ArM House Rules

These rules act as enhancements and clarifications for the Ars Magica role-playing game, as used by our group.

Character Generation Clarifications

Overall these updates will probably not change how the characters would have been generated too much, and gives flexibility to magi who don’t really care about writing books, but might have to write a book now and then. It is important to note that Magi have some specific limitations if they do not take certain minimum values during character generation.

  • To establish your own Lab you need a Magic Theory of at least 3. A Magus does not actually need to establish their own lab, however most do due to the social and security implications of the sanctum.
  • To utilise Books you need a minimum of Latin 4 and Artes Liberales 1.
  • To write books you need a minimum of Latin 4, although the Quality of the book is reduced by -2 if your score is less than 5. The rationale here is that anyone can write a book, however you need a score of at least 4 to be able to write about a complex topic, and a score of 5 to be able to write about it without penalty.
  • You cannot remove points from your free starting language (Score: 5, XP: 75) unless it is illogical to the character’s concept. You’d need to be Raised by Wolves or some such, and even then the character would have picked up at least some basic form of language.

Aggregated Lab Activities

A number of small similar lab activities can be combined into a single lab session, to represent the ease of the tasks.

The number on concurrent activities is limited by:

  • Activities must be of the same type. eg. Item creation, spell creation, etc.
  • The practitioner’s Concentration ability score limited the maximum number of tasks.
  • Activities can utilise any combination of form and techniques, however all arts are considered requisites for the activities.
  • The practitioner’s lab total must double the combined power level of all activities, so that it can be performed in a single season.

Multi-topic Books

When writing a text the author can decide to split their points between multiple topics, creating a book which has two topics instead of one. eg. Instead of a summae Intrigue 3, they might write a summae with Intrigue 3, Order of Hermes Lore 1 in the same text at the same time.

  • The author’s communication is the maximum number of topics which can be written about at once, with a minimum of one.
  • The author can only gain a quality bonus by writing below half their level if they can write on both topics at the same level of increased quality.

Basic Laboratory Activities

From the Tiscali clarifications and expansions on Basic Lab Activity, these options are added to encourage these activities in play.

    • Fixing Arcane Connections – It requires 1 month of lab work (not 1 season) to fix an arcane connection. This costs 1 Vim Vis. (I am pondering making this 1 week, so it can be done as a distraction to a normal season, but not sure what affect that will have yet).
    • Charged items and lab texts – Instead of being able to make one charge for every 5 points, no matter the effect’s level.  Instead you make one charge for every 5 points of the effect level, plus one charge for every 2.5 levels (rounded up) that your lab total exceeds the level of the effect. This significantly increases the number of charges that an item will have.

Enchant Item Changes

Fast Trigger

House Flambeau have invented a way of making magic items more useful in combat by increasing the speed at which they are triggered. This has been disseminated throughout the Order. +3 to initiative, adds +5 to the level of the effect to be instilled.

Specific Exclusion for Use

An item can be enchanted to be not usable by a specific person or specific people. This is the reverse of the normal “effect use” option which restricts who can use a certain item by providing a list of approved users and adding +3 levels to the effect. The people declared can never activate the item. A potential use for this rule expansion is to create enchanted items which act as traps and wards, but do not affect their creator.

Spell Mastery Special Abilities

Spell Mastery is an area of the game that players should value, particularly as it can offer excellent solutions to the otherwise inflexible nature of Formulaic spell casting. These modifications are a work in progress to expand the flexibility in how magic may be used.

Clarification: You may cast the spell, plus a number of copies equal to your Mastery score if you have choosen Multi-Casting as one of your mastery abilities (source: atlas forums).

Imperturbable Casting
Adds the caster’s Mastery score to all Concentration Rolls related to the spell. This ability may be taken multiple times for the same spell. Invented by House Flambeau but widely disseminated since the start of the 11th century.

Obfuscated Casting
With this mastery ability, other magi cannot automatically identify the Form of the spell as it is cast. This makes it difficult for them to use fast-cast spells as a defence. They must always roll to determine the Form of the spell and must add the caster’s mastery score to the ease factor. This ability may be taken multiple times for the same spell.

Precise Casting
For each level of this mastery ability, add +1 to all finesse rolls the caster makes for this spell, including aiming rolls. Subtract 1 botch die rfom any Finesse rolls, to a minimum of 1 die. This ability may be taken multiple times for the same spell.

Quick Casting
Add +1 to the caster’s Initiative Total when casting this spell. If the mage also has the Fast Casting special ability, add +1 to his Fast Casting speed rolls. This ability may be taken multiple times for the same spell. This ability cannot be used for Ritual spells.

Apprentice’s Oath and Master’s Obligations

In the Saga of Stranggore, apprentices swear a version of the Code of Hermes at the start of apprenticeship and are taught Parma Magica immediately.

It has always seemed impractical and unrealistic to me that apprentices aren’t bound by the Code, and more importantly that they’re not protected by the Code. The work-around that apprentices are considered “magical property” is not credible; magi would not want to assume full liability for their apprentice’s misdeeds and certainly would not want to risk being Marched if their apprentice makes a serious mistake. Neither would they want an enemy who slays their apprentice to get away with a slap on the wrist. A sensible Order would treat apprentices as people, second-class citizens to be sure, but they should have rights and should be able to bear witness at Tribunal if necessary.

There is also a strong in-game motivation for apprentices to learn Parma Magica right away. It allows the apprentice to study without a penalty imposed by the master’s Gift. A skilled master could always extend his own Parma over his apprentice but there are two problems with this approach. First, doing so considerably weakens the master’s Magic Resistance. Second, it fails to provide the apprentice with meaningful protection.

The Apprentice’s Oath is similar to the Hermetic Oath in most cases.

Here is the gist of it:

  • I will not deprive nor attempt to deprive another member of the Order of his power (same as Hermetic Oath)
  • I will not slay or attempt to slay another member of the Order, except my master’s opponent in Wizard’s War, or his opponent’s apprentice (apprentices may not declare war themselves)
  • I will obey my master in all things (replaces obedience to the Tribunal)
  • I will not endanger the Order through my actions (same as Hermetic Oath)
  • I will not use magic to scry on members of the Order (same as Hermetic Oath)
  • I will not teach magic until I am declared a full member of the Order

Source: Andrew Gronosky

Crossbow Rules

The ArM 5e book is missing stats and rules for crossbows, which really should be a valid choice for characters and npcs. The rules published by Atlas Games in the Lords of Men Web Supplement are available and will be used.

A detailed explanation of the Crossbow rules is here too.

Character Consolidation

After an initial few stories the major characters will get the opportunity to tweak their characters. This is so that the character will either be a better mechanical match to the character concept, or to adjust away from serious creation errors.

A principal in deciding what can be changed is where any affect or aspect has been introduced into play, or been used. For example a character may elect to add a skill they are missing, but they may not do that if the game lore has established that they do not have that skill. i.e. Languages. All changes need to be agreed by the story guide, and may need approval from the other players if they are major enough.

Removing material requirements for hermetic spells

Many spells (such as Cloak of the Black Feathers) imply that a physical skin or other mundane related item be present for a spell to be cast. This is not a part of the ArM5e spell guidelines and will be ignored.

Instead the effects which mention these material requirements will instead allow the material to be a controlling item or trigger, which grants flexibility when using the spell (as suggested in the official ArM forums). In this way the spell can be prematurely ended by the action of removing or dropping the material component.

For those unfamiliar w/ earlier additions of AM, every spell had a “focus”, an optional physical item that would give a small(ish) casting bonus if the magi used such an item while casting that spell – sim to “material components” in other fantasy RPG’s, but in Ars not necessary to cast the effect. The various foci were approp to the specific effects, with rare items giving bigger (up to +5?) casting bonuses. And, as seen in this example, some foci became part of the color of the spell – see MuCo guidelines. Cuchulainshound

It is also worth noting that the item uses the laws of sympathy, so does not need to be as extensive as a “cloak of feathers”, but could instead be a collection of feathers from the desired type of bird. i.e. the cloak could be ended early as the caster desires by no longer holding the feathers.

How does Parma Magica work?

Parma Magica is a damn tricky game mechanic, fought with interpretation issues. Each saga has different rules for how it takes affect, be that a true magical force, a neutralisation of powers, or a separate ritual which itself can be cancelled.

In short, I don’t have a solution which is perfect either, but like some of these guidelines from Chris, snatched from the Atlas forums.

Tugdual wrote: That is the conundrum, the pink dot defense. Does Parma block or suppress?

Callen wrote: There is an alternative I prefer to both of those two. It blocks magical effects/things, but not non-magical things. I know it sounds just like our typical blocking interpretation, but sometimes it seems to follow suppressing idea. Here are examples of how I like it to work, assuming there is too little penetration:

  1. Magic is continually pushing a mundane arrow to its target. The magical motion ends so the arrow is not moving through the PM.
  2. Magic launches a mundane arrow and lets it fly on its own. The arrow passes right through the PM.
  3. A mundane ballista bolt is Muto’d into an arrow and shot from a bow. The arrow stops at the PM because the entire thing present is magical.
  4. A mundane arrow shot from a bow has a pink dot placed on it by the almost crafty magus. The arrow passes through the PM without a pink dot.
  5. An arrow with no relevant enchantments is shot from a bow. It passes through the PM.
  6. An arrow is enchanted so it cannot break, and that’s the only enchantment, is shot from a bow. It passes through the PM, but it could break on the magus’s armor because the effect is excluded.
  7. An arrow is enchanted so that its tip is supernaturally sharp. It passes through the PM, but the tip that strikes the magus is only naturally sharp because the effect is excluded.

Item 1 and 2 are pretty well understood and accepted by everyone so those are nothing special. The rest are somewhat debatable, but will serve as a starting point. I know that these are inconsistent and is very close to the “intelligent parma” model which was implied in earlier editions; but I don’t mind as much yet.

Chris wrote: An arrow is enchanted so that all nearby metal and wood cannot be broken. It is otherwise not enchanted. It is shot from a bow while a whole bunch of totally mundane arrows are shot from bows at nearby unprotected grogs. The arrow could break on the magus’s armor. But all the arrows that just struck the unprotected grogs nearby could not break. See, the magic is not being suppressed. It’s still there and active. It just can’t affect inside the Parma Magica if it can’t Penetrate. Thus I’m still using a blocking interpretation. I’m just using blocking differently than the traditional method, as I said I was.

Mentum Effects and Durations

Some Mentum effects have strange durations. Peering into the Mortal Mind appears to impart a lot of information in a very short time (probing and understanding the contents of the mind, with short and long term motivations, but the duration is momentary).

Clearly something is not right, so the house rule is: The level 25 Base effect allows the effect to provide information about one specific scenario or complex premise per casting. The spell does unlock all the available information in the mind, but the duration of the spell dictates how long the caster has to ask, and how broad that probing can be.

The duration of Intellego Mentum spells can be extended to allow a more casual browse, but this facilitates the caster asking about multiple scenarios, or getting highly specific information on a scenario.

As a base we will consider the mind is far less like “an open book” and far more chaotic, mysterious, and difficult to comprehend. It might be appropriate to consider logic or enigmatic wisdom checks to navigate the answers returned.

Lastly the mind of creatures is always subject to their own perception, and also to degradation. This is particularly relevant for spells which interrogate the dead, where the memories of the dead become malformed and forgotten as time passes.

Wound Recovery Rules

I am going to change the wound recovery time frames so that recovery is much faster. It is a disadvantage to the ongoing play to have characters out of action for so long.

We will move all recovery periods up to the next time period, with a minimum of days. ie: Season become Month, Month becomes Week, Week becomes Day.

However the characters must roll for every wound, not just one of the worst at their current level. This means that a character with 3 Light wounds must roll three times and track recovery for each wound. Confirm the season activities, and start the haggle of who gets what in the next seasons.

3 thoughts on “ArM House Rules

  1. The last example of a spell has some pretty questionable R/T/D values. I’m not sure how you would create such a spell to emanate from the arrow, without having the arrow be a lesser enchanted item which also hummed and then provided the second effect via voice range. Sight? Again, the arrow would require some kind of effect granting it the sense. I’m trying to envision that spell as a formulaic, and it makes sense, but on an item, affecting more than the item, it’s pretty wonky, and thus the argument there begins to collapse. I’d like to see the item construction.

    The best treatment of the Parma and the Pink Dot issue, in my opinion, is to have the Parma resist the spell effects, but not prevent the mundane item from interacting with the target– so long as the object’s motion is not sustained by a spell effect. Pointy arrow made more pointy? Great, the less pointy version makes it through. Water turned to acid and thrown at someone? Great, it’s just water. And I think it’s important to note that the Parma is not a dispelling field, but a resistance, like a mobile coating of sandpaper around the protected. Spells are like boxes, pushing across that paper. The force needs to push the box past for the effect to occur. Otherwise, I’d be turning fires into stones and flinging them at magi. 😉

  2. (Also, that water-turned acid? Yeah, if resisted, it wouldn’t even get the magus wet, but that’s pretty stock, I know. The arrow, though, I think that’s the important aspect worth discussing.)

  3. Pingback: The Voiceless Chambers hook and map, with Ars Magica mechanics | The Iron-Bound Tome

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