Arcane and sympathetic penetration bonuses on areas

It has always been my take that using arcane and sympathetic connections to raise your penetration multiplier can be used only to gain more penetration when the target of the AC is the entity that has the magic resistance.

Tonight, I was walking my dog and I thought of a magus who has an AC and sympathetic connections to a room. He then casts a spell on that room with a huge penetration. Surely, this would only matter if the room itself had magic resistance to penetrate. It couldn't be used to penetrate the Parma of a magus who happened to be in the room at the time of casting.

I looked in the core book and I sadly did not find the language to clearly back my position. No big deal thought I, it's my game I'll run it how I want to.

But is my intuition wrong? Would that be a neat option to have in the game? What changes in the setting and in game play if you give characters the option of getting penetration multipliers for target Room, Structure, and Boundary spells?

T:Room R:Touch is a magnitude higher than T:ind R:Voice.
Touching the room is enough to gain a good sympathetic connection.
When cast from outside, those inside won't hear you.
If that kind of ambush yields a high penetration, it makes life... interesting.

You wrote sympathetic connection, but you'd need an arcane connection in order to get the added value for a sympathetic connection (p84). Yet neither would be particularly difficult to attain.

For ambush purposes, opening the intangible tunnel exists as a great choice and you've already got an AC or this discussion wouldn't be relevant.

Having had a few more minutes to imagine a setting where magi could target rooms with big penetration, I'm not loving it. The game gives many more options to raise penetration than to raise magic resistance, so adding another option isn't as great as all that, we've already got plenty of options. The stories we tell about gathering an AC and crafting sympathetic connections feel a bit more epic than stories about luring your target into a specially prepared room. Although having the choice to tell either story isn't all bad.


It's an interesting interpretation issue.

Page 82 Core rules " If the penetration total exceeds a target’s magic resistance, the spell affects that target. If a spell is targeted at several individuals who have different levels of magic resistance, it is
possible for the spell to affect some but not others."

I've added the bolding to a bit I see is key to the following interpretation. That suggests it is possible to differentiate between the targets in the room, and justifies saying the penetration boost must be the actual person being affected by the spell.

Page 84 Core rules "Penetration is the ability of a spell or other magical ability to get through any magic
resistance that the target might have. Any character with the Penetration ability can use sympathetic magic to increase the penetration of her magic."

Interpretation 2. The target is the room, and a room of death for magical resistant beings can be made.

At some level, I like the planning needed to make a room of death and to engineer events so the target gets in there. That planing deserves some reward. At the same time it feels thematically against the logic behind the sympathetic boost.

At least we can't get crazy high boosts for a room. It won't have a horoscope, and claiming it has a nickname "room of death" is a stretch.

.... hang on, does this mean a Target:room , Demon's eternal oblivion never penetrates?

Isn't this all just a Target/target mixup? If I'm casting PeVi that effects demons with T:room the spell only attempts to effect any demons in the room, not the room itsself (unless that's a demon I guess)

Further I think allowing magi to use the targets of their touch spells as arcane connections for those same spells is probably A. Hazardous for your game and B. At least a little rules sketchy


There appears to be a very simple reason for that: Targets like Group, Room, Structure and Boundary are defined only on ArM5 p.112f - providing structure to spells and effects.
Such targets are not considered for p.84ff Arcane Connections, Penetration, Magic Resistance. Whether an Hermetic spell is T: Room or T: Structure is irrelevant for these aspects. The topic there is just magic affecting things and beings, not p.112f details of spells and effects.

But we do have examples on p84 of Arcane Connections to places, rather than to creatures. So having an AC to a room is quite possible.

Yes, of course. See e. g. p.145 Summoning the Distant Image.

But also compare p.85 The Functioning of Magic Resistance:

If the maga is the Individual target of the spell, a resisted spell simply fails to work, if she is part of a Group or large Target, the spell fails to work on her, but may affect other people within the target.

This strongly hints, that Target categories of spells or effects - as far as they could be addressed without listing them before they were defined - do not affect her Magic Resistance.

Well, no. There isn't really any reason to think the MR of a potentially affected person or item would vary depending on the Target type, is there?

The question is rather if the Penetration of a spell can vary depending on if it is the main Target of the spell or some other affected person/item.
RAW, I believe the Penetration will not vary, but I am not so sure that is how we want it to be.

Yep. So what do we wish to argue about?

No, That's not what we're discussing at all.

I have a difficult time believing that statement was intended to refer to anything else aside from targeting a collection of individuals who don't all have the same magic resistance. If one target has MR10, another MR 53 and your spell has a penetration of 20 then you're only going to penetrate the lower magic resistance critter/person.

Looking for language that more clearly states that the greater penetration achieved by use of an arcane connection only applies to penetration against that specific target might turn up something. But I don't think that this is it.

This one strikes me as a much stronger argument. The, as you called it, "room of death" interpretation conflates the target of the spell with the Target spell parameter.

I didn't say it was a good justification. :slight_smile:
I agree it's weak, but if a SG wants to avoid the room of death option, they can work with it.

Let's take the case of Arc of Fiery Ribbon.
The mage has an AC on one of the target (small T) that are getting caught into the Arc.
The penetration total against this specific target will be higher than against the other targets. Yes, it means that players/SG have to compute two different penetration totals, but I believe it is an occurrence rare enough not be such an issue that would bog down game.

If we agree on the Arc case, then the Room case can be sorted the same way: the mage has AC on the room (and whatever sympathetic connection). It will allow him to more easily bypass the Aegis (for example), but each potential target within the room would face a penetration total that would not account the AC bonus.
Yes, it is a bit more math to handle, but I think it remains consistent with the body of rules


Had more urgent things to do than answer this until now. Sorry. I try to spell out p.84 Penetration now.

By p.84 penetration applies only, if a target has Magic Resistance. If that target is targeted because within an Hermetic "container" Target or T: Group, then the properties of an AC to that target and eventual sympathetic connections to it, but not to a Hermetic "container", T: Group or such, apply.

"Container" Targets or T: Group are not defined and do not appear in p.84 Penetration - so any accidental AC bonuses for "containers" or T: Group are not relevant for Penetration against a target targeted by means of them.

Thanks for giving us your thoughts, however, you seem to suggest what you've written is so clear and obvious, that everyone was a fool for not interpreting it the way you have stated.

What makes your view of this so compelling? What wording in the rule book?

One could interpret your ruling as having a side effect of meaning penetration on any room spell must be 0.

The rules for Penetration Total on p82 keeps talking about the Penetration Total, implying a spell only has one Penetration Total.
But it is hardly conclusive proof one way or the other.

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As written there is one penetration total, and potentially multiple levels of magic resistance. For example if I cast a spell through an Aegis at a room full of people everyone would get the MR provided by the aegis, but the mage would get the MR based on the combination of both th aegis and their own parma and form bonuses.
If I use an AC and sympathetic bonuses to the spell's target (the room) then I would increase my penetration on everyone in the room, but I would not be able to use sympathetic bonuses to an individual I believed to be in the room since they are only coincidentally a target.
whether or not that is how it should work or not is a different matter, as it does allow sympathetic bonuses to something like a room to be able to overcome a mage's parma and personal defenses. On the other hand a well prepared casting being able to overcome natural advantages does seem to be pretty on point to me, and can be thought of as preparing to use the room as an amplification for precisely those purposes.

As for ACs to places, it could be that they are just useful for spells with guidelines specifically requiring an AC to a place, like the Seven League Stride?

I tend to agree that a key issue is that a spell with T:Room or Circle is not targeting the Room or Circle, but its contents. So ... hmm... I'm not really sure how an AC to a chest would work when you really are trying to affect its contents; it feels like it should not provide a bonus to penetration.

Then again, note that T:Structure explicitly affects both the Structure and its contents. So, based on the fact that there seems to be one penetration total, one may perhaps not have a Room of death, but a Ship of death?

Finally, what would an AC to a Group be, and work? In some way, I have the feeling that it's something that should be an AC to everything in the Group. Or perhaps a group of ACs would work?

Hmmm. Writing this post I am coming to the conclusion that this is a much broader problem than just penetration. It's really about ACs to any Target other than an Ind. We should get @David_Chart involved :slight_smile: