Designing Caesar the Ant

Quick background on character concept before I get to my question. Formicus is a young Tremere Terram specialist with a fascination for ants. During his apprenticeship he kept an ant colony which he diligently cared for, including occassionally using vis remnants and other lab refuse to augment the ants diet in the hopes that something strange and magical might happen. One of the soldier ants did become magical and intelligent and starts the game as Formicus's magical animal companion he calls Caesar.

The minor story hook being Formicus investigating the organizational structure of the ant colony and attempting to reorganize the hierarchy to put his friend Caesar in charge of the ants. Of course Formicus will use magic to talk with the ants, mutate the ants and cause all sorts of follow on stories revolving around Caesar and Formicus's ant obsession.

Formicus will also eventually make Caesar his familiar so that Caesar doesn't die of old age after only a few years of game play.

So with that background in mind, I am trying to design Caesar the Ant and I am looking for input.

Here is what I have so far:
A mouse is size -10. The average mouse has a mass of approximately 30 grams while the average ant has a mass of 3 milligrams which means it takes approximately 10,000 ants to equal the size of a mouse. According to the rules each factor of 10 is equivalent to 3 size therefore Caesar has a size of -22.

As a magical companion, Caesar's magic might and intelligence is based upon his size. His magic might is obviously 32 while a size difference of 5 seems to equate to about 3 points of Intelligence roughly so his Intelligence becomes 10 (magic creatures are not limited to the +/-5 scale of humans).

It is likely that Formicus will use magic to make Caesar human size. Using the rules on Modifying Beast Sizes in the Mundane Bestiary, Quickness and Strength will be modified according to size changes. A human-sized ant should be equivalent to a normal human in terms of Quickness and stronger than any human (ants are noted for being exceptionally strong for their size) so with a target of Quickness 0 and Strength +6 at Size 0, the Size -22 numbers become Quickness +22 and Strength -38.

This is what I ended up with on my first draft:

Soldier Ant
Magic Might 32 (Terram)
Characteristics: Int +10, Per +2, Pre 0, Com +3, Str -38, Sta 0 Dex -3 Qik +22
Size -22
Age N/A
Confidence Score:1 (3)
Virtues and Flaws: None
Qualities: None
Personality Traits: Loyal +3, Hard Working +3, organized +3
Bite:Init +22, Attack -3, Defense +22, Damage -38
Soak: 0
Fatigue Levels:OK, -1, -3,-5, Unconscious
Wound Penalties: -1 (1), -3 (2), -5 (3), Incapacitated (4), Dead (5+)
Abilities: None
Powers: None

Any obvious mistakes or ideas on how to refine the mighty Caesar?

The rule in RoP:M is also pretty clear that familiars should not be above MM 15, unless they are another player's companion or mythic companion. Not to mention that ants are vermins, not animals. Of course, if the troupe supports your creative interpretation anything is possible.

Still, I found that pretty funny. :laughing:

The Int +10, while allowed by the rules, seems completely out of proportion to, well, everything. (Imagine once the ant is made human-sized: will that process change Int? Will Int +10 make sense then?)

The whole scenario is very weird.
I mean that as a sincere compliment! 8)

Thanks for the RoP:M rules reference I am fine with Caesar's MM drops to 15.

I would think that Ants fall under animals under the normal rules. They are affected by the Animal Form (and there is no Vermin Form). Furthermore according to this, ants are described in several of the real world bestiaries. (I'm not sure if this is true since I have never read the books myself). Finally given that there are rules for having spirit familiars and such, I do not think choosing an Ant is even remotely pushing the rules (although it would probably be unique).

I was also alternatively considering making Caesar a gold digging dog-sized ant as described in the bestiary link above. The only problem was that he was from the Rhine Tribunal and those ants were described as being from India or Ethiopia and I wasn't sure how to explain one in the Rhine.

Thanks for the compliment. Changing size should not change Int as that would introduce an even larger problem (as mages become giants to become smarter) and isn't mentioned in the rules. I agree with the Int +10 being a concern since after Caesar is made a familiar then he would make a very powerful lab assistant but being probably the smallest magical animal companion then he should also be the most intelligent animal companion possible by the rules. Perhaps a cap of Int +5 is in order to say that no magical animal companion can be smarter than the smartest human? Are there any examples in the books of magical animal companions or familiars having an Int above +5?

What about the Quickness of +22? Does anyone think that is an issue? Seems weird to me but to go lower means a giant ant would be absurdly slow by the size modification rules.

I must have missed this when reading RoP:M...
Could you provide a specific reference?

That was my thought as well

You said the magus had kept them in an aura and fed them Vis? What more do you need?

Rop:M p 34, and it is MM 10 actually.


I really do not think RoP:M is "pretty clear" in that regard, at least on that page. I think you are referring to the table that gives the starting Magic Might for characters as a function of a) the power level of the saga and b) the role of the character (grog, companion, magus). Magic Might 10 is, indeed, the starting might for a companion level character in a saga of "average" power. If so, there are several issues that make me disagree with your interpretation.

First of all, the values given are a starting point which, for magic animals, must be adjusted for size. The example given, a magical horse with size +2 intended as a companion character in a saga of average power, has its might reduced from 10 to 8. By the same token, an animal of size -10 would see its might boosted to 20, which is pretty much the calculation carried out by the original poster.

Second, nowhere is written that "familiars should not be above MM 15[or 10...], unless they are another player's companion or mythic companion.". I think you really are misinterpreting the whole "grog, companion, magus" power level thing here. The basic idea is that:

  • a grog level magical creature PC can be played as a grog -- played by players inaddition* to their main character in the story (whether companion or magus). In particular, if that character is somehow "attached" to a magus or companion character (say, it's the faithful mount of ghostly warder), the player of the main character can simply play the grog level character as an extension of the main character ("I whistle and my faithful destrier comes galloping to rescue me").
  • companion and magus level magical creature PCs are too important for such secondary roles, and should fill a magus or companion slot, being played as the main character of one player in the story. Of course, nothing's wrong if such characters are NPCs instead!

RoP:M writes (emphasis mine) "For many familiars, [being played as a companion] might be the most appropriate role, especially is the creature is particularly independent or especially powerful." What this means is not that there is any limit about the magic might of a familiars -- the book on the very next page is very explicit about it, pointing out that if your magus binds a magic might 42 familiar, hey, that's perfectly ok (even if it's just a Medium power saga, where the magic might of companion level magical PCs is 10, and that of magus level PCs is 20). What the text says is that if your magus binds a particularly independent and/or powerful familiar, it might be most appropriate not to have the magus choose the actions of the familiar ("I whistle and my faithful titan comes galloping to rescue me"), but assign the role to another player ortothestoryguide*.

I would say, take it with a grain of salt. The rules tend to break down when you are so far from size 0.
But, yes, size -20 or so would be appropriate for an ant.

In terms of Magic Might you are certainly right, it's 10-Size, both for the Virtue as described in the corebook, and for the more detailed rules in RoP:M (though see above for the comment about breaking down). However, you may also want to look at what Magic Might 32 entails in the Ars Magica cosmology. Magic Might in the 30-40 range is pretty powerful. According to RoP:M, it's the might of a dragon of average power. RoP:M gives several examples of Beasts of Virtue -- magical epitomes of their species -- and only one, the Lion King, falls into that range (with a 31 that's still lower than that of your ant!). So keep in mind that an ant with magic might of 32 is probably best suited for an ant that's already the king not just of its anthill, but of a large region.

In terms of Intelligence, the rough guidelines given in the corebook should not really be used to extrapolate the way you do -- nothing says that if a wolf is very cunning and a ferret is as smart as a person, an ant should have an intellect matching those of the angels closest to god. Perhaps more importantly, RoP:M overrides this and simply has every character buy characteristics from the same 7-point pool adjusted for virtues and, forphysicalcharacteristicsonly*, for size. Being small does not make you smarter.

Good point about Strength, though I'd lower it somewhat -- to +5 or maybe +4 -- in human form. Ants were known to be very strong for their size, but not to such extents; and in terms of modern thought, every small animal is very strong for its size, and every large one very weak.

My one concern here is Quickness +22. This can be really scary if the ant is imbued with any magical power that works on a human scale or larger. This is not, however, an issue with your ant alone, but with the "smaller=quicker" equation used in Ars Magica, which encourages magi to become ant-sized when initiative really matters in a magical duel. Make sure you find an out-of-game agreement with your storyguide about this!

Again, here you see how vast departures from size 0 can make the mechanics break down. Caesar is as fast as lightning, almost impossible to hit. This is not true of normal ants! Also, any blow by a human (or even mouse-sized!) character should simply kill Caesar: no ant can survive a stomp by even the weakest toddler. Note that the necessity of making up rulings to deal with extreme size differences is made explicit in RoP:M when dealing with combat against giants. I would simply alterthe statistics as follows:

Initiative and Quickness: see above -- ants are known to be strong (for their size), but they really should not be faster than thought!

Defense: make up some values that seem reasonable according to your experience with ants. Unless hiding out of reach, an ant is easier to hit than a human in "melee". Though it's certainly very hard to kill one when firing an arrow from 20 paces away! I'd rule that for any creature the size of a mouse, or larger, stomping an ant is just a Trivial Dexterity check (roll 3+ on a stress die); for misssile combat and aimed spells I'd go on a case by case by case basis.

Soak and Wounds: simplify -- a hit by any creature the size of a mouse, or larger, is instant death to an ant. No need to track wounds, unless you are going to see battles between insect-sized creatures (in which case it's probably much better to work out the statistics of a human-sized Caesar, and similar statistics for everyone else in the combat).

Finally, you really should give abilities and nifty magical powers to Caesar!

While i mostly agree with you Ezz, a few things:

The size of a mouse or larger? :open_mouth:
Have you ever seen what migratory ants can to do creatures as large as farm animals and even humans?
It´s not quite the same but a mouse can NOT stomp an ant to death. a cat can do it, but not much smaller.

By a weak toddler, yes they can. Not because the force is insufficient but because most of the force isnt striking the ant but rather the area around it.

They might be more shy and never seen by humans before in this area. It/they might have migrated there intentionally(ie moving on until finding a "nice spot") or by accident.
Or you might say that all ants in his ant colony have grown mousesized or something.

And as for characteristics, dont get too bogged down with "by the book" when you´re making such an unusual character, it doesnt work.

Thanks everyone for the feedback so far, it's been very helpful. A couple of notes:

a) I am the Alpha storyguide for the upcoming campaign and I am new to ArM5 (played/SG's 2nd-4th editions extensively though). All of my players are new to ArM5 so the onus is on me to do most of the rules vetting, which is why I am looking to this board for help.
b) I concur with the comments that the mechanics seem to breakdown on the extreme size ranges so I am revising the concept to go with the dog sized ants.
c) I picked up the RoP:M which has made the process much easier. (I like having clearly defined rules. It's just my SG style.)

So here is version two of Formicus of House Tremere and Caesar the Mighty Ant. Again I am looking for comments on any rules errors that I may have overlooked and any suggestions on improvements.

Concept Background: Perhaps it was the fact that Formicus was born under the sign of Gemini, or perhaps it was just the fact that Tremere magic tends to work in pairs or perhaps it was Formicus taking a bite out that magic mushroom vis remnant before feeding it to his ant colony. All that can be truly said is that a strange thing happened during Formicus's apprenticeship. One of the ants in his colony grew incredibly large and began to follow Formicus around apparently trying to imitate his actions in a crude ant-like fashion. Formicus and the ant, which he called Caesar, became inseparable and some covenfolk members even swore the ant began to look like Formicus.

Formicus' parens, Severicus, has theorized that Caesar as a magical being is trying to achieve his idealized state which appears to be an idealized version of Formicus! Extending the theory, Severicus believes that Formicus's "heart beast" is probably an Ant which is what Caesar appears to be trying to achieve however "heart beasts" are crude hedge magic so Severicus has directed Formicus away from pursuing that line of investigation better to return to his solid Rego Terram studies so he can follow in the lineage of Tremere Architects. Regardless, the end result is that Caesar is becoming an ant version caricature of Formicus!

Covenant: Roznov
Saga: Spring in the Rhine

Characteristics: Int +3 (Logical), Per +3 (Insightful), Pre +3 (Handsome), Com +3 (Writer), Str -4 (Scholarly), Sta +1 (Determined), Dex -4 (Stiff), Qik -3 (Deliberate)

Size: 0
Age: 22 (22), Height: 155 cm, Weight: 45 kg, Gender: Male
Decrepitude: 0
Warping Score: 0 (0)
Confidence: 1 (3)

Virtues and Flaws: The Gift, Book Learner (Book Quality: +3), Good Teacher, Skilled Parens, The Lindengilde Gild Trained (30/30), Additional Gild Training (60/60) [Spell Levels: 0], Hermetic Magus, Minor Magical Focus (Certamen)*, Mercurian Magic, Affinity with Magic Theory, Affinity with Rego, Affinity with Terram, Ambitious, Blatant Gift (Interactions: -6 with normals), Covenant Upbringing, Magical Animal Companion (Ant, Size: -2, Might: 1) [Size: -2], Poor Strength × 1, Poor Dexterity × 1

Personality Traits: Ambitious +3, Careful +3, Organized +3

Dodge: Init: -3, Attack --, Defense -3, Damage --
Fist: Init: -3, Attack -4, Defense -3, Damage -4
Kick: Init: -4, Attack -4, Defense -4, Damage -1
Soak: +1
Fatigue levels: OK, 0, -1, -3, -5, Unconscious
Wound Penalties: -1 (1-5), -3 (6-10), -5 (11-15), Incapacitated (16-20), Dead (21+)

Abilities: Area Lore: Roznov 2 (personalities), Artes Liberales 1 (ritual magic), Charm 3 (magi), Code of Hermes 1 (Certamen), Covenant Lore: Durenmar 4 (Library), Finesse 1 (Certamen), Intrigue 1 (magi), Latin 5 (hermetic usage), Magic Theory 5 (Creo), Parma Magica 1 (Mentem), Penetration 1 (Certamen), Philosophiae 1 (ritual magic), Order of Hermes Lore 1 (Linden Gild), West Slavonic 5 (Czech)

Arts: Cr 9, In 0, Mu 7, Pe 0, Re 12, An 0, Aq 0, Au 0, Co 0, He 0, Ig 0, Im 0, Me 0, Te 14, Vi 4

Equipment: Wizardly Robes
Encumbrance: 0 (0)
Spells Known:
Aegis of the Hearth (ReVi 20) +21
Conjuring the Mystic Tower (CrTe 35) +28
Touch of Midas (CrTe 20) +28
Crest of the Earth Wave (ReTe 20) +27
Hands of the Grasping Earth (Re(Mu)Te 15) +22
Sense the Nature of Vis (InVi 5) +5
The Unseen Porter (ReTe 10) +27
Wall of Protecting Stone (CrTe 25) +24
Wizard's Communion (MuVi 35) +12

Caesar, Magical Ant (Medium Power, Grog)
Magic Might 1 (Terram)
Characteristics: Int +3, Per +3, Pre +3, Com +3, Str -7, Sta +1 Dex -3 Qik -1
Size -2
Season: Spring
Confidence Score:1 (3)
Virtues and Flaws: Magic Animal; Magical Friend; Book Learner, Good Teacher, Affinity with Magic Theory, Ambitious (Minor), Offensive to Animals
Magic Qualities and Inferiorities: Lesser Power x3, Improved Powers x4 (reduce 75 levels of power to 0 cost, 25 XP for Concentration, Finesse & Penetration), Reduced Might x4
Personality Traits: Ant +3, Ambitious +3, Careful +3, Organized +3
Bite: Init -1, Attack -3, Defense -1, Damage -7
Soak: +1
Fatigue Levels: OK, 0, -1, -3,-5, Unconscious
Wound Penalties: -1 (1-3), -3 (4-6), -5 (7-9), Incapacitated (10-12), Dead (13+)
Abilities: Area Lore: Roznov (personalities) 2, Awareness (alertness) 1, Charm (magi) 3, Concentration (powers) 2, Covenant Lore: Durenmar (Library) 4, Finesse (Terram) 1, Intrigue (magi) 1, Penetration (Terram) 1, Survival (forests) 2
Crest of the Earth Wave, 0 points, Init -9, Terram
Hands of the Grasping Earth, 0 points, Init -7, Terram
Sense the Nature of Vis, 0 points, Init -3, Vim
The Unseen Porter, 0 points, Init -5, Terram
Wall of Protecting Stone, 0 points, Init -11, Terram

Or you could just realize that the Size:Int guidelines are there for some sort of game balance, and at some point (about the size of a mouse), "size" reaches an effective limit re being "very small and vulnerable and non-combative", and beyond that there is really not much significant difference.

<And so, with tears of regret in their eyes, the group of magi waved adieu to their +30 Int amoeba familiars...>

Oh it's not that scary if you take into account the Aiming rule. Considering that a mace is 10x bigger than an ant and that it cannot move out of the strike zone, the size difference is worth a few +6 on the attack roll.

That is the true problem: your familiar will die at the first battle, if it doesn't get stepped on before.

I like this revised version :slight_smile:

In fact, RoP:Faerie has a sidebar (page 49) called "What Do Size Scores Represent?" In particular, the Wound Penalties that Victor Sim listed (which correspond to Size -4 as it turns out) aren't the worst you can get: at Size -5 you lose the ability to get Lightly Wounded (a Damage Total minus Soak Total of +1 already gives a Medium Wound), and it gets progressively more dire until at Size -8 and below, any wound results in Dead.