Alternate or Expanded Hermetic Arts

So in the time that this forum has been asleep I have continually thought about, and read the books from, Ars Magica. One of the things that I really find enjoyable is the idea that magic is done through the combination of a Form and Technique, also called a Verb and Noun. But I can't help but think that as a fully comprehensive magic system there are gaps, gaps that while logical for the wold of Ars Magica I would like to fill. Especially if one takes the magic and uses it for some other world setting.

So I came up with the 24 Arts - 8 Techniques and 16 Forms.

The 8 Techniques are Alter, Control, Create, Destroy, Mend, Move, Protect, and Know.

The 16 Forms are Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Plant, Animal, Machine, Body, Mind, Spirit, Illusion, Time, Space, Fate, Arcane, and Void.

I also came up with a number of pre-Hermetic organizations that the founders might have studied from in order to create the global Order of High Sorcery, as I like to call it.

This post isn't just about my creation but I wanted to ask if others had similar ideas on modifying or expanding the Arts of Ars Magica, both for its own setting and maybe also for using the magic system for other settings.

But even more this post is because its good to see the forums back and I wanted to have something that could be shared and discussed!


I'm interested to hear how you distinguish Space and Void in your system.

My mind immediately jumps to the idea that Space is "the space within a room" and Void is "the vast emptiness of outer space" would that be accurate?

Rather than Illusion I might chose Sense, unless you consider the senses in general to be in the purview of another form.

Finally, what effects would fall under Mind vs. Spirit? Or would that depend on the setting in which they are used?

I’ll note that in the playtest for Magic Shoe/Tales of the Quaesitors, the designers added a new form, Fabricam, for manufactured objects. This greatly simplifies many spells by removing casting requisites. If you want to Leap of the Homecoming, you don’t need Herbam for your linen clothes, Animal for your leather armor, and Terram for your sword, you just need Fabricam.

In my own Ars Magica 2220 project, I combined Forms and added others to keep it at 10: Chance, Energy, Information, Life, Magic, Matter, Space, Spirit, Thought, and Time.

@Briarpath On Space and Void, basically year. Space represents distance and location within the world itself. So bigger on the inside effects, rapid movement and teleporation, that sort of thing. While Void is all about the place between places, be it outer space or some other dimension. The nuances on that would vary based on the setting's greater cosmology, which I don't entirely know. hehe

On the senses I would put that with Body for the most part. Though I will admit that sensing particular phenomena would go within said Form, so sensing metal would be Know Earth, for example.

Illusion to me is creating images and sounds and smells that aren't really there.

On Mind vs Spirit I have the general idea that knowledge is a thing of Mind, though the nuances haven't entirely been thought of. But thought and mental conciousess and such are all Mind, as is Dreaming I would think. Spirit is the soul and animating forces of things, including some elements of necromancy I figure.

Honestly, there is much that needs to be figured out in terms of what exactly goes where and what each category covers in a focused look. I had begun doing that but it got more tedius then fun and so I pulled back. hehe


Having technology, that is as you say manufactured objects, having its own category is really useful and fun to me. I figured that if you wanted a magic system where technology could potentially be present then a form would need to exist for it. Hence Machine.

Plus exactly, its less about makeup of what is in the material and more about its function. Which makes life a lot more simplifed in a fun way.

Your idea on the ten Forms is a nifty one. Actually Chance was something I thougth about using for Fate but I went with the later word after much hemming and hawing. At one point I thought on making things Energy and Matter and Life as well (rather than Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Plant, Animal, Body) but I wanted a more fantasy feel and the four elements plus Plant and Animal and Body sort of sounded good to me. But yeah I can totally see where those ten would make a really good choice.

On Information, honestly, I also hemmed and hawed on that as well because I wanted knowledge in a pure sense to have a category. Which is why I decided to make that go into Mind, what you had as Thought, and in the lore have knowledge manipulation be an 'advanced technique' of the Know Mind Art.

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I did a thought experiment like this, attempting to see how the Arts could transition into the Arcana from Mage the Awakening.

Advances led to the uniting of Animal, Corpus, and Herbam under Vitam (Life). Aquam, Auram, and Terram united under Materiam (Matter). Imaginem and Ignem were joined under Vires (Forces). The Limit of Time and the Limit of Aging were overcome which led to the Form of Tempus (Time). Breakthroughs dissolved the Limit of the Soul which added the Form of Mortem (Death). The Form of Spatium (Space, or Correspondence in the old Mage system) came about after the Limit of Arcane Connections was removed from Hermetic theory. The Form of Vim was expanded and became Aetherem (Prime). Note that this Aetherem is not the same as the Form of Aether included in Dies Irae. The Form of Mentem remains the same (Mind) but a new Form of Spiritum (Spirit) is invented as a breakaway when the relationship between Mentem and Vim is explored. The Form of Fatum (Fate) is also developed from non-Hermetic magic (Faerie magic and other forms of magic).

This gives us the ten Arcana from Mage the Awakening and this is what the Hermetic system could look like in the 21st century.

You can also map the Practices to Techniques, but this is probably unnecessary because each Technique encompasses more than each individual Practice.

@Slerotin the funny thing is that we went the opposite way on this. Like I actively tried not to combine the two, for all that Mage and its various books lay heavy (in a good way) on my shelf. hehe

But yeah, I can totally see where certain combinations led to the creation of the Arcana we all know. The same with breakthroughs that remove, or change, the Limits. Limits which I have to honestly say I am for the most part not a fan of anyway, and so I have no problem with changing them or removing them.

I do agree that its fun to figure out the dynamics of how the version we have will become a version used in say the modern world.

As a related topic one of the elements I find somewhat hard is to figure out how one may use all the Techniques with all the Forms.I sometimes think to myself so what is Mend Fire or Mend Fate. Or how about Protect, how does it operate. (On Protect I realized that it probably works in two ways, one to protect something against the category [So Protect Fire can be used to protect a person from fire damage] and another to protect the category against things [so Protect Fire would stop Fire going out in rain].

I don't plan on writing this out now, its less fun and more tedius, but I do like to imagine one day having a list of how all 8 Techniques apply to each of the 16 Forms. hehe

So I was thinking about how such a magic tradition was developed within the setting itself. This matters as a part of me has the idea that it was the main character or characters that were the ones to come up with the system. (He is the Bonisagus figure and the others are the founders.)

One idea I had is that the main guy traveled between the various sects of focused magic users around the known world. After gaining trust he learned their secrets, which he would later combine with the other secrets he learned to create the organized magic system.

To make him being able to learn the secrets of magical traditions, even when they would probably keep it secret, I was thinking of having our main guy be wrapped in a super powered never to be seen again artifact created time loop. He repeats the same season again and again, which is how he gets to learn the secrets of multiple groups - he can say he hasn't been taught by others and such.

The other, and this just came to me, idea is that a group of settlers running from something dark and horrible come upon say a large hilly island in the middle of a lake and connected to a massive river network. Anyway, upon settling in the area, they come to discover that around them are 24 sites of power, one for each of the 8 Techniques and 16 Forms. By studying the natures of these sites, these anima, these vis sources, the group later come to create the hermetic magic arts.

As a campaign slash story idea I could totally see each site having an adventure there, with victory leading to attunement, which leads to gaining access to abilities based around the category of magic connected with.

So yeah, just some half-formed ideas that came to me. Wanted to share them with you all, maybe get thoughts and such. :slight_smile:

There is a copied version of Ars Magica's magic system in GURPS.
It is also just an alternative there, and not even detailed enough, but maybe worth to check it:
"GURPS - 4th edition - Thaumatology" book, p184-187: "Syntactic Magic: Verbs and Nouns"
(GURPS tries to implement everything in their worlds/systems, but this mix is not used to be good solution related to the original.)

Comment to the original post: the Time should not be there, as according to Plato (and other ancient Greek philosophers) time is not-alterable, constant/continuous and also made by the Creator (so above Hermetic magic):

WorldTree did this 20 years ago. I think they had 19 arts. Notably the technique of sustenoc (sustain), and form of locador (location or space).

I have once or twice suggested that the Bonisagus undertakes original research to incorporate one such art in the Hermetic portfolio, but we have never played out that idea.

If we go back to basic Aristotelean Physics, Hermetic Techniques do cover the principles of change; Generation = Creo, Corruption = Perdo, Motion = Rego, Quantitative change = Muto, and Qualitative change = Intellego.

However, there may be a missing Art due to the non-representation of the concept of Týche, or chance. Because if everything has to go through Generation and Corruption then nothing will fail to come into existence and nothing will fail to to cease to be, which is obviously not the case.

Or it may be that Creo and Perdo should both be folded under Tyche. That a magus therefore manipulates the chance of something coming into being or ceasing to be. In the same vein it should also be possible to fold Animal into Corpus as Aristotlean biology follows the concept of the organic form.

I had a similar thought but my goal was to pull Ars to Newtonian Physics. So Issac Newton was the one who had the breakthroughs to do it.

The problem here is that magic (almost by definition) violates the Law of Conservation of Energy

Only if you do not consider magic as a form of energy

Could you expand on this for a bit? Professional curiosity.

@dave_t_i Yeah, I own the GURPS - 4th edition - Thaumatology book and its imfo is interesting. I love GURPS from a reading perspective though I would never actually run a game.

On Time. My idea is for a comprehensive magic system rather then keeping it consistent with Ars Magica's structure of the divine.

On Time magic it mostly for seeing the past and future, divination an scrying. I can also see slowimg and speeding up local time. I coud also see at a cery difficult level some time travel, but that ain't easy.

@loke I'll have to look up WorldTree. I like inspiration for this.

I especially like the idea of orogional research to expand the Art list.

On the other part, magic is magic and I'm fine with it breakimg science laws. I want it to uphold its own internal laws, but they can be different from science.


Im now thinking of there being 24 loctions around the city site, one for each Art, who through study leads to the development of the high magic.

One of the challenges in understanding physics and energy conservation in particular is that it is not always obvious where the energy ends up, even when you know, theoretically, that it must go somewhere.

Also so with magic.

The wizard can obviously channel energy into and out of the physical plane.

This is obviously misrepresented in many games, as the wizards typically has to expend energy (mana or whatever) regardless of whether he is feeding energy into the physical plane or out of it. That's just silly.

A realistic Newtonian magic system has to track this energy balance. Possibly it is the wizard's soul (maybe spirit, but I prefer soul) which acts as a battery. If the magical effect drains energy from the physical plane, the wizard charges his battery. If he overdoes it, he may overcharge (with effects left to the reader's imagination). Conversely, if he feeds energy into the physical plane, he drains his battery. This is probably quite safe until exhausted.

This possibly makes to much bookkeeping for roleplaying, but I can imagine an interesting tactical game, even though I don't have a complete design.

Alternatively, the wizard's soul is only a conduit for energy passing between the physical plane and the astral plane. It is a pity that Ars Magica does not describe what happens to the energy on the astral plane.

Does this answer your question?