Thursday, November 14, 2013

Imbuement Skills in Play So Far

Sometime real soon now I hope to write an article on the effectiveness of Mystic Knights in Dungeon Fantasy. I've only seen one Mystic Knight in play, so I don't feel I have as good a grasp of the template as I do with knights, swashbucklers, or other templates that I've played a couple of times and seen a couple of different people play.

I do have some experience with some Imbuement skills, based on playing Shiba, my semi-sorta Mystic Knight. Here's a preliminary evaluation, based on my experience so far.

Very Often Useful

These are Imbuments I find myself using the most, and that I'm moving toward thinking that just about every Mystic Knight should have.
  • Arching Shot - Arching shot eliminates penalties for cover that isn't overhead cover. Allies standing between the Mystic Knight and target are cover. It is amazingly worth 1FP to be able to make an attack from a bad position and not have to worry about missing the target and accidentally clobbering an ally instead. The -2 to the target's defense is just a happy bonus at that point.
  • Guided Weapon - Removing the range penalties for a ranged attack is huge. Shiba uses a bow as his primary ranged weapon, and while he's no where near as good a shot at close range as the delving band's scout, Shiba is a better shot past about 50 yards. This might be less useful for short ranged Mystic Knights (axe throwers, for instance) but 1 FP for an effective +5 to hit at 15 yards is a good deal.
  • Penetrating Strike - Armor Divisors are a good thing.
  • Telescoping Weapon - I almost didn't take this for Shiba, but I'm glad I accidentally did and didn't fix the mistake. In any game with a lot of detailed combat, the ability to extend or retract reach by 2 hexes is amazing. With this and the Sacrificial Parry perk, I can also defend for allies within 4-5 yards, which means I can defend the relative squishes without needing to be close enough to invite area effect attacks.
  • Widen Shield - Shiba doesn't use this because he has an artifact shield that blocks area attacks, but if he didn't have that shield, this would be his most commonly used defensive imbuement. Usually, the only way to defend against an area attack is a Retreat, and if the defender is deep within the area attack, there might not be a safe place to retreat. Widen Shield lets the defender block instead, without having to give up precious ground. Any Mystic Knight with a shield should take this imbument.

Sometimes Useful

These are Imbuements that I've used, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped I would.
  • Annihilating Weapon - It took literally 10 sessions before I had a chance to use this. It isn't useful if most of your foes are attacking unarmed. However, the ability to literally disarm karatekas and other "armed" unarmed attackers is just great, as well as forcing mooks to dodge instead of using their superior parry and having their weapons destroyed.
  • Bank Shot - I can see how this would be useful, but Arching Shot is more generally useful in my opinion. If I had to go for one or the other, I'd go with Arching Shot. 
  • Far Shot - Archers and crossbowmen generally have plenty of range and don't need this enhancement. Thrown weapon users often have limited weapon ranges, and multiplying a thrown axe range by 2 or 5 is pretty useful, especially when combined with Guided Shot to remove the ranged penalties.
  • Ghostly Weapon  - This is a lifesaver if there are a lot of insubstantial foes, and not useful otherwise. I still wish I had taken it.
  • Scattershot -1d of fragmentation damage is too little against anyone with armor; 2d of fragmentation damage occurs in a 10 yard radius and means that you might accidentally hit friendlies. The couple of times I've used it, the bad guys were too scattered for it to be effective. However, as a fight opener against a bunch of clustered enemies at range, fragmentation damage is amazing so this imbuement is worth the investment.
  • Multishot - Any high skill ranged attacker (like a Scout/Mystic Archer) should definitely take this imbuement and turn all their attacks into machine guns. My character only has Bow-14 so I haven't picked this up yet.
  • Shockwave and Conic Blast - Area effect damage is amazing against diffuse foes, but the melee version of Shockwave can hit allies so it's less useful. The rapid fall-off in damage makes Shockwave ineffective against foes that are more than a yard or so apart; Conic Blast is hard to make wide enough to hit more than a single line of foes. But still, area effect damage for 1FP beats anything that the wizard has to offer.

Seems Like They Should Be Useful but Aren't

These imbuments have been disappointments in my experience.
  • Blinding Defense - Blinding defense has two problems: the Obscure affects the user when used against melee attacks, and either way, it only lasts until the user's next turn. I spent 10 sessions waiting to use this against a missile weapon, and when I finally got a chance to do so, I was next in the initiative order and the blindness ended immediately.
  • Vampiric Weapon - My character has good enough defenses that he almost never gets hurt, so I haven't had a chance to use this much. If I had another +5 skill and a couple levels of Energy Reserve, recovering spent ER would be useful but I don't. I'd have done better to spend the points that I spent on this on Bank Shot or Ghostly Weapon.
  • Project Blow - With the short half-damage range, long recovery time, and a ruling from my GM that I can't use Ranged only imbuements on it, Project Blow tends to come a poor second to Telescoping Blow. There's usually a decent target within 4 yards, so Project Blow only extends my effective reach by +6 yards.

Not Useful

There's a bunch of Imbuements that I've never used or considered purchasing. Most of the Transformation Imbues, for instance, don't seem that useful. Or at least the drawbacks (reduced or halved damage) are severe enough that the minor benefits aren't worth it. Most of the various defensive imbuements also don't appeal to me; I may be missing something there but I always think, "there are better ways to spend my points."

Other Views

I'm hoping that other people have a different view of Imbuements, and can provide some insight from their perspective. So if you've played an Imbuement heavy character in a Dungeon Fantasy game, please share your thoughts in the comments.

And a Little Advertising

There's a new GURPS blog called Spiderweb in the Corner. I know that my link traffic is a lot less than Peter's or Doug's, but I think every bit helps for a new blogger hoping for some attention. So go check it out, please, all 70 of you =)


  1. My work around for using ranged imbuement skills is combination imbuement skills.

    Project far shot - let's you strike at a greater distance than normal with a melee attack, cost 2 FP.

    Stuuf like that.

    1. Also, reinforced weapon for my melee fighters is a life saver.
      Reinforced annihilating penetrating impaling strike + human missile = get out of the way!

    2. I hadn't considered the utility of Impaling Strike, since I tend to assume that all foes in DF will either be Homogenous, Unliving, or already dead thanks to the Scout before I get to them. Do you find that the extra damage multiplier makes up for the reduction in basic damage?

      Does Reinforced Weapon come up that much? I can see why it would be situationally useful, but the weapon breakage rules are not something that comes up a lot in actual play in my experience. At least in part because I assume everyone is using Fine Dwarven Axes for defense (I recognize this isn't a realistic assumption) and not many people use full size halberds on the offense, nor are ST120 monsters. Is your experience different?

  2. While I really like the "Effectiveness" articles, I liked this one even more. It's pure and simple "what worked and didn't work for me in game" and I always find that extremely valuable insight.

  3. As the author of the Mystic Knight, I do have a lot of data points on Imbuements in play. They may be colored by my biases, by what I put in the campaign, and by what my players like. My game is now at over 600 points after years of weekly sessions, though we started at 300, so that might color my impressions too. That said, here are some highlights:

    -Arcing Shot: The way I read it, this gets around shields, unless they are placed overhead. Given that block is the bane of archers, this is awesome.
    -Guided weapon: Awesome, though given the absurd skill levels of the weapon master/heroic archer scout/mystic knight in my games, it's getting less use lately
    -Penetrating Weapon: This, and the relatively cheap armor divisor enchantments have made me include a very cheap enchantment to provide hardened, priced exactly as fortify
    -Telescopic Weapon: Don't forget you can also use it when in close combat to cancel those crippling penalties for using too big weapons. Never leave home without it.
    -Widen shield: Awesome, and you can position yourself to protect friends behind you. I would use the shield cover DR though, even if not using the shield damage rules, because the shield explicitly provides cover. I do not require block rolls if the shield is made bigger than 1 yard
    -Annihilating Weapon: This one isn't used in my games because it destroys loot.
    -Bank Shot: This is deceptive attack for ranged weapons that doesn't lower your attack skill. You might suffer increased range penalties, but guided weapon fixes that.
    -Far shot: only useful for thrown weapons, yeah. Still, thrown axes dealing ranged swing damage are sick.
    -Ghostly Weapon: It might be because for semi-insubstantial foes that have IT: Diffuse instead of insubstantial (see flaming skulls), I let this make the attacks do full damage, or because I love having undead in my games, but my players don't leave home without this.
    -Shattershot: Not too shabby by itself, but combine it with multishot, and you can turn a mob of monsters into hamburger meat in no time. That led to me nerfing the combination, not really for it being overly effective (that it probably is) but for the sheer amount of rolling needed when you've got 10 monsters and attacks with RoF5. I make it so only the first arrow shatters. It's still a much better AOE effect against non-difuse foes than shockwave.
    -Multishot: This thing is so powerful that I even made official a Kromm forum clarification that nerfs it slightly, while adding an extra note to make swing doing ranged attacks (thrown maces, thrown axes and specially slings) even worse.
    Shockwave: As with explosion damage in general, this is something that is slightly misunderstood. In melee, it's use is for dealing with swarms and other diffuse foes, and for when you're surrounded. Remember that the floor doesn't dodge, and that you can rapid strike. With ranged attacks, it selves to make use of the internal explosions rules if you aim for an open mouth. Taking penalties to upgrade this to explosion 2 or 3 is very worthwhile.
    -Conic blast: Should be renamed line blast for all the use it has in DF. Still, it's another way to deal with shield using foes, that would otherwise block your attacks. As an area attack, your only allowed defense is dodge and drop, and that means that most foes will have to either take it like a man, or spend 2 turns getting back up. Also awesome against diffuse foes.

    [split in 2 posts, because of the 4096 character limit]

    1. [Continued from previous post]
      -Vampiric Weapon: Awesome in the hands of a melee fighter, almost useless otherwise. I also make it slightly worse by making non-living beings (constructs, undead, spirits, elelementals, some demons) immune to it. At leastr in my games, no matter what, you're going to eventually get hit and take damage, and in combat healing is hard to come by in GURPS. In combat healing that doesn't cost you actions? You might not use it every attack, but when you use it, it is a life saver.
      -Project Blow: I do not allow ranged imbuements, with the exception of far shot, apply to this either. This leads to people not taking it, so I might change it so that you can not use melee exclusive imbuements with it instead.
      -Transformation skills that change the damage type: Maybe it's me allowing the (2) AD from bodkin arrows work even when you change the damage type, but cutting strike is a fan favorite. Cutting works against (almost) everything, unlike piercing and impaling that have issues with unliving and homogeneous foes. Fatigue damage strikes (Fatiguing, Chilling and Withering) can down big monsters with loads of HP but limited Will and FP very fast. They also make short work of foes with elemental weaknesses (Burning Weapon against a Draugr's skull results in a one shot one kill situation).
      -Enhancement skills that add damage: They require building your character to take advantage of them, but with multishot or nmultistrike, they can be efficient. Stack a bunch of them with a sorce of making an attack do multiple hits, and enjoy the fireworks.
      -Defensive Imbuements that multiply DR: When you're in the area of a horrid skull or 5, or surrounded by flaming skulls, you'll like spiritual defense. When facing foes that have armor divisors, reinforce armor is godsend. Blunting armor, given the popularity of cutting damage, lets you AoA without fear of retaliation. The others are probably too situational, but given that mystic knights can spend points on the fly, to gain new imbuement skills in combat, they will save your skin more often than not.
      -Other defensive imbuements: Not so good. They might look nice and useful on paper, but in actual play, they aren't that awesome. Energizing Defense, for example, looks OMGAwesome on paper, but it really isn't. Of course, for 1 point, you might consider it worthwhile to take them just because, or you may wait until you actually need them and buy them on the fly.

    2. I see we're generally in agreement.

      Annihilating Weapon is very effective against monsters with strikers and other "armed" unarmed fighters. How often those will come up will vary by game, but it is enormously satisfying to cut off a Corpse Golem's arms on the defense. You're going to parry anyway, why not make it hurt? And there's plenty of loot that I don't mind destroying: axes, spears, and clubs don't have a $/lb ratio that makes them appealing to take unless the group is really desperate.

    3. Also, Tony, if it's okay for you, I might promote your entire comment and some stuff I got from Kalazz via email to a guest post later this week. Would that be okay with you?

    4. I would have no problem with it, BUT I would ask you if you do not mind if I expand and spell check it a little ;) I'll start writing it, and send it to your email, ok?

  4. Thanks for the link to Spiderweb in the Corner!