Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures, Part Four. The Dragon

Continuing from Part One, Two and Three.

Part Four – The Dragon, the supreme lord of the air.

Transforming into a Dragon was one of the primary forms which started my investigation into this set of blog posts. It is a favorite of mine. In older Ars Magica editions I’ve seen dragon forms in play through expensive Bjornaer Heartbeasts, and there has also been a few lengthy posts on the ArM forums about these style transformations.

In terms of physical shape a dragon might be viewed abstractly as giant lizard with wings and an extended tail. Certainly the European style dragons are meant to be monstrous, and come with a variety of limbs, claws, scales, and horns on their bodies.

(a) Winged Flight – the form can launch itself into the air and fly. For a very large form the wings will need to be large in comparison to the overall shape.

Aside – consider your troupe’s approach to fantasy vs realism, or at least how cool really massive wings look when you as a Dragon swoop down to eat peasants, guards, and sheep. Some troupes might say that the wings need to be enormous, or that the dragon-form also has bird-like bones and muscles.

There is the option to say that along with the wings the dragon adds almost any sort of feint for explaining how they stay airborne, from bladders of lighter than air stuff, bird like bone density, etc.

Key in this ability is also to resolve the speed of the flight; 40-60 mph seems likely with dive speeds over 100-120 mph.

(b) Spiked Hide – as a further defensive feature the skin or hide of the form is covered in a variety of spikes, blades, and/or fins. When placed upon the limbs or tail they also form a natural weapon, which should strike as a large limb.

(c) Corrosive Blood – the form’s blood is naturally corrosive. The blood inflicts +6 damage for each round of exposure.

(d) Tolerance for thin air and hostile conditions – the form has been designed so that it can breathe at very high altitude and also ignore the effects of long term exposure to the freezing winds, storms, and resistant to other environmental hazards such as desert conditions.

(e) Theatrical Flair – like the finishing touches in the Steed of Vengeance spell (MuAn in core rules), a swish of smoke, slightly glowing eyes, or other cosmetic touches add depth to the presentation of a form; and dragons are the right style beastie to have wonderful flourishes.

(f) Retractable Claws – subject to your tastes, the claws might be retractable. This means they should inflict less damage, but also add more utility to the “hands and fingers”.

(g) Smell gold and other valuables – the form is attuned to smell noble metals and gems over a vast distance. This adds a creature Ability such as Hunt (Precious metals and gems).

(h) Venomous Bite or Stinger – the bite, claw, or tail contains a poison, akin to an asp. Ease Factor 9 and inflicting a Incapacitating wound.

The design of the transformation effect must increased to allow for the reference of many powers being both animalistic and aquatic in nature, which uses the Muto Corpus level 20 guideline.

Form of the Barbed Dragon

Muto Corpus / Animal 45, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Ind

The caster is transformed into a large (up to size 7) dragon.

A crimson and gold thickly scaled serpentine body, covered in razor sharp barbs and tines. The barbs are much larger and thicker along it’s back and spine, but small barbs cover the entire body except where joints fold. The form has two arms, a long neck, two legs, a set of broad wings, and a long spiked tail.

The  physical form as the following aspects: Flying and tolerance for flying conditions, a spiked hide, corrosive blood, a venomous tail spike, and human-like speech.

(Base 20 size change into an aquatic for flying animal of max size +1, +2 D: Sun, +2 for an additional 6 size ranks, +1 for a limited set of physical abilities)

At size 7 this form is within the size range for other dragons and drakes in the the other books. With increasing spell magnitude other aspects of the previous monster forms could be added, or an increase in size. Even a much lower size variation would be a formidable foe and useful form for travel.

Continue reading Part Five

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Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures, Part One. Making giants.

As a current Ars Magica character has a specialty in self transformation, I thought it would be interesting to see how a wizard can change their form into gargantuan creatures with hermetic magic. When doing some research into quasi-mythical giant monsters there was a wonderful variety of artwork to source for inspiration, so I have made this an image heavy blog post to reflect some of the great material I found.

In the designs I am thinking of a Behemoth, a Leviathan, and a Dragon. This is so I can cover a transformation appropriate to land, sea, and air. The dragon could almost cover all three at once if was designed to also swim and breathe underwater, but separate spell transformations will allow for more specialised form; and I think that is a better overall flavour. Why have only one form, when you could have three?

But first:

    An important factor for transformation spells in Ars Magica makes these forms exceedingly poor for actually fighting other mythic creatures or other Magi.

This is because a transformed Magus is under the effects of a an active spell, and that active spell means they cannot physically attack through the Magical Resistance or Parma Magica of a potential opponent. This means that these new transformations are basically useless for combat against other magical creatures and other spell casters with MR.

Sure a very large creature can sit and look intimidating, but it somewhat reduces the overall appeal when the dragon can’t actually bite anything with MR.

It’s a shame, because otherwise it would be wonderful thematically for Magi to fight “beast vs beast” against opponents.

Regardless of the deficiencies and constraints of hermetic Magic with regard to transformation, lets look at some spells to transform the caster into a gargantuan creature.

Part One – How many features and how large for the creature designs?

In a previous blog post about the powers which might be in-build into a newly designed form (Thoughts on Muto Corpus guidelines), I came to the conclusion:

A few similar thematically alterations only cost +1 mag, but many will cost another +1 mag. So the extra +1 mag allows for say 12-15 powers, where the limited one allows for a handful.

For these creatures this type of boost makes sense because the intent is for them to be powerful and strange, so we should apply a general +2 mag modifier of complexity to all the forms when they are designed fully, so that they can properly mimic whatever physical potential is designed into the monster shapes. The sub-sections below list some suggested powers that each style of creature might have, such as universal digestion, breathing water, extra thick hides, and so on.

While some of the examples in the core rules allow for thematic effects (have a read of the Steed of Vengeance spell in ArM p.119) they shouldn’t be thought about as “magical powers”, but aspects and accents of the physical form. Anything which grants a separate mechanical advantage which is unrelated to the physical shape and form of the beast should be either not allowed, or paid for in extra magnitudes of spell complexity.

To start the spell effects must pay for the base to effect the target, which in this case is a Magus caster (Corpus base is included for size -1 to +1 humanoid), and then pay the magnitudes to reach the target size. For almost every creature I can think of in this article, bigger will be better.

Then when considering the size of the creatures there is a guideline implied by many of the Muto effects, that a base effect can affect a creature from base Individual size or smaller, and Muto can then alter it up to only 1 size rank. Then each +1 magnitude allows a further +3 size ranks (discussed here). So the first mag pays for a basic effect to alter the size up to +1, and then each additional mag adds three more size levels. 2 mags for up to size +4, 4 mags for up to size +10, 5 mags to +13, 6 mags to +16. Frankly anything larger is going to be far too high level to cast, and certainly beyond gigantic.

My read of this now is that for each +3 shift in size ranking a +1 mag is needed in a spell effect.

Then we need to know how big a rank is to plan what powers make sense. The base rules measure the size ranks by approx weight of the creature, not the height so that the difference between bipeds and quadrupeds is moot, and each increase of 3 size ranks makes the creatures weight ten times larger.

Therefore a size +3 creature is up to around 1300 pounds, and a size +12 creature is 1,300,000 pounds (or 530 imperial tons, which is apparently two and a half times the weight of the Statue of Liberty). Even if the math and rounding is a bit off (your saga may vary this a bit), that kind of order of magnitude in the size is exactly what these transformation effects need.

A handy table from a d20 resource gives rough weight and height sizes for their standard size ranges. It shows a humanoid creature of 32 to 64 feet tall might weigh 16 to 125 ton, which in the Ars Magica sizes is around creature size 9 and size 10.

Here is a sketchy generic effect for a human to giant transformation; designed to use some of the guidelines above and also not be such a high level spell as to be too difficult to learn.

Form of the Lumbering Jotunn

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

This effect enlarges the Magus up to a very large (size rank 10) version of themselves. At this size the Magus is around 60 feet tall, and weighs over 100 tons.

The character’s combat mechanics are greatly enhanced, adding +20 Strength, -10 to Quickness, and increasing the wound levels by 10. The character also gains the reach and leverage associated with the truly massive stance.

Requisites are required when cast to transform clothes and equipment, and not all equipment will be included in the transformation. The effect is designed with a girdle as the focus, which is removed to end the effect prematurely.

(Base 3 to utterly change the size of a person although still human up to size +1, +2 for D: Sun, +3 for an additional 9 size ranks)

The base effect is identical to the Ars Magica core rules effect Preternatural Growth and Shrinking. The effect could be made more versatile by allowing it to be cast on others (Range: Touch +5 levels), or also potentially include all the equipment and arms the target is carrying which would make for a far higher and more complex effect.

It is also worth noting that a size +10 creature is almost beyond the size table in the basic rules, and certainly beyond any typical supernatural creature. A more palatable version of this spell might retain the imposing size of a giant, but not allow for enlargement of the caster’s physical size by such a dramatic degree.

Rewritten the same effect could be designed at Muto Corpus level 15 and still allow the caster to transform into a size +6 or +7 form, which still stands well beyond anything non-mythical.

If another +5 magnitudes were added to push the size even further, the spell might allow for a maximum creature size of 25 as a level 45 effect, which is getting well beyond reason! Roughly speaking that is 50 million tones. I cannot think of something which a size +10 giant creature cannot do which might require a +25 version. Swat large birds from the air like flies, or wade through a narrow sea?

No additional changes (like the powers or abilities listed below) were added to this spell design, so that it did not need to include extra levels of complexity.

Now that we know it will be a moderate level effect to allow a human to transform into a giant, and that the spell needs additional complexity to have truly impressive monsters, we can get to designing the monsters.

Continue reading – Part Two.