Dancing Sword

I have an unoriginal idea for my maga in our new saga. I want her to eventually forge and enchant a dancing sword. What I envision is a weapon enchanted with a ReTe effect that allows it to fly, along with some kind of CrMe effect to give it a mind to control that flight. Our covenant has a competent drill sergeant among its grogs, so I was thinking that she might be able to copy his mind to give the sword the requisite martial skills. (She's a reasonably pious Catholic, so she's not up for capturing his ghost.)

I'm thinking of something along the lines of the living corpse from "Hermetic Projects", with an enchantment that holds the mind, an enchantment that allows the sword to move, and a spell or enchantment that passes control of the movement to said mind. (I'm not sure if the latter would be necessary if the mind was cooperative. Wouldn't it be like any magic sword handed to another person?)

Advice would be most welcome, along with some idea of what level of spell might copy or create a mind--assuming that's even possible. As for the flying sword, would ReTe 10 be sufficient, or would it need to be higher given the complexity of sword fighting?

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The problem with this is spelled out best in HoH:S p.68f Memory. Martial Abilities are held as Procedural Memories, which by current Hermetic magic cannot be created in a being: not even by copying them from somewhere else.

The House Mystery Virtue HoH:MC p.128f Automata allows to create items with limited Martial Abilities - but these are mindless. AM p.75ff Heron of Alexandria's Legacy, especially p.80 box Major Hermetic Virtue: Awaken Device allows to create rare items with a mind of their own, which can be made into familiars.


I think you are making it more complex than it should be. This is magic, not engineering, so poetic necessity is the key to deciding what should be possible. Weapons that fight on their own are the staple of myth since time immemorial. And, incidentally, a sword that has to fight on its own really has little use for human swordmanship, since it has no body to "follow" or defend!

So, in my opinion, ReTe is all you need -- though probably with some extra magnitudes for complexity/manipulation "with great precision". The Base should be 2 or 3 (move dirt in either a slightly unnatural, or very unnatural fashion -- I'd say that making a sword serve its purpose is only "slightly" unnatural), +2 metal, plus ... either +1 or +2 for complexity. I'd say just +1 if you want a sword that only attacks competently (as if wielded by someone with a skill of 5, and average characteristics) one target chosen by whomever controls it, or +2 if you want a sword that can both attack and also defend its controller. I'd go for the second one, personally, it's cooler!

So you are looking at an effect that, without modifiers for R/D (T is obviously Ind), is level 5 or 10 (Base 2, +2 metal, +1/+2 complexity/precision). Comparing this with Wielding the Invisible sling at level 4 (Base 3, +1 stone), that does an automatic +5 damage ... seems about right.

Of course, you are looking at R:Per, and ... well, I'd say either D:Diam (+5 levels), or a cooler D:Conc, item maintains Concentration (+10 Levels, but then the sword can fight all day!). And, you should obviously add uses/day. I'd either go for 24 uses/day (+5 levels), or Unlimited (+10, which frankly feels a bit excessive). Total: from a minimum of ReTe 15 (attack only, for up to two minutes, 24 times/day), to a maximum of ReTe 30 (attack and defend, and it just keeps at it, an unlimited number of fights/day).

Eyeballing it, it feels roughly ok in terms of usefulness/cost; probably a bit on the weak side -- but if you start with a really well-forged sword to begin with, it might be worth the effort. And you can always tweak the sword skill a little to suit what you feel is right!


Looking at the "Defender Swords" (TtA, p. 94) can give you an idea for designing the effect.

I would consider the ReTe Base 2 (slightly unnatural) to cause the sword to guide itself in someones hand, so would look at the Base 3 (very unnatural) if you want it to independently fly.

Thank you all for your responses. They've given me plenty to think about and work with.

There are two canonical spells that come close to what you want.

The Treacherous Spear (ArM5 p.139)
Circular Wall of Shields (MoH p.50)

The latter one is closer overall, though you wouldn't want Group for one sword. But the former one is for an attacking weapon rather than just defending ones. You may want to try to blend them.

I hadn't known about Circular Wall of Shields. Thanks!

The Treacherous Spear uses the wielder of the affected weapon's skills to attack, probably for ease of play. Would a sword controlled by a maga's spell use her Single Weapon Ability, her Finesse, or something else?

Edit to add: Or, if the base of 5 skill with average characteristics given by ezzelino above is more appropriate, how much would an additional magnitude improve that by (if at all)?

Yes, to avoid recalculating totals! But it seems unrealistic -- the better you are with a spear, the more easily you can avoid some trick like that.

If you want to make it controlled by a maga's spell, Finesse is the way to go; note that in many other applications (e.g. craft magic) where you "do mundane stuff via Rego magic", you effectively replace the appropriate mundane ability by Finesse -3. However, in my opinion Finesse should apply in this sense only when a magus is actively controlling the effect, with the ability to react to the environment. It should not apply when the magus creates an effect that can act on its own when the magus is not focusing on it -- and even more so when the effect is controlled by a magic item.

I would also note again that a magus' skill with a weapon is unlikely to help here, because wielding a sword "in hand" involves intuitive expertise -- how to defend your body, how to maximize leverage and reaction time of your limbs -- that simply does not apply when making a sword fly around on its own.

There's two aspects to it: one is game balance, and the other is "aesthetics".
From the former, it appears to me that something like a +3 to all totals/magnitude would be appropriate -- remember that attack advantage translates into extra damage, so this is close to the "usual" +5 dmg/magnitude.

From the latter point of view, giving a sword extremely high levels of ability just by adding magnitudes appears ... wrong. Then again, as I said before, it's not really "human" ability that you are providing to a sword, but something else entirely, so it's ok for it to fight with e.g. a speed baffling human observers. If I had just one magnitude to add, I'd say it leaves the skill unchanged, but makes all relevant characteristics of the "virtual" person yielding it +3. Another magnitude might increase that by 2 to +5, but I'd leave it probably stop at that.


Thanks, ezzelino. That all seems reasonable to me. I don't intend to get abusive about it; I just want the thing to be able to competently defend my maga and attack her foes. Since the standard soldier grog has a Single Weapon skill of 5 (6 w/ a heater shield) and a Dex of +2, a 5 skill sword comes off as rather lackluster. A 5 skill sword with a +3 or +5 bonus, however, sounds a lot more worthwhile. Now I just have to write the thing up and see what the rest of the troupe thinks.

For my own part, I would not let Finesse be used for a continued, uncontrolled attacking sword. It just doesn't feel right, and not only because I already think finesse is overly-good compared to most non-magical skills. I would let a directly controlled sword use finesse (concentration or at-casting) because you're imprinting your magical skill and sending off the bespelled weapon to act.

However, if you have a sun-duration 'defend me' sword, perhaps with +1 magnitude for intellego so it can properly detect threats, I would give that sword probably a +5 to hit (and then sword attack bonus), probably a +0 or +1 strength without extra magnitudes. Most of this is not 'the swords skill' but instead the agility of the sword (I assume +2 dex for a flying sword, it makes sense to me), zero skill, and a +3 bonus to hit because it literally doesn't worry about defense at all.
It doesn't really make sense to me to have an 'add magnitudes for skill' because magic can't imprint knowledge like that, but I might say an extra magnitude for force and speed of attack would add a +3 to attack and a +2 to damage (lining up with a +5 damage overall assuming you hit, in line with other magnitude of improvement).

I've always been a staunch proponent that magi should be using concentration spells to direct and control stuff, I don't like the idea that a mage can cast a sun duration spell and then use his own finesse score to attack without any actual effort on his part - doesn't make sense.

If the sword shall for a few minutes or more defend its creator on its own, without his concentration and without accidents, it needs to have some kind of mind - like AM p.80 box Awakened Devices (e.g. p.84 box Justinian's Nightingale) or RoP:M p.130f Amiculum, the Magical Cloak from p.119ff Magical Things.

Such devices become full characters - like shield grogs or familiars. They also need SG and troupe agreement: either as magical coincidences or integrated ancient magic.

To each his own, but I would find your house rule it too restrictive in my games!

Well ... for HoH:MC Automata you have (p.130):

The magus may instill Martial Abilities, including Brawl, but this can be dangerous due to the automaton’s lack of individual thought.

The comparatively simple Circular Wall of Shields from MoH p.50 just surrounds an area and thereby blocks attacks from outside. If you move into its circle, it no longer protects those inside from you.
Distinguishing beings to protect from others requires more magic, and replacing even a dumb shield grog requires a mind.

It depends on what you mean with "replacing a dumb shield grog" and with "mind": if for the former you mean "adequately replacing the defensive capabilities of a dumb shield grog in combat", and the latter you mean "something that cannot be provided by vanilla Rego magic", again, it's a house rule I find too restrictive.

By the book, there's no reason to require cumbersome "artificial intelligences" (stemming as you write from "magical coincidences or integrated ancient magic"), to have Hermetic magic perform even relatively "smart" functions.

Looks like you just volunteered to demonstrate, just how to adequately replace "the defensive capabilities of a dumb shield grog in combat" with vanilla Rego magic, and without overstepping the rules in the books. Right?


I could do it (just look at the various spells to animate the inanimate, from the corebook), but I will not do it. We have already derailed the original thread enough, and I won't humour your argumentative disposition further.

Oh yes, as this came later than my answer:

The typical cop-out here is grabbing a spirit for the mind: see e. g. HP p.100f The Necromancer's Blades. We don't want these here, do we?

The most powerful one there, Freeing the Striding Tree, requires the caster's continuous concentration - and risks awakening the tree if it botches.
Yep, this is one of the botches that - with a devious SG - could create a Magic Thing like an RoP:M p.129ff Awakened Tree.

Animate the Slumbering Corpse at D: Sun (demonstrated as valid in other books) with a command "defend me"? It's basically a really bad, really stupid grog.

If we can go a little further than only Rego, CrAn to make a mastiff, for example. ReAn to order it to protect you.

Yep. In both cases

and a lot worse than just dumb.

An obedient mastiff you might just buy from a good trainer of dogs.

EDIT: Mastiff plus dog handler grog might indeed roughly replace a shield grog. :grinning:

It seems to me that a fair amount of leeway is given in the rules to living things (whether created ex nihilo or not), things that were once living, and things that are in the shape of living things (in the case of Heron's automata). I say that because of callen's examples as well as the level 10 ReHe guideline, "Make a plant or thing made of plant products move with purpose and intelligence, without requiring your constant control."

As for saving vis and seasons by just acquiring a shield grog, one does not become a magistrix in the Rhine Tribunal by simply hiring servants.

In any case, it seems, since the ReHe guideline clearly doesn't apply to metal objects, that my options are to either abandon the idea or attempt to find some acceptable intelligent thing to bind into the blade after all (perhaps a well-trained mastiff ;p). I don't see this as a cop out, as it requires a lot more time and vis to accomplish and it puts the activities of the blade beyond the creator's direct control. Thank you all for helping me to research this, even if it does seem to have resulted in an argument ('cause, y'know, Internet).