Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 5

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Long-Term Events

Advancement

As in character generation, increasing abilities by +1 with XP costs New Level x 5 (for most abilities) or New Level (for arts). You are usually allowed to buy multiple levels in a single season.

You are usually expected to devote XP to an ability at the end of the season, even if you do not have enough to increase the level of the ability. XP is essentially banked into the ability until the total equals or exceeds the amount necessary for the next level. Having any XP in a trained-only ability with a level of 0 is sufficient to attempt a roll.

In general, XP is awarded per season, based on what you were doing:

  • If you had an adventure that season, you usually gain Adventure XP.
  • If you were working on another project/job, you usually gain Exposure XP.
  • If you devote the whole season to advancement, you can gain XP from Practice, Training, Teaching, or studying from Books or Vis.

XP granted is the “Source Quality,” which may be modified by relevant Virtues and Flaws for that type of activity.

Going on an Adventure

Even if going on an adventure doesn’t take the whole season, there’s generally no time for any other type of activity or study in the season: you use the rest of the season consolidating what you learned from the adventure.

Adventures typically award 5-10 XP, which must generally be spent on abilities that were used “on stage” (i.e., you rolled them during the adventure). Exceptions can exist for abilities that would have been relevant during a narrated scene but were never actually rolled, but arts are generally only able to be raised if you actively used them.

Only up to 5 adventure XP can be put into any single ability for the season (so an award of 6+ XP must be divided among multiple abilities).

Some unexpected game events may not count as an Adventure (or the amount of Adventure XP would be less than you should receive from the planned activity). In that case, if the distraction removes you from your study for a month or more, reduce the XP earned by ⅓ (rounded up) per month not spent on your main area of study. For example, if you were expecting to earn 15 XP from Teaching and had an adventure that season that would award 5 adventure XP, you may prefer to take the teaching XP if the adventure took less than two months.

Gaining Exposure

If you did something other than one of the listed XP types in this section (e.g., lab work, training/teaching someone else, working a job, writing a book, etc.), you typically gain 2 XP, which can be put into one or two abilities relevant to the type of activity you were doing.

Practicing

When spending a season practicing without aid from others or access to books/vis, you typically gain 4 XP. This might be modified down to 3 or up to as much as 8 for certain types of practice (e.g., full-immersion language learning, exploring to learn Area Lore, etc.) as described on page 164.

You cannot increase arts with practice.

Receiving Training

You can assist someone who is using an ability to earn a living and gain Training XP (while the trainer gains Exposure XP but also earns a living). You do not earn a living or produce anything useful yourself while being trained.

The master must have a minimum level of 2 in the ability being trained, and you gain the master’s level + 3 XP (i.e., 5+ XP). You cannot gain any XP toward a level higher than the master’s level from training.

You cannot increase arts with training.

Receiving Teaching

If a master devotes a season to teaching you directly (rather than training you while working a job), you gain teaching XP. The teacher must have 2 in an ability or 5 in an art to teach it, you must share a common language, and you cannot gain XP toward a level higher than the teacher’s level in the ability being learned. The teacher gains Exposure XP.

You gain XP equal to the Teacher’s Communication + Teaching + 3 (plus a bonus for a small class size, see below).

A teacher may teach up to her Teaching ability x 5 students per season (minimum 1). If the teacher only has two students, each student gains +3 XP. If the teacher only has one, that student gains +6 XP.

You can increase arts with teaching, but only when being taught one-on-one (the +6 bonus still applies).

Studying Books

In order to learn from a book, you must be fluent in its language (at least level 4 in the language ability) and have a score in Artes Liberales (so you can read). There are two types of books: Summae can be studied repeatedly (as long as your level is lower than the book’s), while Tractatus can only be studied once (but don’t have a level cap). Both book types award XP based on their quality.

You can learn arts from a book. You can only learn supernatural abilities from a book if you already have at least level 1 in the ability. You cannot earn XP reading a Tractatus you wrote yourself.

Studying Vis

You can consume vis to learn an art. You must consume one pawn of vis for every five levels you already have in the ability (rounded up as usual, minimum 1 even if you have 0 levels).

Gain XP equal to the total of a stress die roll plus the local aura bonus.

If the roll botches, you must roll botch dice equal to the number of pawns consumed in the study. You can go into Twilight from this botch. You do not require a laboratory to study vis.

Writing Books

You can write a Summa or a Tractatus if you have at least level 2 in the ability (5 for an art), at least level 5 in the language you’re writing in, and an Artes Liberales score (so you can read). You can also make copies of existing books.

Summa

A Summa’s maximum level is half your level in the ability (and this will be the maximum ability level anyone can learn from the book). You can set this level even lower to increase the quality of the book.

The base quality of the book (the amount of XP gained by studying it) is equal to your Communication + 6 (and adds relevant virtues and flaws). If you write a book of lower level than your maximum, each decrease in level adds +1 quality for an art or +3 quality for other abilities. You cannot increase the total quality to more than double the base quality by lowering the level.

Each season of work on the Summa gains you points equal to your Communication + the Language you’re writing in. The book is complete once you accumulate points equal to the level (for arts) or the level x 5 (for abilities).

Tractatus

You may only write one Tractatus per season, and it always takes the full season. The final quality of the Tractatus (the amount of XP gained from studying it) is equal to your Communication + 6.

For any given ability, you may only write a total number of Tractatus based on your level. You can write one per 2 levels of an ability or per 5 levels of an art (rounded up, as normal). For example, if you have a level of 5 in Latin, you may only write three Tractatus on Latin until your level increases to at least 7 (each individual one takes a season; this is just the total wealth of knowledge you have to impart across multiple books).

Making Copies

By copying carefully, you may copy one Tractatus with a season of work. In one season, you may accumulate points toward copying a Summa equal to 6 + your Profession: Scribe, and you’ve copied it successfully once your points equal the Summa’s level.

You may copy quickly and triple either of those rates (three Tractatus or triple points), but this reduces the quality of the book by 1.

You can produce a useless, corrupted copy if you lack certain abilities. For any book, having a level of 2 or less in its language results in a corrupted copy. To copy a book about a supernatural ability, you must either have the ability or at least level 1 in the relevant Realm Lore for the ability. You must have at least 1 level in Magic Theory to copy books about arts or Parma Magica.

Learning Supernatural Abilities

To learn a new supernatural ability, you must have the Gift and must learn from a trainer or teacher (who must have the ability). You must achieve a level of at least 1 within the first season of training (i.e., total XP earned at least 5) or you cannot learn the ability.

For this initial season of training or teaching, you receive a penalty to the XP earned equal to the sum of all your levels in other supernatural abilities plus the sum of your levels in arts (minimum 15 if you have fewer than 15 levels in arts). For example, it requires the teacher to be able to generate at least 20 XP to train a supernatural ability to a mage with 15 or fewer art levels and no other supernatural abilities (i.e., the teacher needs a very high Communication and/or Teaching of 10+ to even attempt it).

Mystery Cults manage to avoid this with their particular supernatural abilities for people following their initiation rituals.

Reputations

Characters will often only have a single reputation. Reputations gained in play start at 1 for doing something that seems to be worthy of starting a reputation.

Each time the character does something noteworthy, apply a point to the character’s primary reputation. Treat the points as XP and the reputation as an ability (e.g., a reputation goes from 1 to 2 after getting 10 reputation points in it).

To reduce a bad reputation, you must generate a new reputation at 1. You can direct noteworthy actions that specifically support the new reputation to it rather than your primary (bad) reputation. Once the secondary (good) reputation is higher than the bad reputation, every time you should increase the good reputation by a level, you can instead reduce the bad reputation by a level.

When you have multiple reputations, you should roll both to see whether someone’s heard of you (and they’ve heard of whatever events support the reputation that succeeded).

Warping

If you spend extended time subjected to strong auras or other ongoing magic effects, they can warp you over time. You have both a Warping Score and Warping Points: the points are treated like XP for raising the score (which is treated like an ability). For example, once you have 5 Warping Points, you must exchange them to raise Warping Score from 0 to 1.

Warping Points can be gained from different types of supernatural sources, but are not tracked separately. You may still want to have an idea where most of the points come from, to determine the effects of being warped (e.g., from mystic auras vs. faerie auras).

Gaining Warping Points

There are four ways to gain Warping Points, which stack with each other: living in a strong aura, being affected by a powerful effect, being continuously under an effect, and botching a mystic ability roll.

Living in a Strong Aura

If you spend substantial time in an aura of strength 6+, you may gain Warping Points. If you are aligned with the aura type, you do not gain them (e.g., mages in a magic aura, fae-touched in a faerie aura, etc.).

With a frequency based on the severity of the aura (monthly to every other year), determine how much time you spent in the aura: Frequent Visits, Half-time Within, or Always Within. Use the most reasonable time frame (e.g., if you spent the vast majority of your time in the aura, even if you left from time to time, it’s Always Within). Frequent Visits means around a quarter of your time in the aura:

  • Frequent Visits: Gain 0 Warping Points for auras of 6-8, 1/year for strength 9, and 2/year for strength 10
  • Half-time Within: Gain 0 Warping Points for aura 6, 1 every 2 years for strength 7, 1/year for strength 8, 2/year for strength 9, and 1/season for strength 10
  • Always Within: Gain 1 Warping Point/year for auras of 6-7, 2/year for strength 8, 1/season for strength 9, and 1/month for strength 10

Affected by a Powerful Effect

If you are affected by an spell of magnitude 6 or higher (or an equivalently powerful supernatural effect), gain a Warping Point unless you were the source of that effect or it was carefully designed to work for you (e.g., Longevity Ritual). If the effect is continuous, it adds an additional Warping Point every season.

Continuously Under an Effect

If you are under the influence of an ongoing effect for at least half the year (including being under different effects, but being under some effect most of the time), you gain a Warping Point each year for each effect. This occurs even if it was cast by you or designed for you (e.g., everyone with a Longevity Ritual gains at least one Warping Point per year). It stacks with being continuously under the effect of a powerful effect (for 5 Warping Points per year that you are continuously under a powerful effect). There are a few exceptions:

  • You must be affected directly and personally (e.g., being inside an enchanted structure doesn’t count as continuously under an effect, though it may include an aura).
  • Aegis of the Hearth and Parma Magica don’t count (because of breakthroughs in their design by Bonisagus). Other direct, personal wards do.
  • Familiar binding and any powers attached to the bond do not count.

Botching a Mystical Ability

When you botch on a spell or supernatural ability roll, you gain one Warping Point for every 0 on the botch dice.

Effects of Warping

Hermetic magi are more likely to enter Twilight due to warping, and this replaces any other effects of warping.

Non-mages gain certain effects based on Warping Score:

  • At Warping Score 1, gain a Minor Flaw that reflects the source of most of the Warping Points. When this is from an aura, most people in the aura will gain a similar flaw related to the type of aura.
  • At Warping Score 3, gain a second Minor Flaw.
  • At Warping Score 5, gain a mystical Minor Virtue tied to the source of the points. This attunes you to the supernatural type of the virtue, so you no longer gain Warping Points from living in a strong aura of that type.
  • At Warping Score 6+, gain a Major Flaw for each new level.

Aging

Every Winter after turning 35, you must make an Aging Roll and compare the result to the Aging Table. The roll is a Stress Die + Age/10 (round up) – Modifiers. The stress die cannot botch, but can explode (and high numbers are bad).

Your modifier to the roll is based on virtues, living conditions, and your Longevity Ritual. The modifiers from virtues and the ritual are discussed in their sections. For living conditions:

  • Wealthy or healthy locations grant a bonus of 2 to anyone
  • A typical Summer or Autumn covenant provides a bonus of 2 to the mages living there and a bonus of 1 to everyone else
  • A typical Spring or Winter covenant provides a bonus of 1 to the mages living there (but no bonus to anyone else)
  • Most peasant living conditions have no bonus or penalty
  • Poor or unhealthy locations (such as being poor in a city) provide a penalty of 2 (i.e., it actually increases the aging roll result)

Consult the Aging Table on page 170 for results. Notably, reducing the result to 2 or less means no apparent aging, a result of 3 means you look a year older but suffer no penalties, a result of 10-12 means 1 Aging Point in a characteristic of your choice, and results of 13 and 22+ grant a Crisis in addition to other effects.

Aging Points are the typical result for younger individuals. Once the number of Aging Points in a characteristic equal its absolute value, reduce it by 1 and clear the Aging Points from the characteristic. For example, if you had a +3 or -3 in Quickness, it would take 3 Aging Points to reduce it (to +2 or -4, respectively).

In addition to applying each Aging Point to a characteristic, also track the total value of Aging Points you’ve ever earned across all characteristics. This is tracked as if it were XP for raising a Decrepitude ability (e.g., once you’ve accumulated 5 Aging Points, you gain Decrepitude 1). This might have other system effects, but primarily causes you to have a Crisis from strenuous activity at Decrepitude 4, and makes you completely bedridden and likely to die soon at Decrepitude 5.

When you suffer a Crisis (from the result on the Aging Table or from activity at high Decrepitude), roll a Simple Die + Age/10 (round up) + Decrepitude. If the result is 8 or less, you’re bedridden for a week, and if it’s 9-14 you’re bedridden for a month. Rolls higher than 14 result in increasingly worse illnesses. Consult the Aging Table and rules on page 170 for how to resolve these crises. Any roll for a crisis, even if it only results in being bedridden, requires you to refresh your Longevity Ritual as described in that section.

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Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 4

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Spells

Every spell, even when casting spontaneously, has a Level and a Magnitude.

The Level is usually evenly divisible by 5, and serves as the base target number for casting the spell and using it in lab-based effects (as described in the Magic and Laboratory sections).

The Magnitude is equal to the the Level divided by 5, and serves as a way of assessing other costs (such as pawns of vis necessary to cast as a ritual).

A spell’s basic effect sets its minimum Level (typically for a spell that is instantaneous and only affects the caster).

  • Each increase in Range, Duration, or Targets generally increases the Magnitude by +1 (and, thus, the level by +5).
  • As a special rule, if the level is less than 5 (for very simple effects), each +1 magnitude only adds +1 level until the Level reaches 5 (at which point each additional +1 Magnitude increases the Level by +5 normally).
  • Some spell effects may have additional math that increases the Level of the base effect (e.g., Terram has a multiplier for affecting metals instead of dirt/soil).

While there are many mathematical permutations possible with the system, the central rule of spell creation is that the GM and group are not compelled to accept a Level that seems too high or low for what the spell is accomplishing. Use your best judgement rather than attempting to find a corner case that is more effective than other spells of the same level.

Range, Duration, and Targets

Each of the variables below are listed with the number they add to Magnitude.

Range

Range is based on the position of the nearest part of the caster relative to the nearest part of the target (e.g., a mage can cast a Touch range spell on an entire room and those in it by touching a talisman to the wall of the room).

For longer durations, the caster does not have to remain in range. However, if the caster can control the effect after casting it, she must be within the original range to exert control (and may lose control upon moving out of range then regain it when returning to the range).

Personal (+0)

The spell only affects the caster and her carried/worn possessions (and the target will always be Individual).

Touch (+1)

The spell only affects the caster or a touched target.

Eye (+1)

The spell affects any person or creature with whom the caster establishes eye contact. This is automatic for unwary individuals in a social setting. For wary and unwilling targets, it’s impossible to make eye contact without at least two people holding the target down. It’s generally impossible in combat. It typically takes a combat round to establish eye contact with a calm animal.

Voice (+2)

The spell affects a target within range of the caster’s voice. This is generally 15 paces for normal casting volume, or up to 50 for a shout. Casting quietly reduces the range, but magical voice enhancement doesn’t increase it. The range is based on the distance the voice carries, not whether the target can hear it. The range is established upon initial casting, so the caster can vary the volume of her voice after casting without changing the range. (Independent items must be given a voice with Creo Imaginem to use this range.)

Road (+2; Faerie Magic only)

The spell can target anyone or anything on the same road or path as the caster. Visibility to the target is not generally required as long as the caster is aware of the target in some way (or is using Intellego to search for something). Individuals must be within the edges of the path, and structures must have a primary access onto the road.

Sight (+3)

The spell can target anything the caster can see, even if enhanced by a high vantage point. The mage must be able to see to use this range. (Independent items must be given sight with Intellego Imaginem to use this range.)

Arcane Connection (+4)

The spell can target anything to which the caster has an Arcane Connection (see page 84), usually regardless of actual distance.

Duration

Effects that make sense at a Momentary duration that are given a longer one typically undo their effect at the end of the duration rather than having their effect multiple times, unless the physical properties of the effect make sense (e.g., a wound healed with a non-Momentary duration returns at the end of the duration, while a fire created with a longer duration burns things as a fire would as long as it lasts). Perdo effects with a duration continue to destroy any new qualifying materials while the duration lasts (e.g., if you use Perdo Terram to create a pit, any new earth used to fill it is also destroyed, but other matter may not be).

Momentary (+0)

The spell has its effect and then dissipates (but any logical consequences of it persist). Creo spells may have this duration to permanently create something (or heal a wound) only if they are cast a ritual (and, thus, consume vis).

Concentration (+1)

The spell expires as soon as the caster loses concentration (usually maximum 15 minutes per point of the Concentration ability, and also see page 82 for rules on distractions).

Diameter (+1)

The spell expires after two minutes/20 combat rounds (the time it takes for the sun to move its own diameter in the sky).

Sun (+2)

The spell expires at the next sunrise or sunset (whichever occurs first).

Ring (+2)

The spell expires once the target leaves an inscribed ring (or the ring is broken, for spells that prevent targets from entering the ring). The caster must trace the ring while casting (even if it’s permanently inscribed) at a rate of 10 paces per round. For large rings, the caster may need to maintain concentration or risk botching (see page 112).

Moon (+3)

The spell expires after both the new and full moon have set once.

Fire (+3; Faerie Magic only)

The spell can only be cast with a fire as the target, and expires when the fire does (which can be a very long time for a well-tended fire). Because the target is a fire, this only works with the Ignem and Imaginem forms.

Year (+4)

The spell expires upon sunrise of the fourth solstice/equinox after its casting (i.e., it could last as few as 9 months if cast immediately before a solstice/equinox, and only a full year if cast immediately after sunrise on a solstice/equinox). It must be cast as a ritual.

Year and a Day (+4; Faerie Magic only)

The spell expires after a full year and one more day (rather than being governed by the turning of the seasons). It must be cast as a ritual.

Until (+4; Faerie Magic only)

The spell expires only when the condition is met. This spell must be cast as a ritual. The spell cannot usually be dispelled without meeting the condition. The condition must be specified when the spell is cast, and the spell also expires if the caster passes into Twilight (even temporarily) or the caster or target dies.

Bargain (Special; Faerie Magic only)

Calculate all other effects normally (including how long the spell will last if the Bargain is broken). Increase the Magnitude of the spell by +3, but double the final Penetration of the spell. The bargain remains in effect for a Year duration: if the target breaks the terms of the Bargain before the end of the year, the spell immediately takes effect without having to bypass resistance.

Target

Targets are generally based on being a whole thing, rather than a given size (e.g., a pebble and a menhir are both an Individual stone). However, each form has a size for an assumed target, and affecting something much larger requires increasing the spell’s Magnitude (by +1 per x10 increase in mass). See the sidebar on page 113 for specifics.

Individual (+0)

The spell targets a single discrete thing (usually meaning it can be relatively easy separated from a group/whole). Adornments of an Individual are generally part of that Individual (e.g., clothes on a person, moss on a boulder, etc.).

Circle (+0)

The spell targets everything within an inscribed circle at the time of casting, with the same limitations as the Ring duration (and usually spells with this target are given that duration). If not cast with the Ring duration, the spell still expires early if the circle is broken.

Part (+1)

The spell targets a part of a greater whole (i.e., they cannot be easily separated from the group/whole, such as a limb or rock that is still part of the mountain). This is meant for spatial, rather than conceptual parts (e.g., your mind is not a part, but your heart is).

Group (+2)

The spell targets a group of people/things that are close together spatially and separated from things of the same type (e.g., you cannot easily single out multiple individuals within a crowd without affecting the whole crowd). After casting, the targets remain affected for the duration even if they move apart, and new members of the group that join after casting aren’t affected. This target option is likely to be affected by the size rules if the group is large.

Room (+2)

The spell targets everything within a defined room (enclosed with definite boundaries separating it from other rooms and/or the outside; a courtyard and cave may count, but a valley doesn’t).

Structure (+3)

The spell targets everything within a single structure, which can be composed of multiple rooms, up to the outer edge of the structure’s walls. In general, a single structure may vary in size, but must generally have one roof.

Bloodline (+3; Faerie Magic only)

The spell effects the immediate target (who must be in range) and all people descended by blood from the target. It applies to any members of the bloodline currently existing or born within its duration. Every individual gets magic resistance, if applicable. It may be possible to design the spell to avoid Warping the targets.

Boundary (+4)

The spell targets everything within a well-defined natural or man-made geographic boundary. This can include walls of a city, edges of a village, shores of a lake, edge of a forest, or base of a mountain. There must be an actual boundary, rather than just affecting a very large area. It must be cast as a ritual.

Requisites

Spells that create effects that cross beyond the boundaries of a single Technique or Form include a Requisite: one or more additional arts necessary for the spell. When casting the spell, your total is composed of the lowest scores of the same type of art (e.g., if the spell involves a Form requisite, the lower of the two Forms is used, but the Technique is used no matter its value). However, other systems effects (such as Magic Resistance) are based on the primary Technique and Form, even if your total is based on a lower Requisite.

Spells involving a Requisite may be a higher level than the effect would normally indicate, when the combination of multiple arts allows a more powerful effect than either art alone.

Some spells include a Casting Requisite, which allows you to choose from different arts when you cast the spell to achieve different effects. They still function like fixed Requisites for determining the mechanics of the spell, once you’ve chosen one.

Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 3

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Laboratory

Lab systems allow mages to create enchanted items and learn/invent new spells. Because lab assistants frequently include apprentices and familiars, they are also considered lab systems.

The Lab Total

In most cases, the mage’s lab total for an activity is used as a fixed number, rather than rolled. It is equal to the sum of the applicable Technique and Form, and also adds Intelligence, Magic Theory, and the local Aura Modifier.

Lab totals are often expressed by the arts involved, such that the Creo Vim Lab Total means Creo + Vim + Intelligence + Magic Theory + Aura Mod.

Creation, Study, and Minor Tasks

A lab must be a permanent, weather-protected space with at least 500 square feet of floor area and a ten-foot-high ceiling. You cannot set up a lab if your Magic Theory is less than 3. It takes two seasons to create a lab, and in the first of those two seasons any other lab totals are at -3.

You need a lab to gain experience from arcane studies, as described in the advancement sections, below.

You can make an Arcane Connection permanent if it is active at the beginning of a season, and you spend a season of lab work and one pawn of Vim vis on fixing it.

You can extract raw vis from an area with a magical aura at the rate of 1/10 Creo Vim Lab Total per season of work (e.g., if Creo Vim Lab Total is 22, you can generate 3 pawns of vis per season).

You can store raw vis in a more convenient receptacle with a day of work. The amount of stored vis is based on the item, not your lab total. See page 97 for material capacities.

At most, you can use double your Magic Theory in pawns of vis for projects in a single season.

Spells

You can learn a spell from a teacher, or invent it on your own (even learning an existing spell is “inventing” because you have to make it fit your own style).

Learn from a Teacher

If a teacher spends a season teaching you spells that she knows, you can learn total spell levels equal to the highest lab total including at least one spell she’s teaching you (e.g., if her highest lab total is Creo Ignem 40, you can learn 40 levels of spells from her as long as at least one of them is a Creo Ignem spell). You cannot use this as a loophole to gain a bunch of spells in a combination she’s bad at (e.g., if she had a lab total of Rego Terram 10, you could only learn 10 levels of Rego Terram spells out of your 40 total levels of spells).

The highest level of an individual spell you can learn is equal to your lab total in that technique and form (e.g., if you had a lab total of Creo Ignem 20, you can’t learn any Creo Ignem spells of level higher than 20, even though you have 40 levels to spend).

Invent Spells

Either pick a spell from chapter 9 or work with the GM to develop the stats for one that’s not listed but is based on the guidelines in that chapter.

Once you have determined the spell’s technique, form, and level, you can only invent it if your lab total exceeds that number (e.g., if you wanted to make a Rego Aquam level 20 spell, your Rego Aquam Lab Total must be at least 21). You can use the Similar Spell bonus (see below).

The amount by which your lab total exceeds the spell level is the progress you make each season. When your progress equals or exceeds the spell’s level, you’ve learned it (e.g., if you have a lab total of 30, you can learn a level 20 spell in two seasons).

You can also invent a spell from lab texts, as described in a later section.

Enchanting Items

Items can be Invested Items, Lesser Enchantments, or Charged Items (in decreasing order of power and difficulty to make). Some Invested Items are Talismans. All item types can gain bonuses to the lab total for using an appropriate shape and material (chart on page 110). You typically do not need to know a spell to create an effect in an enchanted item, but knowing a similar spell gives a bonus. Enchanted devices cannot replicate the effects of rituals (except for spells that must only be rituals because they are very high level).

Charged Items

Charged items always take a season. Choose an effect and determine its level based on the spell guidelines. You can make one charge for the item for every 5 points your relevant lab total exceeds the level (minimum of 1 charge if you exactly meet the level). Charges can be in one item or split amongst identical items (e.g., arrows, potions). Charged items do not require vis. Subsequent creations of the same effect as a charged item benefit from the lab text (see below).

Lesser Enchantments

Lesser enchanted items are permanent but only contain a single effect, and they also always take a season. Your relevant lab total must be at least double the level of the effect you’re trying to create. It also requires one pawn of appropriate vis per 10 levels of the effect (e.g., two pawns for a level 15 effect, for which you must have at least lab total 30). If you can use the effect more than once per day, its effective level is increased based on the chart on page 98. The item must have a trigger phrase or action (it cannot read your mind/intention because doing so would require a second spell). You can also give the effect Penetration, Concentration, limited users, or an environmental trigger as described on page 99.

Invested Items

Invested items take multiple seasons to create, as they are first opened to enchantment and then invested with one or more spells based on their capacity.

The initial preparation (“opening” the item) requires a season. You can invest an item with a number of pawns of raw Vim vis based on the material and size (see the chart on page 97). If you want to enchant part of an item or an item made of a combination of materials, see the full rules (also on page 97). The number of pawns invested is the item’s capacity for further enchantment, and you typically must use the full value for the size and material (e.g., you cannot put only seven points of capacity into an object that would support eight).

As with lesser enchantments, see the chart on page 98 if an effect you want to create is usable more than once per day, and the list on page 99 for Penetration, Concentration, limited users, or environmental triggers.  Because you can put multiple effects in the item, it can have a Linked Trigger (e.g., it uses Intelligo Mentem to read your intention to activate; see page 99). You can also gain a bonus to the speed at which you make the item by having the effect expire after 1, 7, or 70 years, rather than being truly permanent.

If you’re adding additional effects to an item that share one or both arts with a prior enchantment, you gain +1 to lab total per pre-existing effect (e.g., if your third effect is Muto Animal, and you already have a Muto Corpus and a Rego Animal effect in the item, you gain +2).

Compare the modified lab total to the effect’s level. The excess is the progress you make in one season, and the enchantment is complete once progress equals the effect’s level (e.g., if you have lab total 30 and are instilling a level 20 effect, it takes two seasons). The first season you begin an enchantment, you must spend vis (matching the arts of the effect) equal to 1/10 the level of the effect (e.g., three vis to make a level 25 effect). The vis expended to create the various effects in your invested item cannot exceed the capacity (e.g., if your item’s capacity is 8 after you prepare it, you could put in two level 30 effects—for three vis each—and then you would only have two capacity remaining for one level 20 or less effect, or two level 10 or less effects).

You do not have to fully invest an item before using it (you can use whatever effects are initially invested, and add more later up to the capacity).

Talismans

You can only create a talisman out of an item you prepared yourself. You can only have one talisman at a time (and must destroy the older one if you make a new one). You cannot make a talisman for someone else. You can retroactively attune an invested item that you fully made yourself (you can have assistants, as long as you were the primary creator) as your talisman, if desired.

Your talisman:

  • Is part of you as long as you are touching it (e.g., protected by magic resistance, included in personal effects, can extend your reach for touch-range spells)
  • Always has an Arcane Connection to you (making it easy to find but also allowing it to be used against you if captured)
  • Always receives magic resistance based on your relevant Form, even when you aren’t touching it
  • Is prepared based on your arts rather than material and size (see below)
  • May hold one attunement for each time you opened it for enchantment or instilled an effect (e.g., four attunements for an item with three effects; see below)

The capacity for a talisman is independent of material and size, and is instead based on your highest technique plus form. Unlike normal invested items, you can slowly increase the capacity to this limit over multiple seasons (though increasing capacity is still your whole work for a season, so this is only advisable if your resources/limit were smaller when you started). You also get a +5 bonus to all lab totals for enchanting the item.

Each attunement allows you to choose a shape and material bonus from the chart on page 110 to apply to any spells you cast while touching the talisman (e.g., if your talisman is an iron dagger with three attunements, you could choose to gain +2 to spells that destroy precisely, +3 to spells that poison, and +7 to spells that harm or repel faeries). Only the highest relevant attunement bonus applies (e.g., you only get +7 to harm or repel faeries in the previous example, even precisely or with poison).

Using Enchanted Devices

  • Effects have Penetration 0 (unless you bought Penetration as a modifier)
  • Range is range from the device, not the caster
  • If the spell requires Concentration, you must Concentrate while using the effect from the item (unless you bought Concentration as a modifier)
  • All effects that must be targeted use the wielder’s Finesse ability
  • Anyone that can figure out the trigger can use the device’s effects (unless you bought the limited users modifier)
  • You can use one effect each round from the device (you must target the effect, but it happens automatically without costing Fatigue), and initiative is based on Quickness with no weapon bonus
  • If broken, all the item’s powers are lost

Investigating Enchantments

If you recover an unknown enchanted item, you may do lab work to determine its powers and triggers. See the system on page 100.

Similar Spells

Knowing a “Similar Spell” is important to inventing spells and enchanting items. A spell is similar if it either has the exact same effect (but a different Range, Duration, and/or Target), or a related effect, but the exact same Range, Duration, and Target. If you know a similar spell, you add the magnitude of the spell as a bonus to the relevant lab total (only the highest level similar spell applies).

Longevity Ritual

A longevity ritual gives you a bonus to avoid drawbacks from aging rolls. You can create one for yourself or have it created for you, but everyone involved must be present for a full season of work creating the ritual (if someone else is creating it for you, you can be a lab assistant). Anyone benefiting from a longevity ritual become sterile.

Creating a longevity ritual consumes one pawn of vis for every five years of age of the recipient (generally Creo, Corpus, or Vim vis, unless you are strongly associated with another type). It provides an aging bonus equal to +1 for every five points of the Creo Corpus lab total.

The bonus lasts until you suffer an aging roll that results in an aging crisis (which is less likely but possible with the bonus). After this, you may:

  • Create a new version of the ritual (likely because you have access to a better Creo Corpus lab total)
  • Repeat the old version (but you must expend vis again based on your current age) using the original lab text

You can spend additional vis for a bonus to Creo Corpus lab total when inventing the ritual at a one-for-one rate.

You must have a Creo Corpus lab total of at least 30 to invent the ritual for someone else. It is equally effective for other magi or anyone with a Supernatural ability, but for non-magical individuals it’s only half as effective (+1 bonus per 10 points of lab total).

Laboratory Texts

You automatically create a shorthand version of your notes whenever you create anything in the lab, as part of the creation process. In order to convert this into a long-form document useful to others:

  • You can spend a season to create your Latin ability x 20 levels of laboratory texts
  • Someone else can translate your shorthand into long form using the system on page 102
  • Anyone can copy existing long-form texts at Scribe ability x 60 levels per season

If you have a laboratory text that’s useful to you (either in your own shorthand, or someone else’s lab text in long form), you can replicate the effect detailed in one season if your lab total is at least equal to the level of the text. The effect created cannot be substantially different (same effect, range, duration, target, etc.). However, if you have a lab text for an invested item, you can replicate only one of the effects in the item. For charged items, you automatically create items equal to one fifth of your relevant lab total (i.e., you do not have to subtract the effect level).

Miscellaneous Lab Effects

See pages 102-103 for systems for multiple activities in a single season, having an assistant, and having the work interrupted.

Familiars

Any mage (other than Bjornaer) may find an inherently magical creature and bond it as a familiar through a long ritual that takes place in the lab. You must first befriend it with no magical or mundane coercion. Follow the steps on page 104 to bind the familiar.

Depending on how you invested your familiar, it has a rating from +0 to +5 in three cords:

  • Golden Cord: Subtract the bonus from botch dice on magic rolls (to a minimum of 1).
  • Silver Cord: Add the bonus to all rolls that involve Personality traits, rolls to resist mental magic, and to resist mundane influence like intimidation or trickery. Additionally, if you’re ever mentally dominated, the familiar rolls the bonus plus a stress die each day, and frees you on a 9+ (but becomes bound along with you with a botch).
  • Bronze Cord: Add the bonus to your Soak, to rolls to heal, to rolls to withstand deprivation, and to rolls to avoid aging.

You may use a lab activity to invest unlimited effects into the familiar, similar to creating an invested item. Common effects include giving it speech or mental communication with you, sharing senses or allowing one or both of you to divine the other’s location, or giving the familiar new offensive capabilities. See the rules on page 105.

Apprentices

If a viable individual with the Gift doesn’t show up in the natural course of play, you can seek out an apprentice by spending a season and rolling at least 12 on a Perception roll (with a stress die). Most apprentices are between ages 7 and 20.

You must spend at least one season a year training your apprentice (and may spend more). You use the Teaching advancement rules for each season you spend, and your apprentice advances accordingly.

You are expected to extend your Parma Magica to your apprentice, particularly when teaching.

One season of teaching must be spent “opening the Arts” for the apprentice (giving the apprentice a score of 0 in all arts). If you have a score of less than five in any art, the apprentice automatically has the Deficiency flaw in that art (and doing so is a Low Crime for you if discovered). You cannot teach any arts to the apprentice until you have opened them, but may teach academic skills and Magic Theory.

If the apprentice has a non-Hermetic Supernatural ability, you must have a sizable Intellego Vim lab total when opening the arts or you will either destroy the abilities or not be able to open the arts for the apprentice at all. Multiple abilities make this harder. See page 107.

Arcane Experiments

If you choose to experiment when working in the lab:

  • Add a simple die to your lab total for the season
  • Roll a stress die on the Extraordinary Results chart on page 109
  • After rolling, you can add up to an additional +3 to the lab total if you also add it to the Extraordinary Results roll (and as additional botch dice)

See page 108 for various permutations of experimenting with spells, items, familiars, longevity, or investigation.

Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 2

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Magic

Using magic involves combining a Technique (verb) with a Form (noun).

Techniques

Creo (I Create)

Creo deals in ideal forms. Anything purely created is an ideal version of that thing. Creo can also be used to heal and mature things toward their ideal form (such as making a thing an exemplar of its kind).

Natural things (creatures, raw materials, etc.) have simple forms that are easier to create and use, while artificial things (crafts) have complex forms. Using Creo to create an artificial thing requires the mage to understand it and make an Int + Finesse roll to determine how good it is (the mage doesn’t need to be able to craft it in a mundane way, just have a decent sense of how it works).

Creo can only heal, mature, or improve things toward being an exemplar. Changing their fundamental nature is Muto and making them older past maturity is Perdo.

Created things that disappear after their duration ends leave behind logical results of having had existed (e.g., a created animal that lasted for a year leaves a corpse if it was eating real food). You cannot create a soul, but animals don’t have souls. Created things can only be permanent if created with raw vis.

Intellego (I Perceive)

Intellego gathers information from the form of a thing, and cannot be deceived by mundane disguises. However, demons are annoyingly immune (revealing only their deception).

Muto (I Transform)

Muto can change things about a subject beyond what is natural, but more extreme changes are harder to do. Permanent changes to a thing are only possible if they don’t violate its essential nature, and Muto generally always violates essential nature so must always be maintained. Creo, Perdo, and Rego can make permanent changes.

Perdo (I Destroy)

Perdo destroys or makes things worse. It can selectively remove a trait, but it’s easier if the thing could independently lose the property without magic (e.g., it’s easier to destroy someone’s limb than to remove his weight without harm).

Perdo degrades ideal forms, so cannot make something better through destruction, even if in nature damage can be considered as improving it (e.g., you cannot sharpen a sword with Perdo, because its ideal form is to be sharp). You cannot remove a negative (e.g., you cannot heal someone by removing a wound).

Rego (I Control)

Rego changes the state of something to another state it can naturally have. This can easily include many forms of movement (since things can have any location), but can also make natural changes (e.g., tree blossoms, person sleeps, stone is shaped into a statue, thread is woven into a tunic). It cannot make things young again (that would be Muto) nor old (that would be Perdo). It cannot change something into a state it could technically have, but would never in nature (e.g., turn a brown dog black). It can perform any kind of craft (with a Finesse roll).

Forms

In addition to governing using magic on the subject of the Form, each Form grants a bonus to rolls for a particular kind of resistance/soak (Form level/5 rounded up).

Animal (Animals)

Animals (not including humans); Bonus: Resist damage from animal attacks and poisons

Aquam (Water)

Water, liquids, and liquidity; Bonus: Resist drowning and thirst, damage from water impact

Auram (Air)

Air, wind, weather, and gaseous forms; Bonus: Resist suffocation (including drowning) and weather phenomena (such as lightning)

Corpus (Body)

Human bodies (including dead bodies and magical/fae creatures that look human); Bonus: Resist human unarmed attacks and diseases

Herbam (Plant)

Plants and trees (including dead plant matter like wood and linen); Bonus: Resist wooden weapons, herbal poisons, and starvation

Ignem (Fire)

Fire, heat, and light (as well as the opposite: cold and darkness); Bonus: Resist fire and cold

Imaginem (Image)

Sensory effects (i.e., illusions); Bonus: Resist confusion, deafening, or nausea caused by sensory effects

Mentem (Mind)

Minds, thoughts, and spirits (including the “bodies” of incorporeal beings like ghosts held together by will); Bonus: Resist mundane persuasion, deception, or temptation

Terram (Earth)

Solids, especially earth and stone; Bonus: Resist stone or metal weapons and mineral poisons

Vim (Power)

Raw magical power as well as magical, infernal, divine, and faerie creatures; Bonus: Resist Twilight, and damage inflicted by consequences of spellcasting (and is the default magic resistance form if no other form clearly applies)

Casting Spells

Basic Casting Rules

Roll a die (simple or stress, depending on circumstance) and add Technique + Form + Stamina + Modifiers (including bonuses from a magical aura and spell mastery).

Compare the result to the spell’s level. Different spell types (Formulaic, Ritual, or Spontaneous) have different exact results, but in general the target number of the roll is the spell’s Level. Usually, missing the target by 10 or less allows success at a cost of Fatigue, while exceeding the target number adds the margin of success to Penetration against Magic Resistance.

A spell’s Level / 5 (rounded up) is its Magnitude. Magnitude is used for various calculations.

Spell Type

Spells are Formulaic, Ritual, or Spontaneous.

Formulaic Magic

Formulaic Magic requires the mage to know the spell as a formula. It takes only a few seconds and has no modifiers to the basic casting rules. Missing the target by 10 or less means it is successful, but the caster takes one level of Fatigue and the margin of failure is subtracted from Penetration. Missing by more than 10 costs a level of Fatigue and the spell fails.

Ritual Magic

Ritual Magic requires the mage to know the spell as a formula (or to use “ceremonial casting” as described on page 83). It takes 15 minutes/Magnitude and allows the caster to add the Artes Liberales and Philosophia to the final casting total. The mage must also expend one pawn of vis per magnitude (which must match the technique or form of the spell and cannot exceed the caster’s totals in technique and form; e.g., Creo 4 Ignem 5 can use at most 9 pawns of vis—four Creo, five Ignem—and thus cannot cast a ritual of higher than Magnitude 9).

Rituals always use the stress die.

Rituals always cost at least one Fatigue, and add an additional Fatigue for every five points of the margin of failure, to a maximum of five Fatigue (a spell fails if you miss by 11 or more, and also costs four or five Fatigue). This Fatigue can only be regained by a good night’s sleep, and can roll over into damage.

Spontaneous Magic

Spontaneous Magic only requires the mage to have the proper Technique and Form to potentially cast the effect envisioned, but the mage need not know the formula for the spell. The mage can choose to take a level of Fatigue for the magic (which will be applied after it takes effect):

  • With the level of Fatigue, the casting total after rolling is divided by 2.
  • Without the level of Fatigue, the casting total after rolling is divided by 5.

Spontaneous effects can be open-ended, based on how well the roll goes, as long as the basic essentials can be bought first. For example, the mage can decide to create a bright light for at least a Sun’s duration. As long as the modified casting total is enough to create any kind of light for at least that duration, any additional margin of success can be spent to improve the brightness of the light or the duration, or its penetration.

Any modifiers that say they affect the “casting score” are added before dividing. Any modifiers that say they affect the “casting total” are added after dividing.

Penetration

The margin of success or failure of the spell added to the mage’s Penetration ability is the spell’s Penetration total. This total can be negative. The Penetration total must exceed the target’s Magic Resistance to be effective (see Magic Resistance, below), so negative scores may affect mundane individuals but usually not mages.

Arcane and Sympathetic connections can create a multiplier to the mage’s Penetration ability (before adding to the margin of the roll; see page 84).

Concentration

A distracted mage must roll Stamina + Concentration with the stress die to cast or maintain the spell (target number based on severity of the distraction). A spell that cannot be cast due to failing this roll still must check for a botch (with an extra botch die). See page 82 for concentration targets.

If an spell is meant to do something that normally requires concentration (e.g., talking to something or moving), that thing does not require concentration.

Options

Using Vis (All Spells)

Add pawns of vis to a casting for +2 casting score per pawn. As with ritual casting, the pawns spent this way are limited by the Technique and Form (and any pawns required by the ritual count against the maximum that can be spent to add +2, but do not add +2).

Each pawn of vis (used for a bonus or for the ritual) adds an additional botch die.

Words and Gestures (Formulaic and Spontaneous)

Spells are normally cast with a Firm voice and Bold gestures. Using Loud voice and Exaggerated gestures adds +1 each to the total. Using Quiet voice has a -5 penalty, and casting the spell silently has a -10 penalty. Using Subtle gestures has a -2 penalty, and casting the spell without gestures has a -5 penalty (-15 for a silent, still spell). Virtues may modify these penalties.

Fast Casting (Spontaneous or Mastered Formulaic)

Fast Casting cannot change the default words and gestures or most other options, because there is not time. Roll Quickness + Finesse (with a stress die). The target is generally the Initiative Total of the opponent you’re trying to pre-empt (failing the roll means it happens after the opponent’s action, and you may choose to not cast the spell). Fast cast spells have an additional -10 to the casting score and +2 botch dice.

If your Quickness + Finesses is good, you may make additional fast casts in a single round at a cumulative -6 penalty (with no further fast casts allowed after failing to beat the target once).

A primary use for fast casting is to defend against incoming spells. In many cases, the mage can identify the incoming effect automatically, but may make a Perception + Awareness + spell’s Magnitude roll against target 15 to identify even a subtle spell. Choose a Technique and Form that could logically counter the incoming spell: getting at least half the spell’s level is usually enough to protect the mage (or one other individual), while meeting or exceeding the level neutralizes it entirely. (You can do something similar to neutralize mundane threats, with the GM assessing the effective “level” of the threat).

Arcane Connections (All Spells)

Arcane connections allow a mage to cast a spell on a target outside of current sensory range. Arcane connections tend to expire over time, per the chart on page 84. An arcane connection can also improve Penetration through sympathy (also on page 84).

Magic Resistance

Mages have a base Magic Resistance equal to the most applicable Form to the incoming magic (minimum 0, since all Forms are at least 0), with Vim used if no other Form is applicable. If the mage has activated Parma Magica (takes two minutes to cast and lasts until sunrise/sunset), add the mage’s Parma Magica ability x 5 to the Magic Resistance total.

A mage may concentrate to lower all magic resistance, even while Parma Magica is active (to allow a spell to affect her). Unconscious mages cannot do this, so automatically have full magic resistance (including to beneficial spells attempting to help her). A mage must do this to not require self-affecting spells to have Penetration.

By taking a -3 penalty to Parma Magica (minimum 0), the mage may protect one other person per point in Parma Magica (e.g., two additional people at Parma Magica 2). The mage must stay within sight of the protected targets. All targets still add their applicable Form, if any, to resistance.

A mage is aware of a spell that has been stopped by magic resistance, but may not know if a spell has penetrated if its effects are not obvious.

Resistance stops spells affecting the mage, her clothing, and other very close objects. It does not dispel magic, but simply leaves the mage unaffected. The subtleties of what counts as a spell affecting the mage are explained on page 85. In general, a mage trying to create an effect that becomes natural by the time it gets to the target (and, thus, would not have to penetrate magic resistance) must make a Perception + Finesse roll to aim it.

Sigils

Every mage has a consistent sensory effect that accompanies her magic. This is never particularly useful or harmful to the intent of the magic, but is a signature that can be used to associate magic with the mage.

Spell Mastery

Each spell learned as formulaic magic has an associated Spell Mastery ability with three effects:

  • The ability level is added as a modifier to casting score for the spell
  • The ability level is subtracted from botch dice for the spell (and, in a situation that would normally use a simple die, allows the mage to use a stress die with no chance of botch)
  • Each level of the ability lets the mage choose one of the following special effects:
    • Fast Casting (can fast cast the spell as if spontaneous)
    • Magic Resistance (double resistance against the mastered or similar spells)
    • Multiple Casting (cast the spell individually on different targets; see page 87)
    • Penetration (add the ability level to Penetration in addition to casting score)
    • Quiet Casting (reduce quiet/silent voice penalties by 5; this can be taken twice)
    • Still Casting (remove the penalty for no gestures)

Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 1

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A friend is talking about running an Ars Magica game, and it turns out writing up a rules summary for a complex game system helps me as much as a player as it does as a GM. So here’s the first part of the big chunk of words I’ve spent lately condensing down the parts I might want to quickly refresh on during a session.

Basic System

Roll Simple or Stress die and add Characteristic + Ability. Try to meet or exceed target number (Ease Factor). Margin of success can grant increased effect. (Magic may add different number than Characteristic + Ability.)

Simple Die

Roll 1d10 (0 counts as 10). This is used for uncomplicated checks with no chance of critical failure or success.

Stress Die

Roll 1d10. 2-9 are counted normally.

0 counts as 0, not 10, and may indicate a botch. Roll a number of additional d10s as botch dice based on the risk of the situation (and possibly reduced by other factors). If any of these botch dice also roll 0, the roll is an automatic failure and a botch. If no botch dice come up as 0, the die roll just counts as 0 (so can potentially succeed if the flat add hits the target).

1 explodes. Reroll the die and multiply the rerolled die result (before adds) by 2. On rerolls, 0 counts as 10. If the reroll also rolls 1, reroll again and multiply the multiplier (x4 after the second 1, x8 after the third, etc.). For example, 1, then 1, then 5 means a final die result of 20.

Ease Factor

Targets range from 3 to 24, with 9 as Average.

Character Types

  • Hermetic Magi must take The Gift and an apprenticeship phase. The basic assumption is that they begin play shortly after apprenticeship (so an extensive later life phase indicates a late apprenticeship), but players may make more experienced magi at the GM’s approval, who take the after apprenticeship phase.
  • Companions may take The Gift, if desired, but cannot yet have been through an apprenticeship (they may become magi in play, if desired). They take the early childhood and later life phases only. They are recommended to be connected to the magi of other players, as you will not play your mage and your companion in the same session.
  • Grogs may not take The Gift. They may only take up to three points of Virtues and Flaws, and may only take minor Virtues and Flaws. Personality traits are most important for them (as they may be played by any player, so personality traits give guidance on what they should do), and it’s highly recommended that they have Loyalty and Bravery as two personality traits (to check what they do in a crisis). As with Companions, they take only early childhood and later life phases. They lack Confidence.

For troupe-style play, each player will usually make one Hermetic Mage, one Companion, and one or more Grogs. Any player’s Grogs may be played by other players (usually when they don’t have a mage or companion in the scene).

Character Creation

Magi Only: House and Apprenticeship Phases

All magi choose a single Hermetic House, which grants a bonus Virtue (which does not count against the 10 point limit or require a flaw). When generating Abilities, magi must take an apprenticeship phase (see below), and may take an after apprenticeship phase with the GM’s approval.

Virtues and Flaws

Characters start with 0 points to spend on Virtues and Flaws (though Mages receive a bonus Virtue from their House). Each minor Flaw taken awards one point to spend on Virtues, and each major Flaw awards three points. Likewise, minor Virtues cost one and major Virtues cost three. You can have a maximum of 10 points of Flaws (and, thus, 10 points of Virtues).

All characters must purchase a Social Status Virtue (and may have only one unless noted). Some Social Statuses cost 0 points (Covenfolk, Craftsman, Hermetic Magus, Merchant, Peasant, and Wanderer). See the Virtues and Flaws list for positive or negative statuses.

It is recommended that characters limit themselves to a single Story Flaw, to avoid overwhelming the GM with possibilities. Likewise, characters should have no more than two Personality flaws (only one of them Major) to avoid making a character that’s a bundle of neuroses.

You can only have up to five points of minor flaws (i.e., for the full 10 points of flaws, you must take two major and four minor flaws). You can’t take a flaw you can easily ignore/fix with magic.

Only characters with The Gift can take Hermetic Virtues and Flaws. Hermetics should take at least one Hermetic Flaw.

See the chapter starting on page 36 for lists of Virtues and Flaws.

Characteristics

All characters gain seven points to spend on Characteristics (and can gain more by taking some Characteristics negative). All Characteristics start at 0.

Characteristics cost/award their new level in points to increase, so cost or grant 1/3/6 total for 1/2/3. Characteristics cannot exceed +3 or -3 at character creation.

Magi are recommended to have a good Intelligence, Stamina, and Communication.

The Characteristics are: Intelligence (Int), Perception (Per), Strength (Str), Stamina (Sta), Presence (Pre), Communication (Com), Dexterity (Dex), Quickness (Qik)

Abilities

There are five types of ability: General, Academic, Arcane, Martial, and Supernatural. All characters must have particular Virtues to allow the purchase of non-General ability types during the early childhood and later life phases. Hermetic Mages may take Academic, Arcane, and Martial abilities from apprenticeship onward without a Virtue. The Gift allows you to take a single Supernatural ability, if desired (take Virtues to buy more than one such ability).

The character’s age sets a maximum for any Ability at character creation:

  • Under 30: 5
  • 30-35: 6
  • 36-40*: 7
  • 41-45*: 8
  • 46+*: 9

* Characters must make aging rolls after age 35.

Most Abilities cost new level x 5 XP to raise (e.g., 15 XP to go from 2 to 3, or 30 total XP to go from 0 to 3). Magical Art Abilities cost new level x 1 XP (e.g., 3 XP to go from 2 to 3, or 6 total XP to go from 0 to 3). See the Advancement Table on page 31.

See the chapter starting on page 62 for lists of Abilities.

Each character takes multiple age-based phases to generate XP that can be spent on Abilities:

Early Childhood (All)

Years 0-5 grant the character [Native Language] 5 and 45 XP. This XP must be spent on (Area) Lore (for birth area), Athletics, Awareness, Brawl, Charm, Folk Ken, Guile, [Other Living Language], Stealth, Survival, or Swim. Sample childhood packages are on page 31.

Later Life (All)

During each post-early childhood, pre-apprenticeship year, the character earns 15 (20 if Wealthy, 10 if Poor) XP. These years can be grouped together up to age 35 and spent as a lump sum, but should be spent year-by-year after 35 due to having to make aging checks. Characters can potentially die in character creation due to aging check results (at which point, they are recommended to ignore the last year of changes and stop character creation at the last living year).

Apprenticeship (Mage only)

Magi spend 15 years on apprenticeship (generally finishing just before starting play, unless the GM allows more experienced mages; they must have appropriate Virtues to take non-General skills in pre-Apprenticeship phases). This grants 240 XP (and 120 levels of spells, see below).

The mage must have Parma Magica 1, Magic Theory 1, and Latin 1 (15 XP for the set) after apprenticeship, and is recommended to have at least Artes Liberales 1, Latin 4, Magic Theory 3, and Parma Magica 1 (90 XP for the set). The mage cannot have Parma Magica greater than 1 without taking the after apprenticeship phase (as swearing the Hermetic Oath and learning Parma Magica is the final step before the end of apprenticeship).

Aging can still be an issue for magi that start this phase at 21 or older.

After Apprenticeship (Mage with GM approval only)

If the GM allows mages to start play more than a year after finishing apprenticeship, years may be calculated differently depending on time spent on research. See page 32 for these rules.

Spells

Magi gain 120 levels of spells from apprenticeship (and may have more from after apprenticeship years). Each spell has a fixed level. For example, buying a level 15 spell uses 15 of the 120 points.

A mage can only learn spells with levels that don’t exceed the associated Technique and Form total (plus Int + Magic Theory + 3). For example, a mage with Int +3, Magic Theory 4, Creo 5, Ignem 6 can learn Creo Ignem spells with a level of 21 or less.

Personality

Each character should have three personality adjectives, and they can be rated -3 to +3. There is no cost to having positive scores or reward for negative scores. For mages and companions, they are generally an arbitrary description of how you intend to play the character (though some Virtues and Flaws, like Berserk, may have systems that make you roll your personality traits).

Grogs should all have Loyalty as one of their traits, and any Grogs that might be in a fight should have Bravery. The GM may require you to roll a Grog’s Loyalty or Bravery to determine behavior in a risky situation.

Reputation

Character with certain Virtues and Flaws may gain a Reputation score, which is rolled to see if strangers have heard of you. See page 19 for rules.

Confidence

Non-Grogs have Confidence score 1 and three Confidence Points, unless modified by Virtues or Flaws. Spend Confidence Points for +3 to a roll after rolling (cannot spend more points per roll than Confidence score). See page 19-20 for more information. Grogs generally do not have Confidence.

Equipment

Characters have appropriate mundane equipment based on station and career. Magi that take an After Apprenticeship phase may have acquired/created magical equipment based on the rules for that phase.

Hermetic Notes

Houses

  • Bjornaer (Mystery Cult): Animagi that gain Heartbeast Virtue and Heartbeast 1 Ability
  • Bonisagus (True Lineage): Researchers that gain Puissant Magical Theory Virtue (researchers) OR Puissant Intrigue Virtue (politicians)
  • Criamon (Mystery Cult): Riddlers that gain The Enigma Virtue and Enigmatic Wisdom 1 Ability
  • Ex Miscellanea (Societas): Members of smaller traditions that gain a Minor Hermetic Virtue, a Major non-Hermetic Virtue, and a Major Hermetic Flaw to represent the proclivities of their sub-tradition
  • Flambeau (Societas): Destroyers that gain Puissant (Perdo or Ignem) Virtue
  • Guernicas (True Lineage): Justiciars that gain Hermetic Prestige Virtue (most likely group to become Quaesitors)
  • Jerbiton (Societas): Artist/scholars that gain a Minor Virtue related to scholarship, arts, or mundane interaction
  • Mercere (True Lineage): Messengers who gain Puissant (Creo or Muto) Virtue; their non-mages often take the Major Status (Redcap) Virtue
  • Merinita (Mystery Cult): Faerie mages that gain the Faerie Magic Virtue (if you do not have another faerie-related Virtue or Flaw, you must take a Warping Point to be initiated)
  • Tremere (True Lineage): Battle legates who gain the Minor Magical Focus (Certamen) Virtue
  • Tytalus (Societas): Conflict-focused magi who gain the Self Confident Virtue (most of their number were wiped out years ago when the house became demon-corrupted)
  • Verditius (Mystery Cult): Magic crafters that gain the Verditius Magic Virtue.

You have to start your apprenticeship in a True Lineage to be a member of that house. The other houses can be joined later.

Weregild

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Turn your LARP into a simmering PVP deathmatch

Back in my days of running WoD LARPs, we felt pretty strongly about casting player characters at a variety of power levels. The elders on screen would actually have a reasonable amount of extra XP to back up their in-story role. I still feel like this is superior to the modern way of representing age (which is that it increases your potential might, but in the short term actually starts you out at least missing the points you spent on the age-related background and the younger PCs didn’t).

The trick is, you don’t want this to be a pure benefit, as the players that didn’t get the bonus XP feel rightly cheated. So our technique was to start the more powerful characters with other characters that would start play hating their guts. Every elder stepped on some people to get where they are. Ultimately, the younger PCs didn’t enter play with targets on their backs.

But we never mechanically formalized it. This system popped into my head as a way to do so. It should result in hilarious murder hijinx.

Step 1: Unfair Bonus XP

PCs (chosen arbitrarily by the staff or awarded randomly) get a certain number of ranks that translate into bonus XP. For example, in modern MET, at chargen you might get 50 XP per rank of age. You may give guidelines that each rank of age should equal a certain number of years active, for verisimilitude.

Step 2: Hatred

For each rank of age, generate instances of Hatred: [That Character]. This is a formal merit that goes on the character sheets of other PCs. Work with those PCs to decide what the elder did to them that caused the hate. These might be PCs in rival groups, and might even be presumed allies that the elder wronged inadvertently (or by being a domineering jerk that is mean to underlings). You might give the elder a vague idea of who hates her, but she probably shouldn’t have a definite list. You should basically work out with her the kinds of awful things she’s done to get where she is, so she’s not completely blindsided by thinking she could never have done the horrible thing someone accuses her of.

Hatreds should mostly go to younger PCs, but a few can go to other PCs with age just to keep the more powerful characters at each others’ throats.

A good number of Hatreds per rank of age is three. For example, a character with three ranks of age has nine people with Hatred for her.

Step 3: Consummation

If you have Hatred for a character and are in the room when she dies, you get a big chunk of bonus XP.

This amount should be a little more than evenly dividing the bonus XP from age (to account for some characters with Hatred missing out). For example, if you’re giving out 50 XP per rank of age and three Hatreds per rank of age, everyone with Hatred gets 20 XP for being in the room when the character dies.

(Notably, there’s no special bump for dealing the killing blow, to keep your conspiracy from falling into chaos early because they’re bickering over who gets to hold the knife. They’ll often need to work together pretty well to bring down the more powerful character.)

Step 4: Weregild

Every character that got Hatred XP from another character’s death themselves generates a Hatred that is awarded to an ally of the deceased. Now the allies get bonus XP for killing the guys that killed their friend.

This Hatred doesn’t show up until the next session, because you don’t want the conspiracy to just turn into an abattoir all at one go. You want one big murder scene at a time. Allies have to go and seethe about their friend’s killers for a while before getting bonus XP for payback.

You can award the Hatreds to the people that make the best case that they miss their friend. You might even give out several matching Ally merits to people for each rank of age, so you know in advance who’s going to get the weregild right. Importantly, being someone’s ally doesn’t have a direct mechanical incentive while they’re alive. You’re not losing anything if they die. You actually profit almost as much as the killers for their death, because now you have someone you can kill for bonus XP.

Do try to award the ally status to less powerful PCs whenever arguable, just to keep a canny elder from getting unstoppably powerful because all her friends are dead.

Step 5: Enjoy the Perpetual Murder Machine You’ve Created

The amount of time this takes to slaughter your entire cast is directly related to how strong your in-story “No Killing!” rules seem, and how much additional plot you have that grudgingly makes people leave their enemies alive until a bigger threat is dealt with. But it should certainly give you some extra free time as a staff, since now players can entertain each other with their murder conspiracies for hours and hours of game time.

Pathfinder to 5e: Setting DCs

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I realized that one thing missing from my post on converting Pathfinder modules to 5e was how to convert difficulties for skill checks and saving throws.

The Math

Pathfinder skill checks tend to scale much higher than in 5e. Between feats, magic that improves ability scores and skills, and the base skill ranks, a highly-focused Pathfinder character could conceivably hit DC 60 without too much difficulty by 20th level. A similarly-focused character in 5e will have expertise, an ability score capped at 20, and probably the use of advantage and some kind of bonus die (like bardic inspiration). The 5e character hits only DC 36 with a similar frequency to the Pathfinder character hitting 60.

Using the theoretically most-focused character from level 1-20 in both systems, as well as a hypothetical “good-but-not-amazing” character, I worked out the skill DC curve below in a way that seems to be equivalent throughout play.

Straight up ability checks that don’t involve skills (like Strength checks to force doors) are probably closer to a wash: A character in Pathfinder can get ability scores over 20, but can’t usually apply most of the other bonuses that scale really high. 5e characters have access to advantage, and most miscellaneous bonuses (like bardic inspiration) apply to straight ability checks as easily as to skill checks, even if a high-ability-score character in 5e will be a few points behind a similarly focused character in Pathfinder. And, honestly, these checks are relatively uncommon at mid-to-high level anyway (since you can use utility magic to bypass them), so will tend to come up most frequently when characters have a similar range of ability bonuses anyway.

Meanwhile, saving throws are easier to figure out, since 5e tends to construct them into a very standardized 8 + proficiency + ability bonus. This means that you can assume DCs are almost always going to range from 10-21, and can figure out the most appropriate one by just figuring out the effective level of the threat plus the intended challenge of the threat (really easy threats are just 8 + proficiency + 0, while really hard ones are 8 + proficiency + 5).

The Conversion

Skill DCs

Pathfinder DC 5e DC
10 8
15 12
20 17
25 20
30 22
35 24
40 27
45 29
50 32
55 34
60 36

For DCs under 20, just take off 2-3 points of DC. For DCs of 20+, half + 7 gets you really close to the curve.

Ability Check DCs

If the ability doesn’t take a skill bonus, just use the printed ability check DC.

Saving Throw DCs

Figure out the approximate CR of the threat (when in doubt, just use the average PC level). Set the DC to 8 + that CR’s proficiency bonus + 0-5 (depending on how serious the threat is supposed to be).

For very quick and dirty math, just set the DC to half the CR + 10 and adjust it up or down by a point or two based on how serious the threat is.

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