Speaking to stone without Intellego

Here are a few sneaky spells to allow an Ars Magica hermetic wizard to speak to stone without using Intellego. Why? Well my player character is darn awful at casting Intellego spells (perception magic) and I need a work around. It seems suitable that it the work around is more complex and harder to do than the direct approach, but also pleasing that it can be done.

The Unobtrusive Observer’s Sight in Stone
Muto Terram / Mentum 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Part
The surface touched is awakened to consciousness. The surface is able to see and hear it’s surroundings, will remember details of events for the duration of the spell.When cast a small human face is added to the surface touched, and effect’s perception is based upon the position of that face. The position and size of the face is decided when the spell is cast.

(Base 4 to awaken the consciousness of a plant in the earth instead, Mentum requisite in base effect +0, highly unnatural effect for earth +1, to affect stone +1, R: Touch +1, D: Sun +2, T: Part +1)

The base 4 guideline from MuHe is the closest similar spell guideline but it is not a perfect match to the effect, as the earth is arguably “less alive” than plants. Therefore I added an additional magnitude to adjust for a “highly unnatural” effect.

I also considered the Muto Terram guideline for Level 5 which changes earth into an animal as being very similar in style, and it was nice that the two difficulties matched.

The Unobtrusive Observer’s Voice in Stone
Muto Terram / Corpus 25, R: Touch, D: Conc, T: Part

The surface touched gains the power of human speech as long as the earth is already awakened.

(Base 4 to grant the power of speech, highly unnatural for earth +1, Corpus requisite in base effect +0, to affect stone +1, R: Touch +1, D: Conc +1, T: Part +1)

Credit must go to the Ars Magica community (Ezechiel357 and Pralix) who helped in my forum post, they’ve added a few more sneaky ideas around this concept – particularly the point that granting a Creo Imagonem / Mentum effect is more direct and would probably be the more direct way of granting the speech effect; but I think that style effect may still need Intellego to allow the effect to understand the mind in the stone.

I also found a similar Herbam based effect called the Eye of Daisy in an old thread.


Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures, Part Two. The Behemoth

Continuing from – Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures – Part One.

Part Two – The Behemoth, a tyrant of the wilderness.

In terms of relevance to the medieval setting in Ars Magica the behemoth can be referenced in the bible (Job 40:15-24 apparently), and as such is appropriate to a mythic setting. The Behemoth is the more basic of the three creatures from a Hermetic magic perspective because it does not require additional thought as to how it flies or how it might swim or float in design, and therefore uses a lower level spell guideline.

The artistic references above make the behemoth massive, far in excess of a “normal” supernatural creature. A rough guess should have each of them being hundreds of yards tall, and able to crush large houses beneath their humungous limbs. This means the spell complexity which might be saved from not flying or swimming will likely be spent in the difficulty of making the form even bigger.

As a gigantic mythic creature in a supernatural game the logical limitations of maximum creature size that we know in the 21st century should not apply. I’ve seen gamers argue that a giant couldn’t actually walk on their legs as they can’t support their own weight, and while that is true in reality I do not accept that as a valid limitation in a role-playing game designed around the myths and legends of the middle ages (if you agree with taking a 21st century view I’m surprised you read this far).

In terms of physical form here are some suggestions for shapes and forms which might be interesting in addition to the massive size.

(a) Battering Ram Skull / Forehead – the area is heavily protected by resilient hide and supported by extra think bone within the skull and spine, providing a natural battering ram which can be used to thrown down gates and smash fortified walls with ease.

(b) Crushing Limbs, Feet or Tail – these appendages are shaped and reenforced specifically to crush flat everything under them.

As in game effects this aspect ensures that the form will take no damage from blows it strikes with the transformed limbs, as they are almost as resilient as stone. For combat purposes the limb can strike as an area of effect weapon, inflicting additional damage to it’s normal damage to the area affected.

Area of effect should be relative to the the size of the limb, and your SG should help adjudicate the effect and damage. A stomping foot might inflict an additional +5 damage to it’s normal attack, or a true wrecking ball limb (see the picture above) might inflict +10 to +15 or more extra damage to a group (i.e. If a normal huge creatures strikes for +15, the wrecking ball inflicts +25 damage to a set of targets). The limb should also be able to inflict structural damage, passing through traditional damage reduction effects that structures sometimes have.

This should also have a secondary side-effect of greatly reducing the form’s ability to discern details by touch with the limb, reduce manual dexterity, or fundamentally removing the sense of touch from the area in the wrecking ball example.

(c) Impregnable Hide or Armour – the creatures hide is highly resilient to weapons, so much so that it offers a very large bonus to soak against all damage. I think the natural armadillo or turtle shell is a suitable source for the effect, but this might also be expressed as scales, overlapping plates, or a bone carapace. For the bonus to be effective the physical appearance must be pronounced.

This could grant a variable degree of protection depending on where the additional armor is located on the creature. For smaller creatures it makes sense to have a single +mod to Soak, but for massive creatures I can see an option to have different locations with different Soak values.

A series of armored plates which cover the creature’s limbs, torso, and head might grant a very large bonus to soak, but also allow a targeted attack to try to pierce between those plates, or potentially strike in locations where they offer less protection.

A huge creature also will have larger and thicker armor plates than any creature we are used to in nature. A turtle shell is already formidable, and should be impenetrable for a turtle which is 10 feet high at the shoulder. The modifiers to soak should be impressive, such as +10 or +15, and then +20+ in the areas which are highly protected.

(d) Able to lift huge weight – the form can leverage it’s large size to also apply a very power dead lift ability for short periods; such as uprooting large trees, or lifting structures from their foundations. This feature adds special muscle bulk and enhanced tolerances for lifting so that the form is highly resistant to the damage that such lifting would normally incur.

(e) Swallowing Maw – the creatures mouth is a gaping maw, so large that it can swallow a man whole. It may also be lined with a terrible array of vicious teeth, a crushing jaw, or any manner of intimidating feature which makes the mouth of the beast a fearsome weapon. For this feature to be used the creature should be around 5 size ranks larger than it’s intended target, to allow for the difference in size required to swallow the target.

(f) Massive Bellow – the roar of the creature will intimidate other creatures, and force bravery personality checks. An already monstrous creature roaring in anger should be terrifying, and this ability is noted so that it can be considered in the potential mix of natural abilities. Volume should be relative to the form’s overall size (from a lion’s roar at size 2, through to a horrifying cacophony above size 6).

(g) Human Speech – for a Magus transforming into a new form, it is highly desirable for the form to still be able to speak full sentences fluently and cast spells.

(h) Resistance to Acids and suchlike – the skin of the form is highly resistant to acids and corrosion, which grants a +5 to +10 soak bonus against these types of damage sources. This style of benefit might be added multiple times for a different resistance (crushing damage, fire, lightning, etc). The creature’s description and style should match the abilities described.

(i) Sweeping Tail, or limbs – the form is granted an additional limb (or potentially many limbs) which can strike and sweep opponents like a weapon. This has the advantage of making the form more offensive at all quarters, and less likely to have a flank which cannot attack.

(j) Burst of Speed – the form can use it’s extra muscle bulk to sprint for short distances very quickly. This maybe combined with the ramming attack, or to charge through a group of mundane combatants.

In the spell design the base level must be increased to allow for the reference of many powers being animalistic in nature, which uses the Muto Corpus level 10 guideline.

Form of the Charging Behemoth

Muto Corpus / Animal 35, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Ind

The caster is transformed into a enormously large and imposing monster, up to a size +7. The form stands upright and hunched, well over 20 feet tall, with two main fore-limbs formed into crushing weapons, and a long tail capable of crushing and sweeping opponents aside. Two smaller additional limbs are below the main set, which can grasp and and use implements.

It’s hide is almost impregnable due to the overlapping carapace of scales and spikes which cover its body, the spines and spikes being especially long and sharp along the creatures upper body and tail. Two massive horns adorn it’s head, forming the basis of the creatures ramming charge. When charging it will sprint using the large forelimbs and hind legs to build momentum.

The  physical form as the following aspects: a battering ram skull which can be used to charge, crushing fore limbs, sweeping tail, an impregnable hide of intersecting armor plates, quick bursts of speed, massive bellow, and human speech.

(Base 10 size change into an animal of max size +1, +1 D: Diameter, +2 for an additional 6 size ranks, +2 for a broad set of physical abilities)

behemoth2The physical stats for the behemoth will be written later, where each beastie will be written up in detail. For now, its the concepts and scope.

Continue reading – Part Three.

Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures, Part One. Making giants.

As a current Ars Magica character has a specialty in self transformation, I thought it would be interesting to see how a wizard can change their form into gargantuan creatures with hermetic magic. When doing some research into quasi-mythical giant monsters there was a wonderful variety of artwork to source for inspiration, so I have made this an image heavy blog post to reflect some of the great material I found.

In the designs I am thinking of a Behemoth, a Leviathan, and a Dragon. This is so I can cover a transformation appropriate to land, sea, and air. The dragon could almost cover all three at once if was designed to also swim and breathe underwater, but separate spell transformations will allow for more specialised form; and I think that is a better overall flavour. Why have only one form, when you could have three?

But first:

    An important factor for transformation spells in Ars Magica makes these forms exceedingly poor for actually fighting other mythic creatures or other Magi.

This is because a transformed Magus is under the effects of a an active spell, and that active spell means they cannot physically attack through the Magical Resistance or Parma Magica of a potential opponent. This means that these new transformations are basically useless for combat against other magical creatures and other spell casters with MR.

Sure a very large creature can sit and look intimidating, but it somewhat reduces the overall appeal when the dragon can’t actually bite anything with MR.

It’s a shame, because otherwise it would be wonderful thematically for Magi to fight “beast vs beast” against opponents.

Regardless of the deficiencies and constraints of hermetic Magic with regard to transformation, lets look at some spells to transform the caster into a gargantuan creature.

Part One – How many features and how large for the creature designs?

In a previous blog post about the powers which might be in-build into a newly designed form (Thoughts on Muto Corpus guidelines), I came to the conclusion:

A few similar thematically alterations only cost +1 mag, but many will cost another +1 mag. So the extra +1 mag allows for say 12-15 powers, where the limited one allows for a handful.

For these creatures this type of boost makes sense because the intent is for them to be powerful and strange, so we should apply a general +2 mag modifier of complexity to all the forms when they are designed fully, so that they can properly mimic whatever physical potential is designed into the monster shapes. The sub-sections below list some suggested powers that each style of creature might have, such as universal digestion, breathing water, extra thick hides, and so on.

While some of the examples in the core rules allow for thematic effects (have a read of the Steed of Vengeance spell in ArM p.119) they shouldn’t be thought about as “magical powers”, but aspects and accents of the physical form. Anything which grants a separate mechanical advantage which is unrelated to the physical shape and form of the beast should be either not allowed, or paid for in extra magnitudes of spell complexity.

To start the spell effects must pay for the base to effect the target, which in this case is a Magus caster (Corpus base is included for size -1 to +1 humanoid), and then pay the magnitudes to reach the target size. For almost every creature I can think of in this article, bigger will be better.

Then when considering the size of the creatures there is a guideline implied by many of the Muto effects, that a base effect can affect a creature from base Individual size or smaller, and Muto can then alter it up to only 1 size rank. Then each +1 magnitude allows a further +3 size ranks (discussed here). So the first mag pays for a basic effect to alter the size up to +1, and then each additional mag adds three more size levels. 2 mags for up to size +4, 4 mags for up to size +10, 5 mags to +13, 6 mags to +16. Frankly anything larger is going to be far too high level to cast, and certainly beyond gigantic.

My read of this now is that for each +3 shift in size ranking a +1 mag is needed in a spell effect.

Then we need to know how big a rank is to plan what powers make sense. The base rules measure the size ranks by approx weight of the creature, not the height so that the difference between bipeds and quadrupeds is moot, and each increase of 3 size ranks makes the creatures weight ten times larger.

Therefore a size +3 creature is up to around 1300 pounds, and a size +12 creature is 1,300,000 pounds (or 530 imperial tons, which is apparently two and a half times the weight of the Statue of Liberty). Even if the math and rounding is a bit off (your saga may vary this a bit), that kind of order of magnitude in the size is exactly what these transformation effects need.

A handy table from a d20 resource gives rough weight and height sizes for their standard size ranges. It shows a humanoid creature of 32 to 64 feet tall might weigh 16 to 125 ton, which in the Ars Magica sizes is around creature size 9 and size 10.

Here is a sketchy generic effect for a human to giant transformation; designed to use some of the guidelines above and also not be such a high level spell as to be too difficult to learn.

220px-Giants_and_FreiaForm of the Lumbering Jotunn

Muto Corpus 20, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Ind

This effect enlarges the Magus up to a very large (size rank 10) version of themselves. At this size the Magus is around 60 feet tall, and weighs over 100 tons.

The character’s combat mechanics are greatly enhanced, adding +20 Strength, +10 to Soak, -10 to Quickness. The character also gains the reach and leverage associated with the truly massive stance.

Requisites are required when cast to transform clothes and equipment, and not all equipment will be included in the transformation. The effect is designed with a girdle as the focus, which is removed to end the effect prematurely.

(Base 3 to utterly change the size of a person although still human up to size +1, +2 for D: Sun, +3 for an additional 9 size ranks)

The base effect is identical to the Ars Magica core rules effect Preternatural Growth and Shrinking. The effect could be made more versatile by allowing it to be cast on others (Range: Touch +5 levels), or also potentially include all the equipment and arms the target is carrying which would make for a far higher and more complex effect.

It is also worth noting that a size +10 creature is almost beyond the size table in the basic rules, and certainly beyond any typical supernatural creature. A more palatable version of this spell might retain the imposing size of a giant, but not allow for enlargement of the caster’s physical size by such a dramatic degree.

Rewritten the same effect could be designed at Muto Corpus level 15 and still allow the caster to transform into a size +6 or +7 form, which still stands well beyond anything non-mythical.

If another +5 magnitudes were added to push the size even further, the spell might allow for a maximum creature size of 25 as a level 45 effect, which is getting well beyond reason! Roughly speaking that is 50 million tones. I cannot think of something which a size +10 giant creature cannot do which might require a +25 version. Swat large birds from the air like flies, or wade through a narrow sea?

No additional changes (like the powers or abilities listed below) were added to this spell design, so that it did not need to include extra levels of complexity.

Now that we know it will be a moderate level effect to allow a human to transform into a giant, and that the spell needs additional complexity to have truly impressive monsters, we can get to designing the monsters.

Continue reading – Part Two.

A sample NPC, Phocas the Mason

An NPC character in an Ars magica play-by-post game. Phocas is the covenant’s mason and also acting autocrat. As a grog the stats are not critical, but certainly handy.

Phocas, Mason and Autocrat
Phocas is tall and thin with thick dark wavy hair, a trimmed beard and mustache, and a wry smile which implies deep knowledge. He walks and speaks with an “aristocratic” air, having been well educated formally at great expense to his family. He is always in the midst of at least three different tasks, and it is only his passion for his work and an organised mind which allow him to run so many concurrent tasks.

Phocas was the first son of a growing family of builders. His wit and ambition was identified early in his childhood and he was given the best education his family could afford. After many years of church schooling and private study, combined with his families growing dependency for him to run aspects of the masonry business, he became a central figure in his families growing wealth and prosperity.

Unfortunately as his influence grew Phocas also grew to dislike his families ceaseless lust for excess and influence, their bickering and infighting, and so he resented the conflicts in his duties more and more with each passing year. Too many years of running his father and uncles businesses for little more than lip service to his own achievements made him unsatisfied. With time his temper also grew, and Phocas began to be frustrated by the incompetence within the family business which he could not change. Phocas loved the challenges running major mason operations, focused on elegance and perfection in his work, and desired to run his own operation his way without the influences and limitations which come from family businesses.

Eventually it became too much and Phocas left his family, as he sought to find another path for himself. His business acumen and practical skills in masonry, combined with a high quality education made him an incredibly valuable employee. After several small projects were completed successfully, Phocas took an unusual but lucrative contract to build far from his typical town and parish work. The employer’s “covenant” was a series of perfect opportunities to demonstrate his skills.

Phocas was then approached by a representative of The Order with a a more permanent offer; a different style challenge which appealed to him greatly – “why not work amongst those who value knowledge over wealth, for whom worldly power holds little sway. Build your own legacy Phocas”.

With his new role acting as the covenant Autocrat as well as running the affairs of the masonry business Phocas is adamantly determined to prove himself. Phocas recognises he lacks the background to perform all functions of the autocrat smoothly, but considers himself worthy of the challenge and intends to run both aspects of the covenant professionally and with vigor. The irony of being intolerant of incompetence and his new role is not lost upon him, but he does not find this point humorous. He is also aware that his temper could potentially be his undoing with the Magi, who are superior to him in the covenant, so he is attempting to withhold his anger or divert it to other people and places.

Phocas is a hard task master for his teams and workers, but understands the value of praise and also appreciates that not all workers are as driven as he is. In direction and attitude he is forthright, clear, and prides himself on accuracy. He prefers leading his staff, but is not above performing the work himself and assisting his workers directly; especially if any show interest or talent. He is known to “not suffer fools”.

“A good job, on budget, on time, and a match to the desired function” Continue reading

a play by post game – Tales of Crimson and Gold

the yard in this house always faces the sunWe’re starting up a little play-by-forum game using a harsh cludge of high fantasy and Mythic Europe, based upon Atlas Game’s Ars Magica setting. It’s called the Tales of Crimson and Gold (or ToGC for short). The mash-up is all the huge epic fluff from typical D&D settings pushed into a world that was once Europe.

I know that makes about as much sense as a dyslexic angel with A.D.D. and a heavy-bolter, but I think it will feel good to play.

It will hopefully be like RIFTS meets Ars Magica. A typical AM games have a predilection for the local area to be rather mundane, with the odd hidden gem of mystic stuff, and then the world gets more “fantastic/odd” as the character branch out from their home. It is a “tip of the hat” to the idea that everywhere else in the world is wild and dangerous, so best stay home where it is same. Conversely boilerplate Forgotten Realms-ish makes no apologies about random encounters, huge dragons, lightning swords, monsters with 5 syllable names, and crazy wizards with floppy hats and portable hole generators.

The players and I are hopefully going to see what happens when home is just as wacky as the legendary places far away. Continue reading