My house rules

I put together a document of my house rules. I thought that I'd place it up for comments. People have done similar in the past (just the search function, you'll see plenty).

I might still add something to clean up fast cast defensive spells. (Or to make it clear that sourpuss interpretations of "item maintains concentration" or "constant effect" are to be seen as providing nothing but additional restrictions at the cost of player joy.)

Anyhow here it is. Feel free to react, I appreciate all useful feedback

General rules

Confidence, You get at least 2 confidence points per story (4 if you have the self confident virtue) You can get rewarded extra confidence points, but you always have 2 "regenerating" points that you should feel no need to hoard.

Summae have a maximum level of one third the level of the author, not half, and they can not have a level higher than 9 in any circumstance.

Virtues, flaws and Character Creation

It is hard to find enough cool flaws to balance 10 points of virtues. Feel free to stop at 8 points of flaws if you are having a tough time.

The Tremere house virtue is not lesser magic focus in certamen. It's Tremere house support. I'll define it if anyone is interested.

Magi characters have the option of getting a year of tutelage prior to their 15 year apprenticeship, this would give them Dead language (Latin) at level 4, Artes Liberales 1, and Profession Scribe 1 for free.

The Bjornaer house virtue does not prevent the magus/maga from binding s familiar instead it imposes a -10 penalty to the lab total to bind one.

In addition to what's printed in the core book, the fast caster virtue gives the character a +3 bonus to rolls for fast casting.

Magic, Spell Design, and Lab Rules

Iconic species can pass through matter but can not pass through images. Iconic species do not require light to travel, rather, light interacts with images to create iconic species that travel on their own.

Personal wards must be like Ward Against Heat and flame in the core book. They must increase soak. If the soak they provide is sufficient, they may keep warded material a few inches from the body or not depending upon the design of the spell. They can not be akin to circular wards, keeping all affected entities from touching or affecting the warded target.

Duration ring spells can not be moved. Doing so breaks the ring ending the spell

Wards against creatures of a form ( like ward against faeries of the mountains) can be made to ward against creatures of all four realms at the same level.

Any spells that flat out kill people, no matter how it is done, have a base level of at least 30, no matter what the guidelines say.

While magi can create items that expire as shown on p.99 of the core book, they gain no advantage in doing so. They do not accumulate points to complete the items faster - they only make inferior items.

When crafting a charged device with penetration, one level of effect only provides one point of penetration, not two.

A spell of range sight or lower that teleports a target to a location visible to the caster, that does not move the target through any barriers (such as into a chest or through a wall) does not need requisites to move the target’s possessions with it/him/her.

There’s a bit on page 114 of the core book that says “It is possible to grant magical senses to many people at once, but this requires Muto Mentem magic, with Intellego Form requisites.” Ignore that, it was a bad idea. If you want to cast a magical sense spell on another person or an animal or even something else, you just need to have the target you wish to receive the sense spell within the spell’s range and then cast it on them.

You can cast magical sense spells on objects that don’t even have the appropriate senses. The objects might have a sort of dim awareness or gain it when the spell is cast. Look at things like Words of the Flickering Flame and Stone tell of the Mind that Sits. It will be up to the story guide.

The creo guidelines for healing, both Animal and Corpus, are different. Light is base 10, medium 15, Heavy 20, and Incapacitating is base 25. Healing all wounds is base 30. Furthermore, the creo corpus guideline “Level 25: Improve all wounds by one level of severity” from HoH: Sociatates is level 20 in my game.

The lab personalization rules from the covenants book can be abused. I'd really rather people just use good taste then have to rewrite them.

A lot of the really cool lab qualities (like underwater) involve giving the lab a warping score. This sucks, because warping is a huge drawback and the characters are therefore incentivized to avoid doing cool stuff with their lab, like make it in a haunted ice cavern. I want weird labs! Therefore, the mechanics for a laboratory warping score will be ignored and replaced with the understanding that I’m going to want to use the weirdness of your lab to tell cool stories.

Animal spells that target a creature’s mind only, do not require a size modifier for larger creatures, size individual suffices for the minds of even the largest creatures.


It is really cool that you care to go through the effort of writing up your house rules and putting them up for debate, thus exposing yourself to criticism that you really need'nt have exposed yourself to. Kudos to you for it.

It is always useful to see more contributions of how people actually play the game.

You specify that you have changed the Tremere house virtue from Minor magical focus(Certamen) to House support (custom virtue) and kindly offer to define what that means, if asked. Consider yourself asked. :slight_smile:
I am not a huge fan of the current Tremere house virtue as IMO it is seriously undermines the legitimacy of Certamen, which runs counter to the entire purpose of house Tremere, so I am very curious to see what you might have come up with instead.

I dont understand what you say about "sourpuss" interpretations of "item maintains concentration" and "constant effect".

I get the impression that many of your spell guideline house rules are derived from specific instances of players discovering that the system has potential for abuse. I dont have much comment except that much of it seems oddly specific, and I have a feeling that some interesting story lies behind the rule.

I do think you make a really solid point about laboratory warping rules in that the current rules discourage interesting play which sucks. Personally I would avoid a lab with warping at all costs under the rules proposed in Covenants.


The Tremere house virtue I was planning on was some combination of House support as discussed in True Lineages (get free stuff when you ask, but be obligated to help out others as well) and extra xp like Skilled Parens or Guild Trained (from Guardians of the Forest).

Sourpuss interpretations say that an enchanted effect with item maintains concentration can not maintain concentration on more than one effect at once, and that a constant duration effect is not an effect with a constant duration, but rather a series of sun duration effects cast with cracker jack timing so that there is no gap between instances. People (recently OneShot) have argued, convincingly, that these are rules as intended. But, intended or not, they're still no fun and I have an (unsupported) suspicion that folks who use them also like kicking puppies.

Sadly my oddly specific house rules derive more from this forum pointing things out to me than to ingenious players. My players have generally been rather timid in their treatment of the rules.


I you care to elaborate a little further I would ask you:

I am still somewhat uncertain about your stance on enchanted items. If I understand correctly then your version is that an item with constant effect has a truly constant effect and not a crackerjack timing where the spell is recast every sunset and sunrise?


That an item with 2 or more effect with D:Concentration and "Item maintains concentration" as an extra effect allows the item to concentrate on each effect simultaneously?

and you specify this because you believe that these two interpretations can be reasonably counterargued by reference to the core rulebook.

I understand why it is necessary to specify whether an item can maintain concentration more than once but when it comes to constant effect items I am a little puzzled as to what the real difference is. I understand that academically speaking a cast-recast item with no gaps in duration overlap is not the same as a truly constant effect, but I dont get what the practical differences are. But perhaps that is a matter for a different thread.

Callen would explain this better than I, but, in short, it was retconned from "truly constant" to "seamless casting"

In short:

  • Truly constant: The target only needs to be in range once, at casting. So, for example, you could have a wand that transforms someone into a pig, and then bury it somewhere in your covenant
  • Twice a day: The target needs to stay in range. So your wand of pig transformation would need to stay close to its intended target, lest the spell be dispelled.

Another issue is penetration. Even if you have a constant duration device that works at range AC, (to avoid the range issue described by Fixer above) it could fail at sunrise/set if the target gets some strong enough magic resistance or goes into an area protected by a strong enough aegis of the hearth.

On this issue I'm torn between how very game mechanic-y and artificial this feels, to me a constant duration effect is just that and something else feels much less magical -and how cool the story of Sophia, who was cursed by a wizard of a distant land and will to turn back into a pig if she doesn't get back inside the covenant before sun-up is.

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I don't like the core fast-cast rules, but changing that is major.

Tremere: I allow 5 Build Point per year, IIRC. Used for lending any thing you want (including vis sources, i.e. gaining raw vis).

Bjornaer: if you're allowing familiars, why bother with the penalty? Just let them have their familiars and be done with it. I never liked the whole no-familiars-thingie to begin with, I don't think it's appropriate and I don't think the House Virtue is so strong it needs it for balance.

Personal wards - so you can ward your cloths against metal, but only gain Soak with a personal ward?

items with penetration - I'd lower it even further and more generally, but YMMV. I hate dragon-killing grogs.

Good point on the lab warping.

My current house rules on related stuff:

House Bjornaer [p. 91] : The Heartbeast Ability may be added to the casting total (or Lab Total) of Muto Corpus or Muto Animal spells, as long as these do not constitute change into or out of other (not An or Co) Forms. In addition, add (Heartbeast Ability x 5) to the Magic Resistance of a Bjornaer against Intellego spells. This stacks with Parma and Form.

House Tremere [p. 30] : You may take the Skilled Parens virtue, instead of the Magical Focus in Certamen the core rules mandate. In addition, your character may lend equipment worth 5 Build Points from the House each year. These points can be accumulated if not used, to loan bigger items. Note that “loaning” a raw vis source for a year is the same as permanently receiving its annual supply. On the flip side, your character is expected to spend 2 seasons per decade on House-mandated tasks, such as fashioning magic items or books for the House to lend.

Confidence Replenishes [p. 20] : The character’s Confidence Points return to 3 (or whatever their baseline quantity is) every day, unless he has more points, in which case he retains them.

Fast Caster [p.42]: In addition to increasing your Initiative, this virtue adds +3 to your (Quickness + Finesse) total for the purpose of determining how many fast-cast spells you can cast in a round.

Fast-Casting [p. 83]: The character can fast-cast a number of spells equal to her (Quickness + Finesse)/6 in a round (round up, i.e. 7 allows 2). This is an “interrupt”, i.e. can take place outside of her turn, and the character does not need to roll (against Initiative, in the core rulebook) to interrupt an action in this way. Fast-casting a spell is with a -20 penalty to the spell casting total (before division, for Spontaneous spells), and with 2 extra botch dice. As with all spell casting, it requires Concentration.

Magic Item Penetration [p. 99]: The penetration of an effect you create is limited to your (Lab Total)/4.

Circles are On the Ground [p. 112]: The circle used in a Circle target or Ring duration must be drawn on the ground, or a similar large horizontal surface such as a room’s floor, ship’s deck, or so on. If the surface is tipped to a great degree, the circle is considered broken.

Wards [p. 114] : Replace all ward General guidelines with the following guideline:

Level 5: Ward against creatures of this Form from one Realm (Divine, Faerie, Infernal, or Magic). A ReVi spell may instead affect any being of Might from one Realm, regardless of its Form. The spell affects any appropriate creature with (Realm) Might, if it penetrates. (Range Touch, Duration Ring, Target Circle)

Thanks for reading my stuff.

Good point on the Bjornaer. I'll make that change.

For the wards, you showed me that I didn't write what l really meant to. I should have instead written that wall style "you can't touch or affect with magic" wards need to be cast on an area. Only targets like circle, room, structure.and boundary are appropriate
Not individual, part, or group.

Two responses in a matter of minutes! This board is too kind to me.

Your house Tremere alterations show that you are aware of the same stuff as me but I suspect you have different goals. You allow the player to choose a different virtue to free up their magical focus, but my goal was to prevent the focus in certamen all together. (Who wants to use certamen to resolve disputes if they know the odds are stacked against them?) Likewise your use of the house support looks fair and balanced, but my goals were more about getting the PC into a story so I prioritized the story and intend on handwaving the balance. While you nail down the balance without tying yourself to having to do any story.

Confidence looks to be very similar, I refresh every story while you refresh every day but otherwise the effects are the same.

I'm surprised to see someone else change fast caster, it's such a small thing. Did you, like me, have a player try and do fast casting in play and tell you that their character had the fast caster virtue then look it up and have the embarrassing experience of saying "Hmm, the fast caster virtue has nothing at all to do with fast casting."?

What are you getting at with the magic item penetration limit? It seems that this would preclude the construction of very low level effects with high penetration. Did you have issues with them? It seems an unusual method to use if you only wish to close the high penetration charged device loophole.

I had considered something like your version of restricting rig duration spells as well. I decided against rings on ships decks and the like.

Something like your ward rule is the way that I think any new edition of Ars Magica should go. But I wanted to have fewer house rules. My two ward house rules had different objectives - to make the form specific wards more desirable, and to cut out stuff like Repulse the Unwanted Attention from MoH p95 (or the equivalent realm specific versions) - which are, in my opinion, far to powerful (even with the base 15 guideline for the corpus version).

Why though?

It seems to me that you go out of your way to make it easier to have cool labs with your changes to the rules for lab warping, but then all of a sudden you want to significantly hinder defensive magic used on a ship?

I know that there are a lot of opposition to rings and circles on ships because ships are moving, but I think that a ship-based covenant or lab is a really cool idea. Ruling against usings rings and circles on a ship puts a big dent in the attractiveness of having a ship-covenant since you will be restricted from using much of the magic you would want to.

I didnt mention it at first, but I am a big fan of allowing Bjornaer to have familiars. I think that giving up your familiar is often too much to ask which in turn simply results in my not playing as a bjornaer.

It wasn't ships so much as carts and rugs. I didn't see a way to say 'ships are fine but a stack of plates isn't' that didn't feel phoney.

With Yair's "on the ground or something like it" rule you can't have shelves bedecked with assorted things, each within its own circle. You also can't draw a circle on a wall. That's something I'd miss - perhaps more than I'd like the ships. What I want to avoid is the creation of what amounts to an enchanted device with spontaneous magic. I thought that"can't move" was much clearer than the way. that I had first envisioned the rule "can't . move unless it's on the deck of a ship" (I hadn't come up with your something akin to the ground idea).

While I like this rule - a lot - could I persuade you to discuss it a bit, or perhaps rather, to offer a reason for it and for that particular cut-off?

Strictly not a rule and shouldn't be necessary. 10 is a maximum, not an expectation or a necessity.
that said, I can understand why you've put it there.

That's how we use it as well.

Hard yes! And same for T: Circle.

This is our default assumption. Simply because otherwise why use them? Use Vim wards instead.

Can I ask why? No-one in my troupe(s) have ever used expiration dates much, so I haven't really seen much in the way of abuses. Lesser items tend to be our tools of choice.

Seconded. And I'm (by far) the most prolific Verditius player in the various troupes I've played with.

You might be mixing things up a bit here?
The MuMe thing is only if you wish to grant the same sense to multiple people. Giving a single target a magical sense has never required MuMe.

That might make me take lab features that involve Warping, as opposed to have I never do these days.

I like having the PC's trade for books and search after different sources of knowledge. It makes for great stories. A high level summa is a boring xp dispenser with much less character. Furthermore the presence of a such a book in the covenant encourages all of the PC's to use it, leading to more similar characters and universal strength. I wanted to have a summa be able to provide instruction up to "reasonably competent" but not to "real expert". If a PC has level 9 in an art out of apprenticeship, and they don't have an affinity or puissant it is a probably their highest art or tied with it. Nine felt to me like a reasonable delineation between ok and expert. (I was also considering 10 or 11 but I went with the lowest choice, I really am sort of sick of sumae).

I'm saying that I'm content to balance 10 points of virtues with eight points of flaws if the character doesn't feel too min-maxy.

That's surprising to me I thought this change would be unique to me but it appears that it's pretty common.

T: Circle effects stuff within the circle at the time of casting..?, hold on let me re-read..

I see. Yes, target circle as well!

I see it as too easy a path to power. The item that would otherwise take the entire covenant working together on a laboratory project for two and a half years strait can be wrapped up in a single season if you put a one year expiry on it. Rather than go out and find an arcane connection, the PC's can create an item of high penetration in the lab without the adventure. i.e. a magus with a lab total of 33 wishes to enchant a level 30 effect into an item, ten seasons without effect expiry - one season with it.

I will make that modification, I hadn't examined the exact text for some time and had clearly forgotten. That restriction makes even less sense than I thought it did. I sort of dislike it even more.

Thank you so much for taking the time to give me feedback. I really appreciate it.

I'm the guy who wants XPs out of Arts and go back to the system of the 1st-3rd editions. I'm not against you there :wink:

... that's not what I saw at all. But sure, fine.

I can see the argument, but that's what Charged Items are for really.
Charged Items are a bit over-powered though, IMAO.

Also, please remember that Lesser Devices cannot be designed with expiration, only Invested Items have that possibility. So that's a minimum of 2 seasons right there. And bad Vis economy.
I'm not disagreeing with you, just ... I've never encountered the problem.

Not a huge fan either, but it doesn't actually turn up very often.

There might be a few more detail, but yeah.

Since we are sharing house rules, here are the ones in the game that I run:


The “by the book” Certamen rules are long and complicated with too many pools. Which makes it slow, with only one player involved.

Certamen is to be resolved in one roll as a dice off between the two magI:

Technique + Form + relevant bonus

By tradition, the mage initiating the certamen duel chooses the Technique and the defender chooses the Form, and it is considered good form to go along with this choice. However, each magus may veto the other magus's first choice. If he does so, he must accept the second option.

Shield Grogs

A character may be defended by someone who knows what they are doing. Attackers need to go through or around the “Shield Grog” to attack its charge. The Shield grog may shield their charge against a number of opponents equal to their combat ability (brawl, single/double handed weapon).

The main way to do this is to heavily outnumber, attack from all sides or to take the shield grog out of the fight.

Fast casting

We ignore the rules about it, people do not fast cast.

Except in what could be described as “quick time events”.


We have a gentlemen's agreement that invisibility is a rare occurrence, otherwise mages would spend significant part of their time walking around invisible, just to be safe.

Aegis of the hearth

This is one that needed simplifying/clearing up, so after discussion we agreed to the following:

  • The aegis does not need to pen to keep out creatures with Magic/Faerie/Infernal/Divine might, so if you have an aegis at level 20, the creature would need level 21+ to enter.
  • One cannot learn aegis of the hearth and then mastering it for resistance (otherwise this would be a must for most of the order, which means everyone who can would learn it at chargen...)
  • To simplify things, the aegis adds it's level to the magic resistance of those within.

This one I use too. The certamen rules are too slow and clunky to use as anything except a dramatic showdown as the centerpiece of a session.


Do you have enough Certamen for this to be a concern?
IIRC, we've had maybe 2(+/- 1) Certamen contests over the last 12 years of fairly regular play. Not really worth worrying about time over.

I can understand the motivation, but this becomes very swing-y.

Being invisible in the presence of other magi opens you to charges of scrying.
Being invisible in the presence of other entities does nothing to reduce the effects of the Gift.

IIRC, the Aegis does not have to penetrate against a magus/maga to affect his/her spells/items, with the possible exception of R: Personal effects. So why would this be a concern in the first place?
Especially given the first bit, above?

That said, we've found that the Aegis having to penetrate can make for a good scene, with all of the magi gathering together to cast it together using Day of Communion (Through the Aegis, p. 137).

But does nothing if I eg. try to affect the buildings?

We've yet to have a single bout of Certamen in my game (only like 6-7 sessions in), I had planned for one to happen, but the player magus backed down before it got to that.

I can understand the motivation, but this becomes very swing-y.

Yep, that's the risk. It also makes sense for people not to enter it too recklessly, because then even an old mage can have a bad roll opposed by an explosion.

Being invisible in the presence of other magi opens you to charges of scrying.
Being invisible in the presence of other entities does nothing to reduce the effects of the Gift.

It was not to mitigate the effect of the gift, it's more that it is quite easy to cast and adds a degree of safety against attacks. Also, if it is very easy to be invisible and most mages spend a lot of time invisible just to not be bothered by people it would normalise being invisible which would make the prosecution less likely etc

For the aegis, the party has yet to cast it in the first place. But since there is a lot of text and some is not so clear we just agreed at the start of the game.

I do not have Through the Aegis, so that's not something I looked into. The need to penetrate parma just reduces the effectiveness of the Aegis, and since we agreed that it does not need to pen creatures it is a logical continuation that it does not need to pen mages. Otherwise, most mages will learn it and master it for resistance (that's a time sink of 2 season) and then most aegis will just bounce off of them (unless you had the whole covenant cast wizard's communion, but then everyone needs that extra spell and more vim etc)

But does nothing if I eg. try to affect the buildings?

Again this has not yet come up, but I would say that any casting without token would incur the penalty of the level. We had discussed with the beta ST how the aegis interacted with the Parma rather than against inanimate objects, RAW should work for that.

How about a house rule that defines the volume effected by a target circle spell? I was thinking of a cylinder of the magus' height rising "above" the surface upon which the circle is inscribed, with additional half spheres connected to the top and bottom of the cylinder, (one of which would, typically, be underground).

I don't like the idea of a sphere because what to my mind are reasonable sized circles (2 paces in diameter) end up not being tall enough to contain a human figure (1 pace tall in the center).

I could go for a cylinder that extends above the circle to a height chosen by the casting magus possibly extending all of the way to the lunar sphere, (in both directions)?

This is the sort of question that seems to need a good answer, but I've been playing for over 30 years now and sort of hand waving whatever feels right at the moment hasn't yet let me down. Perhaps it would do more harm than good to nail it down.

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