Hermetic Arts as Difficult Arts, what are the issues?

Okay, so I'm looking at having the Arts cost the same as Abilities.

I'd have the Form Bonus be half the Form, probably rounded down, and the Form Resistance be twice the Form.

I'd have spell magnitudes be 3 points each - so 2nd mag is L6, 3rd mag is L9, and so on. Each magnitude shift below 2nd is 1 point(that way I can port effect seeds almost directly over from canon).

Parma still gives Level * 5 magic resistance.

AL and Ph contributions, if any, are added together and then halved.

I'm aware that all the available hedge systems would need to be reworked. Not an issue, I already want to do that(consolidate, greater focus on affecting things via spirit world, get rid of hedgie Tefo, take a serious look at opportunity cost issues, etc.).

In light of all that, what are the other issues that would need to be considered, if doing this in 5th edition?


Longevity rituals will be much weaker, leading to earlier death/decrepitude of magi.

Familiar bonding totals will be much lower, and bonding even moderate Might familiars will be difficult unless they are very small.

The defense calls Penetration, Magic Theory, and Certamen to the stand.

Even the oldest magi would be completely ineffectual against Might 40+ creatures, or anybody with a Parma of 7 or so, because their casting scores would never be high enough, much less casting score - spell level. You couldn't even make middle-aged magus sneeze without an Arcane Connection. On the flip side, people who train their Parma for self defense against belligerent magi and hedgies would get absolutely curbstomped by clerics or monsters normally only considered average in power, vastly ruining the Order's reputation for power.

Magic Theory would become even MORE vital than it already is, and magic items would be comparatively broken as aura, Magic Theory, and excess bonuses (shape/material, Planetary Magic, etc....) would make up almost the entire Lab Total on everything but super-specialized, Major Magical Focus-ed combinations (and even with those, the Arts would still only make up maybe a third of the total). This means that your skill with different types of magic would make almost no difference in the Lab in most circumstances. Even lesser enchanted items would be relatively broken, then, since your (MT + Shape/Material + Aura)/2 will be WAY higher even by itself than your Art scores in most circumstances. So-called specialists in certain Forms will constantly be outdone, even in their specialty, by people who ignore middling Art scores in favor of large Magic Theory scores.

Certamen, most of all, would become nigh impossible barring somebody bringing a ton of vis to bear, as any certamen duelists who go through the Technique/Form motions intellegently will immediately find their Attack Totals lower than their enemy's Resistance even before subtracting Defense Totals. This means magi will be eager to find other, possibly less Code-adhering ways to settle disputes. After all, the reason there are legal and efficient ways to do these things is so people won't resort to illegal methods ("just deal with your disputes without a legally-sanctioned outlet or else!" really won't work in the long term... Or even the short-term).

Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head.

For thw above reasons and many others I won"t get into just now, my opinion is that this is a really bad idea. Before I can formulate an appropriate counter argument, I would ask why you would want to do this.
So, ???

My answer will not help you since it is a question :smiley:
What do you want to achieve ? Then it becomes possible to help you find out if your proposal will help you achieve your goal.

Otherwise, Hammer hit the nail on the head.
I will add that virtue like Puissant MT, Affinity MT will become even more powerful.
Verditius Magic will become the most powerful mages of the Order - Puissant Craft & Puissant Philosophae will be as powerful as Puissant MT. If you combine both, with average skills (let's say 4), will give a +12 bonus to labtot, which normally is a nice boost allowing to shorten the number of seasons, but now, it will allow simply to achieve certain labtot that are not otherwise achievable.

Mathematically speaking, turning Art into Abilities (xp wise), yet reducing magnitude to 3, Magical theory (and other relevant skills) and characteristics (specifically Int) become 50% more efficient (5/3).

There are no issues! None! It works brilliantly and.... OK, ok, so not really. Even though I love this house rule. But....

NO!!!!!!! The biggest advantage of Arts as Abilities is that it lowers the power level of magi to something approaching more what the game's flavor text assumes. Reducing spell magnitudes to 3 will ruin that.

As said above, the most important question is - why make this change? You're clearly not after lower the magi's power.

If you want more consistency, I'd suggest doing things the other way around: Abilities as Arts. This will help make skills more relevant, as currently the dice is often more important than the skill. You will still have problems with the interaction of Abilities and Arts, of course.

Let' say your starting specialist starts with Art score of 6, and can reach 12 (perhaps more for the truly dedicated. Notice first that the change is far smaller than the 12 to 40 of standard Arts; is that to your liking?

The Form Bonus appears fine to me. For the specialist it is 3 to 6 as opposed to 2 to 8 by RAW. That's pretty similar.

Your House Rules MR is (Form x 2 + Parma x 5). This appears good to me. Against creatures or hedge wizards, MR just got a little lower at high levels but it probably isn't a big change. Against Hermetic opponents, MR just became much more powerful: the Parma x 5 is generally enough to trump (Te+Fo) at significantly less XP cost than the attacker's Arts, and the Form x 2 by itself is actually enough to do that in the area of specialty. Yet MR is supposed to be powerful, and the attacker typically has bonuses the defender does not (talisman, arcane connections...). So I think that's fine.

This will maintain their core relative importance to magic. I actually like that sundry bonuses, like AL and Ph, become more important under Arts as Abilities. Again, it depends on what you want to achieve.

As noted above - MT becomes uber-powerful.

Another major repercussion is that Arts lose their importance. Most of the bonuses will be acquired from other things anyway, and since increasing Arts now takes so much time one would be better served achieving bonuses in different ways. It becomes much more efficient to pursue a Mystery to get Puissant Art then to invest the seasons in learning the Art from a book, for example. Again - I like that collecting various bonuses becomes the focus, rather than simply increasing the Arts: it feels more colorful and interesting to me. But it's a matter of taste.

There are also a few tidbits that you didn't mention, that you better alter. Like the number of tractatus one can write, the scores needed to teach an apprentice, and so on.

In fact, if you want to completely change Ars system, you could go as far as:

  • All Arts are difficult
  • No change regarding spell magnitude
  • The level in Tech+Form determined the number (not the maximum value) of different focus/shape bonus a magus can use
  • His casting total and lab total are not based on Tech+Form, but on the sum of bonus coming from the various paraphernalia is able to gather and handle.

It will force all magus to carry a bunch of pouches, bags and what-not to make them able to cast anything. It can be quite colorful.

Research of new form/shape bonus becomes very interesting (hello Vulgar Alchemy, you finally become useful), gathering of exotic component becomes as important as virtus. Some component might be reused, other are consummed (probably giving higher bonus), creating a whole economy around it. It will limit the ability for magus to cast constantly spells.

Tractatus on new form/shape bonus becomes highly sought after document, more so than Summae.

Probably, you will need to rework and expand the list of form/bonus.
Another game, but also interesting. Possibly to depict a period of time when the power of magic is fading away and magus need to rely on external items to handle magic instead of only their connection to the magical realm.

I think it's a bad idea.

I like the idea of magi having more difficulty hurting each other or archangels. But, with the exception of easy transportation spells (which make ME very small), I like magi being able to do cool things.

That said, in such a saga, the following virtues and benefits become relatively more effective:

Cyclic Magic
Magic Theory (and boosters)
Inventive Genius
High Magic Aura

... What? Which flavor text have you been reading that I missed? Maybe the example magi aren't built very well, but magi are pretty close in power at any given step of the way to what the flavor text assumes, as far as I've been able to tell anyway. And most of the times where that hasn't been the case, at least in my experience, were due entirely to Magical Foci. The flavor text acknowledges that wizards are hugely powerful straight out of apprenticeship and makes elder magi come off as reality-warping demigods who sit inside all day either because they enjoy doing so or because of that silly Code thing that older magi know they need but don't want. Not far from the truth.

Mainly in context with other supernatural groups, I believe - the flavor text usually assumes that a magic might 50 dragon or farie is something to be concerned about in a straight-up fight - but the rules suggest that they're actually kinda easy to blow away using PeVi.

EDIT - plus, penetration on Enchanted items makes this even easier.

I wouldn't say easy. You still need some pretty good penetration, and 50 penetration on any spell, even a lowly 5th level spell isn't easy. Which kind of dovetails into my comment below.

Well, if you have time to prepare and make preparations, then yes, it's easier.

As said above, creature MR is a major problem. Might 50 is supposed to be virtually immune to Hermetic magic; it isn't. Read up on the core-book's dragon (Stellatus, IIRC). I believe in one gamer's game hunting him down was taken up, for sport, by a few mid-aged Flambeau. It really isn't that difficult.

The ability to permanently destroy angels and demons with PeVi makes this even more ridiculous. It isn't that hard to kill the princes of hell, or (if he ever stops hiding beyond that pesky Lunar Sphere) Michael. And I'm not talking about the Order's mightiest wizard defeating Michael as the culmination of a great saga. Just a middling covenant with an appropriate middling specialist and with some determination and/or resources on their hands (say, both Arts at 20 [die 6 + Te 20 + Fo 20 + focus 20 + 5 talisman + penetration ability 5 + virtues for say 5 + 30 from raw vis]; use a 5-member Wizard's Communion, and you can cast a level-50 spell with 100 penetration, draining him to death in two rounds). [This is just one constellation; the bottom line is that between obscenely high Arts, powerful Virtues, and options to massively increase penetration such as wizard's communion, raw vis, or arcane and sympathetic connections - magi's penetration is just too high.]

Another major problem is that elder magi can create huge and powerful magical effects, that would drastically affect the setting and history. Yet history isn't filled with them. You can rationalize your around this (I believe Transforming Mythic Europe does), but ultimately magi are just too powerful for the setting.

Another major problem is the relationship with mundanes. Mundane armies and mobs are largely of no consequence, a hindrance rather than a threat to any well-prepared covenant. Again, treating mundanes with the respect they're due in the setting and accommodating bits of Hermetic history related to them can be done with enough hand waving, but for me at least it feels very forced. Often this comes down to Divine power, which is not relevant to magic's ancient history (so Mercurian magic was pretty weak, huh?) and cheapens the mundanes. Not to mention that official Divine magic is seemingly rare and isn't all that powerful really (putting aside direct divine intervention, which is just DM fiat desperately trying to use the ultimate hammer to keep some semblance of verisimilitude); while the Divine Host is an incoherent multitude that would flood the world with the supernatural, but that's another story.

Then there is the fact that Ars Mgica is supposed to build on real myth and folklore. A lot of these stories actually use very minor magic. Merlin didn't vanquish Arthur's enemies with flamboyant spells and what won the titanomachia was a helmet of invisibility. This point is inconsistent - there is plenty of magic in those stories Hermetic magi will find hard or even impossible to pull off - but still, broadly speaking, Hermetic magi are just waaay more powerful to fit into many ancient stories.

Finally, I personally think that too much power robs us of story potential, regardless of how it fits with the flavor text. The possibility of fast travel was already mentioned above. Mind reading and coercion is also a major culprit for me. The ease of invisibility is also a problem.

Anyway, this is all a YSMV (Your Saga May Vary) thing. You can rationalize your way around things, or read the setting differently. But for my tastes, Ars Magica wizards are just too powerful and need to be put in their proper place.

[Edited slightly, for clarity.]

This is a conceptual problem with Ars Magica in its entirety. Magi who want to make a point of doing so can consistently go "lol army," and the only thing that keeps the Order in check is that it was designed by and for wizards who don't want to be bothered with such irrelevant things as mundane thrones.

Personally, if I had an irreconcilable problem with this, I wouldn't play Ars Magica; it's a flaw that necessarily emerges from the premise, and the Code of Hermes is at best a patch over that.

Agreed. I just don't think Hermetic Arts being Difficult Arts are a good solution. :slight_smile:

Such a creature is tough to beat by a singular magus who is unprepared. And even for a group of unprepared magi, it's still something of a challenge, unless someone in that group can actually penetrate the Parma with an effective spell and/or buff the henchmen to deal with the big nasty.

The premise here is that high might creatures are ridiculously easy to kill. The premise requires a PeVi specialist with Art scores totaling 40, a focus, a high penetration score, and a really favorable virtue package that gives him another 5 bonus as well as a Wizard's Communion. Such requirements are unlikely to be seen in play, unless the players absolutely expect to need such a person based on past play experiences with the SG or was constructed to demonstrate the validity of the premise. Touching on the Wizard's Communion, most magi will have only the standard Ritual version Wizard's Communion, at best, and will take away 10 levels of power that the spell can lend to a Communion (per errata). The bottom line is a prepared magus is a threat to almost anything; your example is one who is prepared because he is advanced in his field. That's what I would expect from the setting. And magi who are at home should be nigh unassailable, because that is where they are most prepared.

Just because they can do a thing doesn't mean that they will or must do a thing. Of course, in real history we didn't have magi, either. Or are you saying in the history of Mythic Europe, as it is presented to us? Well, yes, then you need to do some rationalization, but it's not more than any game has asked if its players.

You are seeking a game where magi are closer in power to mundanes, which was never, ever the point of Ars Magica. And I hope it never will be.

I find it to be the opposite. If your weather maga is too powerful and lightning bolts everything into oblivion, give her an enemy that is immune to lightning and watch the fun begin (which is what I did for my own character)! I enjoy that she's kind of mad with power and has insane penetration only a few years post gauntlet, but she sees all problems as something that needs to be lightning bolted away, and that is, in itself a problem and a potential story that can be developed.

:scratches head: How is it tough to beat by a singular unprepared magus? A vanilla magus at top Arts (40) will easily have a Casting Total of 130 [40+40+40+die 6+talisman 4], more than enough to penetrate through the 50 MR with his best combat spell. Wizards are likely to have lower Arts, but also to have more virtues, mysteries, and tricks up their sleeve. With the right spell (PeMe? MuAn?), the combat can be essentially done in one standard off-the-shelf spell, without even needing to pull the heavy guns (raw vis, WC...) or make preparations or anything like that.

Of course, Stellatus will be a major challenge for the Ex Misc wizard specializing in growing lettuce. Or whatever. Or even to many combat-focused magi. But he's simply not up there in the "almost, but not quite" immune to Hermetic magic category. Might 50 is simply not enough to put you in this category. Even Might 100 isn't really, and the flavor text basically implies anything from Might 75 might as well have infinite MR.

I expect that middle-aged magi, even at their covenant, should be shaking in fear when they see the most powerful creature in the Mythic Europe cosmology (Michael at Might 100). They shouldn't be thinking "Yeah, I can take him down if I really wanted to". That should be their response to Might 30 creatures, perhaps, if they're cocky, to Might 50. Might 75, Might 100? That should be beyond the pale.

I find that most games don't require this sort of rationalization. They require other kinds of suspension of disbelief, but broadly speaking they don't have hordes of uber-powerful characters that for some reason or another never actually manifested that power in the setting's history.

Indeed, this seems to be a major difference between us. Undoubtedly related to...


To each his own. Have fun!


I'm sorry, but this is the very definition of a prepared magus. If you conjure up magi from whole cloth, well of course he's going to be able to meet whatever challenge you set before him. I didn't realize I had to stipulate the age in my example, and you're sliding the argument, since originally the premise had Art scores in their 20s and now they've jumped to their 40s. Yes, for any scenario you design you can also design a counter to that scenario. It has always been thus. If you go back to your original premise of a magus with Art scores at 20 and a focus, he now has a casting total of 60. He probably can penetrate that MR, but it's not going to be with one of his bug guns, it's going to be with a level 10 spell. But then we need to talk about multiple casting, right? Wrong. How much experience even goes into getting Art scores to 20, Penetration up to 5, multiple casting up to whatever desired level, how many seasons of work does the character have to focus on and then add 50% or more time to that for the stuff he just didn't want to do.

Sure, from a cooperative group of magi Might 75 isn't a problem. It's a huge problem from the Arts 20 Focus guy, but it's not as much of a problem for the Arts 40 Focus guy, but could still give him a lot of difficulty. Round 1 Might 75 guy takes out minions (including shield grogs), while 2 Arts 40-Focus guy takes off some might of the Might 76 guy. Round 2, Might 75 guy pounds magus dead without needing to penetrate MR.

I don't care about Michael, that's an outlier of a situation and the Divine can come in and make anything happen. It's kind of like when PCs were killing the gods in AD&D. Umm, you're kind of missing the point. If Michael did come down to the covenant, I would be quaking in my boots, because he brings the host of angels with him (if he wants to, and it's God's plan). Michael shows up, there's a lot more to be concerned about. And if [strike]Jake[/strike] Uriel shows up, well, your goose is really cooked.

Suspension and disbelief and rationalization are distinctions without a difference in this case. If I can rationalize I don't need to suspend my disbelief. If I can suspend my disbelief I don't need to rationalize. Can I suspend my disbelief that the magi of the Order haven't changed the history of Mythic Europe in 400 years? Sure. Can I rationalize that many of the things we've seen in history were caused by magi interfering with mundanes? Miracles attributed to God were actually the works of Magi? Crusades being stopped because the intervention of magi? Sure. What's the difference? I say none.

Yes, let's have fun. Ars is flexible enough to allow us to HR things into what we think are fun to play. I see no reason to make Arts Difficult (at least not all Arts, although I've toyed with Difficult Techniques) because there are so many interpretations of the rules that can turn things to hard mode, things we've talked about before. Spell Mastery mitigating one botch die per level of mastery when vis is used, rather than mitigating the botch entirely. Allowing Fast casting only for defensive purposes (as it was in previous editions). On and on, these are the two that just pop into my head.

Serf's Parma, but I thought Stellatus' own description said that he wasn't actually almost immune to magic, but rather that he simply believed that to be the case because no magus he'd ever fought could Penetrate his MR. Given the scarcity of old magi and, realistically, the even greater scarcity of magi with a relevant magical focus (seriously, does everyone forget that while players get to choose their Virtues, characters generally don't?) it's not hard to believe that a particular runt of a dragon has escaped the notice (or at least the care) of any magi who could beat him.

Yes, Magical Foci are pretty borked. I've been of the idea for a long time that it would be better to entirely replace them with the later-released Potent Magic, though perhaps a slightly more, heh, potent version of it if nobody minds houserules. Nonetheless, regardless of how strong they are, the fact remains that not very many magi will have them, simply as a matter of statistics and common sense.

And what are the chances that one of them will happen to be a PeVi specialist? PeVi isn't really useful for any broad tasks other than draining creatures of Might, with all other functions being niche things like item disenchantment and hiding magical traces, so I can't imagine a terrible lot of magi specialize in PeVi even if they find out they've got a Focus going for them in that area (not that PeVi specialization doesn't happen, of course, it would just be quickly sorted out as an impractical area of specialization by the majority of magi).

And what are the chances one of them happens to live in the covenant Michael's visiting... And that they know a Level 50 Might-draining spell tailored to affect Divine creatures? Unless the reason Michael's visiting is because somebody's been destroying angels, the chance of any covenant being prepared to combat an archangel seems tiny to me, even if the possibility technically exists.

So, yeah. I think all but maybe one or two covenants would shake in their metaphorical boots at Michael's mere presence when prepared. Even the two that aren't scared of Michael when they're prepared for him have to deal with the possibility of not being prepared for him... Because in most covenants, magi don't just huddle together around a pile of vis staring at the sky and awaiting Divine wrath. Michael's plenty scary when the few rounds it takes for the magi to recognize the threat and converge are enough for the covenant to be reduced to rubble.

One of my favorite things about Ars Magica is how much magi can accomplish in perfect conditions. It breeds a desire for stasis in players, helping to motivate them when things happen that mess with their ability to stay in control of a situation.

That's just my two pence, though.

I am in total agreement with JL :smiley:

If a Covenant that Michael needed to visit in a hostile fashion had someone who could defeat him, I'd think that he would probably be smart enough to bring backup. Also, he has Infinite Divisibility, which has poor rules in Divine, but I'd rule is generally equivalent to being able to throw around Aspects like a Daimon.

Yeah, a magus who spends decades studying Perdo Vim up to ridiculous levels and initiating a Major Focus in it can develop spells to destroy anything magical short of God Himself; that's fine. Magi can do pretty much anything given enough time and research, and the more important question is whether they're wise enough not to do so. So if your magi decide that they want to call Michael up to blast him into angel dust just to prove that they can, then Michael can show up and dare them to take a shot. If they do, congratulate them on their Pride; any SG worth his salt can come up with the interesting consequences for Mythic Europe that will happen if the Right Hand of God is slain and the Host left without a captain.