Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sorcery 101 - Thoughts of the Journeyman Caster Part 3 by Gerald "Gray" Chartier

[Editor's note: For a recap, please check out the previously published Part 1 and Part 2]



Builds

The dedicated sorcerer is the most potent of mages.  However, while specialization has its virtues, so does versatility.  An intelligent Sorcerer seeks out spells that supplement his abilities.
Sorcery is a good path to take if you’re looking to play a fighty caster.  The spells have obvious combat utility, and are valuable regardless of how many paths you pursue.

If you’re playing a 1-Path sorcerer, you’re not going too far away from playing a fighter.  You can wield a hand-and-a-half vs shield and Florentine fighters, and against pike and great weapon fighters, you can step out of their range and chuck magic missile props at them.  You also have protection you don’t need to go looking for a blacksmith to renew.  Having Magic Missile is also nice because it gives you a ranged attack you can carry in your pocket, unlike bows or javelins.  Bows have better range, but involve a lot of bulk, between the bow itself and the quiver of arrows, and are harder to swap out to on the fly.

Having one path of Sorcery, you’re probably going to just take the path straight up, probably with Implement for the Armored Cloak buff.  The only likely buy-down would be to sack Cantrip for Heal Limb.

One path of Sorcery can be a good supplement to one or two paths of something else (or two different paths of something else for that matter).  Most other Paths have limited-casting spells, so having Sorcery could be nice to give you some toys to play with for a whole event.  That said, that path of Sorcery is competing against archery.  Instead of being a 3-Path with a path of Sorcery, you could play a 2-Path and wield a bow.  I’m not myself an archer, but from being a member of Mayerling, I know a thing or two about the utility of wielding a bow.  It’s a pretty strong argument for remaining a 2-Path.

Two Paths of sorcery is pretty sexy, for the obvious reason, but if you’re going to do that, I don’t see much compelling reason not to pick up a Path of something else while you’re at it.  Awesome as archery is, the main challenge for both archers and 2-Path sorcerers is prop management – you have to recover all your projectiles.  Managing a bow, arrows, a 3-foot, magic missile props and your Lightning Bolt all at once would be a nightmare.

Speaking of prop management, while it’s certainly tempting to go whole hog and use your 6th Circle slots to get more Magic Missile castings, I don’t really recommend it.  For one, you can get some useful stuff via Familiar or even 6th Circle Regional.  For another, tracking down 8 Magic Missile props after every skirmish would be an epic headache.

Going up the path twice, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Circle are all likely buy-down slots.  2nd Circle only lets you buy down for Pool spells, but it lets you go for some useful utility spells.

3rd Circle is likely to wind up being Heal Limb, but if you’re getting it from Healing organically, there are other possibilities.  I’ve been running with Deathwatch, but the next time I grandfather my character I’m going to go for Repair Item, and swap out my 6th Circle Regional for another casting of Familiar to get Mystic Forge.  Mayerling hits all the war events, and the armor repair will be of more help to the team I’m on.

For 4th Circle, I’ve considered a second casting of Armored Cloak so I can wrap my noggin with a protective bandanna, but doing what I do, I’m a lot more apt to get hit with arrows or pikes than I am to take a head shot, so I bought down.  If I didn’t already have a path of Healer, I might be tempted to take Raise Dead.  As I do, I run with Protect the Soul.  PtS isn’t useful at every event, but when it is useful, it’s very very useful.  Plus, Gray is neck-deep in the Folkestone war-in-Hell plot, which makes having Protect the Soul seem like an important safeguard against wacky plot shenanigans.
If you’ve got your two paths of Sorcery and you’re looking at a complimentary path, there’s a lot to choose from.  I run a path of Healing – I actually went up the Healer path first, because I reasoned there can never be too many Healers on the field.  I don’t regret my decision, but it does have a tendency to make me a bit schizophrenic when out on the field – I’m splitting time between pushing forward to throw down on opponents and getting the heck away from anybody with a weapon so I can cast Raise Dead.  It is occasionally nice to be able to step back from the action, chill in one place, and still be helping out by casting Raises with my Circle of Healing.

Abjurer is a good pick for combining with Sorcery into the ultimate combat-casting combo.  Being able to break wards and circles, disenchant spells, and shrug off magical effects seems to synergize nicely with the offense/defense of Sorcery.  However, the spells are not unlimited-casting, so you’d want to be careful managing your magical resources.

There’s something to be said for a path of Alchemy.  You’d be making and distributing (possibly selling) your batch of potions at the beginning of the event, then be active doing that voodoo Sorcerers do so well.

Assassin’s 5th and 6th Circle spells don’t really do much to synergize with Sorcery, because they’re all about enhancing your weapon swings, and as a 2-Path Sorcerer you don’t really actually swing your weapon very often.  The lower-tier spells have some utility though – Feign Death can get you out of a sticky situation, and Shapeshift can let you pull some entertaining skullduggery behind the enemy skirmish line.

Blacksmith can have some decent utility with Sorcery.  Pop an Enchant Armor on your favorite fighter, and buy down for Heal Limb, and you can keep him or her in action while making yourself useful with your projectiles.  Also, Mystic Forge is a 3-point option for Familiar, which synergizes nicely with Repair Item.

I’ve often thought Sorcery and Channeling would go together like Lucy and Ethel.  Channeler is also full of unlimited-casting spells, and the single-casting spells are spells you’re only likely to need to cast once per event, like Protect the Soul and Divine Aid.  It’d give you a deep bag of tricks to pull out on that front line.

Necromancy – if only you could go FOUR paths!  That said, I’d have a lot of fun with the ability to make someone an Undead General and then have that person hit three other PCs with Create Lesser Undead.  Imagine having your own personal goon squad that can be raised unlimited times out on the quest!  I’d probably hit another caster or an archer with the Undead General spell so they can be fighting while not on the front line.  A lot of PCs have strong feelings about Necromancy though, so be careful of how freely you use this trick.

You could double-down on questing and take a path of Seer.  Having that assist to help you with puzzles and plot clues while simultaneously being able to take down NPCs with your projectiles would make you the ultimate questing caster.  However, the shtick is heavily specialized towards questing and would be less useful on non-quests.

At first blush, Shaman doesn’t seem to have much to offer a Sorcerer, but look again.  Through Familiar, you can get Circle of Protection to protect you against enchanted beings.  Fighters coming at you?  Transmute Self.  Don’t get it off quite in time?  Regeneration.

Fighting with Sorcery

Let your foes tremble, for with your magic, you can strike down all those who oppose you!

Sorcerers have a unique fighting style in Realms – thrown projectiles.  Yes, there are javelins, but those are fairly unwieldy and are not widely used – the only person I can think of who regularly uses one is Abe Passardi/Ranger.  Magic Missile grants projectiles one can carry in a pocket, and are more difficult to deflect with a weapon.  It’s also magic-weapon on demand, which is occasionally important.  The main downside to Sorcery is managing the props.  The more you take the spell, the more props you have to throw, but also the more you have to keep track of.  One could theoretically carry as many as 12 MM props if one wants to forgo Lightning Bolt, but rounding up of all those props would be a nightmare – especially at night.  Four MM props and my L-bolt are about all I care to try and keep track of, and even then they occasionally go missing.  Have spares handy in your car or tent.

I’ve seen a lot of different Magic Missile props.  One player uses plush spiders, another foam throwing knives.  Many players use beanbags of one sort or another.  Me, I use homemade foam-and-tape props.  They’re a little crude looking, but they have their upsides.  One is they’re easier to find.  I used white duct tape, the same as required for Lightning Bolt.  White stands out better against any background I’m likely to be looking for them in than any other color.  They’re also easier to find at night, which I greatly enhance by taping little glow sticks into recesses in the sides I cut in for exactly that purpose.

Also, the round shape has its advantages.  While they are more apt to get kicked further than other people’s props, they’ll also keep going when they hit the ground.  This lets me try and get them under shields by bowling them along the ground.  They’re live until they stop moving, so it gives me a chance to leg an opposing shield fighter.  Take away their mobility, and fighters are a lot easier to deal with.

Once the sorcerer gets up to Lightning Bolt, he becomes a force to be reckoned with, but shouldn’t go around swaggering like he can replace a fighter.  A sorcerer is better equipped to step into a gap in the battle line than most spellcasters, but he’s still better off behind fighters or off to the flank.
That said, a sorcerer with Lightning Bolt can often hold that gap for short periods of time based solely on the threat of the Lightning Bolt.  The Bolt is at its most powerful when it’s still in the sorcerer’s hand.  Once its thrown, opponents can try and deal with it, but before it’s thrown they have to respect the danger it represents.  Faking a throw can create an opening for a fighter to exploit if your target buys the fake and commits to blocking it.

With either the Magic Missile or the Lightning Bolt, timing your throw is very important.  If you throw when your target has his weapon in a ready position, he’s going to try and deflect the incoming projectile.  You can try and make it harder with underhand throws, but underhand is less accurate, and not always possible if there are fighters in front of you.  The time to throw is when your target is committing to a swing.  That’s when he’s least likely to be able to recover in time to block your shot, and so therefore when you’re most likely to get in a kill shot.  Throw a little low when you throw at someone committing to the swing, because they often lean forward when they do so, and you don’t want to hit them in the face.

Also bear in mind you don’t personally have to kill each and every target you throw at.  If you have friendly fighters squaring up against your target, you can help them out a lot by going for the legs.  It’s a lot easier for your friendly fighters to kill their opponent if you take away his mobility.  Also watch out for great weapons and pikes.  If you take an arm from someone wielding one, they can’t attack with it.

A target to especially go for if one presents himself is a support caster.  As a Sorcerer, you tend to be better positioned to spot and do something about them than a player with any other build.  Fighters with a support caster are basically rocking extra lives – you do a lot more good taking them all away by waxing the caster than you do popping one of the fighters, only to have the caster get her back up again.

Positioning-wise, I find it’s best to get to the flanks when it’s feasible to do so.  This gives the opposition a predicament – pay attention to the Sorcerer to their side or the fighter right in front of them?  Plus, a missed throw might hit another opponent in the line, and a hit is less likely to bounce at your allies (this is an issue because your projectiles are live until they stop moving).  Also, it gives you a better angle on shield fighters – a good shield is pretty much a hard counter to Sorcery’s offense.  So, you want to get side shots whenever possible.  Just don’t push your luck too far, because if you get too far away from your fighters, you wind up easy pickings for a fighter, especially one with a shield.

The quality of your Lightning Bolt prop is obviously very important.  I saw a number of different props at Folkestone Questing this year, and most of them didn’t seem to throw very well.  I’m on my third prop.  The first one was extremely crude, and being front heavy had a tendency to nose in sharply and have the back kick up.  This was occasionally useful because targets wouldn’t be expecting it and get hit by the back end.

The second I commissioned from Ben Grant.  It flew very well and looked great, but it only lasted me a few events, because Lbolt props get stepped on a lot, and it eventually cracked all the way through.
My current prop I made based on what I learned from those first two.  I based on Ben’s, with foam covering the front two thirds or so, a small section unfoamed to grip it, and foaming on the back to support the fins and also counterbalance the weight so it flies straight, which it does very well.  It’s built around a golf tube, so it’s sturdy – it got bent at a 90-degree angle at Queen of Hearts, but snapped right back into place when it wasn’t being crammed against a fence in a fight.  It’s heavy, but even that’s a virtue – makes it harder to block, because it takes more force to deflect it off course.  If you’ve ever seen that ICBM I tote around, you’re aware it has huge fins.  I didn’t stick those on to help its flight characteristics.  Quite frankly, I put those on to abuse the fact that the fins are also legal striking surfaces.  However, because of them, I can actually throw the prop ass-end first, and if I throw it high enough, it will right itself in flight and continue on nose-first.  I didn’t intend for it to be able to do that, but it’s neat that it can.  They also have secondary advantages – I can fan myself with the prop, or keep the sun out of my face with it.

And that, gentle friends, is the sum total of my wisdom regarding Sorcery.  Take it for what it’s worth.  Hopefully it was at least entertaining, and maybe it’ll help some folks be more effective playing sorcerers.

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