Magic Item triggers

My recent post about magic armour bought up a discussion on magic item triggers and it created questions in my mind.

What can trigger a magic item.

Clearly the classic example is a magus with a wand in hand pointing it at a foe and shouting "Shazam!" Target then explodes. This is the default magic trigger.

Now look at the above example from a slightly different view. The same wand is lying on a table pointing at the magus' enemy, the magus is standing on the other side of the room, could he shout "Shazam!" and have the wand still go off?

If not, could he create a wand that requires only the voice activation and does not need to be held so that he could do this?

If so could the same magus use a creo Imaginem spell with an arcane connection to send his voice into his lab, shout "Shazam!" and trigger the wand from several miles/continents away? If not, why not?

I have an idea for a magic item, a skull that orbits my magus' head at a distance of a pace or so and carries a range of magic functions. I'd like him to be able to target an enemy and activate the skulls magic without him having to grab hold of it. Can he point and shout "Shazam!" to do so?

If he can't, would he need another effect in there, a linked trigger to make it so? and if so what would it need to be? a mind reading spell?

Yes. By default, the command word is what activates it, though you could enforce holding it as well to have a sort of a safety. The problem lies in targetting. If the wand just hits whatevers in front of it, no problem, though you might call for finesse or some such rolls for aiming in that case. I'd say that generally activating things must have some guiding involved, but not really require a system for it.

Sure, why not. Now if it needed to be held as well, then you've a problem.

Sounds fun. This one does have targetting issues, specifically specifying the targets. I think that once you've enchanted it to orbit you, that probably counts as a connection for the purposes of commanding it so yeah, why not. It's an expensive but fun toy, and you're not likely to destroy the world with it. And, as a commanded item, you can't spell-cast or attack as well so it's not independent so that seems fair. If it were a circlet, it'd be fine, so I don't see any problems.

Well it seems weird to consider that a magic item can be activated by voice only, such as when it is over a desk.

Perhaps the item has to be held so as to form a link with the wielder, which channels his will into the item. Saying the activation word is merely the last step in the process?

It just feels really weird to me, as anyone who knew the activation word could activate an item you are holding, and while there are a few stories where this happens, they are not the majority at all...

On the other hand, you'd not expect to need to hold a magic mirror or scrying pool. Likewise even a mundane can activate an item if they know how to do it, regardless of their strength of will or knowledge of hermetic arts.

::shrugs:: I think it depends on the item. A voice-only wand (or ten) would be a great thing for a security conscious magus to aim at the entry-hall of his sanctum. Instant-roast intruder, without his having to walk across the room and stroke the wall. On the other hand, requiring a wand to be held as the command word is activated is only sensible for anything carried into combat. And of course, you could have a left-handed mage enchant a wand so that when held in the left hand, it casts Pilum of Fire and in the right, Last Flight of the Phoenix. It's one way to deal with people nicking your stuff.

Most likely the reason very few items trigger by a word only, is due to security - imagine having a wand of ABoF that triggered by the word "Shazzam". The magus, being a slightly forgetful fellow, uses the same word on his next creaton - and as he speaks the word to imprint it, his lab explodes as the last wand triggers...

Not to mention the fun if the 4 magi who used his lab-text get ambushed together - it's fine for the guy who drew the wand from his robe and pointed it in the right direction - but the other 3 will have a ABoF inside their robes...

The skull question is interesting.

If the spell is not an aimed spell ( like Pilum of Fire) then everything else is a special effect.

If the spell is aimed then the skull would have to "see" what the Mage saw. Just guessing because you would have to define how to aim a spell.

Interesting discission...

If the wand only needs to react to the "Shazam" command word, and it can fire even if lying on a table or in a sack, as long as it hears the word...then anybody can yell "Shazam"! Imagine ticking off the magus you know to have this wand, and yelling this while he has his hand inside his robes and his face turned toward the wand to grab it...
Having it only react to the creator's voice costs extra levels in complexity, like a restriction. Plus, if this does not require the 'restriction' option, how will you eveer be able to use that fables item, made by a legendary magus, which you've sought and fought for, and have spent ages investigating. "Yes, after many years, you know of all powers, and their activation. You need to say "Shazbat"...but in the voice of the creator!" Of course, such an über-item could easily have a restriction.

If, OTOH, you need to hold it (even if the activation is merely voice and not movement), it also IMHO takes care of some of the problems with "targeting". Even non-targeted spells (POF; BOAF etc.) might need toe wand to be pointed, to have the user direct the wand to the target, the same way as if casting it as a spell.

Another thing, having multiple items activate by the same word, is IMHO bordering on abusive. This is excately the thing I'd like to avoid, to prevent the smallish items with mounds of boosting- and defensive effects, that may circumvent many conflicts and threats. I think eac item should be completely seperately activated.

But I like the situation where 4 magi with the same item made fom the same lab text. One guy whips out his piece and fires, the rest get more than they bargained fore inside their robes on down their trousers. LOL.

Interesting discussion indeed.

I'd say that a voice-only wand should have a way of hearing you. Which is an InIm spell in that wand and a linked trigger to that spell (and therefore an infested item, which costs Vim Vis aswell). If you wield your wand while speaking, then it's just an activation ritual. IMO the voice (and gestures) you make to activate a device are actually a sort of casting, not the word by itself. (it is possible for non-gifted people to activate magic stuff though, as the militant grog with a wand of BoAF shows 8) )

Maybe this is a completely wrong way of interpreting the rules, but I believe that this explains why you cannot just activate the wand that is lying on the table. Most magic items I know need some kind of touch or alteration of the item itself to start their effects.

Yes, you could. Item in hand is only the basic style as RAW states.

Yes if it was triggered it don't need to be holded.

IMO the magus need to "aim mentally" even the skull is flying around his head. Activating an item without aiming means it randomly hits something including the activating person.
I know well this would need also mind reading but I think it is enough for game purposes.
You can determine a certain line, place or the wielder the item affects if you want to use it as a trap or such.

The problem with invoking the "completing casting the spell" concept is that you then end up with the D&D problem of only wizards being able to activate items because only they know how to complete the spell. Magic in ME isn't just a case of rote actions, but also understanding and magical affinity.

And, if you require a voice-activated want to "have ears" then you open up all sorts of problems. Do all partially voice activated items need such? Do they actually need physical ears or sense organs/devices of some sort? At what point is there a cut-off?

Surely there's nothing wrong with activating such a wand - it's the aiming it which is the issue. I'd posit though that most magic items which have come before require someone holding them or touching them because they're also tools or amulets or clothing or the like and the spells are extensions of their form, rather than because human contact itself is necessary.

Does the wand that needs to be held require an effect that gives it a sense of touch? Does an item that activates when moved require some way to sense motion?

I do not share this particular opinion. I suspect that that ruling in this manner would make the game less fun to play.

How complicated can the conditions be?

If you allow exact specifications, you could go wild defining conditions like "If held, when wielder says 'shazam!'. If not held, anytime wand is not pointing more than 45 degrees downwards" and then just store your wands point down.

Apparently, magic items seem to just know when someone is trying to activate them, and whether they did the right thing. You could use this intent-tied effect to stop people multiactivating them by accident, although it doesn't solve the enemy choosing to activate your wands while they're pointed at your foot.

makes you want to use a trigger like on a gun...

Your argument is good, and need to be answered if one wants to save the "spell completion" idea.

I think this can be done in saying that the completion is intended in a large sense (see below) instead of a restricted sense (as in "need to have a magical affinity, knowledge, etc").

What I mean here is that the activation word, gesture, etc, do have a magical significance, while not being really casting a spell or something near that. The maker of a magic PoF wand imbed into it some magical sensibility to some set of words, gestures, etc.
The wand don't need to hear or see, because the triggers (words, gestures, etc) have a magical significance which the magical items respond to.

Exemple: - A magical chalk cast a Ring of warding against faery if you draw a circle with it.

  • A jet of flame go straight to the target when the Wand of PoF is pointed at someone/something while saying the latin word for "Burn!" with a loud voice. The pointing and intention in the very word "burn" makes it that the flame always strike the intended target. (no aiming)

How far and complicated a trigger can be, is for the troupe or SG to decide on good judgement. I think no fail-proof and general rules could be enough precise to apply to all the ideas players can have. They are only guidelines to preserve game balance.

I don't know...
Same question: can you have two triggers for the activation of the same effect ?
Exemple: You have a Ward against mundane that have a linked trigger to another InIm spell that can see. If the Intellego spell detect (see) a human being, it activate the ward. Can the wearer activate the Ward by himself ? For exemple, if he encounter an invisible assassin, will the magical item be of any use ? (of course he could cast an illusion of a human being, but that doesn't answer the question :wink:

I agree with the magical significance explanation. Otherwise, items would often be activated by accident, when saying some latin phrase, containing the activation word.

IMHO two or more tiggers for an item should cost levels of effect. It could be a clever thing to do, nice example of linking an In spell to detect a threat to ward against.
But I see items and activations as simple things, så adding a +3 or even +5 to final level for having options in the ways of activation seems appropriate.

Also, I see items as needing to be held/worn/carried by the user to sense this magically significant action to activate it. So no, I don't see the voice-only activated wand being activated while on the table, in the hands of an enemy just as he's looking at the dangerous end, or halfway through a fall out of a window.

But sometimes, items are designed for not holding. It could be a hands-free lab device, or a horse's bridle to make the horse come as called. In this case, adding some levels (+5?) to make the item respond at Voice range perhaps...?

If you can't figure out a way for your item not to be activated by accident, then you deserve the accidents...
ie. how often do you say "ekky, ekky, ekky, kabooie"
And just add flurrish the wand while saying the command word as the trigger for your wands.

As for triggering the item by accident - sometimes that is desired. As a teaching aid for an apprentice, you might place an item that causes anyone cursing to sneeze.

As for the posibility of multiple triggers - I'd like to see this, might consider that to require additional levels?

I would agree for additionnal level for extra levels, that would make sense. I like new effect modifiers from the supplement books as much as the new mastery abilities. They are easy to add on an existing saga and use the core rules.

Well, we agree on some part.
But I didn't mean to say that giving the triggers magical significance would prevent accidental activation. I mean that normal words, normal gestures, can have magical significance. To determine what has magical significance, I would rely on good judgement from the players, as it adds flavour to a game.

Sure, there is no absolute rationnal about how a magical items recognise the activation method. The magical significance is a good one, I think, but is probably not fail proof.
I wouldn't want to add the necessity of Intellego spells more than there is already in the system.

Our troupe tend towards allowing more than less possibility in that regard, because it makes the game more interesting.
As long as "it makes sense" and "add to the quality of the game", it's

Those are better criteria than trying to find some that would describ how magic works. My mental wanderings told me that trying to find rationnality in magic (as in "magic in ArM5") ultimatly rob it of it's mysterious aspect, which is the heart of magic and of a ArM 5 IMHO.

Huh? Which supplements list additional effect modifiers? I suddenly feel a need to find and list them all in a single list, like I've done with Mastery Abilities and SPell Level Guidelines from the HOH books.

I imagine that as lynchpins in ADRPG, with the spells being "racked" in the magical item.

The spells are like a net, uncomplete without some words and/or gesture. Speaking and doing those fill this artificial gap, allowing the spell to exist.

Eheh ^^
I guess I made an error in adding a "s" after "supplementS" and "modifierS"
There is the
Fast Trigger in Societates P. 33.

But I do wish they will have many others.

See other Breakthrought thread