Suggestion for Wards in Ars Magica

“Wards” are not simple in Ars Magica, as many spells have straight forward effects using the guidelines while others are totally different. A ward in the core rules can be a protective and/or entrapping circular drawn circle which prohibits based upon intent, a more simple barrier, a personal shield against all elements of a form, or a damage absorption shield. They may be made by inscribing a pattern in the dirt, caved from stone, or even by circling a piece of long chain.


Expressed elegantly in a tangential discussion about Circular Wards in the forums,(with later another good ward discussion), it was said:

John Prins – …not all wards operate the same either. Ward Against Heat and Flames is only effective to fires doing so much (+15) damage, while Ward Against Wood is basically infinitely powerful against any amount of wood. Wards vs Supernatural creatures are scalar (can be of any level), while wards against mundane animals or people are fixed and absolute.

If I was a hermetic magus, I’d be asking questions like “If this spell can keep an infinite mass of wood away from a target, why cannot another spell affect an infinite amount of wood in a different fashion?” It would make more sense if Wards had to deal with Size modifiers; you basic Terram ward could keep out a cubic pace of stone or a cubic foot of metal. A ward against animals would keep out animals of +1 Size or lower.

There are no separate specific spell guidelines for how to design each type of “ward”. This is exactly the type of House Rule clarification which I think every Saga needs. I suggest strongly a separation of terminology is needed so that wards are logically separated into different sub-types, each with their own guidelines.

The are problematic questions when considering Wards:

  • How do wards know what is acting upon them, or trying to break them? An intellego component?
  • Does it matter how much warded material attempts to pass? Or how quickly it is traveling?
  • How is magical resistance resolved when a creature with MR crosses a warded area?
  • What shape and size are the default wards?
  • Why can some wards in game completely prohibit a substance, but others only offer soak protection?

An “work in progress” alternative for Wards in Ars Magica

I suggest that Ward be a more generic term which collects a set of different protective and prohibitive spell sub-effects together. They are similar in nature, so are collectedly referred to as Wards. As before this house rule – all Wards are Rego effects aligned with a Form appropriate to the warded material.

Generally speaking Wards are very fragile (non permanent) meta magical constructs, and are fraught with problematic in-game consequences. There are several different types, with their own characteristics for implementation.

  • Circular Wards
  • Armor Wards
  • Barrier Wards
  • Wall Wards

Note that it is not possible to create a hybrid ward which mixes the basic types, and each ward must constrained to one of the ward types. If this contradicts the spells within the Ars Magica rules then that ward-style spell must be redesigned.

Circular Wards – drawn immobile magical rings and circles.

A circular ward is the generic name for traditional protective or prohibitive “magic circle” wards. The Circular ward prohibits the targeted substance or creature from directly physically interacting with the ward, or crossing through the warded area.

Interpretations and modeling notes for Circular wards:

  • A Circular ward protects and inhibits in both directions at the same time.
    • e.g. A circular ward against Humans will stop any human inside the ward from reaching outside, and also stop any human from touching or crossing the ward from the outside.
  • The more scope a circular ward has in terms of the base Form it relates to, then the higher magnitude the ward.
  • A Circular ward stops the warded target from interacting with the ward. If an action by the warded creature will result in the circle’s destruction without the interaction of another being, then action is not permitted. This special case implies that Circular wards have some sense of “intent” or “Intellego magic”, which is incumbent in Circular wards without a separate spell requisite. The circular ward understand who or what is “acting upon” an item which attempts to affect it. e.g.
    • A demon inside a circular ward cannot mark or scrub the salt circle with an implement to break the ward.
    • A demon inside a circular ward could not use a domination power on anything outside the circular ward. The demon’s powers cannot cross the circular ward.
    • A demon inside a circular ward could use a domination power on a target inside the circle ward to break the ward.
    • A demon could intimidate a target outside the ward to destroy it. This is where intimidation comes into play as a relevant tactic.
  • A creature trapped within a circular ward may still use it’s physical abilities inside the ward and any magical powers it may have. It is plausible that most quickly constructed circular wards will not last forever if the creature within is clever enough. For example a circular ward drawn hastily in the dirt around a wolf could still be rendered ineffective by heavy rain which may break the circle.
  • Moving a circular ward (significantly) causes it to break. A ward placed within wagon, floating room, or boat will break when the object moves. A ward placed in a courtyard of a normal castle will not be broken by small tremors in the ground, but will be shattered by highly destructive magic (like Crest of the Earth Wave).
  • Most permanent circular wards are build from hardy materials and intended to not be easily moved, scarred, or disrupted. e.g. a solid metal magic circle bolted into a floor.
  • Unless specified in the spell design, a circular ward creates a sphere with a diameter equal to the diameter of the circle itself.

Spell Guidelines

  • The base spell guidelines for a Circular ward are Range: Touch, Duration: Ring, Target: Circle. And the Target must always be Circle.
  • At base level a circular ward may be designed to prohibit a very wide range of substances within a hermetic form, such as Humans.
  • The relevant baseline varies by Form but should relate to holding the material immobile, or highly unnatural movement. A creature with no MR is warded by the baseline effect.
  • A circular ward must still penetrate MR to affect a target. Thus a human with magical resistance may be able to walk through a Rego Corpus circular ward if the ward’s penetration is not strong enough.
  • Forms by example:
    • Animal: +2 all animals. +1 all birds or all living birds. +0 a type of bird, +0 dead birds. +1 wolves. +1 fish.
    • Corpus: +2 magnitudes for all humans, which is all Corpus. +1 for males, which is a major subset of Corpus. +1 for living humans. +0 for dead males.

Armor Wards – Personal movable barriers which surround an object or creature.

An Armor style ward function much like the Creo Ignem effect Ward Against Heat and Flame from the core rulebook page 143, as they provides a bonus to soak against damage, and any damage effect doing less than their bonus does not penetrate the Ward at all and is repelled.

Interpretations and modeling notes for Armor Wards:

  • The base target for Armor wards is the subject of the spell, not the substance being warded against. The substance to be warded against is used to determine the Form of the ward, not the target or target size.
  • An Armor ward is only encountered after the spell successfully penetrates any magical resistance the warded target may have.
  • An Armor ward provides a combative damage soak for offensive materials seeking to pass through the ward. If the object fails to penetrate this type of Ward then it is deflected.
  • A spell effect inflicting a magnitude less damage than the ward’s protection will never be harmed by the damage spell effect. i.e. A +5 damage spell will never inflict damage to a creature warded by a +10 strength Armor ward effect. This represents the degree of power inherent in the Armor ward.
  • An Armor ward also protects against mundane forms in the same manner. A mundane fire inflicting +5 damage to the warded creature will also never be capable of inflicting damage.

Spell Guidelines:

  • Armor wards can be cast on any target.
  • The material of thing to be protected from must always be a very specific subtype of the appropriate Form. An Armor ward could protect against Stone or Metal, but not both in the same spell without a corresponding increase in magnitude.
  • Generally speaking any time a guideline indicates an increase in magnitude to reflect the creation of a Form’s substance, then the substance should require a separate Armor ward. The exception is when the magnitude is added due to craftsmanship or manufacturing instead of the natural substance. A treated wooden item is the same as wood. A metal ward will never protect against a stone bullet or mud.
  • Forms by example:
    • Animal: living animals is separated from animal products or parts.
    • Aquam: …
    • Auram: Wind and Lightning are separate.
    • Corpus: Living humans are separate from human body parts.
    • Ignem: Heat and Flame are separate from Light. Cold is also separate.
    • Terram: Mud, Sand, and Dirt are all identical. Stone is separate from dirt, and Metal is harder again.
  • Base 4 for all forms, which provides bonus +5 soak to the warded creature. This additional bonus soak is added to the target’s other soak bonuses. i.e. a person soldier wearing mundane armor with a normal soak of +5 to damage and using a Armor Ward Against Heat and Fire +5 has a total of +10 to their soak against any heat or fire effects.
  • Each additional +5 of bonus soak adds +1 magnitude to the spell effect design.
  • An Armor ward is movable by default and may be placed on any creature or object. No additional magnitudes are required to make the ward movable.
  • An Armor ward may warp the target, as normal.
  • The base spell guidelines for an Armor ward are Range: Personal, Duration: Momentary, Target: Individual.
  • The base size of an Armor ward follow the same guidelines as Creo spells, meaning that items must be warded individually or as a group, and modified by size magnitudes. So it is plausible to apply an Armor ward to a structure, but the size of the structure must be accounted for in increments of the Individual measure.

Barriers Wards

A spell which prohibits the designated material (be that a subtype of a Form, a subtype of creature, etc) from crossing or interacting with barrier at all. This is the strongest of ward styles and is highly complex in nature.

Barrier wards inherit all the properties of Circular wards, with the following changes:

  • Barrier wards may keep something within, or stop something from entering, but not both in the same effect.
  • Barrier wards must always be Duration: Ring and Target: Circle.
  • All Barrier wards are movable, however they carry an inherent +2 magnitude adjustment.
  • Barrier wards must include an Intellego component to detect the wider “causation” of an action which may cause it to be destroyed, or allow the a target to cross it’s boundary. The ward should be considered quasi-intelligent enough to comprehend the recent “actors” associated with an event. This prohibits a demon within a barrier circle from using domination powers on a human also within the circle, as the barrier ward knows who the “intent” and “actor” really is.
  • Barrier wards must be highly specific in target (must use a very narrow target), and may never affect entire Form.With reference to the Circular ward sub-type the adjustment must always be a +0 adjustment.
  • Forms by example:
    • Animal: a type of bird.
    • Corpus: living men
    • Vim: demons

(walls…..non-standard spell shapes. Wall of force…)

Wall Wards – barriers with variable shape.

Use the same guidelines as Circular wards, however their physical form is in the shape of a wall. They remain immovable.

Spell Guidelines:

  • The base spell guidelines for a Circular ward are Range: Touch, Duration: Sun, Target: Ind. The base size of the Wall ward is measured from the Form of the substance being warded, and scaled in the same manner as Creo effects.
  • The shape and size may be as per the caster’s desire, as long as the shape is wall like. Encompassing walls, unsupported walls, horizontal walls, etc.


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