Crafting the enchanted object for Initiation to Bjornaer Sensory Magic

Part of the Sensory Magic initiation process (HoH:MC, p.27-28) is the creation of a magical device in the shape of the Bjornaer’s Heartbeast which is imbued with five senses.

The Initiate must craft an object in the shape of his heartbeast and enchant it with the ability to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.

This task is totally undefined and very open to interpretation. I thought to write out a few potential ways to create the object and discuss some of the options. While trying to complete the initiation requirements in blog-post form I have a few goals:

  • Meet the requirements of the initiation ritual minimally and simplistically, to demonstrate how to not waste vis and time.
  • Meet the requirements beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • See if any of the designs for the invested spells or effects might be reused for a similar purpose later.
  • See if any odd or weird options arise while pondering this design task.

From the outset of sketching potential solutions there was a large discrepancy between the options and the real answer is to set the requirements to what is reasonable for the character and the saga. There is no point getting overly prescriptive or pedantic in most Ars games because the gameplay is more about the interactions than the consumption of vis and seasons. The vis and seasons are a point of consistency in requirements for Magi, because almost everything else they do is totally subjective.

Therefore the goal should be an amount of seasons and vis which represents a sacrifice, and allows the story to continue.

Frankly with that in mind I’m tempted to recommend the most basic version be the default and move on (option one below). As anecdotal support for this a Bjornaer magus named Lexora (Through the Aegis, p.45) has the Sensory Magic virtue and also the flaw Weak Enchanter, which makes it implausible that Lexora created anything in the lab beyond the most basic magic item. So consider: she would struggle even with the simple “method one” version.

I’d also encourage the reuse in the lab, so if the Bjornaer can craft something which they can craft again to good use that’s a potentially good solution.

Overview of How

To start researching how this might be achieved I’ve read posts in the Atlas Ars Magica forums discussing a few aspects of this initiation (post 1, post 2, post 3). The discussions included:

  1. if the item needs to be sentient or just have senses invested,
  2. if the senses can stack in one high level spell instead of five separate spells (despite RAW stating this is not allowed, see Ars p.114),
  3. how long (Concentration, Momentary, Sun) is reasonable for the item to have the senses for?
  4. Can the device just transform into the animal, thereby having all normal animal senses?

I’d also like to consider:

  1. What the total effort should be to gain a Minor Hermetic virtue in this manner. This is totally subjective but other initiation rites force the Magus to gain a new minor flaw, where this initiation requires effort and vis to be expended.
  2. Can transformation into an animal suffice instead of investing five different powers?

What Physical shape and materials are reasonable?

The requirement clearly states that the magus must craft the item. However for a magus crafting something should be pretty simple, as basic low level spells about many materials to be shaped by hand.

For the material a first hunch was a silver, stone, or wooden animal, as these materials are readily available and also typical for enchanted items. A bonsai like plant was a suggestion from one forum, where the plant is shaped to grown to represent the animal. That also allows a wooden item to be used, as the MuHe guidelines treat living plants and plant product identically. A wooden item is also easier to work with for the Bjornaer to craft, assuming the crafting is done during the initial investment for the item. Dry clay would also be extremely easy to work with.

The material and size needs to match to the final amount of powers which will be invested in the device.

I also thought that an animal corpse might be used. Initially this sounds creepy, however a Bjornaer might animate creature which reflects its Heartbeast as a way to study, understand, and venerate the animal.

Does the item need to be sentient?

I’ve argued that the creation of an item is only present to stylishly cost the player character some time and vis. Therefore as long as the cost of the ritual in seasons and vis is “enough”, then fussing over the details is moot. So the sentience of the item might not be needed as long as the item can trigger other effects, so a simple linked trigger is perhaps enough.

My approach is to require the item to have some capacity to comprehend the information being delivered to it, meaning to sense it, which is essentially requiring the Magus to impart some independent autonomy akin to either an animal (Cunning) or a person (Intelligence). This is probably the worst path in terms of time and vis investment.

What baselines?

(Muto Herbam / Mentem) or (Muto Terram / Animal) seem the first obvious starting points from the core rules. It also seems very reasonable to switch from awakening a plant with Mentem to also awaken it with Animal if an animalistic behaviour is preferred (MuHe/An).

MuHe/Me Base 4 “to awaken the consciousness of a plant”.

  • Probably the lowest baseline.

MuHe/An Base 5 “to awaken the beastial mind / consciousness of a plant (suggested)”.

  • Not a true core spell guideline, but extrapolated from others.
  • Slightly higher baseline to reflect that it seems slightly harder for Hermetic magic to awaken an animal than a human.

MuTe/An Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”.

  • Makes for a nice sturdy item, however transformations get higher level when the item might be stone (+1 mag) or metal (+2 mags).
  • ReAn Base 10 “to animate an animal corpse”
  • Could be done on an animal skeleton or corpse which already has the shape of the Heartbeast.
  • That would be ReAn (base 10, from Hermetic Project, p.118) effect.

How much space is needed in the item?

A lot! If the item is not designed as a single effect in a lesser device it means that the item needs to be opened for enchantment (takes 1 season), then awakened (1+ seasons), then maybe five senses (at least ~5 seasons, unless an effect can do a few senses). Way too much of a sacrifice for a minor virtue.

That’s effects of around 12-20 each; which is upward of 120 levels of spells, requiring 24 pawns of vis and a MT score of 12! That won’t work.

The Magus I have in mind will have an MT around 5, which limits the vis / item space to 10 pawns of vis, and 50 levels of spells.

Method One – A Transformed Idol

A smoothly shaped statuette of an owl, made from dried clay inset with specks of powdered electrum (+4 Muto Terram) and silver (+1 Terram). When activated the statuette transforms into a living owl; which allows the enchanted device to “see, hear, taste, touch, and smell” as a normal avian.

This method could be achieved in 1x season as a lesser enchanted device, and cost only 1x pawn of vis.

  • Bird from Clay, MuTe/An 10, (Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, +0 Individual, 1 use/day). The shaped idol of dried clay is transformed into a raven. When the effect expires the raven returns to clay and hopefully is safe.

Variations – using this method there are some variations which might be worth considering as the lab text to craft the “animal” can be reused.

  • Change the enchanted material to a type of stone (+1 mag) or a metal (+2 mags).
  • Extend the active time from Diameter to Sun (+1 Mag), and add +1 level for two uses a day, and +3 for an environmental trigger. This +9 total boost allows the idol to always be active, only pausing at dusk and dawn.
  • Remember that transforming into large animals will need additional power due to the beast’s size, up to size +3 (+1 mag).
  • It might also be desirable to have a tiny idol become a beast, perhaps requiring extra power (either free or needing a +1 mag at the story-guides discretion) to transform from a small stone to an animal.

As an example: a moderate sized stone which transforms into a wolf perpetually.

  • Wolf from Stone, MuTe/An 24, (Base 5 “to turn earth into an animal”, +0 Personal, +2 Sun, +0 Individual, +1 transform stone, +1 levels for 2 uses/day, +3 environment trigger for sunrise and sunset).

Method Two – An Animated Corpse

The corpse of this cat has been enchanted to animate once per day upon command, once animated it behaves normally.

  • The Cat Wanders Briefly, ReAn 15 (base 10, from Hermetic Project, p.118, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, 1 use/day).

An animated body is granted senses by the magical spell so it performs actions and obey instructions. I argue this is identical to an animated tree or animated corpse in complexity and utility.

Variations – many of the same variations from Method One will also apply.

  • Preserve the corpse with additional CrAn2 base effect, but only if the cat will be recreated later in a more complex device. The CrAn effect could also be placed in a collar and worn by the cat if creating another lesser device is preferred.

Method Three – A Simple Idol

The simple carved wooden idol is designed so that the powers are invested, however the idol only functions for a few minutes each day. This idol is shaped as a lion, but any shape is possible. The wooden carving is inset and decorated with Silver (+2 Intellego), Cedar tree (+5 enchant effects with He and Me), and kohl powder (+3 vision).

  • Awaken Wood, MuHe/Me 8, (Base 4, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, 1 use/day, +3 linked trigger to all the other powers).
  • Lion’s Tongue, InIm 2, (Base 1, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, +0 Taste, 1 use/day).
  • Lion’s Pelt, InIm 3, (Base 1, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, +1 Touch, 1 use/day).
  • Lion’s Nose, InIm 4, (Base 1, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, +2 Smell, 1 use/day).
  • Lion’s Ears, InIm 5, (Base 1, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, +3 Hearing, 1 use/day).
  • Lion’s Eyes, InIm 10, (Base 1, +0 Personal, +1 Diameter, +4 Vision, 1 use/day).

Method Four – An Animated Idol which is Activated

… which is akin to method three (and uses the spells below) however the item is constantly awake and once activated functions as the desired animal with the dedicated effects for its senses.

  • Consider that the penetration of the spells will determine if they can sense some special things.

As a last enhancement the idol could also be altered with strengthening spells, resistance to elements, and all sorts of other effects. Method Four is really a poor surrogate for an autonomous golem, which is detailed in some of the mysteries, and is way beyond reasonable for this ritual would represent a huge investment. It’s more like or beyond the cost of gaining a major virtue rather than a minor.

Mor’du sketch by Disney for Brave

What powers?

If an assumption is made in designing these powers is the device must have some form of sentience which can sense (either Cunning or Intellect) so it can conceivably have the capacity to use and react to the information from the other invested spells.

Bestow the Taste

Intellego Imagonem 2, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Taste

Grants the caster/item the ability to taste in a manner functionally identical to a human.

(Base 1, +1 Concentration, +0 Taste)

Invested: Bestow the Hearing (InIm11) (spell InIm2 above with +9 levels of mods, as +5 levels for device maintaining concentration, +1 for two uses a day, and +3 for an environmental trigger)

Bestow the Touch

Intellego Imagonem 3, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Touch

Grants the caster/item the ability to feel in a manner functionally identical to a human.

(Base 1, +1 Concentration, +1 Touch)

Invested: Bestow the Touch (InIm12) (spell InIm3 above with +9 levels of mods)

Bestow the Smell

Intellego Imagonem 3, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Smell

Grants the caster/item the ability to smell in a manner functionally identical to a human.

(Base 1, +1 Concentration, +1 Touch)

Invested: Bestow the Smell (InIm13) (spell InIm4 above with +9 levels of mods)

Bestow the Hearing

Intellego Imagonem 5, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Hearing

Grants the caster/item the ability to hear in a manner functionally identical to a human.

(Base 1, +1 Concentration, +3 Hearing)

Invested: Bestow the Hearing (InIm14) (spell InIm5 above with +9 levels of mods)

Bestow the Vision

Intellego Imagonem 10, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Vision

Grants the caster/item the ability to see in a manner functionally identical to a human.

(Base 1, +1 Concentration, +4 Vision)

Invested: Bestow the Vision (InIm19) (spell InIm10 above with +9 levels of mods)

As a player my preference would be to spend the least amount of resources on the magical item as it is going to be lost. However as different GMs will have different requirements, I think it’s useful to show many method and variations.

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