The Let's Play Archive

Planescape: Torment

by Shadow Catboy

Part 113: Mechanics Update: Spells!

Mechanics Update: Spells!

Another nifty edge that Planescape: Torment had was that many of its spells were wonderfully unique. While they kept the old standby of Magic Missile (indispensable at low levels) they also did away with the cliched trope spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt (though given the close confines of the game thanks to a low screen resolution, this might be for the best since you don't exactly want to run around with a 10d6-damage lightning bolt bouncing around a 640x480 screen). The spells added in put a bit of a nifty new spin on mage strategy.

First, let's look at Missile of Patience, which we nabbed from the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon.

Frustratingly enough, there is no spell description for this at all. If you're a stickler against using walkthroughs, you only really learn how this spell works through in-game practice. At low levels it's just a piff of energy that does a handful of damage (easily beaten out by Magic Missile), at moderate levels it becomes a bow that shoots for more damage. At high levels (which TNO is at right now) it becomes a fucking ballista that is under your control, and shoots repeatedly.

In a P&P party setting this would easily beat out Magic Missile in terms of usefulness. However, the problem with MoP is that while it's firing you can't issue any new orders until the spell ends. Only if you right-click and dismiss the ballista can you start moving and casting other spells. AI actions still work so TNO will run around on his own stabbing things in the meantime, but I've never been one to put my faith in game AIs. Yes I'm a control freak.

I will, however, use MoP alongside Magic Missile if and when TNO goes solo.

Now a great DoT/debuff spell that gets a little overlooked: Swarm Curse.

For a 2nd level spell Swarm Curse is pretty swanky. First, it neutralizes an enemy's spellcasting abilities for 3 rounds. Second, it deals 1d4 damage (+1/3 levels) each round. At high levels spamming Swarm Curse can be really useful, and in many instances I've seen enemies turn yellow and run around thanks to the "OH GOD BEEEEES!" nature of the spell. So it can also work like a cheap Horror too.

Greater Embalming... a pretty nice buff.

+2 HP/level and a +2 (aka -2) AC bonus for a solid hour? Not half bad. Morte's already a powerhouse fighter with massive damage resistances because he's a floating skull, so this'll turn TNO into even more of a powerhouse, even for a mage.

I just wish the casting animation wasn't some big... floating... pulsating meat-thing above your head.

Zerthimon's Focus. Another fantastic buff.

Zerthmon's Focus is another Circle of Zerthimon spell, and it increases your chances of landing a critical hit. The duration is short, but if cast on the right meleer (preferably Dak'kon) it'll turn him into a whirlwind of doom.

This is by far one of my favorite buff spells. Balance in All Things. Again, a Zerthimon spell.

Balance in All Things comes with a certain number of "charges" (1/4 levels) each of which lasts for one hit, much like 2nd-edition Stoneskin. However, instead of preventing all damage, it instead returns all damage dealt back to enemies within a 10' radius. Normally this would be a shit spell. For one, you do NOT want your mage in melee (this spell only affects the caster), so it has limited utility already. Most damage to your mage would be coming from ranged attacks, at least from the outset, so no enemies would be affected since they wouldn't be within 10 feet. Now it's a waste.

However, thanks to a quirk in the rules, Balance in All Things turns out to be the most powerful third-level spell in the game, even beating out most fourth and perhaps even fifth level spells.

Now, on a smaller level it's great for Dak'kon. He's a fighter-mage, so he'll happily charge into melee and Balance helps deal a little more collateral damage. But on TNO, the effect is devastating. First, he's an immortal that (with high enough constitution) regenerates health faster than Speedy Gonzalez can run on methamphetamine, so he doesn't give two shits about most damage done to him. Second, thanks to getting 1d10 HP (plus the full Constitution bonus) per level, regardless of class, TNO can be in the mid-hundreds of HPs by level 12 or so. Again, doesn't give two shits about HP. Third, we have Annah.

Thanks to a quirk in the rules of the game, Balance returns all damage to enemies surrounding the character, not friends. Thus the main strategy is this:

1) Hide Annah and let her stand next to a swarm of enemies.
2) Have TNO cast Balance.
3) Move TNO to swarm of enemies.
4) Backstab TNO with Annah.

The result is that this backstab damage is then distributed among all the enemies surrounding TNO. No save. No magic resistance. With Annah at the full 5x backstab damage bonus and fully twinked out with Strength-boosting effects, she can easily deal 100+ damage to half a dozen high-HP enemies in one hit. At level 12, this slaughters the Larval Worms (90 HP) pictured below.

Unless of course she critically misses. D'oh.

Well you see the point, anyway.

All that damage stacking up is what's being reflected back at the Larval Worms. Yes, they all died purely due to reflected damage.

Enoll Eva's Duplication is the second big winner.

While the effect only lasts one minute, TNO can fire off 10 spells within that time frame, and each effect is doubled. In addition, Enoll Eva duplicates melee attacks too, so you get what is effectively twice the number of attacks per round. Cast it on Dak'kon along with Zerthimon's Focus and he's basically hulked out to slaughter anything that gets within 5 feet of him.

But meleeing? Pah. Let's go for something ridiculously flashy that has a long cutscene.

Fire and Ice, which effectively replaces Fireball as one of the primary 3rd-level blast spells.

And here comes the second casting.

However, thanks to the long cutscenes for some high-level spells, the effect of Enoll Eva's Duplication may be truncated since the animation times eat up a load of the spell duration. Not sure if the countdown is put on pause, though.