Reforming Spell Guidelines for ArM6?

There are a number of interesting points about spell guidelines in the ArM6 thread. I want to explore the subject in a bit more depth so I'm taking the liberty to spin off a new thread.

First, Cuchulainshound makesan important point with which I thoroughly agree: to paraphrase, the spell guidelines are quite vague and it's hard to know exactly how versatile a spell you can make based on each guideline.

This has actually bugged me since ArM4. I have my own interpretation for how to deal with it, but YMMV. What I would really like to see is the guidelines rewritten to be more clear on how flexible a spell you can make. For example if you invent a CrHe spell to conjure a wooden tool, which I figure is approximately like the level 3 guideline (YMMV), I would prefer the guideline to say something like "create one specific type of crafted wooden object, such as a mallet or a bowstave" or "create your choice of any crafted wooden object," depending on what the designer's intention is. In the ArM5 rules, the language is ambiguous.

Now in my opinion formulaic spells should always do one thing only, decided at the time the spell is invented. So for the spell guideline, "turn a human into a land animal" (Base 10) there is Shape of the Woodland Prowler, which turns someone into a wolf. If you wanted to turn someone into a pig, that would be a different spell (in fact, it is: Curse of Circe). However if you apply that standard to everything it makes illusions pretty useless. And there are probably spells whose effects are much more flexible (Noble's Parma -- I am too lazy to look for them, correct me if I'm wrong).

All of this can be solved I think by the ArM6 designer(s) figuring out how general or specific individual spells should be, and writing the guidelines to indicate the specificity or generality of the effect.

There are also some spell guidelines I think are just out of whack -- it is too easy IMO to destroy stone, fly, teleport, or turn invisible, and too hard IMO to conjure a woolen cloak or re-attach a loose horseshoe.

So I put it to the community -- what do you think could be done in ArM6 to improve the spell guidelines?

My own fix on that was to be slightly more particular with the types of "dirt" with sand becoming one additional step above mud/dirt and separating soft and hard stone from each other, and also distinguishing between base metals and alloys and also between semiprecious stones and precious stones.
And adding a "Shatter" between weaken and destroy.

Yes, yes and yes. With invisibility, i posted my version of it just the other day somewhere... In short, if you want to change the invisibility spell in AM5 core book to be 100% invisible, it becomes level 50. Level 40 if you dont care about shadows. With the original level 20 giving you something like a ghostlike apparition look and level 30-35 gives something like a Predator style, not quite invisible look.

For one thing, as what i described above, stretch them! Like PeIm above, the first guideline there is, is for completely destroying ability to affect a sense. The jump from zero to that is too drastic.

Getting a better feel for how flexible a spell is would indeed be a good idea. Generally i simply add 1-2 magnitudes for spells that are very or extremely flexible, but that still mess things up sometimes.

A little like the enchantment material table then. That'd make gold and silver good PeTe wards.

I agree with this. Formulaic spells should be one specific use of the guideline. I think that there are far too many spells in canon that are general purpose spells.

I'd actually even like spells such as Demon's Eternal Oblivion to be re-written so that they targeted a single type of demon. Which for powerful demons (which are unique) effectively means that you need a different DEO for each demon.

You are right that causes some problems with illusions, but I'm pretty much fine with that. It just means that illusions are a game for Spontaneous spell casters, or the very, very carefully prepared.

I tend to waver on this: A spell to make you look like Bob the Magistrate will always make you look like Bob the Magistrate; a spell to change your appearence to that of another human can make you look like any human (ish) but requires a Finesse roll if you want to look like a specific individual. A certain degree of "what did the inventing magus want the spell to do" shapes it. To use an example from my saga, one of the magi has a series of spells for animating statues - one for human-shaped statues, another for animals (he favours carved wolves) etc. The problem with making things too specific is that you end up with either massive spell lists, because every eventually needs to be covered, which is a bit dull, or none as spontaneous magic becomes much more useful for anything except very, very specific tasks.

The rule of thumb I haphazardly apply is that if your spell is a sentence, you can't really change the nouns but you can play with the adjectives and adverbs a little.

Funny, in the 'main thread' for the ArM6 discussion, some people complained that the spell guidelines were too clinical and not mythical enough. I argues that I liked this structure.
And now there is a thread about cleaning them up more. And I like that a lot. Some very good points have been made.

Supposing the guidelines said "turn a human into a specific land animal" then you'd know you needed a different spell for each animal. But as for tools and objects of wood, stone and metal - how specific should this be?
I'd suggest taking the middel road, and re-write the guidelines to affect a related class of objects. MuCo(An) would be "turn a human into a specific land animal or one from a class of related animals. If you have shape of the woodland prowler, you change into a wolvf, but dogs and foxes are also an option. If the shape is of a fox, perhaps a cat or ferret is apporpriate as secondaries. and so on. And CrHe/Te spells would "create a tool" or "create a weapon" or "create furniture or household object" giving the caster some leeway, rather than "A crate you say? Nope, my spell creates a chest, so no can do!"
With Imaginem and illusions it should be "make someone change appearance but still human" but with a Finesse roll for creating detail. The monk in a sack cloth is easy (and also a general thing) but the Baron in his fine livery is both hard and very specific. With higher magnitudes for "humanoid but with inhuman features - like some faerie with antlers or a foot long tongue" and even higher for "completely inhuman - like acentaur"

I've always thought invisibility was too easy. Putting a 'Shatter' guideline between Weaken and Destroy seems like a good idea, it's the stuff of classics to have the magus bust the wall into rubble.

I'll suggest that one problem might be the whole legacy effect for spells, that every new edition has kept the "classic" spells, with some rewrite, and playtesters haven't scrutinized them as closely as new players because playtesters tend to be vets who "know" these spells, and how they work. But when new players try to make sense of them in the hard context of the new rules, without expectations... problems.

Related, re the "sterile" vs "magical" effects, I'm torn - I see both sides. For instance, on one hand, I've never liked Whispers thru the Black Gate because there's no reason for the corpse to talk out loud, at least not by AM magic and Guidelines, but otoh it's a very cool, creepy and acceptable effect in genre.

I think both these problems might be addressed by a combination of some new, expanded general all-purpose Guidelines (which currently tend to be quite lacking beyond The Central Rule and a little handwaving) and a few new creative spell examples that, rather than being stamped from the Guidelines perfectly, push the boundaries and thus spark the brushfires of imagination. We've seen such on these boards and have debated them back and forth - perhaps in part because there are no such expanded suggestions in canon, except the "legacy spells" which have no explanation other than "Oh, yeah... those..." :unamused: :wink:

Yeah, Legacy Spells are often problematic.
Many spells -especially the legacy ones - have some extra effect or thing to them, which the corresponding guideline doesn't cover. Some things are extras, like having the corpse speak out load in Whispers Through...Although sometimes this might not be desirable, if the caster wants to be discreet, or just withold information from his mates. And another thing, why is it limited to only affecting corpes not completely decayed to skeletan remains? I've had a SG limit me as caster to only speaking with those corpses which still had functional mouths. Why? I speak with the ghosts. Flavourful - yes! But unnecessarily limiting. Otherwise the culprit magus just cuts the tongues off the corpses to remove this avenue of investigation from Hermetics. And The Inexorable Search has the gimmick of needing a map, again flavourful but limiting - the guidelines do not support this.

If anything, the spell list should be balanced out, with 1 magnitude 'discounts' for limitations and added magnitudes for add-ons.

UV: couldn't you make a spell to heal a head - specifically enough to talk with it? :wink:

I think you've identified a real problem there, but I don't quite agree with your description of the cause.

To expect the playtesters to go through with a fine-toothed comb and find and correct every editorial mistake is in my opinion quite unreasonable. That is an editor's job. It would take weeks (and I mean weeks of full-time work, hundreds of hours) to sort through the rules at that level of detail. Frankly, if I were to invest that amount of time and drudge work into a new edition, I would expect my name to appear on the cover of the book, not buried in the "playtest credits."

As a matter of fact, I was keeping track of the hours I did spend playtesting ArM5, and I lost track after 160... and that was just to deal with the basic, generic gameplay stuff.

I don't mean to single out Cuchulainshound here. He's not the first one to say "the playtesters missed it." I certainly thought that myself when for example someone spotted errata in Lords of Men two days after it hit the store shelves. But the bottom line is playtesters are not responsible for editing the rules, and it bugs me when people assume that the playtesters ought to do an editor's job for free and without so much as due credit.

Another way to treat such legacy spells, when the coolness factor trumps the specific guidelines, would be to add a line like "This spell was invented by Artemus the Black, infamous for pushing the limits of necromancy by experimentation; nobody has been able to replicate the side effect he got in this spell in a reliable fashion." Or some such thing. After all, in the history of the Order a number of spell are bound to have been invented with useful side-effects through experimentation, and occasionally some of them will actually spread to become classics...

I am often torn on this topic as well. It has healing implications, too; if you need a different spell to make an awl than to make a hammer, shouldn't you need a different spell to heal a burn versus healing a cut? (I suppose one can make a Platonic-form-based argument that, no, you don't, but I'd be iffy.)

I'm relatively okay with spells having very specific effects, because we have spontaneous magic. In that way, the greatest illusionists of the Order, while they might have some high-end Im spells, are probably great illusionists because they can spont an impressive array of images. I've found in my sags that, in effect, formulaic spells tend to be things players want to do at the high end, with sponting filling in all the miscellaneous smaller effects they want to have outside of that, and that seems to work fine.

So that suggests that Creo Imaginem and Muto Imaginem should be able to create illusions using relatively low-magnitude guidelines, but (as formulaic spells) they can only create one specific image, or change an image in one specific way. My gut impulse is that would be playable if we're talking about Level 10-15 spells for basic illusions (so a beginning specialist can spont them).

Illusion specialists would then either need a huge repertoire of formulaic spells (all of which are pretty easy to invent though), or they'd do a whole lot of spontaneous casting. This seems right to me but I don't think there is good support for that kind of wizard in ArM5. For example Mastered Spell special abilities are downright cool and useful, and a magus who has to spont all his illusions would not be able to take advantage of those. :frowning:

It also occurs to me that a formulaic illusion that always looks like X, combined with a Muto Vim spell that allows the caster to change X, could work. But the Muto Vim would have to be spontaneous, and in ArM5 I think that's disallowed (Serf's Parma).

Hmm. Straightening this out looks to be more than a simple matter of rewriting the guidelines. It requires some hard-core design work, and is pretty much guaranteed to gore somebody's ox (not to mention break compatibility with the entire ArM5 product catalog).

My 2 pence for whatever they're worth.

On the matter of illusions, I would tend to split the difference between specfic and generic. You have a forumlaic spell that creates an illusion of a person and have a Finesse roll that "fine tunes" that into an image of a specific person. That way it's more specific than "an illusion that effects one sense" but less specific than "an illusion Sir Edward of Clun in his feast day tunic."

In general, if I were to re-write the spell guidelines (whistles innocently and ignores the half finished files of re-written spell guidelines lurking in My Documents) I'd be inclinded to bring them more into line with metaphysics presented in Arts and Academy - in an effort to bring them more into tune with the world view. I'd also try to balance that with various stories and folklore... I'll admit, drawing a lot of inspiration from the 5th ed Hedge Magic book, particularly Learned Magicians and Folk Witches.

I'd personally be up for needing a few more spells. After all, it doesn't always have to come down to "inventing" a new spell each time. That's what lab texts and teachers are for. Their acquisition is the stuff of stories. So you need a bunch more illusion spells? Find a master or a grimoire and learn (okay, "invent") them in half the time. Suddenly, your ridiculous CrIm lab total is helping you acquire a bunch of really useful dependable spells.

And I have to say (though this is probably for the other thread), I'd also make spontaneous magic quicker and easier in order to back this up. I do find that the maths and the book-flicking (usually followed by "oh... I can't do that after all") slows things down. Maybe if there's a stronger way for the spells you do know to make the process of casting similar spontaneous spells easier (for the player) then a happy medium could be reached.

Too restrictive is probably even worse than too flexible. Sure you can develop alot of spells, but really, its far more worthwhile to spend those seasons in raising the relevant arts instead, and then spont only. Because then those higher arts also mean you can do "impressive" stuff whenever you DO spend the time to make a formulaic spell.

So while i agree that current is mostly too flexible, going with too limited means formulaic spells are devalued.

I do think it would be reasonable to be able to lower level by perhaps 1 magnitude for a very limited spell(wether that would also affect spontaneous is a good question), and allowing to raise level by 1-2 magnitudes for increased flexibility. With the "middle" roughly around earlier mentioned examples of shapeshifter where you pick a primary shape and is then allowed any secondary that are close enough.
I think this is the best compromise, as it also allows easier spells as long as you make them overly limited.

Exactly. And if you make a spell for ONLY the latter, you might allow it at one magnitude lower due to how limited it is.

If you get the time left over, note down a few "spont spells" you expect might pop up in play separately from formulaics. This way you have some baselines and some spells ready to go or at least to start figuring out the variant you want. Can save a lot of time.

ThereĀ“s a virtue for that isnt there? Or rather, i KNOW there is, im just not sure if its also in RAW or just in our houserules.
Anyway, very simple, adds magnitude of a similar formulaic to casting a spontaneous (after dividing casting score).

This should be for all spells, not just Imaginem. I wouldn't use Finesse though, as I feel it is overused and would rather roll on Guile for disguise or Craft for object.

Base guidelines should be set for spont casting. Formulaic should be somewhat narrow in scope with extra magnitudes for a wider set of results. In most cases, result should not be a hit-or-miss but rather an ease factor bonus on a mundane skill allowing for some opponents to fail while others succeed.

For instance, when under a trivial PeIm invisibility spell the ease factor to see you should be trivial. Add a few magnitude and you become hard to find.