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RFC: Prismatic Mantle


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The current SR implementation of Prismatic Mantle has dropped protection from any sort of magic weapons and has put in a retaliation. While the concept is good there are several problems: the implementation has several issues not the least the fact that there is left over cruft suggesting that the spell does protect against (some) magic weapons. It ends up gimping the AI and is bound to confuse SCS. If you are a mage, you do *not* want to get hit and with PfMW at level 6 why would you even waste a level 8 slot on such a spell? Maybe, maybe a fighter-mage or a similar frontline fighter would want to cast it to augment his dps, but I doubt it.

Given this the proposal is to reinstate the protection against +3 weapons (inclusive); to compensate, nerf the retaliation to only happen once a round. One advantage is that SRR already implements such, so we can just shamelessly pilfer the implementation.

If you prefer what SR currently offers, present your argument. If you have any experience with SRR and its implementation of Prismatic Mantle, could you share your experience with the spell? Is it balanced, the AI (and by AI, I mean SCS AI) does the sensible thing within the constraints of what an AI for the IE engine can do, etc.

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Note, one issue created by adding back protection from attacks is, does the retaliatory damage hit everyone who attacks you, even if they cannot actually hit you? Or does it simply confer protection against +2 weapons, and only retaliate against the attacks that actually hurt you?

On the one hand this is a technical question that needs answering - does the game even register hits from weapons to which you are immune? 

Once that question is answered - and especially if the answer is “we can do it either way” - then it becomes a balance and preference question. 

(Also: we’re talking about a level 7 spell, right, not level 8? I think 7th-level Mantle becomes Prismatic Mantle, while 8th-level Improved Mantle becomes Moment of Prescience.)

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Fairly certain each attack that hits, even if the attack does no damage, is effective for triggering on-hit effects like Fire Shield and Prismatic Mantle.

I haven't done it yet, but I think I liked SD's suggestion of further reducing the power of the prismatic effects for the AI's dumb sake. ...But to be honest, this spell concept just doesn't really work all that well - if you're actually fighting a powerful mage and you have a +4 weapon and they're being protected by Prismatic Mantle, aren't you going to still send the character with the +4 weapon to attack them in the majority of cases? Mages just don't have enough HP for that to really be much of a problem, and if the prismatic effects trigger only once per round and you can get a few hits in per round with additional ApR and Haste and such... SRR's redesign of the spell was really more of a bandaid than a genuine attempt at fixing the spell, because the spell concept is just...not very good and it's difficult to marry the two different functions together while providing for the needs of both the player and the AI. Not really sure how to do it.

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35 minutes ago, Bartimaeus said:

Fairly certain each attack that hits, even if the attack does no damage, is effective for triggering on-hit effects like Fire Shield and Prismatic Mantle

The way protection from magic works is, it doesn't let them hit. I'm fairly sure attacking someone with PfMW will not trigger retaliatory Fire Shield effects. (Contrast with Stoneskins, which let an attack 'hit' but absorb the damage.)

I think.

37 minutes ago, Bartimaeus said:

But to be honest, this spell concept just doesn't really work all that well - if you're actually fighting a powerful mage and you have a +4 weapon and they're being protected by Prismatic Mantle, aren't you going to still send the character with the +4 weapon to attack them in the majority of cases? Mages just don't have enough HP for that to really be much of a problem, and if the prismatic effects trigger only once per round and you can get a few hits in per round with additional ApR and Haste and such... SRR's redesign of the spell was really more of a bandaid than a genuine attempt at fixing the spell

All true. But what do you do? Just clone PfMW for the AI and take Mantle away from players?  Demi's idea was sound: stop using it like you would use Mantle/PfMW, and instead use it with Stoneskin/PfMW/Moment of Prescience.  Use another spell to protect yourself, and use this to harm your enemies.

Of course, the questions remains whether the AI (SCS AI in particular) will effectively use it that way...

I'm pretty happy with my own version, which is a souped-up version of Stoneskin (but is EE-only).  Another option is to use this spell to give mages access to Physical Mirror... and, uh, ideally also make that spell somewhat useful!

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@subtledoctor

Protection from Missiles + Fire Shield = no hit-back when attacked by archers at point blank range.

Stoneskin + Fire Shield = no hit-back when attacked by archers at point blank range...but there is when attacked by melee. Once the Stoneskin wore out, the archer suddenly started getting hit by the Fire Shield, while the melee creature had been getting hit every time. Weird.

Protection from Normal Weapons + Fire Shield = same situation as with Stoneskin: melee creatures always affected, archers not affected until the PfNW wears out.

SRR's Prismatic Mantle = same situation as above.

I was really hoping you were right, that a "weapon ineffective" situation would result in the hit-back effect never firing, because that would make it so much easier to balance, but unfortunately not the case. I cast Fire Shield + Mesthil's Fire Sheath + Prismatic Mantle at all the same time and summoned like 40 trolls to attack my mage - they all got just melted in one or two hits with nary a scratch to my character.

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SCS:

(i) treats keeping one of Absolute Immunity, Improved Mantle, Mantle, and PMW running as its highest defensive priority after clearing Insect Plague/Blindness and using Time Stop (handled by checking the WIZARD_PROTECTION_FROM_MAGIC_WEAPONS stat, which all four set);

(ii) will not ever attempt to put one of them up when one is running (handled the same way);

(iii) will prioritize them in order of level, i.e. Absolute Immunity > Improved Mantle > Mantle >Pro/MW, but

(iv) often prefers sequencers or contingencies with one of these spells in, even if the wizard a higher level version learned; and

(v) doesn't bother to learn anything except Pro/Magic Weapons in the first place if the creature is a lich, vampire, cambion, or otherwise innately immune to nonmagical weapons.

If Improved Mantle (I'm assuming Prismatic Mantle is still WIZARD_IMPROVED_MANTLE?) doesn't grant any kind of weapon protection, that's a fairly severe hole in SCS mages' defenses (and not one I'm likely to plug: hot-swapping in SR attack spells is one thing, but restructuring the whole defense algorithm is another.) I suppose I could plug it just by getting them not to memorize Improved Mantle if SR is installed; that's fairly simple to do.

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I think we're probably pretty set(?) on restoring +3 weapon protection to Prismatic Mantle (which is not WIZARD_IMPROVED_MANTLE but rather WIZARD_MANTLE), it's just a matter of figuring out how to marry it to the prismatic effect better.

Edited by Bartimaeus
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As Bartimeus said. SCS AI compatibility is one of the priorites and restoring the immunity to magic weapons +3 is pretty much the consensus around here I think. The issue is what exactly can we add to make Prismatic Mantle a real option (for the players) instead of just defaulting to PfMW -- I can only speak as a player, but it is what my party mages always do, including bards/fighter-mages that go melee.

Have to think about this, but the conundrum Bartimeus raised is fair: as a rule, if you are using protection against weapons spell it is because you do *not* want to get hit. Since retals occur regardless of damage ocurring, the problem becomes in the prismatic mantle effect itself. We could prevent shield stacking to help balance -- this is probably a good idea  anyway independently of what exactly we do with prismatic mantle.

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11 minutes ago, grodrigues said:

The issue is what exactly can we add to make Prismatic Mantle a real option (for the players) instead of just defaulting to PfMW -- I can only speak as a player, but it is what my party mages always do, including bards/fighter-mages that go melee.

Then I would suggest doing one of two things:

  1. Add immunity to +3 weapons per SRR, and probably reduce the power of the retaliatory strikes (10d6 -> ~6d6, maybe easier saves for stuff like petrification)
  2. Just clone PfMW to this 7th level spot and add it to HIDESPL.2da and replace/remove the scrolls, so the AI will use PfMW (preferred by SCS anyway, and it's already scripted not to double them up) and we all can continue to powwow about potential other defensive spells to use in this spot.
Edited by subtledoctor
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2 hours ago, grodrigues said:

We could prevent shield stacking to help balance -- this is probably a good idea  anyway independently of what exactly we do with prismatic mantle.

Doesn't the AI at times use Fire Shield Red + Fire Shield Blue (aka Fire Shield + Mesthil's Acid Shield in SR)? And who knows if they sometimes cast something like Fire Shield and THEN Mantle, and if you have that overlap protection, then the Prismatic Mantle would not take effect and that would be disastrous. I'm personally not *that* worried about it, especially because Prismatic Mantle is a pretty short duration spell, but it was definitely kind of wild that I spawned so many trolls and they all just ate it immediately with all of that running.

I'm really unsure what to do with Prismatic Mantle. For those that have +4 weapons, it'll be too weak of a spell; for those that don't, it's too strong. If SD had been correct about weapons that are ineffective not getting the retaliatory effect, then you could've just balanced the spell purely for those who are using +4 weapons, but trying to balance for both +4 and below +4 weapons is significantly more tricky.

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Finally getting around this. For now will defer to using SRR version with the numbers proposed by subtledoctor; the issue is thorny and without testing we cannot go forward, so might as well release an interim version, satisfy SCS and then if something better comes along change it. The next release does not have to be perfect, it just has to be better than what we currently have.

@Bartimaeuslooking at your implementation, I have some questions:

  1. You have one Use Eff [177] with Cast Spell on Condition [232] but then this is repeated as the last opcode of the main spell. Why the duplication? What am I missing?

  2. Wouldn't it be better in the subspell that delivers the effects to protect against the subspell itself and not the parent?

  3. Presumably the second Use Eff [177] is to prevent self-stacking. But then, why the extra indirection via Use Eff and not use 206 directly in the main spell?

  4. No modify proficiencies [232] opcode. Can we be sure that SCS will pick this up? Do we have to insert this opcode or something similar to instruct the AI

note(s): after getting this out, and refactor-ing subtledoctor's patch, I think we are ready for a public release.

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My implementations of "attack back" spells like Prismatic Mantle and Fire Shield differ from SR's in that party members cannot accidentally trigger the "attack back" effect from other party members (I'd accidentally triggered it one too many times on myself, including a couple of times from what I'd consider "false triggers" that weren't the result of me actually directly attacking said party member). To accomplish this requires the complicated setup I have for all of those kinds of spells, so that's the mess that you see there...although actually, I think I may have missed a spell or effect in there or something, since the order doesn't seem quite right for that one even though the spell does seem to currently function... Anyways, I wouldn't worry about it, since none of the other spells of that sort work like that in SR, so it makes no sense to follow that specific implementation. (e): Yep, the party-specific .eff was configured to just cast the normal version of the spell, hence why that didn't look quite right. Thanks for spotting the bugs here...it's a spell I guess I've tweaked with too many times.

Unfortunately, I was never able to figure out a solution for Prismatic Mantle. I thought perhaps Subtledoctor might be right in simply replacing the original spell slot of it with another Protection from Magical Weapons for the AI's sake and then ADD_SPELL-ing in a copy for the player to use and balancing around that, until I remembered that SCS has AI spellbooks specifically tuned so that enemies that are immune to normal weapons always use Protection from Magical Weapons and NOT Mantle, while enemies that are not immune to normal weapons will usually (but not always) use Mantle instead. No good solutions, really.

(e): Did not notice the lack of a proficiency - that was an accident! Keep it there, :p.

Edited by Bartimaeus
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2 hours ago, grodrigues said:

the issue is thorny and without testing we cannot go forward, so might as well release an interim version, satisfy SCS and then if something better comes along change it

Agree.

There are so many options that could be done here on the EE engine. E.g. opcode 318 would make it a cinch to protect allies form the backlash spells. You could also do funky things like, make this a custom version of Seven Eyes, where you have various layers of protection like Stoneskin, and each time you get hit one layer is removed but it triggers a backlash effect. Or you could voluntarily direct the backlash effects at a target of your choosing, and sacrifice a skin. (In this case, if each could only be used once, I would make the backlash effects fairly devastating.) That would be way cooler than even my current 'improved stoneskin' and oh crap now I want to make it...

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