Charged Items & Penetration (Castillo Ocultos, do not read)

Players of the Saga Castillo Ocultos who read this forum (so, pretty much Brian), please do not read this post.

Repeat, this post contains spoilers for Castillo Ocultos. Please do not read.


Many players agree that Charged Items tend to be broken. 3 main effects combine to this:

  1. You need only meet the effect level with your lab total, rather than exceed it by a large amount.
  2. 2-for-1 penetration
  3. Lab texts let you get multiple copies in the next season.

Much as I've protested otherwise, I can see how this is more powerful than it arguably should be, in that a Magus 10 years out of apprenticeship can pretty easily kill Lord Marsyne, Stellatus, or an Archmagus.

I plan on resolving the problem with Charged items in-game, rather than with a house-rule that makes them weaker.

Incoming spoilers!
My saga is set in Iberia. I'm about to initiate the Shadow Flambeau subplot, in which Jaferiya covenant is discovered to be diabolical. I decided to go with the players discovering in-game, rather than having it established already. To make a very long story short, the characters are the ones who first began pointing the fingers at Jaferiya. (The longer story is provided below).

The book describes how the Jaferiya Magi are accused at Tribunal. They cast a smoke-spell and then flee on Infernal Steeds. From then on, they become the Shadow Flambeau and terrorize the entire Tribunal.
I'm altering this a bit. One of the Jaferiya Magi will attempt to testify against the Magi. Thus, most of the Tribunal is seated. The only ones separate are the Praeco, a few quaesitors, the Jaferiya Magi, and the players' Magi. The Jaferiya Mage will be speaking, then suddenly point his voting sigil at the seated Tribunal. The voting sigil has been enchanted as a Charged Item that casts 'Incantation of the Milky Eyes', bumped up to group (+2), and an extra size modifier (+1).

Doing the math, I see that one of the Magi of the School of Apromor at Jaferiya can generate an extremely high lab total Enough to make a Charged Item that can essentially strike the entire Tribunal blind, with enough penetration to overcome the Aegis and most Parma Magica of everyone but particularly powerful Corpus specialists.

Once that Magi makes the attack, a few others pull out charged items and begin sowing mayhem: One will attempt to bring down the roof, another will blow a hole in the wall, a third will engage the few unblinded Magi, etc.
The intent is that a few Jaferiya Magi will escape, a few will be slain, several Magi in the tribunal will be killed, and many more wounded or blinded. As well as Duresca's roof falling.
With this done, the Tribunal will see first-hand just how destructive Charged Items can be. I anticipate there quickly being non-proliferation treaties. Magi, including Verditius, will promise to voluntarily restrict Charged Items' penetration, having seen the damage a suicidal Magi can wreak on a Tribunal.
Thus, there will be in-game reason to make Charged Items weaker.

If you're interested in the longer story: The party was investigating a temple because the ghost of the former priest claimed that a group of diabolists were performing human sacrifices. One of these people was a Flambeau Magi. The group killed him in a fight. There's no question of the party being at fault--the Flambeau was working with diabolists, and made the first attempt to strike with lethal intent. The party is absolutely in the clear, and they've already testified to a quaesitor who pronounced their actions in keeping with the code.
That Magus' parens, a Jaferiya Magus, came and threatened them. Specifically, he threatened to have his grogs torture and murder the sister of one of the Magi. He snarled that just as the code didn't protect his filius, it wouldn't protect a random covenfolk from being tortured. He dropped 5 pounds of silver as pre-emptive compensation for depriving their covenant of its power.
Later, my Companion, a priest, journeyed to Jaferiya and spent 3 seasons there (offscreen). He came back, severely wounded by both an arrow wound and scorching flames from a Flambeau there. He testified that the place has an Infernal aura and that evil practices were going on. Again, this testimony was endorsed by a Quaesitor, who stated that there is now enough to start a full Hermetic Investigation against Jaferiya. He will recommend as such at the next Tribunal.

The Jaferiya Magi haven't been idle, particularly the Magus who threatened the covenant. He has spent some time learning Auram, learning Incantation of Lightning, and Mastering it just for Magic Resistance. (The Magus who killed the renounced Flambeau uses that as her signature spell. The Jaferiya Magi know this because they kidnapped a repentant necromancer and tortured him for information. Long story). He's also spent some time making incredibly destructive spells, as he studies the school of Apromor. He and his covenant mates will unleash this destruction at Tribunal, as described above.

With Magi seeing that Charged Items are the Mythic equivalent of nuclear bombs, I expect there to be in-game debates and resolutions limiting their destructiveness. Not as a house-rule. More like "I, Mateo ex Verditius, swear that I shall never produce a Charged Item that is capable both of harming Magi and breaching the Parma Magica of my sodales unless commissioned by a quaesitor in good standing." (So--a ball of abysmall flame with 0 penetration is acceptable, as is a Demon's Eternal Oblivion item with penetration 70. Wound that Weeps at penetratio 70 is not, since it can harm Magi.)

What think you all?
I'm also working on the logistics of the magi physically attacking the Tribunal. I want to avoid my players saying "Jim... no offense, but any Tribunal that can be taken by surprise this easily are complete idiots." Hence why the items are disguised as voting sigils.


Given the fragmented nature of the OoH, and the fact that A LOT of its magi are the equivalent of raving lunatics, I do not think this would work. Few people know what magi in other covenants do in their labs... or ,magi in their own covenant for that matter. I can actually see a PROLIFERATION of charged items if yousay "you can't do that". Just to annoy you the tytalians would start making them in a Taylor system, and happily sharing their "kill everyone in town, penetration 200" lab texts.

I prefer to simply have them not exist. Easier and neater for the system. If you have to rely in minor items, the maths are brutal but not as brutal as with charged items as written. If you have them, make them require vis and expire in 7 years. Makes them less preponderant as well.


I agree with Xavi on that any ban on charged items would be unlikely to work. Even if you could muster enough political support in the Order, it would be just too easy to break the rule. Plus, of course, the magi might have quite valid reasons for still building such items, aimed at other supernatural foes.

And I quite agree that charged items rules are broken as they are written. Not so much because you can get powerful, single-use items, those I can live with. The high Penetration is the problem, because Parma Magica is pretty much useless against a charged item made even by a starting specialist. Because of this, in our sagas we have dropped the Penetration bonus for charged items (only) to +1 per level spent on them. You can still make combat worthy charged items, but it won't be so easy to just overwhelm any magic resistance with them.

An alternative, to fit your anti-charged item policy, would be the development of discharging spells. A Breaktrough allows for the development of non-ritual spells that drains all charges an item as available for the day. Cast at room target, these would be standard for tribunal meetings. By putting them in items you could defeat any level item...

I will also have to chime in with another "-i dont think it will work"...
Few would be likely to stick to such an "agreement".

If I were a Magus, I'd march the whole tribunal on grounds of deprivation of magical power. Oh, and I'd use charged items to get rid of the squeamish lot of them...
Then I'd be the Iberian tribunal and transform it into a totalitarian fasho-Tremere system.
[player falls of his chair as he cackles madly]

Hrrrm... so what I'm hearing is, 'not the best idea.' Fair enough.
Hopefully I can negotiate with my troupe, as the only character affected by this is mine for the most part.
Step one will be... NOT having the Shadow Flambeau wreck the entire Tribunal.

Actualy I LOVED that bit of your story. I would still use it since it is a really cool event :slight_smile:

Make them use minor magical items boosted with sympathetic connections. That is all. You can achieve a +40 or so in penetration easily if they collaborate in the lab and get the correct bonuses for bodily destruction, so not many magi will get out of that easily. The mayheim caused by a mass milky eyes spell is great.I can imagine a dozen magi teleporting to their sancta immediately, a pair of flambeaus starting to multicast POF randomly yelling "treason", some magi trying to cure themselves just to be hit by said POF or trampled by magi running wild like chickens.... AWESOME!! :laughing:

You just need to change the method slightly, but the mayheim places the Shadow Flambeau in its proper light, as a real danger to the magi of the tribunal :smiling_imp:


I read the Tribunal book and was like "This is F@@@ awesome." I'm glad I made the decision to have it play out, rather than "Oh gee, you must've killed one of the renegade Shadow Flambeau that your character knows about but you the player don't just yet."

Debating how I want to handle the Aegis/Parma issue when it comes to item penetration. I don't plan on having the Shadow Flambeau use their most powerful attacks against the party, evne though the biggest grudge is against one of them. I figure their priorities are:
Step 1: Neutralize the largest group of Magi (the seated Tribunal).
Step 2: Prepare an escape route (blow a hole in the ceiling or wall).
Step 3: Engage the Magi that present the biggest immediate threat (any who dodged the first attack).
Step 4: hit the party at least once.
Step 5: Retreat.

I'm going to make sure that at least 4 of the 8 Jaferiya Magi aren't at Tribunall.. that way, if those present are massacred, the subplot can still go on.
One of the Companions in my group is a Redcap. The Shadow Flambeau will probably target him to disrupt the mail.

I was having a conversation with my beta ST and I realized "wow... Charged Items really are sick. If I spent a few more years, I could have a suicide attacker wreck an entire Tribunal." Pause "Uh... never mind."

I got to thinking, though. The writers have never mentioned "And so-and-so, the mad Tytalus, blew up a Tribunal hall with a single Charged Item." This leads me to assume it's never happened in canon. Which also leads me to believe that there is a reason it's never happened, despite how powerful charged items it could be and how theoretically possible it might be to accomplish. Here are some reasons:

  1. Every survivor in the Tribunal and many Magi from other Tribunals would unify to find you and kill you, if you survived. This would basically be a Wizard's March on crack. Not even dealing with demons would attract this many hunters. Most Marchers are looking for loot. This would be personal.
  2. Very few humans are suicidal, even if they have a grudge.
  3. No matter how much people might hate each other in a given tribunal, few want to genuinely kill one another. They're still human beings dealing with other human beings, in an order designed to promote camraderie. Even the most maniacal, combative Magi has a big enough conscience that would shy away from murdering dozens of innocents. To quote from Mage: The Ascension (a game I hate), the Technocracy and Traditions don't like to out-and-out kill each other. They're still human beings and presumably don't enjoy straight murder.
  4. There must be SOME defenses protecting against this.
  5. Mutual Assured Destruction: The Order agrees that this would be only the beginning. If Charged Items are akin to nuclear bombs, this would lead to an arms race that would tear the Order apart. Again from Mage, the Ascension war would largely be lost if 'victory' tears the planet apart.

If my players beg, I will probably reduce penetration for Charged Items. Much as it does hurt my Magus, I can agree they're a bit like guns in the hands of children.

I, too, LOVE the setup of the Tribunal mass destruction that you've described here. Given that many covenants don't send all their magi to Tribunal, I see this as a nice way to eliminate / harm many magi in the tribunal, but certainly not all, thus creating a fanastic sense of paranoia, but not crippling the Tribunal. Plus, conceivably you have some other Jafiraya magi attacking a few of the spring covenants at the same time as the tribunal at a synchronized time, and you can add a little more horror.

One thing I've always wondered about this scenario, though... What do the Jafiraya magi WANT, anyway? I would think that the destruction of the Iberian tribunal magi is more of a short term goal. What's the REAL point? What do they do AFTERWARDS? Or do you just chalk that up to diabolists just want destruction for it's own sake?

I would think there's some motive here. Maybe the demons they're aligned with have promised something in return -- to erect an infernal regio for Jafiraya to flee to after their work is done. Something to get them out of harms way from the rest of the avenging order. Or give them their own infernal kindgom to rule over or something..... Something that could lead to a nice climax to the whole story arc..... The players THINK they've wiped the last magus off the earth. Well, that's true. But then they realize they actually have to travel to HELL to destroy the rest of them..... Final battle, many years after the initial assault, when the players have grown much stronger, involves battling a demon on his own turf surrounded by his magi minions..... (shudder!)

... As things play out, please do send updates!

Hi all,

I decided to sweep the Charged Items issue under the rug temporarily. I realized that the Shadow Flambeau aren't interested in nuking the Tribunal per se. They call themselves 'good Christians' and their main purpose is to slaughter the muslim sorcerers and take back the Moorish lands. As a result, they went more with the 'create lots of smoke and noise, then blow a hole in the wall and run away.' None of the Tribunal died in that initial battle.

One of thetroupes, a lightning specialist, had an arcane connection to one of the weaker Jaferiya Magi. One krak-thoom later, and they're now down to 7 Shadow Flambeau :slight_smile:.

I've described how several of the volunteer hunters have died. A pair of Bjornaear Magi with hawk form were slain, and a character's mentor barely escaped with her life. 3 hunters were also killed in the ensuing seasons.

One of the Jaferiya Magi has a major grudge against the covenant; he'll be coming back soon. He fights in the School of Appromor.

Incidentally, I thought of a diabolical way to mess with one of the characters. My girlfirend's Companion is a Redcap with True Love/Lost Love. He just found his girlfriend in a faerie regio, who belongs to the faerie lord (She's essentially a changeling). Now that he's found her, he'll be getting an invite from the lord to 'visit' with her for a month or two. Which, unfortunately, conflicts with his Redcap duties. David (the Redcap) will probably ask if someone can pick up a shift in return for a favor. No harm, no foul.

A month later, a quaesitor will come storming to the covenant. "I need to speak with David ex Mercere. Right the F@@@ now." The quaesitor will be grilling him on why he didn't do his duties, what made him tchoose to exchange with a particular redcap, etc, etc. Upon being asked, he'll snarl, "The Redcap that took your shift for you is dead. He was roasted by the Jaferiya Magi and they took all of his letters. Too bad he didn't have that magic item that lets you teleport home, like you do. So one of our Redcaps is dead and our secrets are revealed. But, you got laid, so I guess it's not a complete loss. Congratulations. I'll be watching you."

I love my job :smiley:

Hmm.... I would have had the diabolists make everybody blind and then blast the hell out of the moorish sorcerers of the OoH at the tribunal (estancia es karida dudes et al). So far it seems you are having great fun with this story :smiley: Congratulations :slight_smile:


I said it before and I'll say it again. The old ToH-Iberia is a flawed gem. Everyone should go and buy it as a collector's item :smiley:

Going back to the original concern re charged items. I'll need to double check the books when I get home to confirm my understanding, but I was always of the opinion that casting was a 2 stage process (for either Magi or items).

Stage 1 being the caster check to see if you can actually cast the spell and then stage 2 being the penetration check.

This is part where my memory gets hazy, but assuming I remember correctly items are assumed to cast with exactly enough of a caster check to just scrape through. So any effect (i.e. Aegis of the Hearth or a quick cast spontaneous Vim spell) that reduces the caster check will cause an item to fail.

So if that is correct (no promises as I am working from memory) then charged items are only scary if someone is ambushed, if they are prepared then it only takes a very minor Vim effect to shutdown the item.

I'll double check my books when I am at home and edit this post.

The wording is murky, but it appears to me the item needs to penetrate the Aegis, i.e. its penetration needs to be higher than the Aegis level. This means the items' penetration is not even lowered - if it is high enough to pass the Aegis, it will just continue on to affect the magi as if the Aegis wasn't there.

I guess my questions would be:

  1. What is the level of the Aegis?

  2. What is the Penetration of the effect?

I would figure that any Tribunal would break out its "Special Occasion" Aegis for Tribunal meetings. So if a Host Covenant normally has a L:30 Aegis, then it would probably be 45-55 range for the festivities (Tribunal would pay the cost). If the normal Aegis is in the 50-65 range, then it would be higher still...

The wording is quite murky.

The base equation for penetration is:

Casting Total + Penetration - Spell Level = Penetration Total

The base rules for all enchanted devices indicate that the the penetration of effects produced by enchanted devices is 0 unless otherwise modified. So for an enchanted device we can deduce the following:

Casting Total + Penetration - Spell Level = Penetration Total Casting Total + 0 - Spell Level = 0 Casting Total - Spell Level = 0 Casting Total = Spell Level
So if an item has a level 20 spell in it then it produces a level 20 casting total.

Now spells work with a 2 stage process.

Stage 1 compares the casting total to the spell level and the spell is successful if:

Casting Total + Stress Die => Spell Level

With some latitude for fatigue.

If you are successful then you check for Penetration of Magic Resistance:

Casting Total + Penetration - Spell Level = Penetration Total > Magic Resistance

Now it isn't explictly stated that items work the same way, but I would call it a safe assumption. I mean basically all an item is doing is casting a spell on behalf of a magus (or other being).

So if we apply this to an item then the item need to make a casting total vs spell level check to suceed and then a check to penetrate the magic resistance.

So from the pervious working we have for an item:

Casting Total = Spell Level

So under normal circumstances the item will always work.

However the Aegis resists this and changes the equation for success to be:

Casting Total - 1/2 Aegis Level => Spell Level

With Casting Total = Spell Level for an item this condition will never be true so an item will alway fail when under a hostile Aegis.

Of course this is all based on the premise that an item casts it's spell/effect in the same manner that a magus does.

I can't find anywhere that explicitly states an answer either way, although if someone can point out where I should look I will.

As it is the saga that I am running is applying items this way, which still makes items useful, but not as useful against prepared magi or in an Aegis (when the SG would rather prefer that we are politicing and dueling instead).