Intelligent Items

Previous editions had these to an extent, or at least items that had Abilities and could 'learn' so that they could use those Abilities. But I don't think you can do that in Arm5 right?

How would one go about making an Intelligent magic item? Would it break the laws of magic? Could it be done at all? Would it need some kind of breakthrough and then a new Virtue similar to the inner mysteries of Verditius?

There currently exists a way (sort of) in that Spirits can be stored in items (spell jars to power a spell, as well as the Verditius Inner mystery) but the spirit's intelligence and will is suppressed and doesn't necessarily come through at all. Would some variation on these be the way?

I ask mainly because this seems to be a staple of magic/fantasy and I'm having issues finding any real examples of these existing in ArM5. Have I missed anything?

Two thoughts:

A constant duration creo mentem or creo animal enchantment that grants the item a simple intelligence (both spells that allow magi to speak with stones and trees and the criamon mystery that allows them to pick up memories from items indicate that items have at least rudimentary senses even without magical augmentation).

The Merinita mystery of Animae Magic (IIRC I might have misremembered the name) allows you to change items into faeries. you could enchant an item with a range personal constant duration animae magic effect to make it into a faerie.

In either case it's an interesting question to ask if a perdo vim spell that deactivates the enchantment causes a "reboot" of the creature eliminating all of their accumulated memories.

Those are some options that seem pretty capable within Hermetic laws right now. That's interesting. Or would it really be more along the lines of the Magus projecting their own mind or thought process into the item, or would they be waking up the spirit of the item? A decent discussion perhaps.

What kind of drove this was I thinking of a classic D&D adventure (White Plume Mountain) that involved trying to recover 3 powerful magic weapons, 2 of them which were Intelligent and capable of taking some actions on their own. The items were Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor I think. As I was thinking of that it occurred that there isn't really an equivalent in Ars, which is kind of a shame, because they make for interesting stories I think.

I think that maybe during an item creation experiment in a lab, maybe something like this could happen. But basically the true awakening of an intelligence in an item and some ability to use its powers is what I'm thinking.

Sort of. Take a look near the back of RoP:M, and the section on magical things, just before elementals. While this doesn't provide a mechanism for Hermetic Magi to make intelligent items, it should give you a mechanism via which to make them as a storyguide. I could see things such as a magic item being warped by a sufficiently powerful aura over a sufficiently large time becoming a magical thing. Or maybe consider the transformed human section and how you might extend it.

Edit: Now that I am home with my books, there is a specific example of an intelligent magic item you should read on pages 130-131 of RoP:M.


One of my players recently asked me if it were possible to 'awaken' his talisman as a Magical Thing and bond it as a familiar. I said "Sure. I'll create a Minor Mystery virtue, then you can either have your character spend several years in an original research project inventing the Mystery himself, or he can search for someone who's already done it and have them initiate you at whatever their price is."

So, now while he's deciding which route is more in character for his magi, I'm stuck working on the mechanics of it.

I was thinking of making it a pretty simple process, basing the new Magic Thing's Might score on some function of the magus' CrVi(Me) lab total, maybe up to half the lab total, and designing the Thing's powers from there, and a vis cost of 1/10th to 1/5th the full lab total. After it's created, It'll have a basic personality, very similar to the magus' own, but no Abilities (other than any Supernatural Abilities designed into it), those will have to be taught (with the normal Vis cost required for Magical Beings to learn). Then the magus can bond the talisman using the standard familiar bonding ritual.


If you assume that "intelligent magic items" have spirits bound within them, that fits perfectly (in both Ars & D&D). The intelligence is not artificial, but is merely trapped within the item - and, depending on the spirit (or demon?) involved, that might suit it just fine.

My basic (so far) is:
Cr(In)Me(Im) Base 20, +2 Requisites, +1 Concentration, +1 Complexity
Item maintains Conc +5 levels, Linked Effect +3 levels, Unlimited uses per day +10 levels (yes, both constant effect and unlimited number of uses)

Above is part of my designing a new house based on a request to see if i could come up with a good game version mimicking or resembling a "Unison device" among a few other things, and the above is the core "mind"+communications effect for what essentially is a separate, (pseudo?)sentient spellcaster and character, which can merge with its´s creator (unison) to give a boost to magic power levels.

The above effect is just one out of 5 at similar levels though, and the cost in Vis will probably end up quite severe.
(another effect to generate magic, one for movement and soak, another for morphing and unison, one for shaping magic and one to make size irrelevant for investment and set up a "hard memory")
That at least is about as far as i´ve got on this so far...

For devices with simpler, more "machinestyle" intelligence/sentience, i´m not being quite as highend on effectlevel.

Totally not i think. It IS a staple of myths and fiction after all.

I would say that it does not require it, but that it should probably be seriously harder without one.

One of my issues is whether or not it's done by design or accident, and how the item responds. For example, the accident has appeal in that you have a Magus who has kind of made a Frankenstein's monster. This type of item seems to appear in the games and stories often enough; A powerful and intelligent item that gets beyond the creator's control. This type of item also goes well with it being a Spirit or something inhabiting it and one of its powers IMO would have to be the ability to influence the wielder in some way.

If it's done b design and without a spirit, what are the Personality Traits of the item? Would they be similar to its creators, something completely new as befitting the item's purpose, or something beyond the creator's control? Could 2 intelligent swords be blood thirsty while the other a passive defender?

There's definitely material now for me to look at and maybe have some items that conform to the rule. Thanks all for the input.

I was thinking back on the cloak in RoP:M, the One Ring, D&D "intelligent" items, and some others. I think we might want a lot of these items to have Cunning instead of Intelligence in Ars Magica terms. The One Ring is probably the most well-known of these to us. Yes, it had a will (desire to return to and serve its master) of its own. But did it have intelligence? Could it reason? It wouldn't surprise me if modeling will with limited capacity to reason would work best via Cunning. Just a thought.


Wouldn't that imply that one would need InAn to detect such? :confused:

But I think I see your point - that it is not a "human" sort of intelligence, but a limited, self-serving consciousness relevant to the item in question - which I think gets us back to spirits, which can be widely defined and portrayed.

Whatever the creator wants them to be, whatever the SG wants them to be, random or any sort of mix.

Sure, why not?

Interesting question, and one we might really want answered since elementals have Cunning instead of Intelligence by default. I hadn't thought that far about it. I suppose I would say InFo more generally, such as InTe for a sword. I suggest this because the spell Stone Tell of the Mind that Sits allows you to communicate with stone, though perhaps that's with some sort of a spirit within. (I'll have to double-check RoP:M later.) So reaching some sort of mind without Intelligence, since not truly Mentem, seems like it might be broader than InAn.


If the SG rules that making an intelligent item requires a breakthrough, this type of item could come into play. After several seasons of experimentation, the magus's attempts to develop an 'intelligent item' enchantment process unexpectedly result in an 'awakened' item in his lab. The item is now intelligent and may have a personality (and capabilities) the magus never intended. And should the player botch an experimentation roll, the SG can thank his lucky stars and go nuts. A pestle with a chronic headache, an alcoholic alembic, a cloak that doesn't like to get wet...

I like the idea of Cunning being the initial intelligence, it still has personality traits to go along with it, but perhaps cunning is the best that can be accomplished as the rules are. That being said, perhaps true intelligence either requires a breakthrough, or might be beyond Hermetic magic. If it were beyond Hermetic magic, that would likely be the Limit of the Soul, and lead to the confirmation that true Intelligence requires some kind of soul or spirit.

That's not necessarily how I feel about the topic, but if used that way it would certainly keep the medieval mindset in place I think. In such a situation then trapping a spirit in an item would be the only way for true intelligence to be present.

I would love to go one step further and link intelligence to soul. That opens a nice can of worm.

A rough look on wikipedia tells me that djinns have free will and will be judged and I think faeries are outside the realm of christianity, so there won't be an answer for them. Anyone can confirm or deny?

I'd say these examples of speaking with stones and trees points ro RoP:M in the section about Airy Spirits. It seems you may speak to the spirit of the stone, which senses things relevant to a stone in the way stones see things.

I like this. Let's do some free thinking about this.

I'd create a Verditius Mystery Virtue called Awakening Items, which would let a practitioner enchant an item with intelligence. Thinking off the top of my head, I'd let the magus compare his Lab Total against a number that includes the item's final Might, its final Intelligence score, and any powers it will have. Ideally, the final product would mirror the Magic Items rules in Realms of Power: Magic.

First season and the magus prepares the item to enchantment. Normal rules. Using a sword as an example, that takes 15 pawns of vis.

Second season. I'd use the Material and Size Tables (ArM5, p. 97) to determine its base Might. A sword would have a base Might of 15. Same Might as its vis cost to prepare for enchantment.
Then, maybe, I'd add Intelligence rules to the formula. Say a base -5 Intelligence adds +5 to the total, and each step up the ladder costs another +5. An Intelligence of 0 adds +30 to the formula. The Verditius needs to double this effect total with his Creo Mentem Lab Total. Giving a sword an Intelligence of 0 is an item effect of 45 and requires a Creo Mentem Lab Total of 90. I like that. It's easier to make dumber Awakened items.

This isn't going to be much fun if the item can't interact with the other characters, so the item needs to be able to talk. Maybe this step is optional for some groups, but ideally I want an awakened item that a player could use as a character. To do that, the item needs to talk. Since I want to encourage talking items, I'd make this part of the process easy. I'd hang it on the item's Intelligence, so that the magus who increased the item's effect level to include a better Intelligence score gets rewarded. I could do this as a separate installed power. Maybe the base Intellego Mentem effect for telepathy is Level 15. +1 Touch and +2 Sun, then +1 two uses per day and +3 environmental trigger (constant effect, page 99) is a level 34 effect, which allows the sword to communicate with anyone hold it. This would cost 4 pawns of vis to install. This is fine, but doesn't address the item's Intelligence score.

Maybe the item's Intelligence subtracts from the cost of installed powers, so that a smarter awakened item actually accepts powers more readily. The speaking feature (above) costs 4 pawns of vis to install in the sword has an Intelligence 0, but only 2 if the item has an Intelligence +2. That's not bad, maybe. Now probably every installed power should have a minimum cost requirement. Effect level divide by 20? Magnitude minus Magic Theory? That's a neat formula, but would it work? I'd try that first.

Additional Seasons and the magus gives the item powers. To follow Magic items rules, I'd like the item to spend Might points to activate powers. So I need a new Frequency Effect to do that. I'd make it cheap to encourage the enchanter to use it. Maybe "use Might pool" adds nothing (0) to the spell-like effect level, just like "1 use per day". Let's give the sword the power to flame up, "Blade of the Virulent Flame" is level 15. That's easy. Normally installing this power costs 2 pawns of vis, using our "minus Intelligence" rules this costs nothing. Well, that's probably not right, so maybe we should say that every power costs at least 1 pawn. So, when the sword activates it's "flame on" power, it spends Might points equal to the level of the effect divided by five, which is fairly standard. Our sword, with a Might of 15, spends 3 points of Might pool to flame on. What if we want to reduce that cost? Well, I'd allow the magus to add to his initial spell-like effect level to reduce the Might cost of the activated power. Maybe adding +10 will reduce the Might cost by 1. So the flame on power with a spell-like effect level of 25 (15 + 10) has a Might cost of 2 (3 - 1). Now that should cost 3 pawns of vis, but if the magus kicked up the item's Intelligence (+2 in our example), it costs less (only 1 for us). I'm starting to like this.

The Awakened Item can hold a number of pawns of vis equal to its Material and Shape number, so the sword can hold 15 pawns of instilled powers. With Intelligence reducing the cost, that is a lot of powers, but there is a cap. Is this too powerful? Probably. So I'd make it a Major Mystery Virtue. It is probably still too powerful, but I'd let players play with those rules and see how they work at the table.

Fun thread, thanks.

Emphasis mine:
So far, it's extremely much more useful that Automaton magics (also a Major virtue, though dog only knows why).
I'd also advocate intelligence starting at a much lower level, -3 or even -3.
Indeed, adding Cunning would be a major boost to currently magical potential.

You could also fashion a constant effect MuCo item that transforms a human into the item you want. Then you can use InMe spells to tap into their knowledge. With the use of CrMe/MuMe effects you could change their mind into actually liking being an item and a hedge wizard who's weaker than your maga could be conditioned into using his magic at your demand.

There's an Awakened Device virtue in Ancient Magic. Are you familiar with it and if so what's different about yours?