Borrowing a Talisman in Ars Magica


This is a quick aside to point out a clever idea that came up on the ArsMagica forums this week, apparently an old one, but new to me. In Ars Magica a Talisman is a very powerful magical device which allows it’s owner to extend beyond the normal limits of enchanted device creation, and grants special powers within the game.

Generally speaking a Talisman is something that a wizard will never want to fall into the wrong hands, but after they die I’d kind of assumed that the talismans were useless because of mistakenly thinking they were usable by the creator only. This is not at all the case, and as such others can inherit and use the talismans (forum discussion). The powers might be usable, but the bonuses to rolls which talismans also grant cannot be, unless a tricky magical effect is also used; as designed by Doctor Comics. Smart chap.

Continue reading

How to I step back up to the gaming table?

It’s been a while since I ran an rpg. And then even longer, as in a decade or more since I did it regularly. It is a worrying commitment to make, but I used to be ok so it probably will be ok again.

To start off I’m thinking about a short run game. A few sessions, nothing major, a story on rails, and a very narrow vision. The goal is to start small an bite off chewable problems.

As I thought about What to run I also thought about Who can play in it.

Firstly my old group have lives now so getting us together is a mongrel. But as it’s small the game probably needs only two or three players. It could be a solo game, or if we get all the players and some bonus folks it could be a romp. It wouldn’t affect the story too much.

A play by email or forum game allows for very detailed and creative story, but is downright dull for game mechanics. Pbp also kills acting skill. A table session is better for actual roleplaying; and that is what really appeals.

Secondly some of the group like rolling, others like acting, and only a few like both. Shamefully I’m not the best mechanical gamer at the table, or the best actor, or any role really. So frankly, it is scary.

We’ve creating the characters and I’ve sent out a quick teaser, so there is no avoiding it now…but that only helps create more apprehension in my mind about quality and a positive experience.

The prep for this game is far more detailed than I used to do, so that might be a saving grace – the plot has holes in it, but not the huge gaping holes that myy normal “seat of the pants” stories had. I think the worst I ran was an RPG using the Palladium engine and trying to replay the UltimaV pc game storyline. It got weird really quickly.

I guess I’ll just look forward to having a beer on the other side of the games, and seeing if they sucked or not. #holdingmybreath #theEmperorProtects

A spell to practice Finesse or Concentration

From a question I asked on the Ars Magica forums, on how Magi might proactive their Finesse skill without taking risks with powerful magic. The simple answer which I think most saga use is that the Magus sits there using very low power magic effects to spin rocks or some such. If that is the case it is probably only going to offer the most basic level of practice, and the Magus is probably not being challenged enough.

There is also the likelihood in a “real-ish” game that the character may do themselves some damage if they botch the casting or the finesse roll badly. There is a degree of risk using control magic to spin rocks, and not really having full control.

I thought maybe a solution might be created which allowed a higher level of challenge, didn’t depend on others (such as the Bellum game which allows for fighting between magically controlled illusions, from the Apprentices source-book), and removed the risk of damaging the caster.

  • Base effect: Creo Imaginem 1 (create an image that affects one sense, p144 ArM core)
  • Modifiers for Range: to Touch (+1), Duration: to Conc (+1), Target: Individual (+0)
  • Rationale: A moving image (+1), directed by use (+1), which is increasingly complex (+1). Which is also seeking to hamper or avoid the caster’s intent (+1).
  • Final effect level: CrIm 15.

As written up as a spell:

Mastery of Thought and Purpose

Creo Imagonem 15, R: Touch, D: Conc, T: Ind

When the spell is cast an abstract image forms in front of the caster which they may manipulate using Finesse rolls, while making Concentration rolls. The spell presents a detailed changing image, which tries to resist and contradict the alterations of the caster. Slowly as time progresses the image changes more quickly, and the caster is challenged with controlling the spell for as long as possible.

Unlike practice using normal spells requiring concentration and finesse, this spell is designed to frustrate and challenge the caster. This grants a source quality of 5 for practicing the Finesse and Concentration abilities.

(Base 1 to create an image that affects one sense, R: to Touch +1, D: to Conc +1, moving image +1, directed by use +1, which is increasingly complex +1, seeking to hamper or avoid the caster’s intent +1)

The spell may also be a useful candidate for learning to multi-cast, given the concentration required.

The spell is superfluous to almost all games, where normally a player will say their characters are practicing. I wanted to supply a reasonable answer for how they were practicing.

A quick spell – The Chirurgeon’s Healing Circle

Just a quick spell that will be included in a summary of a powerful healer in Ars Magica. This is a quick reworking of the default healing spell from the core rulebook, so that everyone with a drawn circle can be healed a body level, not just one person.

Same level, much wider application, but then it also has the constraint of needing all the targets together and not being able to be cast without vis. I think that is pretty neat.

The Chirurgeon’s Healing Circle

Creo Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Circle, Ritual

As per The Chirurgeon’s Healing Touch, modified to Target all creatures within a drawn circle. Spell will permanently restore one light body level of damage permanently.

(Base 15, R: Touch +1)

If a character of mine ever takes the Chirurgeon’s Healing Touch then I think Ill take this one instead. Now off to try to finish some of the other roleplaying projects on my plate. Silly real life distractions.

Tricky uses for Imagonem magic in Ars Magica

In previous games my Magi have used Imagonem magic with Ring durations to remove or alter the image of a wall, thus creating magical windows. In an expansion source book a sample spell does this exact effect too, which was a nice nod of the head to the Ars players who had been using this trick. I’m sure I initially borrowed the idea from a player’s post to either a forum or some online resource. It is not a new idea, but it is clever. I know that it might seem a little silly initially, but given the amount of time that Magi spend indoors and the desire to keep their sanctum secure, windows that are actually solid walls have some benefit (This post extends on a previous one, which talked through the basics of some Ring baset sneaky spell effects, and I cannot ignore the recent palava around how it breaks the game in a thread in the official forums). Anyway, do as you will in your games folks; this is what I do in mine. It is another example of where the use of the Duration: Ring in Ars Magica can be very handy and effective.

These effects create a great natural source of light during daytime in the lab, and does not affect security. Like most things in Ars Magica’s magic system there are many way to get this result, depending on the detail of how the effect is designed. There are two effects I can thing of to do this “cheaply”; that is to remove the image of the wall totally, or move the image of the wall slightly out of the way. Given T: Part is probably as effective and it is a smaller effect, that seems the best choice.

Summary of effects:

  • Pedo Imagonem 15 = Base 4 affect sight, R: Touch +1, D: Ring +2, T: Circle +0. This effect removes the image from the area within the target circle, so that it is rendered invisible.
  • Rego Imagonem 10 = Base 2 to make it appear 1 pace away, R: Touch +1, D: Ring +2, T: Part +1. This effect shifts the image of the circle up to 1 pace away. This leaves the target area invisible.

When translated into full spells:

Ring of Impermanently Clear Vision

Perdo Imagonem 15, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Circle

This effect removes the image from the area within the target circle, so that it is rendered invisible.

(Base 4 affect sight, R: Touch +1, D: Ring +2, T: Circle +0)

Ring of Transiently Clear Vision

Rego Imagonem 10, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Circle

This effect removes the image from the area within the target circle, so that it is rendered invisible.

(Base 2 to make it appear 1 pace away, R: Touch +1, D: Ring +2, T: Part +1)

The trick for Ring duration and Circle targets is that they last only until the ring or circle is marred or damaged. The game is not specific about what that particularly means, and I like that some parts of this magic system are left for the players to decide.

The effects also can take time to cast, given the circles must be drawn. A solution to that problem is for another spell to drawn the circles properly and permanently.

Inscribe the Magic Circle

Perdo Terram 10, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Part

This spell inscribes a magic circle into the surface of the object touched. The circle may be as large or small as the caster desires, up to around 5 feet diameter. The spell affects simple materials such as dirt, clay, or sand; and harder substances such as stone or glass. It may also affect other materials subject to requisites at time of casting.

(Base 3 to destroy, Touch +1, D: Mom, Part +1, to affect stone or glass +1, and requisites for different materials at time of casting are free)

I’d suggest that a Magus who is going to use Circles for effects routinely might also want a spell which will not carve into the surface, and also allow them to have more control of the durations. A variation on the effect above could be called Render the Magic Circle to allow a circle to be drawn easily and perfectly, remain even though others attempt to mark it, but also not be permanently inscribed on the object.

A marking spell could be designed in a variety of ways. A simple approach is a Creo Imagonem effect to draw the circle at the point touched. This is probably the simplest approach as it creates a very low level effect.

Render the Magic Circle

Rego Imagonem 5

The caster draws a circle onto the surface touched. The circle may be as large or small as the caster desires, up to around 4 feet diameter.

(Base 1 to create something affecting one sense, R: Touch +1, D: Moon +3, T: Ind)

The duration of Moon is useful as it is long enough for it to not need to be recast frequently, but also not make the final effect level too high.

A Muto Imagonem spell could also be designed, and it would have the same base effect; so would a Animal, Herbam, Terram, or even Corpus (yuk) effect to “write” the circle using different materials.

Using the optional rules from one of the source books for crafting magic, a Rego effect could also be used to actually draw the circle if the caster has the inks or tools on hand. This allows the casters to have their “almost permanent” rings drawn as they like, but has a downside of requiring the material to hand. Not a problem in a wizard’s lab, but certainly a problem in the wild.

Draw the Magic Circle

Rego Herbam 5

The caster quickly draws a circle onto the surface touched, far faster than the typical inscription time. The circle may be as large or small as the caster desires, up to around 100 paces in diameter. The caster must make a Finesse check of 3+ or else the circle is unusable.

(Base 1 to create something simple, R: Touch +1, +3 for very large circles)

This spell could have been invented at ReHe2 but the circle size would have only been around 1 pace maximum and as the key benefit of crafting magic is to accelerate work, it seemed too much of a lost opportunity not to scale it up to level 5 and have a more useful effect.

I’ll be the first person to say that these effects are odd, but in the hands of a character casting wards and circles all the time they save on the hassle of stressful casting conditions.

Sub Rosa Issue 14 review

Sub Rosa is a darn good, and perhaps the only English fan magazine for the Ars Magica roleplaying game.

Overall: It is again excellent.

A player or GM or Ars Magica should seriously consider buying each issue of the magazine. It has direct input from David Chart (the line editor of Ars Magica), a seriously good set of articles which explore aspects of the setting and the game well beyond the material that can be found in the official source books.

One particular note which caused me to stop and re-read the page was David Chart’s (Ars line editor) statement in his column that “fundamentally, Mythic Europe makes no sense”.

It is said as a lead up to the new book called Transforming Mythic Europe, but is also resonates with something that my regular players have been saying for decades.

I am seriously considering buying this book to read about the implications of dramatically altering the setting. Initially I think the effect is obvious, but beyond that, I’ve not stopped to consider the 100, 300, 500 year view. The book does appear to maintain that the huge and radical change of Mythic Europe has not happened in the setting as yet, as this book is how to deal with the introduction of that concept. So there is still a framework that fits with the rest of the setting, and I suspect that Transforming Mythic Europe will be more about Hermetic power options than social and political impacts.

Having David speak so plainly is incredible, and I doubt we’ll see another fan magazine for another RPG which has such an involved and open editor.

Quick Summary:

The Storyguide’s Handbook – again gives useful information for GMs, and everything provided applies across any RPG, not just Ars Magica. This article deals with keeping players engaged and how to deal with their unpredictability. If you are familiar with mind mapping tools this will be easy to pickup. I’m a fan of notes, but frankly do not find mind mapping useful, unless it is formulated in a manner to deal with other organised ways of thinking.

I think if this being akin to Risk management in Project Management. Have a plan, identify your risks and issues, mitigate them with strategies, and if they occur then stress the detail. Document light, plan long.

An article for alternative Longevity Rituals is provided, based upon the creation of very special enchanted devices for Verditius Magi. It is very interesting and I could see a Vertitius magus using these.

Mark Shirley has written an article about the population of Magi in the setting and used statistical models to extrapolate the implications of the suggested population sizes from the core material. I think the Magi population has always seemed small, and this article demonstrates (to me, not in it’s writing) that the order is almost too small to be viable.

SR #14 also has a scenario with full character sheets, a very detailed set of companions with stand alone story and many story seeds, and a discussion of the hermetic line of invention through House Bonisagus.

Go read it.

Spell – Slip From the Reaper’s Grasp

A quick write-up of the the anti aging spell guidelines in Ars Magica, with the spell needed to avoid a terminal aging event.

Slip From the Reaper’s Grasp

Creo Corpus 40, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Ind, Ritual

Resolves a terminal (or less) crisis caused by Aging (see Ars p.170). This effect causes Warping.

(Base 35 to resolve a Terminal aging crisis, R: Touch +1)

As rare as aging events are for characters in play, it seems like this effect was one of the obvious spells which a lot of Magi would contemplate needing.

You can find the rest of the custom spells in the blog’s Ars Magica spell list. I hope none of my characters even need this one. Happy gaming.