Complexity in Muto based Materials Manipulation

This post is more meta-magic system thoughts for ars magica –  on the complexity in Muto based materials creation and manipulation, raised from a forum discussion…

Switching one form to another should include a degree of flexibility in the final shape, as this is the declared purpose of the spell. As long as the spell is creating a specific object or thing. Surrounding air to a natural plant is fine and declaring the type and shape of the plant is reasonable in the Formulaic formula at base.

Then modifying for complexity in shape seems appropriate, as:

  • I see the complexity as quasi- geometric shapes (+0 mags) like lines, cubes, boxes, or walls. Exploiting a feature of the new material should be free too – like using a plant to create a natural shelter.
  • The allowing sub-shapes in the main shape (1) like windows, basic stairs, spikes.
  • Then almost any other ordinary detail (2).
  • Then finally very ornate details as (3) like artwork.

Having the additional mags should allow forgiveness in the Finesse check but not remove a basic “fit for purpose” check. A serviceable but ugly level for a simple item is vs 6 (a sword), and a more complex item is vs 9 (a suit of armor). Less than this and the finesse check might still be needed (vs 3) , but is really at the “don’t botch” level (a cube of stone).

So a basic sword is +1, and a full suit of armour might be +2. Then add mags for moderate flexibility in choice of form when casting. Making a spell which can pick when cast from a dagger, knife, or sword should cost something, whereas two different styles of swords which are serviceable seems plausible as a spell without too much added complexity. Sword vs axe should definetly need complexity modifiers, if not be allowed at all.

Ref: Atlas Games – Ars Magica forums.

And perhaps interrelated is the Creo vs Muto discussion here, or replacing Finesse with magnitudes of difficulty

Fire to bubbles

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Ars spells to assist with Navigation

Many wizards in the Ars Magica setting have powerful spells and clever tricks for making travel faster and a lot easier (and here are some other custom travel spell ideas too). For most in-play discussions the effects tend to be hand-waved as small effects, cast spontaneously, and the story moves on.  These effects are short discussions and samples to help fill the gap – to assist the traveler in either finding something or heading in the right direction.

An item or set of items with these effects might be more useful than learning the spell in earnest, mainly due to the low level, the benefit of the lab total in creating the effect in a single season, and the fact it grants a device with wonderful utility that could be used by grogs and companions.

Spells To Find Something

If a wizard has an arcane connection to something, the technique to finding it is obvious (an Intellego effect for the Form of the target) but it is not always easy. Typically the wizard will spont cast an Intellego spell specific for the type of thing being scryed, but that spont cast can be moderate in level (at least level 25) due to the need to use the arcane connection. There is an alternative work around to that high level effect by using Opening the Intangible Tunnel first, as demonstrated below by these two effects.

Sense for the Wandering Whimsy

Intellego Terram 25, R: Arcane, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The caster gains a sense of direction and distance to the item or person to which he has an arcane connection. The information provided is specific enough to allow the item to be followed and tracked, but does not provide knowledge of specific pathways or obstacles which may be encountered. The effect is designed as a general spell, so casting requisites for the form of the target item are requires when cast.

(Base 4, +4 R: Arc, +1 for complexity of a general approach)

Rather than creating an effect for each form, the spell is designed to be used with a diverse range of targets, subject to a cast-time Form requirement. The desire to make a generic spell rather than a form specific spell is not new in Ars Magica, and while it might be viewed as a quasi-munchkin approach it is no different from the levitation effects and shrinking effects already provided in the core rules, which use Terram as a base Form.

An Intellego Terram of Base 4 is “learn one mundane property of an object” which matches well with divination and location effects. That base is slightly more difficult than guidelines within other forms (base 1 to locate a fire with InIg, or base 2 for InAq, base 3 for InCo) which is why I think it is still fine for application to the spell here. It seems overly expensive to assign a base 5 for the effect.

The complexity modifier of +1 is to reflect the degree in complexity of the general effect. This style of effect could be written up as a separate Intellego spell for each form, and potentially for each sub-type (say dirt or clay vs metal) of thing, but that is a terrible waste of many seasons of spell invention, where one effect will suffice. Conversely at such low final levels for many different forms (Ignem, Corpus, etc), many wizards probably would never invent the various spells in a formulaic manner to begin with.

Hay_WagonAn alternate option for wizards which lower arts in Intellego, but reasonable Rego and Vim scores is for the Magus to learn or know Opening the Intangible Tunnel (ReVi gen, Ars p. 162), which opens the magical conduit through to the subject of the spell, and allows casting of Range:Touch effects through the conduit. Alas it requires the casting of two spells to do the work of one, but also dramatically lowers the level of the final detection effect. In this case it lowers the effect level from InTe25 to InTe10. I suggest this as my current character in a saga has a significant deficiency in Intellego magic and reasonable scores elsewhere and Opening the Intangible Tunnel is one of the most useful effects in the core spell list.

So first cast OtIT, and then this:

Tunnel to the Wandering Whimsy

Intellego Terram 10, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The caster gains a sense of direction and distance to the item or person to which he can touch, which is intended to be used along with the Opening The Intangible Tunnel spell, utilising an arcane connection, and is pointedly superfluous without it.

The information provided is specific enough to allow the item to be followed and tracked, but does not provide knowledge of specific pathways or obstacles which may be encountered. The effect is designed as a general spell, so casting requisites for the form of the target item are requires when cast.

(Base 4, +1 R: Touch, +1 for complexity of a general approach)

Spells to Find North

Something as simple as finding north is thankfully not overly difficult.

The base 4 is used as it is akin to seeing the location of an item, and more difficult than determining a single physical property, however as the target is the earth itself a T: Part is needed. I’d be surprised if a Magus couldn’t also opt for using an easy Artes Liberales skill check combined with watching where the sun is at the time of day, but it is a simple enough effect to spontaneously cast. Failing that, asking a grog might be far easier.

Sense for the Cardinal Path

Intellego Terram 5,  R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Part

This spell grants the caster a sense for which way true north is.

(Base 4, with +1 T: Part)

A suggested alternative (credit to Silveroak) was to use Muto Terram to make a stone which is highly unnatural so that it floats and is magnetic enough to react to the magnetic poles, so it functions as a compass. Clever. In this write-up I’ve added a requisite of Rego to allow the stone to float in the air, and also align itself as the spell dictates.

A Stone that Speaks of Winter’s Home

Muto Terram / Rego 10, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The spell alters the stone touched so that it now floats a pace from the ground, and points to north in the same way as a compass.

(Base 4 for a highly unnatural change, +1 Touch, +1 affect rock)

Spells to Find Where You Are

Personally I’d be alarmed if I didn’t know roughly where I was all the time, but perhaps a wizard has a need to find their exact location, or has teleported with some unknown margin for error and now is in need of a way to orient themselves. An effect like The Inexorable Search is perfect for such purposes, but relies on the caster having a map for everywhere where they are, or an arcane connection to their target. Although a magus who carries a map of Europe will at the very least be able to use The Inexorable Search if they are totally lost. So a very good effect but requires a fair amount of time and preparation.

As an aside – a spell to dynamically conjure an accurate map is probably a set of combined spell effects, perhaps better as crafted/enchanted item, and certainly more space than I have write up here. I’m not even sure that dynamically generating a map of the surrounding in real time is even plausible.

Depending on how the effect was executed it could be limited by the current boundary the caster is within, the extent and complexity of all the different forms which it must encompass, might need to be ritual, and the perception that the material being scryed will understand (what do rocks really know about trees vs wooden huts?). Such an effect will also be risky if used near a covenant, due to the rules involving spying on members of the Order. The spell Exactly to Scale (HoH:TL 139) allows an image to be drawn using Rego magic, and is mentioned explicitly for map creation.

Perhaps it’s possible to use beasts or animated things as a way to alter the caster’s sight, like birds who scan and map terrain (like Saruman’s spying in Lord of the Rings using Crebain crows). Or have those creatures provide visual stimulus back to another item instead of directly to the caster. And then layer more effects to draw the views and impressions into a map, perhaps permanently or perhaps only for the current surrounding league or two. Or perhaps invisible permanently floating spy satellites linked to a scrying mirror, such that the user can change their perspective as they alternate between different points of reference.

Magic used in this manner can provide an answer to where the caster is, but only by context to a known location. This means that a spell to determine where you are is troublesome; well darn close to impossible actually. Magic itself really has no inherent knowledge to understand what county name, sub-region, or even country the caster is within, so it becomes necessary for the spells to communicate to the caster in a manner which means something useful.

A simple starting effect would be to alter the caster’s perception so that they can see as if they were high in the sky, thereby viewing all around them.

Eyes in the Distance

Intellego Imagonem 5,  R: Sight, D: Concentration, T: Ind

This spell alters the caster’s point of visual perception to another location which they can see. The direction and angle of their view can be moved through concentration, or moved at walking pace as long as the point of perception remains within range.

(InIm base 1 to use one sense at a distance, +3 R: Sight, +1 Duration: Conc)

One solution is for the effect to provide information with reference to known

  • InTe effect, or perhaps InCo effect, as it should provide context
  • InVi 5 guideline from TMRE, p. 51 “Discern and measure a single Astrological factor in the environment”

A strange alternative suggested during the forum discussion by Marko Marko, adds a very large amount of mundane complexity and preparation required to then use a very simple spell gather location information. I really like it, it’s a Rube-Goldberg-machine solution that actually works.

Compass of the Vigilant Flame

Intellego Ignem 5,  R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This spell tells you the location, direction and distance, to a fire which you possess an Arcane Connection to.

(Base 1 Locate a Fire, +4 Arcane)

Such a madman approach works really well for wizards who have time to prep a few eternal flames at different locations (which are very simple CrIg effects created on Circles/Rings, see below), gather arcane connections, and set about casting the effect several times and triangulating their position. Such madness is brilliance.

Circle of Sustained Flame

Creo Ignem 5, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Circle

This spell creates a candle flame which endures until the circle is broken.

(Base 2 for candle flame, +1 Touch, +2 Ring)

Then all the wizard needs is a small stick to burn the end of with this fire, and it establishes an arcane connection from the fire to the stick, lasting days or weeks depending on how permanent you view the link (see Ars page 84).

And as you ponder he approach, it is a healthy to construct an permanent device to inform the user where they are. If permanent arcane connected way-points were set across Europe, then a spell effect could triangulate against those to allow the user to approximate their location.

Spells Using Others

In finding a solution I did consider spells that would open the mind of a target and get answers, but those effects are already present in the core book – a typical Q&A spell will cover it. Assuming that the wizard can find a target who might know, the Intellego Mentum effects in the core rules will garner the information in a wonderful manner.

As part pondering the wider aspects of how a few travel and location based effects fit within the medieval paradigm, I asked the official forums – and a wonderful discussion developed. These effects, like all the others I’ve pondered are part of a new spells compendium for Ars Magica.

Thoughts on relative complexity in Creo spells

A quick post to highlight an explanation of my impression of relative complexity in Creo spells in Ars Magica:

  • Standard (+0 mags) – These items have little or no complexity in function or moving parts. e.g. Mounds of matter, swords, chairs, walls, crossbows, armor. A simple hut or room. A simple pattern or symbol can be included in the item.
  • Slightly Complex (+1 mags) – a few moving parts and a few different materials in construction. e.g. a Cart with tack and harness. A simple small boat with sail and oars. A building with a few uniform rooms and floors. A full suit of armor and weapons for a warrior.
  • Moderate Complexity (+2 mags) – many features which move independently from the whole, many compartments, or sub-functions. Many different materials. e.g. ocean going ships. A moderate sized building with multiple rooms, hallways, walk ways including doors and some features.
  • Highly Complex (+3 mags) – Fully formed towers will inconsistent internal structures, with as many complex features as desired. Complex machinery. This is about as complex as a spell can get. e.g. Conjuring the Mystic Tower.

I raise this as many Creo effecs in the game add a “complexity modifier”, and it seems to be used more and more as a punitive measure to make creating things harder.