(2) A major balancing factor with Flamestorm is that it's not usable very often. I've had this spell for 3-4 combats, and this is the first time I was able to play it. We keep getting in battles inside wooden buildings, or next to wooden buildings, or fighting people who are standing right next to us. In last week's combat there were exactly two targets which I could hit with Flamestorm without getting witch-hunted for grand arson immediately afterward.
(And, by the way, that's actually pretty awesome. If you're sitting there thinking, "I can't do damage because if I unleash my true power it will kill my friends and destroy most of the city", that's a completely different feeling from sitting there thinking "I can't do damage because my character sucks." It's still nice to actually do damage occasionally, though.)
Very good points, PlatypusRex. (And for the record, since we're playing The Enemy Within and it all takes place in flammable cities full of innocents, I'm not too worried about the spell.)
I still feel that Flamestorm is probably the best area-effect spell in the game. Rolling 3 successes and a comet on Flamestorm is about as powerful as rolling 5 successes and 2 boons on Fireball Barrage... but Fireball Barrage is Rank 5 and has 1 more purple die (plus a challenge symbol and some black dice from defense). So Flamestorm is a weird spike in the power-curve.
Problem is, prior to Flamestorm, Bright Wizards really don't do as much damage as their concept suggests they should. This is actually true about all wizards, but is especially upsetting about Bright Wizards because a big part of their character concept is "I kill things with magical fire". If magical fire is less effective than a hand axe or short bow, it's a bit of a let down.
And as it works out, a Rank 1 attack spell (of any order) is typically slightly worse than a basic attack with a hand weapon or shortbow. As you go up in Ranks it gets better, but you have to get to Rank 3 at least before you're actually beating out a Great Weapon or Longbow combined with the average attack Action, and then it's just by a point or two (with the obvious glaring exception of Flamestorm) and comes with all the hassles of channeling and miscasting.
Bolt of Aqshy, the Rank 3 single-target damage spell, can do about 24 damage and 3 crits with the best roll, but has a 33% chance of triggering a miscast. That seems roughly balanced when compared to good non-spell attack cards: it's very high damage, but also very risky. Flamestorm, on the other hand hits more targets, does more damage per target, and has a much lower chance of miscast than Bolt of Aqshy.
It feels to me like Flamestorm should be Rank 5 and Epic, because it's better than all similar Rank 3 and Rank 4 spells I've compared it to. If I had a new campaign to run, I would break out the sharpie and make that change (along with adding "Epic" to reckless cleave and warning shot). Since we're in book 3 of The Enemy Within and the characters are facing a threat to the entire Empire, I'm just gonna let it ride as-is. Heck yeah, our wizard can kill everything that's foolish enough to stand out in the open.
To reinforce my point about how the low-level spells under-perform, here's the stats on a starting archer with a shortbow and the good-but-not-the-best "Sniper Shot" action:
Dicepool: Skill + AGI vs Target Defense, +1 Black
Extra cost: 2 manoeuvres (disengage and prepare)
1 success: AGI + 5 damage, Pierce 1, +1 critical
3 successes: AGI + 6 damage, Pierce 1, +1 critical
1 boon: +1 damage
3 boons: +1 critical
comet: +1 critical
comet: + 5 damage
2 banes: suffer 1 fatigue and 1 stress
Max damage: AGI+12, Pierce 1, 3 crits
Compare that to the stats of a starting Wizard using "Sear", a fairly typical Rank 1 attack spell:
Dicepool: Skill + INT vs Target Defense, +2 Black, +1 Purple if you channeled
Extra cost: 1 manoeuvre (disengage)
1 success: INT + 4 damage, +1 critical
3 successes: INT + 6 damage, +1 critical
2 boons: +1 damage, +1 critical
1 bane: lose 1 power
1 chaos star: draw from the random deck of things that will usually wreck you
Max damage: INT+7, 2 crits
Notice how the wizard faces higher difficulty but has much lower maximum damage? That makes zero sense to me. It's like FFG thinks the extra prepare manoeuvre and 2 brass for an arrow is somehow much worse than all the headaches of channeling and miscast. I don't get it.
Edited by r_b_bergstrom, 28 April 2014 - 03:15 PM.