Magic with time

Is it possible to control time (it is an inferior limit of magic)? How would you do it?
Of course there is divination and premonition which can give ideas of future or past, but what kind of research should I do if I want one day to make spells such as stopping or slowing time or making going faster (for exemple, make the guard feel time differently as me so as I could go pasth them without they see me)

Sub Rosa published an article by Ben McFarland on time magic and the Form of Tempus, invented by Himinis the Mad. I think it might be the most recent issue? Ben can clarify for me there. It's got spell guidelines and sample spells, and is very useful.

Timothy Ferguson also did a short podcast on the topic of "Why is there no Form of Tempus?", which you can find by searching for "Games from Folktales," his site.

Personally, I miss the ability from previous editions to see into the past with magic. I realize it violates the Limit of Time, but I would like to see such spells return in a later edition of the game.

The Forms already allow you do much or most of what you would want to with time manipulation. You can speed objects or processes up, slow them down, and even affect the process of aging. You can even stop various Forms entirely, at least for a duration. You can't go backward in time or reverse processes, both for the same reason: time marches forward. I am intrigued with the idea of a wizard who has suspended themselves in a Ring-Circle in an effort to stop time.

I thought you could use Intelligo effects to scry the past - or at least, look at an object's history. (what it looked like before it was burned, for example.)

I always thought you could use the "gain all relevant information regarding an object"-style of Intelligo magic included its history. Is there anything that explicitly counters this?

Well, there is

Gathering facts on an object's history, like ArM5 p.141 Tales of the Ashes and ArM5 p.153 Eyes of the Eons, is to a certain degree possible. It is looking at present impressions of the past. Call them memories. After all, stones and trees speak to the magus in ArM5 p.153 Stone Tell of the Mind that Sits and ArM5 p.136f Converse with Plant and Tree.


If I recall correctly there's a demon in ... St. Patrick's purgatory in Mythic Locations? that can "rewind" time for any given subject, together with a nice explanation about how time in Ars Magica is a subjective state of things, so one can do what the demon does, at least in principle (not with vanilla Hermetic magic).

Thanks for your answer, I think my character, probably a future Tytalus titanoi, will try to find the true name of the greek magic gods of time (aeons, chronos, kairon) and try to make a research (I guess a hermetic breakthrough) so as to create a 11th form which would be tempus...
It's not a good idea to search ideas with demons...


I would hesitate to allow the full range of time travel capabilities, even with a greater hermetic breakthrough, because this simply does not belong, the same way that a greater hermetic breakthrough to allow fusion doesn't belong, and the same way that hermetic magic cannot break rules like "(A and !A) is intrinsically false." We cannot break what time is, although we have an entire House dedicated to trying. We don't have any myths about heroes or gods changing the past. Not Kronos, not YHVH, not anyone. No one gets to escape into the past or teleport themselves into the future.

Things that could be allowed with a breakthough:

  • Changing the rate of flow of time in a region. This trope is common and ancient and currently beyond Hermetic magic.
  • Scrying into the past or future. This trope is also ancient and reasonably common. Ditto.

As always, that's just me! But I am reminded of the ancient advice in the earliest editions of AM, regarding creature creation: If it feels more like science fiction than mythology, it probably should be reconsidered.



The article in subrosa is in subrosa 17, p27. It describes the Form of Tempus. The auther purposedly limited tempus to little things to make it playable.

Be aware that when magical travel in past and future becomes available, like in all other fiction works, cohesion, coherency are at risk to be destroyed. Even more than in any other work of fiction, because if a writer or screenwriter knows where he goes, a SG can only follow what the player imagines. And imagination of players is ... in my own experience, without limit.*

  • for example, they may try to alter their own gauntlet, providing them with a lot of books to study on their own free time, or they will upgrade the mundanes they know they will encounter for teaching, making them better teacher, using resources of the future, considering they can even put themselves in infraction by killing magi out of the code rules, because thinking their future "past" self not being them (because higher totals), what happens to their current (or past) "future" self is of no importance.
    Of course, before doing major changes like that, they can make trials, with minor things.
  • or the worst: giving their past self the "tractatus" book on Tempus (or whatever you call it in your saga), so that he can learn it without doing the work. Free seasons for everyone.

And then the SG has two choices:

  • adaptable rules, which are never good because players will feel cheated by the setting
  • unknow rules, which are never good because if it's to prevent players to using it in the game, better to not allow them to invent it before hand.

(Or you are in agreement with your SG that your research are fruitless beforehand, but that takes a strong masochist behavior, because other magi will progress and you may feel overstepped by them. And such breakthrough is defintely not a minor, but an hermetic, if not multiple hermetic breakthroughs.)

Time travel is the cliff on which games break.

ExarKun, I don't have access to Subrosa, but I would be happy to read its description (it is not free access unfortunately)
About time travel : I didn't speak about that but if I could do it, the idea would be to watch but not to be able to change things, like in Harry Potter

An alternative to create a new Form, you could also consider an Hermetic Breakthrough for a Major Virtue: Chronos' disciple (open discussion if major Breakthrough would be considered enough since there is "historical" case of certain time-related abilities which are already existing as mentioned by Ovarwa).
This virtue allows the magus to invent and cast spells with a time component in it - Scrying or Time dilatation or contraction. Scrying will be done through In (Form), frequently Imaginem, but if it is about the status of something 10 minutes ago or 10 years ago, it will be the form related to the target.
Time flow control would probably something I would link to Hermetic Architecture and Vim - it looks very much like creating a Regio. ReVi seems appropriate, but a strong case can be made for MuVi as well (making things bigger/smaller is Muto when you are playing with the three dimensions, so playing with the fourth dimension could also be done through Muto).

Such research could be conducted with the collaboration of somebody with the Premonition ability for example.

What you propose is very interesting, but It would not be easier to research... and not as vast as I would like... of course my preferred SG who is by the way my husband as well, would have, with my help, to make guidelines... but is would be funny and interesting to do.

Ovarwa : Merlin in legend of Arthur or Myrdinn in the celtic mythology travelled in the past and celts believed into time travelling... so do not say it does not exist in mythology. I am sure, you can find other mythologies - and also divination.
By the way, I never spoke about changing the past...


I am aware of no Merlin who travelled into the past other than (earlier than) TH White's version, which I cannot consider either Celtic or mythology. Similarly, I am not aware of any real Celtic mythology involving time travel, as opposed to modern Celtic-flavored fantasy. If I'm missing something here, please enlighten me!

BTW, I think divination is covered nicely by "scrying into the future." Prophecy too. Those are basic tropes of supernatural power, even more than looking into the past!



There's also the Disney version of TH White's version. And we could also bring up Mark Twain's version...

Okay, so yeah, nothing contemporary.

Anyway, to be clear what I would like with time (I never said I wanted time travel and be able to change something in the past)

  • be able reduce/increase time impression such as a minute for me is 10 minutes for you (so the mage against a person or a small group of people) - it may also be incrase speed for travelling but it is not the same. It is also about the sensation of time... I specially thing about the Greek God Kairos or Kairon (opportune moment)

but also Chronos (real time passing, not to be confuse with the titan Cronos) and Aeon (eternal, sempiternal time) - all three gods being clearly magic gods as they gave greek notions of time.

Kairos is also very important in Aristotle's scheme of rhetoric. Kairos is, for Aristotle, the time and space context in which the proof will be delivered. Kairos stands alongside other contextual elements of rhetoric: The Audience, which is the psychological and emotional makeup of those who will receive the proof; and To Prepon, which is the style with which the orator clothes the proof.

  • be able to watch (only to watch, not to change) what's happened in the past (very interesting for, investigation in a place : to know what's happened in the room a few days before or who had that object in the hand...)
  • be able to watch the future is clearly divination, and in my quest for information

So my ideas to search for this form :

  • read aristotle (Kairos)
  • visit divination places and meet diviners or divineresses
  • meet criamon magi and there notions of time, maybe initiate to enigmatic wisdom so as to understand the notion of aeon.
  • she will be titanoi, so she will be able to call for aspects of those three magic gods, and of time aspect of Cronos.

Dilating time for others while not for you is also a possible exploit for a cunning player. That's why most SGs won't want to allow players find such regios... YSMV but the possibilities of exploits are big either with time travel or with time manipulation.

Even scrying (in the future mostly, because the past being set, the knowledge is not something which may change it) is problematic. That's why premonition* is hard to use efficiently. As a SG you cannot know what the player do.

[size=50]* obviously, premonition is not the only ability having that issue, but you get the point. IIRC the divine use for one of his method&power for future seeing a "get a no botch card for as long as you try to reach that future goal" which is easier to use.[/size]

In a RL saga of mine, a player has the premonition virtue, and obviously, wants to use it efficiently. That's fair. But if she rolls good, I face two things:

  • I give her a non indicative premonition. Such answer is good for bad rolls, but if you give players bad information for good rolls, players start wondering if the rolling really matters. And if you start this debate, you will face the fact that no roll will matter. As a SG I have a hard time to continue rolling for any thing. In fact, I could fake the roll, (cast the dice to entertain the illusion) and just decide whatever I want.
    If the SG is meant to be "god" and if god is really omniscient in the setting, that is in no way impossible to justify... but it takes away most of the fun to have scores, upgrading the character etc.
  • so I want to reward a good roll by a good premonition. But how could I know what the players will do at the time she tries to guess by a premonition. So I resort to a "probable" thing. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes absolutely not. I can, and sometimes I do in fact, bend the story/events/situation to make the premonition come true. If well done, then everyone is happy: the player because he knows what will happen, the other players because they think rolls matter, me because I succeeded at conciliating what appear to be unconciliable.

And then you face the biggest problem with "scrying in the future" : the player don't want to have that future happening.
And so they do whatever they can to avoid it. Sometimes you anticipate their move and make it happen anyway (but if that's badly done, you may fall in the "bad SG fiat" category, which I also call the checkpoint story) sometimes not. You can obviously think and explain that "premonition" is not flawless, but at some point, you may face the "they avoided the vision, but faced a worse vision, why didn't the premonition hint the second worse vision directly?" issue.

TL;DR : when it comes to time, scrying is as problematic from a metagame perspective as travelling or modifying. Every troupe where this topic should become important should agree beforehand on what is desired. Nothing is worse than a "useless but did take long" achievement.

Actually, scrying in the past is effectively more interesting than scrying in the future.
Scrying in the past could permit to see for exemple who stole that, who killed the victim, who is that object's owner (or at least the last person to have hold it)
Scrying the future would only give the more possible future you could get if everything continue as it is now... that kind of scrying is not so interesting, as you may change your way of doing (but changing can be an interesting option anyway)
Dilating time is the most interesting thing I look for

Exarcun, if you want, we also can discuss about time in private, in French, if you remember, you came to play with us in Brussels/Auderghem in 2011.

About the fact that celtis were speaking about time : It is said in the French book "les druides" written by the historians in celticisme Christian-J Guyonvarc'h and Le Roux that druids were mastering the control of time.
You also have the legend that Merlin was born old and got younger with through time.


Modern ancient druidism is certainly fun to play, regardless of its resemblance to ancient ancient Celtic or druidic practice.

I've nothing useful to offer at this point, so I'll bow out.