Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tweaked Retribution spell for DF

During the Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter, Pee Kitty, aka the Assistant Line Editor for GURPS, put up a new spell for clerics, called Retribution. You can see it here:

New Spell: Retribution

You can see in the comments that I came down pretty hard on the idea of using it in my games. I can see a lot of potential abuses. And even making clear it's injury, not damage, that is reflected, it would still be extraordinarily useful against "glass cannon" type monsters (attacking kills themselves), those with Cosmic Ignores DR attacks (same), and especially against high-damage boss monsters (suddenly, they are vulnerable to being attacked and from attacking). The last one would have very strong negative effects on my game.

It took about five minutes after that went up for one of my players to say, "We need Brother Ike to learn this!" With two berserkers in the group, and some low-DR types and free access to zombies, skeletons, created servants, etc. this spell would be a fantastic benefit to the group. It's easy to learn (PI being so useful in and of itself that it's not an obstacle), cheap to cast and maintain (3/1, which is 2/0 with skill 15), combat-fast to cast (3 seconds, much like the offensive spells generally I see used and buffs like Great Haste) - all of which compound the concerns I had.

As I put it to my players:

"Would you guys fight The Lord of Spite without putting this on everyone? No, right? How about the orcs? Might not matter, but may as well? The dragon? The "behir"? Stirges? (low HP, always seem to cause damage to you guys)?

Equally, though, it would be a fantastic detriment to the group. People already seek to maximize their defenses at all costs, and then (and only then) increase offensive firepower. If there is a potential that striking foes who hang around clerics means you might take your injury back, you really are encouraged to ensure you can't reasonably hurt yourself on the first strike and then open up with the followups. Easiest way to do that is lower damage strikes and more HP in case you don't pull the blow enough.

And with two berserkers in the group, one of who regularly gets pasted for a lot of damage, this would be an automatic buff for them. And a repeated one - first guy striking the naked screaming guy hurts himself, and then 2-3 seconds later it happens again, and again.

So we said no to it.

One of my players liked it, but then it turned out he thought it was caster-only.

And that is a tweak I think I like.


As written, except the spell is caster-only.

. . . and, done. I might use that. In order to have this matter, the cleric has to get injured. Now, to paraphrase the wise man Malak, "It's bad luck to kill an evil high priest." It's spending 1 character point you can use elsewhere and accepting a -1 to your other castings to make sure if your cleric gets hit the attacker will take injury if you do.

If that's too restrictive, you can limit it a bit less:

- only subjects with Power Investiture or Holiness. (Clerics can shield other clerics and Holy Warriors)

- only living subjects. (No zombies, no doors, no Created Warriors)

- only living, willing subjects. (No orcs forced into your service, no rats)

- Only those with a specific subset of disadvantages that apply to your Holy Might powers (Must have one of, say, Honestly, Disciplines of Faith, Sense of Duty (Co-Religionists), etc.)

Or you can tweak any of the costs and duration and time to cast:

- Cost: 3/2.

- Time to Cast: 5 seconds.

- Duration: 10 seconds.

Me, I like caster-only. Evil clerics can be tricky to attack because, hey, the demons and Chaos Gods and Elder Things they serve might smite you back. Hitting the good cleric might be the last thing anyone does (and the good cleric baring his chest to the vampire might be faith in his god's Retribution, not self-sacrifice.) Then it's a cool spell, not the automatic buff for berserkers and the source of "what can we get the dragon to breathe on so it kills itself?" tactics.


  1. That is pretty cool as caster-only.

    1. I like how it seems like it would play out. I doubt you'd want Brother Ike learning it after all; it's only useful if the worst possible thing happens, and it's -1 to his other spells and 2 FP he's down to get that one case.

    2. It's probably also not wise due to friendly fire. In the mummy fight, that would have taken out Hasdrubal as well. ;)

    3. Heh. Maybe he should take the spell, just to discourage "friendly fire" from your ruthless spellcaster friend.

  2. I NOPED on that one, too. The stated energy cost is too low, and I think even if you made it caster only I wouldn't want it to cost less than 5/3. It would still get used.

    1. At 5/3, you pretty much need to cast it and get hit and injured right away. And 5/3 is above Missile Shield (5/2) and Invisibility (4/2) and matches Great Haste (5) in terms of cost, but I don't think it matches any of them in terms of utility. So I couldn't see that get used at all. At 3/1 and caster only, it's fine, but it's a bit of a tradeoff:

      - you have -1 to all spells until you get hit
      - you have to get hit hard for it to have been worth casting
      - most clerical casters aren't very sturdy, so you're risking death if you try to game it into a fight-ender.

    2. Fair points, so 3/2 might work better in the long run. It definitely doesn't need to be free to maintain at 15, which is my biggest objection.

  3. I'm convinced. It's too good as written. "1 to maintain" is ridiculous, because that means if you have it at 15 (which anyone who has PI 5 always will) you can cast it on the whole party at the start of the day, with no drawback other than the -1 to other spells for a spell on.

    That said, I might use a caster-only version as a secret spell for an Evil High Priest enemy in my game.

  4. I don't know if its too good as I'm yet to play DFRPG (first RPG session in years yesterday, turning things around!).

    I'd hoped DFRPG would fix GURPS magic at least for DD games. Is this the first hint that there still might be other problems?

    1. It's an extra freebie spell that's not in the boxed set, so I wouldn't read too much into it.

  5. More chance of making more errors then.

    1. I don't understand what you mean here.

    2. I mean this is one spell. So they only had to get one right. In the spells book there are substantially more spells. So I imagine that is more likely for unbalanced spells to slip through.

      Anyway I hope not and I won't play my first DF game until the DFRG comes out so I'm not the best to judge what works in SF and what doesn't.

    3. Oh, I see. This is a new spell made up by PK. I'm not sure it's been playtested or not. It's not being put out as a representative sample of what Sean Punch is doing in the DFRPG.

      I can't really say much more than that other than that I liked what I saw of the game's contents.

    4. Hope so. Text is done, but I suppose last minute changes or leaving something out if it doesn't fit is a possibility too.

  6. A damage cap (by PI level, like wizards and attack spells) might also work. Then it is more of a sneaky deathtouch with a drawback.

  7. I thought the concept was supposed to be caster-only at first, then when I realized it wasn't I liked the spell a little less.


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