Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

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Lamoron
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Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by Lamoron » Wed May 20, 2020 8:15 pm

In the near future my Elf Nethermancer is going to hit Circle 6, and after that she's going with some Thief Circles. This has prompted me to read up on synergies, and there are a lot of those, but it has also caused me to take another look at any Nethermancer spells dealing with stealth, and I have some questions.

Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk

"Any active threats against the target cause him to immediately flee at his fastest movement to safety, after which this spell immediately ends and the target must flee from any threats for the next hour."

This spell seems to range from terrible to useless, depending on the interpretation of the terms "Active threat", "Safety", and "Any threat". The best possible interpretation I can come up with means, that if I'm spotted I'll imediately flee to the nearest place I feel safe, and then if anyone acts in any way threatening I'll flee again, continuing this for an hour.

The worst possible interpretation means that casting the spell will cause me to panic and flee automatically, continuing to run flat out for an hour (or in that case more likely until I pass out), as my entire group is currently in permanent and imminent risk of death, seeing as there's a Circle 10 Illusionist hunting us.

Could someone explain to me how this spell is supposed to work?

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu May 21, 2020 3:06 pm

Be reasonable in interpreting these things.

Having a Warden level Adept hunting you is more of a Chronic condition, not an Active one. It does not enter into this unless actively attacked by the Warden while the spell is active.

Your "Worst possible interpretation" is not possible, since the Spell Effect clearly says that the spell grants superior scouting abilities. Your Worst possible interpretation does not grant superior scouting. Also, the purpose of Scouting is to scout out trouble, so it is accepted that the Cowardly Skulk can move towards and try to scout out trouble (trouble scouted might be trouble avoided - very much in line with being a cowardly skulk).

What you call the "best possible interpretation" sounds very reasonable to me. You gain the benefits. You can scout out the area doing your best not to be seen. But if you are seen by something hostile (attacks, raises an alarm or gives chase), then you must flee towards safety. When you reach a safer place (rejoined your group, or loose the chaser), then the spell benifits end, but you still must avoid / flee from active threats (anybody hostile) for an hour (can do most anything you want except for enter combat or be near hostiles). That seems both reasonable and (situationally) useful.

Lamoron
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by Lamoron » Thu May 21, 2020 5:36 pm

The spell seems completely useless even in the best possible interpretation. The step system basically guarantees, that at some point you'll fail. Failing a single check usually isn't lethal, but ...

When this happens, if you're scouting with your group a bit behind, you're unable to aid your group, which means that your group has to deal with the encounter you triggered, while you play something on your phone because an hour is forever.

Alternately you attempt an infiltration without backup. Even in DnD which is way less deadly than ED, a Rogue infiltrating alone is lovingly called "the corpse" because that's how they inevitably end up.

Edit: The things you say are possible to do in the hour seems rather useless as well. If you got away clean it doesn't matter, and if you didn't it will all involve some kind of threat.

I'm really not actively trying to be an ass (though I fully acknowledge that I might sound like one), I just can't see any scenario in which I would ever actually use this spell, and it's Circle 3.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sat May 23, 2020 10:29 am

I would disagree that it is "inevitable" that you will eventually fail.
Remember that the spell itself only lasts a very few minutes, you only have to avoid being spotted when the spell is actually active.

So I could easily see it used as a "Scout one room at a time" type usage. Scout one room, find it empty, come back and report. Everybody goes to that room. Cast spell again, Scout next room, go back and report that there are X opponents. Tell your group to wait 1 more minute than advance as quietly as they can. Then you go towards the occupied room again, get to a good place and let the spell expire. Remain where you were until the opponents hear your comrades moving up.

Sure it its usefulness is situational as all getout, but in those situations where you use it right, it can consistently give great benifits.
Or you can ignore the spell and not learn it.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by Slimcreeper » Sat May 23, 2020 11:23 pm

I honestly feel the same way about all of the switch places with someone else illusionist spells. Someone else really thought that kind of ability came up enough that they needed 3 or 4 varieties, but I just don't see it. I think the Cowardly Skulk is so flavorful that I would find a way to use it just because. And if it doesn't work for your table, houserule it!

Lamoron
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by Lamoron » Sun May 24, 2020 9:01 am

ChrisDDickey wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 10:29 am
I would disagree that it is "inevitable" that you will eventually fail.
Remember that the spell itself only lasts a very few minutes, you only have to avoid being spotted when the spell is actually active.

So I could easily see it used as a "Scout one room at a time" type usage. Scout one room, find it empty, come back and report. Everybody goes to that room. Cast spell again, Scout next room, go back and report that there are X opponents. Tell your group to wait 1 more minute than advance as quietly as they can. Then you go towards the occupied room again, get to a good place and let the spell expire. Remain where you were until the opponents hear your comrades moving up.

Sure it its usefulness is situational as all getout, but in those situations where you use it right, it can consistently give great benifits.
Or you can ignore the spell and not learn it.
The "Scout one room" approach is exactly a situation where I would never use it. If you scout one room, and roll with step 20 because we're using Shadow Meld and Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk, you get three dice (D20 + D8 + D6). I've played this game enough to see step 20 roll 7 or less many times, or the enemy rolls exploding dice on their Awareness, so now you're spotted.

You flee, and your group is stuck fighting whatever spotted you without your help, while you fiddle with your phone the entire battle because there's no way to get back in there. That's a horrible penalty to risk. I'd much rather roll step 16 but be able to help out if I get spotted.

Lamoron
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by Lamoron » Sun May 24, 2020 9:10 am

Slimcreeper wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 11:23 pm
I think the Cowardly Skulk is so flavorful that I would find a way to use it just because. And if it doesn't work for your table, houserule it!
I love Earthdawn, but there are so many spells that simply either don't work, have sloppy language that makes them weird, or have crippling consequences for failure. I've settled on checking in here on the forum that I haven't misunderstood how it works (it happens), and then putting them away, as I won't bother my GM with reworking all of them. There are plenty of spells that work, that I can use instead :)

utsukushi
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by utsukushi » Wed May 27, 2020 11:51 pm

It doesn't just apply to Stealthy Stride, though -- that also boosts Awareness, Creature Analysis, and Evidence Analysis, at least. I'm not sure if there are other Talents that involve "gaining information from direct observation"... hm. Empathic Sense, probably. Could make an argument for Research but I don't think the duration is long enough. Anyway, improving your sneaking is only one part of its equation.

So I agree, it's probably generally not worth it just to stack with Shadow Meld, so if that's all you were going to do with it, skip it. But a lot of spells don't look very good if you ignore half of what they do.

I'd also note that when your scout comes running back saying, "Ahh, they saw me!" and then blows past the party going the other way, one option is for the rest of the party to go with them. Then the cost stops being, "The player it was cast on has to sit out the rest of the session" and becomes, "Now the enemy has time to prepare before you can come back." Which I suspect is more the intention behind that, and seems like a perfectly fair price for failing from Step 20. You're right, one of the great things about the Step system is that risk is always a thing.

Lamoron
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Re: Aspect of the Cowardly Skulk?

Post by Lamoron » Sat May 30, 2020 12:29 pm

I had to give this some thought, as you bring up some good points, and I didn't want to knee-jerk my response.

You're right that the spell does more than increase stealth, which is pretty nice, but ultimately I don't think my problem is with the bonus, so it doesn't really matter that it adds a lot of other things.

My problem is the drawbacks, and I don't really feel like your solution of having the whole team flee makes a lot of sense.

I can see a few situations where this could be a solution, but it requires escape to be possible in the first place, and you scout to determine the situation, so you can't know beforehand if running away is an option.

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