Saturday, June 11, 2011

To Cast or Crush?

Our next session is tomorrow.  We have just defeated some extra tough bug bears apparently arranged by some very naughty elves.  We are pretty much decided to heap vengeance upon these miscreants as long as we can locate them.  Which is not exactly a sure thing when tracking elves in the deep forest.

As we contemplate our next actions, I try to think how my character will contribute to the vengeance.  He is a rather dim witted but very wise cleric of Torm.  He also happens to be a half-orc with a 20 strength sporting some serious armor, shield and a nasty hand-and-a-half sword.  It is not the roll play elements which I am considering, I am quite comfortable with that.  Neither is it whether I am willing to be a supportive player or not; as a cleric I always look to make sure my party members are in good stead before leaping in myself.  What has me thinking is about the change from low level characters to higher level characters.

At the earliest levels, we are accustomed to worry about every combat because a few wayward rolls can easily put you in trouble.  As the characters progress, the additional hit points and other improvements make the characters quite durable.  We should easily be able to throw ourselves into most problems, and still be able to survive a mistake or two, or even arrange a hasty retreat if we are not managing to win the day.  No I am talking about stinginess with spells.  At the lower levels the spell cast must hoard her spells.  If she expects to have three, four or even five encounters before she has an opportunity to restore spell capacity she must carefully weigh each encounter wondering, is it now, or do hold these until later?  Wait too long and the encounter turns against the party.  Use them all too early and leave yourself vulnerable later.  Spell casters practice this carefully if they, and their companions, are to survive and thrive.

A funny thing happens as you move up in levels, you get lots of spells.  The ratio of spells available to each encounter changes drastically.  Instead of wondering if you should cast a spell this round, you are more likely wondering which spell to cast this round.

My cleric is 9th level.  With spells per level, ability bonuses, and domain spells included, he can cast about 25 spells before a restore.  Now in practice, if you have consumed all your most powerful spells and have only a few low level stragglers, you probably don't wait until you have no spells left to restore.  However, if a typical combat encounter lasts 6-10 rounds, that still means he can easily use four or more spells in each of four encounters and still have a few for between combats for knowledge, curing or pre combat buffs.  This is vastly different thinking than in the early stages of character development.

Now, additionally for the cleric of Torm, there is the challenge of cast or crush.  He is a decent combatant with a weapon, and especially so if he applies some of the individual combat buffs upon himself.  From a role playing perspective, he likes to crush.  Tactically, he has reached the point where it is much more important that he cast spells, and then step in and fight.  Lastly, because he is a outfitted with heavy armor, battlefield position is difficult to maintain due to his slow speed.

It is not really all that much of a conundrum, it is more of a rhetorical question.  I know what I need to do.  I need to become a spendthrift with my spells, make decisions quickly, make no mistakes in battle field position, and then near the end of the combat use my weapon to slay the enemies of Torm with ruthless efficiency.  It is just remembering that I am no longer a low level character hoarding the precious few spells, and breaking the previously life saving habit for a new one.

The dice never lie.

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