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.
The real limiting factor Hermetically will be duration of the effects designed. ie. an effect that animates a body has a max duration of Moon without being a ritual or an enchanted device. So you could:
- enchant your own body as a device, or craft an enchanted device which maintains the effects
- perhaps you could also create a new duration? The “ring” duration is endless, but only while it is not disturbed. I wrote up an alternate duration recently called “Seal” where a spell effect remains intact while a vessel or device is sealed. If teh seal is broken (opening or breakage) then the spell expires. I was thinking of food, but a spell which transfers your mind into another body could also use this duration, and it is permanent while the vessel is intact.
In the context of the game the discovery process for Necromancy should be played out as one to one sessions, or perhaps correspondence style (like a play by post). Have the player give a general indication of the direction desired (from the sample effects already in a few answers), and then develop a pathway which includes steps. The investigation should combine seasons of activity in plain research (being a season spend which does not improve or produce anything) then followed by seasons which produce effects, items, or discoveries.
eg. a Necromantic focus that involved limb and wound replacement might start with a pathway like:
- initial theoretical research needed at a library far superior to the character’s current library. This is a story opportunity to either get permission to, or buy access to a great library.
- conduct the season of research, which grants the character the indication of how it might have been done before using within Hermetic limits. If you still want the player to get a reward for the season of work then consider this a Magic Theory Tractus with a specialisation in Necromantic Animation, score 5.
- allow them to then craft a device which responds to the caster’s desires, but must be controlled through deliberate thought. Akin to an extra arm which the mage controls with their mind. This is confirming the current stance of magic invested devices in Hermetic magic which lack autonomous intelligence. Some sort of interesting but essentially useless minor invested device, with a approx Rego Corpus effect, which was invested into a dead limb. It might also need a quick Creo Corpus effect to cease the purification.
- the learning from the research and device indicates that investigation into links between the mind and perception and feedback is a real factor – so the next step in some time spent in Intellego Mentum magics, which is essentially developing the “brain interface”. I’d say this should take a few seasons to construct a prototype device. Again the device should be all but useless, but evoke the necromantic feel that the player chose.
- eg: The NeverLost Hand – this enchanted device is designed to create the sense feeling and touch, which includes a deep sense of connection to the hand. The effect is cast by the hand onto the target who then feels that any movement made by the hand is as real as their own. In effect this makes the target feel as the hand would. An important note is that the hand itself has no invested powers that facilitate movement, which means that the most effective way for the target to feel these experiences is to hold and move the hand themselves, or give it to another. Crafted as a InMe effect around level 30-35, (Base: 4 (?), +1 complexity in feedback to target, +2 Duration Sun, +2 Range Voice, nn uses per day +3, etc)
- Now you’ve got a feedback mechanism, and a control mechanism – so combine both in a proper enchanted device. This could function almost as what they are after, but should still be far away from a true cyber-grafted device. Spend a season creating a new leg for a live animal (a dog say, or perhaps a servant if you can get one to agree) using the above guide, and another few experimenting on attaching it, casting additional spells and such using Intellego and Corpus/Animal to get the sense of what is missing.
- now start the grant design – the research needed to add a Virtue to the character sheet which changes all the Necromatic devices they create so they have the extra “meat-link”.
- eg. Virtue = Symbiotic Invested Devices (Hermetic) +1 – by use of this virtue the magus can create invested devices which are symbiotic links to the creatures they are used by. The invested device must still use the limiting Arts (use rules above for InMe and ReCo arts which are relevant) and the item is further enhanced by this virtue to feel like a natural part of the target. A sample use of this virtue would be a replacement hand for a magus who lost theirs in combat. The hand forms such a visceral link to the user that it functions as a normal hand (or perhaps even better than). The virtue may be used on any type of targets (subject to Art requirements) such as men, animals, or even trees, and may add new functions to existing creatures; such as wings on a human as crafted for Icarus. It is worth noting that devices crafted in this manner are better than prosthetic replacements in that they actually feel like a part of the target creature.
What about other forms of nero-related subjects:
- using dead body parts as a form of animated healing on the living? ie. replace lost hand, replace burnt skin.
- or creating artefacts that replace limbs and lost organs. “cybernetic” limbs, eyes, etc
- research toward becoming “undead” in the form of a lich-type creature? ie. placing sentience in an external vessel. very accurate and fine control of a corpse, so it can be occupied.
- Perhaps even go for a Sauron feel, where the magus exists in a disembodied state, thereby removing the “corruptions of the flesh”. I see this as an attempt to go spiritual.