Shapechanging into a swarm, hermetically?

I wonder, would you allow a magus to shapechange into a "swarm" of lesser beings?
Say, a flock of birds, a swarm of vermin etc.? I'm inclined to say yes, using the same guidelines as shapechanging into an insubstantial object (so, MuCo(An) Base Level 30, see e.g. Transform to Water), with the caveat that the swarm must remain a cohesive Group.

Off the top of my head, I wouldn’t allow it. A mage can’t change from a singular Individual to a Group, each equally as much the real magus as the others. You could shapechange into a member of such a group and then control a swarm of others through a ReAn effect, but one and only one member would be the mage themself. If the other controlled bugs were destroyed, no damage would transfer to affect the mage. If just the original bug-mage was squashed, the swarm would simply lose direction, none of the survivors will be promoted into the new mage. Unlike a swarm of multiple individuals, a mage turned into a cloud of mist, crawling blot of darkness, or enormous puddle of strawberry jam is still be formally one entity, if a somewhat squishy one.

If you could change into a group and the members were separated, what would happen when the effect ended? Which one would turn back into the mage?

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I would allow a magus to turn into a swarm, just as he can turn into water or mist.

Can a swarm really always remain cohesive? The important thing here is, that (ArM5 p.131f Transform to Water):

You cannot resume human form if a significant part of your body/water is separated.

If the Muto effect (whether turning you into water, mist or a swarm) expires while you cannot resume human form because being scattered about by winds, people, magic ... you most likely assume the form of the scattered parts of a human corpse, right?

Talk this over with your troupe: such Muto spells are pretty dangerous.

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I'd note that Creo Corpus to make a bunch of something is Group, and Muto Corpus to make something of Individual size bigger than Individual size has been done with extra magnitudes for size. So I would consider using Group here along with the normal MuCo base. I don't know if this is a better way to go or not, just something to consider.

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Yes, exactly, that's what I meant when I quoted Transform to Water. Basically, I see a swarm as not that different, so you should be able to "translate" Transform to Water fairly easily.

I would side with allowing it, including the dangers brought up by OneShot. Spells like this can be very dangerous for the one effected since separating enough of the transformed subject to be lethal can happen by (not normally lethal) accident or effect.

Does that mean that the Swarm Magus could create a personal, group Rego spell to prevent his bits from flying away? If so could he effectively cast it before the transformation?

(Oh, you meant how he stays together? I answered the wrong question and fixed it.)

Since all the insects are effectively him, he controls them. Bits of the swarm will not fly away unless he desires it or are forced to by external forces.

No need. As mentioned the caster controls all the swarm.

Where it gets messy is say the swarm is going through a door and the door is closed with half the swarm on the other side. If the character was a human, bit of a bruise maybe. If the swarm doesn't get back together by duration end, losing half one's body tend to be fatal.

An enemy gets a bunch of 10 grogs to dash in and grab a jar of the swarm and then run in 10 directions. Problems again.

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My issue with such a spell would be one of Essential Nature:
The mage is a single Individual, a single cohesive whole that only works together when all the parts are together.
A swarm is a Group of independent creatures that aren't physically connected. If your left finger is not connected to you, it is not natural for you to control it - powerful magic would need to be involved to control it when separated.

Even assuming that Individuality/Group is somehow a property that Muto can affect, I can't even imagine the base level of effect, and strongly suspect it can't be less than a Ritual to be this spell.

Even the transform to water spell, transforms the single body of Corpus into a single body of water. It is just a property of water that it can be easily separated and recombined.

Addenda: Wouldn't the simplest form of this hypothetical swarm spell be turning a Human into a swarm of Humans? Work through the problems this instant cloning spell would entail, then apply to spells that turns a human into a swarm of other creatures.

We do have a core book spell that lets you become two beings simultaneously controlled by you: Inmost Companion.

I am not certain that is good example, peculiar as the spell is.
Ezzelino seems to be looking for a MuCo spell to convert your singular body into a swarm multitude, while Inmost Companion is a MuMe spell that allows your normally-intangible Mind to separate physically from your Corporeal body, while still remain in control.

In effect, still a single Mind and a single Body, which is part of the essential nature of a human being.

Maybe, just maybe, if you could use Rego magics to separate a human being into its component parts, with Muto (unless it is Creo) giving these separate parts the ability to live independently, then Muto on the Group of body parts to convert them into swarming creatures. Then either the bit the Mind is associated with uses Rego to control the Swarm, or MuMe has been used to disassociate the Mind from the Body as a whole while remaining in control of the disassociated body.

So much complication it should be a Ritual, if it works at all.

I would agree with you were it not for the spell that transforms a human into water.

I dont think that it is a valid counterargument to say that you transform one individual of human into one individual of water. The reason why I dont agree with your argument is that I dont think that there is any such thing as one individual of water. Hermetically speaking an individual of water is "an amount" usually measured either by volume or surface area/circumference depending on whether you conjure liquids out of thin air or target natural bodies of water.

However even these liquids arent individuals in the sense that a person is an individual and thus the comparison is not valid.

To me a human transforming into water is a pretty good analogy of a human transforming into a whole bunch of swarming creatures.

It took me awhile to get the rule book in front of me.
I think we are getting the various meanings of "individual" confused with "single body".

During the Transform to Water spell MuCo(Aq)40, the body of the spell caster as a single person, philosophically an individual and Hermetic target = Individual, is transformed into a (implied single contiguous) volume of water (also Hermetic target Individual for Aquam), whose size is directly related to the spell caster's weight.

When in water form, the spellcaster's spell allows them to hold their individual self together, (apparently implied automatically) resisting water's natural tendency flow everywhere and separate easily, to a degree that the spell description says that a noticeable effort is required by another person to separate portions of this "body" of water. (Surface tension as great as the strength of skin?)
There is nothing in the spell description stating that the spellcaster can voluntarily separate into smaller droplets/puddles, let alone simultaneously control the separated parts (even to reconnect). The only bit in the spell description regarding a "separated" body of water, is that the spellcaster cannot resume human form if a significant portion is no longer attached. It is ambiguous as to whether this means just when the spellcaster wishes to resume human form, or also when the Sun Duration ends.

I am not seeing the analogy to a swarm.

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While I cannot see the analogy to a flock of birds or a school of fish, there are some well-known, modern lines which applies to swarms of insects. There is the idea of swarm intelligence, modelled on observations of insects behaving as if the swam had a single controlling brain. Cosmologies have been designed where the swarm as a single entity makes sense. Whether they are compatible with Mythic Europe is a different matter, of course.

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A wizardly beekeeper sounds like an excellent character concept.

The Lion and the Lily has virtues for a mythic bee king ^^


Especially in Hibernia where the custom is to give gifts of honey, and every covenants tries to develop honey to impress their sodales.

Bee keeping is a very important skill you will find historically in monasteries because having bees provides both an increase in crop production and access to very high quality wax. Things that are useful to monasteries historically would also often be useful to Ars Magica Covenants.

The wax is used for much more than just candles. Writing tablets, water proofing, sealing documents/bottles, the list is rather long.

And of course you get honey, which is a sweetener but also very useful medical item. It has been used by most of the ancient Med cultures to keep wounds from going septic.

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Not to mention making mead...