Setting Variant: Occluded Realm Identity


With more tests of current typing limitations comes more variants. This has been on my mind for years now, and it might not be for you. So:

Realms are Only a Theory, a Magic Theory

Magi theorize about there being four realms, but it is just theory. Standard Hermetic Magic can in no way distinguish one Realm from another. Any spell or other other Hermetic effect that affects or detects or otherwise interacts with one supernatural Realm interacts the same way with all of them:

  • Demon's Eternal Oblivion affects angels, faeries and Puff the Magic Dragon
  • A Hermetic effect can detect that something is a supernatural being, subject to possible resistance or manipulation, but not what Realm it is from.
  • Magic Foci that cover only beings from one Realm are not valid. This will make some foci unavailable.
  • Hermetic Magic can still cover other subsets of supernatural beings. For example, a focus in Elementals remains possible, although there is no guarantee that all elementals covered are of the Magic Realm.
  • Merinita magi believe they have a superior understanding of Faerie, and their House Virtue allows them to create magical effects to detect Faeries and Faerie Auras, to only affect Faeries (or supernatural beings that are not Faeries), have Faerie-specific foci, and so on. It is likely that some non-Merinita magi suspect Merinita are dangerously deluded. Fortunately, the Order and Quaesitors generally accept Merinitan Faerie expertise.
  • Other virtues allow exceptions for other realms. For example, magi with Holy Magic can create magical effects to detect Divine beings and Auras, to only harm Divine beings (or supernatural beings that are not Divine, ie are unholy), have Divine-specific foci, and so on. The Order does not officially recognize the superior discernment of Holy Magi (or magi with other, similar virtues) or their purported superior holiness.
  • Although InVi cannot detect an Aura's Realm, it can detect an Aura's stability, which is reported as the number of botch dice it inflicts. This replaces existing guidelines that detect Aura type at the same level of difficulty.
  • Instead of detecting an Aura's magnitude, InVi can detect how much an Aura improves Hermetic Magic, reported as a bonus or penalty. This replaces existing guidelines that detect Aura magnitude at the same level of difficulty.

These rules affect the setting.

For example, a magus confronted with a supernatural being urging him toward conflict cannot simply cast DEO at it to decide if a demon is urging him toward sin, and cannot easily determine if this is a faerie interested in provoking a story or a Magic being just doing its thing, but must instead deal with the situation on its merits. Various Lores (Divine, Infernal...) and Abilities can help.

For example, a magus cannot absolutely be sure he is in an Infernal Aura. But he might infer this by seeing that the Aura is imposing penalties to his magic and is adding botch dice, and by noticing that everyone's temper is on edge.

Additional option: Holiness is as Much about the Perceiver as the Perceived

Maybe later. I know what I want here, but it needs to be written with delicacy and precision.




I've not throroughly checked how this works with some special auras, but at least with "basic" ones it seems the two guidelines together allow the magus to immediately infer Aura type.
Bonus and no instability? Magic.
Bonus and instability? Faerie.
BIG penalty compared to instability (-3 for every botch die)? Divine.
Smaller penalty compared to instability (-1 for every botch die)? Infernal.
Is this intended?

1 Like


Yes, but only to a degree, because it keeps magi from getting too comfortable and also allows GMs to every now and then throw in a location that breaks the usual Aura rules. We then have a situation in which magi infer the existence of four Realms because most places seem to fall into four patterns (although there is much room for skeptical magi to even doubt how well this phenomenon has been studied), yet cannot prove the meaning behind those patterns.




Until this comment, I could not see the benefit of blurring the Realms existence.

So if I understand well, you want to remove the certainty of the four Realms, which in turn is a proof in itself of existence of the Divine and the Infernal. Thus magi might not have real faith (in the official paradigm), since "they know" - You don't have faith, John Constantine, you know.
However, with magic being unable to label with certitude the realm and aura origin, it becomes a matter of culture, personal conviction and experience instead of proof.

Divine remains a true mystery and a matter of faith, but the Truth might even be different, leaving the possibility of the ST to brew something different.
For example, setting a world where belief could define reality, which in turn would means that all the past gods and dead pantheons DID exist but where replaced by "stronger" or more popular belief.
Something like that would allow to expand the Ars magica world beyong Mythic Europe, without having to find convoluted ways (Faeries pretending to be gods for example and misleading a whole civilisation) to fit in past or existing culture but declaring their believes "wrong" or invalid because of the underlying Primacy of Christian God.

I don't know if it is what you had in mind ?

I am always looking for ways to expand Ars Magica to other time periods and regions, but struggle to accommodate Indian or Chinese culture with the monotheist God primacy that is one of the core tenant of Ars background.


One odd semi-tangential piece I see here is one can design spells to affect only one class of things relatively arbitrarily. For instance if my canine-focused maga designs a spell to transform any animal into a bird her focus does not apply in the lab but if she arbitrarily restricts it to transforming canines into a bird it will and she can invent it easier. Why couldn't a DEO spell be designed to affect only "demons"? Sure, it might also affect a faerie playing the role of a demon in your alternate ruleset but that's cool too as the distinction may be too fine to bother with for most demon hunters.

I would consider having the 3 other realms impacting identically. I think I'd choose -1 for every level of the aura, and +1 botch dice per level of the aura.

Maybe have detectability limited to "magic" "faerie" and "other", which is typically explained by teh deceptive capabilities of the infernal, but need not always b the case.

A couple of things, from a player's point of view. I've had a storyteller who made realms relatively opaque in the past. He still used the four realms, but what I mean is that he would sometimes answer Realm Lore checks by providing no known facts and more speculations - This could be a faerie, it could be a magical being, it could be a demon. There could be legendary beings existing separately in several realms, or accross realm borders (e.g. magic might but of faerie descent). This, from my perspective, is relatively difficult to deal with as a player if you're taking the time to invest your experience in Lore skills and they can't provide you with any answers. Mind you, it's less confusing with the realm transparency for spells because at least your spells are working anyway. My advice is thinking through the metaphysics you want to have in your game if it varies from canon, and not just making things opaque so that you can make stuff up on the fly without bothering about Realm mechanics. A successful Lore check should tell the player whether the creature belongs to a realm, and if so, what kind of power is expected. Don't just make up a weird aura with no explanation. If there's something wrong with the 4 realm theory - either because some creatures are misidentified as belonging to a realm, or because there's a fifth realm or because some creatures and sites can exist at the junction of two realms, determine that before the game. If a player is interested, he may be able to find the answer, but if you're just making stuff up, you will confuse him because you're not consistent and your answers are vague.

To follow up on temprobe comments, instead of Realm Lore, you could have Bestiary, dealing with non-intelligent creatures, Supernatural Beings (intelligent creature) and Mythic Survival (knowledge of landscape and flora, finding ways and such).




Sort of. The entire notion of 'faith' deserves another conversation, since it privileges certain perspectives on religion (eg: faith, not works) over others, and not all believers in Divine religions in ME believe in the primacy of faith.

Yes. Same for demons and faeries. These are all useful categories, but how real are they?

Absolutely. Although I think AM5 (ie David) did us a very good turn in the careful, complex inclusivity of the Divine, which makes for a preferred ultimate truth.

Yes, if a GM wanted that.

I wanted to include that, in a secondary way. My primary purpose is about the AM setting itself. A supernatural being tells a magus to go and do something, and casting Detect Angel (or "If the Buddha meets you on the road, cast DEO at it to be sure") might not be how I prefer magi to resolve what to do.

I also want magi (and mundanes) to have legitimate disagreements about the Divine, and that's hard to do when such questions can be resolved with Intellego. (Or Perdo :slight_smile: )

The ultimate truth perhaps being different was definitely on my mind, but of lesser importance to me...

...but perhaps not to you! In which case this perspective and the rules that go with it might serve you well.

However, you also might want to go further for such a saga, and change what the Aura effects are in a Chinese or Indian centered campaign. The four Realms work reasonably well to describe the supernatural landscape of ME, but India might need something completely different, especially pre-Islamic India, and most importantly (in an India with Hindu religions and Islam) to handle real world sensitivity regarding the relationship among these religions and their ultimate reality.




This has been nagging at me, I admit. However, I think that not all categories are legitimate, such as any for which I cannot cast InX to Detect .

So sure, a magus can create a Detect 'Angel' spell. But what is his idea of 'Angel'? If it's about what the being is thinking or feeling (detect emotion of overwhelming love) then it's not InVi at all, but InMe. If it's about some underlying reality, then magic needs to be able to perceive that reality, and is limited by its Realm.

So I can InAn "Detect Canine" or "Detect Bird" making these legit.

And if I can come up with some distinction that lets me differentiate 'demons' and that Hermetic Magic can detect then sure I can use my 'demon' category. I should note, though, that demons are immune to detection by magic... and I think this should apply even through detection via DEO.

(As an aside, I think there is another subtlety about demons in AM. They are ultimately and totally deluded, and some might not realize they are demons at all, or that they have bad intentions, or that they are damned. It just so happens that everything they get involved with turns out horribly, but it's not their fault! They just need to try harder, and maybe next time....)



(1) I feel that if you want to go in this direction, you might as well treat the Realm Modifiers as guidelines only, for added obfuscation. So the GM could say "This volcano has a high Magic aura, but the magic runs wild here. There is a +5 Realm bonus for spellcasting, but 2 extra botch dice". Characters can still establish what those numbers are with InVi, but cannot use that knowledge to classify the aura in the same way as in the default rules.

(2) One side effect: if the local equivalent of Demon's Eternal Oblivion applies to all creatures with any might at all, it becomes a very powerful spell. Even with three/four different realms to cover those PeVi spells are top level. Maybe you'd want to reduce them in some way.


This is completely in line with my intent! You can have a place of healing that is Divine in all ways except for healing spells of any kind. You can have a place of Infernal Magic that boosts all magic (but provides the usual botch dice representing corruption, of course.) Places of wild magic, places of calm magic.

Slight changes to 'natural law' also make sense for wondrous places, and maybe should be the rule rather than the exception. If a place has an Aura, what is different about it?

Hmm. I thought about this, and decided that I didn't care. The gain in applicability (I can target an avenging angel with the same spell as a vengeful demon!) is compensated by a loss of specificity (oops, I mistook an avenging angel for a vengeful demon.) But I can see how some people might.



You could, in principle, also restructure the realms so that angels and demons both belong to a moral realm where the happen to be on opposite teams, the same way that Muslims and Catholics are on opposite sides of the crusades while they are ultimately all part of the mortal realm.