Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating Book Theft in Medieval Times

An interesting article on securing books against theft in medieval times. Chains, curses, and heavy chests all used to protect books.

medievalbooks

Do you leave your e-reader or iPad on the table in Starbucks when you are called to pick up your cup of Joe? You’re probably not inclined to do this, because the object in question might be stolen. The medieval reader would nod his head approvingly, because book theft happened in his day too. In medieval times, however, the loss was much greater, given that the average price of a book – when purchased by an individual or community – was much higher. In fact, a more appropriate question would be whether you would leave the keys in the ignition of your car with the engine running when you enter Starbucks to order a coffee. Fortunately, the medieval reader had various strategies to combat book theft. Some of these appear a bit over the top to our modern eyes, while others seem not effective at all.

Chains
The least subtle but most effective way to keep your books safe…

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Making an Object Immovable

Terram is also for generic effects, in this case two spells for making objects immovable. The Ars Magica sourcebook Transforming Mythic Europe (p125) has a section on creating motive power, even almost covering spell levels into equivalent horse power. That section uses a Base 2 for the spell effects as it is designing spells to rotate gears which can be considered slightly unnatural, however holding an object mid-air is highly natural which needs a Base 3.

For most purposes the first spell will be more than enough, as I thought the effect could be used to hold doors closed, block areas, create impromptu stairs, hold aloft torches, etc.

Object is Stubborn

Rego Terram 10, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The object touched becomes almost immovable, and if moved will seek to return to the spot where it was initially placed. The object can be placed to float in mid air. The spell ends prematurely if the object is moved more than a pace from the position it is placed.

The object can be slowing shifted by an exceptionally strong person or many people (combined strength of greater that +5), or a stronger magical force (higher than Base 3) can move the object very slowly. The force of resistance is equivalent to one horse power. Casting requisites are required.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

The a longer duration and more powerful version.

Object is Immovable

Rego Terram 20, R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Individual

The object touched becomes almost immovable, and if moved will seek to return to the spot where it was initially placed. The object can be placed to float in mid air. The spell ends prematurely if the object is moved more than a pace from the position it is placed.

The object can be slowing shifted by an exceptionally strong person or many people (combined strength of greater that +50), or a stronger magical force (higher than Base 4) can move the object very slowly. The force of resistance is equivalent to ten horse power. Casting requisites are required.

(Base 3, +1 for increased strength, +1 Touch, +3 Moon)

Thoughts on relative complexity in Creo spells

A quick post to highlight an explanation of my impression of relative complexity in Creo spells in Ars Magica:

  • Standard (+0 mags) – These items have little or no complexity in function or moving parts. e.g. Mounds of matter, swords, chairs, walls, crossbows, armor. A simple hut or room. A simple pattern or symbol can be included in the item.
  • Slightly Complex (+1 mags) – a few moving parts and a few different materials in construction. e.g. a Cart with tack and harness. A simple small boat with sail and oars. A building with a few uniform rooms and floors. A full suit of armor and weapons for a warrior.
  • Moderate Complexity (+2 mags) – many features which move independently from the whole, many compartments, or sub-functions. Many different materials. e.g. ocean going ships. A moderate sized building with multiple rooms, hallways, walk ways including doors and some features.
  • Highly Complex (+3 mags) – Fully formed towers will inconsistent internal structures, with as many complex features as desired. Complex machinery. This is about as complex as a spell can get. e.g. Conjuring the Mystic Tower.

I raise this as many Creo effecs in the game add a “complexity modifier”, and it seems to be used more and more as a punitive measure to make creating things harder.

Very short range teleportation effect

A rework of the Wizard’s Leap, down to the lowest guideline of teleportation; of 5 paces. As a level 10 spell it is learnable by almost every Wizard, and certainly low enough to be spontaneously cast by mid-powered magi. A useful spell to keep in mind.

Why? Well that is certainly enough distance to get out of a smallish fight. It’s absolutely not a substitute for travel but might get the magus over a tough obstacle like a wall or past a gate. I’d advise mastering it if it’s going to be used frequently, or needs to be fast cast; just remember that teleportation errors could be nasty. 

And for occasions where the caster can see their destination, such as behind a door, there is always simple Perdo Imagonem or Intellego effects to grant the information. 

Wizard’s Step

ReCo 10, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Ind.

The caster instantly transports himself up to 5 paces away. The destination must be visible to the caster.

(Base: 10)

Conjure a few more Boats

In a spells post recently there were two spells for acquiring a boat. In that post I mentioned creating larger vessels. As a post here with those spells, and also a short discussion of the complexity in Creo effects and the difference in spell level for permanent vs non-permanent effects.

There is also no reason why the same spells below can’t be reworked for any wooden crafted item, such as buildings, carts, etc. Ships are simple in terms of being discrete things, but a variation could conjure almost anything.

Conjure the Merchant’s Dream

Creo Herbam / Terram 50, R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Ind

This spell temporarily creates a moderate sized wooden boat, one or two sails, oars, and running gear suitable for twenty travelers and their gear, and requiring a crew of four to operate properly. The ship will have a modest cargo hold and a few small cabins. The ships draft is designed to allow it to sit high on the water, so it may use rivers as well as oceans for travel. The spell requires a finesse check to determine the quality of the boat.

(Base 3, +2 treated and processed Herbam materials, +1 Touch, +3 Moon, +2 increased target size for a moderate boat, +2 complexity, +1 Terram)

The spell would certainly be lower level if placed into an item so that the item could maintain concentration. It also may be better for a Rego Vim spell to be cast to maintain concentration, and reduce the spell level down by 10 levels (+3 Moon becomes +1 Concentration, altering the level downward to CrHe/Te 40). Sure, that adds a requirement on a second high level spell, but it also saves the spell bordering on a ritual.

There is a larger ship, designed as a proper ritual.

Conjuration of the Dawn Treader

Creo Herbam / Terram 40, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Ind, Ritual

This spell permanently creates a large wooden boat, multiple sails, oars, and running gear suitable for fifty travelers and their gear, and requiring a crew of nine to operate properly. The ship will have a sizable cargo hold, multiple decks and internal cabins for crew and guests. The ship is not suitable for travel on small rivers, but may use larger ones. The spell requires a finesse check to determine the quality of the boat.

(Base 3, +2 treated and processed Herbam materials, +1 Touch, +3 increased target size for a large boat, +2 complexity, +1 Terram)

Interesting that the larger ship is a lower level spell due to the magnitudes of increased Duration in the temporary version, although the lower is a ritual so requires vis.

merchant_ship

Conjuration of the Titan’s Barge of War

Creo Herbam / Terram 45, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Ind, Ritual

This spell conjures a permanent monumentally large ship, suitable for transporting incredible amounts of cargo or acting as a vehicle for war. The ship created is clearly unnatural and fearsome as no ship in history would be even close to this size.

The ship is outfitted for war, and contains defensive structures, armaments mounted along the hull, and also a large ram. It is designed with multiple sails, oars, and running gear suitable for its size, and smaller boats to use for short commutes.

Due to how large the ship is a crew will have to learn over many weeks to operate this ship properly. The ship’s draft is so deep than it cannot be docked in most ports. The spell requires a finesse check to determine the quality of the boat.

(Base 3, +2 treated and processed Herbam materials, +1 Touch, +4 increased target size for a large boat, +2 complexity, +1 Terram)

It is worth mentioning that an official Ars Magica product Hermetic Projects already has a ritual spell for conjuring a full ship, although it uses a Target of Structure in the book, which has then been errata’ed to Target: Individual. It also used a +3 complexity modifier which seems incredulously exorbitant. The reason (I think) such a high modifier was chosen was to reflect the “build” process of crafting a ship identically to a real ship. If the ritual forgoes the idea that the ship is perfectly constructed to manual methodology, then it can take simplifications in design and form, which in turn reduce the complexity of the spell. A +3 complexity modifier should be saved for spells like Conjuring the Mystic Tower, thus the spells here have been designed with a +2 complexity modifier (see a summary of complexity below).

Remember too that the spell has already “paid” for the spell to construct a treated and finished herbam product in the cost breakdown. That payment should already include the complexity of conjuring finished items instead of raw plants. The degree of complexity beyond this should be for items which have increasing ornate detail, many moving parts, stress points, and other plainly obvious or beautiful features which take significant thought and planning.

An explanation of my thoughts on relative complexity:

  • Standard (+0 mags) – These items have little or no complexity in function or moving parts. e.g. Mounds of matter, swords, chairs, walls.
  • Slightly Complex (+1 mags) – a few moving parts, and a few different materials. e.g. a Cart with tack and harness. A simple small boat. A building with a few uniform rooms and floors.
  • Moderate Complexity (+2 mags) – many features which move independently from the whole, many compartments, or sub-functions. Many different materials. e.g. ocean going ships. A moderate sized building with multiple rooms, hallways, walk ways including doors and some features.
  • Highly Complex (+3 mags) – Fully formed towers will inconsistent internal structures, with as many complex features as desired. Complex machinery. This is about as complex as a spell can get. e.g. Conjuring the Mystic Tower.

roman_warship_by_radojavor-d55uf49

Destroying Tower, Walls, and Fortifications

That’s a very impressive magical tower the covenant just conjured. Cost a lot of vis huh? Shame if something were to happen to it. You need some insurance.

You know, just in case…

Terram is a wonderful Art in Ars Magica because of how prevalent it is in daily life. These spells are reasons why powerful wizards should be feared by fledgling covenants.

The first spell designed for destructive potential against stone structures, and the effect can target any baser Terram materials including stone of almost any size. As such the spell could be useful in a variety of ways. If a fortification was so massive that it could not be affected totally, the spell has flexibility in-built so it can destroy a segment of the structure, or the ground beneath something. It is not a spell that would get used to it’s maximum potential often, but the potential is needed for a powerful Terram magus.

Plentiful Destruction of Earth, Sand, and Stone

Perdo Terram 40, R: Voice, D: Momentary, T: Group

This spell destroys stone or weaker material, be that a single stone magically shaped (akin to Conjuring the Mystic Tower), or a volume of individual stones and rock, or part of a larger object or surface, or objects gathered in a group.

This spell affects up to 10,000 cubic paces of stone, or 100,000 cubic paces of weaker Terram materials such as clay, sand, dirt, or mud. The form and shape of the material to be destroyed is chosen when the spell is cast.

(Base 4 to destroy stone, +2 Voice, +2 Group, +3 group size increases, +1 flexibility)

The choice of spell design to use a Group target with increased mass is deliberate to affect mundane multi-stone buildings and structures crafted with magic. It would have been a few magnitudes less to destroy just the tower as created by Conjuring the Mystic Tower, as the tower is created as a single piece of stone (it could be designed as a level 20 effect instead of level 40 – see below). However the increased magnitude is reasonable to gain more utility for this spell. The effect could also be delivered at range Touch, however the rest of the structures contents and inhabitants are not destroyed so it is likely that the caster does not want to be close to the buildings destruction.

I took liberty of including all “weaker materials” in the same manner as the core Perdo Terram spell from RAW called Fist of Shattering, however limited this to weaker Terram materials. I like it when an effect can have breadth of use and the effect is similar to that spell. Likewise many spells use a broader target as their overall effect and also use a lesser Target as well – like using a Target: Group effect which also has a Target: Part component. Part is the default when targeting the ground and creating a hole, as demonstrated by Pit of the Gaping Earth. This was discussed in the forums and is generally acceptable, as the spell’s overall cost is based upon the more powerful and more expensive greater Target.

Because this spell uses the flexibility of stone with all its weaker Terram based materials, allows the size and shape of materials chosen when cast, and also uses allows a sub-part to be targeted like Pit of the Gaping Earth, I’ve added a +1 flexibility modifier to the spell. The largest pit created by this spell is hundreds of times bigger, and likely to devastate the area it is used.

Each of these options in isolation are not worth an increase in power. Having this degree flexibility is beneficial though and makes the effect more complex. Conversely it adds a small cost because of the higher spell level and therefore worse penetration.

As a comparison to a far more simple spell, this effect is tailored for destroying a building conjured with Conjuring the Mystic Tower.

Destroy the Mystic Tower

Perdo Terram 20, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Structure

This spell utterly destroys a single building or structure made from stone. If the structure contains composite materials then only the stone is destroyed, but the effect on any building will likely be extreme.

(Base 4 to destroy stone, +1 Touch, +3 Structure)

The core spell End of the Mighty Castle (p.155) is the same effect at Range: Voice; which is a wiser but higher level. Given how rarely the spell might be used I think slipping a magnitude down is better. 

 See further custom spells for Ars Magica can be found in the summary spells page, particularly the other Creo and Muto Terram spells which complement this spell in a Terram Magi’s grimoire.

Terram Magi, the Societas Guernici, Covenant of Hedyosmos

I’m gathering material for a new Magus, who I wish to focus on Terram magic. This post is a place to gather all the points of reference into one place so I can find the material later, and also to share the existing sources for Terrae Magi.

Initially the Magus was to be based only within the current 5th edition rules for Ars Magica, but as I read the wider source books and community written content – the core approach doesn’t sound as deep or plentiful as the “Magi Terrae” which have been detailed elsewhere. I’d like to add another line of Terram orientated

Overview of Sources:

  1. Houses of Hermes: True Lineages (HoH:TL p68) mentions that Guernicus (the founder of the House and first Quaesitor) was also a passionate Terram Magus. It does not provide much more detail, except to say that the tradition is small and still in existence, and not a “proper” Mystery Cult in terms of the source books for Ars Magica. It implies the group is an association of like minded wizards who share a common interest and may share discoveries.
  2. The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal (tSE p67) gives more details on a particular sect of the society, detailing that particular sects link to the Greek Titans and their center of power within the Covenant of Hedyosmos. It contains a brief overview of what a Terram magus of this line might be like. It also briefly explains the link between this style of earth magic and the cult of the dead. This is a useful core rules source as it also contains the initiation scripts and suggestions for powers which are appropriate (such as Elemental spirit familiars).
  3. Jarkman’s Terrae Magi / and Societas Guernici: includes a rule-set for making characters who are members of two different lines of Guernicus, the detailed Mystery Cult, new Terram spells, and a wonderful set of lore.
  4. Hermes Portal, Issue 14 – Omnibus Grimoire Terram: includes some wonderful spells, including almost a match to a “set of steps” which was an effect I’ve drafted but not as yet finished.

Thoughts on Sources:

There is a little contention between these sources, which is to be embraced. The sources for the official RAW line clearly detail that Guernicus founded a society, and not a mystery cult, yet much of the material is based upon mystery cult structures.

The initial section in HoH:TL suggests that the wider organization is open and welcoming, but also reads as if more restrictive when the members of the associations are role-played. That makes good sense and dovetails with the approaches from The Sundered Eagle and Jarkman’s pages.

I would like to see the Terrae Magi become a wider and more open association, which then contains these clutches and cults within it. The name “Students of The Stone” is very evocative and suitable. I don’t see a need to dispute any of the sources above, and would suggest a character in-play could become known as a “Student of the Stone” and be friendly with these traditions without disrupting their own path.

I’d like to detail an alternate path, which stands separate from these sources, and uses Scandinavian/Norse roots instead of Greek.

Hopefully more on that soon.

mountain-castle