Fixing my Creo effects

After some banter in a game of Ars Magica RPG I’ve been corrected in my understanding of how Creo magic works. Till now I thought that Creo spells never required a Finesse skill check to cast, unless they were creating a very specific item to the caster’s desire.

Particularly I thought any natural item will always be fine, and if that Finesse check passes for an unnatural thing the item should be fit for purpose (with the natural vs unnatural thing being very generous). I thought the Finesse roll was almost always required by Rego spells which emulate crafting activity, because the Rego activity is constructing the item rather than conjuring it fully formed. Thus I was wrong that Creo only really needed Finesse rolls for style, appearance, or presentation of an item.

The core rules state that Creo effects must use a Finesse check if the thing conjured is artificial. Further if the Finesse check botches then the item is not fit-for-purpose. As a guideline it does not provide much more than that.

(the Theory of Forms only has room for natural things? A shame to miss the humble chair)

Aside – if I run another Ars Game I’ll be House Ruling that Creo uses the Platonic realm of forms for all items, not just natural ones; and be removing the Finesse check.

The discussion we had was based around creating a ramp or ladder for some grogs to get up onto a ledge. Essentially I argued that no finesse roll was needed, but the troupe overall said roll. I’m ok with that as it had no real consequences in the setting, but it frustrates me that the rules are written this way.

What I find frustrating is the inconsistency of the application of the Finesse roll in the RAW materials. e.g.

  • No Creo spell in the core book mentions the Finesse roll in their spell description. Although most spells in the core book deal with natural items, there are some which are very questionable, such as Conjuring the Mystic Tower.
  • HoH:S page 60 apparently indicates that the Finesse roll is same difficulty as it would be for Rego Craft magic (I’m away from my books at the moment, but this is the real bugbear for me).
  • What is natural is exceedingly subjective in the RAW, to a point well past absurdity. i.e. Bridge of Living Wood from the core book is a 20 pace by 5 pace wide bridge made from plants. So a huge bridge made of natural items, but not at all shaped or sized naturally. This is a questionable omission, as is Wall of Living Wood. Create a tree and I can understand, but a huge bridge? C’mon.
  • Conjuring the Mystic Tower, a core spell – no roll to conjure a large tower. This is a glaring omission. Perhaps it is hand-waved away as to not waste huge amounts of Vis? Even so, a tad broken.
  • Sword from the Unseen Scabbard and Silvery Scales of the Knight on page 37 of HoH:S – both have Finesse checks, but both have very different descriptions of what happens if that check is not successful. The Sword’s check is 6+ and the Scales is 9+; why? There is no commonality between those spells written next to each other, and they are different from most others, as they explicitly declare it to be required.
  • Silvery Scales of the Knight goes as far to say that the armor could still be poor or really heavy, which is hardly fit-for-purpose.
  • The Magic Flute, MoH, p 139 – no roll to conjure a flute, which is clearly not natural. Whoops, why?
  • Even Incantation of Lightning creates a bolt of lightning and then does something altogether unnatural with it. I can appreciate why the Finesse roll is not needed here.

Aside – The natural and unnatural side of the description is also flawed. I’m not too familiar with the Realm of Forms which I think that basis is created from, but when I’ve read about it elsewhere the general idea is that all things have a perfect and true ideal representation in the realm, and the earthly items are just reflections of it. Thus a real world tree is just a reflection of the essential “true tree”.


Did Plato and the rest really apply this to only naturally occurring items? Isn’t there somewhere a perfect chair, sword, or cup; from which all the others are based. Moot, but I’m on a rant.

Frankly I think the guidelines for Creo equating to Rego difficulty in Finesse have become too mixed in Ars Magica, and it smells very much like the additional complexity was added to make magic a little harder or seem a little more unstable.

I dislike it, but this is the flavour of the setting, so I’ll go with it. Rant & whine ended.

2 thoughts on “Fixing my Creo effects

  1. The point of requiring Finesse, as I see it, is to maintain the importance of the mundanes in the setting. Mundane art should be appreciated, which isn’t really possible if great art is easily produced by magic. Mundane craft should be sought by magi, which doesn’t really make sense if they can Creo/Rego all they need. Yet the game designers didn’t want to deny players the ability to create stuff with magic. Thus, a compromise was reached – you can create stuff with Rego/Creo Craft Magic, but doing so requires Finesse so that few if any magi would be able to create great art or craft and they’d need mundanes to do that.

    The glaring hole in this scheme is that covenfolk can specialize in Finesse, and with a few magic items can then easily outdo mundane artisans and craftsmen.

    I’m not decided whether I like this rule or not. Playing without it does seem to cheapen mundanes and magi’s need for them. Then again, I’m far more attracted to the Mythic in Mythic Europe than to the Europe, so I don’t consider that such a great loss.

    I do believe the rules say that low-level craftsmanship doesn’t require a roll. Thus anything very simply, like a ladder or a piece of rock roughly shaped like a (mystic) tower, doesn’t require a roll. It’s only when you try to make well-crafted things that high-precision with your magic is needed, and hence you need to roll Finesse. If you want a folding ladder, or a smooth tower adorned with gargoyles – then you need to roll Finesse.

    As for the separation into natural and artificial – that was certainly part of the traditional Aristotelian view, as far as I know. Natural things had a “substantial form”, whereas artificial things merely had an accidental structure that had no essence, no oomph, behind it. Thus an animal would strive towards its ends, whereas a clock doesn’t strive towards telling time – it just works the way it happens to work, its hands moving without aiming to do anything (not that Aristotle would have used a clock as an example, but still).


  2. thanks Yair, that makes a lot of sense when put in context. I’m still not convinced that it would be my preferred way to run things; but happy to understand the RAW approach a little better.

    I’ve an odd feeling that my approach is a little skewed toward letting players get away with more too, but can see the “why” as making sense.

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