Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 6

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Combat Scores

Each weapon (or unarmed attack) has four scores you can precalculate:

  • Initiative Bonus: Quickness + Weapon Initiative Bonus – Encumbrance
  • Attack Bonus: Dexterity + Relevant Combat Ability + Weapon Attack Bonus
  • Defense Bonus: Quickness + Relevant Combat Ability + Weapon Defense Bonus
  • Damage Bonus: Strength + Weapon Damage Bonus

For example, a character with Quickness +1, Dexterity +0, Strength +2, Encumbrance 1, and Great Weapon 4 (Pole Axe) is using a Pole Axe. That Pole Axe grants +1 initiative, +5 attack, +0 defense, and +11 damage. When using that weapon, the scores are Initiative +1, Attack +10, Defense +6, and Damage +13.

You can also precalculate your Soak Total, which is equal to Stamina + Armor Soak Bonus.

Basic Combat Sequence


Roll each individual’s initiative once at the beginning of the fight: each combatant rolls a stress die + Initiative Bonus. Act in descending order of initiative for the rest of the combat.

There is no change for switching weapons later in the fight. Fast-casting mages might be able to act out-of-turn as per the fast casting rules.


On your turn, you can make one attack with a weapon (spell attacks are explained below).

Roll a stress die and add it to your weapon’s Attack bonus. Your target rolls a stress die and adds it to her weapon’s Defense bonus.

If the total attack exceeds the total defense, the attack hits. Add your margin of success on the attack to your Damage bonus, and subtract the target’s Soak total.

If the number is still positive, divide it by (5 + target’s Size) and round up: 1 indicates a Light wound, 2 a Medium, 3 a Heavy, 4 an Incapacitating, and 5+ an instant kill. You can also use the Damage table (page 171) rather than doing the math.

Suffering Damage

Each wound imposes penalties to most rolls, particularly in combat, and the total for all wounds is added together. Light wounds impose -1, Medium -3, and Heavy -5 (Incapacitating wounds immediately prevent you from continuing combat).

If your totals are high enough, you can take any number of Light, Medium, or Heavy wounds and still keep fighting. After reaching -3 and especially at -6, it has profound implications on movement and activities outside of combat. Wounds can also worsen after combat.


When managing multiple individuals, particularly fighting grogs, up to six individuals can be combined into a group for combat. Each individual in the group must be within 5 points of Combat bonuses of every other member (e.g., a group of 3 swordsmen with Damage +5 can’t add the pole axe wielder with Damage +11).

Choose a Vanguard for the group. Use the Vanguard’s bonuses for attacks and defenses (so the Vanguard should usually be the strongest fighter of the group).

When a group’s attack hits, count it as multiple attacks with the same total equal to members of the group (e.g., if there are 3 members of the group, and the final damage result is 7, apply three 7-damage hits to the target).

If a group is hit, distribute attacks as evenly as possible across the group, but the Vanguard cannot take fewer hits than anyone else. For example, if a group is hit by a single attacker, the Vanguard takes the damage. If a 3-member group is hit by a 4-member group, the Vanguard takes 2 of the hits and the other two members of the group each take one. Calculate wounds based on individual sizes (e.g., if the Vanguard is +1 size, but everyone else is +0, the Vanguard may take smaller wounds).

If a group has trained in fighting together (requires at least one season training in combat in the same location), the group can also choose a Leader (which may or may not be the same person as the Vanguard). If the Leader has a Leadership score equal to or greater than the number of people in the group, they get a combat bonus equal to Leadership score x 3 (technically, it’s a total of the non-Vanguard-members’ combat scores that cannot exceed Leadership x 3, but it will likely often be Leadership x 3). Each round, the group can choose to apply this bonus to either Attack or Defense.

If either the Leader or Vanguard is killed or incapacitated, the group splits back to individuals and can only recombine out of combat.

Groups can choose to defend one or more allies (the defended allies cannot be more than the members of the group). The defended allies cannot be attacked unless the defenders are incapacitated or botch their defense roll.

Combat Options

Combat options are explained in more detail starting on page 173.

  • Disengaging: Instead of attacking, roll your Defense total. Anyone that attacked you in the last round makes an Attack roll (that can’t deal damage). If no one meets or exceeds your Defense total (including if no one attacked you in the last round) you successfully exit combat. You get a cumulative +3 bonus each round you do nothing but attempt to disengage.
  • Exertion: Take a Fatigue level to add your Combat Ability again to either one attack or all defense rolls for the round. (In a group, all members must take one Fatigue.)
  • Magic: Spells do not have an initiative bonus. You may cast one normal spell per round, plus as many spells as you can fast cast (as per the fast casting rules).
  • Missile Combat: If you are being attacked at range (and do not have a missile weapon) you can only defend (and can only use the Defense bonus from a shield; you cannot defend with other weapon types). Ranged weapons take a cumulative -3 penalty for each range increment beyond the first (as described in the weapon stats).
  • Mounted Combat: Add your Ride ability or +3 (whichever is lower) to Attack and Defense.
  • Non-Lethal Combat:
    • Scuffle: Make unarmed or sap attacks normally. If using a deadly weapon, attack at -3 and don’t add the weapon’s damage bonus. Consult the Scuffle chart on page 175 (this mostly converts wounds to Fatigue levels).
    • Grapple: Make an attack to grapple using Brawl (you must have free hands). If the attack overcomes defense, instead of dealing damage, the target is grappled and the margin of success is the Grapple Strength. The grappled target may only attempt to escape the grapple (but can use any relevant combat ability): subtract Attack Advantage from Grapple Strength. If Grapple Strength is reduced to 0, deal a Light Wound to the grappler and escape. On subsequent rounds, the grappler can roll to further increase the Grapple Strength, and the target can roll to reduce the Grapple Strength further.
  • Special Effects: The GM sets a reasonable margin of success necessary on an attack roll to achieve the special maneuver (examples on page 175). Most maneuvers use Brawl to attack.
  • Splitting Groups: Attack to break members out of a group. See page 175.

Armor and Weapons

See the charts and descriptions starting on page 176.


A character’s Encumbrance score penalizes initiative, most athletic rolls, and spellcasting.

Sum the character’s Load from worn and carried items (most weapons and armor have a Load total). Compare to the following chart to generate Burden:

Total Load Burden
0 0
1 1
3 2
6 3
10 4
15 5
21 6
28 7
36 8
45 9
55 10

If your Strength is 0 or less, Encumbrance = Burden. If your Strength is +1 or better, Encumbrance = Burden – Strength.


Each character can have up to four Fatigue levels before falling unconscious. Several actions can result in taking a Fatigue level. The total number of Fatigue levels impose a penalty: -0 at 1 (Winded), -1 at 2 (Weary), -3 at 3 (Tired), and -5 at 4 (Dazed). At 5 levels, the character is Unconscious (and additional sources of Fatigue may wrap to damage, depending on the source).

Characters can have Short-Term and Long-Term levels, which stack for tracking penalty/unconsciousness but which recover at different rates. Short-term levels are lost at a rate based on the chart on page 179. Long-term levels are recovered at 1 per good night’s rest. If a character has both types of levels, the short-term levels are treated as the worst levels (e.g., if you have 1 short-term and 2 long-term, the short-term level takes longer to recover than if it was your only Fatigue).

See page 178 for additional rules for acquiring short-term Fatigue from strenuous actions, and recovering from it more quickly.


See page 178-179 for out-of-combat limitations from wounds and how to recover from them.

Other Perils

See page 180-181 for hazards of poison, disease, deprivation, non-combat injury, and travel times.

Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 5

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Long-Term Events


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.


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.


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).


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.


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).


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.


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.

Ars Magica 5e: Rules Summary, Part 4

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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 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.


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.


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.


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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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.


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).


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.


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.


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


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).


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


  • 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.

Scion 2e: Rules Summary

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I’m putting together a Scion 2e game based on the Kickstarter backer drafts, and wrote up a rules summary for my players. Why am I posting a rules summary for rules that are likely to change significantly before actual publication? A) This is using up most of my design cycles, so it’s the content I have ready to post for the next couple of weeks and B) it gives me an opportunity to talk next week about my house rules to compensate for in-progress rules. The summary below includes my house rules worked in. They’re colored red to note that they’re not the official version of the rules, and so I can talk about them next week.

Core Mechanic

Roll a dice pool of d10s composed of Attribute value + Ability value. Each die that shows 8-10 is a Success. Reroll any die that shows a 10 to attempt to get another Success. Your action may include an Enhancement bonus: if any dice generated Successes, you add the Enhancement bonus to the result as additional Successes. Spend your successes on overcoming Difficulty, avoiding Complications, and performing Stunts.

  • Difficulty: Most challenges have at least Difficulty 1, and harder challenges have higher Difficulty. You must first spend Successes to buy off the Difficulty, or the challenge is a failure (and you gain a Consolation). Difficulty is either static, or set by the defending character’s Successes.
  • Complications: Some challenges may include one or more points of Complications. If you do not buy off Complications after buying off Difficulty, the challenge is a success with drawbacks (if you do not buy off the Difficulty, the Complications are not applied). This could be a narrative issue or a temporary Condition for your character.
  • Stunts: You can spend Successes beyond the Difficulty to generate Stunt effects. These effects have a fixed or variable cost, depending on the type of challenge. Essentially, rather than a simple margin of success, most challenges allow you to subdivide your additional Successes to accomplish specific goals and indicate what success means to you. See the expanded options for Stunts under the heading below.


Generic Stunts apply to any roll, allowing you to narrate how you change the scene. See the Action section for Combat Stunts.

  • Add Complication: Successes spent on this stunt are a temporary Complication for others attempting the action you specify; they will take a Condition if they do not buy off the Complication, as usual.
  • Add Enhancement: Successes spent on this stunt are an Enhancement to the next ally taking the action you specify. (This is also how you use Teamwork on a task.)
  • Add Difficulty: Successes spent on this stunt are a temporary increase to Difficulty to affect you (and only you) with a specified type of action. (This is how you dodge.)
  • Twist of Fate: Successes spent on this stunt allow you to add details/alter context about the scene, on a one-for-one basis. You can only use this stunt when the action was channeled through your Path, and when the changes don’t alter something already established about the scene.
  • Degree of Success: For very simple rolls, you can just use excess successes to indicate the quality of the action.


When you fail a challenge, you usually gain a Consolation effect. This is usually a point of Momentum, but may instead be a twist that turns the failure into a different form of progress or advantage.

On a failure with 1s on the dice, the GM can offer an additional Momentum equal to the 1s showing to turn the result of the roll into a Botch (with worse effects than a normal failure). You can choose to not take the bonus Momentum and just take the failure.


Momentum (aka, the Black Pool) is a group resource that accumulates through the game (usually through failing challenges). The pool normally has a maximum size equal to twice the number of players. Any player may spend Momentum from the pool to:

  • Add Dice: Add dice equal to Momentum spent to any challenge before the dice are rolled (your roll or another character’s).
  • Add Interval: Spend 3 Momentum to gain another Interval to complete a complex action.
  • Activate Knack: Some Knacks require Momentum to activate.

Momentum spends are generally intended to be with the agreement of all players, since it’s consuming the group’s resource.

Momentum also affects Initiative.

Complex Actions

Challenges that require multiple rolls are complex actions. Each individual challenge is considered an Interval. Each time you succeed at an Interval, you gain a Milestone (which may have its own narrative description; e.g., a clue). Some complex actions may allow you to accrue Milestones without a roll (e.g., crafting challenges where special ingredients you gained elsewhere count as a bonus Milestone). The complex challenge has a number of Milestones required to complete successfully, and some may have a limited number of Intervals before they automatically fail.



Due to various factors (narrative effects, suffering Complications, taking Injuries, etc.), a character can have Conditions. These are bonuses or penalties to a specific type of action governed by the Condition’s description. When a penalizing Condition provides a failure or setback, you gain an additional Momentum. You also gain an additional Momentum for resolving a Condition before it would fade on its own (e.g., healing an Injury).

A Field is an area that applies a Condition to everyone within it.


Due to size or overwhelming biological, technological, or supernatural edge, some entities and objects operate on a different Scale than humans. They are represented using similar Attribute and Ability ranges, but their results are scaled up in situations where it matters to a conflict (usually based on Size, Force, Speed, or Leadership).

The first value (multiplier), is for Narrative scale: successes are multiplied by this number against minor characters and scenery. The second value (bonus) is for Dramatic scale: this is an Enhancement to rolls.

Normal humans are Scale 0 (Standard: no modifiers for Scale). If two opponents both have Scale, the difference in values is treated as the Scale of the larger opponent (e.g., Scale 2 vs. 3 is treated as Scale 0 vs. 1). Many actions automatically fail if the Scale discrepancy is too large, unless you have a power that allows you to try.

  1. Elite: x2, +2
  2. Supernatural: x5, +4
  3. Incredible: x10, +6
  4. Godlike: x100, +8
  5. Supernal: x200, +12
  6. Titanic: xLots, +16

High-Scale (usually Size) entities can generate Shockwave, their blows radiating out to a larger range than normal. The effect hits the target and several range bands around the target, at -2 Scale per range band, until it would be reduced below 0 Scale. For example, a Colossus at Scale 4 hits its target and applies the same Successes at Scale 2 to everyone in close range of the target, at Scale 0 to everyone in short range of the target, and the effect has dissipated at longer range.


Characters are rated by Tier to indicate power level.

  1. Mortal: Legend 0
  2. Heroic: Legend 1-4
  3. Demigod: Legend 5-8 (Target Number becomes 7 instead of 8)
  4. Divine: Legend 9-12


Basics of Actions

Each round, on your turn, you may take one Simple Action (or a Mixed Action), one Move, and Reflexive Actions.

Simple Actions are the majority of things you want to do that require overcoming a challenge (i.e., rolling dice). If you want to do more than one distinct thing in a turn, it is a Mixed Action: use the smaller dice pool and split Successes among both tasks.

On your turn you can also Move automatically approximately one range band. If you need to know exactly how far you moved, you can generally assume a number of feet equal to your Athletics dice pool x2. If you need to move more than that, using your Action, the chase rules are usually in effect. Standing up uses up your Move for the round (and if someone is threatening you in close combat, the rest of your Actions for the round are Mixed Actions with Athletics). If you attempt to Move away from an opponent in close range who will try to stop you, you must Disengage before you can Move. You must roll Athletics vs. the opponent’s Close Combat and win to successfully Disengage (or you can perform a Stunt and spend Successes equal to the opponent’s Composure). Getting over or through a Barrier often requires a roll and consumes your Action.

Most other actions are Reflexive Actions that don’t use any significant time, within reason. You can Drop Prone reflexively (which gives you -1 Defense Score against close combat attacks, but +2 Defense Score against ranged attacks). As part of a Move or Add Difficulty stunt (to dodge), you can reflexively Utilize Cover that’s been described in the scene (cover absorbs 1-10 Injuries from attacks that would have to go through it to hit you before it is functionally destroyed).

Special Action Modes

Some types of actions have expanded rules:

  • Chases: Origin Preview p. 82-83
  • Combat: See below
  • Crafting: Origin Preview p. 86-88
  • Intrigue: Origin Preview p. 88-94
  • Procedurals: Origin Preview p. 83-86



When combat begins, everyone spends Momentum as desired to improve their Defense Scores (see Defense).

After determining defenses, whichever group has the highest Momentum goes first. If NPCs don’t have a Momentum total, they act as if they had a total equal to the number of players (i.e., half the PC maximum Momentum). Whichever side is initiating adds +2 to the effective total, and a further +1 if the other side is actually surprised.

The winning group can decide among themselves which individual acts first. After that person completes an action, she can designate the next person to act. Each subsequent individual designates someone else to act that hasn’t had a turn this round. Once everyone has had one turn, the last person to go designates anyone (including herself) to go first at the start of the next round.

At any point, if your side has more Momentum and you haven’t had your turn yet this round, you can spend a point of Momentum to interrupt the individual acting and take your turn (that person is still owed a turn before the round ends).

Making Attacks/Combat Stunts

Roll an appropriate Attribute + Ability. Treat the target’s Defense Score as Difficulty. Spend successes past Difficulty (and any Complications, if desired) on Combat Stunts (or Generic Stunts, like dodging):

  • Close, Grappling, or Ranged Combat
    • Inflict Damage (1s): Deal one Injury
    • Critical Hit (4s): Deal a second Injury
    • Disarm (Variable): Disarm target (Successes equal to target combat skill, +1 to knock it a range band away)
    • Knockdown/Trip (Variable): Knock target Prone (Successes equal to target Stamina/Dexterity)
  • Close Combat
    • Blind (2s): Target takes temporary Condition that applies +1 Difficulty to all Ranged attacks
    • Break-Up Grapple (1s): Knock two characters (not including yourself) out of a Grapple
    • Establish Grapple (1s): Inflict the Grappled Condition on the target
    • Seize (3s): Take a held or loosely-attached non-weapon object from the target
  • Grappling Combat
    • Break Free (1s): Remove the Grappled Condition from yourself
    • Gain Control (Variable): Give your opponent in the Grapple the Grappled Condition (Successes equal to target Close Combat ability)
    • Move (1s): You both move one range band in a direction of your choice (must be in control of the Grapple)
    • Pin (2s): Opponent’s Defense Score does not apply to other attackers (must be in control of the Grapple)
    • Takedown (1s): Both you and your opponent become Prone (must be in control of the Grapple)
    • Throw (1s): Your opponent moves one range band in a direction of your choice, and the Grapple ends (must be in control of the Grapple); opponent gains reflexive Athletics roll to avoid falling/entering hazardous terrain
  • Ranged Combat
    • Cover/Suppress (Variable): Target gains a Complication on the next action equal to Successes spent, and suffers an Injury if it is not bought off
    • Draw Fire (Variable): Target gains a Complication on the next action equal to Successes spent, and gains the Out of Ammo Condition if it is not bought off
    • Gun to a Knife Fight (1s): You must spend an additional Success to hit a target that could hit you in close combat

You can only buy the same stunt once (e.g., even with many successes, you can only usually deal two Injuries on a single attack by spending 1 for Inflict Damage and 4 for Critical Hit).

The Grappled Condition means that you cannot Move and must engage in Grappling Combat stunts (as must your opponent, but your opponent can use the stunts useful for the one in control of the Grapple).

The Out of Ammo Condition means your firearm is out of ammunition, and you cannot make further attacks with it until you spend an Action reloading. This may be applied as part of a Stunt, via the Automatic Weapon Tag, or when situationally appropriate.

Resolving Damage and Healing

When you take an Injury, you may put it in any open Health slot. It applies a Condition related to the source of the Injury. The effect of the Condition is usually to increase Difficulty to related tasks (e.g., anything using a wounded arm) or to reduce your Defense Score. Bruised Conditions apply -1, Injured Conditions apply -2, and Maimed Conditions apply -4. If you put an Injury in your Taken Out slot, you are unconscious and helpless. Remember that you gain 1 Momentum every time a Condition impairs you.

You can opt to Concede any time you would take one or more Injuries. Instead of taking the Injuries, you mark your Taken Out slot (usually in a more temporary way than taking it as a Injury), gain 3 Momentum, and are helpless until at least the end of the fight.

Once per session, you can receive First Aid. The assisting character rolls Reason + Medicine, with a Difficulty 0. Spend Successes on Stunts to reduce the severity of an Injury (2s for Bruised, 3s for Injured, and 5s for Maimed. Taken out requires Successes equal to the total number of other Injuries). Bruised Injuries are cleared completely (though might linger cosmetically). Worse Injuries move into an empty higher Injury slot (so you must have higher slots, often requiring you to clear Bruised first).


Weapons are created by purchasing Weapon Tags. Most weapons have 3 points worth of tags, though cheaply made or improvised weapons may have fewer, and extremely valuable ones may have more.

  • Aggravated (2): Injuries dealt by the weapon are magic and can only be healed by magic.
  • Arcing (1): Attacks with this weapon reduce the quality of Cover by one step.
  • Automatic (2): When used in automatic mode, add +1 enhancement to attacks but add a cumulative +1 Complication to subsequent attacks. If this Complication is not bought off, you gain the Out of Ammo Condition. You can remove the Complication by spending an Action reloading, even before getting the Out of Ammo Condition.
  • Concealable (1): You gain Enhancement 1 to sneak the weapon past observers.
  • Damage Type (0): Weapons are Bashing or Lethal.
  • Grappling (1): The weapon can be used in a Grapple, and you gain Enhancement 1 to initiate a Grapple.
  • Long Range (1): The weapon can be used from the Long Range Band, but targets in the Close and Short Range Bands are treated as having +1 Defense Score.
  • Loud (-1): The weapon is noisy and will draw attention when used.
  • Messy (-1): The weapon leaves very distinctive wounds and evidence at the scene of the fight.
  • Piercing (2): You gain Enhancement 1 to attack targets with the Soft Armor tag.
  • Pushing (1): You gain Enhancement 1 if you are using the Knockdown Stunt.
  • Reach (1): You can make close combat attacks from Short range.
  • Returning (1): The weapon returns when thrown (often due to a chain or line).
  • Shockwave (4): The weapon deals Shockwave as if it had Scale +3 (this is typically magical or extremely heavy weaponry).
  • Slow (-1): This weapon gains the Out of Ammo Condition after every attack.
  • Stun (1): Injury Conditions dealt by this weapon are always temporary, and heal quickly on their own.
  • Two-Handed (-1): This weapon requires both hands to use.
  • Unconcealable (-1): This weapon is too big or bulky to be easily hidden or smuggled.
  • Versatile (2): You gain Enhancement 1 to perform any Stunts other than dealing Injury.
  • Weapon Type (0): Weapons are Firearm, Melee, or Thrown.
  • Worn (2): This weapon is strapped on or otherwise can’t be Disarmed.


Armor is created by purchasing Armor Tags. Like weapons, armor normally has 3 points worth of tags, but may have fewer or more based on value.

  • Bulletproof (2): You ignore the Piercing Weapon Tag on Firearms.
  • Cumbersome (-1): Most Athletics challenges while wearing the armor are at Difficulty +1.
  • Concealable (2): This armor can be hidden under clothing.
  • Hard (1 or 3): This armor grants you +1 or +2 Armor Health slots.
  • Innocuous (1): The armor is or at least appears to be mundane gear (such as a leather jacket or sports pads) that will not be especially strange when worn in public.
  • Resistant (2): You ignore injuries from a particular energy type (this usually requires magic).
  • Soft (1): The Inflict Damage Stunt costs an additional success to use against you.
  • Weighty (-1): After extended labor or sleep while wearing the armor, you must succeed at a Difficulty 3 Athletics + Stamina challenge or gain the Fatigued condition. The Difficulty increases by +1 each time until you rest unarmored.

Character Traits


Each player character should have at least one of each of the following Deeds: stated goals for character achievement and growth. Accomplishing them earns Experience and Legend.

  • Short-term Deed: Something that you should be able to accomplish within a single session
  • Long-term Deed: Something that you should be able to accomplish by the end of the story arc (related to a Path)
  • Band-term Deed: Something your group should be able to accomplish in a season (this is developed by and shared by the whole group)

Each deed has a theme chosen from Conviction, Courage, Duty, Endurance, Expression, Harmony, Intellect, Justice, Loyalty, Piety, Valor, or Vengeance (e.g., “Valor: Rid the neighborhood of the Bratva mob”).


Each player character has three Paths: Origin, Role, and Society/Pantheon. Paths provide context for actions and Twists of Fate as well as connections (to a Group, Contact, and resource Access). Origin indicates backstory, Role indicates occupation or area of expertise, and Society/Pantheon indicates relationship to the larger supernatural world. Each Path includes a Condition that can be triggered if used too often (indicating overdrawing connections/resources or otherwise bringing down problems).


Attributes have an Arena (Physical/Mental/Social) and an Approach (Force/Finesse/Resilience) which governs when they are used.

  • Might (Physical Force)
  • Dexterity (Physical Finesse)
  • Stamina (Physical Resilience)
  • Intellect (Mental Force)
  • Cunning (Mental Finesse)
  • Resolve (Mental Resilience)
  • Presence (Social Force)
  • Manipulation (Social Finesse)
  • Composure (Social Resilience)


Choose a Specialty for any Ability at level 3+. You gain bonus Momentum for failing a roll in your Specialty.

  • Academics: Humanities, Law, Politics, Bureaucracy, Languages Spoken
  • Athletics: Sports, Lifting/Breaking, Thrown and Ranged Weapons
  • Culture: Societies, Art/Religion Appreciation, Etiquette
  • Close Combat: Melee Weapons, Martial Arts, Assessing Enemy Fighters
  • Empathy: Emotional Cues, Lie Detection, Profiling
  • Firearms: Firing Guns, Maintaining and Modifying Firearms
  • Integrity: Emotional Fortitude, Hide Emotions/Intentions, Resist Mind Control/Torture
  • Leadership: Manage Individuals, Strategy and Tactics, Persuade Groups
  • Medicine: Diagnose and Treat Living, First Aid, Judge Creature Health
  • Occult: Cryptozoology, Secret Histories, Mystic Rituals, Paranormal Phenomena
  • Persuasion: Seducing, Debating, Compromising, Fast Talk, Persuade Individuals
  • Pilot: Drive Automobile, Pilot Watercraft, Pilot Aircraft, Ride Mount, Navigate in Vehicle
  • Science: Scientific Method, Research and Analyze Data, Create Compound and Reactions
  • Subterfuge: Deception, Stealth, Disguise, Forgery, Sleight of Hand, Lockpicking
  • Survival: Find Food and Shelter, Craft Basic Tools, Navigate on Foot, Tame Wildlife
  • Technology: Operate/Repair Software/Hardware, Programming, Electrical Engineering


Callings are divine archetypes, and indicate the role you fill as you approach divinity. Mortal Scions start with a single calling (drawn from the portfolio of their parent/patron), and can eventually develop up to three as they grow in divinity. Your available Knacks are based on your Callings. The Callings are Creator, Guardian, Healer, Hunter, Judge, Leader, Lover, Liminal (boundaries), Sage, Trickster, and Warrior.


Knacks are low-level powers possessed by all Scions. Some of them require Momentum to activate. They are drawn from lists associated with each Calling.


Your base Defense pool is equal to your highest Resilience attribute (Stamina, Resolve, or Composure), and may include other bonuses. When you determine Initiative, you may spend up to your base Defense pool rating in Momentum to add to the total. Your Defense pool plus Momentum spent divided by three and rounded down becomes your Defense Score for the combat (e.g., if you have Defense 3 normally, you could take a Defense Score 1 automatically, or spend 3 Momentum to gain a Defense Score 2). The Defense Score is the Difficulty for anyone who attacks you in combat (and might be further increased by armor and dodging).


You have four base Health slots: Bruised, Injured, Maimed, and Taken Out. If your Stamina is 3+, you gain a second Bruised Health slot, and if your Stamina is 5+, you gain a third Bruised Health slot. When you take an Injury, it fills the highest unfilled Health slot, and applies a Condition based on the slot filled (e.g., a Maimed Condition is worse than a Bruised Condition). Armor may add additional Armor Health slots that absorb Injuries without applying Conditions.

Better Angels Rules Summary

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Better Angels is a One Roll Engine game where the PCs are conflicted supervillains: conflicted because the source of their powers is a possessing demon gleefully trying to get them to sin so it can drag them bodily to hell. It’s a way to justify classic four-color supervillain shenanigans. Of course you put the hero in a death trap and then leave the room rather than just shooting him, and make sure you commit crimes with high property damage in front of the cameras rather than quietly in the dead of night: it appeases the demon with your grandstanding without actually killing anybody.

I’m running this soon as well, so here’s the rules summary I put together for my players’ reference.

Basic Rules


Characters take actions by assembling a pool of d10s. Roll all dice and look for matches. In a matched set, the number of dice in the set is the Width and the number on the dice is the Height. For example, four 6s is a set with width 4, height 6, or 4×6.

The width of the set is the most important element, and indicates speed and power. Wider sets go first if timing is important, and have a greater effect.

The height of the set indicates quality, and is often used only to break ties or for miscellaneous rules effects. In many cases, a 3×5 is better than a 2×10.

Some powers grant Master Dice, which allow you to add a die of any value after rolling (essentially widening any set you rolled).

Contested actions use the defender’s set to remove dice from the aggressor’s set. A set must have an equal or greater height to cancel dice (e.g., 3×5 cannot cancel a 2×6). In combat or other fast-paced situation, a set must also have equal or greater width (or the attacker just goes too fast to be stopped).

You can make a Called Shot by dropping one die and setting another die to a fixed number before rolling, hoping to roll more of the same number as on the fixed die.

You can take Multiple Actions by dropping one die per extra action and hoping to get multiple sets.

If timing matters, players declare actions in order of Cunning (using Knowledge to break ties).

Extra Time, Weapons/Tools, Surprise, and Secrets can grant Advantage of up to +3. Advantage can be added as extra dice for your pool before rolling, or saved to increase the width of a rolled set (and you can split it between uses if you have multiple points of Advantage). The amounts of advantage are:

  • Extra Time: 2x as long (+1); 3x as long (+2)
  • Weapon/Tool: Small and concealable (+1); serious and noticeable (+2); really big and/or nasty (+3)
  • Intellectual Surprise: Circumstantial evidence (+1); conclusive evidence (+2); damning evidence (+3)
  • Surprise Attack: Cunning Greed/target’s Cunning Espionage; both get sets (+1); ambusher set 2x vs no set (+2); ambusher set 3x/no set (+3)
  • Secret: Minor secret (+1); Secret worth effort to conceal/deny (+2); Life-endingly horrible secret (+3)

Strategies and Tactics

Instead of attributes and abilities, characters assemble their dice pools based on Strategies (bolded green) and Tactics (italicized purple). These are personal virtues and sins that can and will frequently fluctuate in play due to damage. Permanent character abilities are limited to Specialties and demonic aspects and powers. In the examples, the sin is on the left, the virtue on the right:


These are generally used for mental conflicts. Running out of Patient makes you go berserk.

  • Patient Generosity: Making long-term investments
  • Patient Greed: Long cons, forgery, hacking, cracking
  • Cunning Generosity: Buying illegal goods, bribery, conspicuous spending
  • Cunning Greed: Petty larceny, lockpicking, hotwiring, shoplifting
  • Patient Knowledge: Research, knowing things
  • Patient Espionage: Investigating, casing, bugging communications, staking out
  • Cunning Knowledge: Defusing bombs, jury-rigging, quiz games
  • Cunning Espionage: Spotting ambushes, noticing opportunities, other quick perceptions


These are generally used for physical conflicts. Running out of Open kills mortals (and isn’t ideal for hellbinders).

  • Open Courage: Making a melee attack against superior* foes or overwhelming numbers
  • Open Cruelty: Making a melee attack against equal or inferior foes
  • Sly Courage: Making a ranged attack against superior* foes or overwhelming numbers
  • Sly Cruelty: Making a ranged against equal/inferior foes, making any kind of attack from ambush
  • Open Endurance: Chasing, endurance athletics, bracing a door/wall, pinning a target in combat
  • Open Cowardice: Kicking down a door, outrunning someone, blocking an attack
  • Sly Endurance: Tailing, juggling/tightrope walking, disarming someone in combat
  • Sly Cowardice: Climbing, escaping from pins/bonds, passing an object, dodging in combat

* For hellbinders, foes only count as superior when they’re supernatural but the binder’s demon isn’t currently invoked


These are generally used for social conflicts. Running out of Insightful removes your base defense against manipulation.

  • Insightful Nurture: Understanding someone’s better nature, resisting temptation/seduction
  • Insightful Corruption: Understanding someone’s weaknesses, temptations, and urges
  • Devious Nurture: Persuading (to do something good), inspiring
  • Devious Corruption: Seducing, cajoling, bewildering
  • Insightful Honesty: Defending against attacks on the truth, riposting against manipulation to sense what was true
  • Insightful Deceit: Resisting appeals to better nature, riposting against manipulation to sense motivations
  • Devious Honesty: Gaining Advantage from a difficult truth
  • Devious Deceit: Gaining Advantage from a believable lie

Damaging Strategies and Tactics

Conflict generally has an intention to reduce a targeted tactic or strategy. You pick a particular tactic to target (which is usually limited by the type of tactic you’re using), and do damage based on the result:

  • Width 2-3: Slide a dot of the tactic into its opposite tactic. If it’s already empty, slide a dot of the parent strategy into its opposite strategy.
  • Width 4: Remove a dot from the tactic. If it’s already empty, remove a dot of the parent strategy.
  • Width 5: Remove a dot of the parent strategy, even if there are still dots in the tactic.

Aspects and Powers


Aspects are remnants of the possessing demon’s diabolical heritage strong enough to affect the body of the host. The player of the mortal will pick one and the player of the demon will pick the other.

They’re powerful but costly to activate. The demon half always controls activation, there must be at least one point in the aspect’s governing Strategy for it to work, and there are two ways to turn them on:

  • The mortal requests it, the demon agrees, and the mortal slides a point off a Virtuous Strategy in payment.
  • The demon makes it happen without request, rolls the aspect’s governing Strategy (no Tactic), and turns on the aspect for free if this roll gets a set. If there is no set, the aspect still turns on, but the demon must slide a point from the governing Strategy.

The available aspects are:

  • An Utmost Foulness* (Cunning): Turns you into an amorphous (and flexible) blob of nastiness
  • Aqua-Form* (Sly): Turns you into living water
  • Carapace (Sly): Grants armor that reduces attack Height
  • Cloven Hooves (Cunning): Lets you forge demonic pacts with mortals to give them a bonus and you a Tactic upgrade whenever they use it
  • Darkness-Shrouded (Devious): Swathes the area around you in inky darkness only your allies can see through
  • Flame-Wreathed (Devious): Covers you in fire that deals damage to melee attackers and improves your own attacks
  • Ghost Form (Cunning): Grants intangibility that you can selectively turn on and off
  • Giant (Sly): Makes you big and super strong
  • Glory* (Devious): Makes you incredibly beautiful/terrifying
  • Hell’s Engine* (Sly): Replaces a body part with a hellish contraption (chooser picks the contraption, non-chooser picks the body part)
  • Horned (Sly): Gives you an intimidating natural weapon
  • Invisible (Devious): Lets you turn invisible and get a surprise bonus on attacks
  • Legion* (Cunning): Creates unpowered doppelgangers of you
  • Non-Euclidean* (Devious): Turns you into a cloud of concepts, allowing shifts in which Tactics get targeted by attacks
  • Wings (Cunning): Lets you fly and also temporarily sacrifice the wings to negate an attack


Powers don’t necessarily have a permanent physical structure, and they’re under the total control of the mortal. However, activating them counts as invoking the demon (allowing it to start paying attention and talking for the rest of the scene). The player of the mortal will pick one and the player of the demon will pick one.

Powers typically have a (fixed dice pool) to activate them. The available powers are:

  • Alchemy (Greed): Turns items (or body parts) temporarily into gold (Cunning Greed), and grants a Master Die to use Generosity for bribery (if Greed is not less than Generosity)
  • Animal Control (Deceit): As Body Control, but affects animals
  • Animal Form (Espionage): Lets you turn into the form of a (usually terrifying) animal, with more powers the higher your espionage (Cunning Espionage)
  • Armor (Cowardice): Grants you a defense that reduces the Width of physical attacks (Open Cowardice)
  • Arrogance (Cowardice): Provides a passive social defense based on your Cowardice
  • Babel Babble* (Corruption): Lets you start a spiel of jargon that attacks listeners’ Knowledge or Nurture (Cunning Corruption)
  • Banish (Cowardice): Lets you send something (including a touched target’s body part) somewhere else within line of sight and thirty feet (Sly Cowardice), and grants a set of dedicated items you can send up to thirty miles away
  • Body Control (Deceit): Turns human targets into your puppets that you can give orders to (Devious Deceit)
  • Clairvoyance (Espionage): Lets you see up to miles away (Patient Espionage)
  • Crime-Time* (Greed): Gives you a minute pause in which you can move and everything else is frozen but invulnerable (Cunning Greed)
  • Dark Ritual* (Knowledge): Satisfies your demon to grant advantage for the rest of the scene (Devious Knowledge)
  • Dead Ringer (Deceit): Lets you copy the appearance of another person you’ve spent time with (Insightful Deceit)
  • Dominator Strike (Cruelty): Gives you a customizable ranged attack (Sly Cruelty)
  • False Memories* (Deceit): Implants a false memory into a touched target (Patient Deceit)
  • Hanging Curse* (Corruption): Curses a target with a ban that will damage a Virtuous Strategy if violated (Patient Corruption)
  • Impossible Beauty (Corruption): Gives you advantage to social rolls to influence people (Devious Corruption); could be artistic skill rather than physical beauty
  • Ineffable Defense (Espionage): Reduces advantage granted by surprises or secrets used against you based on your Espionage
  • Oracle* (Knowledge): Allows you to question the GM about the future or possible actions (Devious Knowledge)
  • Psychic Objects (Greed): Lets you create useful objects with size and complexity based on your Greed (Cunning Greed)
  • Regeneration* (Cowardice): Recovers damage or shifts to your Open and Sly suffered during a scene (Open Cowardice)
  • Retrocognition* (Espionage): Lets you see what happened in a location previously (Patient Espionage)
  • Soulless Materialism* (Generosity): Animates objects to fight for you (Cunning Generosity)
  • Summon (Greed): Lets you summon visible objects within thirty feet to you, including target body parts (Cunning Greed), and grants a set of dedicated items you can summon to you from up to thirty miles away
  • Telekinesis (Deceit): Allows you to move objects/people within line of sight and range based on Deceit (Insightful Deceit)
  • Teleport Self (Corruption): Transports you somewhere else within a few miles based on Corruption (Insightful Corruption)
  • Terror (Cruelty): Drains Courage at range (Devious Cruelty)
  • That Hideous Strength (Cruelty): Gives a melee weapon bonus and lets you perform feats of strength based on your Cruelty
  • The Evil Eye* (Cruelty): Allows you to apply a curse at range that reduces target’s dice for several scenes (Cunning Cruelty)
  • Wither (Corruption): Shrivels, wilts, corrodes, etc. a touched/grappled object/person (Devious Corruption)

Innate Abilities

The player of the demon controls access to several other innate abilities common to all demons:

  • Devilish Creativity: All hellbinders can make infernally cunning devices (often disguised as scientific inventions, but possibly just obviously magic items). These use a customizable system that costs points from Virtuous Tactics to create the item.
  • Appreciating the Numinous: The demon can recognize other hosts of angels or demons (special campaign rule: only when both possessing spirits are invoked).
  • Spying: If the demon’s primary Sinister Strategy is higher than its opposite, the demon can perceive all the time. If it’s not, the demon perceives only when invoked. The demon cannot talk to the mortal, even if it can perceive all the time, unless invoked by being given permission to speak or the mortal activates a power.
  • Sinful Perfection: The demon can turn one die in the mortal’s pool into a Master Die for a particular roll by sliding the related Sinister Tactic for that roll into the Virtuous Tactic (e.g., if the player is rolling Courage or Cruelty, slide a point of Cruelty).

* from the No Soul Left Behind campaign book

Chuubo’s Rules Summary

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I’m hopefully going to get to run Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine (henceforth Chuubo’s or CMWGE) in the not too distant future, and I put this together as a handout for my players. So I’ll post it here so others can benefit as well. I’d also suggest this official example of play, this other official example of play, and this non-official explanatory one-shot.

This post is also available as a five-page PDF for easier printing.

CMWGE is a diceless RPG based on the rules for Nobilis 3rd Edition. It features resource-based resolution (i.e., you spend points from a limited pool and add them to your skill total to accomplish goals). The primary driver of play is a quest-based XP system that outlines various general tasks that player characters should accomplish to gain granular amounts of XP, and structures these tasks to attempt to provide a narrative.


Characters in CMWGE have eleven elements:

  • Arc: A character can be actively pursuing one arc at a time, and retains a trait indicating how many completions of previous arcs the character has accomplished (e.g., a character just starting a Knight arc after three completions of a Bindings arc would be Bindings 3, Knight 0). See Arcs, under Advancement.
  • Quests: A character can be on up to four quests at once, and this almost always includes a quest that’s meant to advance the current arc, and a basic quest that can be used to get any-time XP (leaving two slots open for incidental quests). See Quests, under Advancement.
  • Issues: During play, characters will accumulate issues, which provide a short sequence of emotional or physical consequences to actions. Working through an issue’s sequence is a good way to recover spent resources. See Issues, under Advancement.
  • Skills: The core of a character’s capabilities is defined by skills. A PC starts with eight ranks of skills (two to eight skills ranked 1 to 5), treats any other skills as 0 (except for possibly a single skill at -1 to designate amusing incompetence; no extra points are gained by taking a skill at -1). Skills are the primary advancement mechanic for completing arcs, and can also be improved by perks. See Types of Skill, below.
  • Bonds: Player characters have at least one bond, which is a personal compulsion/ban so powerful that it can aid on related tasks and even overpower the miraculous. They are player-directed, and when fulfilling them the character benefits from various bonuses. Player characters start with a single, rank 2 bond, and can improve or add more via perks. See Tools, Bonds, and Strike, below.
  • Afflictions: Player characters have at least one affliction, which is a truth about the character enforced by the universe and so powerful miracles might not even be able to undo it. Contrary to the name, they are not always negative, just outside the character’s control. They are GM-directed, and can accomplish related tasks as well as protect against miracles. Player characters have an affliction for each arc trait, and it shares the arc trait’s rating (e.g., a Knight-associated affliction would be rank 3 if the player was on Knight 3). See Obstacles, Edge, Afflictions, and Auctoritas, below.
  • XP Emotion: Each player character has an XP emotion: the character gains an additional point of XP for inspiring this emotion in other players. Examples include pity, exasperation, thrilled approval, etc. See Genre, Emotion, and Any-Time Actions, under Advancement.
  • Perks: Perks are the primary form of mid-arc character advancement; they provide bonuses to skills, special abilities, or the like. A PC will often get several of them for each cycle of an arc, but can only maintain eight at a time, discarding old ones as they become less relevant or as better ones are gained. Player characters start with a free perk for each other PC that grants a Connection 1 skill to that character. See Perks and Arc Levels, under Advancement.
  • Miraculous Powers: Miraculous characters may accumulate miraculous powers (either as perks or as permanent upgrades), and even mortal characters may gain a few minor ones during play. These are generally one-off abilities that completely ignore the standard task resolution system. See Miracles, below.
  • Health Levels: Characters can take wounds into health levels when suffering physical or mental harm, and often take wounds as a statement of, “I would rather be injured than allow the current action to succeed in its stated goal.” All player characters have two normal health levels and one tough health level, and miraculous characters add two divine health levels. See Suffering Wounds, below.
  • Resources: Characters have permanent and temporary ratings in Will and Miracle Points, and spend them to accomplish intentions and miracles, respectively. See Basic Task Resolution and Miracles, below.

Types of Skill

There are several different types of skill (each purchased from the same pool and with a maximum rank of 5):

  • Standard: Most skills, particularly for mundane, mortal characters, will be standard skills. These can indicate anything in the normal spectrum of mortal capabilities. They are often very broad, such as a single skill for your whole profession (allowing you to use that skill rating to accomplish anything a member of that profession could do). They may narrow or widen over time, as the GM and player agree on what that skill means within context; eventually, players that initially picked very broad-sounding skills should reach an equilibrium with players that picked very narrow-sounding skills where all standard skills have similar utility within the narrative. You can define any profession, hobby, or even catchphrase as a standard skill: what’s important is that it’s clear to player and GM what types of task it should help you accomplish.
  • Cool: The cool skill isn’t active. Instead, it serves as a penalty to any mundane action to harm you (for a wide definition of harm), because you’re just too cool to suffer that kind of thing. See Obstacles, Edge, Afflictions, and Auctoritas, below.
  • Shine: The shine skill represents your ability to inspire and lead others. You cannot use it yourself, but anyone else can use its rank instead of their own skill when what they’re doing is explicitly for your benefit.
  • Connection: Skills can specify another person or place. If it’s a person, you can use the skill on any task to work with, understand, or take a social action directed at that person. For a place, you can use the skill on most tasks that represent fitting in with, protecting, or maintaining that place. Connections are easier to justify raising more quickly than other types of skills, as they require presence rather than study.
  • Superior: Any character that has powers that are supernatural/beyond human but not miraculous can represent them via superior skills. These skills generally have a defined list of what they can do at each rank on a conception level (e.g., Superior Strength rank 3 is as strong as a bear while rank 4 is as strong as a mountain). Practically, they grant edge to the use of another skill in an appropriate context, can be used as a skill (in situations broader than when they grant edge but narrower than a standard skill), and grant you a superhuman narrative ability. See Tools, Bonds, and Strike, below.
  • Magic: Characters can also develop different types of magic. These techniques generally provide a list of general types of effects that type of magic can accomplish, with more powerful effects imposing an obstacle on the intention. Often, magic techniques include a few minor options that someone with a compatible standard skill might attempt, upon knowing they’re possible. See Obstacles, Edge, Afflictions, and Auctoritas, below.

Most PCs start with eight ranks of skills of any type (up to rank 5 on any individual skill), may take a -1 rank skill to indicate an amusing weakness (no extra bonus if you do), and start with a perk for each other PC that grants Connection 1 to that character.

Basic Task Resolution

Each character has a measure of personal energy and effectiveness called Will, and PCs almost always have 8 to spend when they are fully refreshed. Taking actions consumes 0-8 points of this Will, through phrasing an intention. This intention can be specific (“I want to dodge that attack.”), broad (“I want to escape from this fight without harm.”), or even ongoing for a whole chapter (“I want to just go one week without taking a wound!”). They are essentially a project that can go for as long as the player thinks is relevant, or until clearly successful.

If uncontested and not subject to modifiers, an intention’s total rating is equal to the relevant skill plus the points of Will spent (for a range of -1 to 13). You can only spend Will in binary increments (either 0, 1, 2, 4, or 8; you cannot spend 3, 5, 6, or 7 on a single intention). If uncontested, the effectiveness of an intention is judged based on the intentions chart:

Intention You can…
0 or less Attempt to do things, but only make things worse;
1 Use your Skill in such a fashion as to please yourself and make you happy;
2 Accomplish a task; have a tangible impact on the world;
3 Do something “correctly;” impress people around you;
4 Do something effective—something that moves you closer to your goals;
5 Do something productive—something that makes your life better;
6 Do something that looks dang good—impressive, dramatic, and cool;
7 Do something really effective, moving you a lot closer to your goals;
8 Do something really productive—it will make your life a lot better;
9 Do the “right thing,” for some fuzzy definition of right.

If contested or otherwise in conflict, the higher intention “wins” (but the lower intention is still as successful as possible up to its rating if there is conceptual space “left over” within the winner’s intention). Conflicts often also involve skill modifiers (see Tools, Bonds, and Strike and Obstacles, Edge, Afflictions, and Auctoritas, below).

You can maintain a maximum of two intentions at one time. If you start a third intention, you have to drop an ongoing one.

PCs recover Will (to the maximum of 8) in several circumstances:

  • Each PC recovers to full Will (and ends any ongoing intentions) at the start of a new chapter.
  • Each PC gains a Recharge Token each time the basic quest is complete, and turning this in recovers Will to full.
  • Characters often gain a partial recovery of Will at various stages of an issue.
  • Whenever an intention succeeds or fails (rather than just being abandoned to free up a slot), the character recovers 1 Will (as long as that intention had at least 1 Will spent on it).


Some characters have miraculous powers. These are specific powers with a particular effect and often cost 1 or more Miracle Points (MPs) to activate. They automatically defeat any mundane intention trying to counter them (but may have to contend with auctoritas, see below). If two miracles are in direct conflict, the one with the higher rating tends to win (and this is the only point at which the rating matters; unlike intentions, miracles just do something and cannot be adjusted up or down on the fly).

Player characters have a permanent rating of 1 MP, can improve this rating through advancements, and can recharge and accumulate more temporary points in various ways (unlike Will, temporary MPs can exceed the permanent rating):

  • PCs regain 1 MP (up to the permanent rating) each chapter, and recover to the full permanent rating at the beginning of a book (no benefit if temporary MPs are currently over the permanent rating).
  • Issues often grant additional MPs at the same time they partially recharge Will.
  • Bonds, Afflictions, and Region Properties can be “served” or get the character into trouble, rewarding MP in either case.

Obstacles, Edge, Afflictions, and Auctoritas

Several types of trait can provide a skill penalty, reducing a target’s effective intention rating. Only the largest penalty applies to any given intention, even if several sources are active. Obstacles, Edge, and Cool all provide a skill penalty.

  • Obstacles represent practical/conceptual difficulties to achieving an intention. The GM usually assesses an obstacle of 0-5 to any intention based on how problematic it is to accomplish. Certain actions, like magic skills, have predefined obstacles.
  • Edge is assessed in an unequal conflict, indicating that one side has an advantage that effectively lowers the other’s intention to make it easier to win. The side that doesn’t have edge takes the penalty, for purposes of resolving the conflict. Superior skills often grant edge, and strike (see below) grants edge that applies to conflicts between miracles.
  • Afflictions are things about a character that are always true, and enforced by reality. Miracles must overcome their rating in auctoritas to contradict them (e.g., if the affliction is “I can’t be physically harmed” then a miraculous physical attack would have to overcome that affliction’s auctoritas), and the GM can assess a miracle based on their level to make them true whenever appropriate. PCs typically have one affliction per arc trait, with a level equal to the arc trait’s rank.
  • Auctoritas is a flat rating that protects against miracles. It is provided by afflictions and might also come from other sources (such as being built as a protection on a location). A miracle, even an extremely powerful one, is unable to affect something guarded by auctoritas unless it has sufficient strike (see below).

Tools, Bonds, and Strike

There are several ways to gain a bonus to mundane and miraculous actions.

  • Tools, when applicable, provide a bonus to an intention (generally only +1 or +2). Tools that provide a bonus are often perks, with player characters normally assumed to have any +0 tools they need to carry out their intentions.
  • Bonds, when applicable, provide a bonus equal to their rating to an intention, but only when in conflict or against an obstacle. Additionally, applicable bonds provide their rating in additional strike for miraculous actions.
  • Strike is necessary for a miracle to overcome auctoritas (see above). If total strike is less than the target’s auctoritas, the miracle cannot affect the target (even if it is a very powerful miracle and a very low level of auctoritas). In addition to the bonus strike gained from bonds, characters can spend MP to raise strike (on a one for one basis) for a single miracle. Strike also counts as edge for miracles (see above).

Suffering Wounds

PCs have two normal health levels and a tough health level. Miraculous PCs also have two divine health levels. Losing all of your stronger health levels clears any damage to the weaker ones (e.g., if you take a wound to your tough level, any wounds in your normal levels are cleared). Worse wounds will go into a weaker health level if there are no stronger health levels remaining (e.g., a deadly wound will fill a normal level if all your tough and divine levels are gone). It usually takes a miracle or a level 6+ intention to deal a deadly wound, and lesser intentions can deal surface and serious wounds.

Wounds grant a bonus when you play up the wound. Wounds (and their bonuses) are generally divided into:

  • Surface (Normal): Minor problems that grant +1 Tool, Level 1 Bond, or a Level 2 Superior skill (heals in 0-2 chapters)
  • Serious (Tough): Bad problems that grant +1 Tool, Level 1 Bond/Affliction, or Level 2-3 Superior skill (heals in 0-2 books)
  • Deadly (Divine): Epic problems that grant +2 Tool, Level 2 Bond, Affliction with level tied to an arc or issue, level 3+ Superior skill, or a miraculous ability (requires a quest to downgrade to serious, or a harder one to heal completely)

You have multiple options upon receiving a wound including accepting it, focusing, it, living with it, avoiding it, resisting it, making it go back-and-forth, making it twisted, and making it metaphorical. Essentially, wounds represent your creative control over your character’s fate, and there are several options for taking a wound to turn a bad situation into something you can tolerate.


Most of the storytelling of CMWGE is based on player-driven XP. Each PC has several types of advancement option for earning or spending XP, each with a particular story-driving fiction attached. Essentially, players are mechanically encouraged to perform actions that create a story and expand on their character motivations in order to advance their characters.


Each PC is always actively pursuing one arc (from the set of Storyteller, Knight, Aspect, Otherworldly, Bindings, Shepherd, Emptiness, and Mystic). Each arc has an internal 3-5 step process that guides the character through a personal journey relevant to the theme of the arc, primarily through a linked quest (see below). For example, stage three of a Knight arc is about something trying to change you, resulting in you making a mistake, falling from grace, changing, and/or growing. Possible quests that fit this concept are Mental Training, Poisoned, Labyrinth Diving, The Belly of the Whale, or The Great Dread Witch Hunt.

Each time a PC completes the 3-5 steps/quests of an arc, the arc trait goes up by one rank (improving related traits such as afflictions and granting skill improvements). In addition, for each quest completed that supports a step of the arc, the character gains a perk from those appropriate to the arc. A player that wants to improve the arc trait to a high rank will experience the same steps several times, but each time is represented by different quests, and generally the character’s story grows in scale with each iteration through the process.

You can only pursue one arc at a time, but can switch to a different arc at an appropriate milestone. You retain the rating of all previously pursued arcs, and can switch back to them at the same rank at another milestone.


A PC can have up to four quests at a time. Generally, one will be a basic quest (used for any-time XP and recovery tokens) and another will be the quest that’s currently supporting the current step of the arc. Two more are available to mechanically incent other missions the player might want to pursue.

Each quest requires 15-50 XP to complete. Each also comes with a list of actions the PC can take to acquire one or more of those XPs (and additional XPs can be gained from other actions, see below). Progress through the quest’s XP track is a rough gauge of progress through the story element represented by the quest; the GM and player will work together to bring it to an appropriate close as the XP track is fully filled.

Completing a quest grants whatever in-story reward makes sense from its completion. If it is an arc quest, it grants a perk from the current step of the arc. Non-arc quests may grant a Recharge Token or other reward. Once complete, its XP total is rolled into the arc: in addition to needing 3-5 steps, each arc has an XP cost for completion (based on the pacing of the story). For example, an arc that costs 150 XP to complete would require an additional 50 XP from miscellaneous quests to complete if the player completed each of the five arc steps with 20 XP quests.

Genre, Emotion, and Any-Time Actions

In addition to the XP gained from your primary quest, there are three ways to gain XP:

  • The genre of the chronicle provides several actions (usually three to five) that support the correct mood. For example, in the Fairy Tales genre, the genre actions are Suffer Adversity, Suffer Corruption, Suffer Transformation, Suffer Trauma, and Never Say Die! while in the Pastoral genre, the actions are Shared Action, Shared Reactions, and Slice of Life. Each player can perform any two of these actions (or the same one twice) each chapter, and doing so adds an XP to the group pool. After performing a genre action, the PC is supposed to “fade” for a bit, allowing other PCs time to drive the story and work on their actions. The chapter often ends soon after each PC has accomplished two genre actions. At the end of the chapter, the genre XP pool is split evenly and distributed to the PCs (so, if they each did their maximum, they get 2 XP). These XP can be directed toward any active quest.
  • Each PC has an emotion that typifies how other characters react to them. When another player experiences this emotion due to something your character did, that player can give you an XP (which can be directed to any active quest). This can’t happen more frequently than once every 15 minutes. Example emotions are “Aww!” (for a character that makes others sad for how tragic he or she is), “Fist-Shaking” (for lovable jerks with impulse control problems that other characters shake their fists at for getting them into trouble), “Finger-Snap” (for natural minions who encourage other characters to tell them what to do), “Speechlessness” (for monologuers that leave others unable to form a response to their mad tirades), etc.
  • Each PC’s basic quest generally has a simple any-time action that grants an XP to the quest and supports the character’s core story. Like emotion XP, this can only be gained once every 15 minutes. After every 15 XP, the quest resets, rolling the XP into the arc and granting the player a Recharge Token.


Much like quests, issues come on cards with notes about what’s going on with your character while experiencing it. Unlike quests, you don’t choose your issues; the GM awards them to you based on things that have happened to you or decisions you’ve made in play. Generally, the GM will give a player an issue (or increase a current issue) once per chapter, based on the GM’s strongest impressions of what each player did, and any plots that were relevant.

Each step of an issue includes advice for how to play up that issue in your roleplaying. For example, In Over Your Head 4 suggests, “You’ve had a brilliant idea and you know how to test or implement it.” Issues normally go up as the GM thinks you’re still playing them, and at every odd step they give you bonus resources in Will and MP (so issues complicate your life, but improve your ability to handle challenges). Once they’re at step 4 or 5, you can attempt to resolve them (gaining another set of bonus resources and solving whatever in-story problem the issue represented). You can also lower issues that haven’t come up lately by one step at the end of a session.

The main issues are In Over Your Head, Hero, Sickness, Vice, Mystery, Complex, It Never Stops!, Calling, Something to Deal With, and Trust. Certain genres and campaigns introduce special issues like Hollow, Illusion, and Isolation.

Perks and Arc Levels

Most character advancement is ultimately awarded through perks and by going up in arc levels.

You get a new perk every time you complete a quest step of an arc (up to 5 perks per arc level). The available perks are based on the current step. For example, at Knight step 3, you can gain a defensive, support, or offensive aura, a rank 1 superior skill, improve a superior skill from another Knight perk by +1 (to a maximum of your Knight trait level), or, at Knight 2+, gain a new Bond with a rating based on your current Trust issue.

You can only have eight perks at one time; once you have eight, gaining a new one means retiring an old one. An exception is any perk that allows you to improve a previous perk (e.g., that +1 to a previous superior skill means the previous perk slot is now a better value) or otherwise alter something. In general, after you’ve been through a few cycles of one or more arcs, you’ll have all eight perks filled, some of them will be becoming more and more powerful, and others will get switched out as you lose interest in favor of new bonuses.

When you complete a cycle of the arc:

  • The arc trait’s level goes up by +1 and that counts for anything based on it (such as the associated affliction, and qualifying for better perks).
  • You can improve an existing skill or bond by +1 (or buy a new bond at rank 1).
  • You gain a new skill at rank 1.
  • You can lower an existing skill by 1 to improve the new skill to 2.

When you start a new arc:

  • You get a new arc trait at rank 0.
  • You gain a new rank 2 bond.
  • You gain a new affliction tied to the new arc trait.

Miraculous characters also get particular power upgrades based on their arc trait’s rank.

Savage Worlds – Ravenloft Adventure

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I put together a short module set in Ravenloft but using the Savage Worlds rules (for the review that starts this week). It’s fairly straightforward, suitable for a demo scenario, and includes pregen characters and a rules summary. You can get it here.

The village of Steinberg has experienced a troublesome last few decades. A quiet farming community, it has become more and more insular. There is no inn, there is no government to speak of, there is just a small hamlet of people that work their fields by day and are careful to lock themselves in their houses by night. They never discuss the strange anemia that seems to afflict those with inferior locks or the events of fifty-three years ago that make them believe that their lot is only what they are owed…