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GummyGator

Raise Undead Magia Questions/Concerns

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So I'm running into some oddness with the raise undead magia.  Not so much the raising part (that's running rather smooth) but with the take control part.  Firstly, what counts as "non-sentient"?  As strictly defined sentient just means aware of their surroundings.  As popularly defined it would be closer to sapient, or basically human level intelligence.  If the former, it would seem that not even a basic zombie can be controlled (which seems highly unlikely); however, if it is the later, this raises one important question and one potential problem.  Which undead minions, enforcers, etc would then count as sentient and which would not?  I think that some such as Killjoy and Emeline are fairly obvious but what about say, necropunks or discarded amalgams?

I ask because I've run into an issue where the rules as they seem to be written have completely removed the ability to make undead a threat.  My necromancer/gravedigger can now take control of any 2 undead per turn on anything but a black joker (and will likely bring his necromancy high enough to make even this a success come next session) and keep control of them for as long as they stay in good repair.  This means that unless the undead are actively being controlled by a rival resurrection I may as well not bother using them at all as the combat will be a non-encounter that simply gives him higher powered minions for free.  Is this as intended or am I missing something?

In order to keep the story running as intended/the players expected I've had to house rule that it's a Wp duel vs the particular undead which has worked well enough so far but it seems odd that as written a rogue necromancy or other such loosed abomination encountered by surprise is not even remotely the threat that it would be in the fiction of the world.

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I believe sentient means in this context a creature not capable of deeper thought or ability to make clear choices.

While uncontrolled they would act as feral animals that hunt for food and attack living (or maybe Construct and even Undead) creatures they can find and catch. Some of them however like Belles retain slight remains of their former life and use it to their advantage, hence they use Lure. So once the 10 minute limit of control time is up, they would most likely turn on their creator unless he re-controls them or has other ways of avoiding their murderous intents. 
To create a sentient undead you would require some powerful magic and/or soulstones which is why they are rare and unique. (Creating a sentient Undead is also one of the requirements to advancing to the Grave servant advanced pursuit)

Also from what I gather, the uncontrolled undead tend swarm (if stronger zombie doesn't eat the rest) which makes moving in the quarantine zone or other places where they might end up a dangerous trip.

Scenario: You see a zombie. You shoot a zombie. Other zombies hear the gunshot. Aaand now you are fighting against mindless horde that currently only wants to tear you to pieces.

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As GamerCrow suggests, I would define "sentient" undead as those having human-level intelligence, reasoning and personality. Undead that have animalistic, instinct-driven behaviour (the classic "mindless zombies") might be easily controlled, but those with a mind of their own will strongly resist, and resent.

Also, don't feel restricted to the information that's presented on the cards. If you want a Rogue Necromancy encounter without the player being able to take control of it, just make it immune to that effect. Maybe some unknown aspect of its creation process means that it will only ever respond to its creator... who knows, dissecting it after the fight could lead to a whole interesting sidequest to uncover deeper secrets of necromancy as a result! The rules are only relevant to the extent that they support the story you and your players want to tell - don't ever be afraid to break, ignore or rewrite them. :)

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1 hour ago, GamerCr0w said:

Scenario: You see a zombie. You shoot a zombie. Other zombies hear the gunshot. Aaand now you are fighting against mindless horde that currently only wants to tear you to pieces.

Except that the issue I'm running into with the rules as they appear to be written is more:  You go into the quarantine zone, five zombies appear from around the corner.  "I choose the two zombies closest to me and spend one action point each to use Raise Undead on each.  Since I ignore all crows from my Gravedigger talent and I have a high necromancy I literally cannot fail to turn them to my side even on a black joker.  I also don't have to worry about the time limit because I have the necromancer talent that let's my Raise Undead Magia last forever instead of 10 minutes. Then I'll use my reduce AP immuto to make another raise undead on a third zombie and I only need at least a four which I definitely have in my hand."  Ok, you are now in control of 3 zombies.  The other two advance towards you.  "Alrightt, I let the first three chill for now and repeat the performance with the next 2 closest."  Great, you now have 5 undead under your control until they rot away and no other zombies have been alerted.  Not that that would have been an issue cause all you would need is a 2 yard wide alley to negate any advantage a horde could use to stop your control trick.

 

This is bad enough but it's even more powerful when you consider that the same exact trick can be pulled on basically any zombie in the book including enforcer level stuff.  And if they are anything more dangerous than basic mindless undead he can just turn three of them, then the next turn have two fight for him making it basically +1 party member with likely better combat stats than he has himself while the third sits around with its finger up its nose.  Or have one attack and turn two more.  And that's not even counting on the other party members.  It basically makes any rogue undead combat a non-issue.  Hence the house rule and the curiosity of whether this was intended or not.

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2 minutes ago, Kadeton said:

The rules are only relevant to the extent that they support the story you and your players want to tell - don't ever be afraid to break, ignore or rewrite them.

I certainly am not afraid to do that.  As I stated I've house ruled that it has to be a Wp duel to turn rather than create.  I'm more just curious if I have actually read the interaction correctly and if so if this was an intended interaction or something odd that slipped through the cracks.

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4 minutes ago, GummyGator said:

I certainly am not afraid to do that.  As I stated I've house ruled that it has to be a Wp duel to turn rather than create.  I'm more just curious if I have actually read the interaction correctly and if so if this was an intended interaction or something odd that slipped through the cracks.

We're talking about the original Fated Almanac, where the rules are composed almost entirely of cracks. This would be far from the biggest thing that slipped through. :P

Do you have a copy of Under Quarantine? I haven't got mine yet, but I expect it would have more of the kind of detail (and coherency) you're looking for with regard to the undead.

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How many fate steps has the player gone through to get that collection of talents where the pack of mindless zombies are a nuisance?

Because I think part of the complaint here seems to be "One of my players has a character who is a CEO of a business.  When the character runs into an encounter with tax collectors, he just pays them off using money."  Or "My player's outdoorsman is no longer scared of bears or wolves when they go out into the forest."  :D

One of the pitfalls that a game master runs into, whether it's Through the Breach or Pathfinder, is to look at your party containing necromancers and practitioners of the dark arts and say "You encounter a pack of undead."  Because the words you are saying are "You encounter a collection of raw resources.  You can start collecting it now."  :) 

On the other hand, it's worth pointing out the other half of the "Raise Undead doesn't work on me" clause:

Quote

Alternatively, this Spell may be used to take control of an uncontrolled and non-sentient undead creature.

Necromancers hang out in the Quarantine Zone, making undead, and sending them off to do things like collect bodies.  And when undead get sent out to do things like that, they don't really differentiate between "a body that's still moving" and "a body that's stopped moving".

So the story goes:

You go into the quarantine zone, five zombies appear from around the corner. 

The player says, "I choose the two zombies closest to me and spend one action point each to use Raise Undead on each.  Since I ignore all crows from my Gravedigger talent and I have a high necromancy I literally cannot fail to turn them to my side even on a black joker.  I also don't have to worry about the time limit because I have the necromancer talent that let's my Raise Undead Magia last forever instead of 10 minutes. Then I'll use my reduce AP immuto to make another raise undead on a third zombie and I only need at least a four which I definitely have in my hand."

Then you go, "Unfortunately, it appears that this pack of zombies is already controlled by someone else.  And their primitive instructions seem to regard what you just did as an attack."

....

And then, after the fight is over, the players can look around to see if they can figure out what the undead were sent to do.

And, keep in mind, if your player has the combination of talents that lets them control an undead for an unlimited amount of time, isn't that an indication that other mid-level necromancers are going to, too? 

 

In other words, part of the danger to regular folks in the quarantine zones is from undead that have gotten free of the control of whoever or whatever animated them.  Another really important part of the danger to regular folks in the quarantine zone is from the undead that are still under control of whoever or whatever animated them.

And the really dangerous undead are the ones that controlling themselves.  That's probably the most useful definition of "sentient".  Like it says in the Fatemaster's Almanac:

Quote

The undead can be generally divided into two broad groups. Mindless undead make up the vast majority of their numbers. These creatures show little intellect, have no ability to speak or learn, and are generally dangerous only because they possess only the most base violent urges. While mindless undead are not thinking creatures, they do retain some instinctual patterns. Undead harlots might still ply their wares as a hunting technique, and skilled combatants retain much of the training they had in life. When confronted with a powerful necromancer these undead will simply obey them while in his presence. When on their own, however, they will revert to their typical patterns.

Sentient undead are far more rare. Nobody is quite certain what process creates an undead that retains its mind, and it is considered an unholy grail of sorts to many Resurrectionists.

So, effectively, sentient undead would be whatever you end up making that's self-directed and self-controlled enough.

And, lastly, the book you're looking for is Under Quarantine.  Because that's the book with the supporting material for necromancers and the undead. 

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The "sentient undead" question will be answered in the FAQ in a day or two. I'll link it when it's up.  :)

 

As with most "pet classes," I want to point out that a subordinate character only gets a turn if the character controlling it takes a (1) Order Action. The (1) Order Action gives the subordinate character a single activation after the controlling character's turn, but on the next turn, the controlling character has to use another (1) Order Action if she wants the subordinate character to take another turn.

Now, once a Necromancer starts picking up Talents like Shuffling Horde or Accomplice, that starts becoming easier, but generally speaking, controlling a massive horde of undead isn't as combat effective as it seems at first glance, due to having to shout out the necromancer equivalent of "Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!" to keep them focused.

 

With that caveat and the upcoming FAQ stuff aside, yes, Necromancers tend to be really good at taking control of random undead and pressing them into service.

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On 4/26/2016 at 0:39 AM, Kadeton said:

We're talking about the original Fated Almanac, where the rules are composed almost entirely of cracks. This would be far from the biggest thing that slipped through. :P

Do you have a copy of Under Quarantine? I haven't got mine yet, but I expect it would have more of the kind of detail (and coherency) you're looking for with regard to the undead.

Uuhhh yes.  That should be evident from the fact I put down "Necromancer" as one of his fate steps.  And it's a large part of what makes it feel even more broken (Though the core example works even without the necromancer talent.  It just puts a time limit for getting away from the situation instead of bringing the situation with them as an ally).

On 4/26/2016 at 2:58 AM, solkan said:

How many fate steps has the player gone through to get that collection of talents where the pack of mindless zombies are a nuisance?

Because I think part of the complaint here seems to be "One of my players has a character who is a CEO of a business.  When the character runs into an encounter with tax collectors, he just pays them off using money."  Or "My player's outdoorsman is no longer scared of bears or wolves when they go out into the forest."  :D

Two pursuit steps not even one fate step. This can happen as early as session 3. One step down "Necromancer" from Under Quarantine and one step down "Gravedigger" from the Fated Almanac.

This is actually more along the lines of "One of my players is a CEO of business.  When the character runs into an encounter with tax collectors he just laughs and then he controlls the IRS without having to spend any resources outher than a couple of action points."  or "My outdoorsman is no longer afraid of an entire wolf pack cause he can just declare he's the alpha dog and make them his minions" (though neither of those examples are really a proper parallel).  In other words, it's going beyond simply "my character is really good at this thing" and is instead "My character is so good at this thing that it's trivial and boring to encounter it anymore" and this is from session 3, and could be done slightly less effective (be it lesser control time or actually needing the crows suit) from session 2.

On 4/26/2016 at 6:26 AM, Mason said:

The "sentient undead" question will be answered in the FAQ in a day or two. I'll link it when it's up.  :)

 

As with most "pet classes," I want to point out that a subordinate character only gets a turn if the character controlling it takes a (1) Order Action. The (1) Order Action gives the subordinate character a single activation after the controlling character's turn, but on the next turn, the controlling character has to use another (1) Order Action if she wants the subordinate character to take another turn.

Now, once a Necromancer starts picking up Talents like Shuffling Horde or Accomplice, that starts becoming easier, but generally speaking, controlling a massive horde of undead isn't as combat effective as it seems at first glance, due to having to shout out the necromancer equivalent of "Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!" to keep them focused.

 

With that caveat and the upcoming FAQ stuff aside, yes, Necromancers tend to be really good at taking control of random undead and pressing them into service.

He doesn't need to use the command action to negate the combat. He just needs to cast a guaranteed Raise Dead magia and then let them not take their turns.  Unless what you are saying is he can only have a number of undead "Under his control" equal to the number of action points he has the problem still stands.  I'm not concerned or confused by his ability to HAVE a massive amount of undead.  I'm concerned and confused by his ability to entirely negate a horde of high powered undead on a black joker by session 3.

 

But, having now read the errata, it seems the new ruling is basically just what I've been using to help get around this so I suppose that makes the conversation moot.

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