How effective are spells in defending against other spells?
The core book discusses fast cast defense as being effective.
What about protective spells cast beforehand.
But what about something like a ReTe spell that was personal ward against stone (Base 5 to keep all dirt away from self, +1 Stone, +0 Personal, +2 Sun, +0 Individual) = ReTe 20.
Is this 100% effective against an enemy spell that drops a giant boulder on you? Does the magnitude of the enemy spell matter or is it outside of consideration. Does the defending mages Parma figure into the defense, or is it just one more layer for offensive magics to penetrate?
Can a mage, with knowledge of his opponent and preparation, protect himself better with spells than with Parma?
Certainly spells can defend against the effects of other spells. This is different to the defense provided by Parma. Whether it is "better" or not depends on the circumstances.
To take your example. I am warded against stone and you try to hurl a rock at me with your magic.
First, you need to successfully cast the spell.
Then, your magic needs to penetrate my magic resistance...or if it is an aimed spell you need to roll to hit me.
Then, we resolve the effect of the spell on me. Now, because I am warded against stone the boulder cannot touch me, I take no damage from it, and it bounces (or does whatever seems sensible to the storyguide given the circumstances).
If I am standing in a field then there is likely not much more effect. I am now standing beside a boulder in the field. On the other hand, if I am standing in a corridor I may still need to contend with the problem that there is now a boulder blocking the path.
Another example occured in our game the other night.
My Bjornaer magus is bothering some sort of hedge witch. As I approach her house in the forest, I can see that she has gathered a flock of ravens about her. So, I cast a personal ward against animals on myself.
Later, when (as I suspected) the flock attacks me, I was immune to their pecking, because of the ward.
In this case, my Parma was useless because her "spell" controlled mundane birds. Whereas my ward was totally effective.
Note that mundane animals controlled by magic are (physically) stopped by parma. Now, if the witch had just been using magic to "talk" to the birds and had mundanely convinced them that they should help her, that would be another story.
This can be a problem if you have players willing to drive down story potential. A seasoned mage could, in a few seasons create spells that protect him from wood, metal, fire and stone and be very hard to kill. While these aren't the be all and end all of combat, it does very much limit the kind of stories that can be played.
My own magus had a charmed armband that protected him from a single wooden attack and a single metal attack each turn. Excellent when he came against single opponents but two men with swords or staves were a real issue. I saw this as a compromise between defenses a reasonable mage might make, and not making my storyguides life more difficult than it needed to be.
Yes, you could invent 15 wards but that could easily be 15-45 seasons. You aren't growing in magical arts, gaining any offensive punch or otherwise growing your miscellanous skills. Then there is the first magical opponent might breach that ward as parma/magic resistance restricts it. THen comes the spells to surpress your magical protections and that you are not going to have the wards up all the time anyways because that leads to warping.
I have a mage in one game that has the wards against weapons metal, stone and wood and such. Mundane threats are not likely to harm her. Magical ones are another story. She is a shapeshifter though and so doesn't really want to have fear human hunters in the forest.
It drives down story potential because it limits what becomes a threat.
For instance, the mage with only 5 such wards (let alone the 15 odd that lady phoenix mentioned) is essentially immune to animals, metal, wood, fire (except really high damage magical fire) and rock. Humans can no longer harm him if he has 5 rounds to prepare.
I realise that most mages are very much above the level of mundanes, but to be so powerful that they have no ability to affect the mage rules out a bunch of plots. It certainly doesn't rule out all plots. But it does rule out many.
If a character is a combat twink then of course they want to show off in fights every now and then, thats fine. But if your character is essentially indestructible, it ultimately makes those fights meaningless. Combat without risk is fun to show off but rapidly loses its interest.
Now a mage certainly shouldn't go down without a fight, but a mage with these 5 wards won't go down to anything except another mage. Shield grogs become totally redundant (and i love the dynamic my players developed with their favourite shield grogs). Heroic knights leading men at arms become as effective as peasant children.
I'm not sure how one would stop this except through mature players that understand that no risk equals no fun.
You just gotta up the risks
Toss in a giant, a dragon and so on. Might rage 60 to 80. And at a certain point, I do expect magi to grow to the point that the only serious threat against them are other magi.
One ward against people would do the job too....if it is just being attacked by mundane humans that concerns you.
But, anyway being very difficult to damage doesn't rule out combat stories at all.
It just means that your stories have to be about why you are fighting (or not fighting) particular opponents, and the consequences of doing so. True, you know that your characters are going to win fights against certain sorts of opponents, but winning or losing a fight is not a story in and of itself. Your characters still need to work through the consequences of winning a fight, you still need to tell stories about why your characters are fighting, your characters still need to choose who to fight and when.
If your characters are good at fighting it means that your troupe can tell stories about more interesting and different opponents, and your stories will tend to be about the consequences of winning battles rather than losing them (or avoiding them).
Think about the Iliad (or the movie Troy). Would that have been a more or less interesting story if Achilles was more vulnerable to his opponents? I realise Achilles does have a big vulnerability, but I'm sure that your magi do as well --- Winds of Mundane Silence, for example.
I don't think that there is less story potential here, just different story potential.
Sure, if the troupe doesn't want to tell stories about characters who are really good at combat, then the players shouldn't make characters that are really good at combat. But, on the other hand, if the players want to make characters who are really good at combat, then that is a good hint that they do want to tell stories about characters that are good at combat.
I constantly criticize my players for not being good enough at combat! I am the sort of SG that likes watching his heroes mow down enemies left and right. After the excitment, then comes political intrigue. Sometimes your greatest weapon is your tongue, not your fist.
To revive this thread, I would also point out that, even if magi are immune to attack, they can't necessarily protect everything they hold dear.
I ran a recent adventure where a demon was tearing apart a nearby village by infecting all its inhabitants with Obsession relating to theft. Once it got to face-to-face combat, it took the magi all of three rounds to kill the demon (only Might 25, with two Might 5 lackeys), but the demon was, for the most part, moving invisibly and acting only when the magi weren't around.
Since the magi weren't thinking ahead to protect anything but themselves, they lost two grogs to assassination in the middle of the night, a structure housing one of the covenant's income sources was burned to the ground, as was half of the demonically-affected village including the lord's manor - the magi had to pay scores of mythic pounds to compensate the neighboring lord.
While not damaging to the magi directly (save for one who botched Demon's Eternal Oblivion and suffered a Heavy Wound before the other magi could act), it was certainly debilitating and humiliating.
Yes, the first thing I made in our spot was not our own home, but a circular ward for our grogs to enter. I like having to worry about everything mundane I hold dear, or at least is of use to me. Yes, our covenant may be largely immune to magical attack (I started play with a lvl 30 aegis), but this does not hold true for the entire world.