A spell to make objects sentient, like Pinocchio

After writing the Ars Magica spells about Frozen, there are a plenty more movie based spell effects to ponder. I started writing this post with Pinocchio in mind, but an actual tree would also be a suitable target, as it’s branches could conceivably act as hands of a sort (as demonstrated in one of the of the Ars sourcebooks on a massive tree).

Pinocchio’s animation spell needs to be more advanced than a simple Rego Herbam effect. I wrote up a spell called The Subservient Lumber to animate wooden objects without too much intelligence, however a sentient object needs a mind. 

We can see from the Rego Corpus/Mentem spells that adding Mentem can do just that, granting autonomy to the object’s movements and quasi-intelligence. Likewise the vehicles in the movie Cars have a mind and purpose all of their own.

So to mimic the basics of Pinocchio, Cars, and all those other films where an animated object gains sentience, here is a variation on The Subservient Lumber to allow that.

The Sentient Lumber

Rego Herbam / Mentem 40, R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Individual

The spell grants animation and sentience to an item made of wood. Items can move as directed and follow the caster’s complex commands.

Different items can move with various degrees of mobility directly related to how they might utilise their physical form. Chairs can walk well, cupboards less so, and statues with sufficient detail can often move identically to a person.

The spell can be cast on any wooden item up to 10 cubic paces in volume, which allows for animation of large objects (such as wagons or boats) or massive trees. Casting requisites are required for compound items.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +3 Moon, +1 extra size, +1 Mentem)

Changing that animated wooden doll into a real boy permanently isn’t a spell which Ars Magica has in the hermetic guidelines at all, and would take a significant fundamental breakthrough – it would be creating life.

A faerie glamour is probably better suited to this effect, as it could be written up using the Duration: Until, which might grant a much longer duration. However getting past that duration into true animation needs an enchanted object (probably similar to the Corpus example for animating a Corpse in Hermetic Projects), a warped object which gains awareness, or a magical object (using the rules in Realms of Power: Magic).

A variation for metals and stone have been written up in the New Spells too – as The Animated Statue, of Bronze, or The Animated Statue, of Stone. They appear as ReTe/Mu/Me spells of level 40 and 45. 

This effect, like all the others I’ve pondered over the past few years are part of the free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.

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Necromancy spells, part 5

When creating and controlling dead creatures there is also the option to design a spell effect which creates and controls them with the one spell. The first spells in this set of blog posts used the two separate spells as there are two separate guidelines, but it need not be so.

As the baseline effect for directly controlling a dead animal is base 1 and creating the animal corpse is base 10, the control magic can be added to a creation spell with only a small increase in overall level. That is a significant saving if the caster desires to combine effects, particularly if the effect was going to be enchanted in an item.

Conjuring the Obedient Deceased Donkey

Creo Animal / Rego 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell creates the corpse of a small donkey (size +1), animates it, and allows the caster to mentally concentrate to control it’s actions. The animation lacks any cunning or capacity to act independently, and commands from the caster will be followed literally. Appearance, size, and condition of the body is chosen by the caster.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Rego)

Such a beast could power a grindstone in a mill every day and never tire. My preference would still be to have the spells split for the times when the necromancer wants to animate a body they have acquired rather than created. I suppose a human zombie could also be used in the same way as an animal too.

The human corpse baselines are controlling as base 10 and creating as base 5. It is similar to the Animal magic scenario with the arts reversed. However a humanoid servant probably needs a basic intellect to be able to act as any type of servant, so a Mentem requisite is added.

Conjuring the Deceased Obedient Slave

Rego Corpus / Creo Mentem 35, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell creates a human corpse (up to size +1), animates it, and allows the caster to mentally concentrate to control it’s actions. The animation has a dull intellect to act independently, however commands from the caster will be followed unimaginatively. Appearance, size, and condition of the body is chosen by the caster.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Creo, +1 Mentem)

Now onto stranger things: the animation of body parts.

Animation of the Creeping Hand

Rego Corpus 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell grants an unnatural motion and dull intellect to a severed part of a human body so it may perform tasks as commanded by the caster. The body part is granted the ability to follow very simple instructions, and does so unimaginatively.

The spell is commonly used on the severed hand of thief, but might be used on any body part which could conceivably move under its own motion.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Mentem)

Now that I look at the standard spell for animation a corpse and this one, the only difference is how much of the body is present. I’m not sure a separate spell is needed at all. Animating a hand to climb and crawl feels different from an entire corpse, but it really is just more corpus material.

Aside – Do troupes even want to answer meta-physical zombie questions? This spell is plausible if the story-guide rules that the bulk of a corpse must be present, or perhaps the head must be intact on the corpse for the more traditional spells to work.

And lastly some of the most thematically distasteful spells I can think of for a necromancer in the medieval setting – the construction of bespoke horrific human corpses for later animation.

To begin old materials and parts can be reworked to a new purpose.

Crafting of Shells and Strings from the Remains of Man

Rego Corpus 15 / Muto, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Group

This spell uses human remains as raw materials to construct strings, bone plates, splints, sockets, and many various segments and components which can then be used in human taxidermy or construction of automatons. The Muto requirement allows the materials to be made temporarily malleable during their transformation.

A finesse check determines the quality of the conversion, with 6+ required to convert raw materials into a prepared state. Suitable raw materials must be on hand for the spell to be cast successfully.

This spell was invented by Zharkune of Bonisagus who recognized that a necromancer’s arts could be expanded by a less conservative approach.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +1 complexity)

Assembly of the Monstrous Humanoid Fiend

Rego Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Group

This spell constructs a range of prepared corpus materials into a large multi-limbed fiendish looking monster. A set of base raw ingredients must exceed the volume of the finished form and this is best achieved by having at least one reasonably complete human corpse and many extra components of various types.

The default configuration for the fiend is a size +1 humanoid with four arms, reinforced limbs and torso, sharpened teeth and claws, and a bone carapace over the body. The appearance and construction of the final form can be altered by the caster.

A finesse check determines the quality of the construction, with 9+ required to form the basic construct and a 12+ for a high quality outcome.

The additional strength of materials adds a +2 bonus to the soak score of a typical animated corpse. The corpse may also wear and wield armor and weapons.

If the optional group combat rules are used in the saga, then the additional limbs allow the animation to function as if it is an additional combatant in an untrained group.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +2 complexity)

For these and over 250 other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells.