The Ars Magica Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) may be found at http://www.redcap.org/FAQ/FAQ.html. Before I add new questions and answers I like to solicit feedback from the community. Normally I do that on the Berk List, but for various reasons I've decided to experiment with doing it here this time.
Please comment on the following and feel free to add new questions. Proposed answers also welcome.
Do wound and Fatigue penalties apply to Soak totals?
At first it appears they may - page 178 says "The character suffers a penalty to all actions (rolls and totals) equal to the sum of all penalties due to his wounds..."
On the other hand, Soak is a Total (page 171), but is it an action? A player cannot decide, "my character will now attempt to Soak this or that." Soak happens automatically whenever the character (potentially) takes damage.
An important clue is on 172 under "Combat: Simple Example." The penultimate paragraph says "note that Polandrus's Wound Penalty does not apply to Soak because Soak is not rolled." That's pretty explicit, though it's an obscure reference that's hard to find (especially in the middle of a game session).
So, no, Wound Penalties do not appear to be meant to apply to Soak. The word "totals" in the discussion of Wound Penalties probably means things like Lab Totals and Study Totals, which are not rolled (though for Study Totals, the effects of wounds are discussed under "Activities While Injured" on pages 178-179).
Do Wound Penalties apply to Recovery rolls?
No; see the second-to-last paragraph under "Recovery From Wounds" (page 179). The FAQ used to say they did (in the topic on differences between Fourth and Fifth Edition), but that was a mistake (and will be corrected in this update).
Is temporary, magically-created food nourishing?
This has been discussed at length and the rules seem to support more than one interpretation. This question has a long history as the rules for creating things with magic, and how "real" those magically-creating things will be, have gradually changed since First and Second Edition.
One of the main threads on this discussion is here: [url]https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/consensus-building-on-magically-created-food/1172/1]
The first thing to say is that food created using a ritual (CrHe, CrAn, CrAq) is real, permanently, and behaves like mundane food in every way. The rules are clear on this point and there is strong consensus about food created through rituals. The question is what happens when a character tries to subsist on food that created by a non-ritual spell.
Next, some relevant excepts from the rules:
The entire second-to-last paragraph under Creo on page 77, which is too long to reproduce here, says in part that "...magically created food only lasts as long as the duration lasts, and someone who has eaten it becomes extremely hungry when the duration expires."
The first paragraph under "Creo Herbam Guidelines" on page 136: "Any food created is nutritious only if the creation is a ritual.
Strictly speaking, these two references contradict one another. The CrHe guidelines do not say non-ritual food is not permanently nourishing, they say it's not nourishing at all. There are, at present, no official errata to resolve the contradiction.
Opinions in the community seems to be divided approximately equally between three choices:
Magically created food is nutritious for as long as it lasts, and if a character fully digests the food before its duration expires, then he suffers no ill effects when the spell ends.
The principle, which does have adherents, is that magically-created things can have effects on the mundane world that outlast the spell's duration. A magically conjured horse leaves hoofprints on the ground, a magically created fire can burn down a house, so logically, magically created food should have its normal effects on a body after being fully digested. After all, once digested, the food is gone anyway.
I do not know enough about medieval medicine or natural philosophy to comment on whether this is consistent with the medieval idea of how food actually nourishes the body. So I'll not attempt to evaluate whether this holds up under the Medieval Paradigm (with a big "P").
The rules don't explicitly say this is possible, and in several places they seem to imply that it's not. This option should be considered more of a house rule than an interpretation of the rules-as-written. It may have merit on a philosophical level (again, I can't really speak to the medieval point of view) and, if adopted, may help to make magic and its effects more philosophically consistent.
It also would have significant effects on play. Magi would not really need to grow or buy food at their covenants if a Moon-Duration, non-ritual spell can create food that is nourishing for all practical purposes. This has implications for both the economics of covenants, and for the fantasy flavor of the setting. On one hand, such a ruling could open the door to abuse if magi decide to make a living selling magically-created wine or foodstuffs. On the other, it makes a lot more sense for magi to take up residence in the midst of a tangled forest or in a lonely tower on top of a mountain if they don't have to worry about where their groceries come from.
Magically created food is not nourishing at all (unless created by a ritual).
This essentially is interpreting the CrHe guidelines on page 136 to be correct and to overrule the sentence on page 77 that says "...[magical] food only nourishes for as long as its duration lasts, and someone who has eaten it becomes extremely hungry when the duration expires."
One advantage of this approach is that the Troupe doesn't have to worry about difficult questions coming up in play. If characters try to live solely on magical food, it's pretty clear what would happen (malnourishment, weakness, eventual death).
This interpretation is consistent with the legacy of past Ars Magica editions, where magically-created things of all kinds (water as well as food) were ephemeral and in vague ways partly unreal.
The drawback, mainly, is that under this rule magi can't use magically-created food to skip more than a few meals in a row. This could be seen as a hindrance to adventuring magi, especially those who undertake long journeys into desolate areas. Some troupes may not want to bother with magi being tied down to details such as where their next meal is coming from.
Magically-created food is fine as long as the spell lasts and causes a problem when the spell ends.
The section on page 77 is a lot longer and more detailed than the rule on page 136, and this interpretation can be seen as giving more weight to the page 77 rules.
In fact, there are two variations on this interpretation: whether the person who had lived on magically-created food becomes supernaturally hungry when the spell ends, or whether he actually drops dead from starvation.
These two possible consequences are not mutually exclusive - the answer may depend on how much magical food and how much normal food the character ate in a given period. Common sense says that a character who ate one magical pea alongside an otherwise mundane diet should not suffer too much when that pea's duration expires.
Some players treat the magical food as never having existed, once its duration expires. The character is treated exactly as if he had not eaten it. If this had been one meal, several days ago (and the food had a Duration of Moon) then the character may not even notice; if he had subsisted entirely on magical food for weeks, then he would be severely weakened by hunger or might even die of starvation.
Others take a less scientific approach and say that if the character ate (a sufficient amount of) magical food, he becomes supernaturally hungry when the spell ends. Presumably he needs to eat approximately as much real food as he had consumed in magical food, all at once. This has more of a fantastic feel, and some players prefer it for that reason.
It has been pointed out that feeding a character on magical food could be a subtle form of attack (causing malnutrition or starvation when the spell ends). Opinions are divided, though, whether that's an abuse of the rules or a great story seed for some devious NPC plot. In either case, feeding magical food to magi would probably not work, as their Magic Resistance would keep out the magically-created food.
New Jargon Abbreviations
HR - House Rule.
RAW - "Rules as written." What the text strictly says, as opposed to the rules people actually use in play (which may be a combination of house rules, the RAW, legacy rule interpretations from past editions, and common sense)
New Book Recommendation
A reader suggested I add the following book to the recommended reading list:
The Medieval Underworld discusses law, outlawry and all manner of unseemly and unusual behavior which clearly suggests many potential stories for an Ars Magica saga.
If anyone has read this, please let me know what you think (I haven't read it yet myself, though it looks intriguing!).[/list]