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Author Topic: Another sorcery variation....  (Read 8802 times)
Stephen
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Posts: 172


« on: October 17, 2002, 07:34:18 AM »

One of the things I don't like about TROS sorcery, at least from the point of view of a player, is that even with the extra dice from Spiritual-Attribute-motivated spells it's quite hard to resist aging; sorcerers should have at least some freedom to cut loose with raging floods of power without burning up to a year of their life.  So I propose the following variation:

Instead of aging months with failed aging resistance rolls, a sorcerer accumulates points of Strain; for every month he would have aged in the normal system through magic use, he acquires a point of Strain in the same way.  All sorcerers now have an additional Derived Attribute called Capacity, which equals TO x 3 -- this is the maximum Strain they can take without aging.  Once their Strain rises past their Capacity, they suffer aging:  1 month for every point of Strain over Capacity, with knockout rolls as usual.

Strain can be eliminated by rest and meditation.  Resting while conscious and relaxing (not travelling, working hard or fighting) eliminates 1 Strain point per hour; meditating in trance (successful WP/Meditation roll) eliminates 2 Strain per hour.  A restful night's sleep (at least four uninterrupted hours) eliminates all Strain.

What this does is essentially create a "buffer" of points that still provides a limit to the most excessive uses of sorcery while still freeing up sorcerers to have more fun with their powers, and not requiring them to either parsimoniously count out TNs or use magic only for the most soul-crucial tasks.

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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2002, 07:39:06 AM »

Stephen-

Depending on what you're trying to accomplish with your game this is either unneccessary OR a really great idea. It depends on your goals.

If you want magic to be used in greater quantities and qualities with less punishment (as some folks do) then this is a wonderful way of doing that. If you want magic to be painful (which I do), then I'd leave things as-is.

Have you played the sorcery section as-is? I assume so, but if not, it would certainly be worth a try. If so, then I assume that these mods and questions you have are all trying to tweak it to your liking (something I heartily approve of).

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Stephen
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2002, 08:06:41 AM »

Quote from: Jake Norwood
If you want magic to be used in greater quantities and qualities with less punishment (as some folks do) then this is a wonderful way of doing that. If you want magic to be painful (which I do), then I'd leave things as-is.


I agree wholeheartedly with the magic-as-painful-exertion philosophy, and with the note that it's written this way to encourage players to bring their Spiritual Attributes into play (I don't agree with Ron Edwards about everything, but that essay was great).

What's kind of stifling about the system as it's written (for me anyway, YMMV) is that there's no margin for error and no way to undo mistakes -- once you age a month you can't ever regain it, and all but the most cautious and slow spells are likely to cost you something you can't ever regain.  (Especially if you're a teenager.  Can you imagine going through puberty AND accelerating your aging through inexpert magic at the same time?  Ow.)  This way, sorcerers still have to be cautious, but they can go on a "spending spree" once in a while that doesn't permanently cost them, and that doesn't require absolute perfection without mercy.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2002, 08:36:54 AM »

Hi there,

I'd like to emphasize something I didn't make explicit in the essay I contributed to the rules, and I wish I had.

Spiritual Attribute bonuses apply to rolls, not to pools. This means that if you have a Sorcery Pool and you split it in half, one-half for the spell and one-half to resist aging, then the SA bonus for this action can apply to each half in full.

For a full-on balls-to-the-wall, really-mean-it moment of sorcery, that's twenty-five extra dice to each roll. Now for the key point: don't split the pool into halves, after all. Say your Sorcery pool is (um) 9 dice. Put one whole die into the spell and save eight for aging.

Now look: 1 + 25 = 26 dice for the spell, and 8 + 25 = 33 against the successes of the first roll (which is damn well gonna be less than 26). See? Sorcery gets lots less risky when the character cares, and the better your pool, the more reliable this trick is, just as it should be.

Spells in TROS are not any-use tools - they are expressions of passion. The sorcerers who wanna play ego-games and blow up stuff all 'round for trivial reasons are the ones who shrivel up, whereas the ones who have focused and scary passions will live long, effective, and world-changing lives.

Best,
Ron
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Ashren Va'Hale
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2002, 09:15:49 AM »

Another option to lessen the Danger of magic is to allow the use of dice to resist aging without "expending" those dice. In other words if I have an SP of 9 and cast a spell with 2 dice I can resist with 7. Then my SP would be 7 until I refresh either normally or in another modification at a slower rate than normal.
Im tired so that may not make sense, let me know.
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Bob Richter
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2002, 10:55:31 AM »

Quote from: Stephen
One of the things I don't like about TROS sorcery, at least from the point of view of a player, is that even with the extra dice from Spiritual-Attribute-motivated spells it's quite hard to resist aging; sorcerers should have at least some freedom to cut loose with raging floods of power without burning up to a year of their life.  So I propose the following variation:

Instead of aging months with failed aging resistance rolls, a sorcerer accumulates points of Strain; for every month he would have aged in the normal system through magic use, he acquires a point of Strain in the same way.  All sorcerers now have an additional Derived Attribute called Capacity, which equals TO x 3 -- this is the maximum Strain they can take without aging.  Once their Strain rises past their Capacity, they suffer aging:  1 month for every point of Strain over Capacity, with knockout rolls as usual.

Strain can be eliminated by rest and meditation.  Resting while conscious and relaxing (not travelling, working hard or fighting) eliminates 1 Strain point per hour; meditating in trance (successful WP/Meditation roll) eliminates 2 Strain per hour.  A restful night's sleep (at least four uninterrupted hours) eliminates all Strain.

What this does is essentially create a "buffer" of points that still provides a limit to the most excessive uses of sorcery while still freeing up sorcerers to have more fun with their powers, and not requiring them to either parsimoniously count out TNs or use magic only for the most soul-crucial tasks.

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I don't like it.

A month of your life, or even 12, isn't a very serious penalty, unless it means you're missing out on your childhood.

TROS seems to assume that every being has a pool of life-force, and that that pool can be drained (thus the shortening of your life) but that it cannot be regained once spent.

Basically, you're allowing folks to cast spells (even some serious mojo) without penalty.

Also, consider how magic can make you appear or even feel young. Sure, you can't reverse time, but aging isn't a matter of time. It's a biochemical process. As such, it can be reversed with sufficient energy applied in the correct fashion.
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Stephen
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2002, 02:22:25 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Spiritual Attribute bonuses apply to rolls, not to pools. This means that if you have a Sorcery Pool and you split it in half, one-half for the spell and one-half to resist aging, then the SA bonus for this action can apply to each half in full.

For a full-on balls-to-the-wall, really-mean-it moment of sorcery, that's twenty-five extra dice to each roll. Now for the key point: don't split the pool into halves, after all. Say your Sorcery pool is (um) 9 dice. Put one whole die into the spell and save eight for aging.

Now look: 1 + 25 = 26 dice for the spell, and 8 + 25 = 33 against the successes of the first roll (which is damn well gonna be less than 26). See? Sorcery gets lots less risky when the character cares, and the better your pool, the more reliable this trick is, just as it should be.

Spells in TROS are not any-use tools - they are expressions of passion. The sorcerers who wanna play ego-games and blow up stuff all 'round for trivial reasons are the ones who shrivel up, whereas the ones who have focused and scary passions will live long, effective, and world-changing lives.


Thanks for the correction, but I think it's a little misleading, for the following reasons:

1)  How often do you find somebody who has managed to achieve 5s in all 5 SAs?  Between spending SAs to get better at other things, and between the inevitable losses that come with the normal reversals of playing (as an effective Seneschal should be doing), I think it far likelier that you'll have somebody with a series of 1s, 2s, and 3s, with the very occasional 4.  Much like most people in real life, for that matter.

2)  How often does any situation merit the application of every SA you possess?  Damn few, would be my guess; and this applies across the board, not just to sorcerers.

The potential for using SAs to improve sorcery rolls is truly scary at its upper end, yes.  But its day-to-day potential is far less in practice, especially given that aging rolls require you to beat not just an Aging TN but to get that many successes, as well.

Moreover, it doesn't make sense when considered from an in-world viewpoint.  It's perfectly feasible for a starting sorcerer in TROS to have Mastery in up to 4 Vagaries, if he buys Priority A for Proficiencies.  Given that this should theoretically involve a lot of training and practice, the majority of which situations can't logically call upon SAs to the degree above, shouldn't those starting sorcerers have a s***load of aging already accumulated?  The fact that they don't suggests to me that there must be some way to work magic without aging at all, or very little, on a consistent basis.

I guess what I'm saying is that to me there should be two levels of magic.  The huge, world-wrecking (and adventure-wrecking) kind shouldn't be usable without the level of passion you describe.  But day-to-day practical sorcery shouldn't be something you have to sacrifice two to three months of your life on per shot, either.  If sorcery is meant to be a rare and terrifying thing, that's taken care of by the rarity of sorcerers in general, isn't it?  Seneschals should be cautioned to only allow one sorcerer per party at most.
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Lyrax
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2002, 02:35:21 PM »

If you're going to make a Strain attribute or something, don't make it TOx3.  My sorceror would have a Strain of 15 (TO of 5... most sorcerors have high TO because it factors into SP), and thus could cast a 15 TN spell without aging a month.  I don't like that.

If it were a small buffer, such as TO or (TO+ST)/2 or Draw, Discipline (the most useless derived statistics) or something similar, then I might buy that.  Easy spells (TN 1-5) could easily be cast with no aging, but harder, more powerful spells should always have a consequence (that's why they should be avoided!)

Sorcerors can cast spells as Spells of Three, if they aren't in a rush.  This allows not only a bunch of extra dice, but also allows the sorceror to lower the TN by one or two with gestures and dialogue (which is a misleading term, because he isn't speaking to anyone, so it's monologue, but oh well).  This means that, prior to his adventuring life, the sorceror hasn't cast many (if any) spells above TN 5 or 6, and then may have used most of his pool to resist aging.  This would explain why some sorcerors have very little unnatural aging to begin with.
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Lance Meibos
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2002, 02:42:18 PM »

Hi Stephen,

It's interesting that you're beginning with a concept of what a sorcerer is, then identifying where the system is inconsistent with that concept, rather than working from the system and seeing what behaviors/practices of sorcery are most effective or consistent within that.

First, and least important, I don't see the most successful sorcerer characters placing Vagaries as their A category. Experience with longer-term TROS play has led me to think that a character does very well to set Proficiencies/Vagaries at a lower category and work them up through in-play improvement. Therefore both spell-relevant attributes and CTN-affecting skills can be more reliable than most discussion on this forum seems to take into account. Also, doing this means sorcerers can be made who are pretty good at lots of stuff besides magic - when these guys bulk up their Vagaries through experience, look out.

Second, everything I said about firing with 25 extra dice also applies to(say) 10 SA dice total. If my Pool is 6, and I get those 10 dice for each roll, then I can have 11 on the spell roll and 15 on the aging roll; if I rack that Pool up to (say) 12 through experience, then it's 11 on the spell roll and 21 on the aging roll if I'm using the same tactic. Not bad!

Third, I think the very concept of "day to day" sorcery is not especially consistent with TROS magic as written. People are so used to the idea of the levels-based magic in traditional role-playing, that they begin to take it as an assumption that "magic works that way," with smaller and less harmful spells being taught, and working up to massive and dangerous magic later. I suggest instead that magic in TROS ... is massive and dangerous. Learning it would involve a lot of practice with "dead" ammunition, so to speak, and unleashing it for real is a matter of grave import and nothing to do with "day to day" concerns.

Fourth, I think that an all-sorcerer or nearly-all-sorcerer game would be just the ticket for a great game, specifically because wyverns will be summoned, the dead will rise to fight, and cities will be destroyed. Your admonition to suppress this possibility sounds to me as if you might fear "losing" something as GM. Perhaps that something is really not so terrible to lose.

Best,
Ron
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Brian Leybourne
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« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2002, 02:45:09 PM »

Quote from: Stephen
especially given that aging rolls require you to beat not just an Aging TN but to get that many successes, as well.


That's a nice little nutshell description of the true nastiness of the aging effect in TROS sorcery.. the more powerful a spell, the worse the aging is, EXPONENTIALLY - A higher CTN not only means a higher TN to avoid aging, but also more successes needed.. a double whammy.

And that's a good thing - otherwise sorcerers would be throwing huge world-shattering spells around all the time. This way, they have to pick their spells carefully, keep the TN's as low as possible, and - as Ron said - bring SA's into play as much as possible.

This answers your question as to how sorcerers who have high vagaries could have not aged much - SA's and caution. Madmen who run about throwing big flashy spells don't last long in TROS.

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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Lyrax
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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2002, 02:50:59 PM »

I wouldn't say that they don't last long... after all, they are most of the very select group of ROS PCs that die of... (shudder) old age.
:-)
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Lance Meibos
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Brian Leybourne
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« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2002, 02:58:55 PM »

Unless they cast the very special ritual from OBAM that'll give them.. err.. 523 extra years (I think.. that's from memory).

Of course, there is a drawback or two... ;-)

[edit]
Actually, I should note at this point that this ritual is not actually "canon" TROS - it's from a section of the book that is "unofficial"
[/edit]

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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RPG Books: Of Beasts and Men, The Flower of Battle, The TROS Companion
Stephen
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« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2002, 03:33:30 PM »

Hey Ron,

I appreciate you taking the time to explain this to me; I do like the game, I just have these little quibbles that trouble me, and I appreciate your patience.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Everything I said about firing with 25 extra dice also applies to(say) 10 SA dice total. If my Pool is 6, and I get those 10 dice for each roll, then I can have 11 on the spell roll and 15 on the aging roll; if I rack that Pool up to (say) 12 through experience, then it's 11 on the spell roll and 21 on the aging roll if I'm using the same tactic. Not bad!


Again, this assumes you're in a situation where all of your SAs apply.  I have trouble even imagining such a situation for most characters, let alone assuming it can occur at least once every session -- and it reduces players of sorcerers to rules-lawyering CTN-jugglers waiting desperately for the Seneschal to give them a situation in which they can cut loose and shine, not terrifying wielders of the forces of the universe.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I think the very concept of "day to day" sorcery is not especially consistent with TROS magic as written. People are so used to the idea of the levels-based magic in traditional role-playing, that they begin to take it as an assumption that "magic works that way," with smaller and less harmful spells being taught, and working up to massive and dangerous magic later. I suggest instead that magic in TROS ... is massive and dangerous. Learning it would involve a lot of practice with "dead" ammunition, so to speak, and unleashing it for real is a matter of grave import and nothing to do with "day to day" concerns.


This reminds me of something Larry Niven once said:  "Psi/magic powers, if real, are nearly useless.  Over the long history of humanity we would otherwise have done something with them."

"No day-to-day sorcery" is an atmospheric tradition left over from TROS's pulp antecedents, where sorcerers were always rare, mysterious, never understood and hideously powerful.  But the impression one always gets upon visiting these sorcerers' lairs is that in the lairs and in the sorcerer's daily life, magic WAS a common thing.  That, after all, is all "magic" is: something somebody else knows how to do that you don't.  And the magical traditions of the real world weren't about cataclysmic power used on sparse, crucial occasions to serve overwhelming purpose; they were about daily practice, philosophical understanding, steady expansion of ability and quieter, longer-term desires for understanding.  Yet even the best CTN-juggler will gradually lose a month or two every week, if he tries to use TROS magic this way; the odds inevitably catch up with him.

It's not that I disagree with the vision of TROS' magic or the way it works in general, it's just that as it is it's almost too restrictive -- and there is absolutely no margin for error or ability to regenerate from a casting that isn't perfect.  

I think that's what really bugs me.  Every bit of supporting prose about magic emphasizes its power, its versatility, how TROS magic is "raw power, unshackled" -- but the actual rules only really reward using it in the most conservative and careful manner possible, and any TROS sorcerer who tries to use magic as if it really was the raw power the book says it is winds up aging into frailty.  That's far from "unshackled" in my book.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2002, 06:45:40 PM »

Hi Stephen,

Actually, it's your patience I'm appreciating. I was afraid my last post was too patronizing.

Let's hash out this all-SA's thing a wee bit more. In my last example, I specified that 10 SA points were being employed (to get away from the all-at-5 assumption). I think you're mistaking me to say that all five SA's are being employed. In fact, those 10 points don't even have to be coming from all 5 SA's.

Let me illustrate. Say Van Helminck, a made-up-this-instant sorcerer character, currently has Destiny 3, Passion 2, Luck 5, Conscience 1, and Faith 2. This is a pretty standard profile for a TROS PC who's been SA-active session after session, without deliberately "lining them all up."

OK, he's all busy with some conflict. Say ... oh, two of his SA's can be involved. (Which is not at all hard to imagine; arguably, a mindful TROS player will simply angle hard toward conflicts which involve his or her SA's anyway, and a mindful GM is pumping SA-relevant plot hooks at them constantly; otherwise, what's the point?) Say they're Destiny and Faith, for 5 points. Cool! The very act of using those two SA's, in this situation, nets him at least one more point per SA (see the rules!), quite likely more. Let's call it three added total.

Next action: that's 8 points for using these two SA's again, and this time the player spends 2 Luck - bam! 10 points, as in my example.

Next action? Why look, both of those SA's have gone up friggin' again, and let's call it three total again! That would be 11 total, except that they max at 5, so now he's got 10 points total just from them. H'm, could he wangle his Conscience into the situation, depending on what it is? If his Passion is consistent with his Faith, maybe that's in there two. And he still has those three points of Luck if he needs them.

My point? Ten SA dice isn't very hard to get, even if you're using only two of your SA's, not all five. I also suggest that a mindful player can line up four or five SA's without terrible trouble - certainly, not for a "stupid goblin leaps from bushes" encounter, but definitely when it counts, emotionally.

Also, if a sorcerer is flinging around 15-dice and 20-dice pool rolls around, then he's almost sure to get the "best roll" Luck point bonus most sessions, so sorcerer Luck tends to be pretty high.

You wrote,
"No day-to-day sorcery" is an atmospheric tradition left over from TROS's pulp antecedents, where sorcerers were always rare, mysterious, never understood and hideously powerful. But the impression one always gets upon visiting these sorcerers' lairs is that in the lairs and in the sorcerer's daily life, magic WAS a common thing. That, after all, is all "magic" is: something somebody else knows how to do that you don't. And the magical traditions of the real world weren't about cataclysmic power used on sparse, crucial occasions to serve overwhelming purpose; they were about daily practice, philosophical understanding, steady expansion of ability and quieter, longer-term desires for understanding. Yet even the best CTN-juggler will gradually lose a month or two every week, if he tries to use TROS magic this way; the odds inevitably catch up with him."

I'd like to examine this claim in detail. (1) Studying magic and practicing magic do not have to be defined as casting magic, in TROS terms. This is a very difficult concept for people - that guy's "doing magic," right? That means a spell roll, right? Wrong. He's working up his Ritual skill; he's working up his Language skill; he's working up his Vagary total. None of this presupposes that he's casting real magic at any point.

(1') Perhaps he does actually cast a spell as "practice," once in a while - trying out a Formalized spell in the best conditions, taking huge CTN reductions for casting time, using the best materials in the most relaxed conditions, putting eensy amounts of his pool into the spell-casting and reserving the lion's share for the aging resistance. But remember: nothing about the TROS rules says that you must cast a spell successfully in order to build your sorcery Vagaries higher. That's a BRP rule; it ain't in TROS.

(2) What source material are you actually talking about? Let's toss out all RPG-based assumptions, immediately: no modules, adventure scenarios, or fiction based on RPGs - poof. Let's also toss out all B-movies like Ator and so on. Let's hop back to the real pulp fiction: Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and Fritz Leiber; we can also include their true heirs, like Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Michael Moorcock, and Karl Edward Wagner. L. Sprague deCamp and Lin Carter are emphatically not invited. Looking at these works, most of the day-to-day sorcery is actually technology: drugs, alchemy/chemistry, and hypnotism. When magic gets used, huge catacombs to Otherworlds yawn open, reality twists and bends, the distinction between past and present fades, and huge friggin' entities wreak enormous havoc. That day-to-day stuff you're referencing doesn't look like "magic in action" to me, but rather study, reflection, and preparation.

I am not sure at all what you mean by magic traditions "of the real world," which frankly mean absolutely nothing to TROS. It's based on the literature I mention, not on mumbledy-babble historical occultism or doddering soothsayers or reading cards.

Anyway, this is an interesting conversation. Again, I'm hoping that it's enjoyable and I'm not aggravating you.

Best,
Ron
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Mayhem1979
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« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2002, 07:07:35 PM »

It's actually not as "limited" as you seem to think...  If your looking for relatively low CTN spells with a really big bang, you can cause a kiloton-level event from a good mile away with a simple movement spell and a big rock.  T-1, R-1, V-3, D-0, V-3 = 8... minus 1 or two for gestures and w have a spell with a TN of 6 or 7 that can litterally flatten a decent sized city from miles away.

... or use a pebble, lower your tn by a further two and have something thats equivalent to a plasma cannon.   And you have a spell with a CTN of 4 or 5 that can take out a good chunck of an army... or turn a giant in full plate into giblets...

Or if you want to spendsome time on a big spell, you can do some summoing/imprisoning and make a few magical items that out can use whenever you feel like a little or no cost.  Liek a sword with a movement spell attached to increase the power of your swings, make it easier to handle... or simply make it invisible to your enemies with a glamour... the possibilities are more or less limitless and they're a one-time expenditure if you do it right.
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