Defending your laboratory

So this is one of those random 'what do you do?' questions...

In all my years of playing Ars Magica I've never seen a player build defenses into their laboratories beyond being inside an aegis and, in extreme cases, investing in a mundane lock. Having enemies rampage through their laboratory on a semi-regular basis doesn't seem to make them invest time in defenses either.

So two questions:

  1. Would you consider having defenses in your laboratory to be a commonplace thing in the Order?
  2. Have you ever seen a player magus build defenses into his/her laboratory - and if so what?

My order tends to be a bit more peaceful than some. The only time I've had players build defenses into their laboratories was in a third edition game set in an entirely different setting.

We had a Columba specialist is Circle/Ring spells. She had some interesting ones for people who wandered inside her lab.

A common favourite IMS are:

1.) Circle/Ring versions of Call to Slumber (walk in and off you drop. Wait a day to question, when the parma has worn off.)

2.) A magic item that uses a pressure trigger to end a ReTe effect holding up a large rock that looks like a cieling....

3.) A wall of solid rock with no entrance. Only a specific password opens a MuTe effect to enter the lab. Circulate a fake password. In fact, it opens at any password, but closes when someone is halfway through, crushing them (since its a return to normal, no MR). Only the correct password lets one enter safely.

4.) Permanent Circles of Wards against demons, faeries and curious scullion. Cheap, easy, fast.

5.) A wooden floor when you enter the lab, which is intentionally creaky. There is an PeHe effect triggered to a InHe effect that destroys the wood when it creeks. Down buddy falls into a specially prepared pit.

6.) A series of dangerous animals which are reseased from PeIm enchanted cages when someone breaks a ring on the floor. They are natural animals and are angry.

7.) A PeAn effect with Circle Range/ RING duration. Destroying the ring on the floor surrounds the intruder with a dozen wolves (Harmless Magic). This is an often overlooked application of hermetic magic: a non-human anything can be temporarily destroyed, especially with Harmless Magic, and sprung back into existence. This can likewise be done with anything: Fire, rocks, acid, swords, whatever.

The best defenses are indirect damage effects. They all rely on the secrecy of the sanctum. DO NOT SHOW OFF YOUR DEFENSES. The chief benefit a magus has is that an enemy does not know what to expect when he/she walks into a sanctum. Circle effects are great, because they can be created without vis and without spending seasons to enchant. This makes them cheaper and more flexible, as circle effects can be substituted or changed over time.

Don't rely too much on penetrating effects. Whatever your power, there's still a more powerful opponent.
Don't neglect the danger of mundanes. Demons et al. of course always use mundane agents.

Not very common.

Mundane guards. Alarms against scrying. Alarms to detect the presence of faeries.

Non-player characters sometimes have quite extensive defences, but its often a bit unclear why (other than to annoy player characters).

Back in one of my 4th ed sagas, we had a very power-gamed Verditius, who was also a bit of an unsavory character and paranoid. He made more and more defences, but nobody ever tripped them. None of the rest of us did that. I played an ice cold FLambeau Hoplite, and I think her reputation as one to bear a grudge kept intruders away. Apart from the usual annoying faeries and a few petty-thieving mundanes.

In the one current 5th saga a Tytalus most likely has defences. In the other a Verditius is known to have them, as well as my Tremere. Nothing fancy, he just has a nice Call to Slumber effect and some skeletons...and a few spirits bound to keep tabs on things and defend. One of the old magi from their covenant had some eeevil defences, but no other sanctum entered has had anything.

  1. Not really. Most of the time you'd have it behind all your mundane defences and your Aegis. Not very easy to get to anyway. And the risk if anyone gets caught is very big. If you have ongoing trouble with other magi/demons/faeries you take the time to build something, otherwise most magi prefer to use their time for something else.

  2. Only a few times, and then purely mundane things like locks and specially simple traps. One had a barrel of scrap metal (plates, tankards, broken stuff) over his door. Another had 3 shields hanging over the door to make a lot of noise when the door opened. The only magic I have seen used is the "fuse the door to the frame" so you need to use an axe or a spell to get in. Of course with a reasonable Aegis even needing simple spells is a very good defence against outside interference.


As per the RAW it seems implied that most magi have magical defenses in their labs.

I have seen it. Generally these were SPELLS, not items, and they were cast using casting tablets, so you did not devote time in them. Circle/ring wards have been the preferred method, or monthly watching wards in case they were expecting an attack (we have had 2 wizard's wars). Generally those are more alarms than killer spells. A circle/ring ward that causes dread on anyone trying to enter the lab sneakily is popular.


My bonisagus has something which is not by itself a defense but the result of an hermetic breakthrough: it's a room area aegis.

An Ex Miscellanea I played had a Perdo effect at room area due to magical item, which killed any mundane. Since he shared bond with a familiar, he was safe even when not under parma.

I haven't seen it, but this is because in the games I play mages tend to trust the other covenant members.

Also knocking down an aegis is not all that hard, especially if you start messing with charged items. It is a spell so I have had a character who focused in counter magic spont a spell to knock down an aegis.

Even with out that,form based magic resistance should be enough. 0 penetration effects rarely work on magi even if they don't have parma up.

On a basic level, common. But more elaborate or powerful defenses, uncommon or rare.

Yes. Pretty much variations on the non-deadly things already mentioned by others. Basic alarms, some version of Call to slumber, an enchanted animal or skeleton, something that traps an intruder, squeaky floor sections... Rarely fancy or severe stuff.

Thats usually more or less true here as well, its more of a "just in case".

In fact, never. You need a penetration of 1 to affect MR 0.

I have to join the chorus: most of the magi I've seen set up simple defenses - both "active" ones to repel/disable intruders, and "detection" ones that alert the magus and make it easier for him to track the culprit. Almost without exception these did not require any vis or extra time, and tended to be either non-magical traps and minions, or Circle spells (including ones binding/animating various nasty critters that would protect the lab).

The mages ARE the defense. The threat of wizard war is what traditionally causes people to respect the sancta. The capabilities of most mages enforce that.

Walls and grogs and aegis only keep the riff-raff out. That's most problems anyway (how secure is your home? Most homes can be broken into with a rock found easily in the outside yard. But a lock on the door, the threat of police, the presence of neighbors and maybe pets and closing your windows keeps out the bugs, most animals and most people, even those motivated to steal or do harm)

If you make a serious enemy, all forting up your sancta does is turn it into a prison. The mage needs to be capable of dealing with his own enemies. That's why most people just put some alarms up for unusual intruders if they have enemies that the usual covenant stuff won't stop. The expectation is that they'll wake up and take out the intruder. If someone ravages the sancta while they're gone, they'll hunt em down and kill em. If they lack the talents themselves to find or kill the intruder, they are part of an Order which has plenty of magi who love the excuse to hunt down and kill enemies that challenge their magic.

That's easier said than done, actually. Though I do agree that -- like in real life -- committing the crime is much easier than evading retribution, it does make a lot of sense to set up more serious defenses if they cost a magus neither vis nor significant time.

I think the biggest problem is that if the SG wants your sanctum violated the NPC intruder will have all the resources necessary to get around your defenses. So defenses really only have a chance of working against PCs. Basic defenses to keep out the hoi paloi but nothing major.

That's a strawman which works against anything players do, so I don't buy it. We all know it, but it bears to be said more: The SG isn't The Enemy. If the SG plays fair, he may have an intruder get trapped/splatted by the defenses once in a while, when that makes sense. That leads to stories.

A big part of my reason for asking this question is to gauge how prepared for defenses magi would be when entering the lab of another.

There are a variety of reasons for entering anothers lab on entirely legitimate business and without the owners express permission: the owner has been slain in wizard's war and the victor is coming to claim her spoils, the owner has gone missing and other magi of the covenant are looking for arcane connections in order to find their friend, the owner has just died in mysterious circumstances and the quaesitors are putting up police tape and looking for clues, etc.

I'm trying to gauge whether the magi in question would assume some form of defenses are present or be somewhat surprised when the walls try to bite them. Obviously this varies by saga, but getting a general feel seems smart.

It appears that some circle/ring defenses can probably be expected, but beyond that and mundane defenses people would probably be surprised at more sophisticated defeneses unless the magus in question had a reputation for being a paranoid old coot.

The best defenses can be raised and lowered as needed, to allow friendly entry while defending against enemies. Subtle is better than obvious. Designed properly, even careful observers won't notice the most impressive magic defenses.

For anti-paranoia players, intellego effects, especially alarms, are always a good substitute for more aggressive effects.

Some passive effects are also possible, like invisible or disguised doors etc.

For player v. NPC, our troupe's story guide generally creates broad character outlines for the type of enemies the troupe is likely to face ahead of time, with plentiful underlings, though even these are of a set quantity. Setting up defenses on key areas of the covenant has been crucial in thwarting espionage attempts from some enemies, thinning out their ranks etc.

Other key areas to defend:

Food Store
Water Supply
Treasury and vis store

Story guides can be creative, but not too creative. A thwarted spy is as much a hook as a captured one. For example: the Count's nephew is caught sneaking through the Library. You catch him, due to prudent intellego circles.

Congratulations. You are now the proud owner of the nephew of the Count. Oh, a messenger has shown up from the Count. His nephew has gone missing in this area. Any sign of him?

The reward for responsible defenses IMS has been that intro hooks have generally not included lost personal resources, and captives for info and leverage or even counter-agents.

Which reminds me:
How hard is it to create a spell (or rather, an item effect) that detects only a specific Form of magic?
Base level? +1 for specific Form? something like that?