Penetration HR for Item Creation using Arcane Connections

In many myths and stories weapons and devices are crafted to hurt specific creatures, or a type of creature. Ars Magica does not specifically support powers meant for classes or types of opponents. Examples like the way Stormbringer from the Elric saga drinks energy, or Sting from the Lord of the Rings warns when orcs are near.

In Ars Magica items can be designed with powers to affect supernatural creatures however often these creatures will have resistance to spells and powers. As Penetration vs MR is the existing mechanic in-play to represent this I think it makes sense to provide options for Penetration which empathise the saga and story aspects of these special tools.

These are the types of proposed special options in item creation in Ars, all which modify how an item calculates its penetration score for a particular power:

  • Prescribed Penetration
  • Entity Penetration
  • Arcane Penetration

Note that if any of these options for additional penetration are used together their effects are not multiplicative, meaning that they modify the base amount of penetration in the enchantment, not the boosted amount.

Prescribed Penetration (+5) – Penetration of invested powers is enhanced when used with the Target for whom the AC applies, and is otherwise ineffective. The goal with this style is to prescribe the type of target and how the AC is used within the enchantment.

This adds half again the Penetration point already invested into the invested power design, however the invested power has zero penetration against other targets.

Invested powers using Prescribed Penetration must declare the material and technique of ACs which can be used and the manner in which the power interacts with the item. The method must also match thematically to the use of the power and item.

i.e. a magical sword could be given a “blood drinking” power to gain enhanced penetration against foes. That invested power could not make use of another AC which wasn’t blood.

The AC need not be “fixed” or permanent, however the AC must be physically touching the item when the power is invoked.

For example: Blood on a sword. Powers invested in a magical blade have enhanced penetration only if the wielder is able to first inflict at least a light would with the blade (or otherwise draw blood of the victim onto the blade).

Entity Penetration (+10) This option links the invested power to a fixed arcane connection to a specific individual, thing, or place. When used this enhances the penetration by doubling the invested base item penetration.

Arcane Penetration (+10) the penetration of the invested effect uses the penetration skill of the person activating the power, as per the Form + Tech + Penetration ability with all normal modifications for the arts of the invested effect rather than points invested in Penetration.

Arcane Penetration also requires that the activator also be touching the magical device when the power with this option is activated, and when a power with this modification is used an arcane connection is formed from the activator to the item for one week per magnitude of the power.

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Tips for Creating Custom Datasheets in MetaCreator for Ars Magica

Back in 2011 I wrote a custom datasheet for MetaCreator to add Crossbows in Ars Magica – and was asked recently how to do this (an AG link too); so this blog post is a few tips for getting started with metacreator custom datasheets (aside…please don’t tell me you’re not using bastard swords and crossbows in Ars Magica! Its in Lords of Men and the author also stated his intent on the Atlas Games forums in 2010, despite the name “bastard sword” not being used till many centuries later. For heavy hitting fighting characters they are excellent as they function as a long sword when used one handed and a two handed sword when used without a shield).

For MetaCreator – Adding new virtues, flaws, abilities, spells, equipment, and basically anything which is already established in the framework of Ars Magica in MetaCreator is as simple as creating a new DataSheet (a new .mds file) and editing it with the material you need.

The MC help for editing data files is pretty good and clear, the tips for that I have are:

  • To get a file, copy the current Ars .mds file and delete everything in it, but keep the structure. This ensures that the data will be read in as it will match the structure.
  • Keep the true Ars5 file open at the same time as you can copy/paste between files.
  • You’ll need to set the properties correctly if you want to reuse it, so: … a order or level of importance in the properties of the file.
  • Then copy paste a sample from the official file into your new file and edit names and details. Simple!

It’s not a great editing experience in terms of adding a lot of new data at once. I might have missed a programmatic way to do that.

Then you import the file using MC’s menu when a new character is being edited, and the new options will appear.

There are some file properties which need to be edited too but I can’t recall the tricks for that, but I do remember it didn’t take me long to suss how the versions and references hung together.

If you want to also add new formulas and rules that is much trickier, and it needs additional files.
E.g. the crossbow needed a weapon damage calculation to be slightly different, which meant editing in the macro language (and I’m a disastrously poor developer).

If you want to create your own help file which is usable from within the application then I wish you luck – I did it once successfully and it did my head in.

Ref: MetaCreator for Ars 5th edition by AlterEgo software

Metacreator screen and help file

Laboratory Activity without a lab?

Wandering Magi typically have limited access to a laboratory, so will rarely be able to create a lot of spells and items. Enforcing the rules of no-lab-no-results encourages Magi to join covenants and to find novel solutions to not having a readily available laboratory – however I think there is reason to allow Magi some capability to invent spells while away from their labs.

First – I’m happy to acknowledge this breaks the rules, or that the degree of the bonus needs to be changed to suit different games. And yes, it add complexity in a system which is already full of options and rules – YSMV.

The Apprentices source book introduced the idea that casual experience points can be spent on spont cast spells, at a rate of one point per level, to allow a magus (in this case an apprentice, see “Learning Cantations in Play” in Apprentices p.46) to learn a spell gradually. This makes a lot of sense for learning while doing, and when the option is presented among a set of level 3-5 spells it makes sense as they can be purchase cheaply without distracting the apprentice from other learning.

There are several small effects which might also be worth learning. Detecting vis, detecting aura, and a host of other low level spells which are frequently cast spontaneously are great candidates.

aside – Two spells from the Apprentices book look great (p.46-ish) – A Pestilence of Fleas (MuIm4, to itch the target so much they have a -1 on actions) and Whispering Fingers (CrMe5, whisper into the mind of somebody you can touch) are good examples. Both very useful, especially suffering a -1 to a target in combat, or following up a whisper into the mind of your target via an Intangible Tunnel.

Consider that a magus can learn these easily with a lab, and take a season. However that ignores the fact that a season has an opportunity cost for what else could have been done. Could the magus buy these spells instead of invent them themselves? Could these spells be learnt in the same season as others, thereby being stacked for efficiency.

This optional rule “opens the door” as an example of a magus learning a spell without a lab. Using the rules in Apprentices the magus just needs to cast the spell spontaneously and spend xp on it.

I guess that the rationale is that the caster is experiencing the spell and earning its subtle aspects again and again in-Play, so should be able to learn it without a lab eventually.

This seems like a casual way to learn a spell, but what if that magus applies themselves to practicing aspects of a specific more complex effect and devotes time to learning it as a seasonal activity despite not having a Hermetic lab?

As a House Rule a magus can progressively design spells without a lab within the following rough guidelines:

  • If the Magus is trying to invent a spell whilst performing some other activity which takes up most of their time, then the success points accumulated beyond the level of the spell is one fifth its normal value. Always rounded down.
  • If the Magus is distracted by many chores or goals, however they have enough downtime to spend pondering and designing; such as touring safely between a few covenants, or stuck aboard a ship, the success points are divided by four.
  • If the Magus is doing little else except trying to invent a spell however they still lack a lab, such as living at a covenant where a lab space is absent, the success points are divided by three.

Some examples:

A beginning magus with a low-ish lab total around level 25 is seeking to invent a level 5 effect while travelling and camping in the wild. Normally the magus would accumulate 20 success points per season, however the travel, rest, and logistics reduce this total down to 4 per season. The junior Magus is able to scratch away at a minor spell while he travels and hunts for 2 seasons (or a level 10 in five seasons).

A very mature Magus seeks to stay productive while visiting another covenant. The host covenant does not have a guest lab, however the Magus is provided with ample rooms, and the political and social activity is not at all arduous. He returns to his notes on a pet project within his focus and specialty, normally generating a level 65 lab total, on a niche spell at level 20. However his success total is reduced to one third, from 45 down to 15 which is still enough to generate the spell in two seasons (or a level 15 effect in a season, or a level 30 effect in three seasons).

The rationale for this is the Magus is able to gain some success points on a magical activity whilst doing something else, and that they can slowly progress their work. The invention might happen in disjointed seasons, say perhaps one season a year where the Magus travels for some obligation to their apprentice or House – they get some productivity.

Obviously the players need to ratify this suggestion to be used in the Ars game. The intent is to allow a magus to be productive on the same complexity of effect as normal, however to reduce their effective productivity.

And as always I’d like to add a few new spells into the wider community based upon one of the spells in the Apprentices book. A Pestilence of Fleas lends itself to a greater version for combat against groups – perhaps A Carpet of Fleas instead? Sure, not a huge change, but disruptive for crowds and armies.

A Pestilence of Nipping Bugs

Muto Imagonem 10, R: Voice, D: Diameter, T: Group

This sensory illusion makes all the targets itch, any tasks requiring Concentration or physical activity are penalized by –1.

(Base 1, +2 Voice, +1 Diameter, +2 Group)

As an Inagonem spell it isn’t locked to humans or animals…so lots of diversity in use.

A Pestilence of Fleas for Months

Muto Imagonem 10, R: Voice, D: Moon, T: Individual

This sensory illusion makes all the targets itch, any tasks requiring Concentration or physical activity are penalized by –1.

(Base 1, +2 Voice, +3 Moon)

Curse of Imaginary Pestilence

Muto Imagonem 20, R: Voice, D: Until, T: Individual, Faerie, Ritual

This sensory illusion makes all the targets itch and smell of rot, any tasks requiring Concentration or physical activity are penalized by –1, until the caster utters a sentence of forgiveness.

(Base 2, +2 Voice, +4 Until)

A spell for a warrior wizard

Mentioned in a blog post, a reworking of cannon spell Assume the Stature of the Giants of El Cid (MuCo10, MoH, p.49).

Assume the Stature of the Titans of Rome

Muto Corpus 15, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Individual

Caster’s body and equipment is increased to +6 size. At size +6 humanoid is truly massive, approx 100 times the weight of a normal human. At Size +6, the caster’s wounds have 11-point increments.

(Base 3, +1 Diam, +2 size, +1 to increase equipment as well)

a war

A Giant Precedent, spell discussion for Magus Morat

Morat is a combat oriented Magus for a play-by post-game who is deliberately gruff and also highly focused on physical mundane combat.

Designing Morat for the game was simple as Ars Magica has many spells which enhance combat abilities on one way or another. There were too many good options so I picked a few stable spells (Edge of the Razor, Endurance of the Berserkir) and hunted one or two from outside the base rulebook.

One stood out in particular : Assume the Stature of the Giants of El Cid (MoH p.49, MuCo15). This is a spell which increases the size of the caster and also increases their gear and equipment.

I think this spell might be controversial because:

  1. it explicitly allows the caster’s personal items and combative equipment to be enlarged at the same time as the caster, using a +1 magnitude increase. With no mention of how many items.
  2. It does so also without any consideration to how complex or detailed the items are.
  3. The spell makes no mention of casting requirements, and clearly the intent is to change weapons and armour.
  • This sets a precedent for a small magnitude increase to do this in other spells, which is significantly different from what I expected. I’m happy as it’s now canon that this can occur, however I thought it would be harder.
  • This +1 mag for gear adds legitimacy (in my humble opinion) to adding sub effects in Muto transformation spells, and also to making other hybrid Muto spells slightly easier.

    If this wasn’t presented I would have argued that the increase should have been more like +2 and included a note in the spell text to force casting time requisites. Why?

    Well basically these points, however these are a very pessimistic view of spell complexity:

    • It affects multiple items the caster is carrying, perhaps it should have been +2 Group?
    • It affects clothes which are arguably free, but also weapons and arms, which are not.
    • It affects steel, cloth, leather and all manner of other Forms. Perhaps +1-2?

    As a counter in support of the plain +1 increase there is the notion of a small sub-effect in a spell adding a magnitude, and a large spell adding a +2.

    In this case enlarging several worm items as a separate spell would:

    • Still be a Muto spell,
    • Perhaps would be using a higher Base from Terram instead of Corpus,
    • Might be argued as a generic size increasing spell, which we can see in other spells.

    So what is the conclusion? Ars Magica is darn interesting and play what makes you happy, is balanced, and tells a good story.

    Personally I love the fact that this spell exists and it allows the Magus to be closer to mythical. On balance I’m a supporter but I can see the wider issues this introduces.

    The spell when taken by Morat was boosted in effect to increase the size of the caster by a further magnitude, which I renamed to Assume the Stature of the Titans of Rome. So yeah, I took the El Cid spell and boosted it a little more – because at some point it breaks and just before that point is darn interesting.

    Happy role playing folks, enjoy your Ars Magica games.

    Giants vs Vikings