Author Topic: Magic Resistance  (Read 655 times)

Offline Dorateen

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Magic Resistance
« on: April 21, 2016, 12:36:29 PM »
This is a subject that I have been mulling over since I released Hearkenwold for FRUA last year. One of the more questionable design decisions I made was to bump up the magic resistance of certain enemies in the monster editor. I'd like to go through the process about why I took this step, and get feedback whether it is worth re-visiting and adjusting the numbers.

First, I left low level goblins alone, so they still have the default 0 for their magic resistance. But when I introduced a goblin "chief" in one of the starting areas, I was a bit dismayed that a 1st level magic-user could ensnare him in a sleep spell and thus render the enemy a one-hit kill. This was supposed to a creature to at least give level one characters some pause. So I went into the editor, and bumped up the MR to 25.



Suddenly, more often then not, this goblin chief will resist a sleep spell, requiring the party to work harder to take him down.

As I continued to build, I would classify the monsters by type or level, ranging from 1 to 4. So essentially, I started giving 2nd level creatures 20% magic resistance, 3rd level creatures 30, and 4th level monsters a 40 MR. I never approached the levels of drow or rakshasa. Again, the whole reason I increased from 0 at all was to avoid these enemies easily being disabled by sleep or stinking cloud. Below is a tougher version of a bugbear, a Bugbear Lord, and its adjusted MR:



The way I figured, even with as much as 40% magic resistance, a monster should still fail saving throws half the time? As it turns out, I think player magic-users probably saw their spells go off to no effect, more than they would like. However, I tested this module from beginning to end, and did see some of those higher MR monsters go nauseous or held, from time to time. I thought it added an element of unpredictability to the battle.

One memorable encounter for me when I was testing, had to do with three minor demons. These were tough opponents even for characters who were 3rd or 4th level. I found it crucial to be able to take at least one of them out through incapacitation, in order to be victorious. I watched magic-user or cleric spells fail to work numerous time, until it actually rendered a status effect on a demon. That changed the tide of battle. As a player, I thought that was an exciting moment. And it would not have been the same if you could depend on putting monsters to sleep, or held, or caught in a stinking cloud every single time.

Another point I would bring up, unlike the traditional Gold Box adventures, Hearkenwold does not have massive scale battles. At most, I think the largest enemy group was 10, and even outnumbering the party 8 to 6 was not too frequent. More often the case was the party going against smaller, concentrated numbers of challenging opponents, at least in theory. I think the reason sleep was so powerful in the Gold Box games, was because the player could often face hordes of monsters, and taking out as many as possible was a necessary tactic. With this module's smaller skirmishes, suddenly, helpless foes could make an intended dramatic battle more of a cakewalk.

Nevertheless, after release, I wonder if I should scale back the magic resistance. Maybe 40 or even 30 is too much. I do not know the actual percentage mechanics under the engine, or if the dice are loaded in favor of the monsters. Perhaps just 20 or 25 MR, would be enough to make those tougher enemies resistant without rendering player mages ineffectual.

It's an area I would be interested to hear from designers and players.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 12:41:39 PM by Dorateen »
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Hearkenwold

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2016, 02:35:31 PM »
You should be careful with magic resistance; because it does not work the way it would seem.  This is due to the AD&D rules on magic resistance.

MR is based upon an 11th level spellcaster overcoming it.  For each level below 11th, a 5% penalty is added.  So your goblin chief who has only 20% magic resistance actually has 70% MR against a level 1 caster and 65% MR against a 2nd level caster.

Here is the appropriate text from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, page 228:

Magic Resistance - The percentage chance of any spell absolutely failing in the monsterís  presence. It is based on the spell being cast  by an 11th  level magic-user, and must be adjusted upwards by 5% for each level the caster is below 11th  or downwards by 5% for each level the caster is above 11th. Thus a magic resistance of 95% means that a 10th level magic-user has no possibility of affecting the monster with a spell, while a 12th level MU has a 10% chance.  Even if a spell does take effect on a magic-resistant creature, the creature is then entitled to normal saving throws.

If you wanted to give a monster protection against the Sleep spell, all you had to do was either give them the "Immune to Sleep/Charm" attribute in the monster editor or give them more than 4 hit dice, as monsters 5 hit dice and higher are not affected by the spell.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 02:39:45 PM by ProphetSword »
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2016, 02:59:21 PM »
That is some insightful information, thank you. I did not know Magic Resistance was implemented that way in Unlimited Adventures. Now it makes much more sense why custom monsters with 30 MR were befuddling spellcasters. Looks like I should tone those numbers down.

I would consider the immunity, but I do like leaving the possibility a player could get lucky and break through a monster's MR.
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Offline Outlander78

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2016, 03:58:34 PM »
Magic resistance has always been a frustrating concept to me, in AD&D and CRPGs, because its mechanics make the face values meaningless.  50% magic resistance does not mean 'takes half damage' or 'all effects halves' or '50% chance of complete immunity, roll d100'.  Instead, it means 'stated chance minus 5% x (caster level - 10)'.

That is easy to program, but it means if you are trying to either attack, or depend on the defensive value, you are bound to be disappointed and perhaps frustrated.  If your high-level paladin gets a holy sword (50% MR), they are likely to be facing casters of greater than 11th level, and therefore take the brunt of most spells cast at them.  (20th level paladin, 20th level casting opponent ... lousy 5% chance of avoiding a spell).  This drove me crazy while playing BG2.

I like the idea of making common low-level monsters tougher, so that they can be used longer, but you may want to consider alternatives to magic resistance.  A boost in HP and/or HD may be all you need.
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2016, 05:09:16 PM »
About the boosting of Hit Dice, with reference to the screenshots of the Monster Editor above, would that be represented by the monster's level? So the 4th level Bugbear Lord I created might already be resistant to low level spells. I will have to test that out with the default MR.

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Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2016, 07:52:03 AM »
The boosting of hit dice will only help when it comes to the Sleep spell.  It only affects monsters up to 4 hit dice (4+4 HD, to be accurate).  I believe that by setting the level of the monster (regardless of the number of hit points), you should be able to stop the Sleep spell.  I can't confirm it at the moment, though, so you should test it.  So, you can set the monster HD higher, while adjusting the hit points and THAC0 to match what you think the monster should actually have.

One other thing about Magic Resistance:  Because you're dealing with low level characters, any MR effect applied to the monsters will have a boosted chance of failure.  For example, if you gave a Goblin Chief just 1% magic resistance, against a 2nd level caster, that's still a 46% of any spell they cast failing.

Honestly, I'm not sure why you're worried about players using Sleep or other spells to hit the boss anyway.  That's what they're for.  If you want to make it harder on low level characters, you should use good encounter designs instead of messing around with magic resistance.  Hit them with a couple of combats before the main combat and deny them the ability to rest.  Low level mages will likely have already burned through their spells if the fights are difficult enough.  If they don't use their spells, then it means that they had a harder time with those combats and shouldn't be punished in the boss fight for their good play.
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2016, 08:19:52 AM »

Honestly, I'm not sure why you're worried about players using Sleep or other spells to hit the boss anyway.  That's what they're for.  If you want to make it harder on low level characters, you should use good encounter designs instead of messing around with magic resistance.  Hit them with a couple of combats before the main combat and deny them the ability to rest.  Low level mages will likely have already burned through their spells if the fights are difficult enough.  If they don't use their spells, then it means that they had a harder time with those combats and shouldn't be punished in the boss fight for their good play.

That makes sense. The way I was approaching it, not only sleep was a concern, but also the rendering of tougher enemies helpless with Hold or Stinking Cloud spells. I'm not opposed to players getting a successful spell off, but I did want to introduce an increased probability that the spell might have no effect. I probably went too far. It's the automatic "win" option I'm guarding against, perhaps more than I should.
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Offline hans

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2016, 11:15:52 AM »
...The way I was approaching it, not only sleep was a concern, but also the rendering of tougher enemies helpless with Hold or Stinking Cloud spells...
 

Couldn't you adjust their saving throws against spells (page 7 of the Monster Editor, IIRC) to help achieve that?

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2016, 11:34:59 AM »
As I mentioned before, you could just give them immunity to sleep/charm and paralysis (though some players might not like that either).  At least that way, damaging spells like Magic Missile would still be useful.

Also, I should mention that these are just suggestions.  In no way am I trying to tell you how to build your own game or design your own encounters.  Don't want to come off as that guy.
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2016, 05:02:13 PM »
Oh, definitely appreciate the tips and suggestions. I posted this topic to get feedback because it was an aspect about the design that has been bugging me. I think in retrospect, fiddling with the default Magic Resistance could be problematic, and it is worthwhile to explore other solutions. And getting a better grasp of how MR is calculated is extremely helpful.

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Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2016, 08:45:23 PM »
If you have questions about anything else, just ask.  Are you not familiar with 1st Edition AD&D?  If not, you might consider downloading OSRIC (Old School Reference & Index Compilation).  It's basically the 1st Edition AD&D rules that you can grab for free under the OGL (doesn't include all that Gygaxian flavor text, though).  Check it out here:

http://www.knights-n-knaves.com/osric/
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Offline Outlander78

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2016, 06:25:23 AM »
OSRIC is a great book.  It is not a perfect clone of AD&D, but comes as close as its authors felt they legally could.  The fact that it is written in plain English makes it easy to understand and quickly reference.  "High Gygaxian" has its charm, but I find looking rules up in the 1E DMG is much harder than in OSRIC.
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2016, 09:20:02 AM »
I am familiar with 1st Edition, I played AD&D from 1983 through 1990. However, I have not touched the Gold Box games or FRUA since the 90's, up until the GOG release last year.

The OSRIC looks like a fantastic resource to have! Thanks for the link.
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Offline ProphetSword

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2016, 10:43:00 AM »
I am familiar with 1st Edition, I played AD&D from 1983 through 1990.

Sometimes, folks aren't familiar with the rules outside of the Gold-Box games (where a concept like magic resistance isn't even properly explained), so it never hurts to ask.

Quote
The OSRIC looks like a fantastic resource to have! Thanks for the link.

Yep.  You can even buy it in hardback, I believe. 
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Offline PetrusOctavianus

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Re: Magic Resistance
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2016, 09:47:34 PM »
Regarding Sleep, you may want to give that Orc Leader the same Hit Dice as an Ogre. If FRUA works like Pool of Radiance the number of HD an Ogre has is the sweet spot for making the Sleep spell unpredictable, as sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't against Ogres.
Othwerwise I agree with what ProphetSword said.