Deathwatch mission background fluff

“What is the terror of death? That we die, our work incomplete.”

“However, what is the joy of life? To die, knowing our task is done.”

As part of starting a short Deathwatch game, I thought to write a little introduction, or background teaser. Hopefully useful and entertaining…

[begin] [data log 000000040001-AH-4771-k-00002] [Sec Com: Edict]
[Designation: Insertion Delta I-327] [Mission: Lachernei-P1-MH0] 
[Action: Immediate]

Signals division report malformed emissions from MWI-012 (planet 
Hartel-3). Immediate reconnaissance required. August-3 Fireteam 
to deploy via transport IST-1-6 (The Bloodied Hand). Rendezvous 
for extract at MWI-590 (asteroid Choking-Heathen). Additional 
assets at discretion of local command.

[1] Orbital Survey MWI-012.
[1] Signals Emissions Recording.
[2] Threat Assessment.
[3] Neutralize Threat.
[1] Rendezvous MWI-590.

Non-standard combat requisition: Approved: Augur Servo-skull. 
[data log 41-AH-4771-k] [end]

(extract of inquisitor log, entry #1)

Fireteam has been expanded with additional Imperial navy resources to include a signals specialist and a handful of general guard, a few of them boots. It took very little persuasion for the SS to familiarize himself with the improved Augur from the ship’s deep store, and the boat’s captain is looking longingly at the device even though I’ve implied that it will be his skull next if it was not to be returned. These Imperials are ordinary but adequate. I am wary of what we will find at the rock as the mission brief was short and unexpected.

My commander will assign two of our own to watch the SS, and the rest can go under general command for the deployment. I praise the captain for his quiet entry to system.

(extract of inquisitor log, entry #2)

MWI-590 is exactly as Temple charter described, and it has created a stir amongst the boots. They initially appeared to be nervous about the deployment upon seeing the C-Hazard, and the auspicious proclivity for exaggeration by the Fireteam made this no better. Despite my warning I have forgiven them this indulgence.

(extract of inquisitor log, entry #3)

Hartel-3 is without question unclean. I have rarely seen filth of this nature, and never on this scale. My report to Temple recommended global sanctification and the Captain has requested same through navy command. As expected response will take time. Tomorrow we close for inspection.

Such days as these test our mettle, and we are reforged stronger in His name.

(extract of inquisitor log, entry #4)

The beast struck sure at our orbit, and cleverly waited some time before its strike. Our Fireteam were fully deployed on planet so while the damage to the hull was brief and brutal, our troop was diminished only slightly; some 40 hands, twelve Imperial guard, and our barber-surgeon.

Fireteam has made contact with the creature and found it passive. I suspect it has the rare intelligence to be pondering the team’s purpose, whereas the The Bloodied Hand was here for only the creature’s ill.

I will pray for those lost, and more so for those who fight on. Their is the purest purpose, my His shield and sword be ever present. More cannot be committed to insecure logs.


A neat little primer for medieval studies

I found a neat little book in a book shop this week on the Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages, named Thinking Medieval, by Marcus Ball.

A review from Goodreads said,

Okay, so this isn’t really a mass-market paperback, but nor is it an over-the-top practice in being an erudite ass. Bull’s examination of what we mean–and what we DON’T–when we talk about the Middle Ages is funny, fast, and incredibly well-argued. Although it can be a little depressing (as a medievalist) sometimes, it’s very honest about the field and its uses and what those interested in the medieval era should be aware of when they’re discussing it with those studying it, those mocking it, those thinking they know about it, and everyone else.

The book is not about the history of the period all, but acts as a primer for the way to start thinking about the medieval period in a study context – how to think about the era as a student.

I find it interesting as a fan of the period that I’d stumble upon a book like this randomly.

It feels like a gateway book for more serious consideration into understanding the period from an academic perspective.

I’m really looking forward to reading it in full, and what I’ve read so far is very informative.

Multi-casting and the Sorceror’s Fork in Ars Magica

Another great discussion from the Ars Magica community on the official forums on Atlas games website (if you’re reading this, then go there for the full story).

A discussion of “multi-casting and the sorcerer’s fork” effects combine is a very meta-game function which is something I’d expect advanced players to have an interest in, and something that newer Ars Magica players might not know was even possible.

The essential details are that a spell from the core rulebook called The Sorcerer’s Fork (ArM p.159) allows a caster to split a single spell into two spells of lesser power. Often this is used for getting more effects from a high level spell, thereby increasing the productivity or breadth of the spell.

This allows a caster to affect two targets in a weaker manner, or more insidiously it allows the fork to be caster on a spell that another wizard is casting and thereby reducing the effect on the target.

e.g. A scenario could be that Magus Albertus is casting a nasty flame-jet spell on Magus Bartholemy. Magus A has chosen his fire spell because it inflicts a nice amount of fire damage, and he thinks his spell has a good chance of overcoming Magus B’s magical shield (aka Parma Magica).

However Magus B happens to be a master of Vim magics, and has the option of trying to cast The Sorceror’s Fork on the spell that Magus A is casting. Assuming that Magus B is able to cast cast the spell, and it works against Magus A (which we won’t worry about resolving the technical details) the nasty flame effect is split into two lower power spells, each with a reduced effect and a reduced change to break through Magus B’s magic shielding.

So if the nasty spell was a level 25 effect, with a penetration score of 30 (because Magus A is not too bad at this spell), then it becomes two level 12 effects, with a penetration score of 15 each. The level 15 penetration is much easier to reflect.

If Magus B was successful in targeting and casting The Sorceror’s Fork in this manner, he will probably be unscathed by the two greatly reduced spells.

Consider too that a beginning wizard often can cast nasty spells, but they don’t often have powerful penetration or shielding, so this trick allows a Magus to have a quasi-universal defense against hostile magic.

So it can be pretty effective. However that is not the end of the scenario which the forums were discussing.

Add to this the advantages in Ars Magica that come from “mastering” a spell, which include an option to multi-cast spells.

When a Magus chooses “multi-casting” for spell Mastery they gain the ability to cast many different instances of the same spell in the same combat round. Yes, you read that right.

In effect the spell master indicates that the caster is so familiar with the spell that they can invoke multiple versions, all with the same base power and penetration. Pretty neat, but it does take a non-trivial amount of effort to gain Mastery in a spell, and multi-casting isn’t easy.

So this is where the forum discussion started – with Magus A multi-casting an effect, and Magus B trying to defend.The question was how many spells are effected by The Sorceror’s Fork when multi-casting is involved.

In effect the defense of The Sorceror’s Fork will only work against one of the instances of the multi-cast, as the fork spell is designed to affect one spell only. The multi-caster might have one spell resisted or neutralised, but not both.

Darn cool, and dangerous too.

Lesser magical device – The Chiurgeon’s Gewgaw

A low powered but useful item for a starting covenant, created for the Ars Magica RPG.

The Chiurgeon’s Gewgaw

The Chiurgeon’s Gewgaw is a rectangular palm sized smooth rock crystal. This is a lesser enchanted device which allowed the user to understand the general health of a single person (as per Physician’s Eye, ArM core rulebook). Intended for use during triage.

  • Base effect: Intellego Corpus 4, R: Touch (+1), 24 uses per day (+5)
  • R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Ind
  • Form and Material: a small sample of rock crystal (+3 to healing) which can rest in the palm.
  • Effect level 5, Item level 10. Crafted as a lesser enchanted device.
  • Item activation: Touch the rock crystal to the target’s forehead, and hold momentarily.

Vanilla Covenants Project – Fidelus of Bonisagus

I’ve taken on a bit of ad-hoc Ars Magica character creation for the NPC named Fidelus of Bonisagus, as part of the Vanilla Covenants Project. The project is a community sourced set of examples of beginning covenants for the Ars Magica RPG setting.

Hopefully this material will get used in the project, but if not it does demonstrate a little of the Ars Magica character generation process (continuing theme from another Bonisagus Magus example).DUNNOTTAR_CASTLE_Large

This NPC is the leader of the Covenant of Sabrina’s Rest (as written by Timothy Ferguson), a typical covenant of moderate power and influence.

Fidelus of Bonisagus


Fidelus is the nominal head of the Council, although this is essentially an honorary position which he holds because of his House membership. He specializes in Corpus magic, and is effectively a healer. His sigil is an intricate pattern of white, that looks like seafoam.

He’s also mentioned fearfully in some other covenants, and by some of the most senior grogs, because during a Wizard’s War a couple of decades ago he raised an army of corpses from the grogs of the other covenant. He doesn’t like to talk about this, he considers it an immoral thing she did out of desperation, but his sodales have embroidered the story and made very sure that every other magus in the Tribunal knows it. It’s perhaps the thing he’s most famous for, and so his distracted but nurturing nature is a surprise to young magi, when they first meet him.


Fidelus is an unassuming man who knows the value of patience and listening to others. Seldom is he the first to speak, but often his words will be remembered as insightful and well thought through. By habit he will watch the covenfolk go about their lives, seeking to always understand their motivations and experiences at a fundamental level.

If upset or angered his countenance changes, and the deep resonance of his voice changes from soothing to a naturally commanding baritone.

Within the covenant his temperate manner has assisted with difficult negotiations time and time again. Seldom does Fidelus not achieve an outcome which he is satisfied by.


Fidelus has aged very well and despite his advancing years has lost none of his handsome looks or rich strong tone in his voice. His thick brown hair has wisps of white through it, and a neatly trimmed mustache and beard. Fidelus stands tall with a straight back and seldom rushes or hurries.

When amongst coven folk Fidelus wears cloaks and robes layered in blue and green hues, but whilst traveling he will wear clothing of subdued colors similar to that of priests and monks. Often Fidelus will alter his appearance magically to better blend in, preferring to remain unnoticed. He is never armed as he prefers to use his magical skills for defense, and will evade and neutralize an opponent rather than cause harm.


Characteristics: Int +2, Per +1, Pre +1, Com +2, Str -1, Sta +2, Dex 0, Qik -2 (1)
Size: 0
Age: 74 (47), Height: 162 cm, Weight: 60 kg, Gender: Male
Decrepitude: 0, Warping Score: 0 (0), Confidence: 1 (3)

Personality Traits: Careful +2, Kind +1, Well Spoken +3
Virtues and Flaws: The Gift, Flexible Formulaic Magic, Clear Thinker (Bonus: +3 to resist lies, confusion, subterfuge), Minor Magical Focus
(healing), Affinity with Corpus, Affinity with Creo, Life Boost, Hermetic Magus, Puissant Intrigue*, Visions, Incompatible Arts (Intellego Ignem,
Creo Ignem), Incompatible Arts (Muto Ignem, Perdo Ignem), Difficult Longevity Ritual, Loose Magic, Ambitious

Abilities: Area Lore: Area 1 (Brittan) (9), Artes Liberales 1, Athletics 1, Awareness 3 (1), Brawl 1, Breton 5 (Commoners), Chirurgy 2, Code of
Hermes 3, Faerie Lore 1 (5), Finesse 1, Folk Ken 2 (5), Guile 1, Hunt 2 (1), Intrigue 3+2, Latin 4 (Hermetic usage), Leadership 1 (9), Magic Lore 1
(5), Magic Theory 6 (25), Medicine 1 (2), Order of Hermes Lore 3 (5), Parma Magica 5, Penetration 2 (6), Swim 1, Teaching 3 (7), Welsh 1

Arts: Cr 20, In 10, Mu 10, Pe 7, Re 14, An 5, Aq 5, Au 5, Co 26, He 5, Ig 5, Im 8, Me 9, Te 5, Vi 13

Spells Known:
Awaken the Slumbering Corpse (ReCo 25) +42
Bind Wound (CrCo 10) +68
The Call to Slumber (ReMe 10) +25
Charm Against Putrefaction (CrCo 10) +48
Cheating the Reaper (CrCo 30) +69
The Chirurgeon’s Healing Circle (CrCo 20) +69
The Chirurgeon’s Healing Touch (CrCo 20) +69
Circular Ward Against Demons (ReVi 20) +29
Curse of the Bloated Tongues (ReCo 10) +42
Curse of the Unruly Tongue (ReCo 5) +43, Mastery 1 (fast casting)
Dust to Dust (PeCo 25) +35
Endurance of the Berserkers (ReCo 15) +42
Gather the Essence of the Beast (ReVi 15) +29
Gentle Touch of the Purified Body (CrCo 20) +69
The Gift of Vigor (ReCo 20) +42
The Inexorable Search (InCo 20) +38
The Invisible Eye Revealed (InVi 15) +25
Lifting the Dangling Puppet (ReCo 15) +43, Mastery 1 (multiple casting)
Opening the Intangible Tunnel (ReVi 30) +30, Mastery 1 (magic resistance)
The Phantom Gift (CrVi 15) +35
Physician’s Eye (InCo 5) +48
Purification of the Festering Wounds (CrCo 20) +68
Restoration of the Defiled Body (CrCo 25) +69
Revealed Flaws of Mortal Flesh (InCo 10) +48
Rise of the Feathery Body (ReCo 10) +42
Selfish Rest of the Injured Magus (CrCo 15) +68
Serious Rest for the Injured Custos (CrCo 30) +68
The Severed Limb Made Whole (CrCo 25) +69
Sight of the Transparent Motive (InMe 10) +21
Sight of the True Form (InCo 20) +38
Slip From the Reaper’s Grasp (CrCo 40) +68
Spasms of the Uncontrolled Hand (ReCo 5) +42
Speak Through the Intangible Tunnel (CrIm 4) +30.
Spy Through the Intangible Tunnel (InIm 10) +20.
Trust of Childlike Faith (PeMe 10) +19, Mastery 1 (still casting)
Ward Against the Common Man (ReCo 20) +42
Whispers Through the Black Gate (InCo(Me) 15) +21
Words of the Unbroken Silence (CrMe 10) +31
The Wound that Weeps (PeCo 15) +36, Mastery 1 (magic resistance)

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Thoughts on the nature of fast cast spells in Ars Magica

There was another Ars Magica 5 question on Stack exchange, and like a good little opinionated community member I wrote a brief answer. I thought I’d share it here because it is an area that is a little unclear to me.

Are there any guidelines as to the nature of fast-cast spontaneous spells needed to counter a magi’s spells?

I wrote the answer below, which is also tweaked a little for clarity:

There are many layers to the idea of using fast-cast spells in ArM5 and the rules are unclear. This has led to many discussions on the official forums as groups seek to clarify or expand what is possible and logical. I didn’t like the outcomes of that discussion so didn’t commit it to memory. Instead here is how I thought the rules should be used:

  • Fast casting can apply to both Formulaic spells and Spontaneous spells.
  • The defensive spell must be half the level of the attacking spell to defend against it.
  • The caster of the defensive spell must know the Form and Tech of the attacking spell to be able to defend. This implies that the defender must know that the spell is being cast (somehow).
  • I think there is a Perception + Magic Theory to be able to identify the attacking spell’s Form.
  • Therefore I surmise that once the attacking spell hits the defending Magus it is too late to fast-cast Spont a defense; as the Magus only has their Parma to defend with.
  • Therefore too a Defender who is unaware of an inbound attacking spell cannot fast-cast against it. This makes Silent Magic and Subtle Magic virtues much more powerful. Your villain might be able to cast without words or gestures, and therefore nobody can really fast cast defend against the spells.
  • Both Spont and Form spell applies the -10 cast penalty, and the botch dice. This makes a fast cast Spont spell very hard to cast. Which is in turn why many magi choose to lean Form and tech appropriate generic Formulaic spells which they then fast cast.
  • Our troupe decided that the Technique can be any which seems appropriate to the attacking spell. So the style of the defending spell could be Rego or Perdo for example, as both easily can move or eliminate the Form. It could even be Creo or Muto too. I am not sure how Intellego would be used to defend against an inbound spell. Very circumstantial.
  • That means that it is plausible that there is a general spell for defense in each form. e.g. “Defend against the Marauding Fire”, as a PeIg (gen) spell. So the Magus learns that spell at a level they like, and then hopes that they can fast cast it with the -10 penalty to the roll. As their skill increases they might learn a few versions of that spell.

I didn’t like the idea that a Defending spell could be learnt as a Rego Vim or Perdo Vim variation and still need only half the level of the attacking spell to neutralise it, but I do agree that the same Perdo Ignem spell above could be altered to be Perdo then all the forms to get the same style of effect. That would be a hard spell to cast given how the 9 additional Form requisites would affect spell casting totals.

I’d say that any Rego Vim or Perdo Vim effect must equal the attacking spell level (without considering Penetration).


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Symbiotic Invested Devices, an Ars Magica Hermetic Virtue

In an old discussion on RPG Stack Exchange I suggested a virtue to allow an enchanted device to also be a symbiotic link to the caster as part of a form of necromancy, and blogged about it too. Here is the shorter version.

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 appropriate effects to facilitate the function of the device itself as 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.

e.g. 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.


A “normal” item without the creator having this virtue would be crafted with two effects:


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)


a ReTe effect around level 15-20, to move the hand as the wearer desires.


This virtue removes the need for the first effect.


There are restrictions on the devices:

the device only functions properly when placed upon the wearer. This means that a replacement hand is no use to a person who already has a hand.


the devices cannot heal as normal, and damage must be repaired.


Amongst the potential for devices is all sorts of more traditional items from other games, such as the Hand and Eye of Venccna from DnD Greyhawk lore, the Steel Arm from DragonLance, and so on.

In the end this might be just another funny and odd virtue for Ars Magica, which I hope to use one day on a character of mine.

Bay crushes all doubt with Transformers AoE

Transformers Age of Extinction trailer was released as part of the recent Superbowl. Amid a chorus of folks who loved it because it is fun and why not, there are folks who cite it as the reason they can hate Michael Bay for certain. The point is that after this, good or bad, Bay has tuned into the Transformers mythos. If poor imitation black dudes as Autobot cars wasn’t enough to polarise the fans, this will be. Bay has crushed any doubt that he is beyond caring what others think. GIANT ROBOTS!

I like it. Bring on the silly loud BARRRRRRRRUZZZZZUUUUPP noise.