non-ritual version of "Watching Ward"?

I have recently been reading Ben Aaronvitch's River of London series of books.
The antagonist (The Faceless Man) at one stage drops a lot of magical booby traps, that sound like the Ars equivalent of nasty spells in Watching Wards. However, the antagonist is setting them as he is going along, not as time consuming rituals.

So my question is - does a spell like "Watching Ward" ReVi Gen need to be a ritual, or could a non-ritual version with, say, a Day duration be invented?
Which causes a second question if the above is yes - What happens to the contained spells at the end of the duration? Do they go off, or disperse because the trigger condition is not activated?

Going back to the ritual "Watching Ward" ReVi Gen, are there any limits to the sort of trigger conditions?

When asking your troupe about this, make sure to present to them also the likely problems with magi, who without expenditure of time and Vis can install 1000s of traps per day.
Even if there is no Limit of Magic saying so, there is a reason for Watching Ward and Waiting Spell being Rituals.


The way I might suggest balancing this in an out of game way, would be to state that all such Vis-less traps are (for the duration of the trap) arcane connections to the Magus that cannot be dispelled, and are easily accessible once the trap has been identified.


I seem to recall that in some book it was stated that one needs a breakthrough to make non-ritual watching wards.

As for triggering conditions, I'd say they are limited to obvious phyisical signs: a man entering a room, a dagger being unsheated, a particular phrase being spoken etc.; conditions can't involve stuff you'd need an Intellego spell to detect, or the passage about including Intellego spells would be moot. This matches nicely the "triggering conditions" limitations for enchanted devices.

However, note that Watching Ward is the simple solution for the lazy magus. There are indirect ways to lay traps that involve no vis or rituals. D:Ring effects, that hold a spell until broken, are one great way to make them. Servants created or conjured/constrained by magic (from small animals, to summoned spirits to animated undead) can provide relatively intelligent triggering.

Yes - Rival Magic, page 74, has a new hermetic virtue as a consequence of the integation of Virgilian magic, which enables you to cast Watching Ward spells that do not need to be cast as rituals.

For non Watching Ward solutions, you can do things using the Rego Vim guideline to Suppress a Spell, with either a minor enchanted device (for more flexible "off" triggers) or Rings. Obviously Enchanted devices do still require a not insignificant time committment, but they provide a limited increase in flexibility over a device that just directly triggers an effect in that you can use them with different spells.

My initial thoughts had been focused on explosive, Momentary spells contained in the Watching Ward. Will have to consider what non-Momentary spells could be held in a Circle duration version of "Suppressing The Wizard's Handiwork" ReVi Gen

Will also have to think how to rig up a magical circle that can easily be broken by, say, a trip wire. Chalk can so easily be erased.
On the other hand, a spell usually doesn't take up much room, so tiny, difficult to spot (and quick to inscribe) circles can probably be used.

Also, I will have to review Ancient Magic, as that apparently has some of the answers I may be looking for.

Take a look at Tethering (whether via Tethered Magic, Mutantum Magic, Tamed Magic, or the Spell Mastery option Tethered Casting) in HoH:TL p.(lots, but try 101).

Note that even in the spell description, it's the duration that makes it a ritual. Specifically,

"The Ritual nature of this spell supports the potentially indefinite duration." (AM5th, pg. 162, 'Watching Ward', 3rd paragraph)

More generally, Watching Ward is based off of a general guideline - unlike Aegis, it's not a ritual by definition. (And note that Aegis has a huge callout, explaining why it's always a ritual, and why there's no specific guideline for it.) In contrast, Watching Ward is a ritual because it uses a non-standard duration.

Take out the indefinite aspect, and it's no longer a ritual. While this may not be of use for many durations ("Hey, my spell goes off when I stop concentrating/2 minutes from now/at Sundown/next month. Whoopie."), you can also create non-ritual Circle/Ring watching wards. Or more specifically, you can create a spell that goes off when the circle/ring is broken: you loose that nice "watching" part, and it becomes significantly more mechanical, like a land mine. (Note that the only strong argument I've heard against them is "I don't like it, so therefore I won't use it in my game", as opposed to "that is not what the description says.")

But yeah - unless someone can argue that "supporting the potentially indefinite duration" means "also supports other parts that we didn't mention", and "unlike every other guideline in the book under lvl 50, this guideline must be cast as a ritual in all scenarios, even if it uses completely standard Range/Size/Duration", you should be able to swap out the duration for something else.

Yep. As mentioned previously, there's an Integration for Watching Wards in Rival Magics. However, Hermetic theory allows for the creation of mechanical Delay wards, using the standard Hermetic duration guidelines. Obviously the Watching wards are more useful, but the Circular delay wards have their own charm (as it were), if you can figure out a way to have them break when you want to.

EDIT - and just to be clear: Watching Ward is based off of an actual guideline in the book - folks sometimes miss it, as it's in the same listing as Intangible Tunnel. It's the 3rd one down in the ReVi guideline list, and explicitly lists "a container [that] will hold a spell for a specific length of time before releasing it." (AM5th, pg. 161, callout box). I consider this further evidence that it can be cast non-ritually, as Watching Ward uses a 'potentially indefinite' length of time, as opposed to a specific length...hence it not matching up to the guideline, and thus requiring that it be a ritual.

You misread this a little bit. It's subtle, though, and in essence something you've said yourself. It actually doesn't really use that general guideline; it's just based off of it. The general guideline holds the spell for a specific amount of time. So, yes, you're right that it's just the duration (not Duration) that makes it a ritual, thus the subtlety an not technically using the same guideline. Without the indefinite duration you don't have something that gets triggered by something else, just by a predetermined amount of time (a definite amount instead of the indefinite amount) passing, as you've noted (though ending Concentration is also invalid).

I see what you're attempting with breaking the circle. But that really isn't what the guideline says. You have to choose "a specific length of time." Until the circle is broken is not a specific length of time just like ending concentration not being valid. I could see a minor house rule to accept it working in many sagas, and I think you've taken a clever approach, but it is "not what the description says."

I suppose you could try a minor variant on what you propose: You choose an incredibly long amount of time (like millennia) with your Circle/Ring variant. Then the circle is bound to be broken beforehand. However, you would have to get someone to accept that the sudden lack of container fires off the spell instead of part of the ReVi effect being to specifically to release it properly. In an odd way, it's kind of like what happens when you cast high-level spells on odd targets: does a person gain a Warping Point if you cast a level-40 Demon's Eternal Oblivion on them? There is a definite lack of clarity here so you might be able to get away with it. It amounts to what you wrote while truly following the guideline, but it requires a specific interpretation not all sagas may use.

For what it is worth, Magi of Hermes does have a D:Conc ReVi formulaic spell ("The Patient Spell", from the Ranulf chapter) that can "keep on hold" another spell (even one with D:Mom), and release it as soon as concentration lapses on the ReVi effect. I'm not very fond of Magi of Hermes as a source, since from my point of view it violates the corebook rules in a number of places, but still...

Well, that should push the default interpretation to the holding spell ending releasing the spell in the same manner as the stated duration ending. So KevinSchultz's land mines should generally work.

MoH p.113 The Patient Spell is subtle and clever.

Time bombs based on ArM5 p.161 box Rego Vim Guidelines, cast over a day and without Vis, are very crude. They can be efficient under specific circumstances, but would hardly destroy a campaign.

But a few hundred land or sea mines with proximity fuzes, cast over a day and without Vis by magus Nusret, might end your saga Gallipoli-style. So keep RM p.74 Watching Spells as a carrot for the trap maker in your troupe. Don't ever give it away at character creation, but have your troupe engage the Augustan Brotherhood for it.

And otherwise reserve any refined Durations and triggering conditions for Watching Wards and Waiting Spells to Rituals.


Well, this is into the "I don't care for it, therefore it's not in my campaign" argument - which is certainly fine, if that works for you. But ultimately that can be said about anything - for example, I've got a GM currently who doesn't like permanent PeVi might strippers, so they don't exist in the current saga I'm in.

That being said - If you're in a scenario in which you NEED to end things Gallipoli-style, there are other ways of doing it. (Massive, low-level MuAu cloudkill effects being one of them). This is just another option.

For example - you can set up a similar effect with a paired set of circles: the inner one is a circular Maintain the Demanding Spell (maintaining the spell you want cast), cast on a durable circle/ring (say, inlaid in iron). The second spell is an outer ReVi suppression effect, which is easily breakable (say, written in chalk right on the previous iron ring). Break the first circle, and it stops suppressing the inner spell, which goes off.

Because that is relatively easy to do, as a GM, I'd allow a single circle/ring spell that did both (+1 magnitude for 2 effects), with an additional +1 magnitude effect that maintains the targeted spell for 1 moment after the ring is broken - just enough to affect the person who broke it.

As consequence of this, I have no problem actually having the real watching ward exist, as what I describe above is at best a more difficult (yet do-able) kludge.

I list first, what is allowed by the books, and then indeed strongly advise against going further.

My argument is not, that setting deadly traps is bad or impossible. But that setting many hundreds of refined, deadly traps per day with just one spell is not anticipated by the setting, and certainly also not by most troupes.


Having read the books I would say that most of the traps are enchanted devices. But they do seem to hint that they might be able to leave spells waiting. I would suggest that Sir Issac Newton made some advances on Hermetic Magic. I would also suggest looking at Fairy magic that has durations of While, Until , Not(condition) and If(condition)

I should have been more specific, I meant from the 6th book "The Hanging Tree", where the Faceless Man is escaping down a stairwell and claims to have left a few surprises that he expects Nightingale to take time to discover and disarm.
I got the impression that these were spells, rather than enchanted items along the lines of the "canine capacitor" (I can't help thinking of

I would consider a difference between a Watching Ward and a spell set to trigger like a booby-trap.
In the case of the Watching Ward, you can set condition which triggers it.The rules are a bit fuzzy about how specific this conditions can be ("simple condition") and require some troop agreements on that wording. But it is quite a powerful effect. It is a kind of smart mine - although it can be used for other purpose than destruction (teleportation, temporary healing, etc.)

Having a spell triggers as soon as something is disrupted - typically a ring - is more akin to a mine that will explode regardless of whom triggered it. The word "collateral damage" is perfectly suited for this kind of spell, therefore, I won't require a ritual. However, if you go with this rule, you have to decide what happen when the ReVi comes to an end: logically, the spell should be cast since it was already casted, but the effect was delayed. If you want it not to be cast at the end of the duration, then probably a Pe requisit (+1 magnitude) should be required.

So I personally found that the ability to have specific, although "simple" condition, to trigger a spell is enough in my campaign to warrant a ritual.
However, having the ability to "suspend" spell in circle as simple trap is a nice Story tool both for players and NPC, thus I would allow it.

Alternatively, you might also to decide to restrict this ability to craft non-ritual, holding spell, to a specific tradition and link it to a minor virtue "Seal's master", descending from Solomon. They used Solomon's teaching to trap Demons in bottle, to derive the ability to trap spell in container (physically) or even simple ring than once open (or broken) releases the spell. This ability allowed them to perform magic discretly amongst mundanes since the spell would have been cast in the quietness of their sanctum, then by opening a pouch, a bottle or a little box, the spell would be released. However, unless ritual magic was used, the power of the spell would slowly wither the container (or the circle) and be released (at the end of the Holding spell duration). So they would be the only one to have access to non-Ritual waiting spell, with duration ranging from diameter to Moon.

Finally, for a mage dabbling in Hermetic Astrology, the new durations brought by Celestial Magic could also be a interesting source for delayed effect: the ReVi holding the spell can be set with duration in minutes, hours, days or Sign and as soon as it wear off, the spell is cast.

Faerie rites allows access to duration which are close to mimicking Watching Ward effect . As I understand the rules (and I might be wrong), these durations are only accessible for Faerie rites (p122 RoP:F, first sentences), not even Faerie Magic done by Merinita's mage. So it will require research and integration into magical theory to have them accessible by hermetic magic, but since another Faerie is probably the closest realm to Magic, it should be doable. Probably a target of 30 research points for "While", "Until", "Not", "If", and another research for "Season", "Aura", "Hidden".
However, I would not assume or grant them at the beginning of a Saga, more set it as a target for mage to access fame and ennemies :mrgreen: (Merinita might not like to see Faerie secret being displayed so blantantly, it kind of weaken their stories - like once you know a magician's trick, the effect is not the same).

"Until you drop a cape of raven feathers" or "keeping mist in your mouth" would be somewhat similar ending conditions and yet Cloak of Black Feathers and Cloak of Mist, while having Sun duration, end when the target drop the feathers or exhales the mist. Even more, in the same page Stance of the Patient Tree ends when the target (in this case the caster, being R:Per) just wills the spell to end.

None of these spells have additional magntitudes for the alternate spell ending, so I guess when anyone is designing the spell he have the choice of setting a fixed duration no matter what (let's say a version of Stance of the Patient Tree with a larger range designed to keep a target transformed into a tree, or a sleep spell that lasts until the duration ends no matter how hard anyone slaps the target) or allow it to end sooner under some fixed and spell related condition, and breaking a ring seems a good fit for that to me. In the core book it seems that this last option is availiable only when the target is willingly taking part of the spell (you don't say to a foe 'hey, look, could you please hold these feathers until sunset, please?'), but it sounds reasonable to me to allow that conditional ending just paying a maginitude for complex design.

You refer here to MuCo spells, which use this specific provision:

If you wish this to be extended to other spells, address your troupe.

Look up:


Now that you say it it seemed suspicious that all the examples I could remember where MuCo spells. Agreed then. Also by allowing these spell-breaking conditions the Until duration of Faerie Magic would be pretty redundant.