

This way people more highly skilled at casting a spell would be more able to recognize it. Someone knowing Ritual Magic might be more prone at recognizing no-prereq spells but they wouldn't have extremely high chances at recognizing the high-PRC spells.

- -

Ward (M122 - costs 2 mana) is a spell you might be more likely to cast against certain spells than others, if you know which spells is coming. In a mage's duel, for example, if an enemy is peppering you with a bunch of cheap spells that cost 0 energy, you're going to exhaust your FP using 2-FP wards against all of them. You might be better off just letting them happen and saving that FP for something else - but you're probably going to want to use that 2 FP if there's some 10 FP monster spell incoming.

That's why the meta-knowledge of which spell is being cast (assuming you know a spell is being cast at all - it might be a surprise attack, right?) is important for RPing when it makes sense for a mage to Ward.

- -

A second consideration here, apart from recognizing a spell being cast, is recognizing a spell's target.

For example, if you are a wizard with "ward", M122 also allows you to spend 3 energy to block a spell cast at someone else, so long as you can see them.

I'm not sure why there's that sight requirement (pretty crippling for blind mages) personally I think it'd be okay to allow Ward to defend unseen targets at a -5 penalty like with Regular spells. Is that too broken? Seems like something a perk could allow ala Magical Styles though I don't recall seeing it.

But lets say you see 2 allies - one of them is just a token skeleton - you have hundreds of skeletons, you don't really care much if that skeleton gets hit with a spell. You DO however care if your ally healer gets hit with a spell.

So if you KNEW who was being targeted with the spell, you would Ward your healer fellow PC but let your minion get hit.

- -

So here's the issue - assuming this is an unknown spell and you pass your hearing roll (you hear magic words) and you pass your IQ-based thaumatology (you figure out what spell is being cast) what ways exist to discern who the spell's target is?

M102 has Identify Spell which gets closest to this idea but even that isn't heavily informative.

Identify Spell is a spell with a 'subject', so here are some examples of who you could target using Identify Spell: (keeping in mind it takes 1 second to cast)
1) cast it on the person who is chanting
2) cast it on your healer ally
3) cast it on your skeleton ally
A success means you identify ALL spells cast "on or by" a subject, including "being cast" or "just cast" (last 5 secs) ones.

The problem with (1) is while it will tell me which spell they're casting (ie if I had failed my hearing check, or perhaps they aren't speaking words at all) that won't tell me anything about the intended target AFAIK

This basically means if I want to know when my ally is being targeted by a spell, I need to have Identify Spell cast specifically on them (meaning very hard to guard a group of allies - you need Identify Spell cast separately on every one of them!)

Another huge problem is that this spell has no duration - it is instant. Meaning you can't just park Identify Spell and maintain it as an ongoing protection to inform you when your ally is being targeted. You would need to re-cast this spell EVERY SINGLE TIME you heard someone chanting magic words, just to figure out if it's the healer being targeted or some useless skeleton.

- -

Identify Spell's 1-second casting time already makes it pretty worthless to inform whether to Ward a 1-second spell in process - it'd only help you know whether to ward spells that take 2+ seconds to cast.

Even if you were to Reflex an Identify Spell so that you could use an active defense to identify the spell immediately - that will already use up the "One Blocking Spell Per Turn" limit meaning you couldn't Ward it anyway.

You could take two instances of Blocking Spell Mastery (one for Reflexed Identify Magic, one for Ward) from pg 23 of Magical Styles which would mean after using RIM you could Ward at a cumulative -5 penalty, I guess.

Maybe having some kind of sensory powers could also help here to offset that -5 for lack of sightline?

This all makes it incredibly inefficient to guard a huge group of allies though. I'm wondering if anyone knows if there is any sort of AE version of Identify Magic so that I could reflex something which would identify incoming spells being cast at any member within a group of allies?

Even if you happen to know the spell Great Ward (M122) where you arguably don't need to know which ally is being targeted (just protect all of them!) the expense could get pretty huge if you have a bunch of allies. If you took this strategy an enemy mage could easily exhaust your FP by just pinging your useless token skeletons while you keep throwing out 10-energy Great Wards to protect yourself and your 11 primary allies.

- -

M130's Linking Spells are the only place I can think to find what I want. This depends on how the Regular-spell Delay is meant to work though. I know you cast Delay on either a movable object or in a fixed location in space, whereas Link is cast on an Area.

The normal "something that could reasonable determined by a normal person at the Delay site" doesn't seem to be of help with normal spells (normal people do not have Thaumatology or know spells to recognize them)

We do know however this can be altered:
If the Delay is to be triggered by a more esoteric event, an appropriate spell such as Mage Sight may be cast on the Delay.
The Delay may also be triggered by the activation of another spell, such as Watchdog
..
Both the Delay and the linked spell count as “on” for spellcasting purposes;
if an Information spell has been added, it is also on.
The linked spell does not need to be maintained, though the Delay or its Information spell may need to be.
Delay lasts 2 hours, so the "may need to maintain" is I guess if you need it to last longer than 2 hours. I assume that's the same for an information spell with a duration.

Mage Sight (M102) is a maintable spell, it lasts a minute at a time so it would be very expensive to keep a mage sight running to inform the activation of a Delay. It pretty much only makes sense to do that if you have it at skill 20 (-2 cost) so you can maintain it for free.

Watchdog (M167) conversely lasts 10 hours at a time so it's an excellent way to trigger a Delay.

I figure the value with Watchdog is that it broadens the sense of sight. Assuming that Delay makes a Vision-based perception-check at the point it is cast, casting Watchdog to synergize with Delay would mean that you could give a triggering condition like "when somethign with hostile intent enters area, trigger the spell" rather than "when you see something enter an area" since the latter won't work if you fail a vision roll or if the target is invisible.
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Old 12-31-2022, 02:04 PM   #2
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

Enchanted beings "glow" with Mage Sight on - but that only seems useful to trigger the casting of Identify Magic on someone who already fell victim to magic - I don't think it would help you tell when someone is merely being targeted by an impending spell.

Identify Spell, lacking a duration, doesn't seem like something you could cast on Delay to create a triggering condition, since it lacks a duration.

I'm not familiar with the full variety of Information Spells so I'm wondering if anyone knows one that could be appropriate here.

Something where I could "Delay Identify Magic" and then have that DIM target my ally as soon as my ally is targeted via a spell.

If it was something like being targeted w/ a magic staff then I could set the condition of "trigger DIM when a staff is pointed at my ally" I guess? But what do you do if there is no obvious pointing to indicate a spell is happening?

I don't even know if staff-pointing is done at the start of spell-casting or if it can be held off until the last minute. Seems like prolonged staff-pointing during casting should be rewarded in some way compared to a last-minute target choice.

M167 has Sense Observation which seems like it could help here - if you cast that on Delay:Seeker then if it detects the observer, Seeker could pinpoint the location of the observer, and then trigger a delayed Identify Magic to determine if the person you located is presently casting spells.

That would be pretty wasteful though, because it means if ANYONE observes you (even some random squirrel?) you're going to wreck your investment.

This would explain, however, why some paranoid evil mages might wipe out surrounding wildlife, or cloak their domains in Mystic Mist (M168) to guarantee that only the most dangerous of potential observers (mages with Magesight able to see through your mist) will trigger your DelaySeeker>DelayIdentifyMagic spell-detection systems?

- - -

One final thing about Ward that I don't really understand here, is even if you identify which spell is in the process of being cast, how do you know when the casting will be concluded and when to spend that FP ?

Consider for example you are potentially being targeted by the spell Hush (M172) which has a base casting time of 2 seconds.

Let's say I know Hush myself, so I can tell it is being cast. I use my 1st maneuver to cast Analyze Magic on myself, and it succeeds, so I find out that I am the target of the Hush spell.

This would be just in time (skill 10 to 15) to be know that I ought to mount a Ward against it.

Per M8 if they only knew Hush at skill 9 or lower, it would take twice as long to cast (4 seconds) though.

I have no way of knowing if Hush is being cast at skill 9 (next-second defense needed) or skill 10 (defense needed 3 seconds later)

So in terms of meta - isn't this potentially a surprise attack? I need some way of knowing when the spell concludes its casting to know when the attack is actually incoming to defend against it.

- -

This would get increasingly important with higher-levels spells with longer base casting times. M41's Alter Body has a base time of 2 minutes (120 seconds) so the time until you'll need to Ward against it could vary between 240 seconds (skill 9 or less Alter Body) to 120 (base) or 60 (skill 15) or even 30 (skill 20) or 15 (skill 25) or 8 (skill 30) seconds.

This leaves a lot of windows at which you would spend 2 energy on your Ward spell, but it's not clear how you would know when the spell was coming just because you knew WHICH spell was coming.

When it comes to attacks it's pretty obvious (when the sword swings you know to defend) but if the effects of these spells are invisible (no visible zap of light) then I don't know how you'd know when to launch a defense against a Regular spell using Ward.
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Old 12-31-2022, 11:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

There are also societal/professional considerations.

Using my gameworld as an example, there are 4500 years of recorded history, a couple dozen playable races, numerous magical orders, several competing international mage guilds, fifteen living languages, six dead languages, many cultures, many many nation-states, and 49 colleges of magic.

So, for my money, the concept that there is only One True Way to cast each spell, using the same words and the same gestures, everywhere in the world, is arrant nonsense. (Never mind that who can tell the difference as to whether the elderly fellow in the caftan, pointing a finger at you and screeching in some incomprehensible language, isn't just plain cussing you out for trespassing in his olive orchard instead of trying to spell you.)

This is leaving aside knowing spells at a high enough level so as not to have to make visible gestures or shouting a long incantation out loud, or that I have significant incentive as an opposing wizard not to make a really big deal of pointing straight at you and crying out "Avada Kedavra!" in a battlefield voice.
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Old 01-02-2023, 10:58 PM   #4
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

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Originally Posted by RGTraynor View Post
This is leaving aside knowing spells at a high enough level so as not to have to make visible gestures or shouting a long incantation out loud, or that I have significant incentive as an opposing wizard not to make a really big deal of pointing straight at you and crying out "Avada Kedavra!" in a battlefield voice.
Not to mention that almost all of your PC mages (and I assume a lot of PC mages generally) have made a point to know their spells at 15+. IIRC 15 is the break point for casting with either a gesture or a word or two.

Most of 'us' have made it a point of casting in the most obscure of the languages we know. So if not the 'gesture' it would be a word or two quietly in the more obscure of the dead languages we knew or in the language of the dread planes hopping villains or the language of the low population hill tribesmen 700 miles and one ocean away. Anything but the local lingua franca.

Honestly I occasionally did cast in a loud 'battlefield' voice in the local lingua franca with sweeping arm gestures and cute toe tapping. These instances almost always involved being in the sight line of an archer with a Return Missiles blocking spell mentally on the tip of my tongue. Since the casting was a performative bluff when/if the archer loosed and 'hit', then the blocking spell was actually cast with a word or a gesture in the language of the terrors of the southlands (elric was such a good look on me).
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Old 01-03-2023, 06:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

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Originally Posted by Witchking View Post
Not to mention that almost all of your PC mages (and I assume a lot of PC mages generally) have made a point to know their spells at 15+.
Yeah. I figure across GURPSdom at large, the mages who don't fall into only a few categories: casual mages with only a handful of spells, campaigns that don't let PC mages start at M/3 (or which impose some such other restriction), campaigns that go with 100 or fewer build points, or those that for hardcore RP purposes pull up short.

Otherwise, I expect that any go-to battlefield-capable spell from a PC will be at 15 or higher.
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Old 01-03-2023, 09:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

Wizards have to point their staves or wands at their targets in order to benefit from their Staff enchantments, you don't need fancy reflexed identify magic to know what their target is when your eyes will do!

If you want passive resistance to magic on a large group of people, that's what the appropriately named Magic Resistance spell is for! At skill 15, you can put Magic Resistance 2 on all your friends and maintain it forever. Doesn't sound like a lot, but its a 4 point swing in your allies favour whenever a resisted spell is rolled against them.

A wizard usually has to be pretty close to cast spells on the party anyway, and invisibility etc doesn't last very long. Cast Aura on suspicious persons! It identifies Magery with no resist roll.

That lip reading, analyze magic in order to Ward thing sounds obtuse and clunky and is definitely not how it works. KISS. If you want to keep spells hidden, just say yes/no when your wizard player asks if they can Ward the spell.

If they can't, Wait only requires a triggering condition and a chosen maneuvre (Concentrate!), so a defensive wizard could Wait with Spell Shield, Darkness, Spasm etc. in his spellbook and intercept casts that way. Just don't spend ages humming and hawing over your extensive spell list unless you have Enhanced Time Sense.

Last edited by Expy; 01-03-2023 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 01-03-2023, 05:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

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Originally Posted by Expy View Post
A wizard usually has to be pretty close to cast spells on the party anyway, and invisibility etc doesn't last very long.
Invisibility is a spell with a minute duration. In 99% of the GURPS combats I have experienced in the last 36 years a minute (RAW 60 rounds) is forever.

An Invisible Mage with some combat capability (ST 11 and a decent staff skill FREX) can do a lot when effectively All out Attack every round is quite possible.

Attack and Step, Step and Attack, Attack at Reach 1, Attack at Reach 2, half move and AoA, AoA and half move, a round of full move every now and again.

In a lot of cases there is no defense against an Invisible Staff Strike. Opponents deprived of defenses usually fare poorly.

GURPS combats without defenses tend not too last long.

The odds of opponents even guessing the right hex to try attack is not good unless heavily limiting terrain or another environmental factor is in play.

One of the things that makes magic so dangerous is its flexibility. A professional mage may have 30+ spells in his toolbox. What he can get done with them if he is imaginative...
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Last edited by Witchking; 01-03-2023 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 01-04-2023, 02:44 AM   #8
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

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Originally Posted by Expy View Post
Wizards have to point their staves or wands at their targets in order to benefit from their Staff enchantments, you don't need fancy reflexed identify magic to know what their target is when your eyes will do!
Beyond Witchking's comments -- I can think of only one GURPS combat I've run in thirty-eight years that has gone over 60 rounds, and that took two whole game sessions to play out -- it would seem that the wizards in action you're used to seeing are far dumber than the ones I've seen.

For instance, what benefit using the Staff enchantment in melee gains is blown out of the water by the drawback of letting the target know that a spell is coming his way, and giving him the chance to take such evasive maneuvers as may be practical.

(Granted, this could be a tactic all on its own. Hey, my utility mage doesn't have any offensive spells to speak of, but I can sure get me a fancily carved long stick, stand behind the battleline and point it at an enemy, bark out impressive sounding nonsense syllables in a battlefield voice while I grin ferally -- with at least one party member prepped to glance at me and shout in horror, "No! You promised never to cast that again!!!" -- and laugh as the poor bastard screams and dives for cover.)
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Old 01-04-2023, 02:58 AM   #9
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

Reminds me of an incident in "The Colour of Magic" :-D
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Old 01-04-2023, 03:11 PM   #10
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Default Re: Secret Spells and using Ward

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Originally Posted by RGTraynor View Post
Hey, my utility mage doesn't have any offensive spells to speak of, but I can sure get me a fancily carved long stick, stand behind the battleline and point it at an enemy, bark out impressive sounding nonsense syllables in a battlefield voice while I grin ferally -- with at least one party member prepped to glance at me and shout in horror, "No! You promised never to cast that again!!!" -- and laugh as the poor bastard screams and dives for cover.)
Effectively similar to my upthread comment. Ostentatiously look like I am casting, while having a nasty blocking spell (Return Missile) under my pointy hat. IIRC also works for Missile Spells!
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