Substitute Finesse checks with complexity modifiers?

Discussion post – Is it reasonable to add magnitudes into Ars Magica spell designs which substitutes Finesse rolls with complexity modifiers?

By RAW no. However as a house-rule it has merit and also is sort of implied by the core rules before all the expansion rules were added. Playing Ars Magica with Core Only is very different from using all the new rules. In fact playing with all the rules would be mind boggling, so a few more choices to suit how players might want to play isn’t breaking. YSMV.

In the base rule book the Finesse skill is not given the same degree of importance to Creo and Rego magic, specifically because new guidelines were introduced in other books. 

As example – A Rego specialist Magus could be designed with a moderate Finesse in core, but would be next to useless in the expanded (now very RAW cannon) Finesse rules; primarily because the target numbers for Rego crafting magic and by extension Creo magic are ridiculously high.

How high? Well a Finesse check in the mid-20s isn’t uncommon, and 30+ is needed for the really cool stuff. In a game with 1d10+skill(1-6)+stat(1-5) that’s punitive.

I previously wrote about using time as a mitigation for Finesse checks for Creo ritual spells, and I think the suggestion makes sense. Essentially it allows a high degree of preparation to mitigate the Finesse roll, as long as the spell also has a complexity modifier built in (just as Conjuring the Mystic Tower has, which was a spell written before the expanded Finesse rules). This allows a way to rationalise the rules where one ritual spell does not require a Finesse roll, but the instant Rego/Crafting spells still do.

So what about expanding that house-rule to allow additional mags to add a bonus to the Finesse check?

Suggested new Guideline:


Caster gains +3 bonus to the Finesse check for each Magnitude added for Finesse Complexity in spell design. This complexity may only be added where the description also produces a higher quality and beauty item, and must produce a more specific result for each step in magnitude.

I’m a supporter of this principal too, as I see spell complexity as a representation of increasing detail mandated in a spell (as if the spell is an architectural design or a script).

I also like the idea that magic can have many ways to do the same thing, and a spell designer could build knowing that their version of a spell is far higher than another wizards, but they get to an almost identical result.

Along with that Finesse check should be a restriction on the purpose of the spell. A Creo spell to create a sword could have a lot of variety in the result. A ritual using this suggestion to create an ornate and wonderfully crafted sword should note what the additional complexity is for.

This ensure that the complexity added for component parts, or high detail is different from the “complexity for Finesse replacement”.

Quoting from and E.g. from the Atlas Forums by Virgileso:

Echo of Durendal

CrTe 40, R: Touch D: Momentary T: Individual

This spell creates an excellent quality steel longsword, granting the wielder a +4 Attack & Defense in combat due to its uncanny craftsmanship.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +6 complexity)


Designer’s Notes: Rather than requiring a Finesse check against an EF 30 for such a sword, I am instead obliviating the roll altogether and setting the spell’s crafting total to a flat 12+(3*complexity) against an EF as per the Rego Craft Magic guidelines set forth in Covenants.

I don’t think it’s game breaking. My interpretation of the spell above would be that it will create an identical weapon each time it is cast because the design adds 6 magnitudes for the Finesse bonus.

It is a different style of solution to adding time (above), and while it’s plausible that these options might be used in combination a table of players would probably need to pre-select if either option was allowed and carry that forward in their games.

Happy games folks.

Tyne, a sample Ars Magica Shield Grog

portrait-tyneTyne proved her worth as a brawler in prison surviving through harsh conditions and torturous captors. She was sent away for “correction of her manner, being too impolite and unruly for decent living” but has never spoken of the activities which brought her to that position. Tyne was certainly changed, and when she exited she had learned to hold her fists and tongue far better, and had also gained invaluable martial skills. When she was finally released as a clemency on a holy day, she traveled briefly to her home village and then left to wander. She fell in with a band of brigands and was later again captured by the authorities, this time branded as a criminal. Tyne met Magus Corbin close to the end of his apprenticeship after her second release from incarceration. He needed a guard who wouldn’t ask questions and she needed protection and money to survive. Continue reading

Spell to regrow an animal limb

A quick variant on an Ars Magica base effect, to restore the injured limb to a beast. I drafted a version for humans a while ago, and thought an animal equivalent is fair.

Regrow the Misplaced Limb for Beasts

Creo Animal 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)

This spell is part of the free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.

A Miscellaneous Destruction spell

Rego Terram acts as the default form for moving miscellaneous items around, and destroying small things of all forms is almost as handy – so this spell is Perdo utility spell for generic destruction.

The intent is to design a spell which is usable as a more generic defense spell which could then be Mastered and fast cast. I’d argue this effect is no more of a rort than The Unseen Arm (Ars Magica page 155).

Miscellaneous Destruction

Perdo Terram 25, R: Voice, D:Momentary, T: Part

A miscellaneous object or substance is destroyed by this effect, or if the object is larger than its standard size the caster can destroy part of the item.

Casting requisites are required for non-Terram substances. Complexity in design allows for destruction of more than the base material type in each substance. E.g. metals are effects within Terram.

(Base 3 for destruction of earth, +2 for more complex materials such including metal Terram, +2 Voice, +1 Part, +1 flexibility in approach)

I can see a generic destruction effect being controversial as it might replace spells for specific forms. The real problem was deciding what the base effect level might be and if additional mags were needed for the general approach. I decided to add additional magnitudes to reflect both. This is a very desirable spell for a Perdo specialist who can then master one effect instead of many – thus it might break the first rule.

This and around 395 other new spells for Ars Magica can be found here.

Guarin, a Redcap philanderer

A sample Redcap character, Companion, for Ars Magica.


Two senior Redcaps lookout from a balcony in Harco to the covenant below. They have been reviewing the recent unassigned messengers and are down to the last of them; the troublesome ones.

“Tell you about Guarin?” shaking head and exhaling slowly.

“He should be so much more. Noble family, educated, experienced. He came very highly recommended. Charming as all get out too. One of those fellows who made good in their early career and then started to stray. With the freedoms granted to redcaps his proclivities grew unnoticed for many years, and now his habits are probably difficult for him to control. ”

“His last brief assignment was a negative promotion, intended to set him straight. We placed him in his homeland, had him working under another recently gauntleted redcap, and also closely monitored. The message was made clear – fly straight. I believe too he tried to do the right thing, at least initially. In the end he seduced the junior redcap, caused a paternity stir in the nobility, and had a second lover defend him in some affair which ended in certamen. We’re now finished cleaning up the mess, but I’m running out of patience with him. ”

Watching her face, “So he’s useless?”

Sounding a little despondent, “No, far from it. He needs a focus. A challenge. Guarin speaks of wanting more and doesn’t always intend for the indiscretions to happen; if that’s believable. ”

“If you’ll take a recommendation? Place him elsewhere. Set him apart from our core, throw the worst of it at him and see if he rises to the challenge. You sent that drunkard Jernot to the steps of Novgorod to be rid of him, and we were done with him. So give Guarin an assignment distasteful, but close enough that he can be monitored. If he rises, then we have recovered him. If he fails then he does so without affecting the wider House and Order. ”

“I don’t like using that approach often.”

“We have a need in (to be determined) where that rabble of odd-bod magi are. And I think Guarin knows one of them. ”

Laughing slightly, “why is that not surprising! Done. Send him. ”

…”now onto Franc of The Ice Steps?”

“No. Dinner. I can’t face a discussion of Franc on an empty stomach.” Continue reading

Spells to ignore wounds and pain in battle

How more effective is a combatant when they cannot feel pain, and what would that mean mechanically in rpg combat?

There are canonical spells and guideline for Ars Magica which address pain, wounds, and exhaustion directly, and they have a potential contradiction. Assuming that the wound penalties are from both due decreased functionality and pain, a spell which removes pain should also decrease would penalties. They are:

  1. Creo Corpus Base 1, which improves the penalties from wounds by one category.
  2. Blissful Sensations (MoH p.20), which removes pain up to and including a light wound; using Creo Corpus Base 15.
  3. Rego Corpus Base 10, to ignore wound and fatigue penalties (as used in Endurance of the Berserkers, Ars Magica p.134).

Rego Corpus is an odd choice for assisting with ignoring wounds, and would be very effective if applied to a group of combatants.

Suppress the Harvest of War, Encircled

Rego Corpus 25, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Circle

The human targets of this spell will feel only the dullest sensations in place of pain, wounds, and fatigue. It has no effect on sensations which are not painful. Multiple castings beyond the target’s Size +2 have no effect.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +0 Circle)

Suppress the Harvest of War for Beasts, Encircled

Rego Animal 25, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Circle

The animal targets of this spell will feel only the dullest sensations in place of pain, wounds, and fatigue. It has no effect on sensations which are not painful. Multiple castings beyond the target’s Size +2 have no effect.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +0 Circle)

This last version is designed for a warband containing mounted troops. While the spell’s level is raised significantly by having a Sun duration and a group target, it means a group of mounted combatants can be prepared by casting a single spell. It might also be useful to have the spell with a target of Room, which would allows for different usage, and the same level.

Suppress the Harvest of the Warband

Rego Corpus / Animal 40, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Group

The human and animal targets of this spell will feel only the dullest sensations in place of pain, wounds, and fatigue. It has no effect on sensations which are not painful. Multiple castings beyond the target’s Size +2 have no effect.

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

This spell is part of the free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.


Rules tweak for Ars exploding rolls

I love the concept of a stress dice in Ars Magica 5th edition, and liked the Quality dice roll in the older editions too. One aspect that slows a table down is when a 1 is rolled on the stress dice and doubling mechanic kicks in.

As a player I dislike the rolling a 1 then a low number as it makes the “doubling” result somewhat disappointing. In stress rolls it is also a little odd in the number distribution of a 1d10 roll to have a zero as a potential botch and a one as the potential for greatness.

So instead I’m pondering a 1d10 roll where a result of 1 is a check for botch, and a 10 causes an additional roll where 10 is added to the result. Then the botch check treats a 1 as bad instead of a 10 so that the rolls are consistent. A further tweak might be skip the additional roll equal to dice+9 rather than +10, to distribute the result. Each 10 rolled in a row indicates a +9 on the next roll.

What will it be like in play?

Very similar to current, and more logical.