Game: Simple but Huge (House Rules)

Let's play a little game, everybody. What are single, simple house rules that don't cause changes across the entirety of the mechanics, but nonetheless result in a huge change in character power, whether upwards or downwards? For this little game, the simpler the houserule and the fewer mechanics it alters while doing its empowering/weakening, the better you do.

At this point, the best ones I can think of are Arts as Abilities (drastically weakening magi) and capping Warping from long-term effects at 1 per year (hugely empowering them).

Have you guys got any thoughts?

Triple creature MR against Hermetic magic. Significantly lowers magi power levels, of course.

Spell magnitude is x3, instead of x5. The lower spell levels mean increased magi power levels. Can be combined with Arts as Abilities to make the game more consistent, more difficult to run (multiplying by 5 is easier!), and keep the power level about the same as in the core rules.

All magical Size increases are +1 Size Score (i.e. +3 is x10 mass) per magnitude. This includes affecting large Targets, increasing the Size of a creature, or so on. This also lowers magi's power level, preventing them from affecting the whole kingdom or so on.

No Virtues & Flaws limitations (aside from balancing them, and common sense). Expands character-creation options considerably, which can result in greater power.

The Limit of the Eternal: spirits cannot be killed. Those drained of their Might Score will slowly recover it in the right Supernatural Aura, at a rate comparable to wound recovery. This rule applies principally to demons, ghosts, and so on, and means these things will usually be bound or exorcised rather than killed. The best way to deal with a demon is to might-drain it, bind it, and bury it in holy ground / the dungeon under your covenant's Magical Aura, or so on. This rule somewhat lowers magi power level.

The Limit of the Soul: No Mentem Art. Aka "Free Will b**ches!" and "Murder mysteries for the win!". Some Mentem guidelines may still be accessible through other Arts (exorcising a ghost = vim, inducing lust = corpus, and so on). Obviously, greatly lowers power levels.

Difficult Imaginem: double (triple?) all Imaginem spell guidelines. Because it's too easy (especially affecting one sense, e.g. vision; invisibility is especially troubling).

You may apply Ceremonial Casting to Formulaic spells. Increases magi's power levels, though not by much.

Gain 30 XP per year, every year [30 XP is for magus/Mythic Companion; Companions/Grogs get 20 XP for Wealthy, 15 for normal, 10 XP for Poor]. Seasonal activities determine only the limits of what you can invest in; you can always invest 5 XP in any plausible Ability, but higher investments require a Seasonal Activity such as reading a book (the Quality becomes the XP you may invest). Increasing Arts always requires a dedicated activity (learning from vis/book). Each laboratory activity wastes 5 XP (so 4 seasons wastes 20 XP, leaving 10 XP gained in things like Magic Theory; RAW will give you 8 XP for such a year). This rule is slightly complicated, but Huge in its way without greatly affecting anything else. It would usually lower magi power levels, I suspect, as in-game characters will often gain more than 30 XP/year - but that's saga-dependent.


Every spell cast inflicts Warping Points on the caster. Yes, the usual rules for 2+ WP apply.

Replace all d10s with d4s. Yes, there is no 0.

Hermetic Totals involve Te*Fo instead of Te+Fo. Yes, if either is 0 the result is 0. (This one's for YR7 :slight_smile:)

Magi can spend nearby grogs as Confidence Points. No, this does not necessarily align with the Infernal.

For every point of Fatigue a character might lose, its controller can instead drink a shot of single malt scotch. Yes, the GM can do this too, for any and all NPCs. (If the shot is not downed in one swig, botch dice equal to the number of extra swigs must be rolled.)

As you can see, I am deeply into work on a draft edition of AM6.



Oh my god, I can't stop laughing at this one. Now grogs are literally expendable!

The Warping points one is... Actually something I might try for a one-shot. Makes enchanted items insanely valuable, with actual spellcasting being a desperation move...

Okay, my turn. This one empowers/weakens the entire power spectrum without actually touching many mechanics at all: Supernatural effects of one Realm have no effect on beings of a stronger Realm. (Divine>Magic=Infernal>Faerie)

Or, for an absolute crippling of everything the OoH stands for in Ars Magica, all you need to do is House Rule one condition onto the Gift: possessing the Gift prevents learning Artes Liberales.

Aegis and wards not needing to penetrate make these effects available to a larger group of magi. If they need to penetrate then having Wizard'sCommunion becomes more important.
Ritual spell mastery removes only one one botch per point of mastery, not all botch dice. Makes casting rituals riskier, and if Wizard's Communing is necessary it's even more risky.
The above are mentioned because there has been great controversy over each side of each issue and they have a marked effect on setting the tone of the saga.

There's also a common, unwritten HR in nearly every saga that magi can take adventure xp in the season of doing lab work. RAW is clear that the entire season be spent in contemplation of the adventure to earn adventure xp. this has a tendency to inflate power/advancement levels.

Some of the ones we have in our group:

  • Creature power penetration in Might Score - (5 x point cost) + Penetration + Aura + stress die. Gives creatures a chance of affecting magi as well as their peers (RAW two creatures of the same power level and realm are completely immune to each other's powers).
  • The might stripper guideline loses its two bonus magnitudes of effect.
  • Each pawn of Vis spent on spellcasting grants a +3 bonus. While not as powerful as the +5 of 4th edition, it's still more likely to encourage players to spend Vis on spellcasting and brings it in line with spending confidence points.
  • Multiple casting only allows you target an individual once with a spell.
  • Each subsequent defense roll in a combat round suffers a cumulative -1 penalty (could even be higher).
  • Initiative is rerolled at the start of each round. Makes for more dynamic combat and less predictability. Plus, extremely lucky initial rolls don't make you immune to fast-casting defenses anymore.

@Jonathan.Link and Toa: What are you guys doing? o_o Those House Rules don't cause a very drastic change at all. Plus they're entirely reasonable. Shame on you for being reasonable.


The better version of my d4 "House Rule" uses a d2 instead; a coin toss. Every roll is either a 0 or a 1, so a stress roll will always either roll up or call for botch dice (which will usually botch).



Limit the main bonuses to spell-casting/labwork to about 1/3 TeFo total each:

[] Raw vis adds +2 per pawn per magnitude, thus adding 2/5 of Casting Total.
] Wizard's Communion adds up to +Art/5 per participant, with up to Spell Level participants - but the bonus is capped at Spell Level/3.
[] Total bonus from Sympathetic & Arcane Connection additions is capped at Casting Total/3.
] Total bonus from Virtues/Mysteries is capped at Casting Total/3. The bonus of Magical Focus is reduced to +Art/3.
[*] Addition from Magic Theory/Shape-and-Materials is limited to Effect Level/3. This includes later bonuses such as from apprentices, Faerie Magic, Craft, and so on.

Greatly lowers magi powers, and also makes the Art scores more meaningful.

Fudge Dice: roll 3dF (+1,0 or -1 each) instead of 1d10. When stressed, a snake-eyes "-1" is a botch (as if one botch dice), plus followed by rolling botch dice (looking for more -1 on the Fudge dice). The result is that people's Ability is their actual skill level; and that botches are more common. This rule lowers competence across the board.

The only house rule we used in the first part of my recent Hibernian saga was that a magus can learn any spell they like if they have the appropriate lab text or a teacher. This means ignoring lab totals for the purposes of learning spells.

Why? Because we didn't want to stifle players who wanted that cool spell but whose arts were just a fraction too low. We figured that the penalty/difficulty of casting those spells was balance enough. It allowed the character to build their spell list quickly, even if it did cost a little vis to cast them all effectively, without having to spend another season improving one art or another.

The players really liked it and I found no cases where the game suddenly broke down on the basis that the players suddenly had other options in the bag.

I managed to completely mis-interpret the Sahir lab total rules:

I thought they got Summoning Total + Penetration Bonus - Magic Might. So designed an NPC Sahir with Affinity + Puissant Penetration who had sick lab totals. (14 Penentration *6 for knowing the true name added 84 to the lab total!) Upon rereading the book tonight... No, no that's not how it works at all. Oh well, way toooooo late now.

One that was in the only saga I played in worked nicely for novices. Spontaneous spellcasting used the Formulaic Magic chart on page 81.

This allowed us to get useful spontaneous magic off at the cost of 2 Fatigue levels. Very useful since most of our characters were horribly designed in terms of Arts and Spells.

Mythic Magi is an idea I've thought of playing around with before. Magi that are built like Mythic Companions with up to 20 points of virtues paid 2 for 1 with flaws.

Or you could apply the "Mythic" concept to Covenant building with hooks buying double their value in boons.

It should probably be mentioned that it's pretty easy to ratchet up or down on character power without adding a house rule. Being overly generous or stingy on resources like vis, money, Adventure xp, confidence points, and/or spare time, can all have pretty profound effects.

There is also the option to say yes to some of the choices that while might technically be within the rules but usually wouldn't be allowed (at least by me). Some of the fairly open ended boons available to a Covonant can easily abused. Like a covenant that makes all residents Immune to Deprivation (who needs sleep or food), or warping or botches or all three.

Or how about testing the limits of the Unnatural law minor boon. Which near as I can tell has none beyond the common sense of the troop and storyguide. Theoretically you could use this minor boon make pocket lint function like vis, or reverse aging two seasons a year, or ensure all experiment's result only in positive outcomes or allow resident to clone themselves as often as they like.

Formulaic and spontaneous spells take 15 minutes per magnitude to cast. Ritual spells take one day per magnitude to cast. Vastly reduces magi power.

And makes them worse than D&D wizards. Why play Are Magica with a rule like this?

Hermetic Magi are a Tier 2 class. :slight_smile:/2


A party of 1st level D&D adventurers is likely to be toasted by a magus and his grogs. (Leaving things like PunPun aside :>) The magus has more staying power, and pretty much just needs to live long enough to kill, mind control, put to sleep, etc his enemies. He can probably flee better too. If he's a Bjornaer, he can do the druid thing ftw.

By 9th level, it is probably the other way around, even against experienced magi. A well-designed D&D martial can autokill one or more characters per round, which helps them be the supergrogs they really are; wizards and clerics start to get spells that really break Hermetic limits and do pretty much anything.

By 18th level, it's a done deal, regardless. Yeah, a magus has a limitless adventuring day; so does a Rogue(tm).

It's kind of hard to compare the different rules, but it's easier to compare capabilities. High level D&D characters can easily design their own little universes, reverse death, heal, spam epic destruction, cause miracles to occur... anything.

And, whatever.



The whole point of this game is to cause power levels to either explode or implode. The people playing this (Simple but Huge, I mean, not Ars Magica) should take "I would never play this game except for hilarity/morbid curiosity" as a sign that they're doing well. :stuck_out_tongue:

The weird thing about Hermetic magi is that they defy the "linear warriors, quadratic wizards" paradigm. Now, they're still vastly superior to mundanes, as they start quite strong and their progression, while linear, is quite fast. But they progress from burning a man to death to turning a city to ash to incinerating a countryside, while D&D wizards progress from making themselves able to run faster, to making people be able to perform multiple separate actions simultaneously, to stopping time or pulling time from the future so they can do stuff for twelve seconds despite only six seconds passing.

A simple rule that I use. 40xp per year for post gauntlet magi, which is 10xp per season accross the board, other than seasons of lab work. Others get 20xp/year, 25xp if Wealthy or 15 if poor.

An idea I long contemplated but never used concerns Vis. All Vis is just Vis, and can be used any way Vis is needed. Spellcating bonus is +1 per pawn. Vis may be aligned with certain activities, and the value is greater if the activity matches aligned. Double the value if it aligns with one Art, Tripple if it aligns with two Arts.