Combat Magic: Spells in Fight!

It bothers me that wizard spells have the same obstacle penalty in or out of combat. It is just as easy for a wizard to cast Philosophers Perch (pg. 217 B.W.G.) on himself or his friend, as it is to cast it on his opponent. While area effect spells attack an area and affects everything within the area the same, a Single Target spell should suffer the same penalties as any other attack form. In my “Philosophers Perch” example the wizards spell on himself is set at obstacle 3. Casting it on an opponent should suffer the same penalties as trying to hit him with a thrown or melee weapon (depends on the range). Casting it on his friend would depend upon other variables (like obstacle 1 if he is in a fight or actively resisting). Spell obstacles are set to successfully cast the spell, and often this is enough, but successfully cast should not always mean successfully delivered as there are many instances in literature and film where the intrepid hero dodged the certain death of a wizards spell. If nothing else, new spells could be written with a “Combat Spell” Minoris Sigil subjecting them to the same penalties of the weapons they act like.

Philosopher’s Perch takes 4 actions right? What’s the target doing during that time?

The spell obstacles are set assuming the caster is under duress.
If not under duress, the caster is free to use the Carefully and Patiently rules and gain extra dice to cast.

As far as “successfully cast vs successfully delivered” goes, you’ll find that failure in Burning Wheel is a more frequent visitor than success. This is a game about failing and overcoming your shortcomings.

In addition to the advice given by others (which is certifiably more well informed than my own), isn’t it also possible to apply the advantage/disadvantage rules for spells to reflect combat difficulty? +1 Ob seems reasonable for a tough conflict, with foes dodging and weaving.

Similarly, +1D may count for a good advantage if the circumstance merits it (Although the Carefully/Patiently rules a likely better fit).

So my two cents.

Most combat spells have weapon lengths listed; if used in Fight!, the caster should roll positioning as normal. Losing positioning indicates that the target manages to out maneuver you, putting you at a disadvantage to all non-defensive actions, including casting.

Taelor is correct. Casting a missile-length spell at sword distance while your opponent wails on you with an axe is no fun. You get the positioning penalties added to your Ob to cast, and you can’t Avoid or take other actions while casting, leaving you very vulnerable to a May Not.

Your best bet, really, is to Disengage, cast your spell, hold it with coup de majie, then Engage and release it (or start combat with your spell already held). Hard to do when things are desperate! A sorcerer mounted on a trained war mount that can avoid could also work.

In any case, Burning Wheel sorcerers are terrifying and make some of the best antagonists!

You’ve come across one of BW’s inherent setting details. In BW, mages are all-powerful. If they cast their magic successfully, you cannot avoid it. So while you mention films and the like where people can dodge magic as if it were bolts from a crossbow, I think of other examples where people cannot. BW clearly falls into the latter.

Still if you’d like to alter the game (and this forum is the place to do so), the first step might be to allow targets to use Avoid to get out of the way of incoming magic. But then you get into a very sticky area.

If you reduce the successes to below the casting Ob with an Avoid, does that mean the caster has Failed his test and thus make Failed Casting roll? A very dangerous area to enter, indeed! Have you ever rolled on the Wheel of Magic? Yeeesh!

Armor can already protect against some spells, particularly the ones that have Destroy facets. But it’s helpless against something like Lights of St. Andrew.

Would you like to be able to actively Block spells with shields?

Would you like Cover to add to the Obstacle as per Range and Cover?

This is the crux of the issue. So far, that only example of combat magic to come up in one of my games involved a PC non-combat sorcerer using B1 Brawling to punch an antagonist combat sorcerer in the face while he was charging up a spell, causing him to miscast. (This is also one of my favorite moments from any BW game I’ve been involved in).

Regarding the increased obstacle in combat causing increased spell failures, I don’t see it like that. If you meet or beat the spells obstacle you have successfully cast the spell even if the added combat obstacles mean that you have missed your target. Say that due to the simultaneous nature of combat, I just make my Shards obstacle (successfully cast) but fail to get the plus one over obstacle to hit my target (the floor explodes, sending shards of rock into the air behind my attacker). Again, this is a single target spell.
What I like about this idea is that your spell casters have a chance of missing in combat without necessarily bringing about the end of the world.
(I had a mage once who accidentally raised two sanctified dead, one rotting corpse, and accidentally turned a bandit to stone all over the course of two days.)

Giant Ant was being engaged by the rest of the party in the rift. (Goal of spell was to levitate the ant so the elf could shoot it without reprisals).

Sure, that’s a fine hack.

Perhaps your mages should learn to be a bit more cautious about wielding the power arcane. Perhaps they should learn to use a sword.

Haven’t learned “Summon Sword” yet