Bash's House Rules

I can't do the whole thing here in one post, it would be unreadable. But for starters, my troupe's rules (they're not really "mine") go basically like this:

Parma Magica is a spell (as per 1st or 2nd ed., I forget which), always a ReVi. A maga gets the highest level Parma they can learn (using regular formulaic rules, so it must be within 10 pts. of her Re+Vi+Int total) for free, not part of the 150 levels of spells at the start. It works the same as the ability, i.e., you have to cast it at sunrise/set (or go without until you do). Range is always Self, duration always Sun--these cannot be extended with vis or via any other manner.

Your Magic Resistance is thus: Level of Parma+Form being used against you+simple die.

This goes against the Penetration Total, which is: Technique+Form+Stm (formulaic) or Int (spontaneous)+Aura+Penetration Talent+ vis (Art specific) used specifically to increase spell roll (+5 per pawn)+ stress die. Magical critters use their Might Score+simple die for penetration.

It can be blown down by a PeVi spell (Wind of Mundane Silence), if the Penetration total of the PeVi doubles the Level of the Parma. We do not have a Disenchant spell (it was way too easy to destroy even an archmage's talisman); the only way to "break" a magic item is to physically break it or destroy it in the Lab (more on that in another post).

We use 4th ed Combat rules pretty much in their entirety. A lot of folks seemed to not like them, but we found the added lethality a more enjoyable dose of "realism". And 3rd ed combat rules made for melees that lasted hours, and too many dice rolls. I like the single die roll (or two if you have to do Initiative), and it made Brawl a much more potent option. Now a man with a dagger is as dangerous as he should be, assuming he can close. I also think (and seem to be alone in this opinion) that armor was just fine: really high Soak scores make for fights that lasted way too long, especially if there are more than 4 or 5 combatants.

I'll post more but you can look them up on my covenant website; sidebar, lower left-House Rules. Don't worry, I'm not selling anything, it's just my troupe's nerdy homepage. Ready for the coolest URL ever (next to, that is)?

Why do you feel a spell is superior to an ability? Why is it better to let ReVi specialists have excellent MR but leave a Flambeau CrIg specialist with a poor one? Why is it better to have a Wind of Mundane Silence shut down a Parma? I feel the Ability model can work better, provided that there are enough books on the subject in Hermetic circles.

As for combat - I don't really remember 4e, but it is my recollection that I generally liked 3e better...

Can't speak for the original poster, but for my saga, there were a couple of reasons we tried Parma as a spell. 1) As an ability it was just one more of (we felt) far too many abilities magi needed to sink exp into. 2) It felt more intuitively correct to us for it to be a spell. 3) It allowed a lot of interesting diversity in "Parma" spells (Ind, Group, Structure, Moon, etc.) and allowed Parma magic items.

We found that Parma-as-spell worked just fine in our saga.

You're not subtracting spell/effect level from penetration and you're still using vis at +5 per pawn!?! You make penetration very very easy in your game (at least when compared to fifth edition core rules). Those aren't portions of old editions that I would have chosen to hold on to. I'm going to play advocate for potions of the present rules that I'm especially fond of. Here's what I think that you have to gain by moving closer to the printed rules, (aside from giving your players a shorter list of house rules to deal with, thus making the game simpler for them):

If you subtract spell level from penetration you allow a situation where targets can be effected by weak spells but not by strong spells. In the rules that you have a target that can be effected by a perdo corpus spell that tickles his nose and perhaps makes him sneeze can just as easily be hit by a perdo corpus spell that dices him up into bite sized chunks. I've run lots of conflicts where things are balanced where a target can be effected by weker spells but not by stronger spells. Here's an example; Our Merinta muto specialist along with companions and grogs faced off against a ferocious minotaur, she tried to turn him into a toad round on one, what a waste of a possibly dramatic scene! (the set up for a fearsome conflict is interrupted by the instantaneous transformation of the antagonist to a frog, could it get any more anti climatic?) Instead of succeeding that spell bounced off of the creatures might, and a fantastic fight scene took place where the Maga successfully cast arm of the infant on the minotaur twice. Now imagine if the Minotaur's might was just too high to allow any spells through at all, our merinita maga might have spent the combat whiffing at the Minotaur hoping for a monster die roll (OK if she was smart she would have found some way to alter the battle without requiring penetration). The all or nothing Magic resistance approach of previous editions is a hindrance to exciting stories involving spell conflict.

Vis at +5 per pawn (rather than say +2 per pawn, per the printed rules) makes magic resistance a non-issue when it really matters. You can't challenge a party of magi with a powerful dragon over the course of the game because it only take a few pawns of vis to get any spell at all through on the dragon (say rego mentem spell to make the dragon suppress his magic resistance). The same goes for Archamgi , Demons and Archangels. Big vis boosting is an easy to obtain "I win" button when combined with the flexibility of Hermetic magic. Characters are significantly less likely to struggle against difficult odds to acheive great deeds because it's so very frequently scads easier for them to just grab a pile of vis, wave their arms and POOF their problems are all magically solved.

You do realize that disenchant is a ritual that needs to have a higher level than the highest level effect of the targeted enchanted device. Ergo an archmage's talisman with a highest level effect of say 70 requires a ritual spell of higher than level 70 which means more than 14 pawns of perdo or vim vis and at least three and a half hours of time to cast (in addition to spending one season learning the spell from lab notes - if you have lab notes available for a level 75 spell that's only purpose is to destroy enchanted devices at the cost of a rook and a half of vis. What? you don't have those notes available? well, I'm sure you'll have no problem whatsoever researching the spell yourself :unamused: , heck you could even research it at level 71 and save some time.)

I can't imagine that anyone would ever learn or cast disenchant. It's always much easier to simply destroy to item in question.

You are alone, to my knowledge, in the opinion that it's just fine that armor makes you easier to hurt rather than more difficult to hurt. But aside from that I'm very surprised at your affection for fourth ed. combat. Out of all of the combat systems we've had, fourth is far and away the most rulesy and complex, considering your dropping of the familiar rules on account of their complexity I would have thought that fourth edition combat wouldn't have even merited a full read through. (I'm not saying that it doesn't have its merits but it has too much grade school arithmetic and remembering totals from round to round and from attack to damage for my tastes)

Wind of Mundane silence
can tear down a parma in fifth edition as well (p. 161). A difference in this regard with a spell is that parma could be stripped by using unraveling the fabric of vim rather than requiring a separately researched parma ripper spell.

Of course with Bashs' rules the penetration total of the WoMS or (appropriate perdo vim) has to double the level of the parma. That's a bit odd in that it is no better to use a level 50 spell than a level 1 spell seeing as penetration isn't tied to spell level.

Personally I enjoyed having it as both a spell and an ability, I see why this was changed in fifth ed. but I'm not sure that it made the game more fun.

  1. The Parma ability is a unique function of magic and it felt disconnected from the rest of the framework of the magic system; kind of an odd duck.
  2. There were already far too many abilities and too few xp to satisfy our magi's desires--finesse, penetration, concentration, certamen (if you're into that), affinities, not to mention the myriad other skills and talents you might want for your mage.

My Flambeau is a CrIg specialist, but not exclusively. Obviously a ReVi specialist can have the best parma, but this will be his only advantage. It's suicide to totally specialize (my Flambeau has a decent Co and Me, for defensive purposes, but he can still immolate you).

It's not better per se, but it gives dueling wizards a variety of tools in their toolbox, and potential threats to be paranoid about.

Not saying we hated the idea, just keeping it a spell kept the aesthetic consistent (you have all these magic spell, plus this ONE magic ability)

Everyone's got preferences. We liked 4th ed combat better because it was, like the library in 3rd ed, simple, streamlined and very enjoyable. In 3rd ed combat one player ended up making 3-5 die rolls per combat round; in a decent-sized melee the number of botches on all sides made a mess. Combat dragged on interminably. 4th ed combat was a work of near-genius, IMHO.

GASP! Subtract the spell level from the Penetration? Heresy! :open_mouth:

Exactly why my troupe would scoff at such an idea. So if I go to all the trouble and effort to keep my magus alive long enough to become an archmage (or equivalent) who, after a lifetime of sacrifice and study and risk, is finally able to invent and cast really powerful spells and some upstart pipsqueak of a fledgling declares Wizards' War on me then he has the advantage over me?! My Clenching Hand of the Crushed Heart can't penetrate his measly 20th Lvl parma but his Confusion of the Numbed Will can penetrate my 40th Lvl parma?! That's just absurd to me. Ludicrous. That turns the whole power-incline on its head, rewarding weak characters and punishing strong ones. Why ever learn a powerful spell at all, except to torment mundanes (which can be easily done by pipsqueaks anyway). Young magi aren't supposed to be able to challenge ultra-powerful ones, at least not in a straight power contest. Same for faerie queens and demon lords. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight!

I disagree emphatically. I appreciate your desire to inject more drama into stories, but I don't think you need to fundamentally alter the magic system in order to do so. Know your magi's strengths and weaknesses--so the SG should make the creature's Might stronger than the maga's Penetration if she doesn't want the fight over in a single round. The minotaur is still vulnerable to unresisted spells, and every maga should be aware of these tactical concepts. Sometimes a player outfoxes the SG, or the SG didn't take into account a maga's abilities/grimoire--if your minotaur is going to get clobbered in 1 round and you wanted this scene to be epic FUDGE IT. This idea you have is a heavy-handed, arbitrary and counter-intuitive solution looking for a problem. I think you're coddling players who lack the creativity to come up with alternative solutions, and punishing players who dedicate lots of time and effort to learn/invent powerful spells. That's no fun. Oh, and it also seems to be bending over backwards to appease players who want their creo or muto (or whatever) specialist to be just as powerful as the rego specialist. There's a reason that super-specialization is a double-edged sword, but this rule seems to remove that risk. My advice to that Merinita magus if he/she were in our campaign: 1) put at least 1 or 2 unresisted spells in your repertoire, 2) work on your Penetration Talent and 3) save some vis for emergencies.

This is not true at all. The SG limits how much vis is available in the magical "economy". You can't prevent players from hoarding, but if they're hoarding then they're also not enchanting magic items, etc., so it will have a balancing effect. It takes more than a few pawns to penetrate a powerful dragon's resistance if you design your critters correctly. I ran a story where 2 magi (both quite powerful, it was after 20+ yrs. of game time) and a small cohort of grogs confronted just such a monster. One magus had no spells that would've hurt the thing even with a truckload of vis, so he went to work with his magic sword (he was a martial-oriented mage anyway), while his comrade cast lightning bolts energized with handfuls of the stuff. Several grogs were slain, the sword-wielding magus nearly got toasted, and it took 3 lightning bolts to finally bring the beast down. It was an epic scene, everyone loved it, and no one felt like I cheated or it was too easy. Just make sure your dragon has a formidable Soak and lots of body levels.

How do you figure? Armor adds to your soak. If you don't like being encumbered (and no one does) you have a range of options. Wear lighter armor. Change the Soak and/or Load values to suit your taste. Personally we don't want our sagas to be full of grogs all clad in full chainmail because it's not realistic. In medieval Europe chainmail was very expensive and rare, not to mention restricted to the nobility. If everyone can wear it it's too D&D for our taste. Other opinions differ. Reduce the Loads if you think it's too restrictive.

At first read we thought the same, but a friend who totally converted to 4th convinced us to stick with it and now combat flows like we always wanted it to. I think it's clean and elegant, unlike 3rd. I like that there's no initiative roll unless the fighters want to fight at different ranges, I like the whole concept of the ranges and the advantage/disadvantage. Like I said, in 3rd ed combat everyone rolls First, then roll Attack and Defense (2 separate rolls), then they roll for Damage, and for Soak! You are guaranteed to botch multiple times in almost every combat, rather than it being a relatively uncommon event. Multiply that times 3-5 grogs and it was a glorious mess. 4th ed rules were also more intuitive. Medieval combat was a brutal slugfest, there was very little art to it. There were no ninjas, no kung fu, not much dancing around. I think "who goes first" is a question that should never be asked in this style of combat. But, a quick, lightly-armored (or unarmored) fighter with a dagger can use that speed to get in, stab, and get out...that makes sense. But a wiry little rogue with no armor and a knife should be terrified of an armored man wielding a big, nasty medieval weapon.

I'm not sure what you mean by "...separately researched parma ripper...", since WoMS works on all spells (or it did in 3rd ed, which is our definition). Don't know what UtFoV is but I'm all for new spells and effects and such.

You're correct, and I misquoted our house rules. WoMS Lvl does need to double the Parma Lvl, not the Penetration total. Sorry. Penetration has nothing to do with it, since the Wind is trying to overwhelm a parma, not penetrate it.

It really makes not much difference...six of these, half a dozen of the other. You still have to do a "ritual" every sunrise and sunset to activate your parma, it still resists magic. How it's applied is the key.

Wind of mundane silence needs to double the level of the target spell. Unraveling the fabric of (form) only needs to exceed the level of the spell but it only works on spells of (form). Thus there are ten spells unraveling the fabric of Animal, unraveling the fabric of Aquam...

If parma is a spell then unraveling the fabric of vim could target it. If parma is an ability, then none of the form specific spells can effect it , you'd need to develop something new.

It makes a difference. Characters can do sneaky stuff with a spell parma, like develop duration diameter parmas at lower levels that the standard spell, create parma items, throw a parma in a duration sun non-ritual waiting spell and so on.

Parma as an ability allows everyone access to strong magic resistance it allows formidable magical defenses to be developed by characters who are weak in rego and vim.

Opening up both options allowed more variety, in how to go about it. That was what I liked.

According to the 1st ed rules on the parma spell we still use a Parma can only have Range: Self, Duration: Sun., no exceptions. We have limited parma items by ruling that a charm or magic item with a parma-like effect can only work using 1 Form at a time. So you could make an item that bestows a parma vs. any one Form (Co & Me immediately come to mind) but because you're limited by what you can do in the Lab it would be a truly exceptional grog/companion who got one. And we have no such creature as a non-ritual Waiting Spell.

True. There's no way around it, my troupe's rules do force magi to invest in those Arts if they want a decent parma. It needn't be excessive, though. My Flambeau magus was able to afford high enough CrIg for BoAF (with his affinity, granted) and a 25th Lvl parma, plus decent Forms in Co & Me for defense, and crap in everything else. It's the price of specialization.

Hi Bash, welcome to the new Berklist :smiley:
I understand your point of view, because I understand that you are operating under a different "Paradigm", employing older editions. Many features and concepts of Ars Magica fundmentally shifted for 5th edition. Where 4th, 3rd, and earlier were pretty much just upgrades of their predecessors, 5th edition is more of a revamp and many features are wholly redesigned.
One Major example is spell Penetration. Think of it this way; your Casting Total is the total amount of energy you created. Part of this energy is used to form the spell, and the rest is used to give it power to Penetrate resistance. That seems odd when viewed from the lens of 4th edition and erlier, but Parma in 5th uses a wholly different scale, and Penetration has additional benefits and bonuses you can acquire.
Using your example of the Archmagus versus the Pipsqueek. Your "Clenching Hand of the Crushed Heart" will have a casting total of at least 65, safe to say? The Pipsqueek is only going to have a Parma of one or two (Parma scores start at 1 in 5th ed), and your high level spell is still going to rip right through it even if he has a Parma of 4 (level "20"). His "Confusion of the Numbed Will" couldn't possibly have a Casting Total of more than 30 if he is only a Pipsqueek, -15 for his spell level leaves him with only a Penetration of 15. He has no hope of Penetrating your Magic Resistance of 40 with anything.
But put you up against another Archmagus, who also has a "level 40" Parma (a score of 8). My "Ball of Abysmal Flame" may not Penetrate your Parma, but my Pilium of Fire will. I have known this spell my whole life, I mastered it to Level 6 (in 5th edition, you can Master spells multiple times). I have a +6 to casting, another +6 to Penetration, I can cast 6 copies of the spell, I can Fast Cast the spell, and I know many other Mastery Tricks (you learn one for each level of Mastery). But then again, maybe you have mastered Clenching Hand of the Crushed Heart. You can choose Penetration as one of yoyr Mastery abilities, or Fast Cast, Multi Cast, and many others as well. Perhaps you have obtained an Arcane Connection, which you can use to Multiply the bonus from your Penetration score (the Penetration ability and use of Arcane Connections is much more important in 5th edition than it was previously).

4th edition was indeed much better than 3rd for combat. And, unlike many people, I made it work in my game. I ignored the Encumbrance penalty, which in 5th edition does not apply to Attack or Defense (only Initiative), and used an "arena", a bowl I had players roll an Attack and Defense die in at the same time I rolled the opponent's dice. It created atmosphere :slight_smile:
But you have not read 5th edition combat, which it now totally and utterly different. Body Levels are no more. You now take Wounds of different severity. Combat is still quite lethal, a single well placed blow can still kill you. Encumbrance is totally different, armour doesn't load you down as much, there is a more normalized combat sequence, magic mixes in the sequence now, and it flows much smoother.

But the crazy other stuff that you can do with parma the spell was in my opinion the most fun part of having it a spell rather than just an ability. You're missing out (but so am I as I use the rules as written in this circumstance).


And some of it is not so crazy! Every magus knows that no magus has Parma at sunrise or sunset, so every magus knows that his enemy is vulnerable then. A version of Parma that doesn't go down when expected is pretty useful. Of course, changing the Ability to remain on also works. :slight_smile:

(As an aside, Parma isn't that great a defense against other magi. Finesse lets you ignore it, a good total lets you punch through it (especially with an AC and sympathetic connections, and a Merinita with Folk Magic often laughs at Parma), and a strike at dawn makes it irrelevant.)



I'm afraid that your Heresy is the new orthodoxy (this isn't one of those "The Lake House "/ "Radio" things where you're posting from back in 1997 is it?) :laughing:

If you've never improved your parma and you've also perdo mentemed your lower level spells from your memory then that would indeed give an opponent an advantage regardless of whether they are a pipsqueek or not. Nothing in this rule gives an advantage to young magi in fact just the opposite, without strong arts it is difficult to get anything to penetrate.

I believe that Marko provided sufficent numbers to show that your conclusion that this helps young magi in comparison to their elders. If not I'd be willing to put more numbers on your screen to demonstrate.

The issue that all previous editions had is that every magus brought instant "I win" spells to every fight and all almost all magical conflicts came down to initiative rolls. Did you say that your character had a level 25 parma spell ? look at a moderately specialized starting magus; technique 9 + form 11 + stm 3 + die roll + confidence+ pentration score 2 ( 1 with a specialty in their best form) = 28 + die roll, your parma has no chance of helping you, even against a magus who the day before yesterday was an apprentice.

rebuttal, because I'm acting as the advocate of the current rules, not because I think that there's anything horrible about what you're doing:
So increasing the might of every creature to beyond what a character can penetrate is somehow not heavy handed and arbitrary? Pot, kettle, and so forth.

How does making penetration universally lower reduce the disadvantage of specializing? when one doesn't subtract spell levels one can still get some significant penetrations with "off specialization" magic. now it's more difficult to do so.

Relying on fudging things is not a sign of good design (you can always fudge, but a nice set of descriptive mechanics that describe what you want will make it a far less frequent occurrence).

A setting where rego specialists are significantly more combat worthy than creo or muto specialists is not actually a better setting. (of course I'm sure that you'll agree that there is plenty that a creo or muto specialist can do that isn't resisted as well). I don't know about you but I'm a bit tired of pit of the gaping earth being the solution to so many of a magus' problems (and I've been playing with this ruleset for five years).


I'm happy that your players had a great time. But what if rather than focusing on lightning spells and physical combat you had magi that focused on transformations, or controlling minds, it only takes one spell to tip things, can we make cool scenes for these magi as well?

Three pawns is only enough for the weakest of enchanted devices or a single season of study yet it gives +15 penetration, that's the same as years and years working on Arts and penetration, it only takes one spell (especially if you don't subtract level from penetration).

There are other ways to get penetration and they're more fun than hording vis but at +5 per pawn they're less effective, so you won't be encouraging the fun methods you'll be encouraging the miserly methods.

Do you think that you couldn't design a creature correctly to challenge the troupe at +2 per pawn? I don't see how it changes the game apart from making the characters focus on other methods to gain penetration and putting their vis into items rituals, or study

Armor in fourth had a load equal to soak, therefore for every point that you addded to your soak you subtracted one from your defense. On a single roll armor made absolutely no difference (the bonus to soak is counteracted by the penalty to defense). However the attacking character could carry over their advantage round to round and advantage comes from the difference in attack vs defense, the improved soak never comes in to it. So even not considering the disadvantages that encumbrance brings to the engagement roll or the fatigue roll, the more heavily armored character is more vulnerable. As you said, one could just adjust the load values of the armor or as Marko does you can ignore the encumbrance penalties to attack and defense. I was under the impression that you were using the rules unaltered.

Yup. This is, IMO, one of the greatest advantages of the new rules: Your old spells don't get useless as you get older.

Before, once you had learned Ball of Abysmall Flame, your Pilum was useless. Now, You'll use your BoF, unless it doesn't penetrate, inwhich case you'll try to use the pilum :smiley:

Unless I'm wrong, this isn't marko's house rule, but 5th edition's RAW :smiley:

Yes, it is, but I was speaking of fourth edition not fifth. (It might be tough to follow as I'm not the only one offering alternatives to Bash's rules, that he's perfectly happy with, in an attempt to show him the true glory of the rules that we happen to be perfectly happy with but wouldn't necessarily make his life better at all, thus the conversation gets convoluted).

I thought since my opinion differed on magic resistance I'd run over to the site and find something that was really cool that I could share enthusiasm with you about. But wow it's been so long since I've really looked at other editions I just can't get my head there completely I'm never sure what's been changed and what I'm just forgetting.

Your take on taking familiars being done as a ritual spell rather than by enchanting them as a device seems quite refreshing (I like how the target creature is changed).

I don't think that I understand what changes were done to the experimentation rules

Adding a stress die to all lab activities Do I have that right? That's intense, lab work is always dangerous in your game.