Drainage Problems: Anatomy of a Rite

Let’s talk about the Villainous Witchcraft Rite, Drain, shall we?  See, I’ve been working on some new Animism rites and stumbled across what…well I don’t even know how to describe it.  Somehow, between first and second edition, this rite just…broke.  Just nothing about it seems to work.  So we’re going to fix it.

For the uninitiated, here’s the set up with Drain:

The witch arranges her fingers in an impossible shape and sends a thread of inky blackness at a target within 2 areas, draining its life energy to repair her own injuries.

Sounds cool right?  This is supposed to be one of the most powerful of the Witchcraft rites.  Leeching health from the hapless witch hunters should fit that bill easily.

Mastery: 5
Time: None/1 round
Defense: Fortitude
Duration: Instantaneous
Strain: 4
Damnation: 4/8

Here we can see the real potential of the rite, but the cracks are starting to show as well.  The Witch has to have a Witchcraft (Intuition) pool of at least 5 to cast it.  It’s a one round casting time with no prep.  Cool.  Strain of 4, though.  So no casting spells for 4 rounds after this puppy goes off, unless the witch is looking to lose the health she just leeched.  Also, Defense: Fortitude.  This one is important.  It means the witch has to roll more successes on the damage roll than the target’s Fortitude score for the rite to do anything.  Got that?  Good.  Here’s the meat of the rite.

The blast has a DM of 2 and ignores any Armor the target wears; the witch is healed an amount of hits equal to the damage inflicted. The Target may dodge as normal for any ranged attack.

…um.  Ok.  So the witch gets to roll 2 dice for damage, both which have to roll a 7+ to actually inflict damage on a witch hunter.  AND this has to exceed the target’s Fortitude score (which is usually 2 or 3 for a starting character) to do anything.  So this means the witch really needs to roll at least one 10 between those 2 dice.  Not a good start.  Plus, the target can Dodge it like a ranged attack.  So the target can roll Reflexes (Agility) and for each success reduce the number of dice the witch is rolling.  A decent combatant is going to be rolling 5+ dice for this, and has a good chance of reducing those 2 damage dice to 1 or NONE.

And this is supposed to be a supremely powerful rite?  Ummm…something got lost in the translation.  Maybe we can boost it out of the ditch.

  • Boost: Increase the Mastery by 1 to increase the DM by 1
  • Boost: Increase the Mastery by 1 to increase the range by 1 area
  • Boost: Increase the Mastery by 2 to target an additional enemy

Since the rite has a mastery of 5, it can be reasonably boosted up to 5 points (assuming the witch has 10d in its Witchcraft dice pool (maxed out, in other words).  So without breaking the rules (which you can do as an NPC, but still) the most powerful witch in the game could potentially leech 7 damage dice from a character, minus whatever the player rolls for a Dodge (lets be generous and say -3, so now down to 4 damage dice) and THEN has to roll more successes (7+) than the target’s Fortitude score (let’s assume 3).

That’s just…

Ok, let’s compare to the previous edition:

The target must make a D5 Endurance (Toughness) skill check or lose a number of hits equal to the amount by which he failed the skill check; the same number of hits are then removed from the witch. The witch may increase the difficulty of this skill check by +1 per additional success, which allows for an even higher number of hits to be drained and gained.

Now see, I’m not really sure why ANY of this was changed.  It works quite well with the new edition once you convert the additional successes to a Boost.  It’s certainly more potent.  It doesn’t add more dice rolls to the mix.  The profile is almost identical except for Strain, which was previously 3 (so 3 rounds before you can cast another rite).

I’m not sure how or why this rite was determined so powerful that it had to be so nerfed.  But it SHOULD be powerful!  In fact, this should be a monster of a rite.  It’s made for use by villains, and any PC who wants to use it is staring down the barrel of a 4/8 damnation.  So unless they have 8 points of damnation already, they are going to pick up 4 just for casting this spell.  At that point, you aren’t even a witch hunter anymore.

So let’s fix this, shall we.  The concept is great, and I think we can blend the old and new here a bit.  In fact, there are two ways I can see to fix this rite.

Now first, a caveat.  I’m not sure how much testing this rite actually got.  It could be that the old one really was too nasty.  But I just don’t see it.  1st edition characters had more health, and with a difficulty of 5, you are still talking about needing 5 successes to pull off the rite.  With that 3 Strain, you’re going to be hard pressed to nickel and dime a cadre of witch hunters to death with this power.

So.  Two ways.  One hedges closer to the old way.  The other to the new mechanics in second edition.

Drain (Revised; Old School Variant)
Mastery: 5
Time: None/1 round
Duration: Instantaneous
Strain: 2
Damnation: 4/8
Description: The witch arranges her fingers in an impossible shape and sends a thread of inky blackness at a target within 2 areas, draining its life energy to repair her own injuries. The target must make a D5 Endurance (Toughness) skill check or suffer damage equal to the amount by which the roll failed; the witch is healed an amount of health equal to the damage inflicted.

Drain (Revised; New School Variant)
Mastery: 5
Time: None/1 round
Defense: Fortitude
Duration: Instantaneous
Strain: 2
Damnation: 4/8
Description: The witch arranges her fingers in an impossible shape and sends a thread of inky blackness at a target within 2 areas, draining its life energy to repair her own injuries.  The blast has a DM of 2 plus the Mastery of the Rite. It ignores any Armor the target wears; the witch is healed an amount of health equal to the damage inflicted. The Target may dodge as normal for any ranged attack.

Boosting remains the same for both, though you could tone things down a bit by letting multiple targets split the damage dice.  Or maybe not.

So now a witch would be rolling base 7 damage dice against a target.  BUT the target can roll to Dodge, reducing that number (to nothing, potentially) and the damage rolled still must exceed the target’s Fortitude roll.  So you are still probably only looking at an AVERAGE damage output of 3-4 points per use of the rite.  I’ve dropped the Strain to 2 to give the witch a few more options.  Because at this range (2 Areas), that villain isn’t going to last long against a group of experienced players.

With these changes, I think Drain now compares nicely with Lash of Agony (Basic) and Chain of Agony (Greater) in the Grand Tome of Adversaries.  But as written, I’m sorry, its a dud.

If you like fix enough to try in your home game, here’s a PDF of both variants.

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One thought on “Drainage Problems: Anatomy of a Rite

  1. Pingback: 2015: A Retrospective | …and a Brace of Pistols

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