Using sound magic to deafen, damage, or shatter glass

Sound magic is something that is rare in most magic systems. DnD had/has a few odd effects for silencing and thunderclaps, but overall it is left to the domain of bards and the like. Likewise in Ars Magica were “sound” is an aspect of manipulating the image or illusion of an object, and it does not have any special treatments or focus in the rules. The sound it creates is treated just the same as the image it projects, or how it feels.

I think it is interesting to consider how else sound might be used in Ars magica so that it becomes a more versatile aspect of the magic system. The effects that would be hardy are sonic booms, very loud distractions, sound pitch that can shatter glass, and then sound so intense that it can cause harm.

The base Imaginem effect at level 1 allows a sound to be created and this is likely to be at a volume appropriate to a strong speaking voice (R: Voice in the ruleset). A basic sound has a point of creation, and the sound would travel normally from that point outward. This means that sound effects are essentially naturally occurring area of effect spells.

With that in mind modify I’m suggesting some optional additional baselines of:

  • Base 1: A strong speaking voice.
  • Base 2: A loud sound. A very intricate image is +1 mag, so a very loud noise would be +1 mag too. Any effects that are going to be special or complex should be considered at least +1 mag. This is akin to yelling.
  • Base 3: Breaking Glass. Based upon a loud sound (above), I think it would need an extra step of +1 mag to break glass using a particular pitch, for the sake of complexity. And it seems reasonable to require a Finesse check to control the sound approx 6+ difficulty. This makes it an easy effect for a magus with reasonable Finesse, but not automatic for other casters.
  • Base 3 Deafening. Based upon a loud sound (above), perhaps a +1 level of complexity could deafen people near the effect, but that sound would not break glass. A very accurate finesse roll to place the sound next to the target’s ear. And a Stam check of 9+ would be reasonable to resist, those who pass are not deafened.
  • Base 4 Inflicting Damage. Damaging with sound (as in a momentary explosion of violent unnatural sound) is +4 on the base 1, making a +4 effect that inflicts a small amount of damage. This is calculated as a base 1, +1 for an unnatural sound, and +2 for very loud. A level 4 effect inflicts +0 damage. This base can then adjusted using normal R,D,T, and also +2 mags per +5 spell damage applied.
    • So Base 4 for +0 damage,
    • Base 10 for +5 damage,
    • and Base 20 for +10, etc.
  • Damaging sound has an advantage in that it is an area of effect spell by default, and that it should create a range of decreasing damage the further the target is away form the point of creation. I suggest target which are not correctly targeted by the damage should still have some effect if they are close.
    • For each pace or few paces (akin to melee range) that a potential target is away they reduce any damage by -5. This means a +10 damaging effect could be targeted in a tight group of soldiers and inflict +5 to all of them.
    • If the potential target is a few paces away (Near) they should reduce the damage by -10. The same +10 damage spell would become a +0 spell.
  • Creating sound in an unnatural shape is +1 mag harder too, which when applied to sound means sending shaped sound, akin to a cone effect.

So breaking glass is base 3, and deafening a person is also base 3, and using sound as a weapon as Level 10 to inflict +10 damage – all before range and other modifiers.

Range and targeting is also a factor for sound effects. A caster might be able to create a harmful thunderclap at Touch, but at that range it would also harm them as much as the target (just like a fire would) as the sound will project naturally.

The tricky side questions:

  • Q1. Does sound created magically allow MR to apply?
  • A1. In short yes, and it is a problem I can’t answer very well as yet. Images that are illusions are not automatically dispelled just because a magus views them and the magus has high magic resistance. So to a sound is created and emanates, affecting all those around it. But a damaging sound (designed to inflict ham) might actually just pass around the magic, then they hear the effect, but do not suffer an ill effects from it. The sound is muted or almost neutralised by their resistance.
    • This answer contradicts the Ars Magica cannon, which rules that species ignores MR. It is an open debate that really is influenced on the source of the sound. Magically creating a lightning bolt, which causes a natural thunderclap means the thunder is not resisted, but the lightning is. YSMV.
  • Q2. Can the sound be controlled to a specific shape?
  • A2. Akin to an visual illusion that can only be seen from some angles? I’s say yes here too, and would be looking to use an increase in spell level to represent the complexity, and also targeting rolls. Like some aquam effects, it is probably better to use it in its more natural form.
  • Q3. What effects assist with soaking the damage for sound?
  • A3. I think expecting sound to be one of those special damage types that might ignore armor is a stretch, although I can see why a really vicious sound might ignore the armor that a person is wearing. In my sagas armor would assist normally.

See forum thread for more, and the background discussion of how the levels are effects were worked out.

2 thoughts on “Using sound magic to deafen, damage, or shatter glass

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s