Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Post by Arduous » Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:25 pm

Just curious, I haven't played with shaman buffs, but they look powerful. What is everyone's experience?

Mark the Wolf

Most parties it is pretty easy to consistently have two adjacent allies or two allies attacking the same target.

Single target if you have two allies (conditional) at 3rd circle it's probably +4/+4 and enables you 3 to harry.
So far that's fine.

5th Circle you probably have spellcasting 12.
Unlike other buffs, shaman buffs will always succeed against that TN 6, since shaman uniquely does not have to deal with spell defense.
So you roll a 12 vs the 7 weaving difficulty and get 1 extra thread. You spend a karma for one more thread.
Now it grants +4/+4 for each adjacent ally.
So it's a total of +8/+8. If you roll well +10/+10. Is that any issue in the game? Although it only lasts 5 rounds, but you want this spell to be short duration anyways to avoid having to deal with the drawback.

If you have a group with 4 people who can engage, that's +12/+12 or +15/+15. +6/+6 at lower levels?

And then the shaman spends 2 more karma and I think 2 more strain.
Grants +8/+8 to 3 people (a +24/+24) buff.
If there are 4 allies. 1 more strain, 1 more karma. Now it's +8/+8 x 4 and you impose double harried because you count as 8 people?

Granted that's a lot more expensive than pack tactics. For the same 2-turn action you're on average only going to grant +4/+4 to 3 people. Still better than any other two buff spells in the game (not counting that you're rolling against that 6 TN, for extra duration).

Pack tactics, 1 action, you probably roll an 11 (by 4th circle), so that's +2/+2 to everyone. Possibly +3/+3 if you roll well with karma.
If they're willing to wave a thread, it's a 2 turn cast, but adds +5/+5. Stack that above and you just more than doubled the entire party's melee ability at 5th circle?

I am often overly nervous, I have heard rolling step 30-40 at 5th circle is normal, I just may not be in the right mindset for 4th-5th circle Earthdawn?

Am I just overly worried? I know there's a downside if it breaks, but then again spells that are "broken when they work, terrible when they fail" are like having a one legged hacker who gets a +3 bonus to hacking in Shadowrun. Yes the 1 leg might suck when he has to run up some stairs, but when he doesn't or if the players find a work around . .

Just curious. Talk me down off this ledge.

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Re: Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Post by Sharkforce » Sun Apr 05, 2020 10:38 pm

eh, I'll get back to you in a couple months when my shaman can possibly cast it.

but my gut feeling is that I recall the drawback being worrying enough that I'd hesitate to use it.

overall, though, shamans do feel like extremely strong party buff characters.

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Re: Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Post by Panda » Mon Apr 06, 2020 4:10 am


Shamans are designed to be powerful at supporting a group. It's a focus and they are good at it, though that role is not for everyone. Their Journeyman ability, Pack Leadership, communicates this and has its costs, Blood Magic Damage, Strain, and possibly Karma. The first two dig into finite resources for a spellcaster, and the latter can quickly disappear even at higher Circles between all the demands.

Casting Mark of the Wolf in the fashion described isn't cheap. Extra threads means it's showing up in the second turn in the earliest, which is a tradeoff. Casting with extra threads planning on getting at least 12 on Step 12 Action test is... a lot of eggs in one basket. It will probably happen. But that isn't always. Throwing Karma in there certainly helps, but that's one more Karma. In a white room, it doesn't sound like a lot. Looking down four Karma for Mark of the Wolf on two targets starts to feel like a lot, on top of the Blood Magic Damage and Strain.

The downside can be real and generally prevents the target(s) from using Fireblood, an ability many may be reluctant to give up. Being next to each other and/or attacking the same target can be more difficult than you may suspect to keep up in every situation. All adjacent means no one has more than two people next to them, all on the same target can also leave the "back line" vulnerable unless the close combatants (group as a whole, really) are actively using ways to control the movement of their opponents. In which case, awesome. They should be rewarded for working so well as a group. With more challenging encounters.

In practical terms, it's a powerful spell for limited situations.

Pack Tactics is possibly that powerful in a white room. The radius is 4 yards from a target within 4-yards, which isn't necessarily a lot. The low range of Shaman spells tends to keep them in the thick of things, which is its own significant drawback. Once that opponent is down, the spell has not effect. If you're weaving extra threads, that's more time it takes to affect the conflict. I don't know if it was an typo or not, but extra threads only provide a +1 bonus, not +2.

Also, encounters should have more than one opponent; nothing is built as a "solo" opponent outside of a dragon. If something shows up alone to throw down with a group of adepts, expect things to go poorly for it regardless of group buffs or not.

Other magicians buff spells fall under the "Lowering Mystic Defense" optional rule in the Companion, p. 436. These spells were developed with the issues that lead to this optional rule in mind and incorporated them appropriately.

From a larger perspective, there's a finite number of spells to carry into battle with you. Picking which are the best is deliberately challenging as not everything is always the best choice. There can be significant rewards for going in knowing as much as possible about the opposition—something spellcasters benefit from more than other Disciplines. In testing, many of the spells promoted actively working together to achieve their combat goals. This isn't necessarily an issue all groups had, but it gave focus to some and built on the framework of a team. Rather than a bunch of individuals running in the same direction. Which was the purpose.

Hopefully this helps.

Best regards,


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Re: Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Post by Malinous » Tue Apr 07, 2020 4:30 pm

Thank you for the response.

We'll see how it plays out. I also may just need enemies with more fireballs and aoe attacks. It may be time to break out the exploding cadaver men. It's a very defensive party so they tend to stay close together to prevent blindsiding when outnumbered and to make their touch range spells work. They also haven't run into a lot of casters yet.

I am curious about what "move towards the enemy and engage means", it sounds like I might be being too generous with that, shifting my interpretation of the downside:

(1) does it "break" causing penalties if all enemies are defeated before time runs out?

(2) does it "break" if the last enemy surrenders and you fail to attack the helpless foe? (If so, does slapping helpless people around for a while satisfy the spirit?)

(3) do you have to attack to be "engaged?" There was a comment about losing the use of Fireblood? Does this mean they have to be actively trying to make a close combat attack every round to be "engaged"? (At least making a good faith effort to do so). So you can't, say, close combat attack one round, fireblood the next, mind dagger the third round, and cast a defensive spell the 4th? (While remaining adjacent).

(4) Does moving towards the enemy require maximum efforts - e.g. a double move? Or is it sufficient to be making a good faith effort to close with your normal movement? Can you take actions like casting a buff spell on yourself if you are out of melee range and have moved towards the foe?

I've been interpreting it as a good faith effort under the circumstances. You waste the buff if you just spend several turns getting there, so I'm not as concerned about (4).

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Re: Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Post by Belenus » Wed Apr 08, 2020 7:01 am

Same discussion here: ... 326#p12326
Except for question 4: The answer is: Use a double move, no casting ^^

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Re: Shaman spells - talk me down off this ledge

Post by Bruener » Thu Apr 16, 2020 6:59 am

I was going to say that my group had this same discussion - and then I realized that at least one of the posters above is from my group!

I am curious about just how stringent the requirement on "engaged in combat" is intended to be, as was asked. Especially with regards to the "May not be able to use Fireblood" comment, which I cannot understand (I would have either thought it prohibited, or allowed, I do not see how its a 'sometimes' thing). I have been similarly curious about Combat Fury, which has lost the more explicit wording it had in older editions that clarified that its limitation was that melee attacks were allowed, and ranged and spell attacks were not. Now it appears to ban all actions of any sort, except close combat attacks. But that seems overly broad... I suppose that is a different topic, however.

Thank you for your feed back as always! I am curious to see what the feedback is on player experience as people start using Shaman and the new spells.

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