Additional Obstacles to Spells

I have always added caster invoked obstacles to the spell casting obstacles (casting while injured, casting quickly, increased obstacles from practicals, ect) thus increasing the chance of spell failure and all the fun that a failed casting can bring. But any other adjustments (positioning, engagement disadvantage, cover, ect) I just add on to the chance to target the spell rather than cast it.
(If a mage loses the engagement test and now his polearm range shards spell suffers a +3 Ob vs the charging monks shortest range brawling attack, the mage has to generate 2 successes to cast the spell, but 5 successes to hit his target).

Having read some other posts and watched a few pod casts I am wondering if I have been doing this right. I mean, it doesn’t seem right to risk imposing a failed casting just because your target moved, but if the rules are supposed to be that way, I’m sure there must be a good reason for it.

Am I doing this wrong?

“Disadvantage increases the casting obstacle.” Page 514. It doesn’t get much clearer than that!

You’re at risk of botching your spell because you lose the threads of power that you’re weaving when a guy with a sword gets uncomfortably close.

Yeah, I can see how that could happen for missing your aimed spell (shards explode behind the charging monk) I just never applied it to the actual casting before as I thought that the spell obstacle handled whether or not the casting was correct. (When we cast quickly the obstacle increases and if we cast too quickly the tax increases as well, though not as much). I don’t know how I misinterpreted that bit on 514 though.

Looks like the wheel of magic is going to be getting a lot more of a work out this year then.

Thanks for the answer wayfarer! (I will miss the imagery of spells just missing their targets, but on the other hand, yeah more demons!)

So then, even a simple Shards Spell (Ob 2, 1 action, weapon length as polearm) can become a big problem if you lose positioning against a dagger or some other short weapon. Even if your mage has aB5 Sorcery Skill, you stack on the +3 Ob penalty from weapon disadvantage and things start looking dicey. Even if he does make the 50/50 chance of success, he now has to tax against a Ob 5 Spell instead of an Ob 2 ? YEESH !
It’s not like the spell suddenly grew in power that it should take that much out of the mage. It’s still the same damage and the same amount of power that is being used. I could maybe see the argument that the higher stress could cause a failed casting, but not the higher tax. If an archer is being rushed we don’t have him test against his forte to see if he can continue on. A mages tax shouldn’t be so affected when non mages, who suffer the same stress, are not. By increasing the spell obstacles with what should be combat
modifiers, that is exactly the effect. It does make me reconsider my stance against players opening up grey sorcery in character burning though.
That extra success ratio could be justifiable, although it won’t do anything for the increased tax.
(even Magic Whistle could become an obstacle 3 tax)

Those modifiers affect the casting obstacle, not the tax obstacle. They start the same because they’re both based on the spell, but different things modify them.

Okay, that makes more sense (it’s along the same lines as casting quickly, -1 action, as opposed to casting quickly, -2 actions). I still like the idea of spells missing their targets instead of all the “fun stuff” that can happen with failed casting though. But at least people won’t have their mages passing out from a suddenly increased spell tax.

Thanks again guys!

It still seems as if the spell should be just as difficult to cast for purposes of tax and spell failure and the combat modifiers should do just that, modify your combat (chance to hit), not your chance to cast.
Perhaps it’s the all in one spell obstacle that’s the problem. That one number determines successful casting, accurate casting, effectiveness of casting, and tax of casting.
When we apply a disadvamtage obstacle to a weapon it only affects successful weapon use and effectiveness of the weapon, not whether or not the weapon breaks and summons a demon into our midst. That’s a bit much for a combat modifier to do to a bowman or warrior, but it’s alright to do it to a mage? (Seems like a double penalty to me).

Success, accuracy, and effectiveness are all the same thing: to what extent does your spell do what you intend? It’s the same for any attack.

The chance of catastrophe is the risk you run by being a sorcerer. If you cast your spell wrong it can go very awry. That’s what you get for wielding terrible arcane forces instead of simple implements of mangling. The same is true of tax; that’s a penalty for mages but not for anyone else. Magic has its prices.

If success accuracy and effectiveness were all the same thing we would not have weapon adds and mos. If I cast shards well enough I can not only hit my target but the guy next to him as well (+2 ssuccesses over obstacle to hit target) so that handles effectiveness. If I just manage to get enough successes to hit my target, but not raise the DoF or area of effect, I still hit my target. That is accuracy. And if I manage to cast my spell by meeting the spell obstacle but not hit my target do to combat modifers, that’s no different than an archer who missed his target for the same reason.
If I do not generate enough successes to meet my spell obstacle before combat modifers that’s spell failure. A combat mage should be no more flustered by a rushing opponent than any other combatant, just as a mage is conditioned to keep spells active in his brain while doing other things, he would be trained to cast his spells in combat conditions. Even if it was a matter of being flustered, isn’t that what Steel is for?
You focus your energy to cast your spell at the area you expect you need it to take effect in. Just like leading an arrow or timing a sword thrust.
Sometimes you miscalculate and your thrust/arrow/spell misses its target. That’s not a fumble or failure, that’s just how combat goes sometimes.
Now if your using magic and you do not make your spell obstacle that’s spell failure. And that’s the risk you take when using magic.

The problem with appealing to reasonableness, or expectations, or (ridiculously) realism is that magic isn’t real or reasonable and you can have no expectations. It works the way it does in BW because that’s the way BW magic works. You can justify backwards from the rules; you cannot justify forwards to the rules to arrive at different rules, because that’s not how magic works in this game.

In BW, magic can’t miss. It can be miscast or it can have its effect. Relatedly you can’t script Avoid against magic. It’s unerring.

And that’s the real problem then. The expectations of how magic should work as opposed to how it could work. And as you say, BW magic works the way it does and that’s the way the rules were written for. So in game context, that’s the way magic should work. Due mostly to my misunderstanding of the rules, my group has hit upon a different way of doing things which I have now reconized to be a game hack (and as such have put it into sparks) that’s the way magIc could work.

I will try to set the record straight with my group and see if we can use the BWG magic system as written for a while and then see where we go from there. We are trying to stick within the rules, but even with different people reading them we still come to many of the same conclusions about the rules interpretation. (Go figgure)

Anyways Thanks again for listening and all your help and guidance!

Burning Wheel is about embracing and enoying the potential consequences of your character’s actions. If you don’t read it with that understanding…

I don’t believe that was the issue with our group. We simply misinterpreted some of the rules and then played by what we thought the rules were.

We are all fairly intelligent, experienced gamers who have played in other games with and without each other. And we make it a habit to read any rules separately before discussing them in group, least we unduly influence each others interpretations of them. In this case, we goofed.

That’s one of the reasons I joined this forum. To seek out answers and understand the reasons for those answers as such understanding makes it easier to teach the proper rules rather than just repeat them.

We have been playing bw for over a year now off and on, and I bought my set of books nearly two years ago and have been reading and playtesting a lot of that time.
Some of our misinterpretations became rule hacks which I am trying to correct this year. No doubt, they were fun to play, and made perfectly good sense to the game as we misunderstood the rules to be. But they weren’t the way the rules were meant to be. So we relearn, regroup, and try again.