Pe/Me 35 - Curse of Hollow Life

Does this spell work?

Curse of Hollow Life
PeMe 35
R: Eye, D: Momentary, T: Individual
This spell wipes the targets mind clean, leaving her a mindless husk. She lives, but must be fed and cared for. Her mind is gone and will never be the same.
(B: 25, R: Eye +1, D: Momentary, T: Individual, +1 for "balance")

Could this spell prevent the person from ever learning anything again, effectively turning the target into a vegetable/comatose patient? Or will he be able to recover over time (all memories gone, but able to learn again)?


Why the +1 for balance?

PeMe30 is easily resisted by magi,
and turning mundanes into vegetables should be easy (all it takes is a tellie).

The +1 was to bring it in line with the other instakill spells.

What do you mean the spell is easily resisted by magi? Wouldn't that depend on the parma + form bouns vs penetration and casting total? Could you elaborate?

Let's assume a middling magus

Me 10 Pe 10 Int/Sta 2
Focus: destroying minds
Talisman bonus +5
Penetration(Mentem) 2

Attacks Whimpy:
Parma (Corpus) 3
Mentem 5

So he looks the other magus deep in the eye (and the stupid fool looks back):
10+10+10+2+5+3+ roll of 9 = 49
Penetration = 49 - 35 = 14 (or 19 if lvl30)

Whimpy just laughs!
Defense: 3*5+5=20

Indeed, Parma Magica is powerful stuff.

What about the other questions though:
Could this spell prevent the person from ever learning anything again, effectively turning the target into a vegetable/comatose patient? Or will he be able to recover over time (all memories gone, but able to learn again)?

I'd say that depends on the importance of the character.

Normal people are done.

But if I were the sg, I would allow an eventual comeback for real villains and PCs - for a price.

Villanos Vegetablos (disfigured, after a minute of wheezing coughs): "You thought you had me for good, and you almost did. Look at me. See what price I had to pay: I used to be called the Silky Eye of Strasbourg. Now I see loathing on every face. I am not dead: I am here to make you pay for what you 've done to me..."
He casts a spell that slices thnrough your parma like a hot knife through butter. There is no imediate effect you are aware of, but that means little.
With another series of wheezing coughs, Villanos disappears into the shadows.

My 2c is to suggest the base wipes the target's mind, without needing the extra +1 mag for balance as long as the target can then function in some manner from that point onward.

The bit I am not comfortable about is the prevent the person from ever learning anything again which I think is a totally different effect, and could not be done via this spell. After all even animals can learn, even old dogs (ahem, sorry).

If the spell was actually destroying the physical brain rather than the mind, that would need to be a PeCo effect imho.

Art and Academe goes into how the human mind in Mythic Europe works in more detail than the main book. In summary, there are a number of different components of the mind:

  • The Common Sense, which gathers the images from the sense organs.
  • The Imagination, which stores those images, and acts as the link between the Memory and the Cogition.
  • The Memory, which does pretty much what you'd expect.
  • The Cogition, which uses the memory to make decisions.
  • The Estimation, which covers instincts.

A momentary Perdo spell can permanently destroy someone's memories, although won't stop them forming new ones (a longer duration spell could stop them forming memories for the period). The other components of the mind cannot be permanantly destroyed through instantaneous Perdo magic, although they can be surpressed for the duration of a spell.

It looks as though the proposed spell is affects a combination of the Memory, the Cogition, the Estimation and possibly the Imagination as well. Affecting all three with one spell would probably need extra magnitudes, but the bigger problem is that the Cogition, Estimation and Imagination destruction will only last the duration of the spell, i.e. only momentarily.

I agree with with Salutor.

I don't have A&A, but the key for me is that this spell is only momentary. It wipes the current memories. Depending on the interpretation of 'mindless husk' you could argue for 'vegetative state' but I'd prefer to see 'permanent mindless husk' in the guideline to be happy with that outcome.

I would not allow a spell to target someone's ability/capacity to learn' without an explicit guideline.

No. It's a lot lke using PeTe to make a hole. If it's momentary, anyone can just throw dirt into the hole and fill it up.
If you truely want a vegetable, you'll need a duration - they will then be unable to learn for the duration of the spell.
That's a max of 1 year, unless you're using one of the many ways to cheat that.

Fair enough, that's how I thought it would work.

Funny though, PeCo with D: mom, can destroy someones arm, and that won't naturally grow back over time, but you can't destroy someones ability to learn with PeMe D: mom.

Slow down, A - give these boards more than a few hours to reach anything like a "final" answer. :wink:

I will - hesitantly - disagree with the current consensus (subject to a clarification on the reference to A&A - see below).

A Base 25 effect is supposed to be pretty serious. If you, as SG, feel it's out of balance, then you're doing the right thing - but it seems in step w/ PeCo (and I tend to be one of the more "conservative" posters on these boards).

Normally an Instant Pe effect can destroy something. If that "something" can be remedied through mundane means (filling in a hole, re-learning a song, healing a wound, etc), then it takes a Perdo effect with duration to prevent that "repair" from occurring. So a PeCo to create a Light Wound with Moon Duration means that that wound will not begin to heal (to heal naturally!) until that spell lapses. If a PeMe spell with Duration destroys the memory of how to use a sword, that person cannot begin to relearn that Ability until the spell ends (and the memory is destroyed either way).*

(* I, personally, believe that the "permanence" of such memory destruction is optional when the spell is designed. Many examples of natural but "temporary" memory loss exist, and this should be duplicatable via spells imo.)

However, there are many examples of Perdo (PeCo and PeMe among them) where the damage is not naturally reparable, where the damage is done and (without magical aid) beyond repair or recovery.

So, the question is... what is "a mindless husk"? What does that mean for "natural" recovery/repair/healing of the damage done?

I don't have A&A either, so can I ask... why? What is the rationale for that?

If PeCo can destroy a limb or a major sense, or even snuff out a life, why can't PeMe destroy Cognition and/or Estimation, etc? ("Essential Nature" doesn't seem to enter into this equation, as that is only relevant re being permanently changed, not being destroyed.)

But memories begin to be removed at Base 10, so this Base 25 effect clearly does more than that (otherwise it would simply say "Remove all memories", or words to that effect). There is a clear (and imo perforce intentional) diff between "leaving the mind a blank" and "leaving the person mindless".

This seems, to me, to be a quantum above that, the difference between "inflict a wound" and "kill a person", to draw a parallel w/ PeCo. One is reparable naturally, the other... too late.

I see this the same as removing a sense, and Instant spells do that just fine, "permanently" (until healed by magic). And those effects do not require Duration to prevent natural recovery. Removing the capacity to learn is already covered at Base 10 (or so).

I would say that, barring some revelation from A&A, the target is, indeed, a vegetable, "dead" as far as Mentem can make a person dead, and unable to recover without magical aid - the same as if they had lost their sight or a limb. Base 25 effects are powerful ones, not to be nerfed or muddled with lesser Base effects. Base 15 has already addressed "insanity" (non-recoverable) and "emotionless" (which is recoverable), and this is 2 magnitudes greater than that.

It should be rather terminal.

My reason for not allowing the ability to learn to be targetted is not because perdo'ing it is unbalancing (it isn't, in my opinion) but because enhancing it is. If I allow the perdo effect, why can't magi use Creo (or Muto or Rego) to enhance their learning? CrMe specialists would then be able to learn more from their learning totals or xp...not what I want.

Please indicate where your statement that 'Removing the capacity to learn is already covered at Base 10 (or so)' comes from, since it isn't in the core rules guidelines (or I'm blind :wink:).

If my troupe agreed that 'mindless husk' was permanent, I'd be happy. Likewise if they said it wasn't. It makes little difference in my opinion to the game.

Well, you can use Cr/Me to boost all mental stats permanently if you burn Vis. It would tand to reason that you could do the same with Pe/Me. And while you can destroy without using vis with Pe/Co, you again need vis to Cr/Co higher Sta or Str...

Ah, so less btr than personal "Central Rule" stuff - that's fine, so long as that's clear.

(Enhancing learning is not listed under the Guidelines the way that preventing learning is, and there are several reasonable rationalizations that I can think of beyond that*. However, there are canon examples of "clear thinking" spells. But if you just don't want to go there, and don't want to have to endure the mental gymnastics to explain such to your Troupe, I've been there.)

(* Foremost is that "learning" requires many parts of the mind to work together. Preventing learning only requires one of those parts to be out of synch with the others. Destruction and prevention is always easier than creation and enhancement.)

Not blind - I had not referenced it fully, and it involves another book, my bad. (And a peeve of mine, so mea maxima culpa on that!)

It comes via HoH:Societatus (p 66 col iii), where it expands on what "Reduce a mental capability" can be expected to encompass. (And that's Base 4; Base 10 is "all mental capabilities!). On that list is "form memories or learn" - pretty straightforward.

So if Base 4 can "inhibit a target's ability to... form memories or learn", I don't believe that it's inappropriate to expect the jump from Base 4 to Base 25 should be several factors more unpleasant - and so (potentially) permanent.

My only hesitation in my position is that I do not have access to A&A, and so am ignorant of the rationale and exact wording as to why these mental facilities are (reputably) not permanently vulnerable to PeMe.

Changing any or all stats does not affect learning totals or xp. Yes, it's something worth looking at doing for all older magi; no, it is not unbalancing - there are clear guidelines/costs/etc. Some sagas still ban doing this.

Thanks C'hound! That helps a lot. I must've read that single line before, but I had no recollection of it (who's been casting PeMe on me? :wink:).
I still feel inclined to disallow it*, but you've given me a few reasons to allow it whilst disallowing the Creo versions if my troupe feel strongly the other way.

(*to keep things consistent/logical across techniques, as much as anything)

There are new Mentem guideline boxes for each of the Techniques, but whilst the PeMe box is quite specific that "Unlike memories, destroyed aspects of the imagination, cognition, common sense and estimation naturally restore themselves", it doesn't say why.

Hazarding a guess, I'd say it was related to the rules surrounding properties that something can or cannot naturally lose - you can naturally forget something, but it's not natural to be without any instincts, or to be completely unable to learn anything. In a similar way, a spell to remove an object's weight has to be constantly maintained. It's less obviously clear cut that some of the things that fall under the non-memory inner wits (the collective term for the five components of the mind) aren't things the human mind can naturally lose than an object's weight, though.

(Edit: crosspost)

Sal -

Well, that is... clear, but at the same time disappointing. Not in the final conclusion, but in the lack of explanation (which I would expect if it conflicts with the core rules - "mindless husk" does not, to me, equate with the ability to re-learn all that was lost.)

However, I would still say that, at best, the victim of a Base 25 PeMe effect would be as a newborn infant, not only without memories but also without any well-developed or trained learning strategies, without language, without recognition of basic human interaction or... anything, so their road to recovery, altho' now quite possible btr, would be (nearly?) as long and difficult - and reliant on others - as that of a newborn.

Rationales are one of my specialties.

(Rationales within the RAW - that's just gravy!) :laughing:

In my opinion, "Leave the person a mindless husk" is fairly clear: the outcome is permanent, the mind is destroyed.
The reason why more "selective" destruction of the mind's faculties (e.g. of the ability to learn) would not be permanent is the same that prevents one from permanently destroying e.g. a body's weight, even though one can destroy a body wholesale: if the result is not natural, when the magic ends nature reasserts itself.EDIT: Salutor beat me to the punch...

I would also point out that the Base effect (PeMe25) is balanced in my opinion, contrary to the suggestion of the original poster: while it's true that PeCo30 is required to slay a person, inflicting an Incapacitating wound is only a PeCo20 Base effect.

I added the +1 for "balance" because of the implied bias of other Pe/Me spells to be very temporary. But, I am inclined to allow the spell at 30.

As for whether a human min can naturally lose its ability to reason... I'd say it can, in the same way that the body can naturally become blind if you destroy its eyes.

If I was to guess, the paradigm of Ars Magica considers man's ability to reason to be a facet of his immortal soul. Thus using magic to mess with it is as unnatural as destroying his "weight". It is a natural and immutable aspect of the human condition. However, I don't agree. :-p If Cr/Me rites can improve a man's mental stats to +5 permanently, then a 5th magnitude Pe/Me spell can reduce them to -5 (or worse) permanently. It's an entropic world and destruction is easier then creation. Bottom line, we have established that magic can mess with man's "natural" ability to reason, and thus destroying it permanently with a Pe/Me spell should work.

The spell might be seen as unholy though :-p