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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Dec 2012

    Default Nonlethal Single Target Damage Spells (PEACH/Help (PF/3.5))

    Good evening playgrounders! I'm working on a series of spells, hopefully ending up at/around third level, for the purpose of knocking single creatures unconscious and keeping them that way.

    Some background, these spells will be used primarily by a level 5 Wizard NPC Big Game Hunter who specializes in capturing rare and exotic creatures from around the world and making them available as pets, mounts, animal companions, familiars, or additions to royal menageries. For this purpose I'm working on two spells, alpha names Go Down and Stay Down, which deal nonlethal damage.

    Let's crunch some numbers.
    Spoiler
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    Merciful Spell (Metamagic) has a zero-level adjustment, and converts all lethal damage to nonlethal.

    The iconic 3rd level damage spell, Fireball, when cast as soon as you can normally get it, 5th level for a Wizard, deals a minimum damage of 2 (assuming it passes SR at all) in a perfectly-bad-luck situation (rolling all 1s on your five d6s, against one target, who makes the save for 2.5, rounded down) and a maximum of 1,320 (again used at 5th level, rolling all 6s, against 44 targets (the number of squares a 20ft radius spread) none of whom make their save, for 5*6*44) in a godly-luck situation. I have no intention of making these spells deal anywhere near that much damage, I just want to use this number as a gauge of "how much" magic there is/can be in a third level spell.

    Fire Trail (ARG) has the potential to do tens of thousands of damage if metagamed correctly, but I'm not really going to worry about that.

    Flame Arrow (PFRPG Core) adds a straight 50d6 (average 175) fire damage as a 3rd level spell, but has to be cast on a quiver of arrows.

    Pain Strike (APG) is a close spell which deals 1d6 nonlethal damage per round/level to one living target for a minimum of 5 damage and a maximum of 30, using the same calculation as above.

    In fact, the vast majority of direct damage spells I've been able to find deal 1d6/level, which is pretty measly. The average CR 5 monster has 55 HP, however HP accelerates much more quickly than CR, going from 20 at 2nd level to 370 at 20th level. I'm okay with using multiple castings of this spell to put a monster down, but the point of the spell is to get it to Go Down. Pain Strike in this situation deals 17.5 damage on average, which means we would need four of them to get the job done.

    Finger of Death deals a straight 10 damage per level if you fail your fort save, but it's a 7th level spell.


    Now, here's where I need your help. How much damage is reasonable for a 3rd level spell, targeting one creature, dealing nonlethal damage? Would something like...


    Spoiler
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    Go Down
    School evocation; Level sorcerer/wizard 3; Domain Mercy;
    CASTING
    Casting Time 1 standard action
    Components V, S, M (a miniature sap)
    EFFECT
    Range
    close (25 ft. +5 ft./2 levels)
    Effect ray
    Duration instantaneous
    Saving Throw fort half; Spell Resistance yes

    DESCRIPTION

    A thin beam of white light projects from your pointing finder. You must succeed on a ranged touch attack with the ray to deal damage. The ray deals 6 points of nonlethal damage per caster level.


    ...be reasonable? It's essentially a scaled back version of Finger of Death with the duel limitations of dealing less damage and only being able to deal nonlethal damage (there aren't any metamagic feats to turn nonlethal damage into lethal damage, I checked.) You're gonna have to hit your foe with this at least twice to bring 'em down, but my wizard is going to know that, and he's going to prepare it that way ahead of his hunts. On the other hand, how limiting do you guys think nonlethal damage as a mechanical modifier really is? Do you think I could get away with giving this a 10/level? That would make it identical to a 7th level spell except for the damage type change. On the other other hand, there's a lot of magical "power" in a 3rd level spell, a fireball fills 44 square with 5d6 damage. Am I just hoping for too much, from a balance standpoint? Even with nonlethal damage equal to its maximum hit points, you've still got a fully "healthy" mom to deal with since nonlethal damage isn't "real" damage (their phrase, not mine!) and it'll wake up at some point.


    Next up, I promised you a 2nd spell, Stay Down. You heal nonlethal damage at the rate of 1 hit point per hour per character level. The Dire Albino Lions (and such) this guy will be hunting are highly unlikely to have class levels, so lets assume we only need to deal one point of nonlethal damage per hour to keep the thing unconscious for the trip home.


    Spoiler
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    Stay Down
    School evocation; Level sorcerer/wizard 3; Domain Mercy;
    CASTING
    Casting Time 1 standard action
    Components V, S, M (a miniature pillow)
    EFFECT
    Range
    touch
    Target creature touched
    Duration 24 hours/level
    Saving Throw fort negates; Spell Resistance yes

    DESCRIPTION
    This spell can be used to keep a creature which has fallen unconscious due to nonlethal damage that way by counteracting their natural healing. Each hour for the duration of this spell the target takes one point of nonlethal damage. If a creature's nonlethal damage is equal to its total maximum hit points (not its current hit points), all further nonlethal damage is treated as lethal damage. This does not apply to creatures with regeneration. Such creatures simply accrue additional nonlethal damage, increasing the amount of time they remain unconscious.

    Special; this spell may be cast on the same creature multiple times. Its effects stack.

    Okay so, thoughts? I've got a couple of other ideas kicking around in my head, but I've already given you quite a wall of text to go through. Congratulations for making it!

    EDIT: I forgot to mention, everything that exists in my world is available to the players, at least theoretically. If it were just going to be used by NPCs I would just wave my hand and say "he uses a spell. It works because magic" but one of my players has already expressed interest in getting some scrolls/a wand of the spells this guy uses, which is the real reason I care about balance.
    Last edited by Jyton; 2013-07-28 at 02:47 AM.
    If your DM ever looks across the table at you and utters the phrase "are you sure?" The correct answer is "No."
    -personal experience

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: Nonlethal Single Target Damage Spells (PEACH/Help (PF/3.5))

    Keep in mind that while there is no way to turn nonlethal damage into lethal directly, if you can deal enough nonlethal damage to the entire enemy party it becomes fairly easy to CDG them. I would say you should reduce it to 1d6/level (maybe 1d8/level); otherwise you're looking at near-Disintegrate levels of "take things out" with far less reduction if he makes his save.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Default Re: Nonlethal Single Target Damage Spells (PEACH/Help (PF/3.5))

    This is way too powerful. Here's the thing: while nonlethal damage may be easier to heal, for the purposes of most fights, it is exactly the same as lethal damage. Your opponent with 99 HP is just as out of the fight whether he has taken 100 lethal damage or 100 nonlethal damage. Nonlethal damage part good (it never kills accidentally) and part bad (it can be healed more easily). Therefore, a 1st level nonlethal damage spell should be exactly as powerful as a 1st level energy damage spell, and slightly more powerful than a spell which deals untyped damage.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Dec 2012

    Default Re: Nonlethal Single Target Damage Spells (PEACH/Help (PF/3.5))

    Quote Originally Posted by Yitzi View Post
    Keep in mind that while there is no way to turn nonlethal damage into lethal directly, if you can deal enough nonlethal damage to the entire enemy party it becomes fairly easy to CDG them. I would say you should reduce it to 1d6/level (maybe 1d8/level); otherwise you're looking at near-Disintegrate levels of "take things out" with far less reduction if he makes his save.
    That's a really good point, I hadn't considered CDGs mostly because that's antithetical to this concept. Of course, someone taking the spell as written and ignoring the RAI, as it were, is why you balance something. The goal here is to gently subdue exotic creatures without actually damaging them. No king is going to want a badly scarred creature for his menagerie. You're not going to want a new mount or pet that has been 'abused' either.

    I have a couple problems to deal with. The first is that any situation that lets you drag a wild animal hundreds or thousands of miles will by definition have that creature at your mercy. Once you get it that way you can kill it at your leisure. The problem is doing so in a balanced way, and in a way that fits this concept. I could just as easily cast Fly once and shoot the thing with black adder poison for 50 rounds of 1d2 con on a failed save, which would be almost guaranteed to take the thing down. Or I could hit it with Drown Poison, which is just straight unconsciousness on a failed save. At 75g a pop, that's really not a bad option, but it's not the right option for this situation. I'm looking for the flavor here. The wizard in question is meticulous, which is why I began with a flat number rather than a d6, he would rather know exactly what something is going to do than pray for luck. 6 damage/level is essentially a maximized 1d6/level spell. 1d6/level spells start at 3rd level, so if we say there's no real difference between lethal and nonlethal damage, that would make this a 6th level spell. I can think of two things which might be able to knock this back down to third. The first would be an expensive material component, similar to buying a few dozen poisons to do the job that way. The other would be to change Go Down from instantaneous to permanent (see text) as well as possibly changing it from evocation to enchantment, and having the nonlethal damage 'disappear' if the creature take lethal damage. Disintegrate drops from 12d6 to 5d6 on a successful save. Dropping from 30 to 15 seems pretty similar to me. Disintegrate has the distinct advantage of being able to damage objects, not to mention the whole disintegrating thing. Finger of Death seems like a better comparison, but it again gives better results on a save than this does. Should I just rework the save to something like 10 + 1 per caster level?


    Quote Originally Posted by Vadskye View Post
    This is way too powerful. Here's the thing: while nonlethal damage may be easier to heal, for the purposes of most fights, it is exactly the same as lethal damage. Your opponent with 99 HP is just as out of the fight whether he has taken 100 lethal damage or 100 nonlethal damage. Nonlethal damage part good (it never kills accidentally) and part bad (it can be healed more easily). Therefore, a 1st level nonlethal damage spell should be exactly as powerful as a 1st level energy damage spell, and slightly more powerful than a spell which deals untyped damage.
    The change I suggested above might address the lethal/nonlethal parity you're talking about. My problem is that there aren't any really good single target damage spells, particularly at low levels. Even finger of death isn't going to kill a healthy creature by itself. Neither will this. Why is this way too powerful? I mean, in terms of power output, what's the difference between filling 44 squares with 5d6 damage and filling one square with 220d6? The answer seems to me to be "well, being able to nuke the BBEG with one spell screws up my plot and sucks the fun out of the game." I totally agree. I'm not trying to one shot stuff. But again, I want this to be effective. I'd love to hear your suggestions as well as where you would place these spells level-wise were they to be left completely unaltered. I'd also like a critique on Stay down if anyone is so inclined.

    Thanks guys!
    If your DM ever looks across the table at you and utters the phrase "are you sure?" The correct answer is "No."
    -personal experience

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: Nonlethal Single Target Damage Spells (PEACH/Help (PF/3.5))

    Quote Originally Posted by Jyton View Post
    I have a couple problems to deal with. The first is that any situation that lets you drag a wild animal hundreds or thousands of miles will by definition have that creature at your mercy. Once you get it that way you can kill it at your leisure. The problem is doing so in a balanced way, and in a way that fits this concept. I could just as easily cast Fly once and shoot the thing with black adder poison for 50 rounds of 1d2 con on a failed save, which would be almost guaranteed to take the thing down. Or I could hit it with Drown Poison, which is just straight unconsciousness on a failed save. At 75g a pop, that's really not a bad option, but it's not the right option for this situation. I'm looking for the flavor here. The wizard in question is meticulous, which is why I began with a flat number rather than a d6, he would rather know exactly what something is going to do than pray for luck.
    But saves still interfere with that...I would say that what you want, assuming this isn't for combat (and if you're in combat, you should never know what's going to happen), is probably something that does substantial nonlethal damage, allows no save, and maybe even gives a huge boost to bypass SR so that's not an issue...but has a long casting time plus short range to compensate. So against animals (who don't realize that a 10-minute casting time is something potentially dangerous) it's good, but it's useless in combat.
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2013-07-28 at 04:52 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nonlethal Single Target Damage Spells (PEACH/Help (PF/3.5))

    Quote Originally Posted by Jyton View Post
    Next up, I promised you a 2nd spell, Stay Down. You heal nonlethal damage at the rate of 1 hit point per hour per character level. The Dire Albino Lions (and such) this guy will be hunting are highly unlikely to have class levels, so lets assume we only need to deal one point of nonlethal damage per hour to keep the thing unconscious for the trip home.
    "Character level", at least in 3.5, includes all hit dice from any source. So no, it needs to be a full HD/hour non-lethal damage.
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