Hermetic understanding of the fork

As discussed before, Shape and Material Bonuses means that, yes it is objectively measurable in some circumstances.



Is it measurable? Usable is not the same as measurable.

You need to know about the S&M bonus before you can make use of it. S&M bonuses are learnt as part of Magic Theory, or you experiment and figure it out through trial and error.

But as far as I know there is no way of just grabbing an unknown item or an item of unknown material and then use a spell to learn what S&M bonuses that item can provide.

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The argument presented previously, if I read it correctly, is that the shape bonus is a property of the item. Thus we have the situation where a purpose may be indetectlble, but a shape bonus, even one which is derived from the purpose, is a property and hence detectible.

This argument is irrelevant to OP which concerned a guideline for a visible property, which a shape bonus certainly is not.

I don't agree with the argument either, as I see S&M bonuses as dependent on the language of symbols as well as words that the magus uses to craft his magic, and thus no more inherent in the item than its purpose.

It is not irrelevant, in the following sense.
Some people are arguing that a property of an item, as defined not just by the guideline, but by hermetic magic in general, cannot depend on the item's "context". That is, it should be independent of the circumstances external to the "physical" structure of the item, as understood in modern terms. Anything failing this test should not be a property of the item itself.

That is simply not true in the Ars Magica cosmology. The "role" that an item plays is a quintessential part of that item, even though from a modern perspective it obviously depends on the context. This is clear because a crown provides a bonus to magical activities concerning rulership; Creo can make a blade sharper, but a pillow softer; etc. In Mythic Europe, a king remains a king even if his country is destroyed by a magical cataclysm.

Thus, any argument claiming that the InTe guideline cannot tell that a fork is a tool to handle food because it depends on how forks in general (rather than that particular fork) are used appears flawed. Note that one could make many other arguments - saying "it's too low-level a guideline" for example - but that's another story.

Finally, note that indeed, the role of an item could be doubtful. Several people have gone out of their way to find examples of possible, but improbable roles for various things. But the test provided in the rulebook remains fairly straightforward. Get an idea of the population that would recognize such an item on sight. Would there be a rough consensus about what it is? Then sure, the guideline can tell you that. Eating forks would be ill-designed as gardening tools - anyone experienced with gardening would tell you that. Weapons? Come on. Similarly, they are mostly ill-designed as cooking implements -- though perhaps Rustica would get an answer like "a tool to handle food" rather than "a tool to eat". That's what Troupe/SG adjudication is for.

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No, there is no implication there. A crown provides a bonus to certain spells and effects, yes, but there are at least two possible explanations for why it does. It could be as an inherent property, from which your conclusion would be implied. It could also be because the crown is a symbol which reinforced the words of wizard. In this case there is no such implication.

Where do you have that from? The «Creo makes better» argument is clear for natural things, but artificial things are treated differently.

It is possible that you are right, but the argument needs to be cleaned up, making every premise explicit.

I fail to see your point. The fact that a crown can be a symbol of rulership is something that depends on the cultural context, but at the same time the fact that it can be used as a "rulership booster" in Hermetic magic is intrinsic to the crown -- a magus can't use a horseshoe to get the same magical bonus.

This is immaterial. A horse is a "natural thing", right? Just like a hog.
Perfecting magics will make the former swifter, and the latter fatter.
However, the fact that a horse is improved by making it swifter, and a hog by making it fatter, from a modern perspective is clearly dependent on human "use" of those animals.

But such a perspective is flawed in Ars Magica terms. The role that something plays is an intrinsic property of that something (which can be explained cosmologically in many ways). I would point that this is true even in some modern settings, like programming.

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That does not necessarily mean it is intrinsic to the crown, it may equally well be based on the magus' understanding of the cultural symbology of a crown.
This would mean that shape&material bonuses are not universal constants over space and time, but that is not a problem.

You don't say why this fact is intrinsic to the crown. Make it extrinsic to a crown, and instead intrinsic to the language of symbols and words that the magus uses to cast his magic. The mechanics would still be consistent, and the magus could still not substitute a crown from a horseshoe.

That the horse would be swifter can be argued as a matter of evolution as well as one of human preference. That the hog is fatter, I am not sure is obvious. Is there a RAW example to say that it has to be so?

Again, you may be right, but you have not demonstrated that this is the only consistent reading of RAW. I agree that it is one valid reading.

Except that Hermetic Magic can make the hog faster as well, and make the horse more perspective, even though neither of those are part of the modern perspective of those animals. And has nothing to do with their use.

Well, I wonder.
Is it a fork, or a pixie's trident?

If intellego is the art of perception, it makes sense to me that it would work as a kind of "wonder science" on Terram. I understand, I perceive, information on terram. I don't get cultural meaning.
That is, imagine a Star Trek tricorder analysing the item and telling you everything it can about it.
Is it fantastical? Yes, totally. Can it tell you everything? Absolutely not.
To me, Intellego Terram is a tricorder.

So if you have 2 passageways, one painted blue, the other painted green, it can't tell you what color means "safe", although it is quite obvious to the locals.


Interesting ideas. I'll try to pull them further down to Earth, I mean, down to fork.

Suppose this fork is a magic item. It is not designed to be an eating tool. Instead, its purpose (magic effect) is to teleport anyone sticking it into their mouth to the dungeons in the tower of the evil Wizard of Ogh. It is just shaped to look like an eating implement.

What can an Hermetic Intellego spell tell about this item?
(Obviously, an Hermetic lab investigation can detect the magical effect. We consider only spell effects at this point.)

I think that the InTe 2 guideline from the OP would be able to tell Rustica "it looks like an eating tool".
Because, ultimately, it's an eating tool that's been magically boobytrapped.

Similarly, a sword that's enchanted to make the wielder's lips red would be detected as a weapon (even by a wizard from a place where the only weapons are sticks and stones) not as a mystical lipstick.

Yeah. I suppose that interpretation works better in you cosmology than it does in @rgd20 's with the engraved purpose.

That's what Intellego magic will be able to tell you! Of course, not the InTe 2 guideline unless pixie tridents are subtly, but fundamentally different at a visual inspection from human forks (they probably would be). But higher level InTe guidelines can definitely tell you if that's a weapon, or an eating tool. Unless of course it has both functions, and e.g. pixies steal human forks to use as weapons.

Imagine you encounter such an item in a videogame. Would you be able to tell by looking at it very carefully if it's a pixie trident or a human fork? Maybe, if you have significant experience with the videogame. Maybe not. But if you looked at the videogame's code, sure, you would be able to tell if that item is an eating tool, or a weapon, or both. I do not find it strange that higher Intellego guidelines allow you to peek at the underlying "metaphysical code" of the ArM5 cosmology.


Are you suggesting that Mythic Europe is just another Matrix.

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Why not? It could be the Divine's code - at least, the open-source portion of it! Mundane astrology would be just another inspection tool. What I am saying is that it's not that "strange" a concept (it's certainly far older than the matrix movies), and it is a parsimonious explanation of why things can work in a certain way in Ars Magica, from Creo being able to create "correct" stuff without the caster's knowledge, to S&M bonuses etc.

Once again, I am not saying that this is the actual metaphysical substrate of Ars Magica. But I am saying that there's at least one very "natural" cosmological view in which you can't say it's "absurd" or "clearly far-fetched" etc. that magic can tell you that an object you've never seen before is an eating tool. So those types of objections to what seems the simplest interpretation of the corebook ("someone familiar with forks would be able to tell that's a tool to handle food -- so that's what InTe 2 tells you") fail, in my opinion.


Unfortunately, S&M bonuses may not simply be divined with a base guideline spell, as they are the product of hermetic theory, which is why we have mysteries to experimentally produce new one. Your statement is correct that it is measurable in some circumstances - those being a season of experimentation by someone trained in vulgar alchemy. Who would learn a mystery and undergo a season of experimentation if a spell was sufficient to get a complete list of mystical resonances? Funnily enough, the S&M bonus entirely depends on a successful skill roll - which points in the direction of skill developping ways to create that connection to get a specific bonus rather than a specific bonus being necessarily intrinsic to the item!


If you use Creo magics on a human, you can only get them to approach the ultimate perfect human with all attributes at +5. The natural maximum, defined in the game mechanics.

Similarly, Creo on horse and hog will get them to approach their natural maximums. This will likely mean a horse will get swifter, but why a hog fatter?

Are you defining the "perfect" hog as dependent on modern human use of the animal, then complaining about your definition of "perfect" is dependent upon modern human use of the animal?

This seems similar to your arguments about the fork. Someone with no knowledge of an eating fork will, from a close visual examination of it, have an understanding of its intended function as if they were a modern human from a culture that uses hand held forks only for eating. ie ignoring cooks who use forks in the cooking process, or other purposes.

I wonder, if in Constantinople when they first started eating with forks, they were using cooking forks to eat with?
I would be very surprised if someone decided to use a fork for eating, but only after making a special fork used only for eating.
How long after using cooking forks for eating, did they start making forks specifically for eating?

I would consider it's not complaining, it's going back to the point Creo knows what "better" is, however better is nearly always subjective and nearly always based on human perspective.

Let's go back to the horse. Faster is not always better for a war horse, or a dray horse. Extra speed would sacrifice strength, as the only way to get elite speed in a horse is to have a better power to weight ratio, and that is achieved by losing weight. Compare an Arabian with a Clydesdale.

In the game world, better is not objective in the case of natural things. Better can objectively be observed in the World of Forms. This is not the case for artificial things, in contrast, where better is dependent on the magus' skill.

A horse is prey animal living on open grassland. In this ecosystem, faster is better, as it increases the survival rate. A horse, as a natural thing, has no need for excessive strength or battle prowess.

A draught horse, a riding horse, or a war horse is an artificial thing. It has been bred to a purpose, and the World of Forms no longer applies. This is Herbert Simon's argument (Sciences of the Artificial 1969), but has the virtue of consistency with RAW. Natural things have a natural, objective ideal, which, admittedly, we may not know since we have not travelled to the World of Forms, but which is still there, existent in its own right. Artificial things are moulded by human goals and purpose, and thus their ideal is subjective.