Discussing and Improving the Invisible Sling of Vilano

Here are some thoughts about the Invisible Sling of Vilano, which is arguably one of the most dangerous offensive spells in the Ars Magica role playing game. These are meta-thoughts on the mechanics of spells, rather than actual spells which are direct boosts (you’ve been warned, heh).

I say arguably as the defense against the spell is trivial to accomplish for an experienced wizard who dedicates significant time to it, but impractical for most wizards, and the spell is wonderfully effective against creatures with high resistance to magical attacks. Frankly an opponent who has high magical resistance and also a high soak is darn powerful and is not meant to be fought head on without planning. Ars Magica is a story & discussion (at length) rpg and high challenge beasts should not be knocked down by a single style of attack. It would be the same in any game, but particularly so in Ars Magica as it does not make for compelling stories.

(a) Have you tried Multi-casting?

Simply put Multi-casting with Mastery is far less contentious because this is exactly the style of spell that should directly benefit from multi-casting, and it is the core rules. Use it. In fact this is really the go-to way to gain the maximum bang for your XP once a spell has been mastered.

Some troupes will limit or curtail the power of multi-casting, and that’s the troupe choice – I’m not a fan of that option, but it’s fair if applied equally and stated up front. There are so many ways to be an effective combat wizard in Ars Magica that it shouldn’t be a problem.

(b) Can the damage scale or stack?

Well maybe. Strictly speaking the rules are not definitive.

The ways that a Rego Terram spell like this could be improved is very particular to the style of the group playing Ars Magica. Opinions are divided in the discussion forums, although they do lend themselves toward one interpretation. The opinion was tending toward limiting the multiplicative power of concurrent iterations of a spell in spell designs (to be clear, you don’t just add more versions of an effect to increase the overall damage). Other players seek to allow stacking effects for increased damage output in a very linear way.

I’ve seen it called modifying the “base effect” vs modifying the “effect usage”. That makes a kind of sense, such as the difference between a large fire spell and a small one using a different base 10 or base 25 (variations on Pilum of Fire or Ball of Abysmal Flame), and also fire effects that use a Target: Group to increase the area of damage (Arc of Firery Ribbons). Both are legit.

There are two general approaches, each with variations, depending on how the troupe treats a change from Target: Individual to Target: Group – which in RAW is essentially allowing 10x times the material to be manipulated by a spell. Note too that many troupes will dismiss all these options as munchkin-isms.

  1. The 10x increase in the volume of thrown stones requires each throw to be aimed individually and damage to be resolved individually. This means 10x targeting rolls and 10x damage rolls, each doing +5 damage. This results in the spell being far more powerful and inflicting dramatically more damage due to how many more opportunities the spell has to hit and roll a high damage result.
  2. As (1) above, except the targeting rolls are made per target, and the damage is still inflicted per effect. This is a better option for speed of game-play, but sacrifices the opportunity for spray effects.
  3. As (1) above, except that targets with a soak/toughness +10 points or more above the +5 damage (so soak +15 or higher in the base example) brush off the damage without actually resolving the dice rolls. This mitigates the threat to targets with high soak. Tough characters stay tough, but softer targets are still significantly threatened.
  4. As (2) however a penalty applies for splitting the targets. This approach dictates that one primary target is chosen and trying to split the spell to target two different foes is very difficult,and suffers a Finesse targeting modifier.
  5. Allow the 10x fold increase to inflict damage once for each target, which inflicts more damage using a scale of how many stones struck each target. The scaling chosen really makes of breaks the approach, and scaling is dangerous (very ill-favored). Linear scaling: 1 stone +5 damage, 5 stones +10, 10 stones +15. Pyramid scaling: 1 stone +5 damage, 3 stones +10, 6 stones +15, 10 stones +20 damage.

Which to choose is up to the troupe. It is worth noting that going beyond 10x stones with a spell is certainly possible, but will not be practical in most scenarios as the raw materials are not present to fling so many rocks around.

(c) Increase the base effect guideline to make new versions?

Well I hope it can, as that’s what this spell does – a vicious version of Vilano’s Sling.

The RAW mechanics allow for damage to scale with the base effect, and that an increase in the size of the projectile make no significant change in the damage. Therefore a good design keeps the stones to fit sized as:

  • Base 5, +5 damage
  • Base 10, +10 damage
  • Base 15, +15 damage
  • And I assume this can continue just like the Ignem damage increments.


Using sound magic to deafen, damage, or shatter glass

Sound magic is something that is rare in most magic systems. DnD had/has a few odd effects for silencing and thunderclaps, but overall it is left to the domain of bards and the like. Likewise in Ars Magica were “sound” is an aspect of manipulating the image or illusion of an object, and it does not have any special treatments or focus in the rules. The sound it creates is treated just the same as the image it projects, or how it feels.

I think it is interesting to consider how else sound might be used in Ars magica so that it becomes a more versatile aspect of the magic system. The effects that would be hardy are sonic booms, very loud distractions, sound pitch that can shatter glass, and then sound so intense that it can cause harm. Continue reading

Magic for mundanes – spells for ArM physical combat

These spells and effects demonstrate the use of hermetic magic in enhancing physical combat, typically for others. While it is easy for a magus to destroy or impair a mundane opponent in an overt manner, these effects can be used in combat in a far more subtle way than fireballs, walls of earth, or lightning bolts; and may also be the basis for effects in enchanted devices for companions.

Soaking Damage

A spell to increase Soak for a character matches the guidelines as a core effect. As a base effect a +2 bonus to soak is a significant combat advantage, while keeping the spell level small enough to not be considered a powerful effect.

The bonus to soak guidelines offer a +1 Soak for each +1 magnitude of spell, so the spells above could be raised or powered by a few levels to provide a different bonus subject to what the caster desires.

The Resistant Skin

Muto Corpus 20, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Individual

The casters body is enhanced and toughened, gaining a +2 bonus to Soak for the duration. From the Ars Magica muto corpus guidelines p. 132.

(Base 10, +2 Sun)

This spell could be re-worked through to level 35 for +5 soak bonus, which is powerful enough to change a melee combat outcome if only mundanes are involved. Continue reading

Adding Crossbows with MetaCreator for ArsMagica

The software MetaCreator by Alter Ego Software has been around for many years, and continues to be one of the best tools for managing characters for Ars Magica. I’d sing their praises happily for this entire post, but I also wish to share a small tweak that I found useful for running an Ars Magica game – and that is how to include Crossbows in the core software when generating characters.

Update: After getting help from MC’s creators, the custom data sheet for Lords of Men now calculates the Crossbow and other crossbow like weapon damage correctly without the need for the formula tweak. Its all automatic. Must say I’m darn impressed with what can be done in MetaCreator.

I’ve created a data sheet that includes these options already included. If you’d like a copy of the data sheet just me let me know.

crossbow sketch from http://www.fantasy-art-workshop.com/pictures-of-bows.htmlThe core game template does not include rules for crossbows, and the rules have been included in a few other sourcebooks, including a free Pdf by Atlas Games called the Lords of Men Web Supplement. Below are two ways to add crossbows to characters.

While both require some tweaks to the character sheet, the second method means that you only need to make a manual edit once per weapon; rather than in multiple places and also means that characters are created with the associated skills properly.

The trick is that crossbows function differently from other missile weapons in Ars Magica, in that they do not add the characters strength score as part of the weapon damage calculation. This is because it is the power of the crossbow itself rather than the strength of the wielder. That makes sense, but that also means that crossbow type weapons function differently to all other weapons in the setting.

The simple approach in Meta Creator

A simple way (but still very manual) is to add a Generic Ability and Generic Weapon to the character, and change the stats to match the Crossbow skill and weapon stats as applied to the character’s combat scores. That does make them manageable, but you still need to adjust the skill manually, it won’t link the stats properly, and it won’t have the correct limitations for Martial skill training built in. Further it will not auto-calculate if you change any stats. So it would work, it requires no additional modules or datasheets, but has some limitations.

To get more advanced functions you need to start playing around with data files and setting up your own data sheets.

Data Sheets, and new House rules

The trick is to create a new data-sheet for the crossbows, which adds the Crossbow Ability and the Equipment item to the selectable options. How that is done is a kind of geek magic, which is not for all users of Meta Creator to attempt (see the MC readme for that). If you’re familiar with data and perhaps complex excel type functions it will be OK.

Then once the new rules are loaded into your config of MetaCreator you add the Crossbow skill and weapon to your equipment in the normal way. Just like any other weapon and item.

There is one small additional fix needed though, and that is to work around the damage calculation formula. After you’ve added it open the crossbow on your character’s equipment list, select the Damage item, and edit the formula used for Damage on the weapon:

Original = format('%+d', str+`Dmg`+`Quality Arms`+b_dmg) Change to = format('%+d',+`Dmg`+`Quality Arms`+b_dmg)

After that the weapon will not include the character’s strength in the damage, but will retain whatever damage values (with the crossbow defaults) for calculations and updates.

This also still allows the Crossbow to be created as a weapon of quality, and all the other standard options that weapons have in MetaCreator.

PS – I’m not posting the custom data sheet online for everyone to use, as I’m not sure if I am actually allowed to create something based on Atlas’s IP or if that runs across the exclusive agreement that Alter Ego have for Ars Magica. So instead its a home use mod. I hope that this is all ok, as everything here has been done within the bound of the current software features, and not changed any of the published files.