[Runequest] Sandy's Sorcery

Gary Sturgess gazza666 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 28 20:36:23 EST 2009

OK, I've been running a campaign for a while now using Sandy's Sorcery
rules. Some context is possibly useful; the group I'm running for
haven't really been all that enthused by some of my previous attempts
to run Gloranthan games for them - the general impression appears to
be that I threw out too much Lore that they could never keep straight.
So this time around I decided to start them off in Kralorela, as there
appears to be fairly minimal information on Kralorela and I could
basically just treat it as "Gloranthan China" without worrying too
much that I was contradicting something that might appear in a module
that I later ran, or something.

Anyway, the point is really just that I decided to use the Sandy
Sorcery stuff - they're not Western sorcerers, so most of the high
powered tricks you can do with saints are off the table, and none of
us had ever really played around with sorcery before. Having run it
for a while now, I've got a few fairly serious balance issues with it.

Compared to spirit magic or even divine magic, sorcery seems to be a
lot more powerful - arguably overpowered. I decided fairly early on to
house rule that Ceremony couldn't boost the total manipulation you
could do (in other words: if you have Boost Damage 41 and Ceremony 50,
you are still restricted to 5 points of manipulation for Boost Damage,
although you are allowed to use Ceremony to boost your chance of
casting it successfully). The main balance would seem to be that it is
difficult to cast spells in combat, but with Arts like Hold even that
isn't really true. As sorcerer-warriors, Boost Damage and Boost Armour
(on leather armour, usually - I house ruled that it couldn't just be
clothes, as I wanted them to have SOME encumbrance) far outclass
Bladesharp and Protection for the simple reason that they are, in many
ways, basically permanent (to say nothing of the fact that it would be
a rare shaman that had the equivalent of Bladesharp 6 and Protection
5, say). I was under the impression that it was supposed to go (in
terms of power) Divine > Spirit > Sorcery. Naively if you look at,
say, Shield vs Protection vs Boost Armour, it looks as if that holds
(Shield is twice as powerful and throws in spirit defense, protection
doesn't have to pass an ENC threshold). However, a sorcerer has his
powers up all the time, and a decent one can make his spells of
sufficiently higher intensity that the spirit/divine equivalents,
though superior in a 1-for-1 comparison, will be highly unlikely to
ever FACE that 1-for-1 comparison.

The PCs are a long way from being adepts; they're only journeymen at
the moment, and generally only have one or two secondary arts besides
the primary ones. However, the minimum spells any of them run around
with "presenced up" are such things as Boost Damage 6, about a 3-4
point AP boost via Boost Armour, and Haste 4 or so. One of them has at
least 2 Held Teleports always ready to go as well. There is no
particular min-maxing going on here, yet I am pretty sure they would
outclass a group of typical priests. It is difficult to dispel sorcery
(they tend to be high intensity spells); it is true, of course, that
something like Sever Spirit or even Befuddle doesn't really care about
how many armour points you have, but I've generally been able to
challenge priest/shaman/rune lord types before without making every
bad guy pack reusable "save or die" magic.

All that said I'm not really having serious problems, but that's
because all three PCs are sorcerers. I would imagine that if one of
them was, say, an apprentice shaman (maybe even a full shaman) or
priests I'd be having a definite case of
Batman-in-a-group-of-Supermans. Are my experiences typical, or have
you generally found sorcery to be more balanced than I have?

Oh, one point - it is true that we're using Sandy's rules here, and
one might reasonably suggest that using "vanilla" RQ3 sorcery would
alleviate a lot of these issues. I'm prepared to accept that, but my
initial attraction to Sandy's rules was that they are highly
flavourful and a lot less book-keeping than the vanilla rules; also,
it seems to me that while the RQ3 rules present a roadblock, you could
eventually be far more powerful than with Sandy's rules (as Presence
is a hardish limit on what you can do; RQ3, with enough magic points
and matrices, you could feasibly have just about every spell in the
book at Intensity 18 up more or less permanently).

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