Sneaky effects for magic items on the cheap

In Ars Magica there is a tendency (for me at least) to try to create spell effects and items that are powerful and flexible. When doing this it tends to make the final artifacts expensive in terms of time and resources.

I was thinking about a second approach, which would exploit the rules for quasi-permanent effects which the Duration: Ring provides. Essentially Ring is a duration that lasts for as long as the ring is maintained. With that in mind here is a few sneaky effects.

The Persistent Torch

To start with get a craftsman to create a sturdy circular compartment, something solid which the grog can drop and not break, anything really as long as it has a lid that will cover the insides well. In the design you need to note a few aspects: a place for the ring to be either carved or attached on the inside, and a separate space for the item which is to be enchanted. In layman’s terms this could be a very small wooden box with a clasp which shutters the insides.

The craftsman insets the separate piece of some material that is inexpensive and easy to enchant in the middle of the box – I’d choose wood as it will be darn cheap. Avoid metals and stones as affecting them with magic is harder than wood, and there is no need to blow out the spell size.

Then the effect is simple – a Creo Ignem effect at level 10 to 15, with base effect level of either 3 or 4, +1 mag for Touch, +2 for Ring. It really depends on how powerful the light is meant to be. A base 3 light is a torch equivalent, and this seems useful for a grog wishing to travel without attracting too much attention – at as a level 10 effect could be spont’d easily.

A base 4 the light created is as bright as a cloudy day, which is more than enough, although spont’ing that level of effect will take some effort for some younger magi. Either way it is castable, and creates a portable light which can be given to grogs; or perhaps even given to mundanes as a gift. Light has a huge quality of life benefit, especially to the poor.

As alternates duration Ring can be used for these other purposes too:

  • Granting heat and warmth to devices which increases the comfort of an inhabitant. Perhaps a carpet or small bed could be cast upon after being inscribed with a ring. Creo Ignem again for the effect, approx level 2 base effect will see a final effect level 5.
  • Create a fireplace which never expires. CrIg around level 5 as a base, with 20 as the final effect – would make a great comfy fire to heat a room.
  • Create a simple magical compass, using a Rego effect combined with an Intellego effect so that the target always points north. Rego Terram 10 as the total effect. Base effect 2 for slightly unnatural movement, with +1 Intellego requisite, and +1 for Touch, +2 for Ring. Makes for a great gift.
  • A Magus could have many of the lights crafted by a mundane craftsman, and spont cast the rings on the surface of each. This could give an almost endless amount of light for a lab with no outlay of Vis, and very little maintenance.
  • Simple wards to protect against vermin, humans, or beasts. Rego with an appropriate form of a level around 10. There are special rules for wards which mean they are far easier to cast too, so don’t ignore them.

Necromantic Breakthroughs

A recent question on Necromantic Breakthroughs on the RPG forums in Stack Exchange got me pondering a variant of necromancy in Ars Magica; a symbiotic prosthetic. I’m re-posting here, and I’d recommend interested readers stopping in to read there too.

(Update: this was more a sharing rant, than a concise and edited post – the purpose was to share the ideas. Given enough free time it would be great to develop this into a full example.)

The question was:

Ars Magica 5th edition has many possible routes for necromancers and original necromantic research. Beyond the research found in Ancient Magic, are there any mystery cults or theoretical breakthroughs that a necromancer interested in doing the Igor thing (renanimating dead bodies, stitching bits of … assorted bodies together) would be particularly interested in?

This question is specifically interested in specific research directions for a ArM5 necromancer looking to do theoretical research.

In regard to the limits of magic vs necromancy, that is where the discovery rules can be used to circumvent or edge away from Hermetic limits. That said, the only two real limits I see as being present are the restoration of fatigue levels (energy) and the limit of the Divine (see the Ars base book). Other than those I think there is ground within the rules for Necromancy to be created and used easily. It might not be easy, but it is specifically dealt with in the spell guidelines. Continue reading

Sharing SOPA Rant

I’ve made a rant about the anti-piracy bills in the USA and the SOPA movement. Its important enough that I want it shared here too so it reaches a different readership.

What to do if SOPA Passes

Now returning you to some more rants about RPGs.

Thoughts on Mutation Magic

Mutation magic (or Muto) is a technique which is very powerful, but has only a small set of effects in the core rulebook. The guidelines for new spells indicate side variations and options that I found interesting enough to work up as a few sample spells. Muto covers all changes to whatever it is applied to. This can be small partial changes like changing the colour of somebodies hair, or full changes like turning into a bird or wolf.

On first thought changing into an animal is very cool, there is however the somewhat tricky limitations in Ars Magica for changing shape.

The first is that your carried gear and equipment will either make the spell harder to cast, or be left behind when you transform. This gets slightly worse when the mage returns to normal, and is missing their gear. Standing naked in open places can make a mage seem less striking. To solve this there is an common spell used by some shapeshifters to create the illusion of clothes (see Disguise of the Transformed Image, ArM p146). Bundle that with a small easy spell so mage does not feel the cold as much and they’re at least civilized.

A magus might wish to polymorph their clothing into a more suitable type, or need a special type of clothing to enact a spell. The following spell is cast on existing clothes, to give the caster a far greater range in their wardrobe. The core effect is based upon “Coat of a Hundred Colours” spells Wiki by Andrew Gronosky, which is a simple and effective idea.

Attired as Desired

Muto Animal 20 / Herbam Terram. R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Individual

Changes all the clothing of the target touched to the desires of the caster. Purpose of the spell is to allow a quick outfit change should circumstances demand, and also so that the clothing of the target to become appropriate foci for the Muto Corpus spells. It saves carrying around five different cloaks.

(Base 3, +2 Voice, +2 Sun, +1 highly complex clothing).

I created this spell so that it could be cast at some range from the target, just in case touching the target would be difficult. It could be lowered to level 10 if it only affected the caster.

Continue reading

Spells: Selfish Rest of the Injured Magus

As getting hurt is almost unavoidable in role playing games, there are often spells which assist in healing or repairing damage. Ars Magica has a very long recovery time in the core rules, and it serves to give after combat effects to the lives of the characters. A brute force healing spell to just remove wounds are expensive, but improving the general healing of a target is an option which can greatly assist characters.

This spell was created by an NPC in the current saga, and demonstrates a use of the Creo Corpus (create/heal the body) spell guidelines.

Selfish Rest of the Injured Magus

Creo Corpus 15, R: Personal, D: Moon, T: Individual

This spell grants the Magus a +9 bonus to all wound recovery rolls made while the spell is in effect, as long as the spell is maintained during the recovery time.

(Base 4, +3 D: to Moon)

The Magus who crafted the spell has fundamental limitations in how powerful spells and effects he can create, and while a more powerful version could be crafted to help others as well, it would be beyond his skill to create quickly. Raising the spell to Range: Touch makes the final level 20.

True Rest of the Injured Custos

Creo Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Individual

This spell grants the target touched a +9 bonus to all wound recovery rolls made while the spell is in effect, as long as the spell is maintained during the recovery time.

(Base 4, +1 R: to Touch, +3 D: to Moon)

dnd 5e is in development – quick thoughts

Well its happening again, that wonderful and monstrous creation called Dungeons and Dragons is being re-vamped again, to 5th edition. I feel old just reading that.

What does this mean:

  • the game devs have a huge job to do, but the factory has experience in this. They deserve the opportunity to do it well.
  • the internet will broil with opinions of what should be done, what the target audience should be, and what sucked (see below). Expect a snow storm made of razor wire and badger leavings when these conflicting neck-beards meet in the forums to fight it out. I won’t be reading most of it, as it will be similar to what has gone before.
  • the ramblings and conversations in public will help steer the game devs, but the game devs already have a mandate in mind. They would not start this without already having a destination in mind, and changes needed.
  • the product needs to stay profitable, so expect what ever they develop to be a product, not a dream project of love. That means new books on the same fluff, and probably great artwork. These guys have families and mortgages too.
  • expect that some of your favourite aspects of the game will change, and get used to having an open mind during the journey. Or if you can’t do that then please stay silent – the community needs more radicals screaming as much as it needs more competition from computer games. Not at all. Continue reading

Protecting a Magi’s sanctum

a wizard's labA wizards lab is an iconic part of many rpg’s game lore – a lab might be a deep underground sanctum, a lofty tower veiled in lightning, or even a humble forest hut; regardless the laboratory is needed for a spell caster to research and invent in almost all settings. It makes sense to me that a wizard would protect that area with hefty locks and powerful magic.

Here are some thoughts for an enchanted item for laboratory protection for use in Ars Magica, and perhaps some other games. I’m loathe to create many mechanical breakdowns for a few rpg systems, as the actual creation rules vary so greatly. If the mechanics don’t fit an rpg then junk them, and keep the descriptions.

The Tile of Archavious – This circular ceiling panel is 1 pace diameter and an inch thick. The tile is designed to be bolted to the roof of the area to be protected, and is molded with a medusa head at its center, with the snakes surrounding the head is a sun burst style. It is constructed from a core of magnetized iron, and plated in silver. The magnet will weakly attract metals with a pace or so. The tile has been enchanted with two effects, which work in unison to provide a paralysing effect on intruders into Archavious’s laboratory.

The item’s triggering mechanism is a constant effect which detects intruders, and the immobilization effect will stop any large man sized human or animal (size +1) who enters the area unless the spell effect is resisted due to resistance. The intent of the effect is to freezes any targets in place, holding them until the magi’s return. Continue reading

Who goes first? Alternative Ars Magica Initiative

Initiative is fiddly to get right in tabletop roleplaying games, as there are always special circumstances to consider. So beyond a boiler-plate statement about Initiative in my games being subject to the story, more than the story is subject to the mechanics, here is how I see Initiative being resolved in the Ars Magica 5th ed roleplaying game. And yup, this is probably different from the Ars Magica cannon, because the rules as written are not explicit for the same reason as mine – they prefer the story too.

The game rounds in the rules take anywhere between 3-5 seconds each, and that seems a very reasonable time period. In each round there in an unlimited amount of initiative based actions, according to how many people are participating. This means that in simple one on one combat you’d expect to be able to see each deliberate action, and they would probably not overlap too much, but in fact it does not matter so much. In a wild melee the Initiative order of participants is maintained, and this means many actions will be happening per second; probably appearing to be simultaneous. The actual time within the combat round is irrelevant, it is all based upon a strike order. We track the number of rounds for the purposes of actions occurring outside the combat, such as Diameter spell durations, folks sprinting toward the combat area, and all sorts of other factors.

Initiative is resolved by using a Attribute + Ability (stat + skill) with modifiers for the action attempted, which is typical for Ars Magica. The resolution path is what is important, and in this post I’m suggesting a few guidelines that mirror much of the 4th edition rules, and might be different (see the bottom) from the 5th edition rules. I am almost positive that these rules are different from the core rules, and am very much looking forward to testing them on live player characters.

Continue reading

Spells for controlling people

a jester marionetteWorking through the core ArM5 rules there are effects that are laden with story potential mentioned in the spell guidelines, but not as written up spells in the text.

As a sample here are some spells designed to demonstrate those spells, using the Rego Corpus (aka Control the Body) guidelines.

The Clumsy Mannequin

Rego Corpus 10, R: Eye, D: Diameter, T: Individual

The spell facilitates the control of the target’s large scale motions (arms, legs, and head movement), which must follow any simplistic instructions.The target can only control their own small scale motions (finger gestures, talking), and suffers a -3 modifier to any of these actions, including spell casting. Eye contact is needed only for the initial application of the spell.

Valid commands might be “walk in a circle”, “sit down”, “walk of that edge”, and if the command is completed but the spell still has duration the target gains control again until the caster issues another command.

As the duration is Diameter the caster must concentrate to the control over the target’s body. While the spell is in effect the target cannot be made to make any complex or agile movement such as fighting, dancing, juggling, etc.

(Base 4, +1 Eye, +1 Diameter)

Continue reading

Device: The Unburdened Mind

A typical limitation in many rpg magic systems are spells that only last as long as the caster is concentrating on the affect. Detecting magic, seeing invisible, etc all typically last only moments or as long as the caster concentrates. This is not a show stopper, but there are times when a wizard may want a bit of free thinking time just after casting, without having to focus on the spell. In Ars Magica a good way to do that is to invent a magic item that casts another spell that maintains the first one for you.

The effect of the device keeps the first spell active in an unchanged way, so the caster gets on with something else. Here is a sample magical device to do just that.

a black cubeAmulet of the Unburdened Mind – This amulet is made from a cubic piece of loadstone (a black gritty stone) three fifths of an inch wide on each face, held in a silver mount and chain. The faces of the loadstone are inscribed with stylised hermetic symbols for Rego, Terram, and Corpus (controlling earth and humans). To activate the amulet’s effect the wearer must clasp it in a clenched fist. Continue reading