Session Eight – A Feast and a Mystery

A short session summary of the Ascendency of the Warp Saga, for the Ars Magica game.

Session eight picked up where the characters left off – within the diabolist’s cave, just after having defeated the burning man. The team of Maximilian, Carrick, Luciano, and Callan continued to search the through the remaining caves. Continue reading

Spell – The Fastidious Wizard’s Repose

Here is a run-up for a simple spell which came to mind a few days ago as I pondered how cool and neat most spell casters look in movies and tv. They’re almost always clean – nice flowing robes, shiny gear, or neat suits all while gritting it out through the plot. How?

I think this is how they do it: a spell to clean-up, press, tweak, and generally make all their grooming habits and needs get done ultra-fast.

The Fastidious Wizard’s Repose

Rego Corpus 10, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This spell performs all of the caster’s standard grooming and laundry needs in a matter of seconds. The casters body, clothes, and equipment worn are cleaned, clothes pressed, body manicured, etc.

The quality of the effect is determined by a Finesse check, difficulty 3+ to obtain complete coverage and effect. The spell’s inventor traveled extensively without servants in difficult and remote areas, and this spell maintained a suitably dignified and hygienic appearance.

The additional magnitudes for requisite arts empowers the spell to use affect a wide range materials, and also temporarily create materials needed for cleaning.

(Base 2, +1 to enhance the Finesse check difficulty downward from 6 to 3, +1 to allow for cleaning of complex equipment carefully, +1 Creo, +1 Herbam Animal and Terram)

Silly? Somewhat, but I can think of a few times in RPG games when it would have been handy to get cleaned up. Designing the spell might also be looking in too much detail at an effect which the Magus could use a spont spell for, and it certainly feels more like a cantrip style effect than most others I’ve created.

A side consideration for the effect is what base effect level it should be. Cleaning an item is a really simple task and I think it should be the simplest of effects to groom a person or clean an item; all but trivial. I am almost tempted to make the starting base level 1 except that the cleaning is being performed on a range of materials, but I cannot find a reference to make it that easy.

The Finesse skill roll is needed to see how well the caster can control the effect while they concentrate, with an ease factor of 6, which is based upon an ease factor of 3 for a normal person to do it by hand which is then enhanced magically to lower it slightly. This means that the magical effect is designed specifically to clean in an orderly way, and that ease is built into the spell which in effect increases the magnitude of the spell.

Lastly the requisites have been added so that the spell can conjure materials to be used in the cleaning (Creo), and so the spell can effect a range of materials (Herbam, Animal, Terram). At the suggested +2 magnitudes it seems enough to justify the added Arts, without over spending.

A spell to Grant Ghosts Eternal Joy

Due to the rules of the divine, most characters in the Ars Magica game will probably pass into a final death without God’s blessing. Their ghostly forms might roam the afterlife, until whatever judgement gives them release. I had a thought after creating a spell to torture a ghost that it would also be plausible to artificially give a ghost a pleasant afterlife using magic.

Blessing of Eternal Joy

Rego Mentem 35, R: Arc, D: Ring, T: Individual

This spell connects the caster to ghost of a dead person for whom they possess the arcane connection (or body), and changes the ghost’s mental state to one of happiness and joy.

(Base 5 to control a natural emotion, +4 Arc, +2 Ring)

This happiness spell could also be used before opening discussion with a ghost to make them more receptive to questions and requests, and might be considered more moral than torturing a ghost for answers.

To really be effective for an extended time the effect should really be constructed into a coffin which holds the earthly remains of the target. This way it always has access to the arcane connection, and it is (hopefully) harder for somebody to tamper with it.

The effect to suspend the rot of the corpse could use the same ring as the main effect.

Circle Against Purification

Creo Corpus 5, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Individual

Prevents the decay of a human corpse, or a severed body part, while the Ring is maintained and the target remains within it.

This spell is a simple re-working of Charm Against Purification (ArM p129) with the duration altered to Ring.

(Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Ring)

Trap Spells

As part of a previous post on traveling spells I was trying to find a way to use magic to trap and capture creatures. The concept is a spell effect that will trap and hold a creature without the caster being present at the location – like fly paper. It sound simple initially but due to the features of spell targeting it is tricky to have conditional triggers in spells.

A standard Ars Magica ward is a barrier across which the warded thing cannot cross. They are great to either trap something inside so it can’t get out, or to protect the person inside; but they also must have the targets present when activated. The essential part missing was the trigger mechanism, which would normally require a Watching Ward spell – and that is too expensive in terms of vis. So a ward will not do it.

A basic effect that works would be to make the ground in an area highly adhesive, so that creatures are bound to it. As a base spell it might look like:

Trap of Unearthly Stickiness

Muto Terram 20, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Part

This spell enchants an area of ground or earth (equivalent to 10 cubic paces) to be ultra sticky, so that anything which touches the area is stuck to the earth. Stuck creatures can attempt a Strength + Size roll of 9+ to break free of the effect. The spell will effect creatures of size +1 or smaller.

(Base 4 to change earth to have a highly unnatural property, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Part)

This is a different route to a magical trigger – that is to craft a special spell designed to trap an animal using a consistent ground affect, rather than a trigger. This type of spell requires some intelligence in built in and that might be contentious for Ars Magica, as it really is a minor detection effect side-by-side with an effect, but I think the core effect is sound.

Trap of the Lazy Huntsman

Muto Terram 25 / Intellego Animal, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Part

This spell enchants an area of ground or earth (equivalent to 10 cubic paces) to be ultra sticky, so that animals who walks across the area are stuck to the earth. The animals specified may be as wide as “any moderate sized creatures”, or “only boars and pigs”; but is limited to animals of size +1 or smaller.

Creatures that are not specified in the spell might notice the ground to be slightly tacky but are not impacted by the effect. Stuck creatures can attempt a Strength + Size roll of 9+ to break free of the effect.

(Base 4 to change earth to have a highly unnatural property, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Part, +0 Animal Req, +1 Intellego Req)

This version is used to hunt for animals, and like any magical effect will be resisted by MR, and for non-magical beasts this is fine. The effect does require a degree of intelligence to differentiate between animals, and a basic rule is the creature types should not be able to be specified beyond wide categories or types. Continue reading

Spells for the Maniacal Overlord

I love a villain, and good villains should have powers that evoke their personalities in a visceral way in the story; so with that as a premise – here are some spells for the maniacal overlords.

(Aside: I’ve not been too careful about the spells being perfectly formed in terms of Ars Magica guidelines in this post, as its meant to be more for the spectacle of villainy, rather than accuracy).

Invoke the Agony of Man

Perdo Corpus 15, R: Voice, D: Conc, T: Individual

Inflicts the target of the spell with wracking pain, almost completely disabling them. To make an action the target must succeed a Stam + Size stress of 9+.

(Base 4 to cause a person pain, +2 voice, +1 concentration)

Its a nasty spell. And yet it lacks something. It will be brutal and horrifying when used with a long monologue, but there are some risks that the villain will get distracted, or even that the heroes of the story might pass that physical resistance check. Or that there are too many good guys, and they might not all be able to be affected.

So instead, we use:

Invoke the Horrific Cacophony

Perdo Corpus 35, R: Voice, D: Diameter, T: Group

This spell inflicts the targeted group of up to 100 standard sized people with physical pain so severe that they can do nothing else except writhe in agony, and perhaps very slowly crawl away.

(Base 4 to cause a person pain, +1 to boost the effect to the same level as ReCo immobilizes the target, +2 Voice, +1 Diameter, +2 Group, +1 to affect up to 100 targets at once)

Now that is a spell worthy of a villain. It is high level and only usable in select circumstances, but when its used it will look fantastic. The duration has been altered so than it lasts 2 minutes, which is plenty of time to introduce yourself, give the elevator pitch, or take a rest between killing henchmen.

Villains sometimes also need a boost to inspire fear and loyalty (yes, through fear) in their minions. Everyone has off-days and no brutal dictator wants a mini-uprising just because they’re not feeling 100%. This spell ensures that the target perceive the caster as the cruel and evil juggernaut they need to be to get the job done.

Aura of Unstoppable Malevolence

Rego Mentem 35, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Group

Targets of this spell are strongly inclined to obey you, as their sense of fear is heightened for the duration of the spell.

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +2 Sun, +2 Group)

It’s a re-hash of Aura of Rightful Authority as the base effect, however this spell is worked to be far more suitable to the dictator as it focuses on fear as the base emotion being manipulated, and it uses R: Voice and T: Group in the spell effect. Having to control minions individually is a total waste of energy.

The intimidation that an evil overlord should bring to the story should be expressed to minions periodically. This next spell is specifically used to demonstrate that failure is not tolerated, and death is no escape from punishment.

Torture the Restless Dead

Perdo Mentem 35 / Creo Imagonem, R: Arc, D: Conc, T: Individual

This spell connects the caster to ghost of a dead person for whom they possess the arcane connection (or body), and inflicts pain upon the ghost.

The Creo Imagonem component of the spell make the auditory screams and pleas of the ghost audible to those around the caster.

(Base 4, +2 Creo Imagonem, +4 Arc, +1 Conc)

I’d see this spell being used when the body of a fallen henchman is returned to the evil villain. The henchman’s failure is noted, and the overlord questions and punishes the henchman as a lesson to others. Use of props such as ceremonial daggers, bubbling pools, and other theatrical effects can really  increase the impact this spell has when used; although by itself it should horrify moral people.

(Edit: Yairr’s comment is inspired – Making the effect D: Ring adds +1 mamagnitude but really enhances the aspect of torture, then combined with a Ring based Creo Corpus spell to prohibit the body’s decay, and the ghost is in agony for eternity)

Magic for Traveling

Traveling is usually a major part of roleplaying games set in medieval times – a typical rule-set will give you some guidelines for walking, horses, carts, and perhaps ships. I think it is also fair to say that having accelerated travel is something that can give characters a major advantage in how stories are resolved and in moving the rpg story along.

The Ars Magica setting is almost a boilerplate medieval setting, with the magic system allowing wizards to completely disregard the limitations that mundane commoners live with in terms of travel. Within the magic system’s core rules are examples of transformation into birds, flight via wind, and a few variations on teleportation. That is all fine for the wizards, but it leaves the mundanes unchanged – and when a wizard needs mundane protection their companions being slow is an impact to them as well.

Here are some ideas for spells which will help transport and travel for both mundanes and magi. Some effects are purely designed for magi to get around, while others could be used on both magical and mundane targets.

Continue reading

Sub Rosa Issue 9 review

The Ars Magica magazine Sub Rosa has been regularly published for many years, and through that time the contributors have assisted in the creation of many new ideas into the game system.

Issue 9 was released on Feb 3 and it is a great read for Ars Magica fans. I agree with the blurb from the mag’s website:

“Emerging from the Winter cold, Sub Rosa #9 is here with 68 pages of content, including bonus material for the recently released The Cradle and the Crescent.

We offer up beasts, jinn, sahir, companions, and all manner of juicy details to expand your stories in the Mythic Middle East, straight from the designers and playtester Jason Brennan.

We’ve also got articles on a pious Companion knight, over 30 mythic texts and Gerald Wylie’s Storyguide’s Handbook offers up great advice for simplifying covenant creation!…(cont)”

Overall: Sub Rosa is well worth the money, full of material that either has a direct application to Ars Magica games, or is fascinating reading / fluff which will expand your appreciation of the setting and scope.

I plan on buying every issue. Issue 9 is one of the best I’ve seen.

Quick Review: If you purchased the Cradle and Crescent sourcebook you should also purchase this issue. There is so much material in this issue which directly relates to that source book, and expands on that book that it is an absolute no-brainer. The mag authors have stated openly that much of the material is information that could not fit within the published book, and so its like getting a USD$5 expansion to the book.

The mag is always high quality, well presented, and has regular contributors who are the authors of the source material. So Sub Rosa is generally almost as good as the source material itself.

It is clearly a work of a passionate dedicated team, who take the quality of the material very seriously. I’ve read a few issues now and I find something in each issue to use in my Ars Magica games.

Continue reading

Victory in the Lair – session summary

This is a session summary for the Ars Magica home game called Ascendency of the Warp.

Session Seven – Victory in the Lair

Session began with the magi taking stock of their wounds, the strange effects surrounding the crags, and quickly agreeing to return and deal with the suspected evil. A few hours after the main force of grogs had left the covenant toward the crags Callan’s crow told him that “a handful of man walked from the caves”. Continue reading

More Shape and Material bonuses

There can be, and should be a set of volume for the Shape and Material guidelines for Ars Magica rather than the few hundred offered. Not that a few hundred is a poor effort, its great. I think we should encourage more and more.

As a start here are a few ideas.

A looped chain Ring +2
Lodestone grants as Magnet Rego +2
Lodestone sympathy with Lightning +2
Lodestone increasing weight +5
Torc ennobled presence and authority +4

A fair question is how easy or hard it is to “find” new Shape and Material bonuses, and the fairest answer I can give is that it is entirely dependent on the group of players.

My preference would be to let bonuses which are in line with the typical examples which are also very strongly present in the lore of mythic europe be “discovered” and use in the same season as they are required. ie. You create the Talisman and grant the bonus as active in the same season of activity.

A counter-point to this is to require a degree of investigation and experimentation to the process, thereby the Magus researches and confirms the bonus in a season of activity. This will suit longer games where a season of activity is not such a terrible loss of productivity. If this is the method chosen then the Magus must experiment during the season of investigation, and must roll a result which is not a disaster. The actual activity should be related to the bonus, and can easily be a spell or item using the form.

e.g. The magus wishing to confirm Lodestone as a shape and material bonus enchants a lesser invested device via experimentation, and succeeds in their result (I’d guess the magus keeps the magnitude of the effect very low) and gains the item, plus the discovery. As long as the magus successfully creates the item they also gain the discovery. A disaster in this process wrecks the item, and would also wreck the effort of trying to gain the bonus.

This is akin to the Discovery and Breakthrough rules in some of the sourcebooks, so will be no great surprise, the key difference is that the effort is greatly reduced from those rules.

Previews – Game of Thrones S2 and The Avengers

Its crazy, but just a few small things can make me insane with impatience. The Game of Thrones trailer and new Avengers trailer have done just that.

Happy dance. Now please.