Gift of the Bear’s Strength, and Hybrid Transformations using Muto

Thank you to Theomund for the comment on another post which started me thinking about the limits of what Muto Corpus / Animal spells can do, and what the guidelines imply. Initially the suggestion was to use the gorilla as the base animal, however I’ve used a bear in the naming as I think bears are more prolific in medieval Europe and the bear has a very high strength star in the Book of Beasts.

To begin an answer – the MuCo2 baseline which is commonly used for minor transformations an abilities seems far too low to allow for a wholesale change. A full transformation into an animal is MuCo10, and birds or fish is MuCo20, and the themes of Ars Magica seem to imply that moving to a know form (wolf, bird, etc) is easier than a partial or unknown form. So I think a Muto Corpus 15 base is better to represent this type of hybrid man/animal transformation. The transformation might grant a few new attributes or adjustments as long as the additional powers or aspects are very similar and thematic. Further additional magnitudes should allow even more strange abilities, such as combining attributes from different animals.

This is aligned with Gift of the Bear’s Fortitude, which uses a MuCo15 base, which transforms all of the target’s body to grant a combat mechanic advantage and does not use an Animal requisite.

This is very similar to what  I suggested for the Monstrous Transformations of Behemoths and Dragons and also in a Discussion on Muto Transformation Magic in an earlier posts:

(based upon the appropriate guideline for land or sea/air animals) … 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 few.

This means that once the base level has allowed for an animal transformation, an additional magnitude should allow for a strange transformation (making a rough new MuCo Baseline of 15 for partial transformations), and then a further magnitude should allow for a good spread of physical abilities. I think it’s logical to use the same spells as a guide for a hybrid form; as that is basically what the Behemoth was.

Aside – There has not been a Muto Corpus spell which adds to a stat, probably as it is covered by Creo Corpus although the Ars Magica system seems to allow for many different ways to achieve an end.

New Hermetic Baseline – Muto Corpus 15 – Allows a partial transformation of a human to a land animal, granting aspects of both the animal form and human form. Requisites are probably needed.

New Hermetic Baseline – Muto Corpus 25 – Allows a partial transformation of a human to a sea or air animal, granting aspects of both the animal form and human form. Requisites are probably needed.

A spell transforming with an aspect of animal strength might be as follows. This uses a “partial transformation” of MuCo/An15. This is a useful spell as it allows the target to continue to use human sized weaponry and armor against targets, and not suffer a limitation of striking MR due to an active spell (discussed here).

Gift of the Bear’s Strength

Muto Corpus / Animal 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Changes the target’s body to gain the broad musculature of a bear which enhances their frame, increasing Strength by +3. Equipment and clothing are not altered by this spell and may no longer fit suitably.

(Base 15, +1 Touch, +2 Sun)

A spell to transform into a hybrid creature might be:

Form of Hulking Werebear

Muto Corpus / Animal 30, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Individual

Transforms the caster into a chimeric blend of man and bear, resulting in a large bipedal hybrid. The humanoid form increases in size by 2 to a maximum of Size +2, retains rudimentary humanoid head, hands and feet, although the gross shape and size change causes most equipment to be difficult to wear. Replace all physical attributes with those of an adult bear (Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Quickness, and Size) and average Perception, Awareness, and Communication. The bear’s natural claw and bite attacks are halved in effectiveness. Equipment and clothing is not altered by this spell.

(Base 15, +2 Sun, +1 additional attributes and bear themed abilities)

Related link on Ars forums, and other custom spells for Ars Magica can be found on the new spells page.


Transformation into Shadows and Ghosts

Transforming into a shadowy form for isn’t straight forward in Ars Magica, not because it’s overly complex, but because there are a few ways it can be done. That said, its a seriously impressive thematic effect and might have advantages in-play.

The spell effects to do this starts with a Muto Corpus base level 30 because it is closely related to becoming insubstantial, then is modified to suit the Form best related to shadow – which is a bit of a discussion topic as shadows are affected by both Ignem and Imagonem circumstantially, although Ignem typically only to remove them. I’d say the transformation effect from another form is firmly within the domain of Imagonem. I mention this as Hermetically transformed creatures are still affected by their base form, then any form which is appropriate under the paradigm. So an Imagonem based transformation might be affected (subject to circumstances) by all Corpus as normal, Creo Ignem, and all Imagonem spells.


The paradigm for images and light used in Ars Magica has a base in species rather than modern physics (which quickly gets very confusing), that dictate that Creo Ignem can assist in destroying a shadow, and Imagonem can directly affect it.

Aside – It is also possible to have a shadow-like effect using Auram depending on the results that the caster wants (See the spells Cloak of Mist and Transform to Water, see Ars p.131) such as a vampiric inspired transformation to mist or smoke. These effects have the minor benefit of not being subject to Creo Ignem effects as much, however they are not a true shadow-form and they bring their own limitations in terms of being subservient to the whims of their new shape.

As basic effect, a transformation to shadow using Imagonem might be written as:

Form of the Erebus’ Servant

Muto Corpus 45 / Imagonem, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Individual

The caster is transformed into a shadow of themselves. They can no longer physically interact with the physical world, but instead can pass under and through the narrowest spaces, and move very quickly across the ground. This makes the shadow immune to physical damage, but highly susceptible to bright light and magical bursts of light may cause pain or damage. A small mirror is held by the caster and is dropped to remove the effect prematurely.

Like all transformation effects, some gear and equipment may not be transformed, or casting requisites may be required for some equipment; subject to troupe rules.

(Base 30, +1 controlled movement, +2 Sun)

The base effect is related to a referenced rule for MuCo with Au for a smoky ghost (TMRE pg. 68 calls “allowing the Magus to take ghostly form” MuCo/Au 30). An additional magnitude was added to allow the caster to control the direction of their movement, rather than being subject to the whims of light and darkness in the environment around them.

Lastly a variation into a spirit or umbra transformation – into an incorporeal ghost-like form using Mentem, which might also render the target invisible because ghosts are rarely visible unless under the effects of spells and powers to allow them to coalesce.

Form of the Shade of Hades

Muto Corpus 45 / Mentem, R: Personal, D: Sun, T: Individual

The caster is transformed into a spirit-like creature, unnatural and incorporeal. The caster can still be seen, but appears as a ghostly version of their normal self. This ghost like form cannot interact with the physical world except for basic movement, and may float in a ghost-like manner through solid objects.

While transformed the caster can still speak and be heard normally, although the voice takes upon ethereal features, and the caster does not need to breathe. A token inscribed with a human skull is held during the spell casting, which can be dropped to end the effect prematurely.

(Base 30, +1 controlled movement, +2 Sun)


See further custom spells for Ars Magica can be found in the summary spells page.

Return to the True Form of Man, reversing transformation effects

Another thought on transformations – what to do if you’re a target of a transformation effect. The idea for this spell is that a wizard can use this to remove any hermetic transformation effects upon themselves, regardless of the source of the transformation.

Many Hermetic transformation spells are designed with a termination utility within them, which makes sense, and renders this effect a little moot. The exception is those Muto Corpus effects which botch, have gone astray, or were cast by others. As a personal general spell, it could be learned at a low level and still have an excellent chance of cancelling the undesired transformation.

Return to the True Form of Man

Perdo Vim Gen, R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual

This effect to returns the target to their humanoid natural form, ending any magical or supernatural transformation effects including Hermetic Muto Corpus related spells. The target effect is cancelled if it is equal to or less than the (level of this Perdo Vim spell + 20 + stress die (no botch)).

This spell will also end a shape-shifters transformation or non-hermetic effects, but cannot affect Heart Beast transformation effects of a Bjornaer Magus.

(Base General)

There is a kindred spell called The Heathen Witch Reborn from HoH:S p129 or GotF, which is the same effect designed at Range: Voice. As a General spell with a level+20+roll modifier it can be taken at a low level and still be effective.

This version is intended as insurance, for more defensive and personal uses rather than The Heathen Witch Reborn which has overt malicious tones.

Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures, Part Six. Special Powers

Continuing from Parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.

Part Six – Special powers and other effects

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) CamouflageThere 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.

There are many ways to skin a cat in using Ars Magica’s magic system

Ars Magica has one of the most flexible magic systems around, combined with a very lengthy and detailed set of guidelines for how that magic system can be used. What is implied but not spelt out in the core material is just how many different ways there are to do similar things within the setting. Essentially almost anything that can be thought of as a solution is probably within the capacity of Hermetic magic, it becomes the Storyteller’s or the Player’s option as to what and how they do. I thought this might help new players understand the system a little more.

The following are some examples of different ways to solve “a problem”. These are certainly not efficient, just examples of variations.

The examples are some transformation spells for Ars Magica, with a theme around altering the vision and perception of the caster. One of my current characters has a “self-transformation” magic specialty which means that personal effects are much easier for him to learn and cast, which is primarily why I was thinking about the small but useful spontaneous effects that are possible in Ars Magica’s magic system.

In mechanical terms these are simple spell effects which can be very advantageous to a character, and should not be ignored. The spells below could also be varied during creation to be cast on groups (which adds +2 magnitudes/+10 levels), or to target just the caster themselves (which subtracts -1 magnitudes/-5 levels).

At lower levels some of the effects might not be worth “creating” in a lab for an experienced Magus as they could be cast spontaneously. The difficulty of depending on low level spells to be spontaneous cast is that sometimes the auras, casting conditions, or regions do not allow for easy spell casting, and a formulaic spell is far more reliable in those conditions.

In the story the Magi were discussing being able to see in the dark. As a transformation based Magus my character took a Muto approach to solving the problem.

The Eyes of the Bat effect one of the most obvious extensions to the base Muto Corpus spell in the core rulebook named Eyes of the Cat. Essentially it alters the reference creature in the effect, which alters the spell design to grant a different style of enhanced vision. Cats or owls, then bats, then whichever sense or alteration the Muto Magus decides they desire. These spells take their effect from the powers inherent in the animals that are references and also spell requisites, which means that perception requisites are not needed. Thus no Target: Vision (+4) is used, as the target is physically changing.

The downside of that approach is that the target’s physical form is also mutated by these spells. A target of Eyes of the Cat, and indeed almost any other Muto spell has their body physically changed. It is an aspect of Muto magics that is sometimes overlooked in spells which reference Animal as a source of inspiration (a discussion about the transformation effects is available too).

This is the reworked spell, using Ars Magica 5e mechanics.

Eyes of the Bat

Muto Corpus 5 / Animal. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Grants the target the sense vision akin to a bat, allowing vision in total darkness.

(Base:2 as Change someone to give them a minor ability, +1 R: Touch, +2 D: Sun, requisite free)

Another variant to change the way the character can “see” is using heat rather than a bat’s sound-vision could be Eyes from the Flames. This is a bit more questionable in terms of difficulty level because the animals in the natural world who use heat to detect their enemies are probably not considered to have sufficient heat vision to be a one-to-one replacement, and perhaps are outside the understanding within the setting. That is, a snake’s perception of heat is not as strong as a bat’s sonar, and not as well known in the medieval paradigm as the night vision of an owl or cat. For this reason I’ve increased the effect level to allow for a more powerful version which uses an unnatural effect.

Eyes from the Flame

Muto Corpus 10 / Animal. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Alters the target’s vision so that they can see heat patterns in detail, akin to the senses of some exotic snakes and beetles. This alternative type of vision allows the heat patterns to be viewed in many circumstances including total darkness.

If this is the target’s only form of vision, then the target cannot discern any significant differences between two potential combatants. e.g. A friend and foe of roughly equal size are very difficult to tell apart based only on their “heat” appearance. The spell is very effective in identifying most invisible creatures who still emit or affect heat.

(Base:2 as Change someone to give them a minor ability, +1 to make the unnatural heat vision more powerful than a natural animal, +1 R: Touch, +2 D: Sun, requisite free)

The obvious limitation of this spell is that it must have a variable spread of heat to detect and translate to use target, which is fine in most circumstances but could be an issue.  A ghost or an illusion might be totally undetectable with this spell.

This effect could also potentially substitute out the Animal requisite from the spell, and use an Ignem requisite instead, as the effect pertains to heat. I am not sure which way the spell should be crafted, so let your troupe decide if there is doubt. To my thinking an Ignem effect is more of an Intellego Ignem effect (“perceive the fire”), so is less about transformation and more about adding perception straight into the caster’s mind.

More like this kind of spell effect, which would not alter the physical body of the target at all.

Perceive the Footprints of Vulcan

Intellego Ignem 15. R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Vision

Allows the target to see heat patterns and heat emissions around them. This alternative type of vision allows the heat patterns to be viewed in many circumstances including total darkness.

(Base:2 as Become aware of all fires (or heat) within the target area, +1 D: Diameter, +4 T: Vision)

The target will suffer from many of the same peripheral problems in detail and advantages to illusions and invisible creatures as the Eyes from the Flame spell.

In designing the effect I’ve chosen to keep the duration short so that the final effect level is lower. Like the other spells above it could be made with a longer duration (like Sun which adds +5 levels) but that is also a lot more difficult to quickly cast. The difference in the Eyes from the Flames and Perceive the Footprints of Vulcan is essentially in which arts are used, and what is the nature of the change. Both apply a very similar end effect to the target.

An alternative might also be an Intellego Auram spell (Perceive the Air) could be used in a similar way to the heat effect, giving the target a knowledge of all the movement and shape of the air around them.

Perceive the Breath of Jupiter

Intellego Auram 25. R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Vision

Allows the target to see air patterns and movements around them. This alternative type of vision allows the target to “see” in environments where normal senses might be greatly hindered.

(Base:4 Learn all the mundane properties of the air., +1 D: Diameter, +4 T: Vision)

A base effect of level 4 was chosen to represent the complexity in understanding all the air in detail. It could have been designed with a Base 2 for a single property, and then had adjustments added on for the extra difficulty. The spells are getting far higher level than what would be practical, given how easy creating flame is.

Another strange option would be for the Magus to make themselves glow like a firefly. It would be of similar level to the Eyes of the Bat spell, but probably also require a requisite of Ignem (light/fire) to allow the target to glow sufficiently to light the environment around them. I’d not allow a level 2 Muto Corpus/Ignem effect to be enough to light up a room, more that a level 2 effect would just make the target glow. The spell needs to provide more than that, so the power of the luminescence needs to be boosted so that the light assists the target see around them, rather than just making them stand out.

At this point the transformation spells are getting very strange, but it still appears plausible in Hermetic magic.

Blessing of the Haunting Pond

Muto Corpus 10 / Animal Ignem. R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

Makes the target’s hands glow powerfully by changing them to have the glowing effects of a firefly, which provides equivalent light to that of a small lantern.

(Base:2 as Change someone to give them a minor ability, +1 unnaturally strong light, +1 R: Touch, +2 D: Sun, requisites free)

It is obvious that using Intellego Auram or Ignem for a similar effect is far higher level than Intellego Ignem, and than the Muto Corpus transformation spells. The specific difficulty for a particular Magus is always variable.

Lastly if all else fails (well truthfully they’ll do this first) the Magi might just use Creo Ignem (create fire/light) as a way to create a light they may carry with them. It is a very simple basic effect, and one which almost every Magi can probably spontaneously cast. The base level for a spell to create moonlight is Creo Ignem level 1. Such a spell would be around level 3 for a reasonable effect. The Moonbeam spell from the core rulebook has that need covered.

Transformation into Gargantuan Creatures, Part Five. Cheating MR

Continuing from Part One, Two, Three, and Four

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.

Continue reading Part Six

Transformation spell – Form of the Iron Juggernaut

I’ve had this spell in mind for years, perhaps decades, and never written it up. An NPC wizard of mine in a 1990s Ars Magica game used to transform himself and also animate statues, but I’d never written it properly. In simple terms the person is transformed into a living statue, or as I like to think into an almost unstoppable juggernaut.

An animated status is almost unbeatable by mundane means. Normal weapons are not designed to damage creatures like this, and likewise defending against one would be a terrible challenge.

Given the effect that transformation has on targets with magic resistance this is a very defensive form, and not without some drawbacks. The target will find themselves weighing far more than most structures can tolerate, and looking totally unnatural.

Form of the Iron Juggernaut

Muto Corpus / Terram 45, R: Personal, D: Diameter, T: Ind

The caster’s body is transformed into solid metal, which can move as normal. A metal pin is applied during casting, and removed by the caster to end the effect prematurely if they wish.

Casting requisites are required for carried equipment, although clothing and personal effects are also transformed.

(base 25 for solid inanimate object, +1 D: Diameter, +1 to allow movement sub-effect, +2 for metal)

It is certainly possible to make the effect a little lower to only transform to stone (-5 levels), or allow a longer duration as Sun (+5 levels), but this is what I have in mind or a current character.