Rules dilemma - a matter of style

Hi all,

I have a question that my esteemed sodales might care to assist me with.
Firstly, I'm not asking about what the rules actually say. I have a reasonable idea about this aspect, but I would like to know your opinions about what variants would be better and why.
(Just to give you more background info, I'm new to running Ars Magica, but I've run a lot of game sytems for decades so I'm happy with house rules to improve the 'feel' of a game; I've also inherited a version of AM from another SG with a mix of rules from 5th, 4th, 3rd Ed and possibly earlier too.)

The question is:
Should affecting (dispelling/altering/defending against/etc) a spell be based on the level of the actual spell, or the level of the effect (see below for example) or the casting total achieved?

Exemplia gratia:
Gandalf the unfeasibly powerful casts a minor spell to prevent a mundane from speaking. Possibly level 5 Perdo Corpus, low range and duration. The exact spell and its parameters aren't important.

William the apprentice casts a group spell to do the same thing, but lasting longer, from sight range. His spell is higher level, say 25th level.

Now Martha the Moderate wants to remove this effect from the mundane(s).
She casts perdo vim to dispel it.
Case A: she needs a level 10 general dispel or a specific level 5 dispel to remove Gandalf's and a level 50 general or level 25 specific one to remove Williams if it is based on the level of the offensive spell (For the sake of brevity, I've ignored the stress die roll and the +10 bonus). This is the official rules version.
Case B: she needs the same level 10 general dispel or a specific level 5 dispel to remove either spell because the actual effect level is the same.
Case C: she finds herself unable to match Gandalf's casting total, even with the specific version, but William's casting total was only 13 so that one is quite easy.

Which case is best and why?
My own feelings at the moment are that each has its advantages:
A: higher level spells should be harder to dispel.
B: why should a spell to affect more people be harder to remove from just one person? Or one cast from further away, if the remover can do it from close up?
C: a powerful magus' spells should be harder to remove. This also might give a reason not to put all the excess from a casting total into penetration...


IMO case C makes the most sense. It doesn't matter how hard it is to cast a spell or how does it work. What matters is how well was it cast, and that's case C.

Hope I've helped. :slight_smile:


My preference would be a version C:

Casting Total + Penetration - Spell Level.

So, effectively, it is Penetration Total. This would work for dealing with magic items and powers and so on. Resisting or dispelling a Might 50 vampire's dominate power that costs 1 point would need a total of 49.



My preference is A, because that is the answer eaiest to remember on the fly. Why? Because I think that's what the rules say already. At least, that's what I rememer. The other solutions, as I write this I have forgotten them, thus they would not be useful for an "on the fly" decision.

I would be tempted to go with A, because it should be harder to remove the group-affecting spell than the individual-affecting spell... assuming the target is the spell and not someone affected by the spell (I don't have my book handy). If it were the latter, I'd go with B.

However, if Gandalf happened to know a huge version of the spell and wanted to use it for a smaller effect than he could manage, I'd be okay with that.

My notion is that allowing penetration itself to make a spell harder to dispell isn't quite right... it puts sort of sponty effects on formulaic spells. The notion of a formulaic spell is that it doesn't change... the way gandalf cast it when he was an apprentice is the same as how he casts it now. (Except, these days, he's so cool he doesn't say anything or wave his hands anymore... but mentally, it's the same spell.)

The metaphor I'd use is a locksmith. If a locksmith has learned a single way to make a lock, he probably can make that lock easier/faster when he's a master than he could when he was an apprentice. However, that doesn't mean that the same lock is harder to pick. Now, that master locksmith could design a new lock that was much harder to pick... one that the apprentice could never create himself.

(If, in your example, Gandalf is sponting the spell, I'd definitely let him count the spell as having the full level of effect his spont roll managed, even if only a smaller amount is needed for the effect he wants.)


Of course, the OP asked for preferences not RAW.




Of course, I have other preferences too.

Like getting rid of the die roll most of the time, a choice that shifts the focus of a game from "are the dice kind to me" to "what are the consequences of my actions."



Preference is a powerful word :wink:. The question is mainly a "matter of style". My own preference is to rely on RAW because it is what I myself and the other players are most familiar with. However, there are a few cases where the HR stands out in my mind more than RAW (for example, my Wards HR). As far as "style" goes, my personal preferences are based on smooth and easy play. Which means that, in the middle of a complicated conflict, if a point of RAW is misremembered or forgotten or simply inhibits the flow of the scenario, then I would put RAW to the side and make a fiat ruling that aids in the goal of creating interest and excitment while progressing the storyline further.

And, of course, that is merely a matter of preference. Other styles may prefer greater versimilitude, which is something I also value, but it is a secondary thought as opposed to how everyone is percieving events and if they are satisfied with the flow of the game (I have learned that this last point is a very difficult challenge in PPbP games). Some people prefer absolute rule-lawyering. Gamers are like that sometimes. For them, excitement comes from clever design, and applying their rule knowledge provideds a "subsatute thrill" to feed their adrenalin fix. Some people are free form story gamers, who don't do much that invokes rules, but they enjoy in legnthy conversations with NPCs (this is difficult to keep up with, but provides for much fun).

I like B.

C would be annoying because a lot of notes needed for every casted spell. Just imagine you want to remove a spell which was cast 2 years ago IRL.

Prefer B. The effect is what is removed. Not the effect of 10 people at X distance.
C is ok as well but as Birbin says, can be a bother with keeping notes.

I'm going to say option D. The base level of the spell. a spell shouldn't be harder to dispel if it's been cast at range sight instead of range touch, it should be easier.

Furthermore this option does not involve additional bookkeeping like B & C do. One normally doesn't keep track of casting total or penetration but base level is part of the spell and always available for perusal.

Mmm, wasnt that option B already?


I'd say ideally I would prefer something like (Casting Total - Spell Level + Effect Level)/2. This way, the stronger you are the harder it is to dispell your magic, and the stronger the spell is the harder it is to dispell it, but power put into increasing the range or so on is "wasted" on increasing the breadth and scope of the effect, not its strength. I don't think Penetration should be in the total; it measures how strongly your spells penetrate others', not how strong are your spells. Although I might allow a Mastery towards fortifying your spells with Penetration against dispells.

However, that is rather difficult to apply in practice as it requires noting down the total for every spell and effect, and is lots of math. I think a perfectly good alternative is to treat it based on the spell level, using the locksmith logic above. That's easiest.

Basing things on the casting total is the next-best, for me, as it requires powerful magic to dispel a powerful wizard's spell; it makes no consideration for which spell, but there is actually some nice flavor to that. It requires some extra book-keeping, but gives has a nice flavor.

Basing things on the effect level also makes sense in terms of "wasting" energy on increasing the breadth, but implies more book-keeping and isn't worth it IMHO.

How can basing it on the effect level be extra book-keeping compared to having to write down casting total for every spell used?
Using effect level is the least "book-keepy" because there you dont have to know anything except what the effect is, ie. near-ZERO book-keeping(essentially no extra because you will be noting what a PC or NPC is affected by anyway).

Apart from that, yes your preferred method or similar would be nice, but is a bit more complicated indeed.

Or if using effect level as base, you could allow raising the effect level without changing the effect.
OTOH, that moves book-keeping to the "must note down at least one extra number" level, same as using casting total. Still, might be a good idea. Hehe, maybe an optional Ability that acts as PM for your spells... :mrgreen:

It's more book-keeping than than the simplest option...

Using effect level is more book-keepy than using spell level since you have to note both the effect level and the spell level for each spell on a character sheet. That's not too much of a trouble, but still.


My preference would be for A, largely because it involves lots less record keeping. You only need to know what spells people are affected by, not how those spells were cast.

On the other hand, I would encourge the use of CrVi (or maybe ReVi) spells to make a cast spell more dificult to dispell. Which I think captures the advantages of your option C. So in your example Gandalf can cast a kind of magical shield over his spell, which needs to be dispelled before the shielded effect can be dispelled. Whether you can do this with the RAW or whether you need a new guideline is another matter.

You have to do that when you create the spell anyway...

But not when you write the spell down on your character sheet or learn it form text or so on. Really, it's about having two relevant numbers instead of one for each spell.

Thank you very much for your learned opinions.
To sum up, it seems that flavour-wise, it would be nice to have some spells harder to dispel if a powerful magus cast them, but not at the expense of more book-keeping generally. Ease of use to us as players wins out over verisimilitude.

I think I will go with the suggestion that a powerful magus could make his/her spells more complicated than they need to be (harder to dispel/alter) if they want to, but most don't bother.

I'd like to use a trade-off between casting total and trickiness (eg spell level only 10, casting total 57, leaving 47 pts to be used for either penetration or trickiness. Original option C, but your opinions have swayed me that this would be too much messing with formulaic spells.

So, I'll stick with the official rules, option A: Tytalus the Awkward casts 'No talking' on a grog, but puts extra effort into making it tricky by either inventing a higher level spell to achieve the same effect (not worth it) or by spontaneously casting it at a higher level.

Thank you all, again. Feel free to continue the debate...