Power of Magi

A curious question occurs to me... In my last thread about Court Wizards, and in other places, people refer a lot to the awe -inspiring power of magi. I find myself wondering about that.

I've played ArsM for a while. My last saga (which was 4th ed) lasted more than 2 years realtime, over 50 years game time. My magus in that saga, was a Bonisagus weather-mage. He was our resident specialist and professional lab rat. His highest art was an Auram 20. Ol' Lucius Tempestus could reliable call up a rather nasty thunderstorm but he wasn't a world shattering power. I'll admit that between the three magi of the covenant, we did once defeat an entire Welsh warband, but it took some doing and we happened to be well prepared for the battle.

So I'm wondering, just how powerful do you find magi, really?

Usually a lot more powerful than that. I am guessing he must have been more of a generalist than an Auram specialist. My one character Carmen of Flambeau, over in the Light of Andorra PbP game, her Auram score is 18 and she is only 11 years out of Gauntlet. Granted, I do use a modified advancement rule, and usuing strict ArM5 RAW, she would need to be about three years older to make up the xp difference.

Still, she is an example of a powerful specialist. She has the Affinity in Auram, Puissant Auram, and a Major Magic Focus in Weather. She can toss Lightning Bolts with over twenty points just for Penetration.

Then again, she is designed to be a powerful combat maga. Not all wizards need to be tanks. The pure Mentem/Imaginem specialist may have relatively few combat spells at all, and would nowhere near approach the rating of "powerful" if power is measured bu combat prowess. But this is a magus who can utterly change your perceptions of reality, who can turn your world upside down and inside out and make you grovel while you thank him for it. Or a generalist who has a spell for absolutely every situation. That is something Carme lacks, diversity. They make fun of her for her lack of Ignem expertice ("some Flambeau maga you are, can't even illuminate the room").

You say that, but what spells do you have that can really do that? How did you invent them and how did you get the Arts to do it?

How do you get an score of 18 in an Art after 11 years?

High level books and tractatus are enough to achieve that level quite easily. Magi in 5th are more powerful than in 4th. Also, virtues and other multipliers stack, so you can easily achieve a multiplier of x3 or x5 for your spells or items, causing massive boosts to your penetration totals and casting values.



To get an idea of why Magi are powerful - how can you keep a magus out of a locked room? A Perdo magus can destroy the walls. A Rego magus can teleport in. A Muto magus can make the door reshape itself to allow himself t pass. A Creo magus can create the tools needed to bypass the door, or just burn through it. An Intellego magus doesn't even need to enter the room. All of these should be spontable by a specialist and even most generalists.

How can you deal with a band of brigands? Well, they can't hide from you because you have access to Intellego spells. They can't hurt you if you use the correct Rego spells. Their weapons are already broken if you favour Perdo. Muto lets you ensure that the ground beneath their feet is a quagmire which holds them in place and, if you so wish, entombs them. And, as ever, Creo lets you burn them.

The versatility of magi, combined with what they can do if given three months warning, is terrifying. And, of course, part of why they're fun to play. There are 50 Technique and Form combinations and that many ways to skin a cat.

I think there are two basic situations to be looked at:

  1. battle an mundane army on a flat open field. Most magi can use some sort of hiding themselves or making themselves untouchable (invisibility/flying/Creating a stone bunker and then using a see-through spell) and cast some offensive spells after that (throwing around fire, water, lightning, or people, scrambling FoF with mentem or Imagonem, making the ground explode, turning people into something harmless or doing something perdoish to them. The bigger problem here is defending the magus - but that is easy enough to achieve in a world of court wizards.

  2. complex intrigue:
    This is the field of the gently-gifted Jerbiton pacifist who can start a civil war by a bit of mind-reading and an illusion spell to change the words: "Yes my liege" spoken by a mighty nobleman into "Kill the king", or a ReCo burp from the princess that was to end all wars with her marriage. While magi are tough to fight on a battlefield they are scarily deadly behind the throne.
    I am surprised that there is no major meddling with mortals by some gentle-gifted magus (or maybe there is - and the Order is just to daft to notice?)

Now, once again, I'm writing this from away from my books, but here's my take:

Affinity, Puissant, one of the virtues that give a study bonus. At character creation, put at least 52 experience points in that art; with Affinity, it becomes 78, putting you at a 12 to begin with, and a higher effective level due to puissant.

If, for the next seven SEASONS (< two years), you study from a Quality 10 source to which your Affinity applies (and maybe that study bonus), you get level 18 in the art.

Oh, it only takes a level 30-35 Mentem spell to do that to someone. And for Imaginem, you can really mess with someone at level 20-25.

As for how I got an Art score of 8 in 11 years...
Mind you that I use a modified advancement rule, 40xp per year as opposed to 30. But still, lets use calculations from RAW vanilla.

Puissant Auram gives me a +3, so I need a score of only 15. That's 120 experience points. With an Affinity in Auram, that means I only need 80 points. With Raw adancement, even if I started with an Auram score of 0 at Gauntlet, within 3 years I can gain 90xps according to the raw, giving me a score of 15 (which then equals 18 ).

And if I recall correctly, I think she started out of gauntlet with an Auram of 10.

Which is not to deride the accomplishments of your 50 year old magus. His Highest Art may be Auram 20, but how high are his other Arts? I am guessing he has a minimum score of 5 in each Art, many of them probably over 10. What's his magic theory? What are his Virtues & Flaws? How well connected is he? How much political power &/or prestiege has he acquired? Has he invented anything new? Made any breakthroughs? Mysteries?

My point is that you cannot gague power by a single Art score. Your highest Art may be only 20, but maybe the rest of your Arts are 15. My best Art may be 35! But the rest are no higher than 4. Maybe you have Art scores that are all 10's, and you have mysteries and other virtues enough to double your potency (a magic focus in spirits, Inscription on the Soul combined with Greater Talisman and Hermetic Empowerment, and so forth & so on).

All I can say after reading this is that while they may all be called Ars Magica, you guys are obviously playing very different games than I am.

Not that that's a bad thing...

Quite possibly true, but certainly our advancement was always by the book, and indeed getting hold of books was a major story point for us - we inherited an old Covenant long since looted of its library - so our advancement was actually slow. Still, five to seven years post-gauntlet, we were between us a significant power to be reckoned with. When we weren't plotting against each other and squabbling, of course.

So, having said that, what is your game like?

I played a 3rd edition to its conclusion, a pair of 4th edition sagas (failed) and now a pseudo-5th edition saga coming to its conclusion.

The 3rd and 4th edition sagas were WAAAAAY under the power of the 5th edition saga when it came to art levels of the characters, both players and NPCs. It can cause quite some vertigo at first ("WHAT!?!?! You arts at 30 are the same they used to be at 80 in our old saga!?!?") so take it easy at first :slight_smile:



I am curious as well. Either you are playing a low fantasy game with a lot of restrictions on advancement, or you may be underestimating the power of your elder magus.

Or, maybe it isn't your magus, it is your covenant. What is your library like? Your strong Art is Auram, what is the highest Level and Quality Auram book you have? What is your Aura? Do you ever study from Vis or recieve Teaching from another magus?

I think we are playing the same game, just with different characters in different settings. Magi and Covenants are not at all uniform throughout Mythic Europe.

In my current saga we have a spring covenant, with three newly gauntleted magi, founded by a winter covenant to secure a stronger claim on some contested vis sources.

They bring in what I think of as a lot of vis (12-18 pawns annually depending on how their luck holds with certamen) and have a moderate library consisting of 5 Art summa (levels 6 - 10, quality 6-8 ) and 5 Art tractatii (quality 6-9).

The magi themselves have arts between 0 - 7. Most of their time is divided between study, establishing themselves with the local community and dueling and/or politicking for control of their vis sources.

We've go through about 5 years of play to date and they don't seem to be advancing any more quickly than did the magi in my 4th ed saga (which was in a similar situation but actually with a better library).

It seems to me that other groups are starting with, or gaining access to, much more powerful texts and other means of advancement. I don't really understand that.

Yeah, that explains a lot. Your troupe chose to play the weak & struggling covenant. In one game where I am one of the players, Novus Mane, our covenant is like that. We have a high Magic Aura of 6, but our library is quite thin and we don't even have a book on every subject.

But over in Light of Andorra, which I run, it is a much different situation. First of all, I had everyone create characters that were 10 to 20 years past their gauntlet, as I have played the fledgling sapling covenant so many times that there is not much excitment for me as a SG anymore in it. As a player it is fun, but as an SG, those just are not the sort of stories I am interested in. Andorra is a much more powerful covenant, with a Q10 book on just about every subject (one Creo text has a Quality of 15!). All the books were designed according to the rules, as was everything else. The rules allow for you to be able to create a really powerful covenant if that's what you want, or if you prefer, a very weak covenant or anything in between. Same game, same rules, different preferences.

Do you play Troupe Style? If so, run an adventure where the payoff is a collection of really great books. IF that's what you want. I also personally feel your covenant is very vis poor. Vis poverty even. 12 to 18 pawns is not a lot. Heck, it takes 12 pawns just for a level 60 Aegis (or 6 if your playing low-power and a level 30 Aegis). I also suspect that a lot of time is wasted "dueling and/or politicking for control of their vis sources". This is time that could be spent studying or in the lab. Or better yet, accomplishing some sort of permenant improvement to the covenant. Your covenant is crippled in terms of both vis resources and the library. That is a legitimate style of play. One of the games I am in is very much the same, and we are having loads of fun! But playing the same game by the same rules, I also am running a game with a very powerful covenant, and we are having loads of fun over there too. And both covenants could theoretically exist in the same game world.

Art advancement in fifth should actually be significantly slower than in fourth.

In fourth book qualities were a bit lower but characters were able to add their concentration totals to their study totals.

In fourth characters were able to get stress die *2 or stress die *3 xp for studying from vis regardless of their art score by using 2 or 3 pawns of vis.

So I don't see how your art scores are ending up lower.

A character who has an affinity in their favorite art and studies their favorite art for just 1 season per year for ten years using books or vis with an average quality of 9 gets 120 xp. That's enough to get them from level 10 to level 18.

Do your magi not trade books or vis with other covenants in order to pursue their own interests?

You could add concentration? First news of that.


In ArM4, you added both Intelligence & Concentration to your study totals :smiley:

There is actually a vestige of it in the core rules... you can take Reading as a Concentration specialization. It doesn't do anything now but back in the day it gave you +1 exp. :smiley:

They haven't arranged it yet, but they're getting there. In my old saga, we did all the time.

Now, I think one place where I'm differing from people is in the quality of texts. My understanding of the rules was that quality = 6 + com (+ a bonus if you have the virtues or write a lower level summa than you are able). To me, that means that an "average" quality book is Quality 6. A really well written book would be Quality 9 and anything higher than that is really remarkable. Other people are talking about Quality 10 or better texts as if they are normal. Did I miss something on pages 165-166?

Yep yep. Back in 4th we always took study as the specialization. Nowadays, I always take "spells" as my specilization for Concentration. I was toying with the idea of a modifier for study conditions, up to +3 for good and as low as -3 for a poor study environment. In my idea, you would use Concentration to offset the penalty, and your bonus would be capped by it as well. Never did anything with that idea though. Maybe I'll tinker with it again.