Processing Vis

In supplements & adventures for earlier editions of the game, processing vis, particularly covenant sources, to make it useable seems to be a common feature. Is this still the case in Ars Magica 5?

What concerns me a little is when starting a new covenant how is a wizard generally expected to identify a new source and work out how to process this.

In 5th, magi can always extract vis from their covenant aura as a seasonal lab activity by using their CrVi lab total/10 to derive that number of pawns of Vim vis (rounded up). Other than that, other TeFo specific vis must be searched for the hard way and, depending on how generous or not your SG happens to be, could take several seasons to actually find (since much tends to depend on auspicious days/nights of year unless the source is continuous for some magical reason.

This is of course besides any source(s) your covenant (or any PCs) happens to already possess at the start of your saga.

Pg 72 of the ARM5:CR sets out suggestions for weak/medium/powerful covenant design including numbers of known vis sources. According to the RAW it costs 1 build point per 5 pawns of vis in the covenant stocks (if designing the covenant from the ground up). Im sure the Covenants book goes into additional detail but I dont have that book handy atm.

Pg 190 of ARM5:CR offers some examples of potential vis sources one can either use for existing supply or for in game discovery by the magi.

Identifying the type of vis is generally done with the 1st magnitude InVi spell "Sense the Nature of Vis" which many starting magi tend to have in their repertoire of spells. Processing the vis in 5th basically involves either collecting whatever object happens to contain it (easy for collectible items like acorns, leaves of a particular tree, mushrooms from a magical glade, etc) or transferring it from one medium to another for easier transport using some variant of the 3rd magnitude ReVi spell "Gather the Essence of the Beast" (possibly with requisites if reinvented for other mediums).

Hope that helps.

Yeah that works fine for the kind of Vis you discover when you kill a faerie or whatever, but I was more referring to the kind of Vis sources mentioned in earlier adventures for covenants. They tended to be magical, but not necessarily Vis in their natural form. Generally it had interesting descriptions of how it had to be sun-dried, powedered and then disolved in the blood of a virgin crow or such like.

What I wanted to know is how Magi found out the process by which they made it useable as Vis, or whether this is purely cosmetic stuff to make the game seem more interesting.

In short, in the current edition of Ars Magica, is Vis just Vis in whatever form, and the only reason to change its form is to make it more portable?

My reason being in my next saga the magi will be establishing an entirely new covenant so this question is going to form part of the very first session.

You dont change the Form (as in the Art) of the Vis, you only change the medium in which it is contained, unless of course its original medium is readily portable, as I mentioned above.

As for your comment about killing faeries/magical beasts (or whatnot) I can only suppose that is in response to my mention of the ReVi spell. Well, simply put, that ReVi spell is but one example of how one would transfer the vis of which you speak, from a non-portable medium to a portable one (without altering in any way the actual Art to which the vis was originally associated). Such transference will always be some variant of ReVi as I also mentioned above, so if you have to draw vis from a large boulder, you would simply create a ReVi(Te) variant and call it Gather the Essence of the Stone, for example.

As to how magi discovered this, I frankly don't see any lengthy treatise provided on the subject, its just one of those academic givens that makes magi able to do what they do as far as Ive ever played it.

It has never been refered explicitly in any Ars Magica publication AFAIK. It is assumed that magi investigate a little bit and discover how they have to process the raw material to obtain the pure vis.

How a raw material is identified as being proto-vis is left in the storyteller's hands. We tend to simply use a version of detect the active magics to discover mystical effects. Itr is in the form of a small bee that flies to the spot where the active magic is. If you release it in an aura of strength 6+, it goes completely nuts, though :laughing: And if there are no active magics it tends to keep flying around a magus, since the parma is detected as a weak effect by the bee.



I haven't seen much of that in fifth edition yet. Vis sources are usable "right out of the box" (at least the ones from covenants). There is occasionally a sort of "you must collect this on the spring equinox as the flood waters first recede from the emerald pool" but these are linked to unusual events so you'd expect magi to be there anyway (and probably looking for vis).

I don't recall seeing any processing of "proto-vis" into usable vis in fifth edition publications to date. I'd advocate keeping things simple and having only vis, you've already got magical divine three kinds of Infernal vis and who knows how many types of faerie vis each with their own minor magical properties. I personally suspect that adding vis refining to a game will cause more pain in the added narrative complication than it will provide coolness in the form of increased depth of the setting.

There is proto vis in GotF, at least: the stream wioth the good beer contains proto vis. Call it whatever you want, but this is what I was refering to :slight_smile: Vis in a format not readily grasp-able, but that can easily be transfered into a concentrated vis pawn. They are fairly common in our saga.



Hmm intersting stuff. I particularly like the expression 'proto-vis' is this a hermetical phrase or one coined just today? I rather suspect I will be adding that to the list of expressions used by nutty old magi in my covenants bemaoning the decline of vis in christendom; trampled under the burgeoining empire of the dominion.

So, as far as I can see so far, ArM5 tends to have ready to use Vis; but here is nothing intrinsicly disrupting to the the principles of hermetic Magic theory to have 'proto-vis' in your campaign?

So... anyone gonna suggest some numbers they would assign to 'detect proto-vis' spells? I would be inclined to increase the difficulty because of the less than glaringly obvious nature of the Vis.

Finally, does it seem unduly harsh to force magi, or their down-trodden apprentices, to spend a season of lab work to process this Vis? I realise that would be very unusual, potentially quite cruel, but is there anything prohibiting that in the principles of magic?

Thanks, I hadn't noticed that.

High auras, or containers with a particularly sharp characterstic (extra transparent & refreshing water, extra spicy wine, extra gloomy glades, extra terrorific graves.... all tend to have proto vis IMS. With a small level 10 or so spell you can concentrate the essence of such vis into something tangible. A teardrop, a leaf, a purple pearl (made of wine) or a brilliant grapefruit, a skull, a root....

When you do that, the wine, place, qwell, whatever lose its "sharp" properties for a while, and the aura in the area drops by 1 point per pawn collected. We do that since we considered it to be a heavy handed approach to vis destillation: tearing a part of the aura away instead of destilling it. So the wine in the cellar will taste foul, and the graveyard look just sad, not terrorific.

Proto vuis was used in the old hedge magic, IIRC, but I just re-used the expression for something different here.



Just today

I have to say Xavi, I would have thought such an action would be entirely possible in the hermetic magical tradition but would be likely to have quite profound consequences too.

Tearing magic from a place on such a scale would surely have some consequences, and would be the kind of thing I would suggest as a ritual of a somewhat dodgy nature. But then, thats just the flavour of my campaigns I spose.

The season of lab work to which I referred was for extracting vis from the aura, not for collecting vis from whatever source might so require medium transference. Vis in 5th (as already mentioned above) does not require processing as such. The reason for the season of lab activity is, like with most other lab activities that I have seen moaned about to try to get around singular activities, that vis is a precious commodity and increasingly limited in a growing dominion-ated Europe. Considering that the process involves you entire CrVi lab total (Te+Fo+Int+MT+aura+any added virtue or lab-related bonuses/10 rounded up) even starting magi can usually manage 3 pawns and over time much more.

Unless you want to completely unbalance your saga with a cornucopia of vis by allowing magi to extract it in less than a season, you should appreciate that some things are done to avoid escalating the power of magi too rapidly.

Forgive me Boxer, but you seem to be completely misinterpreting my comments here. My curiousity was that in earlier editions Vis required processing. This processing was for established Vis sources, not just condensing Vim Vis from the aura. This seemed to have been largely removed form 5th Ed. That was - to me a disappointment.

It is precisely the ever diminishing supplies of Vis in Europe, a major feature and driver in my sagas of the past, that makes me interested in sources of Vis which require ever greater amounts of effort to make useable.

Seeing as there is a premise for this 'proto-vis' mentioned above then I see no impediment to using it in my campaign. I am curious to solicit opinions on how others would handle such a resource in game mechanics; mechanics for th initial investigation of exactly how to process it.

Finally, as someone who has been playing Ars magica since I first acquired a little black paperback, I do not particularly appreciate your rather condescending tone. I joined these forums to gain opinions of other players for my new saga - not to be treated like an ignorant child.

(Okay BoXer, if anyone's going to get in trouble for sounding condescending, it'll be ME, dammit!) 8)

(And if you know how to tell the difference, feel free ~not~ to share.) :unamused:

I remember those odd and quirky descriptions about some vis sources, and, no, I haven't seen any in a long time.

But there are two things going on here, two "typical" ways vis can be found in the wild as a source*. One, is the magical pool, where the fish absorb the magic, and they (or some of them) contain vis - catch the right fish, and you got it. Then, you can carry around a dead fish (bonus!), perhaps even going so far as drying it first, or use ReVi to reduce and concentrate it into just a fish-fin, or some scales - generally a bit more convenient (not to mention more socially acceptable, ahem.) Very straightforward.
(* Distinguishing a "source" from the sort of discrete vis found "on the hoof" after a creature of Might has been killed in an encounter. The fish above are thus part of the magical environment, and not "Creatures of Might" any more than a faerie mushroom with vis is a "Plant of Might", etc.)

The other (and since 3rd ed less common) is when you have a magical pool, and the vis is (for lack of a better term) diluted throughout the whole of the water. Somehow, a mage would need to get that coalesced into a usable form (for those who, for their own reasons, prefer not to carry the entire magical spring around with them.) This is the more problematic, and what I think we're calling "proto-vis" in this discussion. (If not, feel free to correct.)

A SG could approach this as the same process as extracting Vim vis from an aura - set up a lab on site (ouch), take a season (ouch again), and you get what you get. Could use the same formula as for Vim (Creo-Form Lab Total/10? Or Tech-Vim, for Technique vis?), or simply set an amount by SG fiat- "5 pawns/season in spring, 1/season winter, 2/season any other season", or whatever. Someone turns the crank, and vis comes out.

Or, simply a more cumbersome ReVi spell, perhaps adding the appropriate Form as casting requisite, to manipulate that. "Gather the Essence of the (Form)", by whatever name.

Or, there can be some quasi-magical construction, "evaporation pools", or whatever, that do the work for you. (I remember one creative player made a "vis trap" for a stream, that slowly collected vis over the seasons as the magical stream passed through it. Made another for precious metals - both were mildly successful.)

But short of the above (ie, in addition to resorting to the above), I'd say there should be some more "mundane" method, such as your virgin crow blood, to refine the substance. Something more "hedge-magical" that does not require Hermetic Theory, to represent an earlier technology and alternate solution to the same problem.

And a factor that gets overlooked far too often, imo, so Respect for that!

In the past, many published sources have been defined as "If all the vis is taken, the source does not replenish", or words to that effect. Too often Player Characters, upon finding vis, sweep up every last bit they can find (possibly because they've an OOC confidence in the way their covenant was "purchased", or whatever). By creating a need for "conservationist thinking", the issue become more complex, more multi-dimensional than a simple crank that gets turned once/year at the right season, or whatever.

But, how then does a mage approach the problem?

In answer to another question you had, I'd say "yes, requiring a season/harvest is far too taxing in terms of time" - but, that's only for the average Saga. As in a recent discussion on writing texts, if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes - but it makes the resulting product ~far~ more valuable because of it. (i.e., if a source requires a mage to take a season to refine it into usable form, vis has more intrinsic value than if it were just picked up off the ground, as if it were just gold or something equally mundane and plentiful.)

Requiring one season to create a "magic item", a dedicated collection system that remains in place at the source for the duration of its lifespan - that's not unreasonable at all, and invites the sort of player interaction and creativity that the game loves, and can be a launching pad for later storyhooks.

But a mage's road is long enough- placing such speedbumps and detours in her way is not necessary, except when it helps the Saga/storyline. (SG judgement)

[fighting to stay on topic... must resist urge to pursue tangents... arghhhh....]

If a source is seasonal, or, worse, only makes itself known rarely (first dark of the moon of Autumn, or the day the first flower blooms in Spring, or "one cold winter night", or whatever), then it's almost a SG decision whether the PC's find it or not. Hints can be given, and then Player/Character ingenuity and creativity play a part in tracking down the source, or you can simply say "you stumble upon X". (Personally, I'm a big fan of large InVi spells specifically designed for the purpose using Boundary, Hearing or Sight, and "vis hunting" expeditions, but not every player gets excited about that, especially if they've done it a dozen times before.) I'm sure there are thousands of minor vis sources that never go found, even in covenant's back yards - just too ephemeral to notice without great good luck. (But in a magical world, "great good luck" is not as uncommon as it is today...) :wink:

Then, to address the question of "how much to harvest", I'd say that, ~if~ such is a question then it's a question that the Order is long familiar with, and some rule of thumb should be well known - take no more than 1/3 or 2/5 the first season, and monitor closely, and then increase slowly - or something similar. But with magic being so unpredictable, there might be a magical cutpoint - take more than 1/2, and it doesn't come back. Leave at least 1, or it doesn't return - whatever.

Maybe another InVi spell, of a type not offered in the spell lists, that can definitively answer that question? (If so, then that would be a popular one to have in libraries, and it would be quite common and easily obtained.)

Seasonal Scales of Vis (name sucks, I know)
InVi 25
Cast on a source of vis, it allows the caster to get an idea of how exactly the source replenishes (if at all) from casting to casting. By repeating this casting over 4 Seasons, a mage should be able to estimate what vis can safely be taken in a year, and when and how best to do this. Renewal is not guaranteed, but the process is understood and can be addressed as appropriate.

(Base 4 ("judge the amount of vis present"), +1 Touch, +1 Mom, +2 Group, +1 Complexity)The inclusion of this is something that would color a Saga, if only because it demands both seasons in the lab and RP time to resolve - some Troupes would not get excited about this, and would rather just collect their yearly vis and so they can go track down the diabolists already! Others are non-cooperative and no one mage would ever shoulder the task for the benefit of the others, or the Players/Magi have no care for the future (this covenant will never last more than a few years!), and are happy to take the vis and run. Sad, but that happens.

But if you can get Players excited about it, it has great potential.

Wow, my apologies for any misunderstanding Kaiser, no condescension was intended to be conferred. Your length of play was neither stated nor evident to me from your posts so I endeavoured to explain as concisely as possible (as opposed to our resident bonisagi above :wink: ) the simplicity of 5th ed vis collection, nothing more.

Why you should desire anything more complicated, such as the processing of some form of proto-vis, is a mystery to me. If you want limited vis then just make the finding of it all the harder or the amounts procurable from any sources found all the more scant in numbers of pawns. In that way those who desire more will just have to invest the lab time to gather it from the aura for trade on the Mercere mafia-market for whatever Te or Fo they desire.


Bah, my apologies also Boxer, I did bite on that one rather hard. I realise forums are peculiar places, and I am sure over the months many people have come and gone in a few short weeks looking for 'new' ways to manipulate the rules to make life easier for themselves.

Part of the attraction of joining these forums is the wealth of shared knowledge. I see in these forums the answers to many long term questions my group and I have never been able to find satisfactory answers to. Some of these things may well be common knowledge to long term members here, and yet completely new ideas to me. This perhaps explains my aparent ignorance; that and the rather unfortunate listing of your total number of posts under an avatar, which in my case would suggest 'new guy'.

Anyway, on balance thanks for the info so far, I think simply requiring a season to investigate is the way to handle this. I like my Vis to feel real, rather than just pockets of 'energy cubes', it also helps to explain why vis sources continue to be found rather than already exist on a big map stored at each covenant, along with large documents from many quaesitores determining the true ownership of them all.

I can make short posts.

It's just that... [gag]... It always seems... [chokes]... short... posts... don't... aren't... can't... [falls on floor, frothing at mouth]

You can. Nobody questions that. You simply don't do thyat.

Quite a difference

(see? I can be a Q when I want :stuck_out_tongue:)

Great post, CH. I really liked this idea. I doubt I will use the mechanics you described, but certainly it would be cool. I dobt my players would appreciate it (even if IC they should)

The processing of the proto-vis in the magical pool is the way we tend to handle this. IMS the OoH has processed quite a few spells to do just that. This is why the invention of Vim as an Art was extremwely important: it made all this setting up of traps, pseudo-vis extraction labs and weird rituals unnecessary.

It can be copnsidered to be an ad hoc explanation of how our mechanics of choice work, but it can be taken as an alternative to the extremely cool concept described by CH if you do not want that level of detail.... or if the vis source is located in the middle of a strong Perdo-heavy place where you do not want to linger long :wink:

Also, if you are interested in Vim magics, and specially vis extraction, I think you would appreciate the Hidden Light adventure/semi-saga setting presented by Mr Fergusson (IIRC). IIRC it can be found through