This session was derived from the Madmen of Gothhiem, and the damn beastie that was consuming it.
This session was derived from the Madmen of Gothhiem, and the damn beastie that was consuming it.
Writing a few faerie npcs for an Ars Magica game and thought I’d share the bits and pieces…as a story seedling. I’ve been wanting to share this post for a long while, but the story is almost done so no harm now.
The premise for the story is the friction between two separate groups of faeries who have been isolated within a regio for decades without human interaction. Recently the magi and covenfolk rediscovered the regio which revives both groups of fading faeries. Their skin becomes more colorful, their moods lighten, they rise from dormant states refreshed. Both groups are also overly keen to interact.
Fae of the Marketplace – the first group are playing out a marketplace setting, where the human interactors are given opportunities to trade, learn, and interact with fae as a common village market. Significant effects in the marketplace include:
Fae of the Host – “the host” are a group of vicious hunters who prey on children to gain vitality, known as the Pales Ones. Each member reflects an aspect of being wintery, cold, lost, or hungry in their powers and movements, and also be either partial animals or full animals in appearance. Their role is to play out animalistic hunting behaviour; members of the host sniff out prey, and then the host hunts together to feed and kill.
These two groups have become entwined in the regio because a toymaker from the marketplace periodically sends his animated wooden children into the forest to seek out customers and interested humans, and they are destroyed by the Host. The toy maker also wishes to return to a deeper regio layer where his old home and workshop is, but is blocked by the Host.
The Host are frustrated with the true lack of prey.
The characters entered the scenario as visitors to the marketplace, potentially buying and trading for trinkets and gear.
Ghori, Lady of the Moon, Mistress of the winter wind. A Pale One.
Lady Ghori is an ultra thin grey skinned woman with mostly human features, notable is an overall feline taint to her eyes, ears, and teeth, and very long white hair, often braided in three thick strands. She dresses in long robes and coats of grey, white, and charcoal, decorated with teeth, bone and trimmed with animal hides.
Lady Ghori will often ride an unnaturally large wolf when she has to travel long distances or quickly, her mount of choice for the fear and distrust it incites in mortals. The wolf is not combative though, more smoke and glamour than a beast.
She is called “mistress” or “Lady Ghori” by her host of lesser faeries, as she hunts and feeds with them on children and lost travellers at nighttime. Lady Ghori has grown more powerful than the other members of the host, unknowingly changing her story to be the leader of the Host. She now thinks that she a distant cousin to a noble cast of fae known as the Pale Ones, and the Host are her followers.
Story Guides should tweak Lady Ghori’s Might score to use her as a combative challenge. She is intended to be very difficult for grogs alone to defeat, and with a handful of her host she might make a reasonable challenge to a Magus.
Goals: To risk her life hunting humans with her host (see below), provoking violent responses. To invoke fear.
Method: Lady Ghori stays in hiding, using the host to scavenge for lost travellers. When a potential target is she joins the host in playing cat and mouse games with the prey, eventually leading to a physical confrontation. As she drawn her energy from the reactions of fear she prefers to draw out fights and induce anger. Best played as a bully, with her weaknesses being greed for energy and her own fear of being ridiculed.
Faerie Might: 15
Characteristics: Int 0, Per +2, Pre 0, Com 0, Str +0, Stm +1, Dex +1, Qik +2, Size: -1
Virtues: Faerie Speech, Humanoid Faerie, Cognizant within Role, Flaws: Cyclic Potency (weaker in daytime) -1, (balance to buy powers)
Personality Traits: Careful+1, Cruel +3, cat +1
Combat: Longspear Init +5, Atk +8, Dfn +9, Dmg +6
Soak: +3 (layered leather armor) , Fatigue: OK, 0, -1, -3, -5, Unconscious; Wounds: -1 (1-4)
Pretenses: Good Combative skills, a few negotiation skills, and hunting skills.
Equipment: Full leather armour, longspear, shortsword, trinkets and jewelry,
Vis: 3x pawns of Corpus vis in hands.
When creating and controlling dead creatures there is also the option to design a spell effect which creates and controls them with the one spell. The first spells in this set of blog posts used the two separate spells as there are two separate guidelines, but it need not be so.
As the baseline effect for directly controlling a dead animal is base 1 and creating the animal corpse is base 10, the control magic can be added to a creation spell with only a small increase in overall level. That is a significant saving if the caster desires to combine effects, particularly if the effect was going to be enchanted in an item.
Conjuring the Obedient Deceased Donkey
Creo Animal / Rego 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual
This spell creates the corpse of a small donkey (size +1), animates it, and allows the caster to mentally concentrate to control it’s actions. The animation lacks any cunning or capacity to act independently, and commands from the caster will be followed literally. Appearance, size, and condition of the body is chosen by the caster.
(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Rego)
Such a beast could power a grindstone in a mill every day and never tire. My preference would still be to have the spells split for the times when the necromancer wants to animate a body they have acquired rather than created. I suppose a human zombie could also be used in the same way as an animal too.
The human corpse baselines are controlling as base 10 and creating as base 5. It is similar to the Animal magic scenario with the arts reversed. However a humanoid servant probably needs a basic intellect to be able to act as any type of servant, so a Mentem requisite is added.
Conjuring the Deceased Obedient Slave
Rego Corpus / Creo Mentem 35, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual
This spell creates a human corpse (up to size +1), animates it, and allows the caster to mentally concentrate to control it’s actions. The animation has a dull intellect to act independently, however commands from the caster will be followed unimaginatively. Appearance, size, and condition of the body is chosen by the caster.
(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Creo, +1 Mentem)
Now onto stranger things: the animation of body parts.
Animation of the Creeping Hand
Rego Corpus 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual
This spell grants an unnatural motion and dull intellect to a severed part of a human body so it may perform tasks as commanded by the caster. The body part is granted the ability to follow very simple instructions, and does so unimaginatively.
The spell is commonly used on the severed hand of thief, but might be used on any body part which could conceivably move under its own motion.
(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Mentem)
Now that I look at the standard spell for animation a corpse and this one, the only difference is how much of the body is present. I’m not sure a separate spell is needed at all. Animating a hand to climb and crawl feels different from an entire corpse, but it really is just more corpus material.
Aside – Do troupes even want to answer meta-physical zombie questions? This spell is plausible if the story-guide rules that the bulk of a corpse must be present, or perhaps the head must be intact on the corpse for the more traditional spells to work.
And lastly some of the most thematically distasteful spells I can think of for a necromancer in the medieval setting – the construction of bespoke horrific human corpses for later animation.
To begin old materials and parts can be reworked to a new purpose.
Crafting of Shells and Strings from the Remains of Man
Rego Corpus 15 / Muto, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Group
This spell uses human remains as raw materials to construct strings, bone plates, splints, sockets, and many various segments and components which can then be used in human taxidermy or construction of automatons. The Muto requirement allows the materials to be made temporarily malleable during their transformation.
A finesse check determines the quality of the conversion, with 6+ required to convert raw materials into a prepared state. Suitable raw materials must be on hand for the spell to be cast successfully.
This spell was invented by Zharkune of Bonisagus who recognized that a necromancer’s arts could be expanded by a less conservative approach.
(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +1 complexity)
Assembly of the Monstrous Humanoid Fiend
Rego Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Group
This spell constructs a range of prepared corpus materials into a large multi-limbed fiendish looking monster. A set of base raw ingredients must exceed the volume of the finished form and this is best achieved by having at least one reasonably complete human corpse and many extra components of various types.
The default configuration for the fiend is a size +1 humanoid with four arms, reinforced limbs and torso, sharpened teeth and claws, and a bone carapace over the body. The appearance and construction of the final form can be altered by the caster.
A finesse check determines the quality of the construction, with 9+ required to form the basic construct and a 12+ for a high quality outcome.
The additional strength of materials adds a +2 bonus to the soak score of a typical animated corpse. The corpse may also wear and wield armor and weapons.
If the optional group combat rules are used in the saga, then the additional limbs allow the animation to function as if it is an additional combatant in an untrained group.
(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +2 complexity)
For these and over 250 other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells.
Jaw dropping in quality, these illustrations of mythical creatures are done in a “A is for …” by Nathan Anderson are excellent. Nathan, take my money, my child and my inner child need this.
There are a number of powers and abilities that monsters have in the myths and legends, and the approach in this blog post has generally been to look at the physical form benefits, and ignore the special powers. Adding powers into the existing transformation spells is not within the flavour of Ars Magica Hermetic magic, as each effect really should be it’s own spell. That is problematic for a transformation effect which is already high level, but the rules are the rules.
(a) Camouflage – There are some suggested guidelines in the Muto Animal section for how to do this, but it is mostly adding more magnitudes of power into spells which are already very high. A previously written up spell named Disguise of the Chameleon (MuAn 10) does this for creatures assuming they are typical sized and also changing to a static colouring. Perhaps the trick here is to allow a true shifting set of hues to blend the creature.
Disguise of the Gargantuan Chameleon
Muto Animal 20. R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Individual
Allows the caster’s to changed animal based form to shift to match it’s background. Size is limited to affect up to size +7 creatures.
(Base: 5 change an animal in a minor way so it is no longer natural, +2 Diameter, +2 additional 6 size increments)
(a) Soaking Damage – Mechanically speaking it is not a true gargantuan creature unless it can soak up a lot of damage and keep moving; so a very high Soak score is needed. The ideal way to do that is to add a resistance of a sort for common weapon types, and also dramatically increase the Soak score itself.
To increase soak, we look to the Muto Corpus spell guidelines and design this effect, based upon +1 Soak per magnitude:
Gift of the Herculean Fortitude
Muto Corpus 45, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Individual
The caster gains a bonus of +8 to Soak.
(Base 40, +1 Diameter)
A bonus of +8 to soak in combat is a monumental number. Consider that combative creatures tend to already have Stamina (say +3), their natural armor (say +3), and then size adjustments – an effect which grants a +8 bonus is making that creature all but immune to most normal weapons.
A lightning bolt (which can inflict +35 damage) will still fry whatever it hits; but weapons are kind of moot when the creature gets a combined soak of +14. So it feels about right, and then make the creature +6 size ranks larger and the Soak is +20. Whoof!
(b) Fire Breath – this is a popular power for dragon forms so its included here. There are a number of ways to create a fire breath like effect, and for the sake of brevity I’ll only demonstrate one.
(c) Huge Armor and Arms – if the transformation might also make use of equipment or armor, then transforming what the caster already has is a viable approach, or as an alternatively have them shaped from the environment at the time needed.
Humility and Versatility for Cormoran and Jack Alike
Muto Terram 40, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Ind
This effect allows the item touched be resized up to the desires of the caster, up to eight times each dimension, and thirty-two times the mass. Requisites are required for the Form of the target. The original item may be no larger than a small hut.
Note that a weapon effected by this spell will be resisted by the MR or Parma Magica of the opponent. The spell is named after the desire to use the same equipment for Jack the Giant Killer and a foe Cormoran.
(Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Sun,+2 affect metals, +1 to affect an object ten times larger than a large chest, +2 for extra quadrupled)
As a base from Object of Increased Size which doubles each dimension of an object, with an eightfold increase in mass, the effect allows for gargantuan equipment and weapons. The rationale is that the base effect doubles the size, so each magnitude also doubles; 1 mag is double which is the base spell, a further +1 mag is four times, and +2 mags is eight times the length and thirty-two times the mass.
The rant I wrote at the introduction to this series has been bothering me a little. The Ars Magica rules are fair and reasonable, and solid in terms of they’ve not had a large degree of change since the very early days in terms of how Magical Resistance (a.k.a. MR) and Parma Magica worked. The rant is a criticism of that design, but I openly acknowledge that the game gave fair open warning to that aspect.
So what options does a transformation wizard have to still have wonderful and exciting forms, but also actually attack and defend themselves against opponents with MR?
Firstly defense is very (mostly) simple. In most interpretations of the MR rules a creature not under an active magical effect, or using an effect which is part of their essential nature (say a passive regeneration power in a supernatural bear) will be able to ignore the defending Magi’s MR, as the effect is “natural enough” to it’s essential nature.
There are some variations in the edge casts regarding the Pink Dot effect, but generally most games ignore those who use the pink dot techniques.
For attacking the rules are very strict with regard to penetrating MR. Essentially the attacker cannot “touch” the target because their attack stops short because the magic of the transformation cannot work through the defenders MR.
But for a moment consider a sturdy shield grog who happens to be carrying a few nasty but mundane weapons. That grog can kill a person with MR if they can get close enough, and no amount of MR will assist. The grog simply has to hurt the person the old fashion way, using their weapon of choice – say a nice sharp axe. That grog can also be teleported by magic behind the target, enhanced with magic to be physically stronger or tougher (ala Gift of the Bear’s Fortitude), and also be wearing magical equipment and they can still swing and hit the defender as normal, because the axe isn’t enchanted. Seems a fair way to kill a wizard, or a creature with MR.
This means that a person transformed or enhanced using hermetic magic can still strike and harm a defender with MR when they use a weapon that is mundane, or a part of their body is specifically not transformed (say a fist, foot, or face), or a mundane weapon is incorporated into it the form but the magic is not active upon it.
Here is a scenario – a special set of steel bear claws are crafted, think of them like a large set of fighting claws. Then the crafty wizard designs a hermetic spell is specifically to transform the target into a large hulking giant, and uses the bear claws in the design. When the attacker swings the claws will not be resisted, as they are not part of the spell.
When this scenario is expanded for the use with huge transformation spells it means that the caster needs to have crafted weapons appropriate to the form and design the spell with them in mind; and also need to have them on hand when casting.
That could be a Rego based craft spell to customise them in short order depending on size needed; but generally the caster should do some prep. Or they could be crafted well in advance, and then use Muto magics as lesser enchanted devices to transform them into something small an innocuous, and the caster ends the spell when the huge weapons are needed.
It is complex, but it means the 40 foot long dragon might actually have teeth, tail and claws that can inflict real damage to any opponent, not just a mundane target. A weapon set could be crafted as always present, magically hidden, and then appear to hand when needed but then be a normal mundane item with no active magic.
A cheat for MR? Kind of. Certainly better than fusking around with the MR rules.
Continuing from – Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures – Part Two
A leviathan is common in myth, and could be viewed one of the variety of sea monsters, kraken, the Loch Ness monster, a natural alpha creature above sharks, or even constructed as a mega-shark.
The artwork reflects a quasi-sinister aspect of the creatures, and implies that many of the creatures have many multiple limbs, vicious teeth, and crushing powers. Some versions are still very fish or whale like, or sea turtles, or squid like, with others tending toward an under-sea dragons.
(a) Breathing underwater – is the first obvious ability, and either an additional option for fish-like gills or a huge capacity to hold its breath will do. I like the addition of gills as a secondary breathing method as it allows the lungs and voice to potentially still be present.
(b) Multiple limbs with specialised purposes – these could be the tentacles of a kraken, secondary grappling limbs, or still allow for arm and claw type limbs on a sea creature. Perhaps the creature can sense and see through it’s additional limbs, detect minor changes in temperate, or smell over great distances, akin to sharks.
(c) Underwater tail, fins, etc for propulsion – the beast needs to reflect a style of swimming. A huge tail, controlling fins, and all the small streamlining changes should be bundled together to form an aspect of the creature, so that it is essentially aquatic.
(d) Senses altered to suit aquatic environments. The creature should be thought of as an aquatic beast, but may then also be able to see, feel, smell, touch outside water as well. The artwork often has the monsters raising themselves out of the water as they attack, so they need to function in air as well as underwater.
This may be better facilitated in the creature by adding additional sensory organs into the design, which grant the abilities. i.e. The creature uses one set of eyes when above the surface, and another below. When using it’s underwater sense it should not have an penalties to perception.
(e) Crushing Grip and Deep Pull – this style of ability allows the form to grapple and crush a target, and draw it downward into the water. This should inflict damage proportional to the creatures size, and is mentioned specifically so that the form can also break apart boats or hold foes while it swims downward. The kraken has a mythic ability to entangle a ship and then pull it downward, using the water to kill the inhabitants.
(e) Tolerance for freezing oceans – the form is well insulated which means it can swim and function normally in even the coldest oceans and seas for very long periods.
(f) Cloud of Ink – this ability grants the form a reusable reserve of black ink which it uses to create a large murky slick within the water. This has the effect or blocking all normal vision in the effected area. The ability should only be usable once or twice before needing to be “recharged” over an extended period.
The size of the slick should be enough to comfortably envelop the size of the new form and the surrounding area, up to around ten times it’s volume. This grants enough room for the creature to flee. Optionally the ink may also have other side effects such as a revolting smell, or overly sticky.
(g) Universal Digestion – the form can digest almost any biological material for nutrition. This may mimic whale feeding on krill, or just ensure that other fish eaten will provide proper sustenance. This may assist the caster surviving in an otherwise hostile environment for extended periods.
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 Agile Leviathan
Muto Corpus / Animal 40, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Ind
The caster is transformed into a large (up to size 4) sea monster.
A green and blue scaled serpentine body, sleekly shaped for efficient underwater movement. Two stout forelimbs with grasping hands, and finned rear limbs used to add maneuverability in water. It also has a long neck and tail.
The physical form as the following aspects: breathing underwater through axillary gills, enhanced underwater olfactory and visual perception, a set of six smooth long tentacles which can be used to grip and entwine, and long powerful tail to allow swimming at great speeds, a toughened skin which resists cold, and human-like speech.
(Base 20 size change into an aquatic for flying animal of max size +1, +2 D: Sun, +1 for an additional 3 size ranks, +1 for a limited set of physical abilities)
The purpose of this version is to provide a shape which can be used for undersea exploration rather than brute force.
In the design of this Leviathan effect there is less emphasis on the raw size of the creature and variety in its form. I also chose to make the effect last for Duration:Sun instead of a shorter time due to the risk of being caught underwater when the effect expired. This helps to counterbalance the increased base cost of transformation into an aquatic animal.
A larger and scarier version could be created by adding further size ranks, and dropping the spell duration down. This change from a MuCo/An40 spell effect for size 4, up to a size +10 beast at using a level 45 effect. At that size the creature can easily swallow or crush other large creatures.
Continuing from – Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures – Part One.
In terms of relevance to the medieval setting in Ars Magica the behemoth can be referenced in the bible (Job 40:15-24 apparently), and as such is appropriate to a mythic setting. The Behemoth is the more basic of the three creatures from a Hermetic magic perspective because it does not require additional thought as to how it flies or how it might swim or float in design, and therefore uses a lower level spell guideline.
The artistic references above make the behemoth massive, far in excess of a “normal” supernatural creature. A rough guess should have each of them being hundreds of yards tall, and able to crush large houses beneath their humungous limbs. This means the spell complexity which might be saved from not flying or swimming will likely be spent in the difficulty of making the form even bigger.
As a gigantic mythic creature in a supernatural game the logical limitations of maximum creature size that we know in the 21st century should not apply. I’ve seen gamers argue that a giant couldn’t actually walk on their legs as they can’t support their own weight, and while that is true in reality I do not accept that as a valid limitation in a role-playing game designed around the myths and legends of the middle ages (if you agree with taking a 21st century view I’m surprised you read this far).
In terms of physical form here are some suggestions for shapes and forms which might be interesting in addition to the massive size.
(a) Battering Ram Skull / Forehead – the area is heavily protected by resilient hide and supported by extra think bone within the skull and spine, providing a natural battering ram which can be used to thrown down gates and smash fortified walls with ease.
(b) Crushing Limbs, Feet or Tail – these appendages are shaped and reenforced specifically to crush flat everything under them.
As in game effects this aspect ensures that the form will take no damage from blows it strikes with the transformed limbs, as they are almost as resilient as stone. For combat purposes the limb can strike as an area of effect weapon, inflicting additional damage to it’s normal damage to the area affected.
Area of effect should be relative to the the size of the limb, and your SG should help adjudicate the effect and damage. A stomping foot might inflict an additional +5 damage to it’s normal attack, or a true wrecking ball limb (see the picture above) might inflict +10 to +15 or more extra damage to a group (i.e. If a normal huge creatures strikes for +15, the wrecking ball inflicts +25 damage to a set of targets). The limb should also be able to inflict structural damage, passing through traditional damage reduction effects that structures sometimes have.
This should also have a secondary side-effect of greatly reducing the form’s ability to discern details by touch with the limb, reduce manual dexterity, or fundamentally removing the sense of touch from the area in the wrecking ball example.
(c) Impregnable Hide or Armour – the creatures hide is highly resilient to weapons, so much so that it offers a very large bonus to soak against all damage. I think the natural armadillo or turtle shell is a suitable source for the effect, but this might also be expressed as scales, overlapping plates, or a bone carapace. For the bonus to be effective the physical appearance must be pronounced.
This could grant a variable degree of protection depending on where the additional armor is located on the creature. For smaller creatures it makes sense to have a single +mod to Soak, but for massive creatures I can see an option to have different locations with different Soak values.
A series of armored plates which cover the creature’s limbs, torso, and head might grant a very large bonus to soak, but also allow a targeted attack to try to pierce between those plates, or potentially strike in locations where they offer less protection.
A huge creature also will have larger and thicker armor plates than any creature we are used to in nature. A turtle shell is already formidable, and should be impenetrable for a turtle which is 10 feet high at the shoulder. The modifiers to soak should be impressive, such as +10 or +15, and then +20+ in the areas which are highly protected.
(d) Able to lift huge weight – the form can leverage it’s large size to also apply a very power dead lift ability for short periods; such as uprooting large trees, or lifting structures from their foundations. This feature adds special muscle bulk and enhanced tolerances for lifting so that the form is highly resistant to the damage that such lifting would normally incur.
(e) Swallowing Maw – the creatures mouth is a gaping maw, so large that it can swallow a man whole. It may also be lined with a terrible array of vicious teeth, a crushing jaw, or any manner of intimidating feature which makes the mouth of the beast a fearsome weapon. For this feature to be used the creature should be around 5 size ranks larger than it’s intended target, to allow for the difference in size required to swallow the target.
(f) Massive Bellow – the roar of the creature will intimidate other creatures, and force bravery personality checks. An already monstrous creature roaring in anger should be terrifying, and this ability is noted so that it can be considered in the potential mix of natural abilities. Volume should be relative to the form’s overall size (from a lion’s roar at size 2, through to a horrifying cacophony above size 6).
(g) Human Speech – for a Magus transforming into a new form, it is highly desirable for the form to still be able to speak full sentences fluently and cast spells.
(h) Resistance to Acids and suchlike – the skin of the form is highly resistant to acids and corrosion, which grants a +5 to +10 soak bonus against these types of damage sources. This style of benefit might be added multiple times for a different resistance (crushing damage, fire, lightning, etc). The creature’s description and style should match the abilities described.
(i) Sweeping Tail, or limbs – the form is granted an additional limb (or potentially many limbs) which can strike and sweep opponents like a weapon. This has the advantage of making the form more offensive at all quarters, and less likely to have a flank which cannot attack.
(j) Burst of Speed – the form can use it’s extra muscle bulk to sprint for short distances very quickly. This maybe combined with the ramming attack, or to charge through a group of mundane combatants.
In the spell design the base level must be increased to allow for the reference of many powers being animalistic in nature, which uses the Muto Corpus level 10 guideline.
Form of the Charging Behemoth
Muto Corpus / Animal 35, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Ind
The caster is transformed into a enormously large and imposing monster, up to a size +7. The form stands upright and hunched, well over 20 feet tall, with two main fore-limbs formed into crushing weapons, and a long tail capable of crushing and sweeping opponents aside. Two smaller additional limbs are below the main set, which can grasp and and use implements.
It’s hide is almost impregnable due to the overlapping carapace of scales and spikes which cover its body, the spines and spikes being especially long and sharp along the creatures upper body and tail. Two massive horns adorn it’s head, forming the basis of the creatures ramming charge. When charging it will sprint using the large forelimbs and hind legs to build momentum.
The physical form as the following aspects: a battering ram skull which can be used to charge, crushing fore limbs, sweeping tail, an impregnable hide of intersecting armor plates, quick bursts of speed, massive bellow, and human speech.
(Base 10 size change into an animal of max size +1, +1 D: Diameter, +2 for an additional 6 size ranks, +2 for a broad set of physical abilities)
Continue reading – Part Three.
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?
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.
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.