A spell for a small covenant – Conjuring the Arcane Watchtower

Almost as grand as a true wizard’s tower (Conjuring the Mystic Tower), this spell is for a covenant start-up or a small expansion. It is large enough to house multiple magi but not so massive as to house a large covenant. The size was chosen to limit the vis needed, and also to be the basis for an outpost covenant or a chapter house. Alternatively the spell could be cast multiple times to create a full covenant worth of space.

Conjuring the Arcane Watchtower

Creo Terram 25, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Individual, Ritual

This spell creates a watchtower, subject to the desire and designs of the caster. The standard tower has five above ground floor levels, a battlement on top, adjoining stairs, internal stone features, a single reinforced door, windows in the mid and upper floors, a small cell in the foundations below, and walls 3-4 feet thick at the base. It is also surrounded by a 2 pace tall wall set 5 paces from the outer edge of the watchtower. The tower has room to accommodate three wizards labs, and their supporting staff dwellings, supplies and meeting places.

The spell provides 1000 cubic paces of stone. The complexity modifier allows for the structure to be a single piece of stone with shutters, doors and such built in. When small parts are needed they are created within the single piece using thin stone slivers. The overall design of the tower cannot be ornate, as the spell complexity has allowed for internal complexity rather than artistic merit.

(Base 3 to create stone, +1 Touch, +3 size, +2 complex design, ritual)

This spell is part of the free new spells compendium for Ars Magica.

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Destroying Tower, Walls, and Fortifications

That’s a very impressive magical tower the covenant just conjured. Cost a lot of vis huh? Shame if something were to happen to it. You need some insurance.

You know, just in case…

Terram is a wonderful Art in Ars Magica because of how prevalent it is in daily life. These spells are reasons why powerful wizards should be feared by fledgling covenants.

The first spell designed for destructive potential against stone structures, and the effect can target any baser Terram materials including stone of almost any size. As such the spell could be useful in a variety of ways. If a fortification was so massive that it could not be affected totally, the spell has flexibility in-built so it can destroy a segment of the structure, or the ground beneath something. It is not a spell that would get used to it’s maximum potential often, but the potential is needed for a powerful Terram magus.

Plentiful Destruction of Earth, Sand, and Stone

Perdo Terram 40, R: Voice, D: Momentary, T: Group

This spell destroys stone or weaker material, be that a single stone magically shaped (akin to Conjuring the Mystic Tower), or a volume of individual stones and rock, or part of a larger object or surface, or objects gathered in a group.

This spell affects up to 10,000 cubic paces of stone, or 100,000 cubic paces of weaker Terram materials such as clay, sand, dirt, or mud. The form and shape of the material to be destroyed is chosen when the spell is cast.

(Base 4 to destroy stone, +2 Voice, +2 Group, +3 group size increases, +1 flexibility)

The choice of spell design to use a Group target with increased mass is deliberate to affect mundane multi-stone buildings and structures crafted with magic. It would have been a few magnitudes less to destroy just the tower as created by Conjuring the Mystic Tower, as the tower is created as a single piece of stone (it could be designed as a level 20 effect instead of level 40 – see below). However the increased magnitude is reasonable to gain more utility for this spell. The effect could also be delivered at range Touch, however the rest of the structures contents and inhabitants are not destroyed so it is likely that the caster does not want to be close to the buildings destruction.

I took liberty of including all “weaker materials” in the same manner as the core Perdo Terram spell from RAW called Fist of Shattering, however limited this to weaker Terram materials. I like it when an effect can have breadth of use and the effect is similar to that spell. Likewise many spells use a broader target as their overall effect and also use a lesser Target as well – like using a Target: Group effect which also has a Target: Part component. Part is the default when targeting the ground and creating a hole, as demonstrated by Pit of the Gaping Earth. This was discussed in the forums and is generally acceptable, as the spell’s overall cost is based upon the more powerful and more expensive greater Target.

Because this spell uses the flexibility of stone with all its weaker Terram based materials, allows the size and shape of materials chosen when cast, and also uses allows a sub-part to be targeted like Pit of the Gaping Earth, I’ve added a +1 flexibility modifier to the spell. The largest pit created by this spell is hundreds of times bigger, and likely to devastate the area it is used.

Each of these options in isolation are not worth an increase in power. Having this degree flexibility is beneficial though and makes the effect more complex. Conversely it adds a small cost because of the higher spell level and therefore worse penetration.

As a comparison to a far more simple spell, this effect is tailored for destroying a building conjured with Conjuring the Mystic Tower.

Destroy the Mystic Tower

Perdo Terram 20, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Structure

This spell utterly destroys a single building or structure made from stone. If the structure contains composite materials then only the stone is destroyed, but the effect on any building will likely be extreme.

(Base 4 to destroy stone, +1 Touch, +3 Structure)

The core spell End of the Mighty Castle (p.155) is the same effect at Range: Voice; which is a wiser but higher level. Given how rarely the spell might be used I think slipping a magnitude down is better. 

 See further custom spells for Ars Magica can be found in the summary spells page, particularly the other Creo and Muto Terram spells which complement this spell in a Terram Magi’s grimoire.

House rule to Mitigate High Finesse Target Numbers

High target numbers for Finesse checks frustrate me in Ars Magica, the required target numbers are borderline ridiculous for a typical wizard, and I see them as a game mechanic seeking to limit the use of certain styles of magic. They should be a way to add depth and risk to an activity, not punish players.

In a previous post about extensions to the Conjuring the Mystic Tower spell I commented about the blisteringly high finesse checks which were introduced in the Covenants and later source books. When talking about casting CtMT:

It has some issues in the expanded game, when the Finesse rolls required are extrapolated upon in additional rulebooks, so that it may (depending on the troupe) have a very high finesse check to perform, and with that the risk of a total waste of vis if the Tower is malformed. And a somewhat troubling clean-up task too.

I am an advocate of hand-waving away almost all those aspects given how infrequently the spell would be cast in a typical game, and how fundamental to a covenant’s growth the effect is.

Not to say that a botched spell or flawed finesse roll couldn’t present an intriguing opportunity…

I stand by the point that Conjuring the Mystic Tower was never intended (when first written) to require a Finesse check of 24+. It is implausible for an NPC and frankly a waste of XP for a player character.

For non-rituals, then sure roll Finesse – I accept that a little more. However any time a caster has the time to stop and plan the way an effect will be brought into being, then they should be able to greatly reduce their risk of failing that roll.

Perhaps the guide should be a +1 to the Finesse check for each day the caster spends working on how the spell will be cast. If that approach isn’t punishing enough then use the pyramid scale from XP to require a massive amount of days to be spent to “buy” the finesse roll bonus.

Extensions to Conjuring the Mystic Tower

Conjuring the Mystic Tower (CtMT, ArM p153) is a principal and sometimes troubling spell for Ars Magica, because it demonstrates how easily wizards can create new structures, yet the mechanics are obfuscated. It requires a moderate expenditure of vis and requires a wizard who is experienced to cast it, but it’s presence in the core book demonstrates clearly how quickly a powerful covenant can expand their home.

It has some issues in the expanded game, when the Finesse rolls required are extrapolated upon in additional rulebooks, so that it may (depending on the troupe) have a very high finesse check to perform, and with that the risk of a total waste of vis if the Tower is malformed. And a somewhat troubling clean-up task too. I am an advocate of hand-waving away almost all those aspects given how infrequently the spell would be cast in a typical game, and how fundamental to a covenant’s growth the effect is. Not to say that a botched spell or flawed finesse roll couldn’t present an intriguing opportunity…

Here are a few additional effects are interesting once Conjuring the Mystic Tower is taken as a basis for modification.

Conjuring the Mystic Citadel

Creo Terram 40, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Ind, Ritual

An expansion of the Conjuring the Mystic Tower to create an entire citadel. A central tower three times the volume of the normal tower, connected to six surrounding towers via walls and walkways. The effect forms the citadel according to the caster’s designs from a single stone, with a floor plan approximately ten times larger than the standard Tower.

(Base 3 to create stone, +1 Touch, +5 additional size, +3 elaborate design)

citadel drawingInitially it might seem a little exploitative to add an additional 5 levels, and garner such a large increase in property, but adding size through additional magnitudes is a tenant of the Ars Magica system. Conjuring the Mystic Tower might be a good instant-covenant for beginning wizards, but this is where I see a powerful wizard putting their energy. Especially if we are to believe that there is a market within the order for the casting of spells like this.

In fact I think CTMT is included in the core rules as a baseline example specifically so that players will be initially amazed by what that might give to a covenant, and then the game-gears in their heads will start to spin up variations; or at least I hope so.

Why mess about with a single small tower, when this Citadel could be conjured instead? Or make the effect 10 times larger again with a level 45 ritual. Adding 5 levels is not overly much once all the vis and powerful wizards have been found (Conjuring the Monumental Fortress, or Conjuring the Mystical City?). A dwelling of that size would be difficult to fill with regular coven folk. Yes, these spells need to be designed and crafted, but I’m thinking that something akin to this has to almost certainly already exist in most settings once we tip our hat to these style of logical extensions.

Further the Ars Magica source books go to extremes in creating mystical projects which are utterly ultra-fantastic. When a wizard can conjure a floating castle, fold magical realms into creation, or create an entire off-shore island – a small castle is humble by comparison.round citadel with towers

A variation that I’ve had in mind for many years is a construction of similar size, but created below ground.This would have the advantage of not pop’ing a tower into the hillside overnight, and make concealment of the covenant’s size easier.

It makes the spell effect technically totally different, but as the effect is a similar theme I’m including it here as an idea. The spell is slightly harder due to creating the chambers within the ground, which requires the Target: Part modifier.

Conjuring the Mystic Mausoleum

Muto Terram 45, R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Part, Ritual

This effect constructs an underground dwelling, with an internal size equal to ten times the size of Conjuring the Mystic Tower.

This effect could target the basement in an existing tower to add further basements, or construct a stand alone underground mausoleum.

(Base 3 to change dirt to stone, +1 Touch, +1 Part, +5 additional size, +3 elaborate design)

A single CtMT is roughly a ten level silo, with 10 feet tall and 30 feet wide per level. Given that CtMT makes a basement/foundation without Re or Pe requisites it is reasonable to assume that the underground changes will occur with “magical” consideration to the local environment. This will obviously not change certain unsightly effects, such as creating a cellar below the water table, or the damage the new structure might do to wells or underground rivers which flow through the area.

Casale_Monferrato_map_(018_003)Find more Ars Magica spell shenanigans in my list of New Spells for Ars Magica.

Conjure the Watchman’s Tower

A few spells to transform the air into a sturdy dwelling or a temporary tent, using Muto, for the Ars Magica rpg.

Shape the Watchman’s Tower from Air

battlementMuto Auram / Terram 40, R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Ind

This spell transforms the surrounding air into a sturdy two room tower formed from a single piece of stone.

The complexity in the spell allows for solid study construction, a heavily weighted base, doors and doorways, internal stairs, a battlement on top, a hearth and chimney, arrow slits in the walls, and benches and blocks to act as furniture throughout.

While it is not luxurious, the dwelling is far superior to sleeping in the elements. In the original design the tower’s lower room was larger than the upper, as the tower smoothly plinthed upward. A Finesse check is required when the spell is cast to determine the degree of success in the transformation.

(Base 4 to transform into another element with requisite Terram, +2 for larger result size, +1 for stone, +1 moderate complexity in components and shape, R: Touch +1, D: Moon +3)

When I first thought about creating the effect I incorrectly assumed that it would be easy, and was looking for a final level around 15 or 20. Once the variations for the complexity and stone were incorporated it didn’t seem too much of an extension to create it as a level 35 effect, and allow the watchtowers to stand for Moon duration.

Scaling for size with stone Terram effects really only starts to get powerful at the upper end of spell levels. This spell isn’t suitable for redesign as a permanent spell with vis due to the higher base it must start with. As such it demonstrates well how Muto is useful but certainly no substitute for Creo spells.

A simple version isn’t really viable once the stone is needed, as almost any side building cannot be created without an increase in size magnitudes as well. As an alternative a different spell might be used by traveling wizards who wish to have a less ostentatious overnight dwelling, and by using materials better suited to hiding in natural environments.

Shape the Leafy Tent

Muto Auram / Herbam 25, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Ind

This spell transforms the surrounding air into a simple tent made from natural plants. The space is well protected from wind and rain, and features a raised floor to keep equipment dry. The tent is large enough to sleep four travelers and gear. From casual inspection the outside of the tent appears much like a large bush.

(Base 5, R: Touch +1, D: Sun +2, +1 for larger result size)

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The explanation for Shape the Watchman’s Tower from Air, difficulty calculation is:

  • Base effect for Auram is a single phenomenon, up to 100 paces across. Would appear to be plenty. My reasoning is that a mtuo spell which converted a stone tower to air would create a fair volume of air, but not a huge storm worth. So that same about of air is needed transforming the other way.
  • R:Touch is enough as a spell can effect an entire Target as long as a part of it is touched. i.e. you don’t need to touch all of a man to affect them.
  • Base effect for Terram is 10 cubic paces of dirt, which is not enough so a +1 mag grants up to 100 cubic paces of earth. Then a further +1 mag to have a similar amount of stone.
  • Convert the dirt base to stone, which is a +1 mag modifier.
  • This is enough earth for a two rectangular rooms with walls 4 paces wide by 3 paces high, and half a pace thick (6 c.p each surface x 6 surfaces for the first room + 5 surfaces for the second = 66 c.p). Then add some reenforcing to the walls, a small battlement on top, and miscellaneous internal features.
  • More complex than a bridge or wall (which do not have complexity modifiers in the rulebook) but not ornate or as expansive as a wizard’s tower.

For Shape the Leafy Tent the main difference was:

  • A smaller increase in material needed, and no herbam special increase for a finished product.
  • However I did not feel that the Base 4 MuHe guideline would apply, as it mentioned the elements specifically, and I think Herbam is slightly more complex that the elements, as it is a living substance.

This and other custom spells for Ars Magica can be found on the new spells page.