Easy Money, Probably too easy

So I’ve been reading City and Guild recently and got to the commodities prices at the end. I decided to figure out a what creo ritual could create the most wealth for the smallest amount of vis invested. This is what I got.

Poseidon’s Horde 20
Creo Animal
R: Touch D: Momentary T: Group, Ritual
Base: 5 +1 Touch, +2 Group
This spell creates 2,000 lbs (the mass of ten small ponies) of fine sea pearls (an animal product).

Now actually a pony probably weighs more then 200 lbs but I wanted to keep my math easy. So this single spell creates 120,000 medieval pounds worth of product for just 4 vis (2 for a mercurian caster). Now if you wanted to create a spell that say made 100 tons of pearls it would still be only a level 30. Probably not the first to spot this one, but damn.

That seems about right. On the other hand, whatever price you can get for the first pearl, good luck getting that price for the three-millionth pearl! And better study up on Finesse so that your pearls will be "fine": you'll need to get right "the thickness of its nacre, its luster, the cleanliness and texture of its surface, its shape, its color and its size", according to one random website I found: http://www.pearl-guide.com/pearl-quality.shtml.

Still, easy money.

I think this is a case where the "Central Rule" from page 111 of ArM5 ought to be invoked: "The storyguide or troupe may always intervene and declare that a certain combination of range, duration, target, and effect warrant a higher or lower level than that described by the guidelines." In other words, the spell guidelines really are guidelines and you have explicit license to overrule them as necessary.

That's what I call the "gamist" solution to your problem. There is also the "simulationist" approach, which calls for you to roleplay through the economic and social effects of trying to unload 2,000 pounds of pearls on a pseudo-medieval economy. You might be able to get a story out of that; personally, that's not the kind of story I prefer.

I do think the Creo guidelines are a bit out of whack in that it seems rather hard to make simple things like a woolen cloak, and rather easy to make huge numbers of inanimate objects.

The Evil Storyguide in me would make the player roll Finesse separately for each pearl. :smiling_imp:

I don't think this is a problem. In fact, I think it is a feature of the rules.

Magi can manufacture a lot of wealth if they want to. This discourages the troupe from telling stories that are merely about acquiring wealth, and encourages the troupe to concentrate instead on stories that about "why a particular character wants a lot of wealth", and "what are the consequences of having a lot of wealth", and as importantly "why can I not solve this other class of problems (mostly character rather than situation problems) merely by being wealthy".

One of the few things that makes some sense in hack'n'slash roleplaying is that "going down in the dungeon and killing stuff" has an economic payoff for the characters (i.e. the loot). The fact that this economic payoff is meaningless in ArM5 means that ArM5 is trying to encourage something other than hack'n'slash.

The Creo guidelines increase in magnitude when creating "intrinsically valuable" materials (See the Creo Terram guidelines for the best example of that). Your spell should probably start at 35th level.

A lot of materials are not "intrinsically valuable", but can easily make you wealthy if you can reliably get them in bulk without much effort. Just making planks of wood, or bricks, or bridges or something similar, is a dead easy route to wealth.

Wealth is not really a problem for magi, if you don't want it to be.

I thought Creo magic didn't require a finess roll like Rego does. You get the platonic ideal perfect in every way.

A solution I might go with but as far as I know in the RAW that guideline is only present in Terram. Although if my saga gets off the ground I think our covenant would use them conservatively no matter how much the spell produced. Sell off only 20 or 30 mythic pounds worth each year save the rest for a rainy day fund and easily transportable wealth for adventures. Also I doubt we’d publish the spell for other mages to copy.

I may even have my magus develop and cast the spell in secret. I have an image of him having a huge bin of pearls hidden in his sanctum and him giving a pint to the steward every year “To cover incidentals”

Yes to both of you. The thing to watch out for here is that pearls are "worth" more to magi because they can hold more Vis, being considered a gemstone in canon. And they're very portable. Harder to lose a valued companion to a pile of lumber then a sack of gems.....

hmmm hmmm. ArM5, page 77: "Natural things created by magic are always perfect examples of their kind unless the magus wants them to be damaged." (Artificial things require Finesse rolls, it goes on to say.) One could quibble about whether pearls are "natural", or whether a "perfect" pearl is the same thing as an aesthetically valuable pearl. But I must concede that maine's point is the frontrunner. Good stuff.

Yup, perfect pearls for me as well. If you want to tell stories out of this, I would go for a flooded market (if ythe magi did not plan well and flooded the market) or the development of a bad cover for how they got the pearls. After all magi are notorious for being lousy administrators in a lot of covenants due to them being detached from the mundane consequences of their acts.

A rival luring a servant away and learning that those pearls are stored in the magu's chambers (mundanes having no idea what a Sanctum is at all) and trying to steal them is another possibility for an interesting story derived from the spell. Or the chambermaid stealing stealing stealing a few hundred pearls and fleeing, just to be caught by the enemies of the covenant.... That kind of stuff.

Screwing the dudes just by being creative and inventing the spell, making them roll finesse per pearl is killer Dungeon Master to me :confused: Especially since there are spells in the rulebook that create the same ammount of wealth without requiring such roll. On the otrher hand building a pair of stories out of their wealth is a great way to introuce the "acts havfe consequences" idea that permeates Ars Magica :slight_smile: This spell has A LOT of potential for this later point.


One of the things I like about ArM is that wealth and all that mundane stuff isn't really an issue. This spell is an example of that, but just creating grain or silver will do too. This is actually why I don't really like the "don't make too much magical money" peripheral code ruling; I prefer to have magi make as much money as they want, and focus the stories elsewhere. I'm not excited at all about stories about inflation or scullery maids steal gems, not at all. YMMV.

In defense of the "don't make too much magical money" peripheral code ruling -- what is really clever about it is that in Real History there was a collapse in the value of silver (read, runaway inflation) in England. What David Chart (author of Heirs to Merlin) did was tie this in to the Order of Hermes. I think it was clever and fun to tie this one historical event in to the fictional history of the Order.

That said, you have to do what works in your Saga. Because the magical money ruling is written down, people (including myself) tend to take it too seriously. I really don't think it's meant to come into play unless you want it to.

I agree with Yair that chasing money and counting beans is not anything I'm interested in role-playing. YMMV.

Well, it's also not worth anywhere near the book value. How, exactly, does one market 100 tons of pearls? And who, what kingdom or association, could afford or even want anywhere near that much?

Plus, once pearls start flooding the market, the price will plummet as competition to sell becomes desperation.

Still, it'd keep a lab going over the year, that's for sure. :wink:

(And we'll leave aside the question of "interfering with mundanes" - that's been covered elsewhere recently.)

Even the tiny Shetland pony is 150-200kg, while the largest ponies can edge up over 500kg. :mrgreen:

So, you may be underestimating the total value by a factor of 5.

So, more like 600.000 pounds... Certainly beats creating a lump of silver worth 2000 pounds for 7 Vis doesnt it? :stuck_out_tongue:

Nice catch actually, hadnt thought about pearls.

Would of course need an exceptionally good network to sell via, and unless very careful, the price drop that would happen might become extreme indeed.
Still though, even at half or one quarter price and including the trouble taken to sell them as widely dispersed as possible, easily still a great commodity.

Nonono, you use the spell once, then you have a cash commodity for supporting the covenant for a hundred years. Ie, meaning that you distribute no more pearls per year than you need, and that you do it through several agents, which can double as information gatherers, working widely dispersed geographically.
Just the pearl markets of Arabia could probably absorb enough pearls for several hundred pounds per year beyond its regular amounts.

The results of some guidelines are more than a little skewed indeed.

Not a good idea at all, but funny...

Quite true.

Especially if you make that bridge one that cant really be built by normal means(or at least not without extreme effort), and then make sure you collect toll on it.

Why do I picture a lab where the walls are made of pearls? :smiley:

Actually, that'd probably be an appropriately extravagant action for, say, a verditius' salesroom.

Stonehenge has rules (4th edition) for creating wealth.

I think cuchulainshound has a point: What happens if you flood the market with all these riches?

Answer: Inflation, economic collapse. Accusation of meddling with mundanes. Charcters get marched.Characters flee to far far away to start a new life.

that's a completely new saga.

Pearls are subtle enough where the won't collapse the entire economy. You might bust the pearl market, but that will fly below the radar of the Q's if you are reasonably cautious. The Stonehenge ruling is in 5th too, mentioned in True Lineages. It only applies to Silver, because silver coinage is the basis of the English economy at that time.

And the silver ruling, which is expanded in the Covenants book on resources, presumably took many abuses and resulting prosecutions before it was made into a ruling for future events. It would take similarly abusive behaviour in exploiting this to get a similar ban. Especially as pearl aren't a legal tender, if their worth becomes devalued no one will buy them and the entire economy of a region will have no major impact.

Especially devalued if a rumour came out (from a rival covenant) that they were magically created and likely to vanish.

If magi tried to sell the pearls to fund a covenant, they would soon hit a snag. There are only so many "pearl merchants", and the word would get out to others who thought they could buy them "cheap, and in quantity" and then sell them for more than they paid for them. Eventually.

If, however, they offered them in barter for what they need, that would last longer. A pearl to an innkeeper, a pearl for a year's butcher bill, a few for a good horse, etc etc. The pearls would slowly work their way up the economic food chain, and probably get turned into rings or gifts or be hoarded away sometime before they reached "the pearl market", and thus disappear before they had any significant impact.

But even then, rumours of "the pearl traders" would start to circulate - at first that would be a good thing, but it might come back to bite them, either via a narrow-minded Tribunal or simple devaluation.