Discussing and Improving the Invisible Sling of Vilano

Here are some thoughts about the Invisible Sling of Vilano, which is arguably one of the most dangerous offensive spells in the Ars Magica role playing game. These are meta-thoughts on the mechanics of spells, rather than actual spells which are direct boosts (you’ve been warned, heh).

I say arguably as the defense against the spell is trivial to accomplish for an experienced wizard who dedicates significant time to it, but impractical for most wizards, and the spell is wonderfully effective against creatures with high resistance to magical attacks. Frankly an opponent who has high magical resistance and also a high soak is darn powerful and is not meant to be fought head on without planning. Ars Magica is a story & discussion (at length) rpg and high challenge beasts should not be knocked down by a single style of attack. It would be the same in any game, but particularly so in Ars Magica as it does not make for compelling stories.

(a) Have you tried Multi-casting?

Simply put Multi-casting with Mastery is far less contentious because this is exactly the style of spell that should directly benefit from multi-casting, and it is the core rules. Use it. In fact this is really the go-to way to gain the maximum bang for your XP once a spell has been mastered.

Some troupes will limit or curtail the power of multi-casting, and that’s the troupe choice – I’m not a fan of that option, but it’s fair if applied equally and stated up front. There are so many ways to be an effective combat wizard in Ars Magica that it shouldn’t be a problem.

(b) Can the damage scale or stack?

Well maybe. Strictly speaking the rules are not definitive.

The ways that a Rego Terram spell like this could be improved is very particular to the style of the group playing Ars Magica. Opinions are divided in the discussion forums, although they do lend themselves toward one interpretation. The opinion was tending toward limiting the multiplicative power of concurrent iterations of a spell in spell designs (to be clear, you don’t just add more versions of an effect to increase the overall damage). Other players seek to allow stacking effects for increased damage output in a very linear way.

I’ve seen it called modifying the “base effect” vs modifying the “effect usage”. That makes a kind of sense, such as the difference between a large fire spell and a small one using a different base 10 or base 25 (variations on Pilum of Fire or Ball of Abysmal Flame), and also fire effects that use a Target: Group to increase the area of damage (Arc of Firery Ribbons). Both are legit.

There are two general approaches, each with variations, depending on how the troupe treats a change from Target: Individual to Target: Group – which in RAW is essentially allowing 10x times the material to be manipulated by a spell. Note too that many troupes will dismiss all these options as munchkin-isms.

  1. The 10x increase in the volume of thrown stones requires each throw to be aimed individually and damage to be resolved individually. This means 10x targeting rolls and 10x damage rolls, each doing +5 damage. This results in the spell being far more powerful and inflicting dramatically more damage due to how many more opportunities the spell has to hit and roll a high damage result.
  2. As (1) above, except the targeting rolls are made per target, and the damage is still inflicted per effect. This is a better option for speed of game-play, but sacrifices the opportunity for spray effects.
  3. As (1) above, except that targets with a soak/toughness +10 points or more above the +5 damage (so soak +15 or higher in the base example) brush off the damage without actually resolving the dice rolls. This mitigates the threat to targets with high soak. Tough characters stay tough, but softer targets are still significantly threatened.
  4. As (2) however a penalty applies for splitting the targets. This approach dictates that one primary target is chosen and trying to split the spell to target two different foes is very difficult,and suffers a Finesse targeting modifier.
  5. Allow the 10x fold increase to inflict damage once for each target, which inflicts more damage using a scale of how many stones struck each target. The scaling chosen really makes of breaks the approach, and scaling is dangerous (very ill-favored). Linear scaling: 1 stone +5 damage, 5 stones +10, 10 stones +15. Pyramid scaling: 1 stone +5 damage, 3 stones +10, 6 stones +15, 10 stones +20 damage.

Which to choose is up to the troupe. It is worth noting that going beyond 10x stones with a spell is certainly possible, but will not be practical in most scenarios as the raw materials are not present to fling so many rocks around.

(c) Increase the base effect guideline to make new versions?

Well I hope it can, as that’s what this spell does – a vicious version of Vilano’s Sling.

The RAW mechanics allow for damage to scale with the base effect, and that an increase in the size of the projectile make no significant change in the damage. Therefore a good design keeps the stones to fit sized as:

  • Base 5, +5 damage
  • Base 10, +10 damage
  • Base 15, +15 damage
  • And I assume this can continue just like the Ignem damage increments.

Refs:

An ungodly projectile spell

I’ve had a great comment and a few new visits to the blog on improving the Invisible Sling of Vilano and magical projectiles posts; the comment suggests the damage should scale with the size of projectiles being used instead of adding raw power into the spell. Makes darn perfect logical sense to me, and skims around the rules in HoH:S. Shortly I’ll have a post about the ways of improving projectile spells unrelated to the rules as written.

I starting thinking of what the maximum damage a projected sling might do. Is it reasonable to set an upper limit on the damage a spell can do? Creo Ignem spells don’t have a canonical limit. Further why is a projectile moving at such speed only accurate to 20 paces, and surely 30 paces the missile is moving fast enough to still be exceedingly dangerous?

What does a maximised Vilano spell look like?

The Ungodly Projectile

Rego Terram 50, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This effect hurls a stone in a manner identical to Invisible Sling of Vilano, with the force of the projectile increased to inflict +45 damage. The stone is accurate to 20 paces and requires a successful Finesse roll to hit the target. As the stone is flung by spell rather than guided, the effect is not influenced by Magic Resistance.

(Base 45, +1 Touch)

I know this appears broken. +45 damage should be when a huge boulder crushes a character, or the arm swing of a titan. It makes me wonder what the impact speed of a modern bullet would be when translated into Ars Magica terms (boom, headshot!).

For this and other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells.

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken

Magically projecting arrows isn’t terribly efficient

I was thinking about Vilano’s Sling with reference to projecting other materials. Stone is an exceptional material because it is simple to work with, pretty tough, and very prolific in the Ars Magica setting; but what about other materials?

Living or dead wood with Herbam magic? Well there is already a spell in Tales of Mythic Europe to throw wooden things around (page 55), and it’s OK as long MR isn’t an issue. As a ReHe5 spell that inflicts around +4 damage is good as a basic deterrence but poor against any type of serious threat or serious armor. Even a normal mundane soldier with reasonable armor will have a better soak than that. Herbam needs a boosted Vilano style option.

Same too for Corpus, Animal, and a metal version in Terram too. The advantage of using odd materials is that Magi and creatures with MR are far less likely to have a special resistance to it.

Firstly for Herbam there is a major complexity difference between flinging around sharpened wooden objects versus directing the flight of arrows. Arrows need extra casting requisites for their Animal and Terram components, but are probably circumstantial easier to find on the fly and inflict slightly better damage than sharpened sticks. So two spell options are needed. Given the additional requisites for arrows, I think a basic stone sling is still much better.

(note: this post is missing a reworking of Vilano’s Sling to inflict a far more harmful +20 damage as it was previously posted on the blog).

Secondly I’ve taken a simplified route for the spell guidelines and repeated the rules from the Rego Terram section, which has damage increments from +5 to +15 for throwing an item which requires a Finesse targeting skill check instead of whatever the materials guideline might be for automatically hitting a target. I think that’s in the spirit of the rules. The sample spells below expand the guideline to base 20 to inflict +20 damage which is far harder for armored targets and beasts to ignore.

The Vicious Projectile of Wood

Rego Herbam 25, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The spell projects a small wooden object toward an opponent, inflicting up to +20 damage, subject to the form of the object. A sharpened streamlined projectile will inflict full damage, however a lump of wood will inflict approximately +15 damage.

The projectile is accurate to 20 paces and requires a successful Finesse roll to hit the target. As the object is flung by spell rather than guided, the effect is not influenced by Magic Resistance.

(Base 20, +1 Touch)

The Vicious Arrow

Rego Herbam 25 / Animal Terram, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The spell projects an arrow toward an opponent, inflicting +20 damage. While effective on arrows this effect could project any small object combining wooden, metal, or animal components.

The projectile is accurate to 20 paces and requires a successful Finesse roll to hit the target. As the object is flung by spell rather than guided, the effect is not influenced by Magic Resistance.

(Base 20, +1 Touch, Animal and Terram requisites free)

Given the capacity for a boosted version of Vilano’s Sling to inflict the same damage with less requisites, magically flinging around arrows isn’t the best option. Continue reading

Rather savage versions of the Incantation of Lightning

Reworking the spell The Incantation of Lightning to show how savage a damage of time (DoT) effect can be in Ars Magica. The Incantation of Lightning (IoL – Ars p.126) is already a dangerous spell for targets without magical resistance, and applying the same effect round after round is wonderfully effective.

The Incantation of Enveloping Lightning

Creo Auram 40, R: Voice, D: Diameter, T: Individual

This spell envelops the target in a prolonged field of lightning, which inflicts +30 damage per round for the duration, and applies a knockdown effect (as per the Incantation of Lightning spell).

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +4 unnatural, +1 Diameter)

incredible artwork for a wizard casting a chain lightning effect

Continue reading

Two cantrips for finding things in Ars Magica

Here are two simple low levels spells for Ars Magica, to find a beasts and miscellaneous items. These are both based upon the spell Sense the Lodestone (InCo 5) from Hermetic Projects p.84.

Sense the Beast’s Vector

Intellego Animal 5, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The caster gains the a sense for the direction and distance to the animal for which they have an Arcane Connection.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration)

Sense the Miscellanea’s Vector

Intellego Terram 5, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The caster gains the a sense for the direction and distance to the object for which they have an Arcane Connection. Requisites are required for non-terram objects when cast.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration)

For these and other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells 

Powerful effects for a Mentem Wizard

Part of designing a high powered Magus for Ars Magica is working out what effects they might have personally developed which separates them from the wizards in the core rulebooks. These two effects use the mind control arts of Rego Mentem to the high level without being a ritual; to command a person utterly, and to issue a command to everyone within a building. The magus who will hopefully design these spells can also use Vim magic to target the spells using Arcane Connections and across battlefields.

Dominion of Thought, Word, and Deed

Rego Mentem 50, R: Eye, D: Moon, T: Individual.

This effect allows the caster to mentally dominates the subject, completely controlling their mind, objectives, and emotions. Complex intertwined motivations, behaviours, and attitudes can be planted in the subjects mind; which they must act upon.

(Base 30, +1 Eye, +3 Moon)

Compelling the Inhabitants Compliance

Rego Mentem 50, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Structure.

Mentally commands all inhabitants of the target structure to perform a single complex command, regardless of its danger or suitability, which they must carry out to the best of their ability.

(Base 20, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +3 Structure)

For these and other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells.

  

Arcane Tunnels for Road and Waterway in Ars Magica

An aspect of having new spell ranges of Road and Waterway with Faerie Magic and Atlantean virtues (and many others) is the limited range of spells which are designed using them. Magi might be reluctant to take these virtues as their existing spells are not geared for the new ranges. Muto Vim spells can greatly change that, as does the major Virtue Flexible Formuliac Magic, and some spell mastery options.

An additional way to help mitigate this is the use of a special version of an Intangible-Tunnel-style effect which seek to connect the caster to a remote Waterway or Roadway via an arcane connection.

These variant Rego Vim spells establish a mystical connection to the road or body of water, so instead of the caster needing to personally touch it, the caster touches the AC. In effect it is a special mystic tunnel which bridges the Range of an intangible tunnel spell instead of the Target of the intangible tunnel spell.

If approved by the troupe these spells add significant leverage to the magi with access to the ranges because they allow for those effects to be used at great range, and this might be a controversial option. I think the style of wizard who sits in their lab using Arcane Connections is already present in Ars Magica, and these spells are no more powerful than an Intangible Tunnel itself. The caster is still required to learn the new “Mystical” tunnels as Rego Vim spells, and also still required to cast a spell with the appropriate Range.

Opening the Mystical Roadway

Rego Vim General, R: Arcane, D: Concentration, T: Individual

This effect establishes a mystical connection to a Roadway to which the caster has an Arcane Connection. Spells cast through this mystical tunnel must still be cast using the Range: Roadway parameter (an aspect of the Faerie Magic virtue), and may not be higher level than this spell.

(Base effect, +4 Arc, +1 General)

Opening the Mystical Waterway

Rego Vim General, R: Arcane, D: Concentration, T: Individual

This effect establishes a mystical connection to a Waterway to which the caster has an Arcane Connection. Spells cast through this mystical tunnel must still be cast using the Range: Waterway parameter (an aspect of the Atlantean virtue), and may not be higher level than this spell.

(Base effect, +4 Arc, +1 General)

I think that is quite a nice treat for characters with these virtues, when using these variant OtIT effects – all they need is an arcane connection to a road or waterway to affect anything within it. It could be pretty neat.

For these and over 200 other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells.

a portal to where?