Fast casting spontaneous counterspells

The text of the books seems to indicate that a bjornaer magus with subtle magic and quiet magicx2 cannot use this option in his/her heartbeast form, because he/she cannot avoid doing gestures and loud pronunciations, even if he/she does not need them. He/she could master (fast casting) unraveling of form to do the same thing though. Is this true? I does not seem intended.

Could you provide references for the texts that indicate this is a problem?
Because just reading the virtues (Quiet Magic & Subtle Magic), I'm not seeing any problems?

I read

to specify, that the fast caster cannot concentrate on specific ways to cast spells, like Quiet Magic and Subtle Magic. So a standard Bjornaer in animal form would still cast with a firm animal voice and bold animal gestures, which do not help her and make her incur a comprehensive -25 penalty for fast casting. This makes fast casting indeed pretty useless for her.

There's HoH:MC p.36 R:Per D:Sun The Voice of the Bjornaer Magus, which nearly every Bjornaer can learn and which allows her to use a human voice when casting in animal form. I would allow this spell to work automatically while up, affect fast casting, and thus reduce the fast casting penalty for the Bjornaer in animal form to -15, far closer to the standard penalty.


Ah, I'm stupid. I'd missed the bit about fast casting.
Yes, that is indeed a problem. Bjornaer get shafted a bit.

But it seems strange. I always thought that having those virtues was like not needing gestures or words.

A transformed bjornaer magus could use a mastered (fast casting) unraveling the fabric of (form) to the same end and take advantage of those virtues?

Edit: Rereading it is obvious that the anwer is no. The problem is fast casting, not the spontaneous part.


I think bad things happened in the transition across editions from Fast Cast being a weak, spontaneous defense against magic to becoming any kind of spell, possibly a powerful formulaic spell backed by a huge casting total.

Stringent rules for when or if the fast cast goes off became necessary because a magus could now pre-empt any activity with a Fast Cast, even just start taking multiple actions or a fastcast multicast before the turn order even starts.

Fast Casts became more powerful too, due to Spell Mastery.

I think rolling this back would be good.

We don't have Fast Sword Strike after all, or Multishot, nor does AM really support interrupt actions.

Also, a Fast Cast right now requires 3 rolls, which for a Fast Cast really isn't very fast.

Fast Cast Changes

Fast Cast is now a spontaneous, almost instinctive outburst of defensive magic, rather less organized than a spell. Its speed is immediate. Your use of magic is always obvious, perhaps spectacularly so. The name should probably be changed from Fast Cast.

Defense versus Magic:

  • Commit to a Fast Cast
  • SG tells you the Form of the attack
  • Choose a Technique of your choice
  • Choose either Vim or the Form of the attack
  • No words or gestures: There's really no time for anything.
  • Casting Total = Spontaneous Casting Total + Awareness
  • If Casting Total is at least half the Final Penetration of the magical attack, the magus and everyone protected by his Parma is protected.

We build Awareness into the single roll, so Fast Casts are fast. To compensate for letting the defender always choose the right Form, we impose a -15 penalty and justify this within the game world by saying there is no time for words or gestures. Of course, you can always use Vim to deal with magic. The defender can use the Technique of his choice: Creo allows interposition of opposing magic, Intellego provides a very clear idea of what's coming, making it easier to unravel, Muto allows you to change the magic sufficiently to make it irrelevant, Perdo lets you weaken or disrupt it, and Rego gives you control over it.

We look at the Final Penetration of the magical attack rather than its level: I think an important design aspect of AM5 is that low level spells are useful because they are harder to resist. Previous editions worked the opposite way, and the current Fast Casting rules are a holdover contrary to the design (as I see it) of AM5. Easy enough to fix.

Most magi will have to spend fatigue and roll a stress die to have any hope of success with this.

Resist or Dodge Attack:

  • You must be making an Ability or Characteristic roll to defend against something. It could be an arrow, it could be someone's great negotiating skill, it could be a spell that has successfully penetrated but that allows some kind of further resistance. But not Soak.
  • It only works for you.
  • Add your Parma Magica to the roll.
  • No other roll is needed.
  • Remember that your cheaty magical intervention is obvious!

Fast casting arbitrary spells opens various cans of worms. But it is reasonable to have a quick magical defense versus random stuff. Fortunately, we already have a Hermetic Ability that represents magical defenses. So we can simply use it to boost an existing roll... at the cost of using obvious magic.

Soak Damage:

  • Commit to a Fast Cast
  • Use your best Technique
  • Use any reasonable Form
  • No words or gestures: There's really no time for anything.
  • Casting Total = Spontaneous Casting Total + Parma
  • Soak = Casting Total
  • This only works for you.

This is used instead of a normal Soak roll. Stamina is already included, after all, and this is already very good. Most Forms can work here, perhaps with physical manifestations of the magic based on the form. (Auram winds deflect a blow or turns partially to air, Animal briefly gives you a carapace or interposes a bunch of kittens, Herbam makes you strong as a tree, etc.) Other handwavium as for Defense vs Magic.

Yes, it is possible to do many of these in a turn, limited by your Fatigue (at last, Diedne Magic is good for this, which was the case in AM2) and by not botching. It is even possible to be subject to an incoming spell for which you try to mount a magical defense, fail, and then use a magical soak.

Mastery Option: Fast Cast goes away. If there isn't already a Mastery option that simply increases regular initiative, similar to Fast Caster, we can make one. With these rules, spells are never fast cast.



I cannot see how you get to the -25 penalty. In my mind, the virtues of Quiet and Subtle Magic still apply, bringing the penalty down to -10.

The harsh interpretation would say that firm voice and bold gestures are required to fast cast, and if you can't use your voice/gestures, you cannot fast cast at all.

/If/ you accept that fast cast is possible even if firm voice and/or bold gestures are not, there is nothing in the rules on fast casting which impose extra penalties or void the benefits of virtues.

The point of the rule seem to be «you do not have time to consider what options to use». Firm voice and bold gestures seem like an sensible default for a desperate all-out effort, but logically, this should be the firmest and boldest, which is - for the heartbeast - nothing at all. It is not what the rules say, but it seems reasonable.

ArM5 p.83 says "the maga may not exploit any other spellcasting options" than casting with "with a firm voice and bold gestures". So she cannot exploit Quiet and Subtle Magic, which means, that she has no benefits from them, like in this case casting bonuses.

As it is not what the rule says, it does not answer AericExMiscellanea's questions. You can make such arguments with your troupe, of course.


Quiet and Subtle Magic aren't spellcasting options. They are virtues of the magus. The spellcasting options are described in ArM5 p83+, and are details which the magus can choose to use every time he casts a spell. The virtues are inherent features of the Gift, and not something the magus can opt. Furthermore, he is not exploiting the virtues. No gestures/no voice gives no bonus.

Agreed. What the rule says is that you have to use bold and firm. There is no penalty for no gestures and no voice. It is a total block. This, of course also affects disabled magi (mute, no hands, etc) and restrained magi (tied up etc.).

He can opt for or against casting without voice and gestures even if he has the Virtues 2xQuiet and Subtle Magic. Otherwise he could not cast with exaggerated gestures and booming voice (ArM5 p.48 and 49).

They give the bonus of +15 for casting without voice and gestures.


Indeed he can. For normal spells. The options are firm voice at no penalty, or no voice at no penalty (et cetera). The rule for fast casting says that there is no option, he has to use firm and bold. There is no indication that he can choose, and if he can choose, there is nothing to exploit since the penalty is 0 in either case.

That is not how it is phrased in RAW. They reduce the penalty, not add a bonus.

To get a useless discussion out of the way of the answer to AericExMiscellanea:

So the Bjornaer in animal form needs to "cast with a firm voice and bold gestures", which are the voice and gestures of his animal form. So he fast casts with -25 penalty (-10 fast cast penalty, -10 voice modifier, -5 gesture modifier). Her 2xQuiet and Subtle Magic do not help her.
But having HoH:MC p.36 The Voice of the Bjornaer Magus up could allow her to speak and cast with a firm human voice, thereby avoiding the -10 modifier for casting with an animal voice.


Sorry, let's see if I understand you correctly. You say that quiet and subtle magic do not apply because the heartbeast is actually making noise and gestures, just not any useful ones. The penalties for no voice and no gestures apply as expect, even though the «no voice»/«no gestures» labels are not appropriate. I can see why you reason this way, but it relies on the wording of the rules being inconsistent and ambiguous, as the same phrase »no voice» used for both absolute silence and for no meaningful speech.

Then, I suppose this also applies to a mute magus with quiet magic casting voice range spells. By RAW he can use voice range spells normally, making meaningless vocal sounds, but he then takes the full penalty for no voice, since quiet magic only helps if he is actually quiet.

The way I read it, you cannot fast-cast at all if you cannot make bold gestures and use firm voice. You cannot use voice or gestures in animal form, so you cannot fast-cast. You cannot fast cast if you are restrained, you cannot fast cast if you are muted.

The way I read it, in any case you receive a penalty for not using voice or gestures, you can use the virtues to reduce it up to zero.

If an Hermetic magus casts with "noise and gestures" which he did not learn for spell casting, they do not help him in it. That should be quite obvious, as otherwise a lot of magi would cast their spells by blessing people and singing hyms to Mary when it suits them.
HoH:S p.107 Exotic Casting also makes clear, that being taught in atypical, exotic ways of spell casting is a Virtue and an exception. The Major General Flaw ArM5 p.56 Mute shows, that a normally trained Hermetic magus casting spells by grunting and babbling incurs a -10 penalty, as if he had cast without any words at all.

Now look up

This Virtue allows to cast with softer or without voice without incurring casting penalties, but not with inadequate words or sounds, even if they are only used to establish the limits of a R: Voice.
Looking up

show similarly, that it allows to cast with no gestures without incurring casting penalties, but not with inadequate gestures.

Take a close look at

Taking Quiet Magic once or twice offsets some or all of the -10 penalty if you apply it, not if you groan, babble, roar or chant hymns.


I tried to help you a bit by reading "cast with a firm voice and bold gestures" literally. A Bjornaer maga in animal form - just imagine a lion - can certainly use "a firm voice and bold gestures", though they don't contribute to her spell casting.

You are of course welcome to read it as "cast with the firm voice and bold gestures the maga has learned for this kind of magic" and communicate this to your troupe.


Thank you. Now I see how you argue. I do not agree that the rules are unambiguous though.

Note that quiet magic address the penalty when you do not speak at all. If you groan, you do not speak, and quiet magic, by that wording, removes the penalty. The only conclusion I can see is that the rules are ambiguous.

One being's groan or roar is another being's speech, especially among Bjornaer. 8) Sorting rules out at that level is sure to make them ambiguous and close to unreadable.


Fair enough. And just as Theban magi use Greek language spells in the same way as most magi use Latin, a magus Bjornaer can develop his spells in eagle speech. :slight_smile:
I like that.

That looks like a nice application of HoH:S p.107 Exotic Casting, doesn't it?