My Simple Enchanted Items for Ars Magica, part 2

Part two of low powered sample magica items for Ars Magica (see part one, or many other items).

This is Not Your Horse

A lanyard which can be worn around an animal’s neck or a leg which causes the patterns on the skin or fur of the targeted animal to change colouring so it appears to be a different, although still normal beast. This effect is desirable for highly valuable animals, and less so for very common animals such as sheep – who may still look too familiar.

Muto Animal 15, (Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Size)( +5 for 24 uses a day)

Tantrum!

An amber stone is embedded inside a small momento which clicks when a recessed button is pressed whilst theitem is touching a wall or floor. When activated the room and all items made from terram, animal, and herbam materials inside are thrown a few paces away from the activator. Their movement will not inflict damage, but may damage the room and its contents. The amber stone adds a +3 lab bonus.

Rego Terram / Animal, Aquam, Herbam 15 (base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Room, requisites for An, Aq, He)(+1 level for 2x uses per day, +4 levels to add +8 penetration)

Wand of Candlelight

Each time this pine wand is moved in a figure eight while touching a surface it creates illumination equivalent to to candlelight. Pine adds a +3 lab bonus for light effects.

Creo Ignem 10 (Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)(+5 levels for 24 uses per day)

A lantern shape would have added a +7 lab bonus, however an apprentice is not going to be able to gain the full benefit of that bonus, and I wanted something overly portable. Two previous items were a lantern and a torch, this makes a third which is probably enough CrIg items around light for a while. Keeping the final effect level to 10 also means it only costs a pawn of vis to craft.

Miasma Kiss

This small iron vent is enchanted to change toxic air around it fluorescent green. The vent is activated by air passing through it. A vent grants a +7 lab bonus.

Intellego Auram / Muto 15, (Base 2, +1 Touch, +1 Muto sub-effect, +1 Part)(+10 levels for unlimited uses)

Poisoner’s Frustration
This long slightly eating knife has an upswept blade and blackwood handle inset with a pearl. When placed within a poisonous liquid the knife causes the liquid to swirl clockwise. The pearl grants a +5 lab bonus to detecting poisons.
Intellego Aquam / Rego 15 (base 3, +1 Touch, +1 Rego sub effect)(+10 levels for unlimited uses)

Because I didn’t want a maximum number of uses and the item can reactivate itself each turn if a poison is still present, and thought it might make a handy gift depending on who your friends are.

Shovel which disgorges the earth’s forgotten dinners
This hefty tool is made from wood and steel, inlaid with an electrum core hidden in the base of the blade. When activated by shoving the blade into the earth and uttering a rude command the enchantment causes 10 cubic paces of earth to be momentarily expel upward all foreign content. This allows far easier identification, collection and removal of debris, lost tokens, and dislodgement of plants and weeds in the affected area. The electrum grants a +3 lab bonus for MuTe.
Muto Terram 15 (base 4, +1 Touch, +1 Part)(+5 levels for 24 uses a day)

and

Fork which subsumes the irritating debris
Also a hefty work tool inset with electrum and crafted by a foul mouthed Magus, when activated by obscenity this fork will rapidly alter a patch of dirt 10 cubic paces in size into air and back again, which causes all debris and contents to fall well below the surface. The electrum grants a +3 lab bonus for MuTe.
Muto Terram / Auram 10 (Base 3, +1 Touch, +1 Part)(+5 levels for 24 uses a day)

Fan for the Becalmed Sailor

This small wooden fan decorated with knotted twine along its grip is enchanted so that once per day it will summon a wind which blows in a direction controlled by the caster. A fan grants a +4 lab bonus.

Creo Auram 15, (Base 2, +3 Sight, +1 Conc) (+5 levels for device maintains Conc)

Humble Axe of the Woodsman

When the wielder of this hickory handled tool utters a command “urr” the enchantment will destroy the dead wood struck in a manner chosen by the wielder. To strike true the wielder must succeed a finesse check. While this enchantment grants no real benefit to felling a living tree it will make short work of fallen wood of any size, or objects created from wood. An axe grants a +4 lab bonus.

Perdo Herbam 15 (Base 4, +1 Touch, +1 Part) ( +5 levels for 24 uses a day)

If the level limit was raised from 15 this would be an outstanding item crafted to affect both living and dead plants and wood with an unlimited about of times per day as:

Perdo Herbam 25 (Base 5, +1 Touch, +1 Part)( +10 levels for unlimited uses)

Cloak of Gloom and Shadow

This hooded cloak is made from layered folds of fine charcoal, grey and black silk, gathered and sewn gracefully at ankle length, and held with an obsidian clasp. When activated by pulling the cloak’s hood up and mumbling a hush, the light surrounding the wearer is reduced to near darkness, becoming deeply dark, gloomy, and shadowy for two to three paces around them, then lightening gradually to five or six paces. Obsidian provides a darkness +5 lab bonus.

Perdo Ignem 16 (Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Individual, +1 modifier for an unusual Target) (+1 level for 2 uses a day)

..

Easing Balm

A yellow waxy balm made with infused amber which when applied the target’s wounds are treated as one category less serious for the purposes of activities while injured. Amber adds a +3 lab total.

Creo Corpus 5 (Base 1, +1 Touch, +3 Moon)

Could also be created within an trinket as:
– Easing Token, Creo Corpus 10 (Base 1, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)(+5 levels device maintains, +1 level for two uses per day)
– Or created to help with injured animals as CrAn of the same levels.

Drying Staff
A short walking stick of oiled oak inset with a jade stone. The staff can once per day completely dry a room and all its contents. Jade adds a +4 “aquam” lab bonus.
Perdo Aquam 15, (Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Room)

A work replacement item to dry clothes and items, or perhaps to recover spills and mistakes in an aquam lab.

Hat of Many Eyes (written here)

A tall bulbous brown leather hat (or is that fur, or both? yuk) which has been “treated” with ointments and solutions to retain peak moistness, elasticity, and shape of whatever foul creature was used to craft it. The hat is covered in palm sized green eyes with yellow highlights, which periodically blink and weep. The hat appears altogether unnatural and disturbing.

When activated the wearer may concentrate to shift their perspective to any direction around them. Inside the rim of the hat is a clear glass lense set in a silver frame, which grants a lab bonus of +5.

Intellego Imaginem 5 (Base 1, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)(+1 levels for 2 uses per day)

Image by Lou Romano, Copyright Pixar, from the Pixar Art Collection, from the movie Up. Darn great film and a beautiful concept illustration.

As always, check out some of the other new Ars Magica items created over the years.

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Spells to investigate potential apprentices and familiars in Ars Magica, 30 Days of Magic

Here are a few spells which are useful when a Magus seeks an apprentice or familiar; both for detecting gifted people and also for determining the raw physical attributes the apprentice or familiar might have. In many games these characters are generated just like another character to suit the desires of the story, so there is basically no need to determine the NPCs characteristics – however it’s an interesting idea for a character to cast spells to understand the potential of another person. Perhaps evaluating grogs, lab assistants, servants, etc. Please note due credit to Cuchulainshound from the Ars forums for the spells and inspiration for his magus concept of an apprentice hunter.

Firstly to determine if a person has the Gift “The Numbness of the Gift” (InCo20, Hedge Magic, p.6) is the canonical example spell. It uses the Intellego Vim base 10 guideline for detecting the traces of powerful magic and combined with sensory Touch magic. It is constrained in use by design, not too high level, and an excellent spell for subtle investigations.

That spell is useful for individuals close at hand, but a higher version is far better for detecting by hearing or sight for scanning larger areas, although would need to be cast forcelessly so that it would not anger other Magi, and would probably still count as scrying – so not without in-game risks. A Magus named Solomon in another pbp game a long time ago created a ritual to be cast on a town using Target: Boundary as a way to find the gifted people; that is grant overkill but very effective for surveying towns in a single casting.

The Chimes of the Gift

Intellego Vim 30, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Hearing

The caster can hear individuals with the gift as the tones playing from wind chimes.

(Base 10, +1 Concentration, +3 Hearing) Continue reading

Simple Enchanted Items for Ars Magica, part 1

The Ars community came together on the Ars Magica forums “Let’s Make Apprentice Created Enchantments” thread to contribute low powered devices and potions which could be manufactured by an apprentice. Many might be useful as covenant labour saving devices, which reduces the covenant expenses.

All powers are limited to a maximum power of level 15, which is achievable by an apprentice character and costs 2 pawns of vis to invest. There are great ideas in the forum thread, far more than an average game needs! Go read them.

Sometimes I’ve added contextual notes or added an alternative as I could see these items as basis for quick and dirty items readable on the hermetic market, or the types of low power devices which might be sold through proxies to mundanes.

Below in no logical order are my contributions and a few extra ideas thrown in for good measure. This blog post covers the items added in the first few weeks, and I’ll follow-up with a part-two to show all the madness I end up contributing.

(ps. Have a look at the other new Ars Magica items created over the years too)

Chalk of Observation

This chalk is a simple potion which moves part of the visual image of the affected object one pace. This can be used to assist targeting foes on the other side of walls.

Rego Imaginem 5 (Rego Imagonem base 2, +1 Touch, +1 Diameter, +1 Part)

… the idea is to draw a circle on a wall and move the image of that bit aside to target spells to the other side. It could be used to move the image of a soldier aside too, which should add a defensive bonus. Continue reading

Observations on drafting an apprentice in Ars Magica RPG

Hey there, firstly some disclosure – I’m a massive fan of the Ars Magica roleplaying game, so this post is a collected rant on a concept, not a broadside to the game. I didn’t write 400+ spells for a game I dislike, these comments come from the passion. There is also a sourcebook for dealing specifically with young characters and apprentices, which covers many of the issues in greater detail.

Making an early life character should be a little easier than crafting a wizard, because in theory the character has had less time in the setting and should not have the complexity and experience points of an older character. Generally it is too, but I find it has different problems. As a player I want t be able to try many different solutions to story challenges, and skills are a hurdle to many solutions.

There is little skill depth for very young Ars Magica characters. I say this as the early life XP only allows for a few skills at a moderate level, and no skills at high numbers. Now while that makes sense, it still seems that younger people might need slightly more breadth in skills coverage than allowed in the rules if they are to conduct themselves as leads in longer stories. or a more forgiving set of challenges in play.

For example – a character who is around 10-12 years old and knows two languages reasonably well has almost no remaining skill points to spend on other skills. It seems incorrect. It appears that the skill abstraction which works for seasoned characters does not feel right in youth.

It is actually also a problem in later life characters too, in that the skills/XP/purchase scale hash does not allow for a wide variety of skills without being very limiting to the character also being good at one thing. A new wizard for example can have a few skills at reasonable level (which is needed) and very little else. Building a great all-rounder is nigh on impossible without using a lot of Virtues. This is doubly problematic in Ars as it is a game where strong specialisation is preferable (Finesse, Arts, Combat, etc). Virtues and Flaws can help to some degree to cover a generalist, however not at all in many cases.

So what do we as players do?

  1. Well primarily we set the group expectation to recognise the limitations and encourage stories (and story-guides) to not push boundaries where a young character would be unduly challenged.
  2. Scale the challenges to the characters. I know that is very often a given in Ars Magica but it is not always the case. Difficulty numbers for target rolls can be set to ranges where the characters will fail, which runs into why the role was needed or expected in the fist place.
  3. An apprentice story should be designed so that the outcomes are not dependant on successful skill resolution.
  4. Expect to fail, and embrace how the event plays out in the story.
  5. Haggle the group for temporary skills – a few more xp in character generation, even if those skills will later be “forgotten”. “When I was young I went fishing a bit, but I’ve forgotten all of it over the years”.

Happy gaming.

Lucien, a Flambeau Apprentice. Sample Ars Magica Character

Overview

A head strong, fearless, and intelligent orphan child, who is at risk of becoming either a “mini-dictator” or abandoned by the orphanage because he is too much trouble to handle. Lucien’s blatant gift means he stays aside from the noise and banter of orphanage life, trying to stay out of the way. He is also frequently absent from roll calls and curfews.

Since he has started to mature, his gift and angry personality has begun to get stronger and stronger. Most recently this has expressed as physical manifestations of smoldering and heat, especially when angered or cornered. Lucien is afraid of this new change and knows too well what happens to “different” children, as a troubled girl “ran away or disappeared” a few years ago even though she left her meager possessions in her bed. This may make Lucien even more resistant to change, and is certainly affecting his relationships within the orphanage.

Personality

Lucien is a smart child who’s natural intellect has lead to some bad habits forming. Raised as an orphan with parents unknown to him, his development has been ad-hoc and at the mercy of the sometimes brutal orphanage where he lives. I see the character as somebody who rejects authoritarian rules where the “why” cannot be explained, and this has led to him being labeled a troublemaker.

He tends to drive the actions of others through observation and advice. While not yet physically strong he is smart enough to attach himself to a figurehead type and push his agenda through that person. A large bull headed boy named Tomas, and a bossy girl named Eloise are his current associates. If not found by a Magus he would be a skilled advisor in later life, IF he can be found by the right people and learn to control his nature.

Background

Lucien’s magical bloodline is believed descended from a Flambeau of great renown (could it be even Reculed himself?) but also unacknowledged in the hotly debated House Flambeau apocrypha. If discovered his bloodline will create further disorder and volatility in the House due to it’s inherent power, and Lucien being a forgotten bastard child. I plan for Lucien to start to investigate his bloodline as a story. At some age he will want to know, as he will not be willing to just hope that it was Flambeau.

  • Where else has the bloodline deviated? Is Lucien’s past actually a deception designed to undermine the House?
  • How many other children have their been?
  • If not Reculed then who or what creature/ancestor allows such a potent magical connection?

Along with the recent expressions of fire and smoke Lucien has also seen physical manifestations of power in his own skin. His skin is now mottled or discolored in places. Over time this may make the otherwise indistinct child look more monstrous (will rationalise a low Pres score as the mythic blood physically manifests).

Lucien’ childhood appearance is boringly ordinary. Described by one of the brothers at the Abbaye d’Auberive (Auberive Abbey) as “A very unassuming countenance with a disruptive intellect. Of course we punish him, the brats raided the larder again!”

Quotes:

  • Said about him, “… the boy has such promise, just look at his lettering!”
  • “If the brothers can’t find it, then they don’t need to know. I’ll help you hide the kitten, but I’ll need a favor…”
  • “Don’t make me quiet your crying Thomas. Shut up, go back in and teach Audren a lesson. For all of us!”

Potential story seed – a rumor of a child who survived a barn fire where many animals and the building itself was totally engulfed.

Recent History

Recently the carers at the Abbey have found a way to entice Lucien to be compliant, which is to offer him additional study. What began as a punishment for a particularly clever prank against a groundsman, exposed a keen interest in learning and books. He has learnt to write in his native French and now keenly is looking to Latin. His inventiveness is also finding a use with illumination and sketching of texts much to the delight of the abbey’s librarians. The librarians are frustrated with Lucien’s inability to clearly communicate how he thinks his idea up, but are pleased with the results.

Lucien is aware that his interest in study places him socially separated from his peers, and is using that separation to his advantage by frequently assisting those less talented – especially if those other children can be lead toward his goals.

Appearance

Once a slightly quirky looking but ordinary sandy haired child, now Lucien’s skin is beginning to physically reflects his mythic bloodline. The areas of mottled, scarred, or reddened skin slowly move and shift week by week, meaning that his physical appearance subtly changes as the rorschach inkblots creep on his skin. Not fast enough to see moment by moment, but very different dawn to dusk.

When he is able to escape formal rules he is often seen with a mutt dog at his heel. His clothes are almost always disheveled and grubby, although he does carry a cloak and extra odd clothing in case he or a friend needs them. Continue reading

A is for Apprentice

A is for Apprentice.

The lowly apprentice, who one day will surpass their master, but in the current day is treated as a house slave. The master’s clothing is probably never more clean, and their astrolabe never better polished. In Ars Magica stories an apprentice might be treasured as a child, or treated as currency. A lazy fifteen years are required to graduate, and to be honest I’m not surprised that most Magi in the setting have a chip on their shoulder – imagine being in study for that long without a break!

There probably needs to be more stories about failed or suspended apprenticeships in the lore. The poor apprentice is doubly cursed if the master is some commercial mogul with a bad hair piece (the TV show), or a wheezing old guy in black robes who likes to kill everybody (Star Wars). You’d think either master would have more self control.

Story ideas:

  • A Bonisagus raises a challenge to a Magi, where they wish to take the Magi’s recently found apprentice. It could start a direct confrontation, or be used as leverage for another story item which the Bonisagus actually wants.
  • …perhaps the Bonisagus above is being blackmailed by another magus, who is the actual enemy.
  • An npc apprentice is discovered near the covenant, having fled though fear. The apprentice wishes a Bonisagus at the covenant to claim him, to save him from his current master.
  • …the apprentice can sweeten the deal with his personal vis source which his master is unaware of, with 20 pawns as initial offer.
  • …the current master is also the apprentice’s father.

Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.

A great apprentice idea for Ars Magica is the apprentice oath, by Andrew Gronosky, just so this post has something more than some passing silly thoughts.

Playing catch-up as I should have been posting 10 days ago!