Throwing Rocks. Big rocks.

A huge loophole in ArM's system is aimed spells. Like dropping huge boulders on people - no MR, plus a huge aiming bonus, means instakill against just about anything. But how to pull this off ? My troupe found one solution to this, but I'd like to hear input on the issue.

The guidelines for throwing rocks in Houses of Hermes: Societates only go to +15 damage. Do you think that's the most that can be done by a thrown rock ? I figured a thrown rock can do about as much damage as having a building collapse on you (+21), so settled for +25 damage. Is stopping at +25 damage reasonable, or can damage just be piled up more and more ?

The HoHS rules also say that throwing a tiny pebble is enough to do that +15 damage. THE PEBBLE OF DEATH !!!. Well, not in my saga. I added a house rule saying you need to throw something impressive to do impressive damage. Part is enough to do +5 damage, Individual can do +10, and add +1 magnitude to increase size for extra damage - so +1 extra size does up to +15 damage, +2 extra size does up to +20 damage, and +3 extra size does up to +25 damage.

With these house rules, I end up with the following spell:

Hurl the Giant Rock
ReTe 45
Hurls a giant boulder at the target, up to 1000 cubic paces (10 meters by 10 meters by 10 meters) in size. Such a boulder does stress+25 to whatever it hits. The spell is aimed, bypassing magic resistance, and such a boulder will have an aiming bonus of +18.
(Base 5, +4 damage, +3 size)

Huge boulders aren't ubiquitous and are rather difficult to lug about. So the player came up with a three-part solution to this problem. First, he turns them into gems.

Rock to Gem
MuTe 45
Changes up to 10 granite boulders (up to 10x10x10 meters each) or rocks to large gems.
The MuTe base 2 guideline+2 mags will turn a +3 size boulder into a +3 size gem, which is 10x10x10 cubic inches.
(Base 2, +1 touch, +3 moon, +2 group, +2 to gem, +3 size [10x10x10 inch/m])

Then, he bags them in a bag of holding.

Bag of Gems
MuTe 35 effect
(base 4, touch +1, +2 ring, +3 size, +2 extra reduction)
In the bag the gems are size 0.16^3inch, rather small. This is based on taking the MuTe spell Object of Increased Size spell as the baseline, which suggests doubling of all dimensions at base 4. We then take MuCo Pretenatural Growth and Shrinkage to imply that this doubles for reducing size, to /4 all dimensions. And finally, we allow each extra +1 magnitude to add another /4 factor.

Finally, he adds Harnessed Magic to his character's Virtues. To throw the boulders, he picks up the reduced gems from the bag and throws them on the ground around him, getting him same large gems at his feet. He then concentrates for a round to undo the Rock to Gem spell thus turn them into boulders. He thus has ten boulders to throw around in the following rounds.

This round-about way is needed because reducing their size directly or turning them to gems and reducing their size would require Ritual spells.

Rock to Tiny Gem
MuTe 60
Changes up to 10 boulders (up to 10x10x10 meters each) or rocks into gems.
The MuTe base 2 guideline+2 mags will turn a +3 size boulder into a +3 size gem, which is 10x10x10 cubic inches. The MuTe base 4 guideline will shrink it by 4 in each dimension to 2.5x2.5x2.5 cubic inches. This spell uses the latter as the baseline and adds +1 mag to add the effect of the former. Note the gems are still rather large, and +2 extra magnitudes should probably be added for greater shrinkage as per above.
(Base 4, +1 touch, +3 moon, +2 group, +2 from/to gem, +3 size [10x10x10 inch/m], +1 change to gem)

So - does all this seem reasonable ? I'm especially concerned with how to pull off the Bag of Gems; the above solution does not appear too legit, with its iffy use of Ring duration.

How do you suggest going around throwing rocks ? Is there a better solution we missed ?

Ring duration wouldn't work, since there isn't any unchanging ring to work with. Also, adding things to a ring after the spell is cast doesn't add them to the spell, and removing things breaks the spell. Instead, you could go with duration sun, an extra use, and an environmental trigger. Also, look into the MuIg "Trapping the Fire" spell for a simple way to turn the gems into boulders without requiring an extra virtue.

Edit: Also be careful where you take this bag full of gems. If you had it tied it to your belt and accidentally stepped into an Aegis of the Hearth without formal permission (or had that permission withdrawn)...things could get messy.

Edit2: On further thought, this sounds like an incredibly dangerous plan. If your Rock to Gem spell should fail for any reason (such as duration expiring, resistance from an aegis, unraveling magic, the casting mage being killed (assuming you kept the harnessed magic), or somebody hits the bag hard enough to break the gems (if you go with breaking to end the spell)) they will expand enough to destroy the bag, then keep expanding until you are covered in 10,000 cubic meters of rock. All it would take is one miscalculation or one enemy who knows your tactics and the whole group could be crushed under a 30 thousand ton mountain of rock nearly 20 meters deep.

where is your Ring and how are the stones/gems inside them for the entire duration?
Odds are this test will fail.

At this point, use D: Sun or even D: Moon. Much easier.
Ofcourse, you could ust use Unravelling the Fabric of Terram for the same effect, especially as you know the level of the spell you will be affecting.

Use 2 spells. Too often this simple solution is overlooked.

cough you kind of forgot the range on your Hurl the Giant Rock spell. Well, actually it seems to be in the level, you just forgot to mention it.

Oh, and the guidelines do mention that bigger things move more slowly, so personally I would have used them directly and just mentioned in the spell description that it takes a large rock to achieve the effect. A stone a pace in diameter (Individual), thrown at a decent speed (higher guideline), can certainly instantly kill a man. Building collapses, on the other hand, are less effective, since what's mostly collapses on a person are relatively thin floors and roofs, they don't fall from that high, and they tend to snag on each other on the way down.

Where does it say this? The rock is considered to be the size of a sling stone. Sling stones aren't typically tiny like a pebble, they are typically something that can fit in your hand, taking up at least all of the palm of one's hand going to as large as the size of one's fist. Wikipedia suggests 50g to 500g.

A 50 g stone is not tiny, and HoH:S specifically mentions one is throwing it with some amount of force. Sling stones can kill, especially if they hit their target in the head...

Bullets are smaller than slingstones and they certainly kill. I imagine a powerful enough spell could fire a pebble with such significant speed and force that it would like getting hit by a sniper rifle. If you are trying to keep pebble sniping to a minimum, which seems a reasonable thing to want to control, I'd suggest requiring additional magnitudes for smaller sizes to get them up to speed, so to speak.

One thing that seems to get forgotten with aimed spells is that the magic is done by the time the projectile reaches the target and it is thus a purely mundane item to be warded against. If you need to proof an NPC against such a spell, give them a cloak with a ReTe ward that will protect them from such things. It wouldn't take a very high level effect.

Also, I'm confused about the use of Part to do +5 damage? If you break off part of a rock to throw it, it is still Individual.

The tack I've always taken involves extrapolating from the existing Rego Terram guidelines so that, for example, Base 20 does +20 damage and so on. The result, of course, is that it quite rapidly ceases to be worth adding additional magnitudes to the spell, but at least the larger stones are usable against castle walls and similar targets during a siege.

Based on my limited understanding of Aristotelian physics, the ability to deal damage with a small stone in this manner should, in fact, be possible by increasing the force of the initial mover via rego magic. It will never be able act like a projectile launched from a firearm, however, since it has no momentum. Therefore, it's generally better for the magus to select the largest stone available that can be thrown with his spell's set amount of force.

Thanks all !

It doesn't say this explicitly... but that's what I got from it. It certainly doesn't give any guidelines about size. It only says that even large things will do damage limited by the spell level; it says nothing about needing minimum size to do certain damage. To me, that implies size is irrelevant, only spell level matters.

I don't like having an insta-kill +25 damage spell with the pathetic visual of a small stone whizzing very fast. I don't like playing in the Wild West, with magi throwing bullets about. It might be reasonable, it's not really fun for me. So, as a personal choice, I'm linking awesome damage with awesome mass thrown. This is also slightly more balanced, as at least huge aimed (MR-circumventing) damage now also requires higher levels.

I'm not sure whether this is what HoHS intended or not. The Invisible Sling of Vilano is limited to a sling-sized stone and does +5 damage, similar to the +4 damage modifier for a sling. Sling stones can kill, sure - but only with a lucky roll. For the most-part, they do low damage; excess+4 for a mundane sling, stress+5 for Vilano's.

I don't know why the invisible sling of Vilano is limited to sling-sized stones, HoHS doesn't say. It doesn't give examples of using the guidelines with larger projectiles, or to do larger damage. I'm just continuing the guidelines/examples in the way I think will make most fun.

Realistically - sure. Roleplaying wise - I just don't like playing in the Wild West.

This would mean that it's better to use larger projectiles as you need the higher spell level anyway and, using a larger projectile, you also get the bonus to aiming rolls. It also becomes rather complicated as you need to calculate for each size how much to compensate for each speed/damage...

Thanks for the offer, but from both setting and atmosphere I like my solution better. Your mileage may vary :slight_smile:

Indeed. The PC's antagonists will, certainly, quickly pack up on such cloaks ! However, while this can be pulled a few times it doesn't make sense that everyone will be walking around with such cloaks, and it just isn't relevant for many creatures (that have no access to such magic items)

It is a Part in the sense that it is part of a standard Individual - it is less than the size of standard Individual of that Form. Specifically, a fist-sized stone is less than the size of a cubic pace, the Standard Individual stone. And such a fist-sized stone does +5 damage, according to HoHS and according to my house rule above.

Oops :mrgreen:

That makes sense, but is somewhat less impressive and means that you'll only need L30 to do +25 damage with no MR. I can't say it isn't reasonable, but it's quite dangerous...

That makes sense too - which is partly why I increased the damage to +25 rather than +21. Still, +21 is supposed to be the "wow" of falling/crushing damage, so I don't think damage should go much higher than that.

Yes, that is the problem... Supposedly, the ring is on the rim of the bag. The gems are "inside" the ring as long as they're inside the bag. While not really "kosher", it's more thematically appropriate then the alternative - consider a "Circular Box of Bag Holding" instead. This is a solid box, whose bottom is inlaid with a sliver circle right next to the rim. The sides of the box prevent any stone placed there from rolling beyond the circle, and of course the solid-silver ring isn't broken. The lid keeps the gems in the box. This works, I think, but is more boring. Hence - allowing the bag thing.

Sorry, I don't follow. The Rock to Gem spell is already D:Moon.

Yes, that could work too.

He can only release one spell per round using his Harnessed Magic. Using a Ring-item + spell he can release both in the same round.

Adding a gem to the circle activates the device, which then shrinks it further, once per day. As each stone is removed, its own spell is broken - but not the others'. I don't see a problem here.

But then the spell won't be broken when the stones are removed from the bag.

An interesting suggestion. I can see that giving rise to broken boulders, however, and I don't think the player will like that. I'll run it past him.

Right, forgot about that. Thanks.

True, true. :smiling_imp:

The HoHS guidelines specifically discuss that and offer a way to throw a projectile, like a firearm. These are the guidelines used here.

But your point about +25 damage should also be a problem for Ball of Abysmal Flame and The Incantation of Lighting, both of which do not have to contend with the Aiming roll problem at all and deal +30 damage while having the problem of overcoming Magic Resistance.

So, what's the real problem? Because, you're suggesting that one form of damage dealing is preferable to another.

What if I'm a Terram magus and want to create direct damage dealing spells with damage commensurate with Pof, BoAF and IoL? There's been ample discussion that damage should roughly scale along the elemental forms. Mighty Torrent does slightly less damage than PoF, but it has a secondary effect, as well, maybe the Terram spell should, too.

So, is it the difference between indirect and direct damage? Aiming probably needs some work. You've opened my eyes about it, ease factors needs to be better spelled out, or the Aiming roll needs to be a combat/opposed roll against some kind of defense, with damage being 10, and it becoming a function of AA+Damage, like it would be for a weapon.

Yes. Doing +25 damage at level 45 with +18 to aiming means almost-assured hit and massive damage, bypassing Magic Resistance. A combination of high Finesse, high bonus for large size, and massive damage that bypasses MR is deadly to just about anything, no matter it's Might and Defense, which is the problem here. It's a very specific problem, but it exists.

Compare Ball of Abysmal Flame doing +30 damage at Voice range [up to 50 paces] at level 35, to a Catapult of Vilano doing +30 damage with a 20-pace range increment at level 35 (without using my house rules to require increases size). The BoAF always hits, but has more limited range, and is stopped by magic resistance. If MR is important in your game, that's a major drawback. If it isn't, it isn't.

The catapult has unlimited range, although hitting a good-Defense or distant opponent is difficult. Assuming the guy that is Aiming has stats geared up for that, we can expect something like (3 Char + 6 Finesse + 6 die roll = 15) on the attack, which is just about right to hit many major opponents with some luck. The key point is that it isn't hampered by magic resistance. The other key point is that with +18 bonus for +3 size (level 50), the total attack is now on average 33 ! Enough to hit just about anything. Combined, these two points create a too-deadly attack IMHO. Compare it to a Casting Total of 50 for BoAF (penetration only 15 !). Which one would you prefer to wield ?

Another key point, incidentally, is that grogs with Hurl the Giant Rock wands can now serve as catapults in the castle, for devastating effect against even supernatural opponents, whereas wands of BoAF will be far more limited in their ability to affect supernatural attacks ... but that's a different matter.

Well, the RAW is that the roll doesn't matter for the spell damage, which I think is good choice to maintain some balance. The ease factor is, however, determined by the combat rules as normal. Except that you get +6 per size above the standard Individual, hence that +18 bonus at level 45.

Then you won't be hurling rocks, presumably. Maybe doing earthquakes or some such. But if you want to throw stones with great force that you control, rather than hurling them, perhaps that's appropriate too ? I don't know.

Conceivably, with that many boulders around the magus, and the trajectory and space necessary to throw the boulders, it makes it difficult for him to be defended by a shield grog, or something.

You are still talking about a lot of logistics necessary to pull this off, so as to avoid the MR. He has high Terram totals, which is typically not the reason these indirect spells are taken, certainly the lowest level one, Invisible Sling of Vilano. It's possible that it becomes easier to hit a given designated area with a large object, the same token, you've already stipulated that the object is moving a bit slower, which suggests it's easier to get out of the way of such an object. Huge bonuses to dodge, rather than huge bonuses to put your shield up and deflect the stone from hitting one's noggin.

You could further rule that the guidelines for making something fast moving are entirely reliant upon being a small size, letting the damage scale as a function of speed, rather than a function of size. The size trick could work against targeting an area, and dropping said large boulder from a tall height, which suggests maneuvering it into position.

And then there's the idea that if the size increments are increased so much that they stop making sense it needs to become a ritual...

And, it may be that damage is being applied wrong. Or we need to change the damage application for these indirect spells to being added to AA and compared against the opponent's soak total.

If you want to talk logistics, with that many giant rocks around him, close enough that he can walk to them to touch them, the casting magus' line of sight is probably very spotty. For that matter they'll also block the line of effect: that giant boulder needs a 10 pace wide clear line to the enemy ! Remember, they were thrown, so if they hit a tree they'll be thrown off course (and they'll destroy the tree, of course).

And a sadistic magus my require Thrown Weapon rolls to make sure the gems do in fact land far enough that the magus doesn't end squashed (or at least trapped) between his own boulders.

In fact, do you know what the safest place for an enemy magus would be ? As close to mister boulder-hurler as possible !

This would make a fun spell to give a hostile NPC. Have him squash a few grogs, then the magi can decide how best to get at him without being squashed themselves. And if a PC develop it, he deserves one easy victory or two (or three), because frankly that much time setting it up should be rewarded. After that he'll have gained the Reputation 'hurler of mightily big rocks' and can expect enemies to start ambushing him in the privy instead of challenging him on open ground.

Yes, I can see shield grogs having problems navigating around the huge rocks.

That's no in the rules, so we're talking house rules. I'm not sure about that. We're still talking about a catapult hurling giant rocks at people, effectively - I don't think in that circumstance I'll be giving the people bonuses to dodge the catapult's attack. I'll see how it goes in-play, and perhaps raise this point.

If the guy wants to maneuver hurl a giant rock, I don't see why he can't...

That's always a possibility.

It's already reduced by Soak. It isn't added to AA, which I think is a good idea - it's enough that high Finesse will let him hit. If high Finesse will also give more damage... I fear the munchkinism will see no end.

Good points.

I'm not that sadistic :smiley:

In the maze of boulders.... well, not sure this will work so well for most enemy magi. I'm having visions of "squash the magus", rock-moving spontaneous spells here...

Yes. That would be fun.

Thanks for some great ideas, everyone.

Wizard's Leap is also an excellent defense against this tactic, and can be used to close in on the magus lobbing these boulders. It's low enough level that even if you enforce requisites, they can probably cast it without worrying too much about fatigue.

It seems to me that, by trying to make things better, you've made them worse.

What do we have in the RAW?

  • On the one hand, someone throws a PoF. He needs nothing for that, this works everywhere, is a sure hit, and needs to bypass MR
  • On the other hand, we have aimed stones. You need one (easy, but not always possible), which needs to hit and bypass MR.

Problem is, you require people to throw big rocks, which in turn, due to size, give aiming bonuses, making the "to hit" part easier.

What I'd do:

  1. Stick to the RAW. It works.
  2. Bigger rocks need Size magnitude. Also, bigger objects move slower. So a bigger rock won't do more damage (it goes more slowly) but will be easier to aim. You have a tradeof here. This should lower your Catapult of Vilano's damage by 5 or 10
  3. If people want to do a "real" catapult (balistic trajectory) instead of a slingshot/firearm thingie, in order to use the fall to do more damage, sure! Increase damage by 05 by size magnitude of the rock, but then, don't forget that these are quite imprecise and difficult to aim.

If you really want to have them throw big rocks, I'd really go for something like JL's idea: These rocks are big, but they also more slowy, so this cancels the size bonus to aiming.
You must either cut the damage increase (my number 2 answer) or the bonus to aiming (JL). If you keep both, you're toast.

For what it's worth, your player also went to great lenghts for this, lenghts you in part forced him to go to. I'd let him enjoy at least some of his hard work without ressorting to what are, IMO, killer DM answers such as the bags exploding, the aegis magically cancelling his enchantment (Unless that's your HR on Aegises, of course, but then, you should warn him beforehand)...

I've seen it done that way in Novus Mane. Trust me, this is a bad idea.

Except, I think it's RAW. At least RAW is highly suggestive of doing this when it discusses aimed spells.

If you're treating it as an attack total, you have to be comparing it to a defense total. Once you have compared attack and defense totals, everything is derived based on the formulas, nothing is rolled again.

My question is why do you think this is a bad idea? I think I can guess why you think that way.

Err... bigger rocks do cause more damage. Otherwise treuchets would not be better than ballistae at deetroying city walls, and it is well nderstood already that the trebuchet is a better weapon at that. Idem fr faster and bigger trebuchets, if you can get them to work.

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Yeah, I think we're mixing guidelines up and realizing abnormal results.

The guideline in Houses of Hermes is pretty explicit. It is throwing a rock with enough force to cause +X damage. I'm pretty confident that it is talking about sling stones, because the guideline was created to allow Invisible Sling of Vilano to be based on some guideline. The guideline even says stone projectile which is even more evocative of a sling bullet. The range increment is also consistent with the Sling in the Missile Weapon Table on page 177 of the main rule book.

Going back to size bonuses to aiming, you have to remember that it was intended for use with the existing guidelines. Moving a large boulder over a group is a ReTe Base 3, +1 stone effect. It also doesn't mention anything about speed, but I'm pretty sure we're not talking about ballistic or trebuchet speeds. I'm thinking something that takes a round or two of concentration to maneuver the boulder into position and then drop it on the unwitting foes, it moves as fast as a person can move. That definitely deserves a bonus to aim. It also suggests that there wouldn't be a bonus to evade, but I'd certainly allow dodge and cover to have an effect on the overall defense and soak.

In short,I don't think you can move boulders at ballistic speeds under existing guidelines. I do think you can extrapolate the guidelines in HoH:S to increase damage, but leave the projectile size as a sling bullet and increase damage as a function of an increased base (speed). I do not believe this suggests flinging large boulders about, with their incumbent aiming bonuses. If your troupe desires making large boulders move with ballistic speeds, I would suggest some alternative guidelines, and perhaps also base it more closely to what the Trebuchet does, as described in Lords of Men. Of course, the advantage for a magic lobbing +25 damage boulders like a Trebuchet is that the magus doesn't need the 2 minute reload time.

They do indeed.

It think there needs to be a trade-off. Small rock can be given more momentum. Bigger rocks will cause more damage, by their very nature. However, they are slower and thus it should be harder to hit with them (because the target will simply see them coming and have more time to try to move aside).

Really big rocks cause huge damage and are actually area-effect.

Top me, this means that a rock-throwing spell can be boosted to do one of the following things:

  • Increase the speed of the rock, which increases it aiming bonus by 3 per magnitude.
  • Increase the size of the rock, which increases damage by 5 per magnitude but reduces the aiming bonus by 1.
  • Affect an area by using many rocks, thereby causing damage to everyone in the area.

The first two options are those that are being discussed here. I'll leave the third one aside for now.

So you can increase the speed to have better chance of a hit (aiming bonus), or increase the size for better damage. Or do a bit of both. Note that the bigger rock is more effective from a damage point of view, but speed offers better chances of a hit.

So if you have two magnitudes that can be used for boosting the spell, you could:

  • Use a regular-sized rock and give it a +6 aiming bonus. As the attack advantage carries over to damage, that potentially increases damage by 6 as well.
  • Use a much bigger rock and thus have +10 to damage, but with fewer chances of a hit because you have -2 to aiming. This reduces aiming carries over, still leaving the potential damage increased by 8.
  • You can use a slightly larger rock and increase its speed, for a total of +2 aiming bonus and +5 damage. That puts you mid-point at a potential damage increase of 7.

EDIT: As a final note, I would say that this kind of spell cannot be said to increase accuracy. Because accuracy would mean controlling the rock to its destination, which means to could be blocked by magic resistance. Thus, the best that can be done is to increase speed.