Should Individual Target be clarified?

The discussion of Personal Range has raised problems with Individual Target. These may not need to be clarified, but they may, so this is a separate thread to discuss them.

The problem is: What does Individual include?

Because Americans are prudish about nudity, it has to include clothes. Otherwise, a spell to affect a person and their clothes needs to be T: Group, which is ten levels higher, and people around magi will end up naked, at least briefly, fairly often. Bad! Bad!

And so it includes armour. But does it include a backpack? A backpack with a doll in it? A backpack with a baby in it? A backpack with a pig in it? A backpack with a side of bacon in it? A mecha?

The current standard does seem to have worked, and it hasn't mattered much that different troupes resolve the edge cases in different ways. Do we need to make it clearer, or are we OK as things stand?

Some of the discussion of Personal suggests that we might need more clarity, but I am not entirely sure. First, please make your case for why we do or don't need more clarity. If it becomes clear that we do, we can then discuss how it should be clarified.

Actually, it's perfectly within the Ars Magica paradigm: "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." Clothing, more than a separate item, is a metaphysical quality of the Individual wearing it.

Yes, as long as the backpack is "really" a backpack. Attaching two straps to a hut won't make it a backpack.

A backpack with a doll in it?


A backpack with a baby in it?

No. Or rather, the backpack is encompassed by the Individual who carries it. The baby is not, as if it were carried in a kangaroo's pouch (ok, anachronistic example) or in a wolf's mouth.

A backpack with a pig in it?

No. The pig, like the baby, is its own Individual.

A backpack with a side of bacon in it?

Yes. Now the pig has crossed the slight but important threshold that makes it equipment (namely, provisions) of the character carrying it. For example, I think that eventually, the bacon might form some sort of arcane connection to the carrier, but the pig never will (barring special circumstances, e.g. becoming a familiar).

A mecha?

Yes, because a mecha is a giant suit of armour. Let me add:

An outstretched staff or whip?

Yes, part of a character's apparel. Notwithstanding the fact that in 3rd and 4th edition it may have fallen outside of a magus' Parma (though I find no such reference in 5th edition).

All the above, of course, in my opinion (though I feel pretty confident my troupe would see it the same way). Please note that I am not trying to say what is "right", but to contribute my own view to the global consensus for the "perimeter" of an Individual - noting that pairs of extremely close edge cases, one within and one outside of the perimeter, are inevitable

I think they are ok as they stand. I think that clarifying that the perimeter of an Individual coincides with that of its MR might help, but I also think that maybe some people do not see it that way, in which case living it vague would be better.

My concern in the other thread when I spoke of the R: Per T: Ind Sling of Vilano that shot a group's worth of sling stones on your person was not with the wording of T: Ind. My concern was that you introduced elements in your range definition that would end up changing what T: Ind and T: Part did in the context of R: Per. While it's fine in the definition of a range to say which targets are valid, you shouldn't clarify at all what the specific targets do there, because if you do so, you end up changing how the targets work in the context of that range. My problem was with that sentence:

  • The Form of the spell may mean that not everything within Personal range is affected, but a Part Target is needed to deliberately exclude some valid targets.

This seemed to both allow spells that would traditionally been R: Touch to become R: Per, rendering many spells suboptimal, as well as defaulting spells that might have been R: Touch T: Group to R: Per T: Ind by virtue of changing what T: Ind and T: Part do in the context of a personal spell (you no longer need to be a valid target for your own spell too, so long as your inventory is). Throwing a group of rocks, for example, would normally be R: Touch, T: Group, but since anything you pick up becomes inventory, it's no longer the case so long as you avoid carrying rocks elsewhere on your person.

In my view, range definitions shouldn't clarify how targets work, and targets shouldn't clarify how the range work, unless you really want to invent a T: Personal that is.


Clothes make the man.

Ignoring requisite:

  • habit makes the monk,
  • shackles make the prisonner,
  • crown makes the king,
  • talisman makes the magus.

Do you want to use the Corpus platonic ideal, the Role platonic ideal, or some grey in between?
Can you change your POV and blink an army 100 paces back while leaving their hand-held spear behind?
What about a mob of serf, would they keep their agrarian tools used as weapons?

1 Like

To me a backpack is part of individual while strapped on the back and carried around (even if momentarily still). If a giant can carry a hut strapped to their back like a cheap knock off of Babba Yaga's hut, it counts.
A baby is clearly a separate individual of the same type.
A pig or other animal might depend on size- a baby pig being carried around in a backpack could be included, the same way a fly or beetle in the backpack was included. An adult pig might weigh more than the person being affected and would likely render the backpack impossible to carry.

I would consider a baby might be part of personal. If the baby was nearly always carried by the person casting the spell, personal seems fair.

A backpack to be personal, for my reckoning has to be reasonably portable. If the backpack is filled to the brim with treasure to the point the magi can't walk a mile, it's not personal. So I think my position is similar to Silveroak's.

For more examples. If someone indulged in Falconry, if nearly all the time the falcon was on their shoulder or arm fine. Good luck with that though, it's a heavy bird. It's much more likely it wouldn't be affected by personal as most of the time it would be flying. A familiar who is a falcon on the other hand, I'd consider personal would work when it is perched on the magi's arm or shoulder.

To the question in the original post.

I think we are OK.
It's early to suggest this is pointless, but just like wound penalties with spells, personal range, I can't see a general consensus coming about. I want to be clear, I'm not criticising anyone. I'm saying there are opinions which differ enough and have enough justification for their position, I consider it would be challenging for Dr Chart to write an errata which satisfies most people.

1 Like

We (me as alpha/beta-SG and my players) never had any significant issues with Individual Target. Between the fact that formulaic spells need to be designed with a clear purpose in mind and mages have the option to spont' cast, there was enough reasons not to stretch/rule-lawyer a spell to squeeze something out that sounded borderline.

For example, the case of the Vilano's Sling (with or without casting requisit): the intent is to throw a projectile to a target to hurt her, not to strip her of her clothes or to use her clothes has a medium to throw her around. So regardless of the spell level, we would not allow it to happen: it was not the spell intent.

So because we put the spell intent first, when there was case of "Well, technically, with this Arts combo, this spell *could" do XXX", if XXX was not part of the spell design, and not obvious from the initial intent, then you are welcome to spont' on the spot a similar spell, but the formulaic spell won't work.

Then, when a spell would be designed, we would spell out the intent "I want this spell to tear off people cloth", or "I want to be able to control the clothes of this person to move her at my will". That would be two different spells.
I am sure other Saga have different views on that point.
However, that's how we adjudicated borderline cases, by trying as much as possible to front-load intent, thus culling later on potential deviation of the initial intent (but smart use of spells was encouraged). Including defining was "T:Ind" is supposed to include.

On top of my head, the most challenging bit was ruling on the spot TP spells and what could the person carries. The rule of thumb (so house rule, not core), was her clothes (armor included), and anything that would not be encumbered. So if she was in metal armor, nothing else since she was already encumbered or a light backpack would be ok, a heavy backpack nope, improve your spell. A baby (even her own baby) nope - T:group is for that case, etc.

Mages are powerful enough, no need for more freebies.

Morevore, by being a bit more strict on the spell "flexibility", it was giving added value to specific virtues (FFM, Boosted magic, ...).
So, I don't see the need to clarifiy Individual target, at most illustrate them with a few spells to exemplify the intent being the definition.


That's a dangerous question. There are different kinds of clarity, and not all kinds are welcome. I dare not vote to make it clearer, in the fear of a kind of clarity which makes the game unplayable.

Clarity in the form of detailed definitions is the wrong kind. More detail than we can reasonably remember leads to having to consult the books too often.

More exemplars to illustrate general principles is a better approach; they are easier to remember and easier to extrapolate from. This was the 3ed approach.

Speaking of details, I do not think the main challenges of individual targets concern the target in isolation, but rather the interplay with requisites and the interpretation of targets for specific forms.

To me there is a difference between a pig fully contained in a closed backpack, and a pig sitting with its head out. There is also a difference between an anatomical rucksack allowing athletic endeavours, and a pack which the person can barely lift. Anything more encumbering than armour should probably not be allowed.

Thinking of the child in the rucksack, there should arguably there should be a difference depending on the kind of spell. A sleep spell affects only the person, and the rucksack is irrelevant. Having it apply to the child in the sack is just abusive. A teleportation spell, on the other hand, applies to the person with what he wears. The child just happens to be part of the rucksack, and remains within it.

This wasn't a problem in 3ed which relied fully on exemplars. It has been made a problem in 4ed and 5ed, not by not being clear enough, but by being too clear. Attempting to make a propositional system of clear guidelines and formulæ, we have created an illusion that any question can be unambiguously resolved within the system. It was a good idea, but in hindsight it is tedious and incomplete.

I'd personally prefer to reform American society , but I accept that this is (probably) a task of a larger magnitude than "just" reaching agreement on this forum. :wink:

This is not actually a given. Though I would agree that it does. for 13th century armour.
How about the 'wings' worn by the polish hussars? I'd be less happy to include them as part of the same Individual.

No. Too big.
Just like the sword worn at your hip of the staff in your hand. They extend beyond you. They are not part of you.

The above solves that, no?

Mostly fine.

Interestingly enough, I find myself being somewhat more restrictive with T: Ind in the context of R: Per than otherwise, though.

Sign me up as an ally in the campaign to reform America. However it is probably well beyond the tasks that can be accomplished in this forum.

As to the question of whether we need greater clarity find myself uncertain. I tend to believe that greater clarity is always a good thing but I tend to have a much stricter usage of "need" than most people as well. I cannot envision any perspective where such clarity rises to the point of being an actual necessity.

That is a question of the organization of rules. This should be answered by the editor - be it of errata or a new rules text.
The separation of errata for R: Personal and T: Individual might indeed improve both brevity and clarity.

The biggest issue I have seen with target individual in terms of clarity has to do with targeting things that are inherently articulate- dust dirt, sand, water, air. certainly a cloud can be target individual but what defines the boundary of an individual air whatever if you are effecting standard air. Even with size modifiers, is it limited by the horizon? Do you have to use a larger magnitude spell hat potentially covers less total volume like circle or room to define it?

We hit a similar issue working on the Fan Grimoire when spells are targeting "air" to turn it into something else. No a specific phenomenon, just "air". A majority ruled to allow it with Part, but I am part of the unconvinced one.

1 Like

While there are ways to improve readability without overdefining Individual, I think things are OK.

Theoretically T:Individual allows one to target something a person is wearing by using T:Part (the clothes being part of the individual) when it states "Clothes on a person or moss on a boulder are part of the person or boulder for these purposes", which I understand is not intended. But I don't think this is the interpretation of the majority and I don't think there is much usefulness in trying to define these things as "a part, but not a Part".

It can be noted, however, that maybe the easiest way to solve the R:Personal issue is to take the "things carried or worn" bit out of it and integrating it into T: Individual, essentially keeping clear the division between Ranges and Targets that temprobe suggests:

and that would require some rewording of T: Individual.

I'd leave the definition of what counts as "carried or worn" (and thus the answers to all of your questions about backpacks, babies, pigs and mechas) to each troupe, as it can change from troupe to troupe and situation to situation.

I'd like to know a ruling on being able to target an Individual without affecting that Individual.
The strangeness of worn/mossy items as part (or Part) of the Individual is it allows targeting of small groups as an Individual, if it's worn. A spell to animate clothing can target all the clothes on a person, remove them from the person, and have them dance the Tarantella without the person inside. I cannot use individual to target the same set of clothes bundled into a pile.
Terram can affect inanimate solid objects. That means I can Rego Terram an entire person's worn equipment as an Individual. I kind of don't like that.

Like carrying multiple drinks on a tray, I do not find strange that unitization should things easier to target.

Yes, it's a spell to disrobe that person.

Hmm. No. Because as soon as they are removed, unless they are otherwise "unified" (see below) they cease to be an Individual.

Uh, uhm, I guess it depends on whether you consider a pile of random clothes to be an Individual. Probably not. Though if they are tied together as a makeshift rope? Or if they form a matched set, pyjama-like? I'd lean towards yes.

Sure, because it is that person's equipment. Note the singular!

Since we are discussing what an Individual is, however, I might as well bring up the following conundrum: Is a (matched) pair of boots an Individual, or a Group?

I'd lean towards Individual. Note that a pair of boots is one of the most archetypal enchanted items. "These are Hermetically enchanted boots, so only the left one is actually magical" sounds ... lame :smiley:

In general, I do not think that topological connectedness should necessrily coincide with metaphysical connectedness. So I'd treat a (matched) pair of boots as an Individual, a chain as an Individual, but all the keys on a single keychain as a Group. Do people agree? Disagree? Is this worth clarifying?


I have checked with John Nephew, and have confirmed that reforming American society is outside the scope of my job.

(This is not true. I didn't check with John.)

However, this thread is proving to be a wonderful celebration of the diversity of this forum. I am leaning towards not clarifying, because I suspect it would annoy too many people for too little gain. I could still be persuaded that a small clarification on certain specific points would be useful, but right now I don't see anything specific that is annoyingly obscure at the moment, and would benefit from a clarification.

Feel free to weigh in if you haven't, and thanks for all the commentary so far.


Alas, you should have named this thread "E pluribus unum"!


Useful is a much lower threshold that needed. I would say that further clarification is nearly always useful (though I have noted that there are those who disagree), but whether it is useful enough to be worth the effort is yet another question.