Newbie question about spontaneous spells in 4th edition

Hi there.

I'm quite new to the game (apologies if I get some terms wrong) and these days reading up on the spell system. I joined a couple of sessions with a companion, and now I'm creating a maga character. The group doesn't have a Merenita maga yet, so I thought that she might be an interesting addition. An Ars Magica book about elves I had a look at said that a Merenita magus who grew up amongst the elves could get bonuses for spontaneous spells (but only 100 points to spend on forms and techniques as well as on learning formulaic spells). Now I'm reading up how spontaneous spells work. I'm at that part of the character creation where I'm spending those points on forms and techniques and studying spells, and I want to make sure I understand things correctly.

Since I got only 100 points to spend on studying spells rather than 150, I was wondering whether points spent on studying spells would be somewhat wasted if I'd be more likely to cast a similar spontaneous version of those spells.
For example Fist of Shattering has a range of Near/Sight. If I'd be fine with using a spontanous version (the rulebook refers to such spells as "similar spells") that has a range of touch instead, then I'd have no real need to invest ten points to study Fist of Shattering to begin with.

That probably sounds a bit unthematic as spontaneous spells are surely about creating spells on the spot that could be useful and not planning things beforehand (and I'm not as bad of a number cruncher as this question might depict me as), but I just want to make sure that I got this right.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me :slight_smile:

You're not wrong

I'm not massively up on 4th edition, but I would be slightly wary about playing a spontaneous magic specialist as a first character - it's the sort of thing you're likely to be able to pull off much better if you have a good working knowledge of the base guidelines. It's by no means impossible, especially if you pick that sort of thing up quickly, but worth considering.

The other thing to consider is fatigue (and botch risk). Assuming 5e is like 4e, there's value in knowing formulaically spells you are likely to want to cast repeatedly in quick succession, as otherwise you'll fall down unconscious after a few spells.

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Welcome to the forum. I'm not fully up to speed on 4th edition as well, although I played it a bit - it was years ago. Overall, the advice on spontaneous magic is sound - it's harder to pull it off successfully as a new player. But yes, sometimes canonical spells can be reduced to something more manageable to reducing RDT while keeping the gist of the effect. Lower-level effects are more easily replicated, however, it comes with a caveat - which is that repeatedly casting stress spontaneous tends to incur risks of twilight. If you're doing the same spell regularly, you may want to invest in a formulaic spell for that. I'm hoping mechanics with the fourth are sufficiently similar to 5th for me not to be completely wrong about this.

Some argue that a spontaneous specialist is easier for new players, so I would not worry too much about that, and it is a lot less susceptible to bad design choices than formulaic magic is.

There is no serious difference between 4th and 5th in this respect, The biggest difference is that 4th leaves more to storyguide discretion, particularly concerning twilight. OTOH twilight is a lot more serious in 4th.

There are a couple of particular cases for formulaic spells:

  1. as others have mentioned, spells you need to cast in combat or other tight situations where you cannot recover fatigue fast enough. And I find that every magus should have an effective attack spell; I always regret it when my magus does not.
  2. high-level spells, and I really do recommend a flashy signature spell or two; nothing buys stage time like it
  3. spells which require high penetration (Demon's Eternal Oblivion is a typical example)

So my advice would be to find the spells you need in these three categories first; and then see if you have levels to spare afterwards.

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Thanks for the valuable advice. Regarding an effective attack spell: at first I thought that incantation of lightning might be useful, but due to the 100 point limit to spend on arts and that spell having a magnitude of 35 it's out of reach. As such Thief of the Stolen Breath should work (though it doesn't deal damage and the two different requisites make it somewhat difficult to cast despite its low magnitude).

Pilum of Fire and Crystal Dart are two of the most popular spells for vanilla flavoured attacks. There are also a range of Rego spells (Herbam, Terbam at least) for those so inclined.

@Tasp : You know there are different approaches how to use magic in combat. You have to decide that A, Do you want to use magic in combat? (I think it is highly recommended to have some combat spells) B, Do you want to Penetrate Magic Resistance or get around it? C, How quick and direct you want to be?

My favorit option is using Intangible Tunnels. You can have a lot of low level spells with Touch range bc the Tunnel will give you the option to use all kind of spells with the Range greater than Personal. You can have a lot of ideas about this concept from the Hermetic Project Chapter Five - The Intangible Assassin (p. 77.). There are superb low level spells in that chapter for doing damage.

Other thing to consider is that fighting against mundane enemies is pretty easy. Bigger problem is creatures with Magic Resistance. So maybe it is wise to have some spells which can Penetrate. Low level spells with Multicasting are great for that purpose.

You can go with the "get around MR" option: you can 1. Manipulate the wider environment - like PeTe spell to create a hole under you enemy or ReTe spell to move the soil under her feet over her head and let the soil cover her like a big dough. 2. You can Aim with spells like Vilano's Sling. For this second option you need Finesse for good aiming.

I think you must be referring to 5ed. It is arguably true in 4ed, but a lot less clear cut, and thus very hard to take advantage of. Even pilum of fire is aimed in 4ed.