A Vanilla Covenant for Ars Magica 5th Ed

After many seasons the folk who collaborated on the Vanilla Covenants project for Ars Magica now have a finished product! (available from the blog: http://david.berco.free.fr/wordpress/?p=690)

I’m exceedingly pleased it is released, and grateful to David Duke, aka The Man From Outerspace for continuing with dauntless faith through to the completion.

p.s. and the IronbondTome in the credits for a few bits is your truly. 

More Journal notes from Warhammer RPG

This session we recovered notes from a bandit camp, and rescued two halflings. Good times. No idea why all the bad guys used hammers. Wouldn’t be a good outcome if they were some strange Sigmarite outlaws.

WFRP Career Costs

I used to think that a Warhammer Fantasy characters with ballpark 6000 Xp was top tier; that’s probably based on the power level of 1st and 2nd edition games we played, and also due to how the careers looked in the previous editions.

Forth edition Warhammer Fantasy has increased the flexibly for character options (downtime tasks, career changes) which also means the players will want to spend xp more broadly. Pondering the various channels and discord servers I’m noting an advanced character might have 10-12k xp.

Quick note for reference in WFRP when setting a ballpark of how much xp a character needs to

HeroForge minis I’d love to print for Warhammer

Playing around with Hero Forge to mock-up some Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay miniatures. I’v used the gear and poses from the 4th edition book as vest i could, so some of them should be readily recognisable.

Its so easy, all credit to HF for creating an application which really takes the hassle out of designing stylistic characters. The only shame is these cost $20-$30 each which means there is no way I’ll be grabbing the lot.

Arcane Bridges – Tunnels between ACs in Ars Magica

I had a thought to trying forming an arcane tunnel between two thing which are arcane connections to each other, thereby allowing communication and spell casting between the two points at an equivalent of Range: Touch.

Why? Well those ACs might be enchanted devices which use spells to communicate.

So the “near” endpoint is not connected to the caster, but between two items that are already valid arcane connections to each other. Or the caster can target the endpoint near them as normal, and not be directly target-able from the other end. Or allow another Magus near one endpoint to target the other location. Or as a mechanism for two parts of an enchanted device to send signals to another without using the R: AC for the subsequent spells.

Opening the Intangible Bridge

Rego Vim Gen, R: Arcane Connection, D: Concentration, T: Individual

This spell opens a magical tunnel between two arcane connections, one of which is in the possession of the caster. Spells cast through this tunnel must be at least one magnitude less than the level of this spell.

(Base Gen, +4 Arc, +1 Conc, +1 additional Arcane target)

And a version to affect all the endpoints if multiple ACs are to be used, using target: Group.

Opening the Intangible Network

Rego Vim / Imaginem Gen, R: Arcane Connection, D: Concentration, T: Group

This spell opens a magical tunnel between either the caster and a set of up to ten arcane connections, or an arcane connection the caster posses and a set of endpoints. Spells cast through this tunnel must be at least two magnitudes less than the level of this spell, and may optionally use the target: Group to affect all endpoints at once.

(Base Gen, +4 Arc, +1 Conc, +2 Group)

These and other new Ars Magica spells are found in the Grimoire.

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

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:


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


  • 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