There are many ways to skin a cat in using Ars Magica’s magic system

Ars Magica has one of the most flexible magic systems around, combined with a very lengthy and detailed set of guidelines for how that magic system can be used. What is implied but not spelt out in the core material is just how many different ways there are to do similar things within the setting. Essentially almost anything that can be thought of as a solution is probably within the capacity of Hermetic magic, it becomes the Storyteller’s or the Player’s option as to what and how they do. I thought this might help new players understand the system a little more.

The following are some examples of different ways to solve “a problem”. These are certainly not efficient, just examples of variations.

The examples are some transformation spells for Ars Magica, with a theme around altering the vision and perception of the caster. One of my current characters has a “self-transformation” magic specialty which means that personal effects are much easier for him to learn and cast, which is primarily why I was thinking about the small but useful spontaneous effects that are possible in Ars Magica’s magic system.

In mechanical terms these are simple spell effects which can be very advantageous to a character, and should not be ignored. The spells below could also be varied during creation to be cast on groups (which adds +2 magnitudes/+10 levels), or to target just the caster themselves (which subtracts -1 magnitudes/-5 levels).

At lower levels some of the effects might not be worth “creating” in a lab for an experienced Magus as they could be cast spontaneously. The difficulty of depending on low level spells to be spontaneous cast is that sometimes the auras, casting conditions, or regions do not allow for easy spell casting, and a formulaic spell is far more reliable in those conditions.

In the story the Magi were discussing being able to see in the dark. As a transformation based Magus my character took a Muto approach to solving the problem.

The Eyes of the Bat effect one of the most obvious extensions to the base Muto Corpus spell in the core rulebook named Eyes of the Cat. Essentially it alters the reference creature in the effect, which alters the spell design to grant a different style of enhanced vision. Cats or owls, then bats, then whichever sense or alteration the Muto Magus decides they desire. These spells take their effect from the powers inherent in the animals that are references and also spell requisites, which means that perception requisites are not needed. Thus no Target: Vision (+4) is used, as the target is physically changing.

The downside of that approach is that the target’s physical form is also mutated by these spells. A target of Eyes of the Cat, and indeed almost any other Muto spell has their body physically changed. It is an aspect of Muto magics that is sometimes overlooked in spells which reference Animal as a source of inspiration (a discussion about the transformation effects is available too).

This is the reworked spell, using Ars Magica 5e mechanics.

Eyes of the Bat

Muto Corpus 5 / Animal. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Grants the target the sense vision akin to a bat, allowing vision in total darkness.

(Base:2 as Change someone to give them a minor ability, +1 R: Touch, +2 D: Sun, requisite free)

Another variant to change the way the character can “see” is using heat rather than a bat’s sound-vision could be Eyes from the Flames. This is a bit more questionable in terms of difficulty level because the animals in the natural world who use heat to detect their enemies are probably not considered to have sufficient heat vision to be a one-to-one replacement, and perhaps are outside the understanding within the setting. That is, a snake’s perception of heat is not as strong as a bat’s sonar, and not as well known in the medieval paradigm as the night vision of an owl or cat. For this reason I’ve increased the effect level to allow for a more powerful version which uses an unnatural effect.

Eyes from the Flame

Muto Corpus 10 / Animal. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Alters the target’s vision so that they can see heat patterns in detail, akin to the senses of some exotic snakes and beetles. This alternative type of vision allows the heat patterns to be viewed in many circumstances including total darkness.

If this is the target’s only form of vision, then the target cannot discern any significant differences between two potential combatants. e.g. A friend and foe of roughly equal size are very difficult to tell apart based only on their “heat” appearance. The spell is very effective in identifying most invisible creatures who still emit or affect heat.

(Base:2 as Change someone to give them a minor ability, +1 to make the unnatural heat vision more powerful than a natural animal, +1 R: Touch, +2 D: Sun, requisite free)

The obvious limitation of this spell is that it must have a variable spread of heat to detect and translate to use target, which is fine in most circumstances but could be an issue.  A ghost or an illusion might be totally undetectable with this spell.

This effect could also potentially substitute out the Animal requisite from the spell, and use an Ignem requisite instead, as the effect pertains to heat. I am not sure which way the spell should be crafted, so let your troupe decide if there is doubt. To my thinking an Ignem effect is more of an Intellego Ignem effect (“perceive the fire”), so is less about transformation and more about adding perception straight into the caster’s mind.

More like this kind of spell effect, which would not alter the physical body of the target at all.

Perceive the Footprints of Vulcan

Intellego Ignem 15. R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Vision

Allows the target to see heat patterns and heat emissions around them. This alternative type of vision allows the heat patterns to be viewed in many circumstances including total darkness.

(Base:2 as Become aware of all fires (or heat) within the target area, +1 D: Diameter, +4 T: Vision)

The target will suffer from many of the same peripheral problems in detail and advantages to illusions and invisible creatures as the Eyes from the Flame spell.

In designing the effect I’ve chosen to keep the duration short so that the final effect level is lower. Like the other spells above it could be made with a longer duration (like Sun which adds +5 levels) but that is also a lot more difficult to quickly cast. The difference in the Eyes from the Flames and Perceive the Footprints of Vulcan is essentially in which arts are used, and what is the nature of the change. Both apply a very similar end effect to the target.

An alternative might also be an Intellego Auram spell (Perceive the Air) could be used in a similar way to the heat effect, giving the target a knowledge of all the movement and shape of the air around them.

Perceive the Breath of Jupiter

Intellego Auram 25. R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Vision

Allows the target to see air patterns and movements around them. This alternative type of vision allows the target to “see” in environments where normal senses might be greatly hindered.

(Base:4 Learn all the mundane properties of the air., +1 D: Diameter, +4 T: Vision)

A base effect of level 4 was chosen to represent the complexity in understanding all the air in detail. It could have been designed with a Base 2 for a single property, and then had adjustments added on for the extra difficulty. The spells are getting far higher level than what would be practical, given how easy creating flame is.

Another strange option would be for the Magus to make themselves glow like a firefly. It would be of similar level to the Eyes of the Bat spell, but probably also require a requisite of Ignem (light/fire) to allow the target to glow sufficiently to light the environment around them. I’d not allow a level 2 Muto Corpus/Ignem effect to be enough to light up a room, more that a level 2 effect would just make the target glow. The spell needs to provide more than that, so the power of the luminescence needs to be boosted so that the light assists the target see around them, rather than just making them stand out.

At this point the transformation spells are getting very strange, but it still appears plausible in Hermetic magic.

Blessing of the Haunting Pond

Muto Corpus 10 / Animal Ignem. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Makes the target’s hands glow powerfully by changing them to have the glowing effects of a firefly, which provides equivalent light to that of a small lantern.

(Base:2 as Change someone to give them a minor ability, +1 unnaturally strong light, +1 R: Touch, +2 D: Sun, requisites free)

It is obvious that using Intellego Auram or Ignem for a similar effect is far higher level than Intellego Ignem, and than the Muto Corpus transformation spells. The specific difficulty for a particular Magus is always variable.

Lastly if all else fails (well truthfully they’ll do this first) the Magi might just use Creo Ignem (create fire/light) as a way to create a light they may carry with them. It is a very simple basic effect, and one which almost every Magi can probably spontaneously cast. The base level for a spell to create moonlight is Creo Ignem level 1. Such a spell would be around level 3 for a reasonable effect. The Moonbeam spell from the core rulebook has that need covered.


One thought on “There are many ways to skin a cat in using Ars Magica’s magic system

  1. Pingback: The many wonderful ways to blind somebody in Ars Magica | The Iron-Bound Tome

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