Harmless Magic

So, one of my PCs has Harmless Magic.
They are using Pit of Gaping Earth as their primary attack spell.
This invariably causes them to fall into the pit and be entombed.

Now this is a pretty powerful ability and the Flaw does say that it should be usable by crafty characters, but given that it's near instant death to be buried alive and ignores parma, how should I handle this?

As it doesn't affect the targeted person and only the ground beneath them, it should require a finesse roll, but as it produces a pit 6 paces across, that should be easier to hit with than throwing a stone at somebody using Sling of Villano.

Should a momentary effect last long enough for a target to fall to the bottom for example?

Am I missing something here or is this combination just inherently broken?

Since the stone was removed by magic, I would rule that anyone with Parma, or MR, needs to have it peentrated to have the earth appear tightly around you. And Magi entombed this way should have a chance to cast some spells to try to get out.

1 Like

Instant entombment spells are available to any magus that cares to take the time to invent one. Harmless Magic just turns this hole generating spell into one without extra steps.

Don't sweat the idea that magi can almost effortlessly kill people with spells. Harmless Magic is a minor flaw and almost all non-Perdo attack spells can kill people more easily than Pit of the Gaping Earth.

There's no reason to penalize the player for making Harmless Magic work for him when any other PeTe15 spell could do the exact same thing without Harmless Magic. It's a benign corner case.

As a pedantic aside: The text of the spell Pit of the Gaping Earth doesn't sound very effective at entombing things. The 'dirt swiftly recedes' and no mention of falling damage seems to imply the dirt doesn't just vanish, and the reversal of Harmless Magic would probably just push the dirt from the bottom up to re-fill the hole. Additionally, the PeTe guidelines separate dirt from clay and sand (they are the same level of effect but not the same target), and PotGE explicitly has no effect on other substances in the target area. So unless you've got 9 feet deep of pure dirt (i.e. loam), PotGE is less effective. Tree roots, clay, gravel, all would interfere with its effectiveness.


They aren't entombed. They have fallen 9 feet which isn't a good thing, however, it's perdo,not muto or creo. The destroyed sand stays destroyed. The edges of the pit would likely crumble in a bit, but the target isn't buried alive.

1 Like

Except with the Harmless Magic flaw none of your Perdo spells can do permanent destruction.
So a pit dug with a Momentary Perdo spell will fill in again after a few moments.


This also isn't theoretically doing anything that a Perdo spell can't already do. Perdo is capable of both permanent destruction and temporary disruption, just with the Harmless Magic Flaw that specific character is only capable of the latter effects. So there isn't really an exploit here that is providing a new capability, though the Flaw may have inspired some of the spell design choices etc.


PoGE is a great spell... if you are out in some well maintained fields. However in most locations it will have a reduced effect and in many it will have no effect. Really a good chunk of how effective it is depends on your Saga location. You need a location that is pure dirt for it to be 100% effective, with no sand, rocks, stones, clay, roots, plant matter, etc. In a forest for example it might be dirt down to 9' but it will be full of roots and fallen plant matter which will take up a good chunk of the pit.

It also does not ignore Parma, especially with the "bounce back". If you cast it directly under something with MR, they are in contact with it while it is still active magic and thus get their MR. If the spell fails to penetrate, they don't fall in the pit (float over, move to side, etc).

For the normal version, you can cast it in front of something moving and if they don't dodge/stop then they fall in. That is not resisted by MR since the pit at that point is no longer magical. However with Harmless Magic the pit is magical for the entire time it exist, which means best case they fall into it and then are lifted back on top of it if the spell fails to penetrate their MR.


My spidey sense is tingling.

I sense a pink dot.

1 Like

I completely agree on that. The character should be allowed a Qik+Athletics to get out (which most mage are notoriously bad at, but it is another topic).

This mage should also invent a higher version of the spell to guarantee a hole where there is stone (+1 magnitude). As soon as you are in a mountain range, under a feet or two of dirt/earth, there will be stone.

Here, I don't agree as it is only the magic that is fading away, it is not a magical effect putting it back in place.

Mages have many ways to instantly kill somebody. Against other mages, they can fast-cast, they can be invisible, they might be under a ReCo that makes them glide. Once his trick start to be known (and it will, grogs like to gossip), potential opponent will be ready.


Pit of the Gaping Earth is a text-book example of an indirect spell that does not need to penetrate any MR, but which does need aiming. See HoH:S p30 and core rule book p86


Actually, Harmless Magic works differently than normal Perdo for stuff that gets permanently destroyed (e.g. a PeCo spell to break someone's limb). It's just for things that normally resume (e.g. a PeCo spell to make someone weightless) that Harmless Magic changes nothing.


There is no reason that such effects couldn't be temporary, just we usually don't have a reason for them to be. The point is that Perdo can do things by either method (temporary or permanent), and the virtue removes one. it isn't causing things to be done which otherwise Perdo can't accomplish.

1 Like

Can Perdo normally do temporary destruction of things? I don't know of anything saying so, but it is possible I missed something.

1 Like

Everything I can think of is traits, such as destroying the weight of something for the duration.

As far as I understand, Perdo normally destroys things permanently, with the exception of things covered by essential nature - e.g. weight, the ability to think - and similar limits. so yes, harmless magic allows you to do things you wouldn't otherwise be doing with Perdo, although you might be doing that with other art combination - e.g. Perdo Terram is really just doing Muto Terram (Auram), and Perdo Vim really is just Rego Vim suspending a spell's operation.

Those are not the method choices we're given, though. We are given two methods, one works with things that naturally return and the other works with things that don't:

Perdo magic can simply destroy things, removing them completely from existence, or it can destroy aspects of a thing.

So those are our two choices. Now, where is the rule about things returning afterward?

destroying properties that a thing cannot naturally lose falls under the Limit of Essential Nature (see page 79), and thus cannot be permanent; the destroyed properties return by themselves at the end of the spell’s duration.

Note that this is particular to only the second choice (aspects). And later...

In many cases the effects of the spell will endure long after the spell itself finishes... Similar considerations apply to most Perdo spells; the magic lasts but a moment, but the target stays destroyed.

which is suggestive, though not definitive. But despite it being non-definitive, it is suggestive and there is absolutely nothing I've ever read saying that the first method normally returns. What Harmless Magic does is make the first choice function (destruction) like the second choice (property).

Meanwhile, we've also seen examples of what putting a Duration on the first choice of Perdo does: it keeps destroying. That's why PeTe to make a hole with a Duration, leave a hole that cannot be filled in (at least by that material) until the Duration is over rather than temporarily disintegrating the material.


Is there a reason why they wouldn't be able to? When the direct effect of the magic is the destruction itself? What would the effect of adding say a "Sun" duration to a wounding spell be if it isn't an elapsing of the effect?

Adding a duration to a Wound causing Perdo spell means that the wound will stay open until the duration ends. After the duration ends it can begin to heal.

Creating a pit in the earth with a Perdo spell with Sun duration means that any earth dumped into the pit will be destroyed while the duration lasts.


I would add that some of the text of Harmless Magic itself becomes nonsensical if this option is normally available:

This weakness can be a boon to a crafty character. A maga might invent a spell to destroy a heavy rock at Concentration Duration; she could then cast it and lie in wait. When her enemy walks into the vacant space, she could release her concentration and crush her victim beneath it when it reforms.

This would not be turning a weakness into a boon at all if everyone can do this. Where is the boon if everyone can do this? Thus Harmless Magic also implies this is not normally available to Perdo.


So here's my idea for a clarification so far in two parts:

Pit of Gaping Earth

  • It is a targeted spell that requires a finesse roll to aim. (As per normal targeting rules)
  • If there is nothing important nearby the target, it is simply opposed by a Quickness + Athletics roll as the target leaps to safety as it takes effect.
  • If the target is hit they take 9 feet of falling damage:
    • Stress Die +5 (for a fall of 9 feet) vs Stress Die + Soak
  • But targeting somebody who is close to something important, for example in combat with an ally or near to a structure which you don't want in the hole is much harder and requires a Finesse roll of 9 (or more), or else the ally or item must make the same quickness + Athletics roll to avoid falling in falls in as well (Which the item would automatically fail).

Encasement in General:
If for any reason (e.g. Harmless magic and Pit of Gaping Earth or being in a body of water that is frozen) a person is encased in a solid material, then they have the following problems:

  • They can't sense anything except the encasement around them.
  • They can't move except to try and break out.
    • To break out, they need to make a Strength + Athletics (TN: 9 for sand or gravel, TN:12 for Earth or ice, 15 for Stone or wood, 18 for metal) roll to break out to the surface, This is aided by any Terram form bonus (or Aquam in the case of ice).
  • They can't speak or gesture
  • They can't breathe
    • After 30 seconds, they must make a deprivation (Air) roll against Stamina (plus Auram Form bonus), starting at TN: 3 and increasing by 1 each 30 second interval or lose a fatigue level, followed by wounds when they are unconscious. (see Deprivation on Page 180)

Targets with Parma or magic resistance which is not penetrated by the spell are also buried as a result of magic

  • However unless the material is loose, like sand, then rather than being buried completely they find themselves in a hollow about 1 inch around their body (The only applies if magic is responsible for their condition, even if it is caused technically by a spell ending)
  • So they can still act as if they were in air/water or whatever other material they were in originally and move in a limited fashion. If they were in breathable air, they have about 3 minutes (30 rounds) of air around their body and may only cast with the equivalent of subtle gestures.

What do people think?