Astral Sensing Redux

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
Bonhumm
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Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Bonhumm » Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:36 pm

Someone, in a recent post, referred to this old thread about Astral Sight / Astral Sense / Astral Targeting http://fasagames.com/archiveforum/viewt ... =17&t=1818

The thread is now locked but there is still many points of contention that has not been resolved.

I would like to write down a clear and concise summery of this long thread but I need to clarify a few things beforehand.

I know a lot of people here will have opinions about those questions and many of them have been discussed previously but what I’m looking here are ‘canon’ answers so if I could get answers only from Mataxes or maybe Panda (which I’m assuming is somehow employed by FASA too?) it would be great (feel free to comment tho).

There will be a list of questions and assumptions but first a critical point need to be clarified:

Astral Sense VS Astral Sight:

I think we look at it the wrong way in some aspects. The description of Astral SENSE says:

This spell enhances the use of the Astral Sight talent

So, basically, Astral Sense does NOT replace Astral Sight but instead just enhanced it. You still need to use the Talent (Sight) for the entire mechanics while the spell itself (i.e. the result of the spellcasting test) is ONLY to figure out whether you get the ‘enhancements’ or not. This is why the spell's target is the caster’s own MD and NOT the zone and/or target’s MD.

The enhancements are:

- Increase in duration (Rank Round VS Rank+10 minutes)
- Modification of the range (Rank X 10 yards ‘cone’ VS 30 yards ‘sphere’)
- No strain damage
- Change the 'point of view of the camera’ (Sight = line of sight while Sense = ‘overhead’ view).
- Finally, because of the previous point, it is implied in the description of the spell that therefore a spell could be cast on anyone/anything that has been ‘sensed’ even if out of line of sight.

So the steps for using Astral Sight would be:

1- Roll for the 2 threads as usual.
2- Do spellcasting test against OWN MD.
3- If successful, you can now do an ASTRAL SIGHT test using the usual Astral SIGHT mechanics other than the enhancements cited above.

Thus the result of the spellcasting of the Astral SENSE spell has NOTHING to do with whether I can see the imprints and/or bested the MD of the targets in the area of effect. It’s ONLY a ‘do I get those enhancements or not’, period. I STILL need to roll a Astral SIGHT test.

Am I right or not?

Once this part is clarified, I will ask the rest of the questions since that answer will modify a lot of those questions.

Thank you.

Dougansf
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Dougansf » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:40 pm

Bonhumm wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:36 pm
- Change the 'point of view of the camera’ (Sight = line of sight while Sense = ‘overhead’ view).
- Finally, because of the previous point, it is implied in the description of the spell that therefore a spell could be cast on anyone/anything that has been ‘sensed’ even if out of line of sight.
Not quite.
Casting spells on targets sensed on the other side of walls is not possible. The magician still needs line of sight for the spell to travel (PG 254).
You could use Astral Sight/Sense to cast at something you otherwise couldn't see (Darkness).
The exception to this is the Circle 5 Wizard spell Mystic Shock, which specifies that line of sight is not required.
Bonhumm wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:36 pm
So the steps for using Astral SENSE would be:

1- Roll for the 2 threads as usual.
2- Do spellcasting test against OWN MD.
3- If successful, you can now do an ASTRAL SIGHT test using the usual Astral SIGHT mechanics other than the enhancements cited above.

Thus the result of the spellcasting of the Astral SENSE spell has NOTHING to do with whether I can see the imprints and/or bested the MD of the targets in the area of effect. It’s ONLY a ‘do I get those enhancements or not’, period. I STILL need to roll a Astral SIGHT test.

Am I right or not?
Fixed the name for you.

Correct, the spellcasting gives you the Astral Sense modifiers.
Extra Threads and Spellcasting result can modify it further (increase area and duration).
Astral Sight is rolled independently.

Bonhumm
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Bonhumm » Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:18 pm

OK, since my previous question might have been right, let me ask Mataxes (anyone is welcome to comment too of course) the following questions:

ALL of the following question refer to the 'basic' Astral Sight (i.e. I've beaten the 'zone' TN but NOT the MD of anything I'm looking at)


1- Is indeed my previous statement correct? i.e.:

1a- Astral Sense is ONLY a test to see if I get the 'enhancements' to Astral Sight.
1b- Thus the result of the roll on Astral SENSE as NOTHING to do with what I can see or not (i.e. did I defeat the zone and/or target's MD)?
1c- And therefore it is only on the 'enhanced' Astral SIGHT roll that you get to figure out if you 'see' anything or not.


2-In the original thread, some discussions were made concerning the fact that even with the 'enhancements' of Astral Sense, you would need to 'focus' on an imprint to really notice it (NOT studying it's pattern, JUST noticing it). I personally disagree with that, I would consider Astral Sight to be like normal sight on that point: I might not have consciously notice the species of the bird flying in the background but I DID notice there were birds.

2a- So am I right in saying that I would notice the imprint of anything in front of me (Astral Sight) or around me (with the Astral Sense enhancements) within range without having to 'focus' on anything (i.e. just like normal vision)?


3- Imprints are described has having (usually) the same shape as the person/creature/object.
Mundane object having nothing more than the shape itself, being 'filled' with 'bland but non-transparent nothingness.
Magical object having a 'bright' pattern somewhere in the object (i.e. not filling it)
Living creature having a 'bright' pattern completely filling up the imprint.

3a- Thus am I right to say that I should easily tell if an imprint is, for example, either a rock or a house, a name-giver or a thread item and a squirrel or a bird?

3b- Would I also be right to say that since the imprint SEEMS to be only more or less a silhouette, it might be hard to distinguish, for example, between a human and an elf or between an oak and a pine tree?

3c- Would it be easy (i.e. again I mean without beating the MD of the target) to determine from the 'brightness' of the pattern whether someone is an Adept of not?


4- So basically, again just from 'seeing the basic imprint' (i.e. NOT beating the MD of the target but only just beating the TN of the zone), would I be right to say the following statements by looking at someone:

4a- Yes, that’s obviously a troll (I can see the imprint/silhouette of his horn)
4b- He is an adept (he’s glowing a lot stronger than the barmaid beside him)
4c- He has a non-magical buckler shield on his left arm (I can see the bland silhouette of it)
4d- He also has magical sword on his hip (I can see its silhouette to tell me it’s a sword and I can see a pattern glowing in its handle to tell me it’s magical).
4e- However I cannot deduce anything else without doing beating the MD of anything with a pattern first. So I don’t know the discipline (or anything else) of the troll nor can I know whether the sword is a thread item or just magical in some ‘cheaper’ way (like having a light crystal embedded into it), I cannot know either if the sword/adept has any threads woven into them.



5- If I want to study a pattern in more details, I need to the target’s MD. What you can see from that is a whole other mechanic that I’m not going to get into here. I’m unsure of some points here however:

5a- Do I need to roll ANOTHER Astral Sight AFTER the original ‘scan’ (i.e. to beat to zone) or did my original scan count has having beaten the MD of whatever is equal/lower than the roll?


6- In the original thread, there is a lot of assumptions about whether you ‘lose sight’ with the rest of things whenever you study a specific pattern that you have previously sensed or not. As if focusing on something makes you lose sight of whatever else is in front of you (Astral Sight) or around you (Astral Sense). I’m finding this questionable (in RL, if I focus on figuring out the color of as squirrel I will still notice the bear coming at me) but I’d like a definite answer here.


Thank you

Slimcreeper
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Slimcreeper » Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:09 pm

I don't consider this to be the right-by-god answers, but this is how I think of it:

I think you can use Astral Sight to navigate. A blind Name-giver with Astral Sight gets enough information to find the door of a room and direct her conversations in the direction of other Name-givers, and to get out from under a pigeon before it poops on her head. In my head, I imagine Astral Sight as something between night vision goggles and the sense of smell, or better yet, the electromagnetic sense that sharks have. Name-giver brains (even for windlings) aren't really designed to process this kind of sensory input, so it is a struggle. Dragons, Spirits and Horrors might be a different story.

With basic Astral Sight, you can pretty much determine these categories of Astral Imprints: Inanimate object, living earth, plant, magical item, magical effect, animal, Name-giver. All you can see at this point is Astral Imprints. Name-giver patterns are sufficiently complex that I don't think you can tell adept/questor status without further study. Definitely not facial features, and generally not race.

While not RAW, it make sense to me that you should get a sense of very powerful active patterns in your area.

My understanding is that the first test just provides the 'scan'. Getting any more information would require a test.

When you concentrate on pattern, you do concentrate. Less like studying a squirrel and more like reading a technical manual. I don't think you lose your scan, but I would definitely require a player to make a Perception Test to detect the charging bear. And if you deal with the bear and then come back to the squirrel, I would require the player to roll again.

ottdmk
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by ottdmk » Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:45 pm

My primary character in Earthdawn these days is a 6th Circle Wizard. So I've spent a lot of time contemplating Astral Sensing, Astral Sight & Astral Sense (the 1st Circle spell.) I've gotten into long, sometimes heated discussions with my GMs about it all. Here is what I've come up with, and for the purposes of this I'm going to focus on Astral Sensing using the straight up Astral Sight talent (at least at first.)

So, you activate Astral Sight. You take your strain and make your Astral Sight test. You're aiming for a result of 6 + the difficulty modifier from the Astral Sensing Table (PG pg 209). So, what next?
Earthdawn Player's Guide pg 210 wrote:If the test succeeds, the character senses the astral imprint of everything within the range of the astral sensing ability being used. The character can tell whether the imprint is a magical or mundane object, and can also determine the classification of astral space. If the test fails to beat the modified target number, but still exceeds the base Difficulty Number of 6, the character knows that the failure was because of astral interference or corruption.
So, looking at that, the most important thing as far as I'm concerned is: the character senses the astral imprint of everything within the range of the astral sensing ability being used. So, what's an Astral Imprint? For that, we have to go back a bit, to PG pg 206.
PG pg 206 wrote:There are two general types of astral imprints: those of inanimate objects, and those of living beings and magical items.
...
The astral imprints of walls, dead trees, or any non-magical objects created by Namegivers appear nearly identical to their physical counterparts. Though an astral imprint resembles the physical object that produces it, most astral imprints appear nearly colorless and tend to blend into a dull mass when viewed by a casual observer, especially when they are far away.
PG pg 207 wrote:In contrast to the dull, insubstantial imprints of inanimate objects, the astral imprints of living things, such as plants, animals, and Namegivers, display a distinctive aura. These auras glow with an ethereal nature and give living imprints a vivid appearance. Namegivers display particularly strong auras because of the intricate detail of their True Patterns.
All right then. Inanimate, mundane stuff tends to blend into the background from far away. Living or magical things tend to stand out. Living magical things really stand out. But what about telling what they are? DIstinguising them? Well, for that, we look at the "True To Form" section on PG pg 207.
PG pg 20 wrote:A living thing’s astral imprint reflects its pattern, and so the astral imprint resembles the thing’s truest form.
So, this seems pretty clear to me: You're always going to recognize something from its Astral Imprint, assuming it's not mundane inanimate and too far away to "see" clearly. A Namegiver looks like itself. A tree looks like a tree. A cat looks like a cat, and that Cadaverman definitely looks like a Cadaverman.

So, beyond seeing Astral Imprints, what are the benefits of turning on Astral Sight? Well, for one thing, it lets you see in the dark... as long as you're outside or the place you're in has windows.
PG pg 206 wrote:"The world is also a living entity, and produces an aura that gives most of astral space the appearance of twilight. This light is visible in almost all areas of astral space, except in areas completely enclosed by the astral imprints of inanimate matter.
If you can see something Astrally, you can target it with a Spell. Given the level of detail possessed by an Astral Imprint, I don't believe any further Astral Sight tests are necessary (ie, you don't have to beat someone/something's Mystic Defense to target them with a spell using Astral Sight.)

Secondly, you can use Astral Sight to immediately tell if someone or something is magical, as established above. If you succeed in your test, you also know the classification of Astral Space in your area (Safe, Open, Tainted, Corrupted.)

How can you hide from Astral Sight? Pretty much the same way you hide from somebody not using Astral Sight. The imprints of inanimate objects may seem insubstantial, but they're still opaque... as long as the object itself is opaque.
PG pg 206 wrote:An adept may look through the astral imprint of a window, but not the imprints of opaque physical objects.
Line of sight is still very much in play when using Astral Sight.

Where things get interesting is in the area of things like partial cover. As near as I can work out from all of the above, partial cover just isn't going to help you. If your Imprint is "poking out" in any way, it's going to be really, really noticeable.

There's also Illusion Magic.
PG pg 207 wrote:While they have no effect on a living being’s pattern, illusory spells or abilities mask both the being’s physical form and astral imprint until Sensed or Disbelieved (see Illusions in the Spell Magic chapter, p. 266) or their effect expires.
So, Illusions can help. Stealthy Stride is a weird case though. The Talent uses Illusion, but it has no Sensing or Disbelieving components. (IE, you don't make a Sensing Test against Stealthy Stride like you do an Illusion Spell; you simply have to beat the result of the Stealthy Stride test.) This might be why the Powers That Be created the Astral Stealth Talent Knack (Earthdawn Companion pg 110) which specifically allows Stealthy Stride to apply to the Astral. As near as I can tell, it means that you'd be invisible to Astral Sight unless your Astral Sight test beat the results of the Stealthy Stride test.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sun Sep 30, 2018 10:16 pm

I mostly agree with everything ottdmk said, and he correctly argued everything within the rules.
However the developers have made statements that clarify, and possibly contradict the rules. Specifically
Mataxes wrote:A successful astral sensing test against the local MD of astral space allows you to "see" the imprints of everything within range (it's not actually sight, but as we are mainly visual creatures it works best to put it in those terms). You know where things are. This means it is possible to navigate/get around via astral sight.

Anything more than that (viewing a target pattern, learning other information, 'targeting' somebody through astral space) requires beating the target's MD.
So even though the rules say that you can cast a spell upon anything that you know exactly where it is, Mataxes and others have said several times an Astral Imprint is not enough to cast a spell at, you need to have detected the pattern of the thing that generated the astral imprint. To the best of my knowledge this is nowhere spelled out clearly in the rules. But it seems to be what they were reaching for.

Also, the "partial cover does not apply" seems like it might be a stretch. If somebody who only has 1/3 of his body poking out from behind a tree, that is more than plenty to stick an arrow into, but they get partial cover from the arrow since you don't have the whole body to target. I don't see any compelling reason why the same would not apply to spells. It might actually be easier to target a spell at somebody that you can see clearly than somebody who's pattern you can only 1/3 see. Both are possible, but one has partial cover.

Baravakar
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Baravakar » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:58 pm

I want to add this information for the Player's Guide to this thread:

P254: Targeting Spells
Spells aren’t like rocks thrown blindly in the dark, hoping for a hit; spells travel in an astral arc between the caster and the target. The caster can only create that arc if he can see (or otherwise sense) the target. Without the proper astral arc, the spell veers harmlessly into astral space.
Sight is not the only way of targeting a spell, though it is the most common. Creatures whose primary sense is not sight may create the proper astral arc using that sense. Any method that makes the magician certain of the target’s location allows the creation of the proper astral arc. For example, a magician who is touching a target when casting a spell is certain of the target’s location, even if he can’t see the target. In the same manner, a magician can place an area effect spell at the end of his outstretched fingertips. Material objects between the caster and the target will not prevent a spell from reaching the target unless they block the magician’s line of sight. Targets receive a bonus to their Mystic Defense for Cover (p.386), to reflect the increased difficulty of targeting them successfully. If the Spellcasting test succeeds any physical manifestation that accompanies the spell avoids physical obstacles to strike the spell’s target.
We've always taken this to mean that if you use the Astral Sense and take the time to study the target's pattern, you can cast a spell on that target ignoring both physical line of sight and physical cover.

Time is the limiting factor.
  • First the wizard must cast Astral Sense which takes two threads.
  • The spell has a 10+ minute duration, extra successes increase this duration.
  • Now the wizard can "see" astral space in a 30 yard radius around themselves "overhead view".
  • The wizard will notice additional objects as they enter astral view. The spell moves with the caster.
  • This wizard will know the general nature of the thing, but must take some form of action to properly study the target's pattern.
  • Once this study is successful, the wizard may create an spell arc to the pattern, casting the spell from the "overhead" view.
  • Any material object between the caster and the target is ignored because it does not block the line of sight from the "overhead" view.
That's how we play. It makes wizards dangerous if they have the time.

Dougansf
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Dougansf » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:35 pm

ED4E PG p254 wrote:
Material objects between the caster and the target will not prevent a spell from reaching the target unless they block the magician’s line of sight.
While Astral Sense does change your perception of the Astral, it does not actually change your Line of Sight, so walls still block spells.
Baravakar wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:58 pm
  • Now the wizard can "see" astral space in a 30 yard radius around themselves "overhead view".
  • The wizard will notice additional objects as they enter astral view. The spell moves with the caster.
While you can certainly play anyway you want at your table...

This is all that is needed for targeting a spell (assuming line of effect to the target allows the spell to travel).
Similar to how you don't have to roll Awareness against someone who is not hiding, and then shoot them with an arrow.
Baravakar wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:58 pm
  • This wizard will know the general nature of the thing, but must take some form of action to properly study the target's pattern.
  • Once this study is successful, the wizard may create an spell arc to the pattern, casting the spell from the "overhead" view.
  • Any material object between the caster and the target is ignored because it does not block the line of sight from the "overhead" view.
That's how we play. It makes wizards dangerous if they have the time.
Incorrect, a wall will block the spell from traveling the distance to the target (with the exception of Mystic Shock).
The action to "properly study" (aka Astrally Sensing) a target by beating their MD is what is required for certain spells or improvements to trigger (Astral Shield, Astral Targeting, Aura Strike, Sever Talent).

Honestly, the largest benefits of Astral Sense through objects is mapping mazes / buildings and ruining ambushes (especially if their stealth method isn't magical in nature). Considering the number of creatures with Ambush, that is no small benefit.

Baravakar
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Baravakar » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:52 pm

Dougansf: Incorrect, a wall will block the spell from traveling the distance to the target
  • P254: Targeting Spells: If the Spellcasting test succeeds any physical manifestation that accompanies the spell avoids physical obstacles to strike the spell’s target.
Spells are not stones. The arc thru astral space and manifest at the targets location.
  • P254: Targeting Spells: Material objects between the caster and the target will not prevent a spell from reaching the target unless they block the magician’s line of sight.
The physical wall does not block the spell from traveling thru astral space. Spells avoids physical obstacles to arc to the target.

If the wizard was using normal astral sight or even physical sight then yes, the wall blocks line of sight. When the wizard uses Astral Sense, their line of sight is a 30 yard radius. The wizard is in effect seeing the target from behind. The wall does not block his line of sight if it is not between the caster and the target.

Image that the wizards is at all locations in the 30yard radius. If there is no wall at the target's back, then there is nothing blocking the wizards line of sight provided the back of the target is within the 30yard radius.

Dougansf
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Re: Astral Sensing Redux

Post by Dougansf » Mon Nov 12, 2018 3:01 pm

Again, Line of Sight and Astral Sense are two different things. Astral Sense does not alter your Line of Sight, just what is perceived in Astral Space.

Arcing through Astral Space: objects still exist in Astral Space, and block Astral SIGHT as well as spell arcs.
Astral SENSE allows you to Sense things through the objects, but the objects still block spells.

To put it another way, please explain the benefit of the Mystic Shock spell in your method of casting.

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