Avoiding Flicker

I'm curious whether there's any way to avoid flicker in a magic item absent making it a permanent effect. I'm thinking of Bilbo's ring as an example, a ring that turns you invisible when you put it on, but stops working as soon as you take it off.

Clearly this would be a PeIm effect like Veil of Invisibility with a Touch range, Concentration duration, Individual target, and unlimited uses, with possibly a trigger to start the effect (putting the ring on your finger). The concentration would be maintained whenever the ring was worn, but would stop when the ring was removed. (Which also neatly prevents more than one person from using the effect at the same time.) So far, so good.

But according to the rules (ArM5 core rules, p. 99) "Effects left to their own concentration start to wear off at sunset and sunrise. At these times the wielder must concentrate on the effect for a few moments to perpetuate it until the next sunrise or sunset, whichever comes first." Presumably the ring provides the needed concentration. Of note, the rules even say that this "effect is useful for things like invisibility rings, which have their effect when put on, and then maintain concentration and invisibility until removed."

As I understand conventional wisdom, however, this need for concentration would cause a flicker at sunrise and sunset. (Do I have that correct?) But so far as we know, Bilbo's ring didn't flicker at any time. When you had it on, you were invisible; when you took it off, you were visible again. Is there any way to replicate that effect in a way that doesn't cause flicker? Again, I know I could make it a permanent effect to avoid flicker. But we can assume I don't want to be permanently invisible. Is there a way under the rules that I can make a ring that keeps you invisible across the sunrise/sunset boundary without flicker?

Now, I realize that it's possible to use Moon duration to avoid flicker at sunrise/sunset. But that has two disadvantages: (1) there would still be flicker, albeit only at moonset of the latter of the new moon and the full moon; and (2) Once I put on the ring I'd be invisible for the entire Moon duration, even if I took off the ring, which is not the effect such a ring is supposed to have.

I understand that the answer to my question might be no. And while that's disappointing (and runs counter to the very example of an invisibility ring given in the rules), at least it's an answer I can work with.

Any thoughts from the gallery would be appreciated.

Have a look at ArM5 p.99 box Constant Effect Devices: no flicker there.

Details of items 'recasting' at sunrise and sunset without flicker are discussed here.


Thanks for your response.

I'm familiar with that portion of the rules. However, that deals with constant effects, which is not the effect of Bilbo's ring. The ring doesn't keep Bilbo invisible forever once it's activated. Rather, it turns him invisible or not based on whether he has the ring on or not - clearly a concentration-based effect (as evidenced by the rules using an invisibility ring by way of example in the section on concentration duration for magic items).

I understand that if the ring were made a constant effect it would avoid flicker. But that doesn't really meet the parameters of the item in question.

See a contrasting view on "constant" effects here. This discussion determined that "constant" effects were one-and-done effects that were not renewed each sunrise/sunset, but rather were cast once and then maintained forever. Curiously, they too had a quote from David Chart to support their interpretation.

I note as well that even under the interpretation made in your link (i.e., that the invisibility effect would end if Biblo were not in contact with the ring at sunrise/sunset), that still isn't quite an invisibility ring a la the Hobbit et al. According to that interpretation the ring would make you invisible regardless of whether you took it off until sunrise/sunset. I'm wondering if it's possible to emulate a ring that turns you invisible when it's worn, but turns you visible when you take it off, all without flicker. A tall order, perhaps.

I wouldn't see, how this can be done by just applying effect durations and triggers.

But ArM5 p.132 box Muto Corpus Guidelines has a provision to remove a spell effect by taking off a focus. Your storyguide and/or troupe might allow the ring to be such a focus for its invisibility effect, too.


Actually, the One Ring is exactly an example of a constant effect. It's simply that its power is to make its wearer (and all his stuff) invisible. Whoever the wearer is at any given time. You put it on? Then you're the wearer and you turn invisible. You take it off? You're no longer the waerer so you are no longer targeted by the effect and become visible again.

I'm not entirely certain how that would work, since the target would change based on who was wearing the ring.

I'd moistly picked this example because it was the one noted in the rules under concentration in items. In particular, the rules say:

That example of an invisibility ring isn't a constant effect. That's a ring with a certain number of uses a day that concentrates on keeping you invisible so long as you're wearing the ring. Something like this:

Ring of Invisibility
PeIm 33
R:Touch, D:Conc, T:Ind
The wearer of this ring becomes completely undetectable to normal sight, regardless of what he does, but still casts a shadow.
(Base 4, +1M Touch, +1M Conc, +1M changing image, +5 device maintains conc, +10 unlimited uses, +3 trigger: wearing the ring)
This comes very close to the effect I'd talked about. Anyone putting the ring on would turn invisible until they took the ring off again. The device will maintain concentration on the invisibility for as long as a person wears the ring, even across a sunrise/sunset boundary. (Presumably that would cost it another use, but the ring has unlimited uses.) If the person takes the ring off, they become visible. Then, if they put the ring on again, they become invisible. (The unlimited uses mean that the ring always works.) The only flaw with this ring is that it has flicker at sunrise/sunset. (Well, that and the fact that it gives you a Warping point every time you put it on, unless it was designed for you.)

Now, maybe flicker of non-constant effects is just an artifact of ArM5 magic that can't be gotten around. We could call it the Limit of Flicker. I wasn't sure, which is why I was asking. To restate my question, is having a constant effect the one-and-only way to avoid flicker, or is there some other mechanism to achieve it?

Strictly to the RAW I don't think a non-flicker can happen without using Constant Effect, which has other complexities.
The Ring sample above cannot have one constant spell on targets that arrive later, as they were not there when it was activated.
However, what about having a bound spirit in the item who casts the spell, or is bound to manage the effect? As a sentient entity it can manage the on/off of the invisibility effect, and recast as soon as the flickering period starts.
Either the spirit has a power it can use, or it has powers in the ring that it triggers.

FWIW... There isn't (IMHO) any particular reason to expect a unique artifact (arguably THE artifact, the pinnacle of magical achievement) from Middle Earth to be something perfectly-emulated in Mythic Europe. :smiley:

( ymmv )

I can't quite remember how the whole discussion about "permanent effects" went. I seem to recall that after initially leaning towards "cast once and maintain forever" the consensus, including the "canonical" interpretation as supported by errata, became "recast every sunrise and sunset, with no gap". The latter is certainly the interpretation I use in my saga.

With that interpretation, all you need to have a ring like Bilbo's, is to make an item that maintains concentration (+5 Levels) over a D:Conc effect, with Unlimited uses/day (+10 Levels) so you can "switch it on and off" an arbitrary number of times, and with an additional environmental trigger (+3 Levels) that automatically recasts the effect every sunrise and sunset if the ring is being worn at the time. Those +3 Levels are the price you pay for "avoiding flicker" (and the need to concentrate). Note that an item can have multiple triggers!

Alas, I don't think that's the interpretation in every saga. There is definitely a "cast once and maintain forever" camp.

There might be an interpretation of constant effects operating thusly (but again, I just checked the errata, and to me it appears a house rule deviating from the RAW). However, even under this interpretation, one can certainly have an item that recasts an effect every sunrise/sunset through an environmental trigger, and maintains Concentration on the effect between castings.

Incidentally, if you remove the environmental trigger, you require concentration on the part of the wielder twice a day, but according to the RAW there's still no flicker. The text specifically says that the wielder must "concentrate on the effect for a few moments to perpetuate it" - perpetuate, not renew.

I tend to agree with your interpretation, but it has come to my attention that others differ on that point. I wanted to see if there was a general consensus about whether flicker could be avoided in any way short of a constant effect. So far this issue seems quite muddled and very dependent upon your SG's interpretation of the matter. As to having an item that is genuinely two uses a day with a trigger recasting at sunrise and sunset (not a "constant" effect), I suspect that many would argue that absent the "constant" effect there would be flicker at sunrise and sunset as the enchantment was recast. That's why I started this thread, to try and see if there was general agreement on whether there was any way that flicker could be avoided in a non-constant item.

I agree with you on this as well. I too was struck by the use of the word "perpetuate" in that sentence. My understanding of that is that if you have a concentration-based item (whether the user or the item maintains the concentration), that you should be able to avoid flicker and "perpetuate" the effect by concentrating at sunrise and sunset. This is also supported by the description of rings of invisibility on p. 99 of the core rules, which are said to "have their effect when put on, and then maintain concentration and invisibility until removed." No talk of flicker there.

But as I say, it seems like there is a strong feeling among many that this is not the proper interpretation and that "flicker" occurs at sunrise and sunset as concentration is reapplied. (My so-called Limit of Flicker.) It seems to me that the wise player will check with his or her SG before making any assumptions about the presence or lack of flicker.

The issue on constant effects was because the official line position changed. It had been truly constant: fire once and forget. This was necessary for how some effects were written. More recently the official position changed to constant no longer being truly constant: repeated 2/day firing. (What I mean by this is there is no longer any identifiable value to the term "constant" with regard to Hermetic items other than as a shorter term for 2/day D: sun with sunrise/sunset triggers.) This change in stance necessitated more errata because some previously functional items became nonfunctional.

As for avoiding flicker and functioning as maintained D: Concentration, it's easily doable with invested devices. For instance, have D: Moon effect that triggers when you put on a ring and a PeVi effect that triggers when you take off the ring. If you don't want to deal with magic resistance later, you could do three effects: D: Concentration effect that also triggers ReVi to maintain it for D: Moon, and taking it off does PeVi on the ReVi spell. If you want it to run truly forever until taken off, throw in a ReVi effect that triggers on the moon to fire off the maintaining effect on the original spell. A lot of stuff can be pulled off if you're willing to avoid lesser enchanted devices and play around with triggers, concentration, and Vim effects.

Do you have a cite for that recent change in official position? I've looked at the errata, but can't seem to find the relevant portion(s).

I've toyed with some Moon durations to try and avoid flicker, but I've never tried greater devices with Vim effects. I guess I was trying to avoid needless complexity. (Yea, I know, if I'm trying to avoid needless complexity, why am I playing ArM?)

Look at The Anointing of the King in Hermetic Projects. It was originally 1/day, and I included that as part of what I sent in for the errata. However, it was ruled as correct at 1/day:

So the official stance had been constant effects are one effect and are "not actually cast twice a day." But more recently David wrote

So the official position has changed to constant actually happening twice a day, at sunrise/sunset. I essentially resent that bit for the errata, and if you now look at The Anointing of the King, it says,

Note the change to 2/day that was done to deal with the change in the official position. There may be some more effects that need to be addressed in the errata for exactly the same reason.

Ya, you seem to be looking at doing complex stuff while wanting to avoid complexity. :wink:

This all appears needlessly complex to me.

The corebook seems to strongly imply that two "consecutive" D:Sun effects leave no "gaps" between them.
It also suggests that D:Conc + "item maintains concentration" expires at sunrise/sunset, exactly like D:Sun, if left to itself.
So it seems that an item with D:Conc + "item maintains concentration", with an auto-renew trigger at sunrise sunset, would also leave no gap at sunrise/sunset (note: D:Conc + user concentration is extended, D:Conc + environmental trigger is renewed).

This may not be the only interpretation of the rules. However, it seems the most straightforward one, and one that avoids strange stuff like flickers; so I wonder what reasons a troupe may have not to adopt it.

You quote here a private message exchange you claim to have had with David Chart as "the official stance". AFAIK you do so without any authorization by David, or by Atlas Games.

Rather, David made clear that you had misunderstood him before.


Yes, in an email sent to me, and you are free to go up the laws to see that that is not any sort of privileged thing that cannot be shared. I could forward the whole thing along with headers and all as proof, but I have not done so. I don't feel like I sharing things like the information on his location when he sent the message.

Regardless, if you look by the dates of the errata changes, you can see that it was left as 1/day with the original The Anointing of the King errata (1/day only working with the fire-once-and-done interpretation) and then changed to 2/day (required for the repeated-firing interpretation) very shortly after David Chart made his more recent post. That provides some pretty solid completely publicly available information. As that has been publicly available and made so by Atlas Game is what truly makes the stance official.

Which is why Atlas Games had to go back and fix the errata because it no longer complied with their own stance? Try again. And, considering I had taken exactly the stance he later took and he told me I was wrong? Try again.

That doesn't work much differently than D: Sun 2/day environmental trigger unless the level is exceedingly low in which case you've cost yourself some levels. The advantage of D: Concentration is the turning on/off at will. But if you having it triggering off of sunrise/sunset, then you're giving up that advantage.

I fully agree that it's more costly except for exceedingly low level effects: you are paying D:Conc (+1 magnitude), unlimited uses (+10 levels), maintains concentration (+5 levels), and environmental trigger (+3 levels) vs. D:Sun (+2 magnitudes), 2uses/day (+1 level) and environmental trigger (+3 levels), so 1 magnitude less and 14 levels more. But as you correctly point out, the issue is to make an item that makes the wearer invisible whenever it's worn, and makes the wearer visible again as soon as it's taken off, which you can't achieve without having unlimited uses.

I disagree that with the sunrise/sunset triggering you are giving up the advantage. Basically, at sunrise someone is wearing the ring, the effect is renewed on that someone, as it should be. If nobody is wearing the ring, the effect is not produced and nobody becomes invisible. EDIT: I realize that this hangs on the interpretation that you may have an effect trigger on a combination of physical action + environmental trigger, e.g. a magic sword that produces an effect at sunrise only if it's unsheated at the time. I could see troupes forbidding it, but it seems needlessly punishing and it's not my case.