spells from an Oceanic Merinita

These spells were going to be invented by an ocean, wave and storm magus in a recent game hat I’ve had to exit.

Personal Ward Against Iron

Rego Terram 20, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Individual

The caster is warded against iron, which is deflected away automatically when it approaches their personal space.

(Base 5 to ward against dirt, +1 Diameter, +2 iron)

Swim Safely Among the Ice Flows

Muto Aquam / Ignem 5, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Special

The water immediately around the caster is warmed so it will no longer chill people or objects.

(Base 2, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +1 Unusual target surrounding the caster)

A few spells for a Magus with a strong focus in Aquam, a major virtue of Elemental Magic, and also a magical Vulnerability to Iron. On first look a boiling oil spell seems to need an additional requisite, however not for the elemental magus, who can ignore the effect of the Ignem requisite in the spell calculations. Harder for most magi to cast so they probably wouldn’t bother, but not for all magi.

I think these spells are justified as a CrAq spell could create water, optionally boiling water with an Ignem requisite at the same Base 4 as the base to boil water is also CrIg Base 4. Creating normal oil is equivalent to water as shown in the Creeping Oil spell in the Ars Magica book uses a Base 3.

I have also assumed that the example spells like Creeping Oil and the other Aquam spells show that boiling oil needs the Ignem requisite and a minimum level equivalent to CrIg4, instead of reducing the amount of oil produced downward by one more step in the base guidelines. That would make it similar to a strong acid and other highly corrosive Aquam or Terram based materials.

Jet of Bubbling Oil

Creo Aquam / Ignem 15, R: Voice, D: Momentary, T: Individual

Projects a large splash of boiling oil on a victim inflicting +12 damage.

(Base 4 “to create a liquid in an unnatural shape”, +2 Voice, +1 boiling liquid)

The Base amount created for oil is still a very large volume relative to the size of a human victim, so it is quite likely to cover a significant part of the victim which doubles the base damage of boiling oil from +6 to +12.

I initially started to consider allowing an athletics check to avoid some damage however the same should then apply to CrIg effects – and that just isn’t so. This is a conjured material so it can be automatically targeted as desired, and is resisted my MR or Parma Magica – again, just like Ignem spells.

A key risk for Aquam spells which isn’t really considered in the spell mechanics is the splash effects. A spray of oil will be potentially harmful to everything around it, and while that is not reflected in the rules in many places the same is true for many forms of direct damage.

Then moving on to more dangerous spells. Continue reading

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Two simple items for covenant defence

Two small charms, invested as lesser enchanted devices for a play-by-post Ars magica forum game. Both small items will be created using a bulb of iron with a small amount of mercury locked away inside it. Marking on each item will help the holder know which bulb has which power.

Each item is an iron bulb sized as a flat skipping pebble, with a small hole in one end. The hole is intended to allow the bulb to be worn as an ornament on a string of leather, or tied to a belt. Sealed inside each bulb is a heart of mercury. The inventing magus intended the commander to wear the bulbs on a belt so they are readily accessible, but unobtrusive.

The power of each bulb is activated simply by touching the target with one hand and rubbing a finger or thumb across the bulb with the other hand, and each device is crafted with multiple uses per day so that the user can cast the spells on all members of the watch or a unit of soldiers.

Gaze of the Perceptive Watchman – the effect grants the target sharp night-vision of a cat, able to see in all but total darkness.

  • Gaze of the Perceptive Watchman – As per Eyes of the Cat (Ars p.131) (MuCo/An 10), (Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day.

Strength of the Resilient Gambeson – the effect grants the target a +3 soak bonus.

  • Strength of the Resilient Gambeson – As per Doublet of Impenetrable Silk (Ars p.118) (MuAn 20), (Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day.

Then some guff-guff stats for the Magus’ stats for crafting…

  • Stats = Int 3 + MT 9 + Aura 6 + Mu 21 + An/Co +11, InventiveG +3, Lab-Muto +1, Lab-Items +1, General Quality +1, Similar spells +1 = LT of 57.
  • However to invest both items in a season the Magus needs a Lab Total 60 … (10+20)*2 = 60.
  • The crafting magus also knows the Eyes of the Cat spell, so grants a +1 LT for one spell, and also knows the Doublet of Impenetrable Silk spell for a +3 LT. Takig the minimum bonus of both is another +1.
  • Crafted with a iron bulb inset with mercury +5 bonus, which applies to both items.

A view on the Forms and the wider world

This blog post is a broad pondering the meta-physics of the forms of magic in the Ars Magica role playing game.

Instead of considering the metaphysical thinking in the medieval period – which is where Hermetic magic is meant to get its roots I started to think of a way to consider and compare the forms. This idea does not at all match to what I understand of the basis of Hermetic magic in the setting or the current guidelines. As I said, this is a pondering.

It came out of thinking about why it is easier to change some things into other things (it’s easier to change a person into an animal). Why?

What if there are a set considerations for all things:

  • Intangible vs Tangible things (eg. the mind vs trees)
  • Living vs Non-living things (animals vs rocks)
  • Changing vs Fixed things (water vs rocks)
  • Sentient vs non-Sentient things (people vs rocks)

…then it might be possible to look for how many steps from each other they are.

  • Animal (Tangible, Living, Fixed, Non-sentient)
  • Aquam (Tangible, Non-living, Changing, Non-sentient)
  • Auram (Tangible, Non-living, Changing, Non-sentient)
  • Corpus (Tangible, Living, Fixed, Sentient)
  • Herbam (Tangible, Living, Fixed, Non-sentient)
  • Ignem (Tangible, Non-Living, Changing, Non-sentient)
  • Imagonem (Intangible, Non-Living, Fixed, Non-sentient)
  • Mentem (Intangible, Living, Changing, Sentient)
  • Terram (Tangible, Non-Living, Fixed, Non-sentient)
  • Vim (Intangible, Living, Changing, Non-sentient)

And each step of difference creates a “hermetic” magnitude of difficulty when changing one to the other, or using one with the other.

Ok fine. To what purpose?

Well if Ars Magica had its time again I think it would make sense to break away from the thinking of the medieval period in the backbone of the magical laws.

Because Hermetic magic should be (and is) flawed just as the representation of the divine in Europe the setting is flawed, and many other parts of the setting use contradictions as levers for stories.

Don’t get me wrong – in the setting the characters would still try to leverage their mindsets, learnered philosophies, and all sorts of esoteric thinking in using magic “in story”, but out of story the magical meta-physical laws would be slightly different. This introduces a deliberate contradiction between the in-story beliefs and the “actual” truths.

Essentially – The magi are watching the shadow play on the wall of Plato’s cave and believe they see the real truth of magic – this demonstrates why some types of magic can do things that Hermetic magic cannot. It adds depth to the already existing contradictions in the setting and sourcebooks.

…just a ponderous post. Happy gaming.

Discussion on Mystery Cults and Virtue Initiation 

The ways that Mystery Cults grant virtues and flaws bugs me. Not because it’s broken, in fact it looks to be designed for consistency and meta-game balance, and in play it might be ok. Recently however I have been designing a number of characters using accelerated advancement as example characters and its highlighted to me that sometimes those characters have a disadvantage or an advantage based on stats and skills (Communication in particular) that are probably otherwise not relevant.

Also the sacrifice of time and resources is the most potent part of a character’s life as it represents the opportunity cost of another activity, and the choice to tell a specific story. Further I’d generally argue that resources equal time.

When the Ability + Skill + Trauma vs Number calculations are all said and done the outcome is frequently a cost which is roughly equivalent to the gains; with flavour to the story and character.

There is also a different process for gaining virtues through the magic realm whilst consuming vis which has a similar outcome with different story drivers. It also requires sacrificing something, be that vis, time, or gaining flaws.

So keep the flavour suggestions of the mystery cult, or training deal, or magical realm journey and also standardise the mechanics. Perhaps the system is better served with a simplified approach?

Putting the numbers as fuzzy as this has no play test, an approach is to make the benefits balance the costs of initiation:

Benefits:

  • Each minor virtue costs 15 points.
  • Each major virtue costs 45 points.

Costs:

  • Each minor or major flaw grants opposite of the above. This is basically allowing a one-to-one match of character advancement to continue.
  • Each pawn of vis grants 1 point, spent or gifted or lost in whatever style suits the themes of the character and story. Perhaps the point value needs to scale to suit the rarity of vis in the saga.
  • Every initiation requires a season. This is in service to a mystic, or sacrifice, or building something, or doing favours; whatever suits the story.
  • Each additional season spent grants 5 points.

So now we have a system which requires sacrifice, places the onus on the game lore for the in-character changes, and makes building the character’s quicker and simpler. That seems like a win and it’s not overly far from the material in Ars sourcebooks.

Crying for points

New Target: Illuminated

Discussed a decade or so ago, T: Illuminated is interesting as it has aspects of sensory magic and might be a useful addition to the special faerie duration: Fire. The idea is that the target may include anything which is illuminated by a light source. That light source may be mundane or magical, and can be anything from a candle, a roaring fire, or a magical beam of light.

Target: Illuminated (+2) The spell may affect any number of targets who are presently illuminated by a light source. The target is also expanded by an additional secondary light source per magnitude, where the secondary light source is within illumination range of the first. This allows a chain of illumination to be established. Illumination is also valid if spread or reflected by natural means (reflective water, mirrors, etc).

I think it is a clever extension to include non-magical reflection. If the illumination is spread in special natural ways by mirrors then the spell target is also manipulated. Likewise something which protects from illumination is also protected, so standing behind a barrier will allow somebody to avoid the spell; although the barrier itself would be valid.

A sample use could be:

Nonna’s Unbelievable Stories

Perdo Mentem 35, R: Voice, D: Fire, T: Illuminated

People illuminated by the targeted fire will believe almost any passable lie while the fire burns, even after they have left the light.

(Base 4, +2 Voice, +3 Fire, +2 Illuminated)

Free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.

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.

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