A worked example of Break The Shield


I wrote up a short example of how the PeVi spell Break The Shield works against Parma Magica in a forum thread. It’s not my favourite spell in the raw (see grumble below), but it is legitimate in the rules so knowing how to play it out is handy.

A quick example of Break the Shield (a.k.a BtS, published in Hermetic Projects, p.85) in use by two magi against each other might be:

Magus Alphar (BtS PeVi15, Pe5, Vi5, Stm3, Pen 0, Parma 2) vs. Magus Betar (BtS PeVi15, Pe10, Vi12, Stm3, Pen 0, Parma 1)

  • Due to the randomness of initiative Alphar casts BtS against his opponent Betar first,
  • Alphar’s BtS PeVi15, CT is 13+roll. He scores CT:20, which is Level 15 with +5 Pen.
  • Betar’s MR is equal to Parma (1*5) + Vim 12 = 17. This means the spell fails to penetrate. There is no need to roll the Level + dice to cancel the spell.
  • Betar returns the same BtS PeVi15 spell, with CT is 25+roll. She scores CT:32, which is Level 15 with +17 Pen
  • Alphar’s MR is equal to Parma (2*5) + Vim 5 = 15. This means that Betar’s spell has penetrated successfully, so now the test of (spell level + roll)/5 vs PM score must be checked.
  • Betar rolls Level 15 +roll, gets a total of 19. This total divided by 5 exceeds isĀ  3.8, which is higher than Alphar’s Parma Magica score of 2, so down goes his Parma Magica.
  • the next round might be ugly for Alphar…

This demonstrates why low level PeVi spells are handy against supernatural creatures i might stripping, and also why having several Break the Shield Spells might be useful, or investing in mastery and penetration is important for BtS.

Aside – My grumble about Break the Shield is that it reduces the influence of Parma Magica in the game setting, which in turn was a major justification for the successful formation of the Order of Hermes.

If BtS was available then why was PM a successful bargaining point. Having BtS in the game also creates an escalation in PM stripping spells as an opening volley. The first magus specialises in stripping parma and then proceeds to decimate the target. Every Magus beyond their mid years should learn the spell and master it using the defense mastery so that they can try to resist it.

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.

Testing for Magic Resistence

Events in an Ars game yesterday had me thinking of ways to find out if an opponent has MR. Trying to “kill something with fire” will always tell you but it has drawbacks. What about a light “touch” spell?

A few of the expansion books added “forceless casting” which allows a spell to work but have zero penetration, in a manner similar to most magical devices. Useful for casting where you think a Hermetic wizard might be within your targeted area, but the wizard casting the spell also needs to remember to use it. Oft times having a little extra force behind a spell is useful.

Within the game scenario the potential target is probably without MR but might be a special creature type. It is very unlikely to be an Order of Hermes magus. In this case I may not want my character to cast forcelessly, I want the effect to penetrate any MR it might have, so I get a sense that it either has none or not much. If the spell is low level enough it could be cast a few times to test both those scenarios.

My quick requirements for the spell are: target at Range: Sight, very hard for observers to notice, and especially easy to cast. The lower the spell effect the better.

Any spell Form guideline of level 1 is useful as it can be extended to suit, so I picked Muto Imagonem. Imagonem is very handy as it can affect any substance without an additional casting requisite. So the spell below can be cast on objects, animals, humans, or almost anything really.

Subtlety Walk Between Sunshine and Shade

Muto Imagonem 4, R: Sight, D: Momentary, T: Individual

The hue of the target’s image subtly shifts, to either slightly lighter or duller in a manner similar to cloud passing over an object on a sunny day, or the reverse. The caster may choose which effect at cast time.

(Base 1, +3 Sight)

The effect is simple and subtle. Other observers may be able to notice the effect, although it will be exceedingly difficult unless warned in advance. A creature with magical resistance will always “feel” the effect if they successfully repel it, but with this spell others won’t really notice it.

More custom spells can be found in the New Spells for Ars Magica page.

Parma Civile, an idea for a major breakthrough

After reading about the potential breakthroughs in the True Lineages sourcebook I was pondering how the Gift makes everyone uncomfortable, except for magi who have their Parma Magica (PM) to provide a pseudo-shield from the negative social effects from the Gift of others. In RAW Magi using Parma Magica (basically all hermetic wizards) do not suffer that effect because of a special side effect of PM, and it seems to me to be an interesting area to investigate for why. I came to the idea that perhaps there is a way for a wizard to re-fold their PM in the same way as the other folds so that it suppresses their magical nature.

During the forum discussion the idea was not taken well. Strongly stated views spoke to the effect of devaluing the Gentle Gift Major virtue, and of the fact that the social penalty is a keystone concept in the setting. Removing it, or even suppressing that in-game (meaning a focus on in-story to be specific) effect seems very distasteful to many members of the community. I respect that view. The game is only as valuable and powerful as the stories that we tell, and the view that a particular game’s paradigms would be too greatly altered is inarguable.

That said, I still think the idea has merit in the setting too. So instead of offering a finished solution to the concept, I’ll offer my impressions and recommend anyone who is interested to also read the through the one page of forum feedback. The basic idea holds that Parma has a benefit to Magi for tolerating the Gift. If it is applied in an Ars Magica game the you’ll need to consider the flow on effects.

The Parma Civile fold modifies Parma Magica so that it suppresses the negative social effects of the Gift (typically the -3 reaction modifier). When used in this manner it provides no additional protection, and the Magi’s MR is effectively only based upon their arts.

Further the use of the fold applies a significant penalty to all non-personal spell casting, as the Magi must work through their own Parma Magica. All non-personal spell casting Casting Totals suffer a -5 penalty.

Like the other Parma Magica Folds in the HoH:TL source book (p31), this is a major breakthrough, and requires two minutes to perform.

Some considerations:

  • The effort in discovery is large. As a major breakthrough it might take a wizard ten years or so of work to create this fold, after which time they can perform it. Ten years work to gain the equivalent of a major virtue is far less generous than the initiation rites of some of the secret societies.
  • If this fold is already available, the Gentle Gift may need to be lowered to a +1 virtue, not a +3.
  • Some folks just won’t like it, in which case don’t use it. It is no more game breaking than many other virtues and powers, and there is no accounting for opinion.
  • When I initially wrote it the fold still allowed some level of MR. Based upon acknowledging the fact that a Gentle Gift magi are seriously devalued by this, I think a zero Parma score is a better result, including the casting penalty. This leave the Gentle Gifted wizard with a significant advantage in social interaction, as they retain both their Parma Magica and the ability to interact, but also do not suffer the casting penalty.