Fast casting vs other mages.. better to be second?

I'm bringing up this question again because I'm curious, in the year that has passed, how do some of you handle it?

Magus A vs B. Hostile intentions spark into violence.

Magus A rolls initiative for his spell, a 6 total.
Magus B rolls as well, a 5 total.

Magus B, reacts by fast casting and rolls an 11.

Magus A - who by all rights won initiative.. is now in a bind. What do you do?
Do you give him a fast cast chance to beat the 11? Is he screwed? Would that even be fair considering it seems the second person to do a fast cast roll is at a disadvantage (having to beat a fast-cast init rather than a regular init?)


If B is fast-casting (spont or with mastery), taking the -10 to casting total etc, he goes before A every time.
Unless A is fast casting too ofcourse.

So what you're saying is, you allow people to fast cast even without a base initiative to beat?

They just fast cast and that sets the initiative that other people have to beat?


Magus A starts off by immediately fasting casting - he has no ease factor because he is simply rolling initiative.
Magus B starts off by immediately fasting casting - he has no ease factor because he is simply rolling initiative.

So they're both trying to out-fast-cast eachother?

What if they want to cast more spells? How do you work that? For example, traditionally, a mage that fast-casts gets 2 spells off (his original intent, and the fast cast spell) - but using the above system, odds are mages are only getting 1 fast cast.. even then, what is the ease factor for the second fast cast? what is it based on.

It seems you are suggesting that B can fast-cast an attack to pre-empt the magus who "won" initiative. I don't believe that's how fast-casting works.

If I recall correctly (Serf's Parma), fast-casting is tightly restricted. You can't just fast-cast any spell you want whenever you want according to the RAW. Fast-casting is purely defensive and one can only do it in response to someone else's spell. (Whether this is how it "ought" to be is another question.)

So my first suggestion, which I cannot personally follow at this time, would be to carefully re-read the section on fast casting. Once you've got a grip on what the rules say, you can make an informed choice whether to play them as written or to override them with a house rule. Now I can understand if someone doesn't like the fact that fast-casting is reactive only, but it looks as though the reason for that restriction is to prevent the very paradox you are describing (that unrestricted fast-casting lets the loser of initiative go first). Any house rule you make is sooner or later going to confront that same question.

I definitely remember writing some (optional) expanded rules for interrupting someone else's spells in Lords of Men but I doubt I remember the details well enough to even explain the problem they were trying to address, let alone the solution.

Ill take a look at Lords of Men, thanks.

However, nothing is illegal from the first post. Allow me to explain it in a different manner (as fast casting does not, by RAW limit you to reacting to just spells, or even limit you to reacting in a purely self-affecting/defensive manner.. you can fast-cast a ball of abysmal flame in response if you so wish).

Anyways, altered example:

Magus A wishes to knock out/stab/whatever Magus B.
Magus B wishes to knock out/stab/whatever Magus A.

Magus A initiative result 6.
Magus B initiative result 5.

Magus B says crap, I have to react faster, fast casts at lets say, a 11 initiative (speed roll).

If I understand correctly, your point is that you can't fast cast if you've already rolled an initiative... Although, that doesn't make much sense to me (I mean.. if I can cast that quick, why don't I? & from the fact that RAW allows you to cast 1 normal spell, plus multiple fast cast spells - various posts have discussed this already as well).

At face value this may seem the case, but a closer reading reveals the appropriate limitations that prevent this paradox. As described (p 83) - fast-casting is defined as "a response to an attack or other surprising event" (emphasis added). It's not a prescient interruption such that the attack/event never happens, it's a reaction once the attack/event is perceived and is already on its way in.

About halfway through that section, the language begins to assume that this response is purely defensive - to counter the attack itself (as opposed to, for instance, just smoke the other mage before the attack ever happens). So, the fast-cast spell by Mage B can be used to stop the incoming spell from mage A, but it appears that it is not intended to be used as a coup-de-main to prevent that spell from ever being cast.

Why? For exactly the reasons that the OP found this disturbing and paradoxical, that Mage B lost initiative and so should not be able to attack Mage A first, "fast cast" or not. If Mage B makes his fast-cast roll, he aborts his normal attack and defends against the incoming spell that he perceives, but he cannot create a spell that stops the casting of that spell before he can see it to react to it - he lost initiative, it's the "attack or other surprising event" he's reacting to, not the threat of that attack.

And this makes sense of the timing and situation: Mage B loses the initiative, but is not completely helpless against the attack (as is the case in some RPG's, where the victim simply stands there cleaning their fingernails until the attack is resolved.) An opportunity for such a response not an easy or guaranteed, but it's possible (and more possible for some magi than others).

(The obvious counter-argument is that "the casting" is the surprising event, that Mage B can, after losing initiative, address the threat of the casting of spell and doesn't have to wait to react to the spell itself. To take this to its logical extreme, then an enemy coming around a corner is "a surprising event", so Mage B should be able to fast-cast a spell before the enemy even comes around the corner to respond to that, maybe to create a wall to prevent them from coming around the corner ... and that's just silly. A mage responds to the attack itself, but not the threat or promise or potential source of that attack. Nothing else makes sense. :wink:

I suppose that if Mage B wanted to ignore the incoming spell, they could cast an attack spell (or anything else) - but that has its own risks, and at that point there's no reason to fast-cast unless Mage B doesn't think they'll be around after Mage A's spell hits.)

I'm not saying this is correct, but this is how i'd handle it.

Mage A attacks mage B with knife.
Mage B fast casts his BoAF to try and fry Mage A before the dagger strikes. He needs to beat Mage A's initiative. Assume he does.
Mage A see's that Mage B is try to fastcast, and tries to fastcast his own spell in response (possibly requiring checks to see if he recognises what kind of spell Mage B is casting). He needs to beat Mage B's fastcast total. Assume he does.
Mage B can then try and fastcast a response to Mage A's fastcast. But he needs to beat Mage A's fastcast total, with a -6 penalty.

It's ugly, and i'm glad it's never come up in a game i've played, but that's how i'd rule it (I'm pretty sure that's not RAW, more a mix of bits from core, and Lords of Men)

The problem with not letting a mage fast-cast in response to a fast cast is that you are then penalizing mages for:

a) Having a better initiative
b) Not being surprised.

Because a fast cast roll is generally better (in terms of initiative) then a normal cast roll - and then you're stating you can only fast cast in response to some sort of unexpected or surprise event - so the option is not even present for the better prepared/quicker mage.

Sam W.

I really don't understand but it feels like this doesn't make sense. Since a fast-cast is analogous to a block or parry, how can you block a block?

Would you introduce that to mundane fight, where whenever you are attacked you can fast-counter-attack the attacker and wound him before he can touch you?

Allowing an infinite stack of counters would reduce the fight to a single drawn out round. What is wrong with having a fight drag on until fatigue becomes a factor?

Thanks, Cuchulainshound. I am not really in a position to make official rules interpretations (although I did write a small fraction of the rules). What I can say, though, is that what Cuchulainshound says here exactly matches my understanding of the core rules, and I looked at them very closely while I was writing Lords of Men.

The misunderstanding here, I believe, is the belief that the fast-cast roll replaces your initiative. It doesn't. It lets you act at the same time as the action you're trying to interrupt, at a penalty. The fast-caster do not act first.

"Note that, even in combat, this is not an Initiative Total" .. core rules, page 83.

Then again, on the dagger attack => fast-cast BoAF response => drop dagger attack and fast-cast BoAF counter, I'd count the BoAF as a surprising event. So I'd allow the fast-cast response to the fast-cast BoAF, no problem. I think The Baron's reasoning holds up. I wouldn't allow more than one action per actor to actually take effect at the end of this initiative step, the previous ones assumed to be... dropped (possibly in spectacular fashions). No dagger attack and anti-BoAF taking effect at the same time, for example.

Except, that we know you can fast cast multiple spells as per RAW, Pg 83 Ars Magic 5th ed Core Rules (second column, mid page).

So therefore, if you don't allow fast-casting as a reaction to fast casting, the following happens:

Mage A - wins initiative.
Mage B - needs to fast cast to live! Fasts casts first spell, then second (maybe spending a confidence or so), and who knows, he is free to roll his 3rd fast cast to see if he can make it - maybe he'll make it (-12.. so most probably needing a 1 first)

Anyways, point still stands:

If you don't allow fast-casting as a general action (you can't start making specific exceptions to each scenario), you end up penalizing mages who actually roll a better initiative, because the reacting-fast casters get multiple spells off vs a single spell. Not to mention, as mentioned in societas Page 21 (sidebar), after fast casting, you still cast a spell on your own initiative.

Ugh.. what to do what to do.

Not sure it does, with all due respect...

Fast cast is a response to an attack. Here we agree.
My fast cast is an attack in and of itself. (It's Sam's ball of Alexandrian flavoured firey love)
So now, the trigger for you to fast-cast is open - because I'm attacking you now. So technically, by raw - you're allowed to fast-cast in response.

Now - lets ignore the above:
So I fast cast, successfully, 2 different spells - both are multiple spells lets say. You're now on the receiving end of 4-6 spells... because you won initiative.

We are now outside the territory the RAW cover. I wish they were more clear and comprehensive but they are what they are.

Personally I don't think trying to "quick draw" and cast a Ball of Abysmal Flame (BoAF) against someone who's attacking you counts as a response to the attack, since it's pretty much what you would have done anyway if you had won initiative. But, the rules don't say that is off-limits, so your interpretation is reasonable.

Where I don't follow you is when you say A is at a disadvantage because he won initiative. Imagine the scenario where A and B are squaring off and B knows how to multi-cast and fast-cast BoAF.

If A wins initiative, A casts his spell and B multi- and fast-casts BoAF. Given that BOaF does not generally stop an incoming spell, I would at least expect that A's spell would still affect B, even if A gets burnt to a cinder a split-second later.

Now turn it around and suppose B wins Initiative. Since he knows how to multi-cast BoAF, he does. A can attempt to fast-cast in response (good luck) and most probably is burnt to a cinder before he gets to act.

In summary, I don't think A comes out any worse if he wins initiative than if he loses it. If he wins initiative he can at least be sure of getting one spell off. I believe his real problem is that he got into a fight with a magus who can multi-cast BOaF. Of course, that multi-cast BoAF looks impressive but it only works if the Penetration Total is high enough. Fast-casting to actually counter your opponent's spell does not need to overcome Penetration so it remains a valid, and I would say often preferable, tactic.

Important if A is casting a "teleport to safety spell". Our mages tend to do that. Invisibility item (high penetration) + teleport a few dozen metres in a random direction (can be mid air). Start acting from there in round 2.

About the theme itself, this is one of the many reasons of why fast cast spells do not exist IMS. You can speed up your single spell to avoid hitting the ground when falling, but making your BOAF faster will not cut it. 3rd edition initiative rules FTW. In fact, get rid of initiative in Ars and your life will be much better. :mrgreen: :wink:

First - to address "stopping the incoming spell".

You are correct, responding with BoAF won't stop the incoming BoAF. However, what stands. Is that the mage who won initiative doesn't benefit from doing so. Meanwhile the mage the successfully fast casts delivers 1 or 2 extra spells in the combat round that he lost initiative in - then another one his init.

Ok, so outside the realm of RAW it is even more problematic for me sirs.

Why is it, that mages, when surprised, can acheive super human spell casting ability (2+ spells in a round), while a mage that is calm, cool and collected - cannot? So outside the realm of raw, it only makes sense, that in any scenario, regardless attacks, surprise, response and what have you, a mage should be allowed to "fast cast" many spells.

So what I am proposing, is some sort of simple elegant way to handle spells per round. Maybe fast cast roll after initiative then:
For every 6 points of ease factor acheived, you have an available fast cast? So if your fast cast is a 12, you have 2 extra spells a round? No clue. I literally just thought this up but I'm digressing to solutioning before we agree on root cause.

Sam W

What are 3rd edition init rules?

One of my posts dissappeared - hmmm - its visiblein my profile threads but not on here

Double post

Reposting my disappearing response:

First - to address "stopping the incoming spell". You are correct, responding with BoAF won't stop the incoming BoAF. However, what stands. Is that the mage who won initiative doesn't benefit from doing so. Meanwhile the mage the successfully fast casts delivers 1 or 2 extra spells in the same combat round. So by not allowing a fast cast response to a fast cast, you are severely limiting the mage that won initiative. (Sure both may nuke eachother, but the loser of initiative gets to do more of it?)

Second, let's step outside the realm of RAW as you say.

How come a surprised, slower mage, can manage more spells, then a faster mage OR more spells then himself can, if he's surprised or caught off gaurd? Makes zero sense that only when caught off gaurf, can you pull off multiple different spells in a short round.

We need to find an elegant solution to the initiative problem. Maybe based on a fast cast speed. Roll determine how many spells per round and based on initiative, when they take place. But, I digress...

Sam W