The Wizard’s Dilemma, Part 2. Shock Effect

Blasting Power.


Combat magic in Tunnels and Trolls was never meant to be Silent Death.  It was originally conceived to be part of a wild melee of men and monsters making mayhem.  TTYF was flash, bang, sizzle, explode!  Blasting Power spells went Kaboom.  In the 5th edition it was explained in section 2.32,  I will now quote directly from 5th edition, and it’s too bad we lost this explanation in 7th edition.

The common everyday spell which magicians use when faced with charging foes is the Take That You Fiend.  Among Phoenix players it is conceptualized as the channeling of a person’s IQ into an energy bolt which may do anything from disrupting cells, jelling brain matter, to actual matter disruption.  Take another look at the front cover of thix booklet–that’s a Take That You Fiend.  Bright light, searing flame, a probably a certain amount of loud noise accompanying the whole thing.  

Unless there is some special reason why the spell is deflected, this kind of magic always takes its maximum effect, even if the spellcaster is on the losing side of a fight.  Furthermore, a Take That You Fiend (TTYF for short) is almost alone among the available spells in having what is termed a “shock effect”.  What this means is that if two orcs are charging a party of delvers (one a wizard), and the orc sees his buddy vaporized halfway through the fight, it will probably throw the first orc a little off his stride.  That is why TTYF is included in the party’s hit point total.

. .  .  When the magic user is on the losing end of the battle, things are fairly clear.  A troll might generate 40 hits against a warrior and a wizard he is fighting.  The warrior generates 20 and the wizard casts a TTYF worth 15.  The warrior and the wizard have to share 5 hits between them (3 for the warrior, 2 for the wizard) but the troll has to absorb 15 for the spell.  The troll was affected by the spell during combat in that the 15 worth of the spell took 15 from his attack (i.e. when hit point totals were compared, the physical attack of the troll was compared against the physical attack of the warrior and the magic attack of the wizard).

Let’s advance to 7th edition thinking now.  Casting magic in combat is every bit as dangerous and time-consuming as actual physical fighting.  While it may be said that magic happens first and always has its effect, it doesn’t go off a minute before the physical attacks take place.  Usually you should think of it in terms of split seconds.  No!  The wizard does not have time to cast a TTYF, then pull out his twin daggers and become a physical death machine.  You get one thing–magic or melee, not both.

But, the shock effect is real.  So, let’s bring things down to a simple solo dungeon kind of situation.  Dupin is a first level wizard with an INT of 17 and a WIZ of 14.  He carries a staff and knows how to use it, either as a focus for casting spells or as a 2D6 weapon.  He has 4 personal adds for combat and is wearing leather armor that takes 6 hits of damage.  Dupin is ambushed by a throgmorton with a monster rating of 30 (4D6 + 15 in combat.)  In combat round 1 Dupin decides to cast a TTYF at his foe.  He makes the INT saving roll and doesn’t get a Bad Feeling when trying to cast.  He does 17 points of damage to the throgmorton.  Throggy rolls 5, 3, 2, 2 on  its 4 dice and adds 15 for a total of 27.  Dupin gets the shock effect of his spell.  27 minus 17 is 10.  Dupin must take 10 points of damage, not 27 points of damage.  He is wearing leather armor that absorbs 6 of those points, so only 4 get through to his CON.  Dupin has a CON of 10 to start with, and it goes down to 6.  The throgmorton has its monster rating reduced by 17–it goes down to 13, but it still keeps its full amount of dice.  In combat round 2, Throggy will get 4D6 + 7.  Dupin hopes that a second TTYF spell will kill the beast, so he casts again.  Again he succeeds in hitting the throgmorton with his full wizardly might and does 17 points of damage.  The throgmorton gets a roll of 6, 2, 1, 1 plus 7 for a total of 17.  17 minus 17 equals zero.  Throggy takes 17 hits of magic–he couldn’t stop it.  Dupin takes 1 point of spite damage for that 6 the throgmorton got.  The fight is over.  Dupin survives, although he has taken 5 hits of damage to his 10 point CON, and the throgmorton is dead.  It was a difficult fight, but the wizard won it.  Dupin gets 30 adventure points for killing the throgmorton along with points for the 2 INT saving rolls that he made and 10 points for the WIZ expended in casting the 2 spells.  He’s pretty tired, and should hole up and recover his WIZ before trying anything else.

Let’s try another example.  Dupin is back to full wizardly power and health, trudging along through a sewer when suddenly he is attacked by a pack of 5 giant rats.  The rats only have monster ratings of 6 points, so they each get !D5 + 3, but there are 5 of them.  Dupin is surprised by the attack, and combat begins.

To make things go quickly, the GM rolls for all the rats at once–5D6 + 15..  He gets a terrible roll of 4, 2, 2, 1, 1 plus 15 for a total of 25.  Dupin instinctively casts TTYF at the rat closest to his throat, doing 17 points of damage to that 1 rat, but also having a shock effect of 17.  25 – 17 is 8.  Dupin’s armor takes 6 of it, and he is wounded for 2 points off his CON.  We go to round 2 of the combat.

In round 2 there are 4 rats–Dupin killed one outright.  They roll 4D6 + 12 for a total of 6, 5, 3, 2 + 12 or 28.  Dupin gets his 17.  28 minus 17 is 9.  Dupin’s armor takes 6 of it, and his CON goes down by 3 points.  Note that the rats are entitled to a point of spite damage, but because they are already doing 3 points of damage the Spite is not extra. That point of Spite is one of the 3 points Dupin had to take.

Well, ouch, that combat didn’t go so well for our wizard, but a second rat is dead.  On combat round 3, Dupin no longer has enough WIZ to cast a TTYF spell.  He fights with his staff getting 2D6 + 4.  The rats get 3D6 + 9.  Dupin rolls a 1, 1 + 4 for a total of 6.  The rats roll 6, 3, 3 + 9 for a total of 21.  Armor takes 6 of the 15 hits that get through, and Dupin has to take the other 9 on his CON.  Alas, poor Dupin–eaten by giant rats in a sewer.

Well, dang!  That didn’t turn out so well.  Is there any magical thing Dupin might have done to survive that thrid combat round?  Suppose he had chosen to cast Oh Go Away at one of the rats.  He has just enough WIZ left to do it–it is a 5 point spell, but his staff brings it down to a 4 for him. Using his last 4 points of magic, he sends one giant rat fleeing.  There is no shock effect to Oh Go Away. 2 rats get to do their damage 2D6 + 6.  The rats roll 3, 1 and add 6 for a total of 10.  10 minus 6 for armor is 4 points of damage to Dupin.  The wizard is down to his last CON point, and the rats still outnumber him.

Combat round 4 pits Dupin with his staff (2D6 + 4) against 2 giant rats (2D6 + 6).  Dupin gets 5, 2 and 4 for a total of 11.  The rats get 5, 4, and 3 for a total of 12.  The rats won but didn’t get through the armor.  Dupin takes no damage and fights on.

Combat round 5 shows Dupin with 5, 4, and 4 while the rats get 3, 1 and 6.  13 minus 10 is 3 points of damage.  Dupin half-kills a rat this time. It reduces the wounded rat to 2 adds in combat.

Combat round 6 gives Dupin 6, 1 and 4 whle the rats get 2, 2, and 5.  11 to 9.  A rat takes 2 more points of damage and they lose another add.

Combat round 7 has Dupin at 3, 1 and 4 while the rats get  5, 1, and 4.  Rats win, but the wizard’s armor saves him again.

Combat round 8 gives Dupin a total of 3, 3 and 4 while the rats get 1, 1 and 4.  The rats take 4 more  points of damage.  One of them dies.  The other is badly hurt.  It scurries away.

Whew!  By drawing out the fight and using everything he had, Dupin could survive that battle.  Now he really needs to rest and recuperate.  I hope he has a healing potion or two in his pack.

Let’s talk about Shock Effect in combat a bit more.  Some spells like TTYF would clearly have a shock effect, and some wouldn’t.  Let’s look at the spells in T & T 7.5 and pick out the ones that have shock effect.

Level 1:  Call Flame, Call Water, Dem Bones Gonna Rise (no real shock effect, but the skeletons will fight), TTYF.

Level 2:  none.

Level 3:  Blasting Power, Fire at Will, Freeze Please, 

Level 4:  none.

Level 5:  Trollgod’s Blessing, Reversal of Fortune.

You can see the principle at work.  If a combat spell does damage of any sort in terms of dice rolls or absolute numbers, then it has a shock effect that helps the wizard who cast it.  If it doesn’t do any numerical damage, then it has no shock effect.

Do you see how a lone wizard might survive in a dungeon even against heavy odds?  In part 3 we will talk about a third course of action that a wizard might take in situations where he doesn’t think he’s going to win–namely RUNNING AWAY!


The Wizard’s Dilemma, Part 2. Shock Effect
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21 thoughts on “The Wizard’s Dilemma, Part 2. Shock Effect

  1. Two things:

    1) Why didn’t the rats deal their spite damage, doing 4 points of damage total instead of just the 3? Spite is spite, isn’t it? I’ve always dealt with spite after dealing with all the normal combat damage. So in this case, the rats would have delivered 3 points of normal combat damage. Then they would have dealt 1 spite damage. I guess you’re saying that spite damage is only dealt if normal damage doesn’t exceed spite damage. Is that how it’s written up in the combat examples in 7.5? If so, I somehow missed it.

    2) Oh Go Away only lasts for one combat turn, right? So it doesn’t buy Dupin much. The rat runs away at full speed for the combat turn in which Dupin casts the spell, and then it runs right back at full speed the next combat turn. So Dupin gives two of the rats free attacks on him in one combat turn, faces those two rats blade to fangs the next combat turn, and then is facing all three of the rats again after that. At least, that’s how I’d play it in a solo situation. A GM could say that the OGA’d rat doesn’t return, but a solo player can feel like it’s cheating to do something like that.

    • 1. Here’s a situation where the GM interpretation is crucial. Spite always gets through, but I don’t think of it as extra damage. If a character has to take 3 points of damage, and 2 of them are spite, it’s still 3 points of damage, not 5. I can see how others might see it differently, but spite was always meant to be damage that couldn’t be stopped, and that could easily be part of the regular combat total.

      2. So, context is everything in roleplaying. We have a giant rat that is suddenly stricken with terror so that it runs away from a fight at full speed. At the end of a combat turn, the terror fades. It doesn’t totally vanish to be replaced with an urgent wish to rejoin its pack mates and finish off that human. It’s a rat, not a man. If it remembers the situation at all, it associates it with death and terror. No, that rat isn’t going back.

      In a solo where the delver needs every advantage he can muster to stay alive, letting monsters that run away stay gone seems fair to me.

      • I suppose it’s fair. I know it’s easy for different people to interpret the same rules differently. I doubt everyone who plays a T&T solo plays by the exact same rules. Between this post and part 1, it’s becoming clear that the key element to wizard PC survival in a solo is for the player to take the liberty of acting as a GM, to make decisions about situations that the solo designer did not explicitly cover. For instance, if the player thinks a talent would be appropriate for the situation, then roll on it and modify the situation accordingly. But to my computer programmer mind, I just feel like I’m cheating to do that sort of thing. Cheating always diminishes the glory of winning.

  2. Finally, the combat example I was waiting for! And the very next thing on my agenda this morning, after getting caught up on reading Trollhalla, was to write it myself. Bravo, and Thanks!

    One thing, though, and a partial response to Mike’s comment: The idea that Spite is a sort of alternative minimum damage, and does NOT get added on top of a winning total, is apparently a bit of evolution toward the next version of the rules. Trollgod has referred to Spite as alternative minimum damage a couple of times now, and I took a moment to look up the combat examples in the 7.5 rules; it is clear, there, that Spite is added on top of whatever other damage is done.


    • 7.5 rules state exactly: When rollng dice in combat, every 6 thrown counts for 1 point of damage, no matter which side wins the combat. Those points of damage get through “in spite of” everything one can do to stop them.

      It does not say in addition to all the other damage that the player must take. To give the player characters a better chance to survive, I always play that spite damage is subsumed into regular damage if regular damage is greater.

      Consider two situations: G’noll is in a fight, and he has to take 10 points of combat damage, not magic damage. The opponent rolled 4 sixes. Those 4 sixes are just part of the other guy’s combat roll. Since G’noll is going to take 10 points of damage, even after counting his armor, why aren’t those 4 points of spite just part of the 10 points of total damage.
      Now in the same situation, G’noll has to take 10 points of damage, but has 12 points of armor. Armor would absorb all the normal damage. However, there are 4 points of Spite. Armor doesn’t save against spite, and G’noll takes 4 points of damage.
      If you were playing with spite activated abilities, and the abilities did some form of extra damage, I could see it being extra, but if it’s straight weapons damage, the victim takes the greater of the two amounts of damage, either normal or spite, not the sum. Your players last longer that way.

      Of course, different GMs can rule the situation the way they see fit. That’s how I’d play it.

      • Ken’s description is how I’ve been playing spite and that way always made sense to me. It increases the lethality of solo adventures a fair bit, but not as much as double counting it would!

        I also don’t worry too much about Wizards in solo adventures – with T&T rules they’re capable fighters with some extra tricks. It’s typically harder than playing a warrior, but doesn’t seem impossible.

    • the text of the spell says “target” which is singular Low level spells are almost always directed at a single target. So, oh go away only affects 1 foe at a time. However, GMs can rule these things the way they want. GM interpretation beats book interpretation every time.

      • Huh: I’m always learning stuff. I just was playing City of Terrors and for the first time found myself in the tavern Oh Go Awaying a pair of orcs. The text assumed a) that the spell was cast on BOTH orcs but b) that the caster’s IQ+LK+CHA had to be greater than their combined MRs, not their individual ones; (driving off a total MR of 80, as opposed to driving off a pair of MR 40 as it were.) So the 5th ed spell allowed for driving off multiple foes, but for years I’d been interpreting the spell incorrectly.

        • I can’t speak for Ken’s intentions, but I have been allowing it to target as many targets as the casted wanted. Re-reading the text it actually is written with one target in mind.

          I’d say that it’s a spell that might need a tweak allowing it to be powered up, and thus be able to target more foes.

          • As I understand it, the 7th ed text is specific on that point; the 5th ed (which is what I’m experienced with) was decidedly more ambiguous.

  3. I agree with the other posters: hooray for the detailed combat walkthrough! This also shows the advantage of playing with the full rule set instead of the free/abridged ones. Until now, I didn’t understand that TTYF always hits. I thought it was subject to the same comparison to monster hits as melee. As demonstrated, it IS compared for defensive purposes, but the full damage is always done. (Does monster armor affect this?)

    I’ll have to review the spells available to my wizard, especially defensive spells. My characters may actually have a chance of surviving if I choose my battles carefully.

  4. I have to agree with Mike and G’noll on spite damage. Let me quote the rulebook:
    1) “When rolling dice in combat, every “6” thrown always counts for 1 point of damage, no matter which side wins the combat.” That means that even if your side wins the combat, the spite damage points you dealt get through over and above the normal damage points.
    2) “The low total is subtracted from the high total. The losing team or player takes the difference in hits. ALSO count spite damage at this stage.”
    3) “The default form of “Special Damage” is Spite Damage, dealing
    one point of damage for every 6 rolled during combat.” I can’t see any reason why spite damage should be treated any differently than special damage. Both belong to the same category.

  5. Poor Dupin..Thanks for clearing up the TTYF for counting against the total. All this time I was just letting the wizard take the full brunt of the attack.

  6. So, how about this idea.

    In earlier editions of the rules, the monsters did not use their full MR for adds throughout the combat. Instead, it works like this. For the first turn of combat, half of the MR is added and for the following turns one quarter of the MR is added.

    How about that for prolonging the life of the lone delving wizard? Using that rule the monsters will be most dangerous when the wizard (hopefully) most powerful.

    I know Ken changed those rules for a reason, but in this case I’m not sure I think the newer rule is better. Hearing the reason might change my mind, but I like the old way better and in this case I really do.

    • Well. Now, the question is of course if the MR goes down regardless if you hit in later turns. If it doesn’t I guess the newer way might be more forgiving. Ouch. I guess I really need to run the numbers on some examples.

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