Spell Balance Issues

         A potential issue for Buffy GMs is balance issues for the effects of Drama Points on spell use. GMs may be rudely surprised at the catastrophic effect of a Drama Point on spell use. For example, the Beginner Witch template casts the sample spell ("Bolt of Apollo", p145) to damage a vampire and spends a Drama Point. Her roll is 11+10+1d10 = average of 26, meaning 7 successes. The damage is then (Willpower x 2) for each success, or 4x2x7 or 56 points of damage (!). A designed PC might easily have Willpower 5 or 6 (high but still human), for average damage of 96!! For comparison, the Master has 90 Life Points. Of course, he could spend a Drama Point to halve the damage, but it is still an awful lot of damage.

         To some degree, this is the priviledge of being a witch. You can't do this very often, and it costs a Drama Point which could also be used to do other very powerful effects. Still, it is an issue to be wary of. Regardless of Sorcery levels, nearly any spell up to Lightning Bolt and Rat-ification can be cast by spending a Drama Point. If the PC above had the Lightning Bolt spell (i.e. standard Awesome effect damage), this would do (6x5x8) or 240 points of damage on average.

         Here are a few options if balance is a problem in your game:

  1. Limit spell learning
    Damaging spells like Bolt of Apollo and Lightning Bolt should not be given out lightly if at all.
  2. Require spell targetting rolls
    As an optional rule, you could require that a witch make a Dexterity + Occult + Sorcery roll to target certain spells. There is some precedent for this on the show: Buffy has dodged or even reflected back spells which were aimed at her. Since you can only use a Drama Point on a single roll per turn, a witch must choose whether to spend it on the casting or on the targetting.
  3. Cause drawbacks for dark magic use
    The sixth season showed that "dark" magic use could cause psychological and mystical problems for the caster.


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John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Mon Nov 4 14:54:57 2002