Friday, July 5, 2013

Meteoric in my DF game

In my last post, I mentioned using Phase to stop meteoric iron arrows*. William Knowles responded with a "Huh."

Meteoric iron says it is "immune to magic - Reverse Missiles, Steelwraith, Turn Blade, and so on won't stop it, and Shape Metal, Shatter, and the like can't destroy it."

Otherwise, there isn't much in the books to say what meteoric can and can't effectively do by being immune to magic.

What do I let magic do against it?

You can use any Blocking spells that either work on the attacker (Command is a good choice, so is Fumble) without affecting the weapon, or on the caster without affecting the weapon (Iron Arm won't work, nor will Turn Blade, but Phase and Blink will.)

Essentially, as long as the magic is either getting the attack out of your way without affecting the meteoric weapon directly, or getting you out of the way, it's probably okay.

Ah, but you might say. Steelwraith is on the caster, not the item! But it's effect is a) specifically called out by meteoric, and b) it's not the same as Phase. Steelwraith is an Earth spell with Walk Through Earth as a prereq, and meteoric is clearly there to stop people from just ghosting through it to bypass barriers.

Phase is a Gate spell, and it specifically takes you out of "this plane of existence" just long enough to avoid the attack.

I could see it as an edge case, but in my games that "edge case" goes in favor of magic. You're not on this world but protected by magic but not in this world long enough to avoid the attack. To me that's a big difference - much like Blink, which moves you elsewhere to avoid an attack, you simply are using magic to not be where the attack is, not using magic to let the attack pass through you by becoming insubtantial to metal. Steelwraith is an easier, but also more limited, spell, than the prereqs for Phase (Magery 3 instead of 2, Plane Shift or Ethereal Body). Heck, Ethereal Body takes you to a Low Mana Zone plane; it's clearly "not here" and not just "no clipping" and yes, you can use it to pass meteoric iron (but not some other substances in my game, but that's another topic.)

So doesn't Iron Arm work? You're still there to suck up the hit, you're just making your arm as hard as iron to suck the blow up harmlessly. That to me seems like it falls on the meteoric's side of the table, and you should get cut - it's too close to "affects the weapon."

Deflect is an odd case in my games. For one, I do not allow Deflect on armor, only on shields. Why? Because then people buy Deflect piecemeal, and I need to know the exact hit location before I know if an attack hit because it matters for their defenses. That annoys me, so I just said no this campaign.

I do allow it on shields, and I have rules that the DB bonus from Deflect, like the DB bonus from Shield, is ignored by meteoric weapons. That little magical extension that makes the shield act as if it was bigger doesn't stop the meteoric weapon.

Fortify, however, doesn't get ignored. Deciding to make NMZs a lot less annoying from an "what's my encumbrance now?" perspective, I ruled that, sort of like in the Morlock Ambrosius books, spells like Fortify re-arrange the structure of the substance it is cast on. Lighten removes some of the actual material weight, too, and that weight won't come back just because mana isn't there** So similarly, they help against meteoric weaponry.

The Armor spell doesn't, because it's a forcefield, not an enchancement to a piece of material.

Similarly, offensive/utility spells follow the same type of rules. You can't cast Apportation on a meteoric weapon, but you can Levitate its wielder (he's carrying it, not you.) You can't Lockmaster a lock with a meteoric pin built into the lock, but your magically-created golem or summoned demon can kick the door down (and so could your Barbarian friend you just hit up with Might.) You can Great Haste a meteoric sword wielder, but not cast Flaming Weapon on his sword. Your Windstorm spell will mess with meteoric arrows easily - the wind is magically generated, but it's still real wind. You can't Shape Metal the sword but you can Shape Metal into a shield and block it.

And of course, meteoric ignores magic, not sanctity. And in my games the gods ignore the rules of mana. So the Holy version of any of those spells works normally! Missile Shield by the Artificer-Priest will nudge your silly magically-dead arrow aside and the party cleric can put Flaming Weapon on it.

The theme here is:

Affects the weapon directly? Doesn't work.
Uses magic to stop the weapon's effects? Doesn't work.
Uses magic indirectly to avoid the weapon or otherwise stop it? Works.
Is triggered by contact with an item? Generally doesn't work (meteoric swords are great for stabbing people with Flaming Armor.)
Is it not magic? Then it works.

In my experience, this seems like you get some surface incongruity ("I can't Steelwraith it but you can Phase away? This game sucks.") But in practice, it lets me rule on everything without creating inconsistencies or further edge cases. It's generally very clear which way it should go.

And that's how I do it.

* And I mean entirely meteoric iron arrows. Kromm has said that meteoric doesn't create a "wake effect" to get through defenses, so the entire item needs to be meteoric iron - that's why it says "any metal weapon" and not "any weapon that includes metal." If you want stats for a solid iron arrow, Doug "Gaming Ballistic" Cole has you covered.

** They still detect as magical, and dis-enchanting them can undo these effects - Remove Enchantment is pretty powerful. But they're permanent in a non-Mana dependent way. Convenience trumps all - just say the laws of the universe work in ways that seem illogical to the human mind and be happy you didn't jump up from just under Heavy to just over Heavy because of that NMZ.


  1. I roll slightly differently. I know it's not RAW, but when there are other materials that cost the same as Meteoric Iron and do awesome things, I believe that there's no reason not to treat it in this way:

    Defensive spells do not work against meteoric iron, if the weapon interacts in some way with them. No Shield, no Armor, no Iron Arm, no Fortify, no Deflect, no Missile Shield, no Reverse Missiles, no Steelwraith... Blink and Phase work, because they move you out of the way of the attack. Spells that alter the caster's nature (Ethereal body, Body of Air, etc but also Body of Metal and Shapeshifting) do NOT work. Meteoric Iron goes though the magic like a hot knife through butter, and the weapon finds a way to actually hit the real you (so you've got to take the hit with your real stats). Illusions are automatically dispelled if they are hit by meteoric iron weapons, if the original illusion has at least a chance to be disrupted by attacks. Defensive Imbuements do NOT work against meteoric iron weapons, so who cares if you tripled your DR against cutting weapons, it's actually magic, and it won't help you, because meteoric iron cuts through magic like it wasn't there.

    On defense, meteoric iron armors are immune to penetrating weapon, and negate things like icy weapon/electric weapon/puisance as long as the attack does not go though the armor (and I take into account things like edge protection from low tech) without magical help. Imbuements are similarly affected (followups fizzle unless the carrier attack fully penetrates DR, imbuements that change damage type do not work at all), and Multishot "virtual" arrows disappearing harmlessly when they touch the armor. Returning Weapon does not work if it hits meteoric iron armor. Cornucopia quiver arrows also disappear harmlessly when touching meteoric iron armor. On top of that, regular spells need to go AROUND the armor, meaning that they take a penalty equal to the hit location penalty needed to avoid the armor (so if you're wearing full meteoric armor that only leaves the face uncovered, they take a -5). If the armor covers someone fully, then the penalty is -10 (eyes through eyeslits), AND the user gets a bonus to resist equal to the DR of the armor in the less armored location.

    1. Wow, that's extremely nasty for what's not terribly expensive. While +19 CF is high, it is not higher than Very Fine or Silver, and less than Orichalcum, and much less than the cost of really effective magical enchantments. It's generally more effective in limited circumstances than Silver or Very Fine, too, which to me makes the price fair.

      It's especially nasty allowing it to work against Ethereal Body, since that's explicitly another plane (one with low mana, and which makes you extra-vulnerable to Necromantic and Mind Control spells.) Do you allow it to hit Insubstantial creatures, like ghosts? Or otherwise affect creatures on different planes? How about diffuse creatures that have some kind of Mana dependency, or do you limit it to only those that have Magic, -10%, on their powers?

      Allowing it to dispel illusions - well, most are dispelled by touch or hard contact anyway. So that's not really a benefit. Unless you mean that it dispels Perfect Illusion, not just disrupts it temporarily. If I allowed that, geez, I'd have to explain my Meteoric didn't dispel area defensive spells, too, and I'm not prepared to have that argument at my game table. :)

      If I did that approach, I'd be extremely nasty to meteoric on the offensive end - no benefiting from magic, either, on anything you use the weapon for. Including but not limited to any buff spells and it staying behind when you Teleport or get Plane Shifted.

      Of course, if I allowed it to hit despite Ethereal Body, I'd rule that Phase didn't work, either - especially since that's likely path you took to get the spell in DF.

      I didn't address armor, but I'm also less generous to meteoric there. I can't see forcing hit locations on Regular spells, because it doesn't really matter - only distance affects Regular spells, not size, and Hit Location implies a smaller area to target somehow extends the range. I do allow meteoric armor to ignore magical effects against it, serve as perfect proof against Melee spells that hit that location, proof against Magic Bolt in those locations, and blocks line-of-sight for vision spells. But otherwise, Regular spells and Area spells are the way to go in my game.

      I don't use Imbuements in my current game, so I have no rules about it at all!

    2. I know it is harsh, and I know it's not RAW. However, I want to make them attractive, and Meteoric Iron have the big disadvantage that they can't be enchanted, and so can't get the cheap Penetrating Weapon (among others). Meteoric armor can't be enchanted either, and since I allow Deflect on armor (and allow it to stack with Deflect on shields), not being enchantable is a big minus. On ghosts, well, in fact ghosts in my games are weak to meteoric iron, and I do allow meteoric iron to affect them as if they were substantial. Same for diffuse demons that are described as partially insubstantial, because I consider the demon's body as a magical shell to house the demon's essence (If you've read the Dresden Files, you will probably understand where I'm coming from) if they have magic dependency. I might reconsider Phase though. The reason I make it ignore Ethereal Body is because the character is still in this world, and can still interact with this world. Mind you, I've only dealt with Phase from demonologists, not wizards, and in their case, it's moving to a different place for an instant, not becoming out of synch with reality.

      By the way, I make regular spells cast by friendly casters also have to work through the meteoric iron, so the protection also makes you harder to heal or buff. Contact with an unarmored area (touch range) makes it possible to avoid the penalties though.

      I must also point out that clerical MAGIC, as per Spell vs Spell, DF1 p. 20 is still magic, it's just borrowed magic. Shield cast by a cleric is still a magical forcefield

    3. I didn't forget Spell vs. Spell at all. I just don't use it as the basis of what Meteoric iron does. I think there are two approach.

      One is the "infinite magic resistance" approach. This approach says that Meteoric iron is basically a metal with infinite Magic Resistance. Since Magic Resistance affects all spells, whether cleric, or druidical, or magical, meteoric applies to all spells.

      The second is the "no mana zone" approach. This approach says that Meteoric iron is basically a metal that is a No Mana Zone. Therefore magic can't directly affect it, or cross it (by it can go around, if the seal isn't complete), or stop it. Since a NMZ doesn't apply to cleric spells or druidical spells, Meteoric doesn't, either. Since the effect is small(ish), the dispelling of spells within its area is basically unimportant and I disregard it.

      I use the latter as my basic approach. It's dead to mana, not dead to magical effects generated through the spell system regardless of power. The power source is important in my games, which helps IMO helps make clerics and druids more than just Wizard Lite.

      Spell vs. Spell is still 100% valid (and frankly, it's there because in the games DF is drawn from, you counter things by effect not source) with the second approach.

    4. I like the idea that meteric weaoons affect ghosts. Cold iron affects fairies so maybe cold iron could be meteoric in my game world. So there would be two approaches to combat supernatural beings, the first is through magic which is fight fire with fire and the second is to nulify the supernatural with a banal substance like iron. Iron is sort of a symbol of progress which seems to destroy belief in the supernatural.

    5. I like it too, but I already have spectral weapons and Ghost Weapons to affect ghosts. They don't need meteoric to do that, too.

      But yeah, havign thematic counters built in to the campaign is good.

  2. I love that a simple grunt of surprise can trigger this articulate of a response. :-)

    I was thinking that Phase is like Ethereal Body and Steelwraith in that the caster is still visibly there even if the part that interacts with normal physical things isn't. I'm not sure of my present position on that. Generally I like Peter's logic but I don't like the consequences. Not being able to be enchanted is a huge minus and what is the value of meteoric armor? Pure iron arrows are ridiculous (especially compared with sling bullets) and, despite what the boffins say, field testing indicates that they do work with just the heads. I also agree with b-dog that giving mana-dependent creatures a vulnerability and/or weakness to meteoric iron is nicely thematic.

    1. Immunity to magic-based touch attacks on those locations is pretty sweet, frankly - and I use a lot of them. And I do the cornucopia arrow/Create Object thing, too - they just disappear on contact and can't hard the wearer.

      But it's still a niche set of armor. I could make the wearer immune to magic and I bet my players would pass, because they're better off having help from their own wizard than protection from enemies wizards. Your mage is there every fight, but every opponent doesn't attack with magic.

    2. Yeah, the goodness that comes from being able to have armor that shrugs off certain attacks does not counter the badness that means fortify, deflect, lighten, etc. are not valid options!


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