Ward against arrows, spells against Archers

The spell Shriek of Impending Shafts (Ars Magica p.136, InHe15) is a darn effective defense spell against wooden missiles. However it does not really neutralise the threat of an archer against others. So here are two approaches to better deal with archers.

Malevolent Gift of Roses

Muto Herbam 25, R: Voice, D: Diameter, T: Group

All items with wooden parts on the target are changed to roses. The spell is intended to be cast upon an enemy archer or soldier however it may also be used on any valid Group target.

(Base 3 to make one Herbam product into another, +2 Voice, +1 Diameter, +2 Group, +1 sub-parts of complex items)

The spell could also be used to ruin any item or thing which has wooden parts. Ladders, carts, and so on.

In the spell design I’ve opted to pay an extra magnitude to be able to affect the wood in component items, to affect a Group, and to do so for a fair duration in most fights – that is potentially overkill. The intent is to make the archer all but useless, and will probably make many parts of soldiers, workmen, and many other targets equally frustrated.

It would also be useful if scaled up for really large groups, however as it stands will affect a group of people in a fighting formation too as they form a valid target group. The limitation of this approach for arrows is that it is not plausible to affect all foes as there may be many of them and not in a group.

Ward Against Staves and Arrows

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

Caster is protected against wooden weapons and missiles, which may not touch the caster.

(Base 15, +1 Diameter)

The ward could be changed to be R:Touch or an extended duration D:Sun for safety while travelling. These spells are part of the free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.

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Clarification on the stats when Changing Creature Sizes in Ars Magica

Many spells change the size of a person or creature, or creatures have their size altered to suit the story needs of an Ars Magica saga. I’ve been asked several times about changing size in the last month (mostly because my blog post on gigantism had an error) so here is what I’ve sussed about it. Broadly speaking the spell mechanics are variable, so please see your story-guide.

  • Each +1 mag in spell design will add 3 size levels (note some spells sampled from the core books seem to use +2 levels instead, but there has been much discussion and the fair middle ground seems to be +3 per mag).
  • Each +1 mag in spell design will reduce size by 6 levels (again variable by books, some spells seem to be able to reduce by a far greater amount than increase, I think that is primarily because once a creature is smaller than size -4 they have such low wound levels than it is almost moot).
  • Each +1 Size = +2 Strength, -1 Quickness, +1 point in the wound level damage ranges (see HoH:MC p. 39).

That means changing a soldier from normal (size +0) size to size +2 adds 4 strength, subtracts 2 quickness, and alters their first “light wound” damage range to 1-7 points instead of 1-5. That might not sound like much of a change but it makes the soldier far more offensively oriented. Slower, harder to kill, and able to inflict more damage.

This is also why reducing an opponent down to -3 or smaller is very effective, it might make them quicker but they have radically reduced wound levels for penalties, which is savage in a prolonged battle.

There is also a point at which the difference between the attacker and defender becomes so extreme that the defender really shouldn’t be able to “parry” to defend.

A rationale is: A mouse can avoid the boot of a man easily due to speed, but if the man successfully steps on it, then it really should be dead, or mostly dead.

So how big does your shield grog need to be to just squish opponents? Well I’m not sure. The size increases are meant to be 10x larger per 3 size ranks, but there is not a formula that shows how tall a person is per rank (a project for a rainy day?). Size 0 human vs a size 10 dragon seems altogether a massive challenge.

a giant fighting several folk, couldn't find the owner/artist - pretty good though eh?

Wizard’s Auger, with an example of spell penetration

Sharing several similar effects demonstrating how Muto Vim might raise the penetration score of another spell. The most likely use is a caster to alter their own spells, as demonstrated in a similar enchanted effect in a magical axe in Magi of Hermes, p.51, which uses Range: Touch. To cast upon another Magi’s spells cooperatively R: Voice is required.

These spells demonstrate an interesting potential for Magi with high scores in Muto Vim; they may be able to spontaneously alter another lower level spell for which they have poor art scores to increase its penetration.

Example scenario – the junior Magus Argento needs to cast a sleep spell on a troublesome faerie soldier.

Argento has very strong Muto and Vim arts, and while she has learnt “The Call to Slumber” (ReMe10, Ars p.151) and cast cast it easily under normal circumstances against foes without magical resistance, she believes she will not have a high enough casting total or penetration to put the faerie to sleep due to her low Rego and Mentem arts.

Argento stats: Int 2, Stm 2, Muto 12, Rego 6, Mentem 4, Vim 11, Penetration 0, which means The Call to Slumber (CtS) has a CT of 10+roll, and a spont spell has a CT of 22+ before dividing.

Fearie Soldier has a Might score of 10. So Argento needs an effective CT+Pen of 21+ to put the fae to sleep.

Argento might try to roll 12+ roll vs the Fae’s Might of 10, however unless Argento is lucky and gets 9 or over on her roll, she will not succeed. This is because the Fae’s might will require a penetration result of 11 or higher more than the spell’s level to be successful.

Argento needs to choose to either repeatedly cast Call to Slumber at the faerie and hope that she rolls 9 or higher on the dice roll, or she can opt to boost her penetration using the style of spell below, with the the knowledge that each casting will cost her a spontaneous fatigue level. Note that if Argento learns Wizard’s Auger or Wizard’s Awl (below) formulaically, she can boost many of her low level spells easily, giving her better penetration – if she had, the poor fay would be asleep in the first round. This does not add any more than +5 to +10 penetration to a spell, but that little extra is sometimes all that is needed.

Argento chooses to first cast a spontaneous version of Wizard’s Auger as a MuVi10 spell, for which she has a casting total of 25+ roll before halving the result by spending a fatigue level. Unless she botches she will succeed, and this raises the penetration of the next spell by +5.

She then casts her Call to Slumber as normal, and while she still has a CT of 12+, her final penetration for the spell is now CT+Pen of 17 + dice roll, making it far more likely that she could put the annoying fae to sleep. She only need a 4 or more on the d10 roll.

In this scenario yelling with powerful gestures also helps both styles of approach, it makes the casting without a MuVi spell far more likely, however it makes the solution with a MuVi spell almost a certainty (botches, twilight, etc).

Learned formulaically these spells add a lot of utility without requiring significant additional power or lab level. A Muto expert could also spont cast their own versions easily, and also might help their troupe if they cooperate with other Magi. Continue reading

A worked example of Break The Shield

Aside

I wrote up a short example of how the PeVi spell Break The Shield works against Parma Magica in a forum thread. It’s not my favourite spell in the raw (see grumble below), but it is legitimate in the rules so knowing how to play it out is handy.

A quick example of Break the Shield (a.k.a BtS, published in Hermetic Projects, p.85) in use by two magi against each other might be:

Magus Alphar (BtS PeVi15, Pe5, Vi5, Stm3, Pen 0, Parma 2) vs. Magus Betar (BtS PeVi15, Pe10, Vi12, Stm3, Pen 0, Parma 1)

  • Due to the randomness of initiative Alphar casts BtS against his opponent Betar first,
  • Alphar’s BtS PeVi15, CT is 13+roll. He scores CT:20, which is Level 15 with +5 Pen.
  • Betar’s MR is equal to Parma (1*5) + Vim 12 = 17. This means the spell fails to penetrate. There is no need to roll the Level + dice to cancel the spell.
  • Betar returns the same BtS PeVi15 spell, with CT is 25+roll. She scores CT:32, which is Level 15 with +17 Pen
  • Alphar’s MR is equal to Parma (2*5) + Vim 5 = 15. This means that Betar’s spell has penetrated successfully, so now the test of level + roll must be checked.
  • Betar rolls Level 15 +roll, gets a total of 19. This exceeds Alphar’s Parama level of 10, so down goes his Parma Magica.
  • the next round might be ugly for Alphar…

This demonstrates why low level PeVi spells are handy against supernatural creatures i might stripping, and also why having several Break the Shield Spells might be useful, or investing in mastery and penetration is important for BtS.

Aside – My grumble about Break the Shield is that it reduces the influence of Parma Magica in the game setting, which in turn was a major justification for the successful formation of the Order of Hermes.

If BtS was available then why was PM a successful bargaining point. Having BtS in the game also creates an escalation in PM stripping spells as an opening volley. The first magus specialises in stripping parma and then proceeds to decimate the target. Every Magus beyond their mid years should learn the spell and master it using the defense mastery so that they can try to resist it.

Rise Before Dawn

This spell was discussed a while back with questions raised about spell timers – essentially it’s odd that the spell would have an effect which changes over the course of the duration.

I think it is plausible to design an effect in this way because the spell is not changing the broad scope of its effect in each casting, instead it behaving in a prescribed manner. This is akin to the complexity which could be designed in an item.

Rise Before Dawn

Rego Mentem 20, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Individual

Caster is kept in a relaxed state to help facilitate a good night’s rest, and then woken shortly before the spell expires.

(Base 4 change mental state, +2 Sun, +1 complexity of two mental states)

This spell is intended to allow a magus to get proper rest in difficult circumstances or an agitated mental state, but also awaken before their Parma Magica expires so it can be refreshed. It seems reasonable to have an extra magnitude to allow the degree of control.

It is a spell which I think would be popular in the Order of Hermes, particularly amongst the combative Magi.

Each troupe will have to decide if this is stretching hermetic complexity in design, given how complex some spells are I think this is a safe effect.

Sunrise

Discussing a portable floating laboratory

A laboratory is a fundamental tool for every Magus in Ars Magica. As such there are variations and rules in abundance for how to detail and personalise a lab (Covenants source book, p 106). Just to be slightly odd I thought detailing a few aspects of a floating lab might be interesting. Typically to find a structure for a lab isn’t difficult but finding something which is suitable as a portable and floating lab is harder, it’s either constructed purposefully by understanding mundane craftsman or conjured.

If constructed the sourcing becomes a challenge only in resolving how the building is designed for flight. The Magus comes to acquire the stonemasons, labourers, and materials of the build in context of their covenant resources.

If conjured the sourcing probably requires a bespoke spell for the shape and size required, so it adds seasons of work or vis to be spent if another Magus is supplying the solution. It does however grant the owner exacting design choices and options which would be very difficult for mundane craftsmen to complete.

Rather than a conjured room or tower which is then enchanted, I suggest taking a lead from the floating castle in Legends of Hermes (p.121), by using a massive sheet of stone as the base with a Rego Terram effect, say one pace thick by 30 paces across. That requires a constant lesser enchantment as ReTe28. This allows the stone sheet to move at the speed of a running horse. Then if it is commanded in the same way as The Flying Castle of Thomae then another constant lesser device of CrIg9 is needed to send the colored light as control commands.

A 30 pace wide disk is far more than large enough for a single lab and likely could hold a small tower, or many ancillary buildings too. The disk itself will have the same abilities and failings as listed for the flying castle. It’s plausible to have the disc far smaller than 30 x 1 paces to make a smaller block, especially if the next task is adding a multi-story building. It could be about 15 paces wide and still hold a huge lab, and reducing the blocks diameter makes it easier to fit into a lab for enchantment (note though the Ars rules allow for an outdoor lab, so it’s plausible to create a place to enchant this easily). Perhaps a block roughly 15×2 paces is better as it makes for an incredibly sturdy base.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading