A tricky MR question for ArM

I saw a tricky Magic Resistance question for ArM today, and I find it a frustrating demonstration of the MR rules, and a potentially exploitable rule.

RacconMask wrote – How does this react with Target:Part? If I take (for example) a javelin or spear, and cast a Target: part spell to control the butt of the spear’s haft to attack flawlessly with Rego… does that get magic resistance when the un-controlled tip stabs in? Thinking here of an ‘invisible swordsman’ ReFo spell that only controls the hilt of a weapon.

Grumble. It is a great idea as it demonstrates again how MR in ArM can be complicated. Truthfully it is no different from enchancing a soldier with a spell to increase their toughness, and insisting that they use normal weapons. Which is to say the players at the table need to understand a simple rule – When a rule is exploitable it can be used by everyone, and the GM has far more resources. Do you really want your enemies to react in the same way?

As long as the exploit is applies consistently and it feels congruent in the story, let the players exploit. Then hit them with it.

This is the same for Parma Magica burning spells. They look great on paper, and are exceptionally dangerous, but they also will likley impact the players far more once the NPCs adapt.


A thought on affecting spells with requisites, a meta-magic question for Ars Magica

An aside – How do requisites affect which spells can be affected by magic?

A question raised during the forum discussion asked if a Muto Vim effect could change a spell enough to make it no longer effected by a Perdo Vim form specific effect. e.g. A Sun duration Rego Terram effect is altered to a Rego Aquam effect at cast time – can a Perdo Vim/Terram spell affect it if it has “changed” the form it uses? Further could the same Perdo Vim spell affect only Terram spells, or can it also affect spells with a Terram Requisite?

I tend toward thinking a spell with a Tech and two Forms can be affected by either Form specific dispel effect. The unraveling affects part of the spells structure and it doesn’t really matter which form it unravels to make the spell loose it’s cohesion. This makes requisites a slight disadvantage, and implies that some part of the original spell is still there to be unraveled.

But I hold the same concept to other ways of affecting spells it also introduces an advantage to Mu effects affecting the Forms too. i.e. a Muto Vim Terram spell to alter Range up by 1 mag can be applied to any spell using Terram, either as the base form or a requisite. I don’t see adding breadth of application into Vim spells as unbalancing.


Spells to strengthen the mind and resist other Mentem spells?

Can a spell make a mind more resistant to coercion? Or more resistant to magical manipulation? I’d say yes, so this post is a discussion of the points to why, and a few spells to demonstrate potential approaches.

A Perdo Mentem spell can dramatically increase the chance of manipulating somebody, then a Rego effect could allow them to not change their mind, or perhaps a Creo effect could make the mind more resilient or logical. A spell can probably artificially strengthen a target’s resolve and willpower.

This might come into play mechanically by altering the target’s personality traits, or describing a change in behaviour in a more abstract manner just like the cannon spell from the Ars Magica main rulebook Trust of the Childlike Faith (a PeMe spell where the target will believe almost any passable lie).

The Dogged Will

Rego Mentem 25, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target finds it impossible to change their opinions and beliefs for the duration of the spell. Only the intervention of a more powerful supernatural effect will allow the target’s views to be changed.

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +2 Sun)

But will that add more defence against another spell when the second effect is active at the same time as the first, and is lower level, and also has a similar effect? Yes, but it wouldn’t protect against manipulation of memories or state of mind, potentially leading to a person understanding an alternative point of view but unable to change their specific opinions or core beliefs.

It is perhaps similar to when two similar spells wish to perform directly contradictory actions, such as to change a targets shape. Assuming equal penetration; transforming a human into a cat at level 25 or a bird at level 30. The level 30 effect will be dominant, but the cat effect is still there underneath. If the bird effect is prematurely ended then the target becomes a cat. What fun!

I think there is also a difference between improving the mind’s capacity for reasoning, enhancing the mind’s capability to resist being changed, and forcing the mind to stay the same; Creo vs Rego in terms of Arts. That presents an alternate Creo spell.

Enhancement of Logic and Reason

Creo Mentem 25, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target’s mind is better able to operate logically, reason more soundly, and ignore some of its emotional preconceived notions. This may grant bonuses to ability rolls, willpower checks, or alter personality traits favourably in those circumstances.

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +2 Sun)

And aversion for a council chamber or meeting hall, because that is where logic is needed.

Solar of Enhanced Logic and Reason

Creo Mentem 35, R: Voice, D: Sun, T: Individual

All targets in the affected room are better able to operate logically, reason more soundly, and ignore some of their emotional preconceived notions. This may grant bonuses to ability rolls, willpower checks, or alter personality traits favourably in those circumstances.

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +2 Sun, +2 Room)

Perhaps these effects haven’t been considered all that useful for magi due to Parma Magica resisting the effects, andthe laws of casting upon others? Perhaps useful as an invested device for a mundane sheriff or knight. There are Rego Vim spells to prohibit teleportation spells, scrying spells, or intangible tunnel spells, so it’s just as plausible to ward against mental spells. The effect being resisted will need to be specific.

Impede the Dominating Will

Perdo Mentem Gen, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

The target’s mind is protected against Mentem spells or supernatural effects seeking to issue instructions and commands, or directly alter the target’s behaviour; requiring any opposing spell to exceed (level of this spell +5 + stress dice (no botch)). It has no effect on other spells, or similar Mentem spells which alter memories in the target.

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

This could be useful for a Magus and/or Familiar if enchanted into a familiar link, to allow for constant protection with no ongoing warping. Then for others, as:

Impede the Dominating Will, Encircled

Perdo Mentem Gen, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Circle

The target’s mind is protected against Mentem spells or supernatural effects seeking to issue instructions and commands, or directly alter the target’s behaviour; requiring any opposing spell to exceed (level of this spell +5 + stress dice (no botch)). It has no effect on other spells, or similar Mentem spells which alter memories in the target.

(Base Gen, +1 Touch, +2 Ring)

The PeVi baseline is from Ars Magica core rules, as demonstrated in the anti-teleportation spells from TME p109. These and many more new spells for Ars Magica in my grimoire of spells.

Perdo vs Rego for Magic Surpression and Cancellation

A quick post to shake out my thoughts of effect level and effect power for spells which modify or cancel other spells. Specifically noting the difference between Perdo and Rego in terms of spells cast by the Magus or anyone’s particular spell in Ars Magica.

For Perdo Vim effects – I’m looking at the The Heathen Witch Reborn (from HoH:S) and Unraveling the Fabric of (form) (from ArM p161) as source examples, and I think they are both using the General spell guideline below. Both effects are at the Level+2 mags + dice, at Range: Voice. That Guideline is at R:Per, D: Mom, T:Ind as normal, then each has altered from the +4 mags to +2 mags to account for the Voice range. Continue reading

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.


Another trpbtntwas Perspective

The guff-guff TRPBTNTWAs means “Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About” as coined on the Monsters and Manuals blog, and later at Jeff’s Game blog. It is a list of topics to make comment on, and I like a quick rant – so here goes:

  1. Book binding. I’d prefer my source material to be smaller if it is modules or inserts, but otherwise like a good solid hardcover book for almost everything. I paid a long while ago to get a copy Ars Magica hard cover bound, and I’m sure it still looks darn good on the shelf.
  2. “Doing a voice”. How many people “do voices”? Players and GMs should do voices when they can, and it has to suit the troupe. I like it, but also can understand why it cam make people look silly. Talking in the third person is my pet hate for “characterisation”.
  3. Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions? As needed, hopefully not at all. We play every fornight at the moment and it takes too long to get rolling sometimes as it is without formal breaks.
  4. Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions? Mine? Poor, very direct, and focused on the scenario. I must do better at this.
  5. Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a dickhead”? I think the balance is to use the reasonable person test. Would a reasonable person accept that as a valid action? If your actions are making somebody uncomfortable, you should tone it back. If you are being rude, then do it only a few times, or find another way.
  6. PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go? Strictly speaking anything goes, but I’d be disappointed if the characters were generated so this could happen frequently. I guess that means I don’t like it.
  7. How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? It is like theater sports, like acting. We play make-believe.
  8. Alchohol at the table? Sure, no problem. Drunk? Hopefully not.
  9. What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits? They miss out on XP and progression, they miss the game too which is really missing out on the fun. Overall they should not be penalised greatly at all, and hopefully the other players are not penalised for them missing either.