Seven Lesser Enchanted Devices for Guards and Watchmen

These are a few enchanted items for Ars Magica grogs, intended to increase their effectiveness. The goal of these items is to make the grogs more efficient without compromising their capacity to respond, which means a range of situational powers is better than one large dramatic one. The powers have many uses per day as they can be used by every member of the guard, if these were designed for a single user they would be slightly lower level.

For example a power which affects the weapons of the grog would be avoided. Powers which affect the grog’s equipment are better as they also avoid warping.

The Seven Charms of the Earnest Guardsmen – this set of steel charms is set upon a life sized oak bust of a grizzled guardsman who is helmed and armored in scratched and worn gear. Each charm is held in place and enchanted separately as a lesser enchanted device. The bust is anchored in place in the watch-house or garrison of the covenant. The charms place enchantments upon the user, allowing a each charm to be used by many members of the covenant.

The items were designed as lesser devices and set together, this way further enhancements could be added over time and items could be replaced if another power was preferred. Each item could also be taken and worn, and each is a two way arcane connection to the wooden bust.

Each power is activated by touching the selected charm with one hand and the target’s chest with the other.

Charm of the Bear’s Hide – a steel chain around the neck of the statue, with a small bear shaped token attached. As per Gift of the Bears Fortitude (Ars p.131) (MuAn 35), (Base 15, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day.

Twin Charms of the Perceptive Hound – two steel cloak pins, shaped for a leaping dog and a sniffing dog, when worn together one jumps the other.

First pin’s effect is Nose of the Bloodhound (MuCo/An 10), (Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day. This effect changes the target’s nose to be that of a hound, greatly increasing their ability to track by scent and notice unusual odours.

Second pin’s effect is Ears of the Bloodhound (MuCo/An 10), (Base 2, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day. This effect changes the target’s ears to be that of a hound, greatly increasing their hearing abilities.

Charm of the Perceptive Watchman – a full steel helm. 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.

Charm of the Resilient Gambeson – a steel brooch set upon the bust’s chest, shaped as a round-shield and decorated with a gauntlet symbol. As per Doublet of Impenetrable Silk (Ars p.118) (MuAn 20), (Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day.

Charm of Preternatural Growth – a steel pauldron strapped to the shoulder of the bust. As per Preternatural Growth and Shrinking (Ars p.131) (MuCo/AnTeHe 15), (Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Sun), with +5 for 24 uses per day. The target and their equipment increases in size by one category to a maximum of size +1.

Charm of the Allied Turb – a diamond shaped steel badge worn over the bust’s heart which signifies the covenant symbol. (MuIm 10) (Base 1, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 detailed), with +5 for 24 uses per day. The target’s appearance is altered to match their untransformed form (for those with some of the effects above), and also to be wearing a tunic of covenant colors and symbol. This effect is used in combination with the others to indicate those on duty and also the expiry of the other effects.

Final note: beware the warping some of these items will cause if used regularly. Initially I had a goal to create all the items with no warping, however it proved too difficult.


Thoughts on the nature of fast cast spells in Ars Magica

There was another Ars Magica 5 question on Stack exchange, and like a good little opinionated community member I wrote a brief answer. I thought I’d share it here because it is an area that is a little unclear to me.

Are there any guidelines as to the nature of fast-cast spontaneous spells needed to counter a magi’s spells?

I wrote the answer below, which is also tweaked a little for clarity:

There are many layers to the idea of using fast-cast spells in ArM5 and the rules are unclear. This has led to many discussions on the official forums as groups seek to clarify or expand what is possible and logical. I didn’t like the outcomes of that discussion so didn’t commit it to memory. Instead here is how I thought the rules should be used:

  • Fast casting can apply to both Formulaic spells and Spontaneous spells.
  • The defensive spell must be half the level of the attacking spell to defend against it.
  • The caster of the defensive spell must know the Form and Tech of the attacking spell to be able to defend. This implies that the defender must know that the spell is being cast (somehow).
  • I think there is a Perception + Magic Theory to be able to identify the attacking spell’s Form.
  • Therefore I surmise that once the attacking spell hits the defending Magus it is too late to fast-cast Spont a defense; as the Magus only has their Parma to defend with.
  • Therefore too a Defender who is unaware of an inbound attacking spell cannot fast-cast against it. This makes Silent Magic and Subtle Magic virtues much more powerful. Your villain might be able to cast without words or gestures, and therefore nobody can really fast cast defend against the spells.
  • Both Spont and Form spell applies the -10 cast penalty, and the botch dice. This makes a fast cast Spont spell very hard to cast. Which is in turn why many magi choose to lean Form and tech appropriate generic Formulaic spells which they then fast cast.
  • Our troupe decided that the Technique can be any which seems appropriate to the attacking spell. So the style of the defending spell could be Rego or Perdo for example, as both easily can move or eliminate the Form. It could even be Creo or Muto too. I am not sure how Intellego would be used to defend against an inbound spell. Very circumstantial.
  • That means that it is plausible that there is a general spell for defense in each form. e.g. “Defend against the Marauding Fire”, as a PeIg (gen) spell. So the Magus learns that spell at a level they like, and then hopes that they can fast cast it with the -10 penalty to the roll. As their skill increases they might learn a few versions of that spell.

I didn’t like the idea that a Defending spell could be learnt as a Rego Vim or Perdo Vim variation and still need only half the level of the attacking spell to neutralise it, but I do agree that the same Perdo Ignem spell above could be altered to be Perdo then all the forms to get the same style of effect. That would be a hard spell to cast given how the 9 additional Form requisites would affect spell casting totals.

I’d say that any Rego Vim or Perdo Vim effect must equal the attacking spell level (without considering Penetration).


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Who goes first? Alternative Ars Magica Initiative

Initiative is fiddly to get right in tabletop roleplaying games, as there are always special circumstances to consider. So beyond a boiler-plate statement about Initiative in my games being subject to the story, more than the story is subject to the mechanics, here is how I see Initiative being resolved in the Ars Magica 5th ed roleplaying game. And yup, this is probably different from the Ars Magica cannon, because the rules as written are not explicit for the same reason as mine – they prefer the story too.

The game rounds in the rules take anywhere between 3-5 seconds each, and that seems a very reasonable time period. In each round there in an unlimited amount of initiative based actions, according to how many people are participating. This means that in simple one on one combat you’d expect to be able to see each deliberate action, and they would probably not overlap too much, but in fact it does not matter so much. In a wild melee the Initiative order of participants is maintained, and this means many actions will be happening per second; probably appearing to be simultaneous. The actual time within the combat round is irrelevant, it is all based upon a strike order. We track the number of rounds for the purposes of actions occurring outside the combat, such as Diameter spell durations, folks sprinting toward the combat area, and all sorts of other factors.

Initiative is resolved by using a Attribute + Ability (stat + skill) with modifiers for the action attempted, which is typical for Ars Magica. The resolution path is what is important, and in this post I’m suggesting a few guidelines that mirror much of the 4th edition rules, and might be different (see the bottom) from the 5th edition rules. I am almost positive that these rules are different from the core rules, and am very much looking forward to testing them on live player characters.

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Two weapon fighting in Ars Magica

Two weapon fighting is cinematic and exciting, and present in most rolepaying games, especially those with a high fantasy touch like Dungeons and Dragons. Ars Magica on the other hand aims for a level of realism as well as fantasy; and there is an argument to say that two weapon fighting is not especially valid in Europe around the middle ages. It is certainly not the predominant method expressed in the surviving artworks of the period. So there is a quandary – it makes sense that it is not an option that has been presented in ArM game editions, and it also is something that players may want to try.

Wielding two weapons has the initial appeal of offering a much more threatening opponent into battle, and some role-players (like myself) have played systems where it is an excellent option to get the most damage applied as quickly as possible. Many a Fighter has been created with dual wielding Longswords, and while they were entertaining, they also grind on my nerves when I consider the feel that Ars Magica is going for. But then I find the idea of a viking raider using a hand axe and a dagger in battle totally worth considering. There are likely to be as many forum posts around in support of two weapons as there are against in terms of it being a valid combat style.

For the purposes of my games, I think there is a middle ground where I can support the idea if it is presented as part of a good character concept, and also ignore the concept if it is being chosen only for a mechanical advantage. For that reason alone I think its worth discussing how a game like Ars Magica might incorporate two weapon fighting.

I can see two high level approaches, based upon splitting the advantage that two separate combat rolls have:

  1. One Strike with modified combat effects and weapon stats, or
  2. Two strikes with varied weapon and combat stats.

The selection between the two is a driver for how much leverage the ability will have in the game, and also how much specialisation should be needed by the character. Allowing two different rolls adds a much higher probability that the attacker will hurt their opponent.

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