General Level Combat Spells

Hello, all.

It occurred to me today, I can't recall a single Gen. level Cr Ig or Re Te spell that would be worthy of use in combat for either offense or defense. Have I simply overlooked them, or are there actually no published spells along those lines in 4th ed. or earlier ArM versions?

They're just disguised. Let's look at what the book says qualifies general spells:

  • They can be formulaic or ritual spells.
  • The higher the level, the more powerful the spell is.
  • The only change is in the level and power parts of the spell.

Now let's invent a spell called Spear of Fire (CrIg Gen) at R: Voice, T: Individual, D: Momentary whose effect reads "A 2-foot, thick, spear-shaped jet of fire flies from your palms, doing +(level-5) damage to the individual it hits." You can invent higher and lower-level versions of it, differing in power only. That's a general spell.

And then we realize I just copied Pilum of Fire. The only difference is a technicality that I wrote "gen" there instead of "20." So you can make a choice. Either you decide to play semantics to force a player to invent their own general version of Pilum of Fire, or Pilum of Fire is a general spell. (And a warning if you want to try the semantics route: you may also have to explain why all the canon magi written with things like Demon's Eternal Oblivion (PeVi 20) actually have a level of a general spell rather than having a specific, non-general spell.)

You can do the same with Ball of Abysmal Flame.

Pilum of Fire and Ball of Abysmal Flame would be two levels of the same thing except they have slightly differing effects. Maybe someone had a Minor Magical Focus in "spears" and another had one in "balls" so they invented two very slightly different spells.


Note that the above is not necessarily agreed:

  • A general version of Pilum of Fire is not necessarily possible, because there is no spell guideline that permits the creation of arbitrarily intense fires capable of correspondingly high damage. Some sagas might agree that these are possible, such as a level 70 version that does +65 damage (best as an enchanted item); other sagas can fairly rule otherwise.

  • A focus in spears should not apply to a Pilum of Fire, because it is not actually a spear, in the same way that a focus with orange should not boost all of magus' spells just because his sigil makes all his spells orange.




Sure, but there are three problems with that argument. First, find one rule that says you need a general guideline for a general spell. Second, find one rule that requires arbitrary levels rather than just multiple for general spells. Third, even general guidelines fail that test, which leaves you with no non-Ritual spell qualifying as general.

When I laid all this out years ago, not a single person made an evidence-based case it was wrong. The only argument anyone presented was roughly "that's not what I'd thought."

Oh, come on!!! Fine, one had a focus in "fire in the shape of a spear" and the other had a focus in "fire in the shape of a ball." Does that work for you now? Did I really have to write that out??? I was just pointing out that sometimes variations are made because they fit a magus better for some reason, especially when it comes to foci.


I will try my two cents for a possible explanation.
AM magic is strongly based on natural phenomena, but not on modern silence.
We could conceive a fire with a linear scale of damage based on temperature/intensity using modern concept. Thermometer did not exist in 13th century, so the scale was based on natural phenomena and the concept or more or less hot. So magic can duplicate the flame of candle, a bone fire, a forge fire, but beside that, there is not so much “more burning” thing. So then you rely on lava, which is more a Terra/Ignem thing.
Then, if you want to stretch a little bit, you can consider dragon fire, or hellfire at the higher end of the spectrum, but it would be well within paradigm (depending on your troupe agreement) that dragon fire has strong magic component and could require a Vim requisit, and hellfire is only accessible if you practice chtonic or infernal magic. By the same token holy mage might have access to holy fire that trump all of them.

Another example would be Incantation of the Lightning: you emulate natural lightning and it is pretty destructive. There is no concept of voltage or amperage. It is just natural thunderbolt, and there is no existing medium or small size lightning bolt. There way no knowledge that the small electrostatic discharge that you could have observed while rubbing amber with a pelt was a tiny lightning bolt.

On the other hand, the range of Vilano sling type spells scales up very well: it is easy to understand within medieval paradigm that the stronger and the heavier the projectile, the more deadly it is.

I personally like this discrepancy between forms because it let each of them do things that not all can do. Core rules spell set Auram spell the deadliest single, all purpose spell but you need to be pretty specialised to wield it. Terram as the most destructive spell for large area, because of earthquake. Ignem is the go to form for a wide variety of damage spells, with variant of shapes and side effect. Aquam does have a few combat spell but not as deadly as the other, although they have more controlling effect. And so on.

To sum up, linear scale damage is very much a scientific, modern concept that is hard to fit within medieval paradigm. But if you players want that, you just have to agree on what is the base damage for each form - they are probably not all on par - and their scaling coefficient.


What is the practical difference between a general and a non-general spell? Yes, if there is a general spell, a variant can be invented at any level, but so what? AFAIK, there is no benefit or disadvantage attached to general spells that does not also apply to any other group of similar spells.

Spell Mastery and Adaptive Casting, along with all the mess it created.

Technically, things could have worked out fine if there were a single Mastery Ability that applied to all levels of a given general spell. Then they introduced Adaptive Casting and created a logical paradox and game ruling problems. Its very existence means it should not exist. Meanwhile, what do you do with experience when Mastering general spells, and what do you do with texts written about general spells? There might even be a canonical example of a book on Spell Mastery that does not have a level assigned to it.

Where do I find adaptive casting? I am not familiar with it.

I always assumed that mastery applies to a specific spell at a specific level. If the same mastery ability applied to every instance of the same general spell, then core would have said so¹. It doesn't.

¹ Yeah, I know, it is a very naïve presumption.

Well, it could be read different ways:

  • It's the same spell just at different levels, and as the same spell has a single Ability because it says there is only one Ability per spell.
  • Each level is technically a totally different spell and so each level has its own Ability.

...until they wrote Adaptive Casting, which then guaranteed the correct way of reading the core book is that it's one for all the levels because it literally says "the same spell at different levels." But Adaptive Casting also relies on there being different Abilities. Thus it creates a paradox.

If I remember right, I'll have to see if I can find the Spell Mastery tractatus that demonstrates that level is not a distinction for a general spell.

HoH:TL, Mecere section.

actually medieval smiths would know of various forms of forges that could be made with different materials depending on the metal you wanted to forge. A typical forge would melt tin or lead- indeed these can be done with a much weaker heat, but not iron which would merely be softened. A kiln would have a different temperature than a forge. Ironically the advancements in metallurgy which allowed the age of exploration came when the smith's guilds discovered the secrets of the glassblowers guild and allowed them to make a furnace with a hotter fire, since the ability to melt glass required a hotter furnace than the forge used for shaping metal.
so your premise that this was not understood by the medieval mentality is demonstrably wrong.

I am not sure that is a reasonable representation of his argument. As I read it, the post simply stated that the medieval mindset, or at least the mindset that designed hermetic magic (in the 700s too) does not understand temperature as a linear scale but rather as a ladder with different heat producing natural phenoma resting on different steps of the heat ladder. molten water is cooler than molten lead is cooler than molten glass is cooler than molten iron etc. but not on a continuous scale.

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the melting point of iron is 2,800 F while glass ranges in melting points from 2552 to 2912, which defeats that argument right there, beyond which it is evident by the simplest observation that things heat gradually when exposed to a source of heat- if you place water over fire it warms and then boils, turning eventually to steam, it does not suddenly transition to different levels of heat and then flash into steam.
Now what level of ignorance an author in a previous edition might have assumed a magus in 700 AD to have certainly might account for the existing mechanism, but I believe that we should not endeavor to enshrine the mistakes of previous editions into our current gaming. Indeed I would go further and suggest that we should endeavor to not enshrine said mistakes.

I have to agree with @silveroak quite strongly here. I would hazard an estimate that the variability of temperature and the associated varying effects in metallurgy and glass working were probably much better understood by those in the know in 1220 than by the majority of the world today. They were also quite familiar with how close they could be and how long things needed to cool based on those variations. Sure, today's experts certainly know much better. But I'm quite an exception in that I'll quickly ballpark in my head whether it's faster to warm a drink from the refrigerator to room temperature and then dilute it with room-temperature water or to do the dilution right away, being comfortable with the various thermodynamics involved, and I'm sure I don't understand the varying effects of temperature in metallurgy and glass working as well as an expert from 1220. Well, at least for medium to high temperatures (anything available on earth naturally); I'm sure I know far more about both at low temperatures (far below room temperature).

And it does not making any difference in term of wounds: in both case it will be a third degree burn.
You cannot burn more than what has been charred.

For short contact duration, second degree burn is a blister, which can be achieved with simply hot water. Once you reached several hundred degrees, the temperature makes no difference what so ever on the flesh.

But to go beyond third degree burn, you can only achieve that with a heat that has piercing/cutting/vaporising properties like plasma torch, laser which obviously is unheard of.

Then of course, a spell can engulf a victim or last longer.


I cannot.

On the other hand, find me one rule that provides any means of constructing your own without such a guideline. Here is what we have:

So, great. I think we can agree that if we have a General guideline, we can construct general spells from that.

But if I do not, and you let me create General spells without them, why can't I create a General spell from, say, Opening the Tome of the Animal's Mind, in which higher levels provide bonuses for extracting specific data? Or a Steed of Vengeance with +15 to Attack and Damage rather than +5? Maybe an IoL that produces even stronger lightning.

Conversely, maybe CrCo spells that provide recovery bonuses stop at +18. I have no problem with a group very reasonably deciding that the bonuses keep going, but there's absolutely no evidence to say that's RAW.

I think it's very reasonable for a group to make a house rule to Generalize some obvious progressions, but I think it's just that, a House Rule.

Note sure what you mean by this.

Fail which test? A General spell without a General guideline?

I responded to that back then, but had less time on my hands. I have a bit more atm. :\

I wasn't sure about what you intended, and, to be fair, you do sometimes come up with unexpected and interesting things.



You may be right that the temperature is not decisive. The total energy in the fire matters, and that depends on mass, duration, and contact surface as well as temperature.

To say that you cannot go beyond third degree is irrelevant. The size of the third degree burn matters very much, and higher sustained temperature will increase the size.

I don't see the problem at all. Creo Ignem guidelines specifies +5 damage per magnitude for so many steps, that I would assume it continues. I have no idea why they did not specify it as a general guideline. It is easily explained as a larger fire ball; it may be hotter but it does not have to be. Whether medieval Europeans could describe the effect technically, I don't know, but I am sure they could imagine it in a mythic story, which is what defines Mythic Europe.

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Yes, and I extracted the three pieces it states for general spells above when I first posted the comment:

That makes an extremely easy list to follow to design your own. Multiple levels of the same effect (ignore the power) with the same R/D/T with the only change being the power of the effect.

There is no rule that general spell cannot skip levels, that general spells need to be able to be incremented by single levels. Rather, the rules show there can be skips in levels and it still qualifies as general. So a ruling that there is nothing between +5 damage and +10 damage is irrelevant. There is no rule that you have to be able to choose arbitrary levels of power, just multiple levels. Your "arbitrarily" statement is contradicted in canon as far as intermediate levels.

Your "arbitrarily" comment. It fails again. You cannot make a non-Ritual spell with an arbitrarily high base. Besides which, there are cases with maximum values to the guidelines that allow for general spells.

So the rules many times disagree with your comment "not necessarily possible, because there is no spell guideline that permits the creation of arbitrarily intense fires capable of correspondingly high damage." Canon disagrees with this logical statement.

But we should point out the difference in game terms. In game terms there are exactly four degrees of burns you can take without dying: Light, Medium, Heavy, and Incapacitating. That is at least akin to the medical terminology with the degrees of burn and the amount of the body burned.

It's the +Damage value that varies much more. But it always produces one of those or death if it does damage. The issue is which fires are more likely to cause any given one of those, and temperature does play into that.

So arguing about the degrees of a burn is irrelevant, as we're already converting to that sort of scale. To make your point, you need to be arguing that with the same time and the same contact area and the same exposure method that a temperature of several hundred degrees and several thousand degrees will cause the same amount of damage to your body. Do you honestly believe that? The much hotter, otherwise-identical one will cause damage much faster and so will do more damage in the same time period.

This is so, so far from incorrect, but you are hitting on some valid bits. For example, you've just said that an iceberg will burn you much worse than a flame from a candle. I can explain more about thermodynamics elsewhere if you'd really like.

Yup. And in reality, there is burning beyond third degree burns that doctors would no longer consider in the realm of third degree burns. That is just a scale that is convenient for doctors.

And you would be correct that it goes beyond what the core book lists, as canon has shown that to be the case elsewhere.


No, it does not:

  • It is true that a general spell can be either formulaic or ritual. But that in no way implies that any formulaic or ritual spell can be general.
  • It is true that the higher the level of a general spell, the more powerful it is. But that in no way implies that any spell that has a more powerful effect and higher level than some other spell is actually a general spell.
  • It's true that the only change to a General spell is the level and power parts of the spell. But that in no way implies that any two spells that differ only in terms of power and level are General.

All of which is simply to say that A->B in no way implies that B->A.

Hmm. I'm not sure what we are arguing about on this issue. It's certainly possible to learn a General spell at level 17 or whatever.

Insofar as rules are concerned, however, I see the rules pertaining to General spells and their levels quite clearly defined: In their guidelines.

Hmm. Maybe you can provide an example of what you mean here. I think I get what you are trying to say, but before I argue against what might be a straw man, I'd rather be more sure.



This is demonstrably false. A hotter material will burn more flesh as the heat will spread further in dissipating on contact with the skin.