Is Sorcery Really This Broken?

So, according to the rules as I read them, the new Sorcerer in the party can:

Make a standard 3 shot action to completely control any monster with Creature Powers I throw at the party. The difficulty of this roll is the character's Sorcery (15) vs the monster's Willpower (usually like, 3). They get control over the creature for a number of sequences equal to the difference.

Now, considering no creature in any published material I own has a snowball's chance in hell of resisting a sorcerer with a rating of 15, and considering I've never had a combat last longer than 4-5 sequences, how am I supposed to have meaningful fights with Monsters now that there's a Sorcerer in the party?

Also, according to the rules, a Sorcerer with the Divination schtick can basically look in on my NPCs at any time to see where they are and what they are doing. (Remote Viewing is in the Lotus book, I believe). Obviously this completely ruins any chance of ambushes, political intrigue or detective work, but I'm finding it even takes the fun out of a brainless dungeon crawl. How am I even supposed to tell a story with this ability in the game?

EDIT: All of this baring in mind that with an Action Value of 15, the Sorcerer is as good at fighting as the Martial Artist or the Killer.

So, am I reading something wrong, or am I basically just supposed to fudge every dice roll with the "Completely derails the plot" penalty to keep the Sorcerer in the party from doing the things the rules say he can do?

I'm going to assume there's something I'm missing here, some big rule about how often a Sorcerer can use his powers or something. Can somebody point me in the right direction?

Sorcery is, in general, a very powerful toolkit. It's very versatile, and the only real downside is that in combat its damage it quite low. Supernatural Creatures get a lot of cool and powerful stuff, and the susceptibility to Summoning magic is kind of their only weakness. That said, there are several ways round the problem of Sorcerers closing down Supernatural Creature encounters.

  1. The character builds are intended for PCs. While they're a good starting point for GMCs, you don't have to stick to the rules. So you can give your monsters Will 10 if you want. This won't exactly alleviate your problem, but it gives you a middle ground.

  2. The 'derail the plot' can be trotted out from time to time. If the session relies on there being a big monster as the enemy, throw in that 'automatically fail' entry. Just make sure you dress it up in terms that soften the blow to the player- "Hmm. That should have worked. Clearly this thing is being driven by some kind of primal rage that lets it shrug off your Eleven Petal Powder. You've seen creatures in this state before, once or twice. You either need the luxury of time so it can calm down or to take it out the hard way." or "This creature is a party to an infernal contract of some kind - until that contract is broken it can't be subborned". Don't rely on this option too often, though - the player will have got Summoning because he wants to do stuff like this, so still let him do so most of the time. You can still roll out the 'boring or expected use of schtick' from time to time to make it a little harder.

  3. If the enemies are a mix of supernatural creatures and other characters, let them do the sensible thing and have the ordinary foes gang up on the PC sorcerer if he takes control of their pet monster. If you rule that maintaining control is a continuous action, Active Dodges will take 2 shots, and really slow the sorcerer down. If there's a sorcerer on the enemy side - there's a good chance he'll just make a roll to take control right back.

  4. If you fancy house-ruling it a little, then Creatures that are not free agents are already under the control of a sorcerer, and hence the Difficulty is not their Willpower but the Action Result of the sorcerer that took control of them. If you factor in bonuses from performing a long ritual, knowing the beast's true name, rare reagents and all the rest of the paraphenalia the enemy sorcerer used, you can easily push the difficulty up to a respectable level.

I've not actually had anyone start to abuse Remote Viewing, but certainly as written it could be much-abused. One possibility is to emphasise the time it takes to perform- stopping every five minutes to spend half an hour looking beyond the next door will have problems of its own. Depending on the opposition, enemies might be able to take advantage of that much use of magic. Other sorcerers might notice someone coming. Or just stick a few Abominations around with Feedback Enhancers and see how things go.

When it comes to monsters, I'm mainly thinking of the things inthe Glimpse of the Abyss book, not player character templates. I do a lot of stuff in the Netherworld, so plenty of the factions are going to have a demon or other creature on patrol with them to make the fights more interesting. I like your house rule that creatures being used by, say, the Darkness Pagoda would already be under the control of some sorcerer out there, and his rating is what needs to be beaten. I'll probably use that when I can.

Remote viewing was kind of a let down for me- the PC came up with that usage for Divination on his own, so I looked through the books, ultimately found it in Lotus, and discovered it was as abusive as he had conceived it- the rules didn't have my back, lol.  I can probably shore up  Remote Viewing with some other house rules or situations like you describe...but honestly I'm sure that if I do, the sorcerer is just going to come up with some other game-breaking application of these or his other Schticks.  Before he made his character, I had a 'no Sorcery for PCs' rule, mainly because I wanted to slowly introduce the players to the supernatural elements of the game without the PCs knowing too much about it in advance.  I might just go back to that, and have the guy roll a different character if I can't deal with the Divination thing.  The character isn't using Remove Viewing too often, so much as using it in ways that destroys the plot line.  Before this sorcerer came into the party, hunting people down and exploring were big parts of the plot- ninjas were involved, and secret gates to/from the Netherworld.  Now he can just solve these plot hooks with a dice roll. :/  I realize the rules say I can 'no' to anything that ruins my plot, but that just seems like shoddy GMing to me.  I know I'd be irritated as a player if I had a PC with an ability that didn't work whenever it was inconvenient for the GM's plot.

That's why I've always hated divination and clairvoyance, as well as prediction abilities in any game. Hates em I tell you.

That said, I have used all this in a few games I've run, and basically, I attach a lot of extra issues and limitations to things like Remote Viewing, to make it all much more vague and foggy, inconstant and such, so a PC might have to meditate and get a successful roll to even get a brief glimpse of shadowy figures or events which he won't be able to see clearly and will have to make a lot of inferences and assumptions, which will make him rely on it less, unless he uses it as a full ritual which could take hours, to get a full vision. That and of course enemy mages with vision blocking disciplines or artifacts of their own.

As far as controlling creatures, I'd have to agree you should just change the non-PC controlled creature's Will to something higher that allows it to resist better. To me, Sorcery should have roughly the same chance of being useful, and same level of usefulness as most other PC actions, including combat, with any increased chance or usefulness being offset by some sort of other side effect the player will find a hindrance, perhaps actual physical ingredients or requirements, extra time, an increased difficulty, essentially immobilizing the PC, lowering his Dodge, not allowing Active Dodges, etc. You could also give the creatures the equivalent of "Strength rolls" every turn or so, using his Will, to break the PC's control.

The long and short of it though, to me, is GM-player communication. If he's reasonable, just talk to the player and explain the level of difficulty Sorcery presents to you as a GM, and that competent PCs are great, but you feel that Sorcery has some serious problems that can break your ability to run a game effectively, and ask him to compromise and help you come up with some mutually agreeable limitations that allow you to run the game without the overwhelming current way Sorcery is currently being used.

Another option to tame Summoning, perhaps in conjunction with higher difficulties, is to have a number of superntural Creatures rather than a single powerful one. Then even on a success the sorcerer only has control of as many targets as he can shoulder the multiple targetpenalty for.

Yeah, the player in question is actually really easy to work with. It's the last game session of the semester this weekend, and I don't know that we'll be going back to Feng Shui after the summer, so a lot of this is moot. I'm a pretty big tabletop enthusiast, so to me it's all academic at this point. I can work around anything with enough house rules and exceptions, but if I find myself doing it TOO much, I start to think of it as a strike against the game system (and thus what I paid for). That said, I love the Feng Shui setting right to death. I'm tempted to run games in it using a different rules system.

On the topic of Sorcery, I do like Queex's suggestion of breaking a creature into multiples to prevent "all the eggs in one basket" effect. While it may change the feel and narrative you may have in mind, and be less satisfying than having a single hulking juggernaut of a creature try to tear through the ranks of a PC group, it is hard to argue with the easily validated notion that PC sorcerers can only do so much to control 1 or 2 of the 6 less powerful enemy creatures, plus that avoids having to do any actual houseruling or giving creatures additional abilities or resistances.

A bit offtopic: Well I can understand considering simply porting the session to a different system, though think a lot of times it helps to just break up your gaming with a variety of running some totally different genres and systems every few sessions, to keep things fresh, as I'm sure you know. I see from your interest in the Reloaded thread you have put some serious thought into some of the more pronounced issues for you, but I would also note that while it is true for all systems, the setting and feel for FS is fairly specific to the highly-competent level of PC stats, as well as the rather limited "episodic" or "out of the box" way the character creation and development processes work, which to me, simply won't be suitable for a good number of systems, without changing the standard way things work in FS. Then again, if you're already looking at the Reloaded idea, maybe you have the incentive to undertake such a port, in which case I applaud you, and also I think it speaks to the quality and faithfulness of the Feng Shui material to its sources, that would cause someone to prefer to actually change a system over to something else, but keep the setting and concept, rather than simply abandon FS altogether.

I've seen some discussion on RPG forums before about what makes people suddenly up and decide a system that has been around and worked fine for decades, just isn't satisfactory. Is it due to competition from new gaming styles, mechanics, etc? Do game systems or mechanics have a shelf life? Do they spoil? Can a mechanic really be "out of date"? These are interesting questions.

  1. Know the rules! Re-read every sorcery rule! It´s FS, it´s not much to read. :wink:

  2. Immunity(sorcery) makes the monster immun to summoning control (usually you take healing and blast magic as exception). And don´t forget the AV penalties for the normal domination.

  3. Expected and boring use of magic carries a action value penalty. That´s a rule many GMs forget.

  4. AV 15 is AV 15, but usually Martial Artists and Gun Bunnies have possibilities to increase the AV and damage by schticks and equipment. The last time my transformed dragon jumped the bad guy took a 26 base damage + outcome 3 times in a combat sequence. No sorcerer can keep up with fu schticks in this area.

  5. Both Scrying and Remote View/ Borrowed Ears depends on the acquaintance with the target and on the range to the target. It lasts for seconds - usually no longer then 15 t 30 seconds. Don´t forget that.

And yes, magic is powerful in FS. But not "number crunching" powerful but "devious little player" powerful. Sorcery is a challenge for both the player and the GM. The player has to constantly invent new tricks (see sorcery basic rules) and the GM has to constantly decide on how to handle this new trick in a second or two. Fortunately I have a creative player in my group so it´s never get boring.

As jpneok said: GMs and player have to work together. If I can see how something begins to derail the entire mechanism and my ability as a GM to handle it (hey after all, we are only humans): talk with the player. Don´t destroy it, don´t make it weak - players hate that. A little bit of house ruling here, a little bit of self restriction there and every RP problem is solvable. At least that´s my experience after almost 15 years of dice rolling and role playing. But before that try to accept the challenge and become a better GM - you can and will surprise yourself if your aim is "challenge the group with a good adventure, bot roll- and role-wise" and a fluent gameplay, even if the rule system is sometimes ... funny and my group consists of very ... special people". :wink: Communication in both ways and being to both give and demand things to and from your player are the cornerstone for every long lasting RP group.

If your player still does not give in: he is an idiot.

Don´t play with idiots.


Here is what I would do

  1. Introduce deaf monsters
  2. Introduce monsters who don't speak the same language as the sorcerer character.
  3. Introduce invisible monsters
  4. Have the players meet the monsters in a noisy environment where the monster can't hear the sorcerer
  5. Use a large number of unnamed character monsters, turning one unnamed monster into a helper for a combat is not all that useful if there are 19 more who are going to be attacking you.
  6. Give the monster fu powers from the Path of the Shadow's Companion, a couple of the monsters from the Elevator to the Netherworld have that.
  7. Make the monster immune to Sorcery except for Blast and Fertility
  8. Have it really be a guy in a costume pretending to be a monster to confuse things.

and last but not least

  1. Have really, really, literal monsters
    10 Time how long the players instructions take to give, remembering that a sequence is only three seconds.

Now, I wouldn't do one of the first eight more than one time out of three, but those last two work anytime.