Hyper Mobile Magi

I've noticed a trend of my game of Ars inolving travel.

Usually travel is a prime opportunity for roleplaying opportunities in RPG's.

In Ars it is very easy for moderately powerful magi to travel with impunity.

As an example, IMS we have the three senior magi Ryce, Santiago and Tenebrous. Ryce can shapeshift into a bird, Santiago is an elementalist and has a spell in his talisman that picks him up in a great gust of wind and flings him through the air and Tenebrous can turn into a raven. All three can also teleport, the first two using amulets and Tenebrous via spells.

This means that if, for instance i wish the players to find the "mystical mountain of terrible mystery" in ther furthest reaches of Scotland, they can get there by flight in less than a day. Indeed, if only one of them flies there, he can gather arcane connections for the other two and they can all just teleport there.

This certainly cuts down on my GM "big bag o Tricks" for fun plot.

I've had a few locations that can only be accessed on foot, such as an inpenetrable Fae forest and regios and wards of various kinds around covenants, but having too many of these would strain creduility.

Have any other GMs had this problem and does anyone have any good ideas with regard to it.

I obviously don't want to remove my players mobility or nerf their power, but having those kind of "on-the-road" situations would be nice.

I had a nice murder-mystery companion and grog story once but didn't factor in that one of the magi, even while travelling, could simply bounce back to his sanctum any time he wanted. So even while he was away, he was never really away and could pitch in to the companion story.

Ars can sometimes be really frustrating...

I tend not to design liner challenges the way I did in the old days. I kinda make a field of opportunities and let the players wander. This means that I never really have any essential "on the road" story segments. However, I have had players create their own travel difficulties. A common one is travelling somewhere you have never been before, thus you have no Arcane Connection there yet. Another is the need to bring along someone or something that precludes easy instant travel; bringing a statue as a gift for another magus and you don't have what it takes to ReCo there with a Terram Casting Requisite, traveling on a ship ecause of the need to guard a bunch of goods being transported, and etceteras.

Metagame it. Tell your players you want to do a short travel segment, and let them come up with the excuses as to why they don't want to teleport or fly. Players can be amazingly accomodating to the needs of a good story if they are allowed input.

Ars Magica is one of the most "alien" RPG I've ever masterized. It was very difficult for me at the beginning, as I was forced to put aside some game master tricks (such as the "travel story" described here).

I realized that when I tried to make an adaptation of the movie "Labyrinth" (with David Bowie, remember?). You know what happens to a Labyrinth full of goblins when a troupe of Magi with PeVim against faeries, Ward against Faeris, and assortiment of spells designed to destroy buildings and walls decide to invade it? Yes, it was tragic...

I think Ars Magica needs its own tricks, its own unique stories, as Magi are far, FAR more powerful, versatile and free than in any other RPG. So, if you cannot use the "travel story" trick, perhaps finding another way to spice up the beginning of your story.

Our saga has an elementalist who can make wagons fly - we zip about North England and Scotland at 40mph, giving us access to lots of areas and stories. On the other hand, we're also heavy investors in a merchant's ships giving us reason for that greatest of Ars Magica stories - the shopping trip. Take the Mercere portals to the nearest point, meet your ship and then go hunting for foeign mystical goods, books and familiars. Last time we tried it, we bought a load of books none of us can read, raided the tomb of a Priest-King of Thoth (whom we desperately hope is in final twilight) and were snubbed by the local wizards who refused to allow us into their library. We plan to return in 20 years to raid and punish them.

The fact that you can cover a distance quickly opens lots of stories, especially since the return journey is rarely as easy. Take those little rumours of a norse rune-stone which prevents scrying of the area it's in, but can only travel as fast as a horse can walk ... Naturally, there's a bloke from Waddenzee who's also looking for it.

regios...you may or may not beable to teleport into/out of them. You can easily get to the entrance but you then need to find the way in durring which time all sorts of things can happen.
Steal a page from DnD and have a time of troubles where magic fails.

Maybe they don't know exactly where to go and must ask help of the residents.

Thanks for your replies.

Reis Tahlen said

I think you hit it on the head there, i need to develop a bigger bag of Ars specific tricks and tools. travel stories work well in many RPG's but my Ars magi are far too mobile for most of them.

Some good suggestions here many of which i've used in game already.
We have a house rule that you can't scry or teleport between Regio levels which means that anything in a regio is a bit harder to get too.

Fhtagtn, love the image of a wagon full of magi whizzing through the sky, If you are set in North England, do pop into the Covenant of Brunnaburgh, its on the Mercia/Northumbria border and is most hospitable to guests.

Like you we have also used our mobility to open up plots. We've been "Raiders of the Lost Ark" hunting in Egypt, rescued a kidnapped prince from a scilian covenant (accidentally leading to their destruction), found an island of giants in the Mediterrean, killed a Hermetic Alchemist in Germany and become fast friends with a covenant ion Normandy.

Currently we are zipping around Scotland battling DA (who has just sacked Blackthorn). So i appreciate that hyper mobile magi isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Agnar, we had a strange travelling regio effect once that stripped our magi of their power and threw them into a world where they had been born without the gift. Given how old they all were and how crotchety they usually are, it got quite emotional. Two of our magi, roughly 60 years old got into a fist fight with each other to try and release some of their impotent rage at the lose of their magic. Nothing sadder than a pair of old men slapping at each other in a field of mud.

This certainly can be a problem!

Back in my old 4th ed saga, the "casting from text" rule ruined a lot, not just travel. Since the crafty players had a librarian-type-magus copy a lot of useful spells, they could bring them along on adventure. Since they were just copies, no one cared whether one or two copies got ruined once in a while. And no one spent the time to learn those spells, since it was easy to cast it from text.
Yes, if their arts relevant to this spell sucked, they'd just take time to add Concentration (which was an ability used when calculating exp from reading, so everyone had a fair level in it) or just "pay the difference" in extra fatigue levels. The fatigue was rarely relevant, since one or two levels could quickly be regained with a little rest. The only times I could spoil this, when I made up harsh climates or weather to ruin the parchment, og make time a factor. But it was an uphill struggle, and vary artifivcal to always make up these situations. I didn't do this myself, my maga was a Hoplite, and needed to cast her own spells dammit, not read aloud from a scroll!
The abusive spells were Wings of Soaring Wind, Image of the Haunting Ghost (or something, the spell where the caster projects his talking image to an arcane connection. Essentially a telephone to another magus, once the relevant arcane connnections were set up. Also teleportation.

However! I set up several long, far expedition-type adventures. No one used flight or teleportation there. Perhasp they took the short cuts from central France to the Med, but sailed to through the Greek Isles all the way to Egypt, and even went through Constantinople one time. They visited some mythic places of their own accord, and I made up a lot of intertwined story threads on the journey. Plus, their original mission was one of following vague clues, each one opening up other leads on so on. Most of the adventures on the jouney were of the same type. It went quite wel.

But, here in my new 5th ed saga, all those "casting from text" problems are gone. I'm debating to myself whether to actually use the optional rule from Covenants about Casting Tablets. If I do, I'll make the whole process very adrous and rarely usefull. Perhaps the tablets need to be of inconvenient size, shape and material. Perhaps they need some vis or precious materials to "imbue". I'll make sure they're very rigid in their use, and that it takes tiiiiiiiime to cast.
Either way, the travel problems still exist. Since the new saga is actually a spin-off of the old (my Hoplite maga is the only conversion), the magi are 30 years out of gauntlet. They can easily have flight or teleport spells. Luckily not many do, but they'll get there. If one can travel easily, the rest also want to.
The most annoying thing is, one player plays a Flambeau Giant Blooded Corpus specialist. He is made for melee combat, with a heavy chain mail and a great sword. He has a whole deal of boosting and protective spells. Everytime he senses trouble, he activates everything. And at the first sign of fighting, which he reckons he can't win in one round, without taking damage himself or even risking anything, he instantly teleports (he has a Range: Sight version!). He has Flawless Magic, so I can't even hope he botches, it is very unlikely. ALso, this particular player has a history of simplu not rolling 0 on the botch dice. He once rolled at least 14 dice, for casting a ritual from text (in 4th ed), and still no '0'! Spoilsport!
Untill now, he has simply not gained anything from these fights, he teleports out of. If someone ambushes or surprises him, he'll perhaps take a little damage during the first attack (but he is boosted beyond human standards), but then he'll feel he's risking something, and surely vanish.
To limit his sight, would remedy this. But he always uses vision enhancing spells, but smoke or mist is good. Enclosed spaces also do the trick. Since he is Giant Blooded, I ruled that he's so large, than one or two small critters clinging to him come along in the teleport, since their mass is insignificant compared to his own and his war gear. Because his Corpus spells are boosted in magnitude, to allow Individual to affect a giant!

Back on topic:
If the easy travel for the PC magi seem to short circuit stories, have them not just be about something at the destination, but something during the journey. If they need to visit several places and check up on leads, they'll have to stop. Have a lot of stope be in difficult places; inside a major city, a regio, another covenant etc.
Or, use the easy travel to an advantage! Have stories reach far away, and for a long time. Impose limits on the distance teleportation works. Hit the fliers hard with fatigue for long journeys. Make difficulties for them, they'd have to avoid major settlements, or large bodies of water, for safety. Have the wather fould things up. If you need to go to Africa, you'll propably stay for more then the afternoon, then you'll need servant, camping gear, provisions. Limit the usefulness of a simple arcane connection. If magus A flies to Ethiopia and picks up rock, who is to say it's a perfect arcane connection? A connection to what? For how long?


When I have seen medieval maps, I have never found a scale in miles, or many of the features I expect of a modern map. These maps seem to be largely symbolic.

In a similar way, I find it less than useful to think of AM journeys in terms of distance, but in terms of story: How many interesting (dangerous? :>) story opportunities does this journey require? Never mind the distance! A map that is useful might provide symbols to represent the kind of dangers, er, stories, a voyager will probably encounter.

Traveling to the local village? Probably no stories. Travel to the nearest city? You can go through the faerie wood and enjoy one perilous story, or travel by road and deal with two easier stories that will probably take longer. A useful map, even though it isn't drawn nearly to scale.

Teleporting? Good luck with that! I bend the regio rules, and Europe is criss-crossed with regio boundaries. That 'mundane' mountain range, for example, is probably nothng more than a physical manifestation of a mystic boundary between places.



=> Bad Reputation: Coward.
Sad thing for a flambeau

Oh, and don't forget casting requisites on is teleport spell, or else, he'll travel around naked :smiling_imp:

I also often have travel spells, because as a character, they make sense, this does not mean I also use them all the time, sometimes I have to take a lot with me, sometimes I just need the path to know where I am going to (no clues on the whole mission at the beginning), and sometimes I just want to see the area (hunt for clues to stories, vis sources, mundane sources, mystic places, and magi who are not playing by the rules)

As SG I do like hypermobile magi. This is because I hate repetition! The first time characters travel to some unknown place in Mystic Europe is intersting: To find the path, to interact with the inhabitants and to solve the problem where exactly they have to go. The next time they visit the spot is less exciting. So most of the time the journey is skipped like: "Knowing the way, you arrive at X a week later. And this time you avoided this treacherous path that was infested with trolls..." By the way, this is often done in other RPGs as well.
Having hypermobile magi you can skip this part and start with the arrival right away.
For any beta-SG this is also great, as she can play her adventures in any setting far away from the convent and therefor having little chance to interfere with another's story.

More ideas why magi have to travel the usual way:

  • They know the name of their destiny but have to ask their way. (The Mystic Mountain looks the same as all the other mountains around)
  • They have to keep a low profile as some powerful entity is watching over the destiny. (A dragon might know, when a high level (>30level) spell is cast in his teritorry.)
  • Peasants are known to report any magical activity to the authorities. (Peasants report magical activities to the holy Vehm. And remember, Phillipus Niger, Flambeau archmage, is the head of them :smiling_imp: ...)
  • And if you really want to use teleportation at range: AC as a last, live saving resort, introduce a house rule: Teleportations have chances to botch increasing with distance.

IMS magi tend to travel with grogs and companions. Thiose tend to limit the hipermobility thing. Magi use those in tactical movements, zipping in and out of a locale, and to get the hell oput of a hot spot FAST befor eit burns them (usually teleporting back tothe covenant), but solo travfels are not that common.

IMS most "road encounters" tend to be between grogs (and maybe 1 or 2 companions) and other people/phenomena/creatures. Magi tend not to be there anyway most of the time. IMS magi are for BIG adventures, and road adventures tend to be smaller in scale. If they scalate to become BIG, you can always introduce the magi later on it is much more drasmatixc if you cannot simply magic your way out of trouble easily.