RE: Animist Power

From: Mike Holmes <homeydont_at_...>
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 08:44:30 -0500

>From: "flynnkd2" <flynnkd_at_...>

>You are failig to apply the min-maxer theory of maximum

Oh, I would never. I'm a big fan of Professor Von Neumann's theorem.

>To get a fetish costs a LOT of HPs, especially one that powerful.
>You then have to buy the relationship up to be sure it works
>(because as min-maxers your GM is a bastid roleplayer who always
>puts hurdles in the way of your stumping the living crap out of
>everything that stands reasonably near you). Those HPs could be
>used to good value, like improving my single combat ability... plus
>that boost is only good once per (defined period), whereas my
>properly invested HPs are always available. It also means you had
>to save them up over 3 or 4 sessions, OMG!!! not spend HPs as fast
>(or faster) than they come in!!!

It's the player's choice on how to spend them. But let's look at the math. Assuming a concentrated animist (to compare to a concentrated theist, for instance), it costs just 3 points to get a spirit that provides a +20. Let's say that the player can't find one quite that efficient because of the bastid GM, and call it +18. That's still six times more efficient than buying up another ability by 20 points. Note that you can't consider the cost from 13 as the base, because another abilty bought that way can't be used to stack directly as a fetish can. This ratio continues on the way up. That is, for a 20W2, it's ten points, or six to one again.

Now, even if we assume that you have to keep up a high relationship ability, I think we can safely say that there's at least a two to one benefit in terms of maximum ability.

Now, the question is what's the min/maxer say about the fact that he can only do it once in a while? Well, assuming that the ability in question is going to be added onto something similar, it means that the player already has that ability to some extent. Meaning that for 3 points, he gets a +2 charm. Which is less than the cost to purchase one up from 13. Even if based off of 17, 3 points spent will only bring the ability up to 19, or about par with the charm effect of the fetish. Now, yes, he can use that ability, in theory, more than the fetish as an "active" ability. But given that the character already has something to which the ability adds, that means that he already has an active ability that he can use.

For example, if I have Close Combat 5W, which should I choose for 3 points? Add 3 to Close Combat (over three sessions) to get to 8W, or get the fetish of Ass Kicking 18? With the fetish, the character functions at 7W, just one point less than if he'd spent the points on Close Combat. But when he needs to, when he really needs to unload on somebody, he releases the fetish, and now he's a 3W2 for that conflict.

Note that, in Hero System (generic Champions), powers are rated two ways. One is by the actual cost to the character. The other is what's called "Active Points." Active points are the power level of the power without considering liabilities. Powers cannot be bought over a certain level of Active Points because the authors realized that players, given their druthers, will take powers with lots of limits on them at a very high active point total. These cost the same as other powers to buy, but they are far too attractive. Hence the active point limit. Essentially players are less concerned with the ramifications of their power use, and more with how much maximum punch they can deliver when circumstances are right.

In any case, all of this cost analysis assumes that you're working against mundane abilities. But the original question was whether it balanced with the other magic. Given that said magic often costs more than one point, the benefits of animism become even more telling in comparison to other magic.

That, then leaves the "opportunity cost" of not having the ability until the spirit returns. But that cost is only the +3 that the character would have had for adding to Close Combat directly. And only until the next adventure. And that's an interesting note...

>Me personally, I like animists and would play one. I love being

It's a kick. My most recent character is an animist of the SurEnslib Tradition (Darjiini). Here's the real reason that animists are attractive, and it's hard to deal with mathematically. Near the end of the adventure, my character was stumped by a mystery. So he got his Shaman friend to open a portal to the Spirit World, and he sought out a spirit of Truth, brought it back and unleashed it. That put him over the top in an extended contest to win big time. It was really cool.

He used his starting spirit earlier in the adventure at a really critical point to prevent a battle from occuring between an army and the forces of a temple.

The point is that what the unleashing allows is for the animist to be really cool at the most climactic parts of the adventure. It's almost as if everybody is going along just waiting for the animist to decide to do his special thing. Given that there is that opportunity cost after using the ability, that makes the choice to use this special ability a very interesting and fun one. Basically a character can't make a more potent statement in the game (as far as I've seen), than the choice to finally release a spirit.

So, even if you argue that the power balances on cost, in terms of story potential, animists kick all ass. That is, for some players, the fact that the spirit leaves after use is actually more attractive than the way other abilities work.

Note, too, that the way that pacing works in adventures, the most important conflicts tend to come later, rather than earlier. This means that the most likely places for the character to use his abilities will tend to be late in the adventure. Meaning that there's less opportunity cost. Potentially none if the player uses the ability in a final confrontation right at the end.

Animists would be feared in Glorantha, it seems to me. Sure they won't just unleash on everybody every time. But the threat is real. That is, if you piss off the animist, he *might* use his special ability on you. It's like being the only guy around with a flintlock pistol. Sure it's only got one shot, but do you want to be the one guy who happens to be on the recieving end?

Now, having played the option, I wouldn't say that it's broken or anything. But if you can't see the power attraction of it, you're not looking closely enough.

Oh, and in terms of flexibility, I'd say that being able to improvise from affinities is actually quite versatile. That's to say that I think that the systems are well balanced in attractiveness overall. There isn't nearly the Power/flexibility dichotomy that people make the systems out to have, IMO.


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