Samples of Sound Spells

A little while ago I proposed a set of spell guidelines for Imagonem magic involving sound, and participated in a robust debate on the Ars Magica forums. This post is a follow-up as sample spells using those guidelines. This is perhaps to demonstrate the leverage from Imagonem as more than just visual images, and also to demonstrate the relative power levels to other spell effects.

Shatter the Bon Vivant’s Glass

Creo Imagonem 10, R: Voice, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The caster creates a short high pitched burst of sound next to a glass item, which is shattered by the sound. The caster must succeed a Finesse check vs base 6 to correctly target the sound. The sound created is very loud.

(Base 3 to break glass with Finesse check 6+, range to Voice +3)

This is a simple spell to shatter an item made from glass, without targeting the glass itself with magic. The Finesse should be modified by other conditions, however the base has been chosen as the area of effect of noise is large enough so that the spell should be easy to target in non-complicated situations. Continue reading

I is for Impossible

Impossible, yes sir and madam, I say impossible!

The April-Post-a-Day challenge is crushed for me, and given how little time I’m getting to post I was in hindsight silly to expect to be able to post a few items each day to catch-up. A delusional dream that I enjoyed for a time.

That said, I’m going to keep slowly writing blogs about the alphabet until I complete the A-Z; but not worry about completion by end of April. These posts will instead be intermixed with other posts, and the savvy and smart folks out there might take bets on which month or year I get to Z. Maybe by next year I’ll have a full set.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

H is for Healers

Healers are the unsung hero of RPGs. I dislike playing them, but really appreciate those who like them.

  • In some PC games the healer is a small red potion. That’s ok, they are very portable, but they are often expensive.
  • In dnd the healer used to be the last created, and somewhat thankless. In 4e dnd the healer was diversified, but still a backbone of every team.
  • In wow the healers are always handy, and a good one is brilliant.
  • In ars magica any magus can choose to be a healer, but the magic is too expensive to use flippantly. Bandages are often more cost effective for soldiers.
  • Make a healer angry today, and you’re in strife tomorrow. Make one happy and you’re on easy street.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

G is for Grind

No, no, not grinder; Grind. As in The Grind.

That feeling in games when you’re tasked with completing an objective, but it will take a long time to get done mainly through repetitive tasks. As a wow player I’ve been conditioned to grinds as a normal part of “gameplay”. I accepted early game creators could not create content as fast as I could consume it, so in-built repeats are needed. This is especially true of MMO games, where the content can be consumed at a staggering pace. Such is life.

A grind is not so bad either, if combined with a story element. The reason that the same daily quests are present could be that the problem cannot be solved simply once. Working at a prolonged quest can feel appropriate.

  • Levels, XP
  • Gold, Credits,
  • Mobs, Monsters
  • Gear, Drops
  • and yesss, oh yess, Coffee.

Then there is the grind which is somewhat pointless – to only gain a secondary objective. I get that too, but wish the games would cover the grinds in a little more smoke and mirrors to keep them bound within the story.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

F is for Fire

Fire magic is present in almost all rpgs, and as I’m an Ars Magica magic system fan, here are some run-ups of the spell guidelines for Ignem (fire) spells (a part I really like is the naming of the spells).

Some effects might not be perfectly in-line with the core spell guidelines, and often Ars Magica spells cause debate due to many interpretations or variations. YSMV.

Ignite the Incriminating Writ

Creo Ignem 5 / Herbam, R: Voice, D: Mom, T: Individual

This effect ignites a targeted item item quickly providing a fire which will likely destroying it and leaving only ash. The spell was invented for use on writs and other paper documents which could be either incriminating or hold Magi to agreements which they would prefer to avoid.

(Base 3 as ignite parchment, +2 Voice, +0 He Requisite)

A second version of the spell was invested which could be used at great range using an arcane connection, for those documents that the caster wishes to remove after signing them, and handing them to another.

Ignite the Promiscuous Memoir

Creo Ignem 25 / Requisite, R: Arc, D: Mom, T: Individual

This effect ignites an item connected via an arcane connection, thereby providing a fire which will likely destroying it. The item may be in almost any anything slightly flammable such leather, damp wool.

The spell was invented for use on writs and books, but can also be used to ignite almost any material.

(Base 5 as ignite something slightly flammable, +4 Arc)

Melt the Vanguard’s Arms

Creo Ignem 25 / Terram, R: Voice, D: Mom, T: Part

Up to ten metal items carried by or on the target are heated to melting point. Thus a soldiers sword, helm, and segments of armor will all instantly be burning hot, and melt. This has a side effect of inflicting +5 damage per round while metal items targeted are carried or worn.

(Base 10 heat an object to melting point, +2 Voice, +1 to increase number of parts targeted, +0 Te Requisite)

Conceal the Fire within the Arrow

Muto Ignem 25 / Herbam, R: Touch, D: Diameter, T: Individual

This spell changes a fire up to the size of a small campfire (+5 damage) into an arrow or bolt suitable for use by an archer. The size and form of the projectile is chosen by the caster. The arrow can be used and fired normally until the duration of the spell expires, when it will revert back into a fire.

(Base 10 to change into an unnatural element of another form, +1 Herbam requisite, +1 Touch, +1 Diameter)

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

E is for Experience

E is for Experience.

In my (somewhat not very) humble opinion experience rewards should be:

  • related to successful story objectives, rather than kills, dice-rolls, or dumb luck.
  • rewarded extra for clever ideas.
  • rewarded extra for great roleplaying (a.k.a. acting).
  • rewarded for allowing others to enjoy the game too.
  • I’m not a fan of XP penalties, it seems counter intuitive to offer a disincentive to a hobby activity.

The rewarding for “good” roleplaying is a tough one. Giving one player a bonus for being a solid player is good, this might affect other players, where they see they cannot compete and therefore not try. That is a tough situation, and done best by (a) making the extra reward difference between players very small, and (b) perhaps not doing it initially to allow the players to warm-up.

Another thought I have, although I’ve not tried it yet is keeping the characters on exactly the same XP always. This removes the incentive for rewards, but also removes the penalties if a player cannot play for a reason. The team advance together. I really wish to try this in a game that is sympathetic to group advancement.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

D is for Dungeon

D is for Dungeon, and Delve, Decent, and Danger.

a map tile from Dave's MapperI love a good dungeon. The old dnd experience tucked away in the back of my skull remembers with glee the slow reveal of a huge dungeon map (Undermountain, Menzoberenzan, Queen of the Demon Web, etc). Each 10 ft square added a new set of challenges, columns, traps, and randomly generated monsters. Hand drawn maps that wrapped onto 3 different grids, using a variable scale, with cheetos fingerprints.

I recently grabbed a map from Dave’s Mapper as an attempt to use a random dungeon and was pleased by the experience. It does not remove the need to populate each room, or decide where the traps go, but it does allow the generation of oddly connected dungeon crawls.

I also used a map created by Jon from Fantastic Maps – a cave in which a set of Diabolists lived. It really helped me to have a map to work against for the encounters.

Why dungeons?

A contained space, which can be “cleared” and has a finite time needed, and nice constrained scope. A dungeon area could certainly be limitless, but most are purpose specific. The characters get in, go crazy with powers, and get out to rest and sell the loot. It is the same buzz as a good raid in an mmo, and I think it is still great fun to this day.

Now to get back to smashing crates, drinking the tepid water pools, and robbing the goblins of all their Wands of Magic Missles.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

C is for Companion

C is for Companion.

Companions are the boon and bane of Ars Magica games; mainly boon. They provided a needed and valuable anchor into the mundane world for the Magi, and can have stories as interesting and developed as Magi stories. Unfortunately they can be mild by comparison to the lethality of a mage, which places them within a difficult space when Magi and Companions are encountering a challenge. What challenges the wizard will often outright slay the companion, and likewise any grogs.

Superficially this is ok, as is it both by design, and also marks the strong division between the two story characters. A story where many combative magi blast their way across Mythic Europe will end badly for a magus eventually. There is a similar but smaller gulf between a Companion character and a Grog character, where again the threats need to be smaller, expected skills lower, and the overall challenge subdued.

All three character types are no less challenging in scenarios where mechanical resolution is sidetracked by role playing. So what is a GM to do? Well starting stories which cannot be brute forced closed with magic or a skill roll is the way to go. Let the character resolve the story within their own skill set, regardless of their core type: Magus, Companion, Grog.

Well then, what remains for Companions?

Well themselves as hooks via flaws and virtues for stories is a fair call. Make the companions the story, and let the players choice of virtues and flaws tell the story that the GM never intended.

In that spirit, here are some Companions to consider, sans mechanics.

Craic the Woodsman.

Craic is the third born child of a gentle and prosperous family. He started life just like all his siblings, but soon demonstrated an propensity for getting into trouble, and unfortunately no real skill in getting out again. Time and time again Craic was rescued from trouble by either his father or his eldest brother, and soon began to rely on the extended family to resolve his dilemmas.

Craic makes a modest living as a woodsman and guide for the lean forests that surround his district, and despite his well know reputation, he consistently finds his skills needed by travellers and the wider townsfolk. To his credit Craic is not afraid of a challenge and has found infrequent praise for rising above where other men would have given up or failed.

As the true black sheep, his knack for trouble follows him. His stories maybe previous bargains found to be hollow promises which impact his new employer. Or perhaps it is covenant land that Craic journeys into, finding and sharing secrets and rumours of the Magi with the common folk. In any case Craic will prove he has some worth, but still require assistance or generosity to escape unscathed from the story; which up till now he has been able to do.

Ashai the Regulator

Ashai was never bothered by her lack of the gift when compared with other Magi. As a member of House Mercere she understood her role intimately – to provide the networks and connections which facilitate the commerce of the order. From this and a keen interest in mathematics and commerce, she excelled as a Redcap. Brokering trades, advising Magi, conducting research, and many other activities over her tenure with the tribunal.

Over time the role became more specalised, to the present day where her daily activities concentrate on regulating and monitoring the transactions which occur through Harco. It is Ashai’s calculation which help form the baselines for fees and penalties as used by the Quaesitory, her protocols which protected each side of a transaction, and her hand which guides the ongoing commerce of the order.

Personally she is reserved, polite, and uncomfortable with direct confrontation. Preferring instead to communicate by letter and messenger. She is highly organised and structured in her life and her thinking.

Some seeds might be:

  • Ashai finds that a previous transaction was greatly weighed against the covenant, and while she cannot undo the transaction; she introduces herself to barter on their behalf.
  • Ashai seeks a companion to track down lost materials, where traditional redcaps cannot travel.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

Still so far behind.

B is for Beginnings

B is for Beginnings.

Stories need to start somewhere, and getting a good beginning is important. To get a real sense of background on a story seed, here are some things to consider when a story begins:

  • Give names, and also nationalities, alliances, and consideration of the NPCs prejudice when you create them. An NPC with an odd racial or nationalistic bend can help define them.
  • Consider who the npcs are reporting to, and perhaps what is motivating them.
  • A tag line or saying can really help keep you on track when playing an npc, and remind you quickly. eg. “an elderly con-man, who fakes a hacking cough, and arthritis.” A “hulk of a man, bounded in rough armor, but a voice like a true tenor.”
  • Go digging through google images, using terms like sketch, character, or portrait to find a suitable visual representation of npcs.
  • Locations can be treated as much like Npcs as characters, particularly if they are meant to be supernatural or will feature in multiple sessions. The “disused lobby, with refuse in the lift”, or “boarded up well, surrounded by the corpses of small birds”.
  • Don’t be afraid to tweak the beginning afterward. As much as a GM’s ideas are important, the beginning ideas of players can be better, and will engage the player in the setting if they are spot on the theme.
  • Set some victory and achievement goals when the story begins. Some game systems require this, but even those which do not stipulate it can be helped when you know where the initial story should lean toward.
  • Grab maps. Many sample maps exist for isolated encounters, and tabletop rpg games can be usefully focused on a map as an element to hook the players in.
  • Draw in players with hooks dedicated for their characters. These can sometimes be sent in advance or separately from the main story threads, and pulled out when needed. If only there was time enough to run a sub-story for each PC.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

So many to do to catch-up to today’s letter!

A is for Apprentice

A is for Apprentice.

The lowly apprentice, who one day will surpass their master, but in the current day is treated as a house slave. The master’s clothing is probably never more clean, and their astrolabe never better polished. In Ars Magica stories an apprentice might be treasured as a child, or treated as currency. A lazy fifteen years are required to graduate, and to be honest I’m not surprised that most Magi in the setting have a chip on their shoulder – imagine being in study for that long without a break!

There probably needs to be more stories about failed or suspended apprenticeships in the lore. The poor apprentice is doubly cursed if the master is some commercial mogul with a bad hair piece (the TV show), or a wheezing old guy in black robes who likes to kill everybody (Star Wars). You’d think either master would have more self control.

Story ideas:

  • A Bonisagus raises a challenge to a Magi, where they wish to take the Magi’s recently found apprentice. It could start a direct confrontation, or be used as leverage for another story item which the Bonisagus actually wants.
  • …perhaps the Bonisagus above is being blackmailed by another magus, who is the actual enemy.
  • An npc apprentice is discovered near the covenant, having fled though fear. The apprentice wishes a Bonisagus at the covenant to claim him, to save him from his current master.
  • …the apprentice can sweeten the deal with his personal vis source which his master is unaware of, with 20 pawns as initial offer.
  • …the current master is also the apprentice’s father.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

A great apprentice idea for Ars Magica is the apprentice oath, by Andrew Gronosky, just so this post has something more than some passing silly thoughts.

Playing catch-up as I should have been posting 10 days ago!