Spells to Conjure, Transmute, and Evaporate Poisons

Poison is one of the areas where many game systems get complex very quickly. This is probably because poison can be such a wonderful and dangerous element in any story and surrounded by mystery in real life. Here is a quick exploration of some poisoning techniques exposed via spells in Ars Magica.

Within the Ars Magica spell guidelines are many powers that have not been expanded into complete spells. This post is an extrapolation of those guidelines specifically for creating liquid poisons. Many sagas might find the explanations obvious, but I hope that by demonstrating some variations there will be wider use of the more obscure guidelines.

The Assassin’s Lethal Draft is a non-subtle spell which conjures a dose of poison so harmful that it will kill everyone except the hardiest person. It is very high level, fast acting, and despite its potency, difficult to use.

The Assassin’s Lethal Draft

Creo Aquam 45, R: Touch, D: Diameter, T: Individual

This spell creates a single draft of lethal poison that inflicts a Fatal wound on the person who drinks it, unless they succeed a Stamina check of 9+.

The poison created is a dram (or teaspoon) of colorless odorless liquid, which may be added to drinks or conjured within a cup the caster is touches. The poison is harmless if it is not ingested.

(Base 25 for a fatal poison, +2 to increase the check to 9+, +1 Touch, +1 Diameter)

While the spell creates a very powerful poison, it’s application is not easy and it is not subtle, and it could be argued that other spells can achieve more flexibility with fewer levels. Despite that, it shows that Creo Aquam magic has powerful uses.

The spell could be modified to be lower level by compromising on the difficulty of the Stamina check, and on the damage inflicted. As example this spell inflicts a medium wound, and can be resisted a little easier. It would also be far easier for a Magus to learn or create, and has the same degree of social complexity in its use.

The Assassin’s Churning Draft

Creo Aquam 25, R: Touch, D: Diameter, T: Individual

This spell creates a single draft of poison that inflicts a Medium wound on the person who drinks it, unless they succeed a Stamina check of 6+.

The poison created is a dram (or teaspoon) of colorless odorless liquid, which may be added to drinks or conjured within a cup the caster is touches. The poison is harmless if it is not ingested.

(Base 10 for a medium poison, +1 to increase the check to 6+, +1 Touch, +1 Diameter)

An alternate and favorite poisoning technique from roleplaying games is apply a poison to a weapon’s blade, and use it within combat. A spell to create this effect will need to frequently refresh the poison, and also ensure that it is always applied to the blade.

When using the spell you might start to consider its use on blunt weapons, making the poison a contact poison, or what happens when the wielder botches a combat roll. All I can suggest is that poisons should be dangerous and treated with both fear and respect, with the particulars left to the GM to thrash out.

As an example spell:

Sheath of the Serpent’s Venom

Creo Aquam 30 / Rego, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell coats the blade of a weapon in a constantly refreshing poison. When the weapon successfully inflicts damage to an opponent the victim must succeed a Stamina check vs 6+ or also receive an additional Light wound.

Weapons enhanced by this spell will noticeably drip the venom if inspected, and the poison can be carefully taken from the weapon and used in other ways. Use of poisons is highly disregarded in most regions.

(Base 5 to inflict a light wound, +1 Rego to control the liquid’s movement on the blade, +1 to raise the check difficulty to 6+, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

Something worth noting in the poisons spell guidelines is the fact that it is a lot easier to change an existing liquid into a poison than to create it from nothing. The spells above use the Creo Aquam rules to create poisons, but Muto grants a far better base for poisons that are easier to conjure.

Taint the Drunkard’s Desire

Muto Aquam 15, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target liquid of this spell is altered to become a medium strength poison. An hour after it is ingested the poison inflicts a Medium wound on any drinker for each dose consumed.

The poison may be resisted by succeeding a Stamina check vs 6+. The spell may transform any single portion of of a beverage including water, wine, beer, or spirits up to one gallon.

(Base 3 to inflict an Medium wound, +1 to raise the check difficulty to 6+, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

Or another version to inflict a Incapacitating wound.

Call for the Drunkard’s Demise

Muto Aquam 25, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target liquid of this spell is altered to become a powerful poison. An hour after it is ingested the poison inflicts a Incapacitating wound on any drinker for each dose consumed.

The poison may be resisted by succeeding a Stamina check vs 6+. The spell may transform any single portion of of a beverage including water, wine, beer, or spirits up to one gallon.

(Base 5 to inflict an Incapacitating wound, +1 to raise the check difficulty to 6+, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

A key difference between the Creo poisons vs the Muto poisons is the onset time chosen in the spell descriptions, where the Muto poisons take effect later. This is an arbitrary choice I made when designing the spells, and it is fair to say that the onset time could be switched or altered to any duration within the bounds of the overall spell effect.

Both Muto and Creo poisons are excellent in terms of leaving no remains after the liquids return to normal, essentially an apothecary would not be able to distinguish what poison was used, only perhaps the subtle description of how it manifested – which again is up to the troupe to decide.

There are also far less subtle examples of poison use, where the presence of the toxin is irrefutable; such as changing all the air in a room to be a corrosive acid.

The Toxic Solar

Muto Auram 30, R: Touch, D: Diameter, T: Room

This spell changes the air within a room touched to a highly corrosive gas which inflicts +10 damage per round to everything within. This gas will also damage delicate items within the room, such as paper, food, fur and cloth.

(Base 10 for Level as damage, +1 Touch, +1 Diameter, +2 Room)

This is a moderately difficult spell, but it is very effective and difficult for normal people to survive within. Casting this spell on a few prisoners in a locked cell will all but assure their deaths without ever touching the targets.

Lastly I thought it appropriate to show how magic can be used to construct a natural poison. With this spell the material parts of a mundane poison are processed by magic to be highly effective and created very quickly. A poison produced in this manner is entirely non-magical, and so will affect a wizard and mundane in the same manner – which means Magi have a reason to be cautious about food, drinks, and weapons along with everybody else.

Extract the Essence of Serqet

Rego Herbam 20, Aquam Animal, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This spell processes a poisoner’s raw ingredients into a near perfect extract.

The quality of the final result is determined by a Finesse roll vs 6, where results lower than this amount do not produce an effective poison, and rolls that far exceed it will increase potency.

All of the materials fro normal processing and steps must be provided for the spell to produce an effective product.

(Base 3 to perform the craft process within moments, +4 reduction of Finesse difficulty by 12, +1 Touch)

The rationale for the spell is interesting as it relies on the new-ish rules for crafting using rego. Typically a spell can perform any act which a artisan or craftsman can, but at +3 to the higher base difficulty. I’m comfortable saying that creating of a poison is very hard, so would have a base of 15+ on a Stat + Skill roll, which becomes 18+ when performed by magic. However just like the difficulty of saves and effects can be lowered by making the spell a higher level, the Finesse roll can also modified downward, at +1 for each -3 reduction.

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