Hermetic Magic Can't Do...

A recent thread [url]https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/newb-needing-help-with-some-rules/8888/1] got me thinking about types of Wizards and Magic styles that can't really be done as Hermetic Wizards. I'm thinking standard magical tropes common or at least present in fiction and other games. ArM is so flexible there aren't that many but I wanted to write up a quick list, define some categories and see what other folks might have to say.

Now I'm not talking about individual effects disallowed or unsuported by rules, but rather thematic styles of magic or character roles (like Cleric) that are impossible or at least very hard and unrewarding as a consequence of said rules. It occurred to me there is a spectrum ranging from NO!!! too "You can do it but you may not be very happy" So I drew up a little list with examples.

1)The Hard NO!. This is stuff specifically not allowed in setting by the Limits of Magic. The best example I can think off is a Time Traveling/Manipulating type spell caster.

  1. The soft no. While the limits of magic don't prohibit these effects there is some rules somewhrer that say's Hermetic Magic can't do this. Other non-hermetic traditions might be able to do it but lest you integrate or find a mystery a bog standard Hermetic is Out of luck. The best fit example for this is a Dice Roll Manipulating Luck Magician.

  2. The Hard NOT. Some things just don't exist in the Setting so there is no chance for there to be magic that Manipulates this. The clearest example would be the hard core Dimensional Traveler. Sure there are the things like Regios, Arcadia, The Magic Realm and Heaven or Hell. But I don't think they really work like the astral plane or parallel realities from so many other games/settings.

  3. The Soft Not. Or the Shoehorn. This is best typified by the Shadow Magician. Yeah that thing exist (Like Shadows) in the setting but I don't know how hermetic magic is going to interact with it. Clever players with a lot of ST cooperation can probably build something playable but your basically working outside the borders of Hermetic Magic.

  4. The HARD HARD. Yes it can be done, there are probably even guidelines in the base rules for doing it. But the costs and logistic's mean that no Hermetic Magus really mimics that particular role or magic style. These are things like the combat healer (Cleric) or the wizard who goes around permanently turning people into stone or weasels or stone weasels.

  5. The Soft Hard. Yes it can be done, but it is not for the new player or anyone going for maximum effectiveness. And if your too caught up in how this works in other settings/systems you may never be satisfied. This is probably the most arguable category but for me it would be things like a (not in combat) healer or the combat summoner. Or the "Why does my magic sword need to penetrate?" Guy.

Of course these categories are very fuzzy and there is a lot of crossover between them depending on style and rule interpretation. What do other people think? What other "Magics" just don't easily translate to Ars Magica in General and Hermetic Magic specifically?

Yu can't do a cleric? What is the holy magic all about then?

Plenty of Holy Powers and Methods in RoP: D IIRC.

Carrier spells don't work too well. That is, spells that create a thing that spreads the effect around or a spell that when cast on someone causes the target to effect others. For example, a spell that lets a target have +3 to oratory rolls is ok. A spell that lets a target "enchant" a group, not so much. A spell that gives a target a disease is ok. A spell that causes that target to infect everyone they interact with, not so much.

Similarly, the various bigby's hand-type spells in other games that create a "force" hand to pick up, block, or whatever. I'm not sure how that would work. ArM does things more directly.

Pure Hermetics are poor summoners. Without an AC summoning doesn't really work. Good luck summoning "all the wolves of the forest" or what-have-you.

Off the top of my head,


Area of effect spells are fairly bad in Ars.
Spells that grant a fixed bonus, like a +2 to something (akin to puissant) do not work very well either.
And space manipulation is something that hermetic magic does fairly bad as well (unless you do not care about warping).

If the divine intervenes so much in a saga as it does in dungeons, I prefer to roll D20. But that is personal preference. I could not stand RoP:D precisely for that: it made the miracles mundane and predictable.

Necromancy, as in animating corpses and raising an undead army, kinda sucks. It's a soft hard, I think.
Opening gates to hell and summoning and commanding demons is also problematic, as was mentioned.
Creating stuff with magic is also hard. Things like conjuring a castle, or a plate of apples. A soft hard again, I guess.

That's one of the things I liked about RoP:D. Precisely because I want to keep miracles rare and God inscrutable, I want Divine magic to work with no direct divine intervention. If anything, I want Divine magic to be more like magic - both mechanically so I won't have to learn a new system, and because I want divine holy men that can actually stand up to the magi, which means casting several spells in combat/during the encounter.

Miracles are direct divine intervention. They aren't predictable. Divine magic isn't miracles, just like an angel's powers aren't. It's supernatural powers wielded by someone affiliated with the Divine Realm. It's coming from that someone, not God. Big difference.

Just a few semi-random thoughts

No timetravellers = Just as well. I've seen exactly one short-story where timetravel was done well, and even that one broke near the end.
Time travel is a mess and I tend to be staunchly against it even when it's there.
At least Ars has something you can point to when you say "NO!"

Plenty of Hedgie, but no Hermetics. This is good - it means even hermetic magic has weaknesses.

By "So many other games/settings", do you perchance mean That Other Game?
Most of what I can think of from other games I can do with Arcadia.
If I want to do Out-of-Body stuff like in SR, there's a virtue for that in Hedge Magic (HMRE) and I think Criamons have something similar.
Still, true "Plane Hopping" isn't available, just the same types of stories.

Very true

CrCo with a duration for combat healing.
Turning people into Stone or Weasels or Stone Weasels just require a specialist.
Mind you, it can get really tricky.

Plenty of potential here! )

I don't recall doing something like this being easy under any other FRPG I've played previously. Once you've invented the ritual you are only limited by time, vis and the constraints of the saga (plunking castles down willy-nilly is likely to be frowned upon by nobles, and the Order, but it's not really the magic system that prevents it). Creating stuff with magic only requires the time to invent the spell, the vis to cast the spell and the time to cast the spell. Depending on lab totals, you can conjure a castle in as little as three months.

Yes... and no.

The thing is, the moment you start conjuring really complicated stuff things become very difficult very fast. Conjuring a simple metal circlet can be done with a Ritual (but not on the fly! Arrggh!), but what about a king's crown? You're gonna need that high Finesse, there. You may be able to CrTe a castle fairly easily, but what about one fully decked with statues, tapestries, hunting trophies, and so on? Lot's of requisites, and losts of extra magnitudes too. Not to mention one staffed with personell, all ready to serve the target, the new prince Aladdin! I'm not even sure how that can be done, Hermetically.

So yes, creation can often be done... but it requires inventing a spell per a specific kind of created thing (it can get fairly specific!), and then casting a Ritual spell instead of a formulaic one, and piles of raw vis.... and you still need high Finesse to do anything that looks half-decent.... and you're still limited to just a few Arts, because creating anything major requires too powerful spells.... So it's doable, I guess, but it ain't easy and it's not simple.

As for who does that - well I have two examples in mind. One is the Genie of the Lamp in the Aladdin movie. Which does lots of things, but mostly creation. And the second is a Psionic character my friend played in a D&D [are we allowed to say the Unholy Name?] game, which was a Shaper [practicing the discipline of Metacreativity under D&D 3.5e psionics rules].

Well if you mean Cleric in the sense of spell caster who's magic relies on calling down higher (or Lower) powers, that's pretty close to a Soft No. RAW specifically say's that standard Hermetic Magic does NOT do that. Several Non-Hermetic Magicias and some special (Mystery Cults, Infernalists, Holy Magicians) Hermetics do invoke outside forces.

I was talking about Cleric as an example of the dedicated combat medic party role.

Does work but temporary healing spells are actually harder to cast then permanent ritual healing. And as Tellus says

Between the high difficulties and the logistics involved with everyones wounds comming back at once it's not something that seems even remotly practicle to build a character around.

Well, keep in mind that in D&D, hit points, for all that they work exactly like ablative meat-points, are supposed to be an abstracted tally of fatigue, luck, that sort of thing.

In Ars, better to prevent the character from being wounded in the first place. Cleric-as-combat-medic doesn't work, no, but magi-as-party-buffer does.

Now, with regard to conjuring things, you can do "conjure something to my hand" with a teleport spell and an arcane connection to a room with all sorts of nifty things. Given some two-way communication with the home covenant, and "I shall conjure a" {INSERT COOL THING HERE, SUCH AS A FEAST} "when twilight is upon us, but first I must prepare through meditation" allows the magus to send orders to the covenant to prepare whatever he feels might be needed.

(Alternately, you can add a limited number of effect seeds that are True Creation - needing vis equal to the magnitude of the spell to cast, but still not rituals. Each True Creation effect seed requires an inconvenient but not entirely forbidding amount of Original Research, so they're still pretty rare.)


Sorry for the off-topic, but...
time travel is hard to do, yet far from impossible.
I would suggest "The Merchant and The Alchemist's Gate", and "The Anubis Gates".
Oh, and playing the Continuum rpg. How I wish I could find a group to play Continuum (or Narcissist!) with...

One type of magic that Hermetic magic can't do is Nobilis "domain" magic. In Nobilis, you play a Power who rules over an aspect of reality, your Estate. Say, books. Or summer. Or boundaries, guns, equations, impossibility and so on. You can control, create, destroy, know your Estate and stuff related to it, even symbolically. If you are the Power of books, you can make people bookish, you can bring to life famous characters from books, you can learn anything ever written in a book. If you are the Power of summer, you can age or rejuvenate people so as to bring them to the prime of their life, you can travel back in time to last summer, and of course you can make the weather unpleasantly hot. And so on.

I also realized that almost no school of magic from Unknown Armies 2nd ed. (my favourite rpg of all time) can be translated into Hermetic Magic; it's a bunch a hard nos, and hard hards. Bibliomancers? No. Cliomancers? No. Dipsomancers? No. Entropomancers? No. Epideromancers? Well yes, or close enough, and decently. Mechanomancers? It's a soft hard, until you go for the big mojo; then it's a solid no. Narco-Alchemists? No, but close to a hard hard. Personamancers? No. Plutomancers? No. Pornomancers? No. Urbanomancers? No. Videomancers? No.

Yes exactly what I meant by saying combat healing is doable but not even close to practical. You can come up with a way for Hermetic magic to quickly heal wounds in combat but it's harder and more complicated then other magic that would be far more decisive in the battle.

The other example of a Wizard that goes around permanently turning victims to stone or transforming them into animals indefinitely. Activities wizards are up to in fiction all the time. It can be done even with just the core rules using enchanted devices or the Faerie Magic Until duration. But it so vis intensive and difficult most magi would just prefer to kill or maim their foes with other effects.

It can be done, but dowsing magics can be rather sub-par for Hermetics.

Also, things that don't map well to the Forms & Techniques used can be challenging. 'shadow' magic, for example, can be handled with Imaginem, but really isn't supported by the game very well nor are any concepts that encompass multiple techniques and forms (alchemy, for instance).

Most of the summoning is done better by the Hedge magics so I'm guessing it would be either a hard hard or soft hard, depending on how you rule incorporating the traditions into Hermetic magic.

I'm generally talking about Hermetic Magi. In fact really what I was trying to say and didn't really make clear in my OP is what to say to a player who ask's the question, "Can I make a Wizard who does X type magic." Where x is specific flavor of magic seen in fiction, video games, or other table top games.

So if someone ask's me, "How do I make a Mage who calls up a variety of different creatures to fight for him like the character in the Summoner video game." I consider that Really Difficult. The rules allow it but it's not great logistically particularly if your focused on the wide variety and combat aspects of the concept. So Hard HARD.

The more Mythic Europe friendly concept of summoning spirits, jinn, faeries, elementals, and/or Demons. Then bargaining or compelling a wide variety of services out of them is much more doable. Non-Hermetics (or ex-Misc's with the big S Summoning ability) do it better then vannilla Hermetics but even without special integration or Mystery Virtues you can build a Hermetic Magi that can get a lot of mileage out of small "s" summoning. I'm not even sure I'd call that Soft Hard.

Summoning creatures is a soft problem. A single major virtue available to exmiscs aloows that. Just add a few ReAn mental control spells and there you with ultra-loyal bears, or boars, or wolves or whatever. :slight_smile: Not difficult. Been there, done that. Worked quite beautifully. Trained wolves at +18 group bonus are very good.

I guess it just depends on how you view 'summoning'. Creo 'creating' looks a lot like summoning. In general it's hard because of the hermetic limit of not being able to affect things without sensing them (without Arcane Connection). A clever mage can get those arcane connections, though with animals there's little point to actually fixing them because of the short lifespans of most creatures. Finding fresh wolf poop before summoning a pack of wolves isn't HARD, it just isn't fun or quick.

The Elemental magi from HM allow summoning and control of all creatures within the personality traits ( Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic and Sangunine) It works out better for beast master types as you can control all predators or all birds. It is much closer to "beast master" magi than what pure hermetic magic can do. And the Elementalist do not have to "sense" the creatures to summon/control them. Integration with that would vary Minor breakthroughs for some and a major for the others.(HM pg 32)