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I'm currently trying to get my head around the Unknown Armies setting, and one thing that I am having issues with is some of the implications of adepts using minor and significant blasts.

Firstly, there doesn't appear to be a huge amount that you can do to defend against the blasts used by adepts. The only thing I can see is the use of proxies. Is there anything I am missing either in the core book or other sourcebooks that would help me out?

Secondly, is there any way of working out who cast the blast at you? This is particularly important because you can cast them at people you can't even see if you know them well enough.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Blasts Generally Can't be Defended Against; That's a Good Thing

Blasts are hard to defend against outside of using certain Spells, Rituals, or Proxies. Guns are also difficult to defend against, even if somewhat easier. The Dodge skill or a Bulletproof vest are generally the non-magical defenses against bullets, and they will rarely offer enough protection to characters. This is because characters in Unknown Armies are generally susceptible to injury just like real people, and whether a person gets hit by a Gun or a Blast is close to the same level of danger. Blasts, while harder to defend against, carry a fairly hefty opportunity cost to use; namely, being an adept and carrying the required charges. Any idiot can walk into a store and buy a Gun which can make someone just as dead as a Blast. The few examples of defenses against Blasts in official sourcebooks are practically non-existent; even high level NPC Alex Abel only has an artifact that provides retribution against Blasts. If you can't stand this lack of protection, consider creating a skill that works similarly to Dodge but works against Blasts instead of physical harm.

Long-Distance Blasts always do Minor Damage but Require a Significant Charge

On top of the usual cost, a Long Distance blast also requires a significant charge to send off. Minor blasts were compared to a really strong kick in terms of how much damage they do; imagine if, to kick someone somewhere else in the world, you needed to risk your life (or obtain a book worth $500 you hadn't owned before, or get a $1000 lump sum). If you really wanted this person dead, you would have to do this several times in the course of only a few days. Another important fact about Long-Distance blasts is that you must personally know and have spoken to the target for at least a few minutes; if a player character is getting hit by the blasts, it shouldn't take them terribly long to figure out who's blasting them. Unfortunately, there are no official artifacts or rituals to detect who has been blasting you, but they should be fairly easy to invent as a GM. It would even make for a good plotline: "Find the ritual/artifact to find who's been blasting you before the blasts kill you."

The fact that blasts are almost impossible to defend against is also one of the things that gives Proxy rituals their power; they're one of the few somewhat reliable ways of not getting hit by these blasts. It asks you the question, "Am I willing to let someone else suffer in my stead?" This seems to be intentional as is evidenced by another solid way of avoiding blasts; the Second channel of The Fool. The Second Channel of the Fool allows the Fool to randomly "bounce" damage they would have taken to someone else, friend or foe alike. Again, if you really don't like this, I'd recommend house-ruling in the Magic Dodge skill.

It appears that the general lack of defense against blasts is entirely intentional given the setting. In fact, written in the section on blast spells (Pg. 113 UA2), it says:

Most blasts can't be dodged.

In short: There's very few if any official ways to defend against blasts outside of Proxy Ritual like effects; this appears to be entirely intentional. Long Distance Blasts have no clear cut magical way to determine who it is that's attacking you, but the blasts are very unlikely to kill you straight away and you've at least spoken to the person who's blasting you, this gives you time to figure out who and find them. I hope this helps at least a little, and if this kind of thing bugs you, don't hesitate to add in spells, rituals, or artifacts that would help against this sort of thing.

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There are horrendous things adepts can do to each other with magic. Magic is mighty. There's no real protection against all magic. However, there is the sleeping tiger. As the book quotes, imagine you and all your enemies in one big room, all of you armed with magic which make noise. In the middle of the room, there's a sleeping tiger. If he wakes up, everybody might well get eaten whether or not you're the one that woke him up -- You have more chances of getting eaten! The sleeping tiger is of course, the effect of awakening humans to magic. This applies to everyone: PC and NPC alike. With that in mind...

First: No, there are not many things one can do to defend against blasts. However, the sleeping tiger is there to make sure that the blast caster has to be careful (oh so careful) to not get a massive backlash. Another factor is that the blast caster needs to have a good idea of the where and when. A small misjudgement and the blast might miss. This is the real balance of power in the game: Sure, you can do mighty magic but you sure as hell don't want to!

Second: I do no believe there is a way to directly know who cast a blast on you. Some minor magic might be useful there. Of course, depending on the type of blast, this leaves the surviving target (or friends) a nice clue as to what type of adept has cast the blast. Now, this narrows down the field of play a lot.

Why would you use blasts at all? Well, it's a weapon. As all weapons, they are useful in some cases and utterly useless in others. In a way, they are like condoms: better have one and not need it than not have one and need it. Because there is no good defence against blasts, it keeps all the adepts polite and careful around each other. It forces subtle interactions and plotting instead of "me see, me kill" so common in some games.

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IIRC, you can avoid the blasts of certain schools of magic. For example, you can dodge the blast of a Booze Hound, which is essentially telekinetically throwing stuff at you. One of the expansion books has a school of magic whose "blast" simply sets fire to everything with sentimental value within range (so if you're not holding/wearing anything you care about, you get off Scott-free). – Brian S Jan 17 '14 at 14:40
This reads like advice to a GM who's contemplating using a blast against a PC, but the question is about understanding the setting and how blasts shape it (socially, politically, practically, etc.) Can you edit this to rephrase it around explaining the impact blasts have on the setting instead? – SevenSidedDie Jul 28 '14 at 21:52
@SevenSidedDie: really? I am surprised by your comment... Hum, lemme rephrase things. – Sardathrion Jul 29 '14 at 6:23
That makes all the difference, thank you! – SevenSidedDie Jul 29 '14 at 18:07
@SevenSidedDie: Okay, cool! ^_~ Thanks for the feedback! It was surprising but helpful in making the answer a better one. – Sardathrion Jul 30 '14 at 7:06

As said before, there might be some rituals and artifacts (you may create your own artifact if you are the right kind of adept) that might protect you from nasty mojo. While I believe that houseruling Magick dodge is not manly enough, run-of-the-mill dodge works wonders against fleshworkers and some flashy hoozebounds.

If they're long distance blasting at you by presents or letters get that dumb friend of yours to open any you get. Odds are you are already batshit crazy enough to be that paranoid.

If one of those naked goddess cultists blast you or are getting any other hex, you may heal with Purifing ritual or other appropiate ritual. If you didn't get which wacko put you throught any kind of long term whammy or said kind of blast you may get a use of the backmonkey ritual.

Other ways maybe getting a load of benzodizepines before confronting those lunatic infomancers or pulling your eyes out in the case of a fury mage. Or you may

ask the Mundy's how they manage to get a dead embryon incrusted in your belly.

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This reads like tactical/strategic advice for someone playing UA, but the question is about someone reading it and trying to understand the setting. Could you edit this to rephrase it as an explanation of how the setting is shaped by the fact of blasts? – SevenSidedDie Jul 28 '14 at 21:51

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