Limitations of spell casting during a day (or month, and so)

Hello, Fellow Mages!

I have another noob question, and I haven't found the answer either in the book or online.

There are any direct limitations for the number of spells a magi can cast during a period of time? For example, a daily limitation?

I understand, there are indirect limitations, such:

  • If she doesn't have a sufficient amount of VIS, she cannot use ritual magic
  • If she loses fatigue levels, it makes harder to cast spells, so technically if she is too fatigued, she does not have a chance to cast spells successfully
  • if a casting takes too much time (for example a spontaneous spell with ceremonial casting) she is limited in time to repeat that spell.

But that brings us to the real question: can a magi cast almost infinite amount of low-level momentary formulaic spells, during a day, if she did not botch, and her casting total is always greater or equal to the spell's levels?

Thank you in advance!

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No, all the limits are indirect.

Yes, that does mean that a magus can cast 6-10 spells a minute (depending on how long you deem a round), 360-600 per hour, or, around 2000 before he will need a lunch break. Mastered formulaics in reasonably calm circumstances and non-fatiguing spontanous spells are safe from botches, so that he can keep going. Add fast and multi-casting, and he might break even that limit.

This is Ars Magica. :slight_smile:


Thank you, @loke!

We had this feeling, but wanted to be sure, and do not misinterpret it :slight_smile:


For clarity:

Core book:

A single combat round, consisting of one attack from every party to the combat, takes about six seconds.

The damage is inflicted once every six seconds (once per combat round)

Lords of Men:

Each round represents about six seconds of time in the game world.

The victim must make a Stamina check every thirty seconds, that is, every five rounds

There are probably more instances of these.

so 600 spells an hour, but if you are casting more than 8 hours a day you should probably start looking at penalties for pushing lab or crafting work too hard. The SG might well rule that casting for 8 1/2 hours a day is stressful and start requiring stress dice or something... so realistically probably a limit of 4800 spells a day, unless multicasting... but as mentioned it is an indirect limit.

So if you have a spell which does a days work of craftsmanship, a season's worth of casting should have the savings of 4800 seasons of work... though I'm pretty sure you'll hit the limit of what can be saved well before that...

You have 4800 workshops, and have a young magus and a craftsman work them all. The magus casts the spell to save a day's work, and the craftsman, having saved the day, can pass on to the next workshop with the magus. That's two people doing the work of 4800.

What is the craftsman for?

It is his time you save. With no craftsman, there would be no time to save ...

This is the reason I have house rules that prevent magi from easily casting many, many times in one day (basically I adapted the fatigue rules so there is a greater and longer-term cost for casting). Without that, my suspension of disbelief is strained by the way Hermetic magic could easily revolutionise the economy.

There is a challenge indeed. There are two ways to overcome it. You prefer more rules. I'd rather go with less rules. Either one works.

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Keep in mind that even though a magus might be able to cast a spell 4800 times pr day, and that each spell might craft one or even several things, that does not mean that doing so is worthwhile.

By way of example imagine a magus using a spell to craft furniture out of wood, e.g. chairs. Is there a market for 4800 chairs? perhaps, but certainly not for 4800 chairs per day. if we are generous and say the spell is flexible in what type of furniture it crafts, is there a market for 4800 pieces of variable furniture every day? unlikely. Not to mention that the wood has to come from somewhere, even if the magus could somehow manage to sell 4800 pieces of furniture every day where would said magus get the wood to do it from? a lack of available resources to process hold true for practically all manufactured goods. As for an economy of raw materials, those require vis to create and so are rarely considered worth it, not to mention the greater risk of warping.

Using magic a magus or more likely a covenant can over time become almost independent of mundane society by using spells to create or craft most of the things they need out materials that can mostly be sourced locally. But it almost always becomes a problem once you want to monetize your spellcasting on a large scale. It can be done no doubt but usually it requires a large degree of involvement with mundanes in order to get the good to market and actually sell them, and in order to administer the operation of logistics.

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Two ways, perhaps, but my way is less rules - my adapted fatigue rules are far simpler and easier to track than the RAW.

Indeed, but I can't shake the feeling that given that through integration with mundane society, magi could entirely revolutionise the world economy, technology and output, they would, at some point, integrate in order to achieve or offer that. As things stand in RAW, you have an economic system where a subgroup of people are able to create value essentially for free, at huge volumes, and I feel that if you put that into any economic system, at some point it's going to disrupt it substantially. One way out is to simply reason that the magi adhere to the code so strictly this never happens (though I'm not quite sure why they would feel the need to do that), another is perhaps to just invoke the "medieval paradigm" and hand wave it away, but I prefer to maintain the general principle of real life, which is that you don't get anything for free.

yes, magi integrated with society could entirely revolutionize industry and the world economy. Doing so would cost them time to study, and would lead to massive unemployment of people who have idle time to think hostile thoughts about those Gifted people who put them out of a job.
And priests who can capitalize on that unrest with divine protection from magics...
Plus it would not be a simple task- you would need magic to grow the wood that was being processed into finished goods by other magic, etc.
Far easier to have a few magic items in your covenant and employ a grog with arcane lore and a finesse score so he can switch crafts on a daily (or more often) basis to keep costs lowered, based on available enchantments.


I don't think that's how it would actually work - or, rather, I agree some of that could happen, but it would be a tiny fraction of the whole picture. That's because I don't know what would happen exactly - economics and social and cultural phenomena are so broad and complex we can never really even understand the ones we know best and have studied for centuries, so we have no hope with some crazy unknown quantity such as mass-scale magically produced resources. My instinct relies on one basic principle that it's reasonable to believe is true (but of course, people are free to believe otherwise), which is that if you put a capacity for massive free value creation into an economy, it's going to somehow, at some point, have an enormous effect. I don't know how - but that's not really relevant - I just think that's a principle that holds true in real life and to my instincts would therefore hold true in Mythic Europe, so for my peace of mind the only way out is to make it so that isn't the case.

the exact impact would depend on exactly how it is implemented, but the other aspect of this is that there are a lot of controlling factors that can wind up where the massive impact ends with "covenant destroyed". To begin with if trade and transportation is not a major aspect of what you implement, you have a very limited local market that you are dealing with. On the scale of mythic Europe collapsing a local economy is simply not that big of a deal, but the local impact will tend towards disastrous. the Gift is also a major issue- people are already inclined to dislike magi, and if you provide cheap food and take their jobs, they are inclined to think more strongly on the latter. Also anything you try will be treated with suspicion, and there are few things as suspicious as a free lunch...
working around vis limits also means more complex spells and more castings, which again digs into a magus' time, which while they do have the ability to earn a massive amount of money that doesn't increase the availability of vis, which is the commodity they care about most.
Now a truly intelligent covenant manager might manage production to allow unemployment in the local community to rise and then turn around and employ those people copying books, or even as academics (or hiring people out of jobs that those unemployed people could take over) but that would be a dangerous balancing act and would still be nowhere near the production capability of what even a single magus could do...

You are right in that dumping free value into an economy will most likely have a massive impact. Unfortunately even limiting castings per day by something like fatigue as you propose in an earlier post still gives magi the ability to create value out of mostly nothing, they just have to do it slower and in more circumspect ways, such as by using magic items or having grogs wield magic items for them.

I suspect that any game involving magic will have this issue and that trying to come up with a solution that allows magic to exist but not does not allow for the creation of value out of nothing is impossible. If you want to have a game with magic you are just going to suspend your disbelief regarding infinite value.

Human beings do create value from nothing - or, rather, from the energy they get from eating, etc. A carpenter making a chair is creating value that was not there before. Consequently the issue is not one of "world with magic = creation of value from nothing" vs "mundane world = no creation of value from nothing", rather, it is a matter of degree. If you put the ability to suddenly create relatively vast amounts of value into a system, there will, somehow, at some point, be enormous change. Make that relative amount of increase in value creation much smaller, and any accompanying change will also be much smaller. So by reducing magic's ability to create value to a level that is closer to mundane levels, while still above them, the problem is largely solved.

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You are probably right that there will be enormous change at some point, but then, your saga will also come to an end eventually.

The enormous change needn't come quickly. Or within your saga at all.

Yes, the magi can spend their time casting spells to make a living, but what would they want to? When they can get lowly grogs and serfs to do it for them?

Yes, they can make some specialised spells to create large amounts of one particular raw material with little effort, as they did with silver in (4ed) Stonehenge, but there isn't that much need for one single commodity, so there is not that much to gain anyway.

Manufactured goods are harder, because they require skill (be it craft and finesse), which already limits the output. You can make your income source legendary this way, but it is not boundless. You need people to work it.

The case at hand, with a magus casting 4000 spells per day to do industrial level production serves to make a case, but in practice, no sane magus would ever do that, because it is boring. And he would not be able to sell it all anyway.

I llike the idea that you could push the limits and change the world completely. The fact that you could do it, does not mean that it is done in your saga. And if it is done in your saga, that could make a good story too.

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