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Rules and Mechanics: Spellcasting, Blow-by-Blow
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Rules and Mechanics: Spellcasting, Blow-by-Blow

ImageWe have discussed the magic system of The Broken Hourglass in previous articles: see here and here, for example. Recently, we were asked to explain how a caster might choose to manage mana in a step-by-step example. We have devised a simple hypothetical combat encounter to show how two opponents might choose to use their magical abilities in a fight to the death...

The "heroes" in our example will be a duo led by Ceyda, a generalist mage who specializes in aeromancy (Air Magic). Ceyda is accompanied by Gemma, who is strictly a sword-arm. Ceyda and Gemma will be trying to defeat Kamberus, a dangerous Fey pyromancer.

Magical Stats

Ceyda likes having flexibility in her casting, so she has studied three different magical disciplines-but aeromancy is by far her favorite, so that is where most of her points are.

Air Magic: 30
Physical Magic: 5
Fire Magic: 5
Total Mana: 65

Kamberus is a dedicated pyromancer, so all he can cast are fire-based spells. They are, however, rather powerful.

Fire Magic: 50
Total Mana: 75

Pre-Encounter

All casters in The Broken Hourglass are allowed (indeed, encouraged) to have protective spells up on themselves and/or their party at all times, because most beneficial, protective ("buff") spells can be cast as indefinite hanging enchantments. That means they are only dispelled when the party rests, or when the caster chooses to release them, or when the caster dies--they do not have a set, limited "duration".

Kamberus suspects that he's going to have company, so he decides to invest 25 mana in a fire elemental summon to help keep enemies occupied.

Knowing that they will be facing a pyromancer, Ceyda anticipates that there is good reason to be concerned about receiving fire-related damage. Therefore, she decides to put 15 mana into a Fire Damage Resistance spell and casts it on herself. Ceyda will get about 16% resistance against all fire damage as a result--remember, armor protects against physical damage as well as physical magics, but it is useless against elemental magic. Ceyda is also wearing a special pair of magical goggles which boosts her Perception score considerably (Ceyda once lost a friend to an unseen assassin, so is very worried about hidden assailants.) Wielding the magic in the goggles costs Ceyda 10 mana.

Finally, knowing that she will be sending Gemma against the pyromancer, Ceyda decides to try to give Gemma a strike-first, strike-fast edge. She crafts an aeromantic attribute bonus spell with 20 mana and casts it on Gemma. This gives Gemma an agility bonus, as Air Magic is tied to the Agility primary attribute. This will also give Gemma an advantage in all of her agility-related secondary abilities, such as defensive skills and combat speed.

So at the end of the pre-encounter preparations, our casters look like this:

Ceyda:
Total Mana: 65
-15 Mana (Fire Damage Resistance on Ceyda)
-10 Mana (wearing magic goggles)
-20 Mana (Agility bonus on Gemma)
Remaining Mana: 65 - 15 - 10 - 20 = 20

Kamberus:
Total Mana: 75
-25 Mana (Summon Fire Elemental)
Remaining Mana: 75 - 25 = 50

Encounter Begins

Gemma picks the lock to Kamberus' hideout (her enhanced Agility, by the way, makes this easier) and the ladies barge in. Kamberus anticipated this, of course, and sends his fire elemental in to try to intercept Gemma. Meanwhile, Ceyda starts unleashing bolts of pure air magic at Kamberus, who returns the favor firing firebolts back at her.

Ceyda's air bolts do full damage to Kamberus, as he has no special resistance to air magic. On the other hand, Ceyda's protective spell dampens the effects of the firebolts on her slightly, so she only takes about 5/6ths of the expected damage each time one of Kamberus' bolts overcomes her magic resistance. Because Ceyda has 20 mana remaining to spend, each of her airbolts are imbued with that much power-instant-effect spells, such as direct damage, spend the maximum available mana and do not "tie up" the magical energy. Kamberus, having 50 mana remaining as well as a high skill in Fire Magic, is on average casting more powerful, damaging bolts than Ceyda is.

Meanwhile, Gemma and the elemental slug it out. Gemma is wishing for some of that fire resistance right about now as the elemental does a combination of physical and fire-based damage, but her enhanced agility is at least giving her a fighting chance.

At the end of the opening strains of our combat, the mana consumption picture is unchanged.

Ceyda:
Total Mana: 65
-15 Mana (Fire Damage Resistance on Ceyda)
-10 Mana (wearing magic goggles)
-20 Mana (Agility bonus on Gemma)
Remaining Mana: 65 - 15 - 10 - 20 = 20

Kamberus:
Total Mana: 75
-25 Mana (Summon Fire Elemental)
Remaining Mana: 75 - 25 = 50

The Midgame

Gemma takes a number of damaging blows from Kamberus' fire elemental but, with a lucky strike, finally manages to dispatch it. This has a number of important implications:

1.    Kamberus is now all alone facing two opponents. This is Bad for him.
2.    However, as his summoned creature was just dispatched, the summoning enchantment ends. This means he gets back that 25 mana he had invested in the fire elemental. This is potentially Good for him.
3.    Gemma is not in good shape. This is Bad for our heroes.

Ceyda's air bolts have weakened Kamberus somewhat, but she fears that Kamberus will turn his attention now to the staggered Gemma and quickly dispatch her--and Ceyda doesn't like her odds in a one-on-one mage duel. Thinking quickly, she decides it is unlikely that Kamberus has any hidden allies or traps lurking nearby, and rips off her Perception-boosting goggles. This immediately frees up the 10 points of Mana which had been invested in helping her Perception score. Now she has to decide what to do with that energy.

Ceyda:
Total Mana: 65
-15 Mana (Fire Damage Resistance on Ceyda)
-20 Mana (Agility bonus on Gemma)
Remaining Mana: 65 - 15 - 20 = 30

Kamberus:
Total Mana: 75
Remaining Mana: 75

A look at Ceyda's standing enchantments
ceyda enchantment screen


Beginning of the End

 

Ceyda weighs her numerous options, but Gemma's health is her top priority--both because they are friends, and because Ceyda knows she would probably lose without Gemma's help. She decides to turn the 10 points of Mana she regained from removing her goggles into a Heal spell for Gemma, in the hopes of keeping her friend on her feet. After healing Gemma, she plans to resume casting airbolts at Kamberus.

Meanwhile, Kamberus has a decision to make. He now has his full mana total to work with again. Among his options, he could...

1.    Summon another fire elemental. This would make it a two-on-two fight again and force Gemma and Ceyda to continue to divide their attacks.
2.    Invest the extra mana into more damaging firebolts, hoping to drop the ladies more quickly by casting more potent spells at them. (In essence, this is the "make no changes" option, as he is already casting firebolts. When the mana is freed up from the dead summon, he automatically will put his new maximum mana total into the firebolts he casts.)
3.    Cast a Lower Resistance spell at Ceyda, to counter her fire resistance.
4.    Try to lower Gemma's Strength by casting a fire-based Attribute Penalty spell at her. Fire Magic is tied to the Strength attribute, so this would make her subsequent sword blows less potent.
5.    Boost his own Strength by casting a fire-based Attribute Bonus spell on himself.

Seeing that Gemma is not in good shape, and not knowing that Ceyda can free up some mana to make her own airbolts more powerful and/or heal Gemma, Kamberus decides to boost his own Strength. His plan is to draw his own sword and quickly cut Gemma down with his enhanced Strength, then deal with Ceyda at his leisure. Since he won't be casting firebolts for the foreseeable future, he decides to put nearly all of his mana into the Strength-enhancing spell, leaving just enough in reserve in case he needs to get creative again. So he casts a 65-mana Fire Attribute Bonus spell on himself, considerably boosting his Strength score.

Ceyda:
Total Mana: 65
-15 Mana (Fire Damage Resistance on Ceyda)
-20 Mana (Agility bonus on Gemma)
-10 Mana (Heal on Gemma)
Remaining Mana: 65 - 15 - 20 - 10 = 20

Kamberus:
Total Mana: 75
-65 Mana (Fire Attribute Bonus on Kamberus)
Remaining Mana: 10

The End

Kamberus' plan seemed sound, but he didn't take into account Ceyda's ability to heal Gemma, nor Gemma's spell-enhanced agility. His swings, emboldened by his considerable command of Fire Magic, look mighty but Gemma manages to parry most of his attacks, so between Gemma's counterattacks and Ceyda's pesky airbolts, Kamberus ultimately falls to their combined might.

After the fight, Gemma is still pretty banged-up. Gemma and Ceyda agree that a good rest is in order, but the pair worry about being ambushed by hooligans on the way back to Memories of Diandra, their favorite inn. So Ceyda decides to drop the damage resistance spell on herself and the agility bonus on Gemma, but puts 40 mana into a regenerate spell for Gemma. That should hold her together even if they encounter a spot of trouble before turning in for the night.

Ceyda:
Total Mana: 65
-40 Mana (Regenerate on Gemma)
-10 Mana (Heal on Gemma)
Remaining Mana: 65 - 40 - 10 = 15

Kamberus:
R.I.P.