Ars is a spell list game

Not to pick on anyone in particular, but over in that other thread this popped up and I felt the need to comment: Ars is a spell list game, just look at the guidelines.

Yes, true, there isn't a specified list of spells. However, if you want to make a spell, even a spontaneous one, that spell more than likely conforms to the guidelines. If you want to make a spell not covered by those guidelines you're stuck making up a new guideline. Things like shadows, concepts like "Justice", and so forth just aren't available in RAW.

One of the innovations I absolutely love in ArM5 is the guideline section of each spell, so I can see how the spell was constructed. Unfortunately, we aren't given any guidance on how to make up new guidelines other than the old "compare it to the others and see what feels right". That's the essence of a spell list, imo.

Ranty Rich

No, that it is not, it is not as much a list as a few sets of interconnecting variables (duration, target range) and an intensity (in the guidelines is an example of intensity level) that compute to a spell level.

A set of three variables of 5 choices each applied to a set of 10 intesity levels will make 5x5x5x10=1250 choices per form, for a staggering 12500 choices. That is, if only one type of intensity level is stated, but often there are existing spells that you can gauge your new idea from.

My R:Per D:Mom T:Ind catch my finger on fire is fundamentally the same as your R:Sight D:Sun, T: Boundary spell that burns a forest because they are both based on the the same "start a fire" guideline. Sure, there may be 1000 choices of ways to extend the base guideline but they all amount to the same thing: start a fire.

To say that my Magic Missle spell isn't 2nd level anymore because I added some range and I can shoot 10 of them to make it 6th level doesn't change the fact that it's a Magic Missle spell. :wink:



Can you give an example of a free-form magic system that doesn't use guidelines or some sort? Mage does...

The only one I can think of is Everway, and that one is basically very grainy and forces you to rely on GM call with only a very few clues as to what is allowable...

Ars Magica is a free form magic system with guidelines so that spells can be developed consistently. These guidelines do not cover all eventualities so when a magical effect not precisely covered by the guidelines comes along then the players/SG have to decide what level is needed as the guidelines cannot cover all situations . There is no concieveble way to cover everything with guidelines precisley however it is just a matter of comparing effects and making a choice. In any event strict application of guidelines without an SG Fudge factor can easily produce broken spells(not as easily as in 4th edition) such as Lungs of Watery death my most hated spell in every version of the system for being broken and wrong.
In a spell list system (the most extreme example is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) there are a limited number of spells available and if you want a spell which does something different you are completely out of luck there is no system support for designing a new spell.

Ars is what it is and debate regarding whether it should be called a spell list game or not, has no real relevance to how the game is played.

That being said if you described ars as a spell list game to someone who is unfamiliar with ars you would give them a dramatically flawed understanding of the system.

Also,, ars is not a spell list game. Characters can create spells that do not conform to any printed guideline and they can do it at the spur of the moment. Also only spontaneous spells have to conform to the described ranges durations and targets, any other hermetic magic is free to use special parameters (at the cost of increased difficulty) The essence of a spell list is choosing from some choice on a list. Because the guidelines and parameters, being examples rather than exhaustive, are not limited Ars is not a spell list system.

Rich, you seem to argue that because magi are restricted to spells that could be described in terms of techniques and forms that it is a list, but the number of possible guidelines and therefore the number of spells is infinite. Are you saying that because there is some theoretical infinite list of spells that ars is a spell list system?

I would argue that the fact that the players create their own spells rather than select them from a group of choices that the game is not a spell list game.

I know this doesn't really matter either way, and I don't mean to gore anybody's ox. Perhaps I should have titled this thread "Ars is like a spell list game". Or perhaps "The guidelines are the spell list".

Arts have little to do with what I'm talking about except as a categorization tool for guidelines. Healing an animal is fundamentally the same as healing a human. The game may force us to use two separate spells but the guidelines are pretty much the same.

The number of possible guidelines may be infinite, but any guideline I come up with is probably not portable so the guidelines really are finite--those printed in the rules. The rules do not provide for a mechanism to generate new guidelines other than "do what feels good" which, given the mechanism for generating new spells based on those guidelines, seems weak. When generating new spells we have loads of rules to make them make sense. When generating new guidelines we fumble around and hope. If I want to add a new spell to a spell list, I've got to "do what feels good" as well. Thus, in my mind that makes the Ars magic system fundamentally the same as a spell list system.

But anyhow, I'm rambling again.

Even using only the printed guidelines, there is an infinite number of spells. Take for example the guideline:

"CrIg 2 Heat an object to be warm to the touch."

You can use this guideline to create a spell to heat a target's armour. You can use this guideline to create a spell to heat a frying pan. You can use this guideline to create a spell to heat a sleeping pallet, to keep warm in winter. You can use this guideline to create a spell to dry a room.

The list goes on. These are all different spells.

Every guideline can be used in heaps of different ways. You are not limited by a list of spells.

Sigh, I guess I can't communicate well enough to get this across (and as noted it doesn't really matter anyhow). You are limited by the list of guidelines.

I think that this is the point of disagreement. I do not think I am limited by the list of guidelines in any meaningful way.

If you are limited, it's because the storyguide limits you. The "guidelines" are "guidelines." If you want to do something that isn't covered by a guideline, you use the guidelines to give you an idea of what level the effect should be. As long as it doesn't violate any of the Hermetic Limits, then the storyguide should allow you to do it.

My character wanted to create a spell that would allow him to walk as quickly as a horse runs. There is no guideline for this. Level 15 effect is move someone very quickly in any direction. Level 5 is move someone slowly in any direction. I used a Level 10 as my guideline, even though no such guideline exists in the RAW. No problem.

The only true limits are the Hermetic Limits. Everything else is achievable through Hermetic magic.

And the only impassable Limits are the Greater Limits, for that matter. It is proven that the right Breakthrough or Mystery Initation can easily bypass or break down most of the Lesser Limits (Aging, Arcane Connections, Creation, Energy, True Feeling, Vis, and Warping).

rich_evans wrote:

So what you want is, not only a list of guidelines, but a list of guidelines for coming up with guidelines? I actually think you're on to something there. We have a finite list of guidelines and even though they may be used to generate an infinite list of spells, it would still be nice to know exactly what level a spell is without first going over it with your impatient GM who wants to kill you. Actually I don't have a problem delegating the choice to the GM. But I would be interested in seeing your idea for "meta-guidelines" for creating guidelines, and I'm sure the creators of Ars Magica would like to have that as well, to save them time in playtesting. However, if you had such meta-guidelines, the clearer and stronger they were, the more someone might argue that they, too, could put limitations on the types of spells possible, and that we need guidelines for creating guidelines for creating guidelines. If you loosened the meta-guidelines to the Everway degree, someone might argue that they are too, as you put it, "weak", and/or "do-what-feels-good." I still would like to see people's ideas for meta-guidelines, I just don't think they would make the system any closer to being perfect.

I would like a guideline for coming up with guidelines :slight_smile: Specifically for conjunctive effects.

I always stick to generalists casters and spontaneous magic because I'm largely uncreative when it comes to making a formulaic spell that is useful enough to make it a formulaic spell. Then after I play I come up with a great idea for a spell, but my characters kinda suck and won't be able to invent it because the guidelines say its a large magnitude spell and I almost never specialize.

The guidelines listed in 5th ed are much better and more in depth than the 4th ed, which is great. But I would like to see more. My particular pet complaint has to do with Ice. Perdo Ignem has a spell to freeze someone solid, with no corpus req... but other forms more suitable for freezing in ice are higher magnitude, freezing someone solid would be something Corpus with Terrem and Aquam reqs or any combination of them which amounts to the same. You need 3 high Forms to invent and cast because they don't work together to create a conjunctive effect.
While my example is Ice specifically, there are other effects that are a combination of Forms that I would like to see be easier because they combine them.

Combining Arts, more specifically Forms increases the level of a spell more than the increase of effect gained. They don't work together to create better effects or make an effect easer to accomplish. This also inadvertently pushes the player to rely on spells from their specialty and thus be dependent on their 'spell list'. For instance if you are creating a Creo Aurum spell to make a localized storm, a general unnatural storm is magnitude x, if you add an Aquam requisite to make the storm a cold sleet storm that covers everything in ice. The spell is higher level than the more general "Make a storm" spell and then specifying sleet. And the specific Sleet Storm spell is harder to cast. Likewise, if you went the other way and did Creo Aquam to cover everything in ice and then added an Aurum req. for some cold wind. Yes the spell with a req. is going to be more potent, but it’s pretty specific.

When coming up with a character concept you ask yourself, what do I want to do. More common than not the thing you want to do most is based on one or two Art combinations at a high level. So you specialize to do the one or two things in your shtick and then you weigh the 'spells in your list' and merely progress learning spells in that List. Ie Creo Ignem or Perdo Corpus. Sometimes you grab a useful utility spell based on one Art you are strong in. The character rarely picks up spells with requisites because as a specialist they have very few other Arts they are accomplished with.

One good spell mastered is better than any amount of creative spontaneous casting. Because of that I see a lot of stacking arts to do the one thing well, then pick spells from the list and master them and that’s all you do. In that case the game unintentionally becomes 'spell list based' because it encourages it. By spell list I'm talking about RoleMaster type spell lists.

Part of the problem in creating spells is the progression of magnitudes, after a spell breaks lvl 5 additional range etc increases by 5 levels. So any spell based on an effect lvl 5 or above becomes really high level, requiring a specialist. This encourages specialization to be able to do 1 cool thing, but then everything else you do is from the spell list of that Art combination. (But if you are going to be a specialist, just do Ignem, Perdo, Creo, or Corpus and leave the others alone, :stuck_out_tongue: )

Some rule to lessen the level of spells with conjunctive effects is needed to make the spell system more like it is intended. Right now I think it encourages over specialization and just picking from your list. IE like Role Master where Creo Ignem is Fire Law.

The guidelines are the guidelines for this.

If you want a new guideline, look at the existing ones to gauge what level it should be.

As for effects that combine Arts, look at the example spells (in any of the ArM5 books) for models for what to do.

I think you miss understand, I mean for Form or even Technique combinations working together to create more powerful effects or to lessen the level required for an effect. Instead of being just a requirement for a spell and making it more difficult.

For instance Creo Aquam can create an unnatural liquid. Muto Aquam can transform a normal liquid to unnatural. What i would like to see is Creo and Muto Aquam together to make an unnatural liquid easier than just Creo.

I see the guidelines as an "intensity level" the way I stated before, this means that you can gauge effects of similar intensity.

As for the requirements: this is where foci are very strong, but I also think that requirements in and on themselves are restricting enough without the +1 magnitude.

I don't think that Hermetic magic works like that.

Combining Arts makes things trickier, not easier. You combine Arts to make some things possible not to make things easier.