A question on Character Wealth and Equipment

I had a go at answering a new player question on Starting Character Wealth and Equipment in Ars Magica games on Rpg.StackExchange.

In Ars Magica, 5th edition, there seems to be no indication at all of the equipment and resources a character can have. There is just a note reading that any equipment is OK if you can justify it.

How many initial vis can be that in 5th edition? Books? Also how many swords or arcs for a companion or grog?

The short version is to write down the gear and possessions which seem thematic and reasonable for the character’s story and haggle for specific or tricky things; that said there is a huge difference between magical and non-magical related gear and resources as all magical resources are controlled by Virtues and Flaws.

If you’re interested have a read at  https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/109762/initial-resources-for-a-character

Ars Magica Pet Peeve – Overtly Optimised Grogs

An overtly munchkin Grog is a pet peeve of mine. Over a few years I’ve developed a sense that grogs can be flavour within a story but should not overshadow the Conpanions and Magi. Likewise in their downtime and advancement their abilities should be useful but not fantastic.

What I’ve seen in a few places are grogs which are so specialised that they really stand out from the background. They are so skilled or optimised that they really should be specialists or characters. Maximised stats combined with Abilities scores of 5, 6 or 7, a boosting Virtue, and a total lack of breadth in their skills selection.

So what to do? Well unless I’m the SG then not much except write about it here…and suggest some things to guide creating grogs. Primarily they are meant as supporting cast and not the heroes. They assist, guide, protect but should not be resolving complex issues.

When designing Grogs you might consider:

  • Stats which match their purpose but are not stand-out,
  • At least a few languages,
  • At least a few social abilities,
  • A few Lore skills and Area Lore skills should be mandatory,

May your grogs be flavoursome and supportive.

How to calculate Ars Magica General spell levels

I had a query on two Ars Magica spells that appeared ostensibly to be doing the same thing, but have different final effects. From my first look it appeared one was incorrect in the final spell level. In fact both were right, but it took worked examples for me to understand it.

  • Paralysis of the Gift (PeVi20), from HP p.86. At level 20 it reduces casting totals by 10, R: Touch, D: Conc.
  • Belittle the Ferocious Warlock (PeVi20), from MoH p134. At level 20 it reduces casting totals by 5, R: Sight, D: Diam.

They are both using this PeVi guideline:

Reduce the casting total for all magic cast by the target by half the (level +2 magnitudes) of the spell. If 2 or more spells affect one target, only the highest has any effect: the penalties do not add. The spell must penetrate the target’s Magic Resistance in order to have any effect.

Why can two Perdo Vim spells be at the same level and have significantly different effects? Well, the trick  is due to the way the guidelines use the term “level”, and the way that the changes to Range, Duration, or Target are performed for general spells. The Paralysis of the Gift effect requires R:Touch which is slightly lower level, so more of the magnitudes can be applied into the core spell power.

e.g. breaking down the spells we get:

  • PotG = ((Lvl 20 – 2 mags for Touch/Conc) +2 mags )/2 = -10 mod to CT.
  • BtFW = ((Lvl 20 – 4 mags for Sight/Diam) +2 mags )/2 = -5 mod to CT.

Fundamentally the level is always the spell level the character is seeking to learn the spell at, and the guideline’s use of +1 mag or +x mags is where the adjustments for Range, Duration, and Target are applied. It would be clearer to say “chosen effect level”.

Hope this helps a little, writing it did.


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.

Coat of Arms generator

example coat of armsI’ve come across a great flash based tool to create coats of arms for quasi-historic games – Fantasy Shields. It has a good set of starting symbols, colours, and base templates, but better than all that is that it is actually pretty easy to use.

I’m pondering a Game of Thrones game at the moment, and this tool would be a great way to generate a few hedge knight crests for the npcs and pcs alike. Continue reading