The Buoyant Grog – marching an army across rivers

A long while ago I played in a story where the grogs and mundanes needed to cross a moderate body of water. It was a simple challenge, but the Magi present couldn’t use a magical-brute-force spontaneous effect to solve the issue. When moving across a stable body of water vertical changes were not an issue, however when inventing a spell for future use the Base 5 was chosen to allow the caster to move the target in any direction they choose and to concentrate to alter that movement. This allows for a far greater variety in application.

The same story also had a supernatural creature swimming in the water, so it was far better to have our grogs float above the surface of the water rather than swim.

The Buoyant Grog

Rego Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target is moved slowly in any direction the caster desires horizontally or vertically, as fast as smoke rises. The spell affects targets up to size +1 and the caster must concentrate to alter the movement. Heavier targets move more slowly.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

The spell has a range of potential uses, not just to move grogs across untraversable gaps or waterways. If the effect was to be used on a hostile target the Range: Touch is a factor to consider and if successful the target could be moved well away from combat or dangerously high into the air.

A variant for a squad of targets, for the times when the Magus perhaps does not have the time to cast this spell many times; such as falling or while being chased.

The Buoyant Squad

Rego Corpus 25, R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Group

The target is moved slowly in any direction the caster desires horizontally or vertically, as fast as smoke rises. The spell affects targets up to size +1 and the caster must concentrate to alter the movement. Heavier targets move more slowly.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +1 Concentration, +2 Group)

And lastly a version for the caster to use upon themselves. If the caster knows either of the versions above then this is almost superfluous, although a lower level effect allows for better fast-casting. This version is also

The Buoyant Magus

Rego Corpus 10, R: Personal, D: Concentration, T: Individual

The caster is moved slowly in any direction they desire, horizontally or vertically as fast as smoke rises. The spell affects targets up to size +1 and the caster must concentrate to alter the movement. Heavier targets move more slowly.

(Base 5, +1 Concentration)

See further custom spells for Ars Magica can be found in the summary spells page.

crossing water

Return to the True Form of Man, reversing transformation effects

Another thought on transformations – what to do if you’re a target of a transformation effect. The idea for this spell is that a wizard can use this to remove any hermetic transformation effects upon themselves, regardless of the source of the transformation.

Many Hermetic transformation spells are designed with a termination utility within them, which makes sense, and renders this effect a little moot. The exception is those Muto Corpus effects which botch, have gone astray, or were cast by others. As a personal general spell, it could be learned at a low level and still have an excellent chance of cancelling the undesired transformation.

Return to the True Form of Man

Perdo Vim Gen, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This effect to returns the target to their humanoid natural form, ending any magical or supernatural transformation effects including Hermetic Muto Corpus related spells. The target effect is cancelled if it is equal to or less than the (level of this Perdo Vim spell + 20 + stress die (no botch)).

This spell will also end a shape-shifters transformation or non-hermetic effects, but cannot affect Heart Beast transformation effects of a Bjornaer Magus.

(Base General)

There is a kindred spell called The Heathen Witch Reborn from HoH:S p129 or GotF, which is the same effect designed at Range: Voice. As a General spell with a level+20+roll modifier it can be taken at a low level and still be effective.

This version is intended as insurance, for more defensive and personal uses rather than The Heathen Witch Reborn which has overt malicious tones.

Spells to mitigate warping in Ars Magica

When I initially thought of the effect I was planning to see it used on the friends of my Magus character, so they suffer less effects from the application of short term powerful transformation spells. The wider blog post and subsequent spells grew from this concept.

Ars Magica’s spell rules for Warping dictate that a target of a powerful effect (roughly magnitude 6 or higher) will recieve a Warping point each time a spell is cast upon them, and a personalised spell will mitigate this warping. Typically the personalised version of the spell is created in as a lab exercise.

As a storyguide I’ve previously guided players to assume that a spell with Range: Personal is always considered “personalised” for the caster because I assume that part of the task of learning the effect is also learning how to design it for themselves. This means that by default all other spells are never personalised. It is plausible that a spell could be designed at another range but still be personalised for the caster, as there is an argument to be made that any effect can be designed specifically for the caster, but that should not be the default and certainly not unless agreed in advance.

Given that Muto Vim spells can radically change almost any singular aspect of a spell (purpose, range, duration, target, sigil, effect power, splitting, etc), it seems probably that a Muto Vim spell could also be able to change another spell so that it is considered personalised for the other spell’s target, or personalised for the caster.

Note that the RAW indicate that the warping occurs on first application of an effect and also each season/year it is in effect. This means that this first set of spells is a partial measure to avoid Warping, as it can only mitigate the initial application of the spell.

Further below in this post I’ve written about potentially mitigating the long term effects, but that is not being suggested by these first two spell designs.

Inhibit the Egregious Deviations of the Warp

Muto Vim Gen, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This spell alters the target spell so that it is considered tailored for it’s target for the purposes of any warping it may cause. This spell may alter any effect which is equal to the Muto Vim spell’s level.

(Base of a Significant Change to less than or equal to spell level +1 mag, target own spells as +1 Touch)

I’m happy with this spell concept. It applies a plausible effect which is not overpowered in the setting and not unbalancing in the game. This spell must be learnt above level 30 to have any purpose at all, more likely level 40+ to be broadly effective. That does not seem unbalancing, given how much effort is required to design a high level effect.

The logical variant is to personalise spells which are cast by others, where the Magus will be the target. Through cooperative casting (see the Vim guidelines) one caster’s first spell effect will not warp the target Magus because they cast the spell below in unison.

Inhibit the Selfish Deviations of the Warp

Muto Vim Gen, R: Voice, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This spell alters the target spell so that it is considered tailored for the caster, as if the target spell was designed for the caster to not cause warping. This spell may alter any effect which is equal to the Muto Vim spell level less one magnitude (spell level -5). It is designed with Range Voice because  it must be cast cooperatively with another wizard to limit the warping effects of their spells.

(Base of a Significant Change to less than or equal to spell level +1 mag, target own spells as +2 Voice)

I think the second effect is the more powerful, because it may also be used in place of the first, although at a slight disadvantage in effective power level. When using these effects they are not useful to learn at less than level 30 and 35 respectively (due to the rules for warping with regard to mag 6 effects), so it is far more likely that either of these effects will need to be learned at level 40 or higher. That will be at least a challenge to many characters; a goal not a quick means to an end.

Base of a Significant change is due to a change in treatment of the target which can be considered a change in target according to the Ars guidelines on p158. Continue reading

Ars Magica 5e last products

Atlas Games has announced that they have set a sunset on the Ars Magica 5th edition game, which coincides with the resignation of the line editor David Chart, and the announcement of the last few books due for publication in 2015-16 and some tie-in products with Ars Magica flavour through 2016.

The community response was mixed, although generally very supportive. Some commenters in the official forums spoke of their disappointment, and the fact that the game is now dying by default. Here is my short post from the forums on the subject:

The idea that a game is dying because it has announced it’s last (future) books is reasonable for big games, but probably isn’t the right model for Ars. A big game like DnD will do that as we’ve seen.

I think the Ars situation is different because the most of the active online community is already on the forums, and every book can be purchased just as easily from an online retailer than from a store. Sure small shops might needs special order, fine, get it online. Ars is a very very niche audience, so the market is not going to fold up much smaller than it already is. 5th edition games will still be played for a long while after today – consider how long it took to migrate from 4th to 5th edition. Consider too that the game has a very large body of work, and that the body of work has never depended on publishing module series books (like A1-4, D1-3 in the dnd days).

To be frank – the publishers really also need (a) time to let 5e settle and continue to be played after the book releases, (b) time to prep any 6e work, (c) time to assess if they wish to continue the line from a profitability perspective.

Atlas have worked darn hard to keep Ars going, give them their due.

The Cursed Gift of Daedalus

I’ve liked the idea of a flying companion in Ars Magica for a long time, and only now have a write up. This effect is the classic: “grant a man wings of a bird” and as such is such a wonderful match to the imagery of the Icarus and Daedalus legend. Daedalus certainly paid for his hubris is a most vicious way, and while his crafting of waxen wings wasn’t his only great achievement in the legends (i.e. the labyrinth was a wonder too), it is one that he is most famous for.

The Cursed Gift of Daedalus

Muto Corpus 30. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Part, Req: Animal

Grants the target a pair of wings and the ability to fly.

(Base 5, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Part, +1 Requisite)

Obviously the MuCo5 guideline requires Target: Part to be effective, and Sun is a desirable duration as Concentration is just too risky. As a story suggestion – an Athletics ability check might be used for maneuvering at the story-guide’s discretion.


Milestone unlocked: 102 spells for Ars Magica


It’s been a while since I started blogging spells for Ars Magica – in fact several years. Recently I published my 102nd spell which I’m proud to have reached. If Ars blogging was a game an Achievement icon would have pop’ed onscreen, ding! All the spells can be found on this page.


What is “unnatural” in Creo and Muto?

What is intended by the term “unnatural” material in Ars Magica’s magic system, with regard to Creo of unnatural items? Well a long while back the 5e line editor clarified the intent, and I found it the other day while reading a tangential forum post.

David Chart wrote:

The intent was for “unnatural” to have the same meaning in all guidelines. You can Creo flammable water. However, since it isn’t natural, you can’t use vis to make it endure; it’s only sustained by the magic, like Muto. There is no form for it; that’s what makes it unnatural. It wasn’t written as requiring a Muto requisite because you aren’t changing anything; you are bringing something into existence with those properties. Looking at it now, the magnitude boost is probably too small, however.

I don’t think this got heavily playtested, because looking at the rules shows that they aren’t as clear as they should be. That probably indicates that I and all the playtesters thought that the meaning was perfectly clear, without actually agreeing on what that meaning was. But since no-one saw a problem, no-one raised it for discussion.

Great answer and fair enough. Considering the implications of this statement, they directly match to the behaviour of spell effects that are traditionally in the purview of Muto, but also may be performed with Creo with an increase in spell level. IMHO Creo was never restricted to only creating things that were “real”, as we know when spells can create mythical creatures and all sorts of wonderful things outside a peasant’s mindset.

This does give Creo a wider scope than I first thought though to give it, which is a nice enhancement to it’s role intertwined amongst the 5x techniques.

New Ars Duration: Tide

When you have an Ars Magica character with Flexible Formulaic Magic (FFM) every opportunity to lean a new Range, Duration, or Target adds significant leverage into a character. It may not add game shattering raw power, but instead add breadth of options which is why FFM is such an interesting virtue.

Duration: Tide – effect lasts until the tide changes twice.

I though that Duration: Tide might make an interesting new Duration for a magus. I see it as equivalent to Sun (+2), as the guideline would require the tide to change twice for the duration to expire. This makes it slightly less powerful than Sun during part of the day, and slightly more powerful afterward. A nice match.

A water or ocean oriented Magus could even replace all their typical Sun duration spells with Tide as a quirk of their magic to add flavour. There is an argument to make that use of this duration would require a certain level of magical experimentation and discovery, or that it should be a +3 mag adjustment just to be “harder” than Sun, and if required by the troupe this would be a simple discovery. The counter argument would be to let the Magus create a series of formulaic spells with Tide as the duration, as an ad-hoc way of learning the deeper aspects of tides, and that is certainly already allowed in the new spell creation guidelines of Ars.

As a story guide I’d dread trying to ponder when the tides would change twice, so I suggest using a tide checker site for the story location and take that as a broad brush solution.


p.s. the artwork is a wonderful piece by Bill Sharp. It’s a very clever image, simple on first look, but there is a lot of character to it as you look. Please take a look at the rest of his work.

Ars 5e in the wild

ars5e-stkilda-libI chuckled happily when wandering through the roleplaying section of St Kilda library, and found a copy of Ars Magica 5th edition. Ars is a niche game and not a book I’d expect to see aside Pathfinder, DnD, and some of the other larger games they had.

That said, the core rules give you all you need, so why not!

Spell – Slip From the Reaper’s Grasp

A quick write-up of the the anti aging spell guidelines in Ars Magica, with the spell needed to avoid a terminal aging event.

Slip From the Reaper’s Grasp

Creo Corpus 40, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Ind, Ritual

Resolves a terminal (or less) crisis caused by Aging (see Ars p.170). This effect causes Warping.

(Base 35 to resolve a Terminal aging crisis, R: Touch +1)

As rare as aging events are for characters in play, it seems like this effect was one of the obvious spells which a lot of Magi would contemplate needing.

You can find the rest of the custom spells in the blog’s Ars Magica spell list. I hope none of my characters even need this one. Happy gaming.