Kiss of Death ... hmm ...

In our troupe Perdo Corpus is a really rare combination - in a nutshell, there are far more flexible Form-Technique combinations for inflicting damage. So it's no surprise we only recently stumbled upon the 5th edition version of "The Kiss of Death", a flavourful spell (kiss the target and he dies, with the black mark of your lips) that's been around since the 2nd edition. In the current form, it's a Touch, Mom., Ind. spell that takes a +2 magnitude modifier because you do not need to speak in order to cast it. So it's level 45, i.e. 10 levels higher than it used to be and than a "vanilla" PeCo spell that kills at Touch range would be (let's call the latter effect "The Touch of Death").

I think the level of The Kiss of Death is too high.
Inventing The Touch of Death is easier.
If one needs to cast The Touch of Death silently, the difficulty of doing so (and the resulting Penetration) is no worse than with The Kiss of Death.
On the other hand, with The Touch of Death one can use Voice (and, in fact, even a Booming voice) if a little extra oomph is needed; or alternatively, one can rely on other Virtues (e.g. Performance Magic, Silent Magic etc.) to remove the need of using voice, while keeping the benefits of a lower level spell.
Finally, kissing the target is probably harder than simply touching him - e.g. in combat - and certainly as conspicuous as talking (this includes the black lip marks).

I'd just bump down The Kiss of Death two magnitudes, back to level 35 (same level as The Incantation of Lightning, and the same it used to be); assume that the "kiss" constitutes the "gestures" of the spell (a passionate kiss being the equivalent of exaggerated gestures); require vocalization unless the caster chooses to omit it (at the usual penalty); and assume that the black mark left by lips is just the sigil of the inventor.

I think it's just right. You get a spell that you can cast Silently without needing 2 levels of Mastery, any special virtues, or suffer Casting Score penalties. Sure it's higher level, but you get what you pay for.

That would be [Noise] of Death. :wink: Also, that would make it level 40.

Also, this spell isn't meant for combat, it's meant for assassination. Of course, there are smarter ways of magical assassination, but not all wizards, assassins or wizard assassins (or should that be Wizard Ninjas?) are smart.

Nope. Just a standard T: Ind R: Touch D: Mom spell, with voice and gestures as normal. It would be level 35, really, though, as "Kill a person" is still base 30, which is comprable to Ball of Abyssmal Flame or Incantation of Lightning.

Not very subtle, though, if you're shouting and waving your arms, touch a guy, and he dies. Then again, neither are black kiss marks.

You are constantly suffering the equivalent of a -10 Casting Score penalty compared to Touch of Death, because your spell is 10 levels higher, in exchange for silent (but clumsy) casting. However, there's no way you can offset this penalty, even if you have a Virtue or spell Mastery that would allow you to cast silently, or if you are willing to use a booming voice.

It's a little like a meal comprising by a main dish and a dessert being offered as a 15 Euros menu, when the main dish can be bought for 10 Euros and the dessert for 5. It's a bad deal. If you want, you can always assemble the menu from the separate dishes. But if you only want one dish, the menu will cost strictly more.

In addition, learning Kiss of Death is much more difficult.

I did not mean Voice Range, I meant Voice as in Voice and Gestures.

What I'm saying is this: suppose I invented Touch of Death. There is no circumstance under which Kiss of Death is superior - I can completely "emulate" every possible use of Kiss of Death with Touch of Death. But the reverse is not true. In a whole lot of situations Touch of Death is strictly better than Kiss of Death.

Generally I agree with you. I can think of only one case in which Kiss of Death is superior: Fast Casting. You're not supposed to be able to use extra options while Fast Casting. The rules are a bit vague on what those extra options are. But it doesn't seem like Fast Casting would work very well on a spell limited to touching one target, so that's pretty minor.

I'd be hesitant to use +1 magnitude. It seems a little small to me. I might go for +3 or +4 levels per magnitude of gestures/voice removed. That would save you 4 or 2 levels on this spell. But higher magnitude spells (2nd and higher) that don''t have levels that are multiples of 5 seem ugly.


Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

However, one would be better off Mastering a Touch of Death for Silent casting.

Sorry. :blush:

Indeed, especially when Mastered.

I look at the spell as more of an example of what can be done, rather than something that should be done.

On the other hand, can see a lot of powerful magi wanting a Subtle and/or Silent spell without having to 'waste' the time Mastering a lower level version, or needing to use something like Facilitate the Stifled (Form) Spell, if they have the Lab Totals and Casting Scores to spare.

I really can't see any magus doing so. Why would anyone want to learn a spell that is intrinsecally silent, for +2 magnitudes, when he can just learn the easier "vanilla" version and cast it silently? No need for Mastery or anything else. Just cast your plain, intrinsecally non-silent spell silently, with a -10 penalty to the casting score. It's going to be no harder than casting your intrinsically silent version, and your final penetration will be identical. You just have an easier time learning it (remember that if your Lab Total is large enough, you can cram more stuff into a season), and have more flexibility using it.

It doesn't make much difference in game mechanics, but there are heaps of in-character reasons why a particular magus might want to do it this way. Including (but not limited to) ...

a) because the magus thinks it is less risky to teach, say, his apprentices this version --- he knows he is not going to be kissing his apprentices.
b) because the magus has a focus in "kissing" --- so this spell is much easier to invent/cast for him.
c) the magus thinks it is more effective this way (even if he is actually wrong).
d) the magus has cultic reasons for inventing it this way (inventing, or assassinating somebody with, a "kissing death" spell might be part of an initiation script).
e) the magus has a Necessary Condition that means he needs to cast the spell like this.
f) the magus has a Talisman Attunement (say, +5 kissing) such that he casts this spell more effectively than a "vanilla" touch, cast silently, spell.
g) the original spell was invented to kill another character who had a Death Prophecy "to be killed while kissing".
h) the magus thought that this was cool.

You have to remember that all the printed spells are supposedly invented by particular magi. So many have idiosyncratic touches that can be ascribed to the individual context they were invented in.

As the Game is Ars(e) Magica , a Kiss on the Cheek , may not mean what you think it does. :open_mouth:

Another potential reason. The symbolism of the kiss of Judas.

In fact, if you want to kill someone, there are better systems, as pointed out. Still, it is a characterful spell :slight_smile:


The only reasons that stand are b (focus in kissing - for invention only) c (the magus incorrectly thinks it's more effective) and h (the magus thinks it is cool are not valid): research Touch of Death and use it as Kiss of Death (cast silently, making sure your touch is delivered through the lips) and you will satisfy all the conditions for a, d, e, f, g. You will also cast the spell at least as easily in case b.

You can invent Touch of Death with the limitation "you need to kiss the target" but with a vanilla voice component, and cast it silently, and invalidate reason b. Remember, my main gripe was not with the kissing part, but with the "you can only cast it silently, and you must pay 10 levels to avoid the -10 casting penalty).

So, really, the in-character reasons for a magus to go "The Kiss of Death" way are that he thinks (incorrectly) it's more efficient (a Delusion, since Magic Theory 1 tells us otherwise), or that he thinks researching a crippled spell is cooler... I find these rather weak reasons.

The fact that you (and I) might be minmaxers does not mean that the creating magus has to be. If I look at my real world life, there are THOUSANDS of issues where I did not search for maximum efficiency at all costs. THis might be such a case easily. So for me all the listed reasons can stand rather easily.


It's hard to see how that satisfies "a" and "d". You might be right, that "e", "f", and "g" could be satisfied in this way too. But it will depend on precisely how the troupe interprets such things work.

As Xavi says, there is no expectation that the magi who invented the canon spells always invented the most optimal spell configuration.

It is great that you think you can see a better way to do something. This gives you, as a player, something to do, and also provides your character with something to do. For a game design point of view, there would be no point having the quite excellent spell design system which allows players to create spells, if the core rulebook listed all the optimal spell designs.

Ars Magica 5th Edition Core Rules, the Black Whisper Spell (PeMe 40) Has a +1 magnitud addition for no gestures, then i can imagine aplicable it to other spell for voice component.