Shorthand vs longhand lab notes

Ars Magica has a core concept that each Magus writes their lab notes in an abbreviated shorthand. It is a personal style of notation which must be undone and the notes translated to longhand if they are to be easily used by others as lab texts. This is typically done by the Magus taking additional season or so, or by somebody also very familiar with the Magus’s style – perhaps their lab assistant, an apprentice, or even a familiar. I think that a person can learn the style of another magus and then be able to translate for them, once a hand-waved amount of exposure is performed. That could be represented as time working with the Magus or time deciphering their style. 

However if a magus wished to write the lab notes longhand in the same season as the magical activity, what penalty to lab productivity would be incurred to the lab total?

I ask as sometimes a magus can perform a lab activity easily and will have capacity for additional effort; but no real valuable mini-project to add to it. 

I think it would take a significant amount of additional energy to document correctly as you go, correct for changes, and the additional scribing overhead would act as a negative influence to the efficiency of the work. On smaller projects it is probably easier, and in complex projects it might add so much time it is not worth it.

As such I’d say add one quarter again the difficulty of the lab totals to the project.

e.g. A project with a target difficult of 20 becomes 25, and the magus must try to complete the project as normal. If the magus has enough of a lab total to still complete the work in a season then well and good, otherwise it takes them into the next season. It is then a balancing act for the magus to see how they wish to conduct the work. For small projects it makes a kind of sense, which meets the balance I think is suitable.

In terms of exposure I’d say it takes 5 seasons of shared lab work to learn a magus’ shorthand. Those who know it will be able to translate well. 

And yes, some games will just say stick to the rules as written, you can’t do this. Accepted without argument, but I think this makes a lot of sense. 


Spell for restoring a missing body part

A core rulebook spell in Ars Magica is The Severed Limb Made Whole which allows a limb to be reattached, but it cannot assist if the limb has been lost. The spell below addresses the times when the part of the target is missing and will need to be regrown.

Regrow the Misplaced Limb

Creo Corpus 30, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual, Ritual

This spell allows the target to regenerate a lost segment of their body. The spell can restore a single missing aspect of the targets body, be that a limb, hand, nose,  or whatever.

(Base 25, +1 Touch, Ritual)

Aside – I imagine this spell would be a must have for games inspired from GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Star Wars as both those stories have character with missing limbs all over the place. You’d think there was a secondary market.

As far as complexity is concerned it seems as difficult to heal a major wound as it would be to reattach a limb, so the base of the spell is the same as SLMW. And nice for a change to write a quick and useful effect which doesn’t need a lot of interpretation of the spell guidelines.

The Severed Limb Made Whole is an odd spell as it contains a negative complexity modifier; which is exceedingly rare in Ars Magica. Generally that is not done at all, and I’ve no idea why a core spell would do that unless it was to keep it in line with a version from a previous edition.

This and over 300 other new spells for Ars Magica can be found here.

Fishy Transformation spells

I started thinking again about transformation spells (for overtly Disney reasons – curse you charming and distracting television) and it occurs to me that deprivation will affect a transformed target in an unsuitable environment very severely. It only takes 30 seconds to force a deprivation check, which escalates quickly in Ars Magica (see Ars Magica p.180). So this allows Muto to be used to inadvertently fatigue or kill, or perhaps the smaller fish form to be easily disposed of.

Transformation of the Vicious Beast to the Floundering Fish

Muto Animal 25, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Individual

The targeted animal is turned into a small fish, size -8. Without a suitable habitat the fish will suffocate due to deprivation. Fish bones may be held by the target and dropped to end the spell prematurely.

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +2 Sun)

I suppose a similar spell could make a fish into a land animal, but that is such a niche concern. Then the same effect designed to affect a human target, with Voice range so it may be used on friends and foes alike.

Transformation of the Haughty Man to the Floundering Fish

Muto Corpus / Animal 40, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Individual

The targeted person is turned into a very small fish, size -8. Without a suitable habitat the fish will suffocate due to deprivation. Fish bones may be held by the target and dropped to end the spell prematurely.

(Base 20, +2 Voice, +2 Sun)

If I were choosing this spell for a player character is likely not have the fish form so small. A shark gives better combative survival or a dolphin can also breathe normally and swim to reasonable depths.  

Silly spell – Jafar’s Giant Cobra

Hermetic transformation spells are a double edged sword in Ars Magica, and this spell highlighted the point that reoccurs whenever I get excited about a thematic effect. Against a normal animal or human a transformed Magus is very powerful, especially if the spell has been designed to have an even more grandiose result.

However Magical Resistence completely blocks the transformed subject from attacking. This works in movies and such as they don’t have a concept of MR. In an Ars game Jafar would be very intimidating to a street rat but a complete triviality to an Order of Hermes magus. Yep I’m mixing it up but the point holds. I’d love a way for transformations to allow physical combat against wizards – such is life though.

Regardless, here is the transformation spell Jafar uses in Aladdin written up as a hermetic spell.

Transformation of the Giant Cobra

Muto Corpus / Animal 30, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Individual

Jafar’s signature spell transforms the caster into a gigantic cobra, equivalent of a size +7 creature. The spell may be ended prematurely by dropping a cobra fang held while the spell is in effect.

(Base 10, +2 Size, +2 Sun)

A contentious part of the spell might be the size increase. My rationale is that a transformation effect can shift into any creature of size +1 or less, so when designing a spell the size of the cobra could already be large. The additional magnitudes then add on top of the large cobra, shifting the size upward by 3 tanks for each magnitude. A size 4 cobra didn’t feel big enough when I re-watched that bit of the movie, so I went to the limit of the next magnitude.

YSMV. Check out more new and custom spells for Ars Magica in my ever growing Grimoire.

Magi Lab Protections using Illusions

A while ago I wrote about a few effects to protect a Magi’s lab and here are a few more using illusions. Many effects are tricks that won’t fool or dissuade another wizard, but they may abstract the lab enough to make it difficult to navigate.

First it’s worth noting that using charged items might be a valid method for labs which don’t expect frequent incursions. Lesser devices are very good too if their triggering actions are designed to be complimentary.

Secondly – each effect might be presented in an item or spell differently according to the intent of the designer – particularly when considering the effects duration. To avoid too many variants I’ve mocked these effects up using Duration: Concentration. This means that the effects will either be higher level if invented as formulaic spells, or the enchants device will maintain the spell.

An idea from a few years back was an illusion to spin all the images in the room, thereby making navigation and investigation very difficult.

Chamber of Imaginary Chaos

Rego Imagonem 15, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Room

The images of the targeted room are broken, blurred, and ruined as they whir chaotically in all directions.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +1 Conc, +2 Room)

Illusion of the Abandoned Storeroom

Muto Imagonem 5, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Room

This effect changes the image of a room and all its contents to appear like a disused storeroom. Dust, cobwebs, ruined furniture, and stacks of old sacks, barrels, or crates replace the images of all items in the room. The specific appearance is chosen by the caster.

As the effect alters the room completely the appearance of large objects can be made to look like walls or counter-tops.

(Base 1, +1 Touch, +1 Conc, +2 Room)

Illusion of the Dangerous Circle

Creo Imagonem 10, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Individual

This spell creates a visual and auditory illusion of a hermetic circle and allows the caster to tailor what appears to be held inside. The illusory ring may appear separate from the actual ring maintaining the spell, but must still be within it.

(Base 2 for sight and sound, +1 Touch, +2 Ring, +1 moving image)

Hide the Dangerous Circle

Perdo Imagonem 10, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The image of the circle, marking, ring, or ward targeted by this spell is made invisible for the duration of the spell. The spell was intended to assist in using non-permanent circles and rings as part of temporary defensive measures, and allow those measures to also be hidden.

(Base 4, +1 Touch, +1 Conc)

Illusion of the Misplaced Ring

Rego Imagonem 5, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Circle

The targeted ring and its contents appears to be up to a pace away from its actual location.

(Base 2, +1 Touch, +1 Conc, +1 moving image)

A nested ring effect where the outer layer is drawn is something quite easy to break like sand and the inner layer is marked in a more permanent material such as chalk.

The first and second ring spells cast on the external layer to stop all noise from exiting the ring, and another effect hides everything in the ring. The internal or second layer creates a huge amount of noise as an alarm.

Physical props could be set to marr the outer circle if they are disturbed, like the opening of a door or window, or an invisible stick being moved by accident.

Illusion of the Screaming Cacophony

Creo Imagonem 5, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Circle

This spell creates a very loud continuous noise, intended as an alarm.

(Base 1, +1 Touch, +2 Ring, +1 very loud)

This effect is low enough it’s easy to cast spontaneously.

If you like these look for the 350+ more new spells for Ars Magica.

New pdf of all new Ars Magica spells

Quick and exciting post – through the hard work of a great member of the Ars Magica community – Shawn Devlin – who also happens to be a coder – here is a new version of the New Spells for Ars Magica content in Pdf 

Secondly Shawn has created this along with a github hosted site for generating Ars Spell books from xml to do this yourself – all crafted by his talented hands. That means that any other budding authors can generate grimoires of spells using the same technique; gratis. That is pretty awesome. 

It’s all the 360-odd spells I’ve written in full, listed with page numbers by spell Technique and Form and then Name at the back.

Spells of Sea Witches and Merfolk

Another not quite serious set of Ars Magica spells, this time a few inspired from the Little Mermaid. Many of the powers used in the film already exist as effects in Ars Magica – an example would be The Captive Voice for the stealing of the mermaids song, entrancement, and changing a creature’s appearance or form.

Firstly the thematic merfolk transformation spell. A published spell from Legends of Hermes (page 105) demonstrates how a mermaid transformation can be done, as a MuCo/An40 spell (youch that’s higher than I thought). I’d argue that the spell is being overly complex, but it’s a canonical resource damn it.

Turning a magical beast into a human is different again. Ars Magica Hermetic magic seems to consider transformation into a human form as reasonably easy for animals, and transformations of strange animals as approx base 15. However the basis for human to aquatic creature is level 20, I chose to forgo that here. I think the real base is probably 10 (for changing an animal into a human), and then added an additional +1 for merfolk unfamiliarity.

Transformation of Siren to Maid

Muto Animal / Corpus 35, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Part

This spell transforms a merfolk into a human form. The humanoid is size +0, and retains physical sympathies of its merfolk form in the expression of the humanoid’s appearance.

The target may hold a human’s hair and discard it to end the spell prematurely.

(Base 15, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Part)

Likewise a merfolk to an animal is more like turning a land animal into another animal (hermetic magic does not differentiate between land animals, birds, or fish), so the base starts from level 5, then I modified this for the weirdness factor up to level 10.

Transformation of Siren to Wolf

Muto Animal 25, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell transforms a merfolk into a large wolf. The wolf is size -1, and retains physical sympathies of its merfolk form in the expression of the humanoid’s appearance.

A wolf’s pelt may be held and discarded to end the spell prematurely.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

A spell variant could change a Merfolk to a bird or fish just as easily.

These two spells came to mind thinking about how an undersea creature would seek to aid their own movement or defend themselves.

Swirling Barrier of Defense

Rego Aquam 25, R: Touch, D: Diameter, T: Individual

This spell creates large underwater currents surrounding an area which make it almost impossible for creatures to swim through. All materials which move toward the currents are swept away, while within the barrier the water is calm.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +1 Diameter, +1 size, +1 complexity to hold water steady within)

Vortex of Acceleration

Rego Aquam 10, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The water around the target is accelerated in a vortex which propels the target in a direction of the caster’s choosing.

(Base 4, +1 Touch, +1 Conc)

There is no arguing that this is a niche set of spells. This spells are part of the free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.