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Talbot's Musings on Hermetic Magic

There are a lot of reasons for the non-awakened to be leery of magic. Perhaps the biggest one is that spellcasting is not obvious, especially when the spellcaster is invisible. A perceptive runner will notice when a potential adversary aims a firearm or baton at you, but your first indication of offensive magic may be when you start bleeding out of your ears.

Flipping the roles around, what this means for the spellcasting runner is that in cases where adversaries are not aware that they are in fact adversaries, you can often take the time to knock out each member of a guard detail with stunbolts staged to deadly as they won't understand that you are the one attacking them.
NOTE: Spellcasting alone does not initiate combat, meaning it does not put you in initiative rounds. Outside of initiative, you have a half second delay (IRL time) between spells.
NOTE: Technically, a target that takes damage does understand that they are being attacked, but if the damage is staged to deadly, they don't get the chance to react (unless they have a trauma damper or pain editor).

Improved Invisibility

Improved invisibility is probably the most desired (or hated, depending on who has it) spell in the game. But for runners, there is a bit of nuance to using it. If the invisibility is seen through by any means, guards will respond aggressively. While a force 1 stealth spell can be used to prevent auto-detection via ultrasound, astral perception or the rare lucky spell resistance roll will still be able to spot you. In addition, if you initiate combat in a way that does not immediately knock your target unconscious, they will fight back even if they can't see you. Once somebody is fighting you, they can also alert others who cannot see you and so you can end up fighting everybody in the room (and possibly also adjacent rooms). There are a number of autoruns that will go smoother if the subtle runner does not use invisibility.
NOTE: Invisibility still has a use if an adversary is fighting you but can't see you, as they will suffer a +8 blind fire penalty. If they have ultrasound, they suffer a penalty of (8 + the force of your stealth spell)/2 (round up), max +8.

Compared to Other Archtypes

Unlike a shaman, a hermetic's spells are limited by the quality of their library. There are no sorcery libraries with a rating greater than 8 available in Awakened Worlds CE. That restriction causes hermetic attack spells to be very unreliable when facing off against certain top tier opponents. Example: a force 8 stunbolt with 24 dice vs 16 willpower gives less than 4% chance of success, whereas a force 12 stunbolt in the same situation gives a 20% chance of success.

Where the hermetic has the advantage is their elementals, which have the ability to sustain spells associated with their element. A shaman is not able to sustain the various beneficial spells (beyond what can be handled by the available force 3 or 4 sustaining foci) without having to deal with prohibitive TN penalties in subsequent actions. Thus, a hermetic is better at using their magic in a self-supporting role. Along with the weakness in offensive spells, it makes sense for high-tier mages to approach situations they find dangerous in the same way as a street samurai (i.e. shooting large firearms loaded with APDS from outside the room).
NOTE: Elementals cannot sustain health category spells.
NOTE: A mundane street samurai can reach rating 12 with firearms and melee skills and so is generally better at killing (except for elementals). A hermetic with a full suite of buffs plus spell defense / reflecting is generally better at surviving (even more so if willing to pick up some cyber/bioware).
NOTE: In a team situation, a shaman is better at support magic, as they can sustain force 12 spells on teammates while the hermetic is limited to force 8. While the shaman would take sustaining penalties, that doesn't matter when teammates can be relied on to handle the action.

Buffing Up

The effectiveness of most sustained spells is from the number of successes you achieve, where the force only serves to cap the number of successes you may use (notable exception: armor). So, it's common for spellcasters to recast such spells until they reach that maximum number of usable successes. This leads to the question: how to split spell pool between casting and drain resistance so as to both maximize your chance of reaching cap while also minimizing your time spent recovering from drain?
NOTE: Drain power is calculated from half of force (round down), plus a modifier and damage level depending on the spell.
NOTE: Trauma dampers apply to drain damage.
NOTE: Heal/treat spells and biotech treat work on physical drain damage.

This depends on too many details to explore here. That said, when outside of combat, you can cast a spell every half second, so let's take a look at how many drain resistance dice (willpower + spell pool) it takes to have around a 90% chance to not take any drain, i.e. around 10 attempts per rest. Let's also aim for enough spellcasting dice (sorcery + spell pool + foci) for around a 10% chance of hitting the effective successes cap. These numbers assume the caster doesn't have a trauma damper. A key result is that you need much less dice if you're willing to aim for a result that is slightly less than the absolute maximum.

Spell Force Drain Resist Dice for 90% Success Cap Casting Dice for 10%
Increase Will (5 base willpower) 3 2M 6 6 11
Increase Will (6 base willpower) 3 2M 6 6 20
Combat Sense 7 3S 11 14 21
Combat Sense 8 4S 16 16 25


Notable Elemental Sustainable Spells

Spell Element Comments
Armor Earth stacks with normal armor; not counted for quickness armor limit
Combat Sense Air no cap to combat pool dice allocated to dodge or soak
Stealth Water negates ultrasound; if the target is sneaking, adds to the TN to spot
Improved Invisibility Water can be defeated by successful spell resistance, ultrasound, or astral perception
Spell Comments
Stunbolt low drain; if it fails, it does not initiate combat
Waterbolt for targets that are immune to stunbolts (e.g. vehicles)
Decrease Intelligence makes negotiation easier, thus helps you make more nuyen
Heal as with all other spells, wound penalties apply
Levitate ignore terrain (e.g. climbing, swimming, icesheet); force 1 is enough
Increase Willpower contributes to spell pool, drain resistance, and stun/manabolt resistance
Increase Reflexes +3 once in combat, spellcasting follows initiative rules; force 1 is enough
Increase (everything else) qui to layer armor, qui+int+wil for cpool, bod for soak, cha for conjuring, str for melee

Tips and Reminders

  • Melee is defended against by melee, so pick up a melee skill.
  • Keep the illegal stuff holstered/sheathed/put away until you actually need them (this includes the imp invis spell). That way, if they're not already aggressive, you can just knock everybody out with stunbolts without entering combat.
  • Because drain codes are calculated from spell force divided by 2, rounded down, it is most efficient from a drain perspective to cast spells with odd number force.
  • It is perfectly ok to use elementals (and thus sustained spells) at less than max force. Summoning force 5 elementals instead of force 8 will result in 2.4x as many services. Force 5 elementals also require fewer conjuring materials, so in total, you'll be able to support 3.8x as many spells for the same amount of nuyen. Force 5 combat sense (with 10 spellcasting successes) and force 5 armor are enough to put your combat pool and armor ratings on-par with or better than the majority of street samurai.
  • The odds of an elite guard beating the spell resistance check vs a force 5 imp invis (with 5 spellcasting successes) is 9%. This means if you know you're walking into a fight, go ahead and cast that (and sustain with a water elemental) because it means at least 9 out of 10 will suffer TN penalties against you (+2 to shoot/melee/dodge if astrally perceiving, at least +4 if ultrasound, +8 for everybody else).
  • Autorun Johnsons ignore stealth spells (as well as invis spells). The stealth spell also does not cause guards to aggro, so it's perfectly ok to keep it active at all times. If you use the stealth skill, the spell makes it much less likely for opponents to beat the perception check. NOTE: sneaking works when moving between rooms; stand in a room long enough and opponents will spot you without needing a perception check.
  • When fighting against high force spirits, allocate your spool to defense/reflecting and use a weapon focus.
  • For dangerous high-tier fights bring a large firearm loaded with APDS and shoot in from outside the room.
talbot_mage.txt · Last modified: 2022/09/29 15:12 by khai