Elemental Magic

We're currently playing in the Rhine gorge, with a covenant set in the anachronistic but oh-so-cool Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, so the river plays heavily in our saga. Before we picked the location, our Flambeau had already decided to throw acid rather than fire. Now, with Aurum as a secondary Art, he dominates the water, and therefore shipping, in our area--not to mention much of the defense of the island. He's in the process of developing a spell along the lines of Form of the Zephyr, with him turning into water rather than air. Eventually, he wants to do a little original research to make R: River, similar to the faerie R: Road so that he can truly claim the Rhine as his demesne (to the degree that the Order allows, that is).

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Water is conditional. Near a river, lake or an ocean, they can be terrifying.

True. And the vast majority of human settlements are located on or near a body of water. Beyond that, magi can create water essentially ex nihilo if need be. An Aquam magus could fill a man's canteen--or lungs--with water in the middle of a desert. Creo aside, rain and snow also deliver water, which is why it pairs so well with Aurum.

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This thread has not produced much of a consensus. I think the reactions and the problems that we are having with the definition of similar spells rule out a couple of the options I initially suggested. The two remaining are:

There is space for some variation on the second one.

So, if we were to go for keeping this Major by improving the XP bonus (which is the simplest way to do it, and the one least likely to break things unexpectedly), how do you think we should do it?

If we can reach a consensus on what that should look like, I will ask people whether they prefer Major or Minor, so hang on to your opinions about that for a little longer.

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Half on the three others looks fine. The requisite part of the virtue isn't really useful unless you're a Muto (elements) specialist, and has the funny side effect of becoming less and less useful the more you keep your elements equally strong, which you would think the virtue encourages. So having the benefits of roughly three Affinity virtues seems logical to me for a Major virtue, even if it has the side effect of applying more regularly, it pretty much achieves the aim of the virtue which is a character that has four arts that are solid altogether.


I recommend changing this into a minor virtue. Were this a redesign, or a new addition, or even a 5.5 edition, I would want to find a better version of the major virtue, because being oriented to the elements seems like it could be a big thing.

However, changing this to a minor virtue is extremely simple, does not result in a vastly overpowered virtue or even in a very powerful virtue, but certainly a solid one. All of the rules can remain as they are, with clarifications, keeping the game close to what it already is. There is nothing wrong with elemental magic as a minor virtue, so why not stop there? I'll also note that no play testing is needed, and there are no unknown corner cases. Just saying. New paragraph anyway, new paragraph Ken

While players love things that boost their XP, I feel like to encapsulate this virtue has to take a slightly different approach.

We want to encourage the players to use all 4 elements.
We want them to have something that represents a connection between them.
And we want to make it flavorful, and interesting.

May I present another approach? One that I think will ENCOUARGE players to spend their XP on these Arts,

Major, Hermetic
You have been trained in the ability to manipulate raw elemental forms (Ignem, Auram, Terram and Aquam), and view them as a connected whole rather than four separate Arts. When casting spells from one of these Arts, you may add your Form Bonus from each of the other Arts to your Casting Bonus. These bonuses also apply to your Lab Bonus when researching spells of those Forms.
In addition, if you cast a spell from one of these Arts, that has a requisite of one of the others, you gain double the Form Bonus of the prerequisite to casting that spell.

I would also appreciate a few words on exactly what the "ignore requisites" clause does please.

I've mentioned in another thread I'd like more of the major hermetic virtues which appear in other books to be core, as there's not enough major virtues, so I'd want it to remain major.

Option 2 would be my preference.

If there is any space for more suggestions, I sort of like Itzhaks Evan's Idea, however, it's a bit too powerful in it's current form. I'd suggest change it from each of the other arts, to one of the other arts, however, also have it affect lab totals.

I accept it is quite powerful, however, it's somewhat similar to a magical focus. While most focuses work with the same technique and form, this will depend on at least 2 forms. The extra versatility comes at a cost of needing to split learning over at least 2 forms, and to get really good value from the major virtue, 4 forms.

Your Form Bonus is Art/5, so it's quite an investment to get the same benefit as a Focus. but it does affect all 4 elemental Forms, and it incentivizes you to invest in them.


I misunderstood, and thought you meant the form total, not form bonus. Sorry.

Definately not overpowered then, and I'd think the option I suggested, being the form total from one other elemental form would be more powerful than the option you suggested.

But you're right that it probably could affect Lab Totals as well, without being overpowered.

I think we should be clear on what the final purpose of the Virtue is. I am assuming it is to make magi who wield all elements equally well viable - a "generalist" elementalist if you will. In other words, we are not looking at specialists in a single element, even ones who dabble in a few others.

If so, one should keep in mind that ArM5 vastly favours specialists through a number of mechanics, particularly a) the magical focus b) Affinity with /Puissant Art. So any mechanic pushing for generalists should a) give them massive bonuses to the lowest Arts, while also b) capping the highest. Only by doing a) you really get a viable generalist, because there's a massive xp gap there; but only by doing b) you can avoid having a) unbalance the game.

What I proposed in my initial post worked very well for years in our longest-running saga. It's a 100% bonus, rather than 50% (which makes it easier, and automatically deals with requisites) but you can't choose a single Element or subset of an Element to be further boosted with Affinity, Puissant Art, a narrow focus, etc.
So you never have the sense that by being "broad" you are spreading your xp thin, but an Ignem specialist can be significantly better than you at Ignem by virtue of his ... Virtues :slight_smile: Say, 27+3=30 in Ignem with Affinity and Puissant, takes slightly less xp then 22 in all Elements with Elementalist as written below.

Hermetic, Major
You view the four elemental Forms (Auram, Aquam, Ignem, Terram) as a connected whole. Whenever you increase or decrease your experience total in one, including during character creation, you automatically bring the other totals to exactly the same amount at no extra cost. Because of your holistic understanding, this Virtue is incompatible with any set of Virtues or Flaws that would not apply equally across the elemental Forms. For example, you cannot take an Affinity in any such Form (since you cannot take four Art Affinities), or a Minor Focus in creating metals; but you could take a Minor Focus in Elemental Spirits, or Incompatible Arts twice to represent a Technique incompatible with all four elements.


I like the general idea, but I feel like offering "half as many XP in each of the other three elements" is a little bit too generous. With a source quality 12 it mean +18xp each season which look like too much for me.
Like you I think offering just half the gained XP to be distributed is a little bit too harsh. Maybe giving as many xp as gained to be distributed as equaly as possible in the three other elements ? (so if you earn 10 xp, you get +3 xp in two elements and +4 in the third one choosed by the player)

Also, if the Virtue offers xp I think it could be nice to specify how it affects the character generation

Yes. Very much so.

I thought at first of something like
"When inventing an elemental spell, you use your lowest art times two", which would both push them to keep all their arts in the same bracket and give them huge bonuses. But this is probably too good: It starts akin to at least 4 major foci, and even if we divide by 3 (considering that a focus is most useful when casting) and consider that your highest arts are useless, this is probably still too much.

So, going left field, I thought about Mercurian Magic and its free Communion.
Throwing things at the wall to see if it sticks, we could have something like this:

When you invent an Elemental Spell, you can invent, at the same time, a spell from another element that must have the same Techniques, RDT, and, generally speaking, be as close as possible to the original spell in effect (Ward against Fire => Ward against Water, Pilum of Fire => Stream of Stones...). Use your worst lab total for this, and compare it, separately, to the 2 spells. The time it takes is based on the worst of the 2.

This should give elementalists lots of spell variants, without making their scores skyrockets, making them very versatile but not more powerful. It is also compatible with affinity and focuses, but doesn't benefit from them.

Elemental Magic for me has always hinged around the requisite part, everything is fairly weak but easily understandable but my troupe has had real issues working out exactly how powerful the requisite part is.

Example A. The elementalist creates a formulaic spell to command fire spirits. Its base is Ignem 15. But as an elementalist he adds on Aquam, Terram and Auram requisites to make a spell that commands elemental spirits. It is now still Ignem 15 and the extra requisites don't cost anything extra.
The tricky part comes with when he trades this spell to other non-elementalists. Have they now got a spell that they couldn't otherwise have created, like a potent spell? Or does it just affect fire spirits? Or is it 15 levels higher for them but does the same thing as for an elementalist?

Example B: The elementalist creates a formulaic spell to command fire spirits. Its base is Ignem 15. But when casting it, he can add the other elemental requisites to it and affect all elemental spirits. His non-elementalist colleagues only get the ignem version and can't add requisites at all, not even if they pay for them.

In our experience, the requisites bit can be very powerful, if you create the right spells, but quite niche.

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To me a requisite can not just throw in extra things. I can't get a spell that calms an animal, give it a mentem requisite and it can now calm a human and/or an animal for example.

Things like transform a human to a pig, corpus with an animal requisite.
Turning flames to ice, ignem with an aquam requisite.
bang spell with an explosion with rock shards, ignem with a terram requisite.

Your example, I consider there needs to be 4 different spells. Maybe I misunderstand requisites. If I do and it's how you wrote it, then yes, the current version has some power.

I think it can be done but by my reading its a level 30 spell that works with spirits up to 15. Even with Elementalist virtue. Remember, you can add effects with requisites but they cost magnitudes in spell design.
EDIT: my reading of elementalist is that it affects the casting side of the equation only. Otherwise you come into adjudicating the questions listed above.

There is that little part " there is no disadvantage in adding elemental Form requisites to any elemental spell." that confuses things because it is not clear exactly how "no disadvantage" is to be interpreted.

Without that phrase it is no problem - when casting an elemental spell with elemental requisites you can ignore the requisites and always use the main Form.

There are canonical examples like Ward Against Mundane Intrusions (Cov p.104). It should still be on effect to obey the core rules, but it can be one broader effect this way.