Arcanum Spell Damage FAQ, Version 1.12

By jsaving (jsaving@ignmail.com)

Last updated 10/5/01

Sections:
A. Introduction, or "A Description of the Problem at Hand"
B. Explanation, or "The Mechanics of Damage-Dealing Spells"
C. Recitation, or "A Listing of Damage-Dealing Spells"
D. Qualification, or "A Word about Technological Aptitude"
E. Deliberation, or "Which Spells Ought One Choose?"
F. Disclaimers and Notices

(Changes since version 1.0: Corrected typos, added discussions of
mastery and technological aptitude.)

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A. INTRODUCTION: A Description of the Problem at Hand

Nine of the eighty spells in Arcanum inflict damage, but the manual 
reveals surprisingly little information about how damage-dealing spells 
function. The result has been confusion on the part of many Arcanum 
players about precisely which of these spell(s) to learn.  It is the
purpose of this FAQ to help aspiring mages understand the mechanics of
damage-dealing spells in Arcanum.

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B. EXPLANATION: The Mechanics of Damage-Dealing Spells
 
Spells may inflict four distinct types of damage: physical, poison, 
fire, and electrical.  Contrary to what is stated in Appendix A-3 of
the Arcanum manual, spell damage is reduced by one's resistance to the 
appropriate type of damage rather than one's resistance to magic.  
Since physical and poison resistance are more common than fire and 
(especially) electrical resistance, spells that deal physical damage
are less valuable than they seem while spells that deal electrical
damage are more so.  

Damage-dealing spells also have four distinct classes of save: 
constitution, constitution minus five, constitution minus ten, and no 
save permitted. Foes with an average constitution (12) have a sixty 
percent chance of making a constitution save, a thirty-five percent 
chance of making a constitution minus five save, and a ten percent 
chance of making a constitution minus ten save.  Since a successful save 
generally halves spell damage, these differences have a very large impact
on the amount of damage one can expect to inflict on one's enemies.

A patient reading of monster auras encountered over a long period of 
time produces the following benchmark figures for one's foes: damage 
resistance 30%, poison resistance 25%, fire resistance 20%, electrical 
resistance 15%, and constitution 12. Armed with this information and the
maximum possible damage for each spell, one can calculate the average
damage any given spell will actually inflict on one's enemies.  For
example, a spell that inflicts 20-40 points of physical damage (maximum) 
and permits a constitution save for half damage can be expected to inflict

.7*.6*(10 to 20 damage) + .7*.4*(20 to 40 damage) = 10 to 20

points of damage against a typical foe.  On the other hand, a spell that 
inflicts 20-40 points of electrical damage (maximum) and permits a 
constitution minus ten save for half damage can be expected to inflict

.85*.1*(10 to 20 damage) + .85*.9*(20 to 40 damage) = 16 to 32

points of damage against a typical foe, which makes the latter spell far 
more desirable than the former.

The spell descriptions below include this statistic (called Average 
Damage) along with other basic spell information.  Please do note that 
even though all damage figures are given as ranges, the amount of damage 
one can expect to inflict on one's enemies is NOT rolled randomly from 
within this range.  Experienced mages always use the higher number and 
inexperienced mages always use the lower number. 

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C. RECITATION: A Listing of Damage-Dealing Spells

Name and College of Spell
Maximum Damage: Damage under optimum conditions (failed save and no 
                resistance to the type of damage caused by the spell).
Save: Saving throw.
Cost: The amount of fatigue one must expend to cast the spell.
Average Damage: Damage under typical conditions.  

Poison Vapors (Air 2)
Maximum Damage: 15-50 poison plus 2-8 electrical fatigue
Save: CN (halves both)
Cost: 10
Average Damage: 8-26 plus 1-5 fatigue

Stone Throw (Earth 2)
Maximum Damage: 1-50 physical
Save: CN-5 (halves)
Cost: 10
Average Damage: 1-29 

Fireflash (Fire 3)
Maximum Damage: 15-45 fire
Save: CN-5 (halves)
Cost: 15
Average Damage: 10-30

Squall of Ice (Water 3)
Maximum Damage: 3-12 physical plus five subsequent 2-10 physical
Save: CN-5 (halves initial damage and eliminates subsequent damage, but 
five separate saves against subsequent damage are required each round)
Cost: 15
Average Damage: 5-24

Jolt (Force 2)
Maximum Damage: 2-25 electrical
Save: CN-10 (halves)
Cost: 10
Average Damage: 2-20

Bolt of Lightning (Force 4)
Maximum Damage: 20-70 electrical
Save: CN-5 (halves)
Cost: 25
Average Damage: 14-49

Disintegrate (Force 5)
Maximum Damage: 30000 electrical
Save: CN-5 (halves)
Cost: 50
Average Damage: 21038

Harm (Necromantic Black 1)
Maximum Damage: 3-40 physical
Save: None
Cost: 6
Average Damage: 2-28

Quench Life (Necromantic Black 5)
Damage: 50-100 physical
Save: CN-5 (halves)
Cost: 50
Average Damage: 29-58

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D. QUALIFICATION: A Word about Technological Aptitude

Technological aptitude provides partial protection against spells.
Since ninety-nine percent of the enemies one encounters in Arcanum have no
technological aptitude, this factor has not been included in the average
damage figures given above.  However, it must be admitted that the
experienced mage will occasionally confront such distasteful enemies.  
The probability that a technologically oriented foe will take less than 
full damage from a spell is equal to the foe's technological aptitude.
Should this unfortunate result occur, damage is reduced by a random
percentage not greater than the foe's technological aptitude.

===============

E. DELIBERATION: Which Spells Ought One Choose?

Harm inflicts the same average damage as stone throw for half the 
fatigue cost.  Don't use stone throw.

Fireflash inflicts at least one and a half times as much damage as jolt
for one and a half times the cost and does not require that one be
adjacent to one's enemies.  Don't use jolt unless you face an enemy
who is especially vulnerable to electrical damage, such as an automaton.

Poison vapors inflicts much less damage than fireflash and takes longer 
to deliver the damage since poison damage (unlike all other types of 
damage) occurs gradually.  Moreover, most powerful enemies have a 20
constitution and hence are immune to poison.  Don't use poison vapors.

Quench life costs twice as much as bolt of lightning but inflicts, for 
experienced mages, only twenty percent more damage.  Don't use quench 
life.

Squall of ice inflicts significantly less instantaneous damage than 
fireflash for the same fatigue cost and does not inflict any damage in 
subsequent rounds unless enemies remain in place.  Don't use squall of 
ice.

Disintegrate costs significantly more than other damage-dealing spells
but always (contrary to what is stated in the manual) destroys the
target regardless of his saving-throw result, technological aptitude,
or resistance to electricity.  While disintegrate also eliminates 
all items in the victim's inventory, gold is sufficiently plentiful in
Arcanum that the occasional disintegration of enemy items should not be
regarded as particularly troublesome, especially since numerous powerful
monsters have no items to disintegrate.  Use disintegrate.

Finally, a word about mastery.  The experienced damage-dealing mage will
generally wish to master the college of force since such mastery makes
disintegration a viable combat spell and dramatically increases the
usefulness of bolt of lightning and jolt.  Those mages with particularly
low dexterity may wish to master the college of fire instead so they can
fireflash enemies while affected by several applications of that college's
dexterity-boosting spell.  Mastery of other colleges is generally not a
good idea for the damage-dealing mage.

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F. DISCLAIMERS AND NOTICES

This FAQ is copyright 2001 by jsaving and is intended for personal use 
only.  All statistics were determined through an enormous amount of 
experimentation.  Anyone is free to print, link to, or post this guide 
as long as three conditions are met:

1)   The text of the guide may not be altered in any way.
2)   The guide may not be sold or otherwise used for commercial purposes.
3)   The guide may not be advertised as having any official connection 
     whatsoever to Troika Games, which bears no responsibility for any 
     inaccuracies contained within this guide but deserves all the credit
     for the wonderfully engrossing game of Arcanum.