Some [New?.. and possibly persnickity] Newbie Questions

I have recently taken up Ars Magica as a gaming system. I had some exposure to it (without ever getting to play it) in previous editions, but had never really read the rules in any detail. Over the last few weeks, however, I've gotten the chance to read through the core Arm5 book, read a variety of "newbie question" threads on these forums, and read over some sections on Project Redcap in preparation for a Saga I am going to be running for our small "troupe". Overall, I have found the rules to be pretty easy to understand, but there are a few... niggling issues which, while I can certainly wave my hands and make a judgement, I am not comfortable declaring are "RAW" interpretations. I have a history for over customizing my rulesystems 8), and it makes some of our troupe nervous, so I'm making an effort to try to stick to RAW where possible :wink:. It is often the case that questions of this sort can be easily answered with a little bit of searching/and/or reading on the subject. I have made an attempt to do so on my own, but perhaps it is simply an aspect of the depth of the game that simple answers are not simple to find. Anyway, lengthy preamble aside, I'd be grateful to any knowledge folks here could share with regard to these, possibly persnickity, rules questions that seem to have me tweaked.

Can someone with Speak Latin 4 (Spec: Hermetic Usage) write books as if he had a Speak Latin of 5? Can someone with Speak Latin 3 (Hermetic Usage) study books?

If all pagan gods are Fae (or maybe Magic), and Divine Auras basically only exist where there are the faithful, what prevents the forces of the Infernal from overrunning (or corrupting) all the pagan societies in the world? This is particularly interesting for us, because we're looking at using Gotaland circa 940s as our setting, which largely pre-dates the christianization of that region (Southern Sweden). On a [much] less pragmatic, but equally curious matter, what is going on in China vis a vis the Infernal realm?

If a mage begins a combat, for instance, with a staff, but then in a later round decides to cast a spell, what happens to his initiative? It seems like initiative is really more like a "surprise" roll, if you will, abstracting and amalgamating reach and a variety of other factors but quickly devolving into a round robin affair where initiatives do not change. So if my sword was out at the start of the fight, I get an initiative bonus. If not, I don't. That would seem fine until one reads the rules for fast casting. Any clarifications on this issue?

Are there any rules for fighting with two weapons (as opposed to a single weapon and shield)?

Other then the ability to use Heartbeast to break transformation spells, what is the advantage of Heartbeast over the Supernatural trait, Shapechanger (because Shapechanger seems better).

I'm pretty sure I've sussed this out, but for Longevity Rituals, if a magus is performing the Ritual for another, he needs a CrCo lab total of 30+ without regard to what the lab total the ritual was originally designed for. The benefit to the recipient, however, is still the CrCo lab total of the original ritual's developer (at the time he developed it)/5 (or 10 if the recipient is mundane). The case I'm curious about is Person A has a ritual developed for him by Magus B. At a later date (in a different location), the ritual fails, and Person A calls on Magus C to re-perform the ritual. Magus C needs to have a CrCo lab total of 30+, and the necessary vis, resulting in the ritual once more providing Magus B's lab total /5 in bonus (or 10 if Person A is mundane). Is this right?

If you can put 1xp into an ability to avoid the extra botch dice, do you also get to assign a specialization? (pg. 62, each ability you select should be assigned a specialization)...

I'm sure I had some other questions, but I've apparently spaced them, so I'll go with these for now 8). Thanks for any help anyone can provide!

That's certainly the way we've always played it.

This question's a bit trickier, but off-hand I would say that being pagan doesn't necessarily preclude someone from repenting their sins. Additionally, while RoP: TI does state that the infernal can pervert the Faerie & Magic realms, I don't think this would be especially common since the Magic realm is rather distant from humanity and thus the Infernal's target. Similarly, the mutable nature of Faerie would seem to allow them to coexist with the infernal, taking the form of demons and participating in morality tales to obtain vitality.

Sorry, my magi typically leave the fighting to their grogs...

Sort of, the Mamluk Emir described in the Mythic Islam chapter of RoP: TD uses two longswords - the stats used are the same as one longsword, but with an additional +1 to each of: Initiative, Attack, Defense, Damage, Strength and Load...

For starters, Heartbeast is only a minor virtue and hence cheaper. The main benefit, however, is that Hearbeast violates the Limit of Essential Nature - that is to say, a magus who takes cat form actually becomes a cat (as opposed to a human in the shape of a cat) and hence is insusceptible to Corpus and Mentem spells. Likewise, if affected by an ongoing Mentem or Corpus spell, the bjornaer can end it prematurely simply by taking her hearbeast form.

I'm not sure I understand this question :blush:

I can't say for sure (Noble's Parma), but we've always assumed that you need a score in an ability to gain the benefit of an Specialty.

Hehe, well, ok, imagine a Grog starts a fight without a weapon (straight Qik initiative) and then smart little git he is, draws a sword with his first action, what happens to his initiative? Is he now actually harder to beat with a fast cast spell, etc.?

The question is basically three-fold. Is the 30 CrCo lab total limit required for both the developer and the performer of a longevity ritual being conducted on another's behalf? If a longevity ritual is developed for another person, say with a lab total of 40 which subsequently fails, can it be performed for that same person, with the lab texts for that ritual by someone with less then a 40 CrCo total?

Let's see:

"When you use an Ability in a way that incorporates your specialization, you act as if your score were one higher than it actually is" (AM5 p.62). That's a fairly broad wording, and writing or reading a book on Hermetic Magic certainly incorporates Hermetic Usage. So you treat your score as one higher, and so can read with a base score of 3 and write with a base score or 4, specialized in Hermetic Usage of course, IMO.

The Divine may have advantages over other Realms, but I don't remember seeing that the Infernal has any over Magical or Faerie. In other words, the Pagan Gods should be able to kick lower level demon ass, and since most of the Pantheons (but not individual gods, of course) preach a mostly virtuous creed, that should protect the people somewhat from the Infernal. Of course demons could masquerade as pagan gods, but anyone too openly infernal is going to be fought by the other gods and eventually lose his followers, and of course any demon ready to play along for the long haul doesn't do that much damage to begin with.
In China the three great religions at the time (Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism) all emphasize good conduct and morals, while still revering spirits and various gods. So probably the Divine is near to non-existent, but the Infernal should be mostly held in check also.

Technically the initiative is corrected to remove the staff's initiative bonus (and add the effect of the Fast Caster Virtue, if the mage has it), but it is not rerolled. On the other hand, it is probably faster - and therefore more enjoyable to most players - just to stick to the same initiative. Ars magica isn't really a game about detailed, realistic combat anyway...

No rules for fighting with two weapons as far as I know. If you hold two weapons, you just choose which one you swing in a given round. Really, Ars Magica is about magic, not fancy weapon style that no serious fighter used during the period. But I suppose you could jurry rig an appropriate weapon score for sword+dagger or dagger+dagger if you really want to.

It is practically impossible to recognize a Bjornaer in Heartbeast form for anything other than an animal, while a shapeshifter can easily be recognized with a low level InAn or InCo spell (Base 4 for either). Or an InMe spell that will at least reveal it as an intelligent animal. A shapeshifter in animal spell can still be affected by Corpus and Mentem spells as well as Animal, while the Bjornaer can only be affected by Animal spells (so they are far more vulnerable to damage spells, since few magi learn very high level Animal spells.
Finally, a Bjornaer can learn the Mysteries of his House, most of which improve his heartbeast shape, while a shapeshifter is limited to natural shapes.

Lab Ritual, I don't follow you. If your ritual fails and you are happy with just reperforming the old one, all you need is to spend the vis again (well, technically you need to follow the old recipe again, but the amount of time is negligible and only the vis is a significant cost). So if A's ritual fails, A just need (in game terms) to spend the vis again and will once again have an active ritual (see the middle column, last paragraph, on page 101). I think the section on performing a Longevity ritual for someone else is about inventing a ritual for someone else. So if A goes to C, it will be to get a better ritual, which takes a season to invent. C must have a CrCo Lab total of 30+, as did B before him, and the ritual he invent is based on his Lab Total, not B's.

I believe that as soon as you put 1 xp in an Ability you choose a specialization. The rules speak of selecting an ability, and putting an xp in it would seem to qualify, not in have a (non-zero) score in one.

One of the big plusses of heartbeast form over MuCo is that your heartbeast doesn't have to penetrate the Parma of her target magus.

When the ritual fails, person A only needs the vis required to redo the ritual(ie have the same ritual operational again). Person C only needs to be involved if A wants a brand NEW ritual.

I dont think there´s a RAW rule on this.

Not really. The Virtue is Minor instead of Major though. The advantage is what later Virtues you can aquire by being Bjornaer. And as already mentioned, that the transformation is total, so a magi in heartbeast form could for example go places where someone is looking out for people or magi without being noticed.

Not really. The one Gremlin writes i think is the only official one. Its always a problematic thing to include in a game so stick with the offical one or houserule it as best as you can.

Just "Latin", the "speak" part has been dropped. And the answer is probably yes on both accounts.

(me too...) :wink:

As already noted, Infernal simply doesn´t have any edge over Magic or Faerie.

Re: The Longevity Ritual
Perhaps I'm placing too much stock in the wording of the section, but they talk of two distinct actions. Developing the Longevity Ritual and Performing it. It seems to me that a non-gifted person can neither develop nor perform the ritual. So in the case where it fails, that person must get a magus to re-perform it for him. My question is where does the intersection of lab total requirements lie in that situation. Is it a 30 lab total only to develop, or is it a 30 lab total to both develop and perform, or is it a 30 lab total only to perform, and does the performer need to have a lab total => then the original lab total the ritual was developed at?

Welcome Shin!

I agree with the above: initiative is rolled once at the beginning of combat and then exists only in "round robin" fashion thereafter, unless characters switch attack types in which case their initiative is modified by the difference between the old bonus and the new (but not rerolled).

Now fast-casting spells - that's another matter. By RAW, it's far harder to fast-cast a spell against someone who rolled a 12 for Initiative at the beginning of combat than someone who rolled a 1, even if combat began several minutes earlier. That seems dumb to me. I prefer the following rule (which is an optional rule from the Lords of Men supplement): the target makes an Action Priority roll (Quickness + Weapon or Finesse or Whatever Attack Ability they're using - Encumberance + stress die) to set an Ease Factor that the Fast Casting Speed roll (Quickness + Finesse + stress die) must beat. In other words, each Fast Cast attempt is an opposed roll.

I'd say having no familiar is worth a Major Flaw, and that's why Heartbeast looks cheaper.

Although he does appear to be an animal with intelligence and a magic resistance (unless he has gone crazy and lowered his Parma), which although not definitive is strong circumstancial evidence that you are dealing with a Bjornaer. So, if a magus is actively looking for a Bjornaer there is a good chance he can spot it. Of course, the searching magus could be fooled by a Beast of Virtue, or something similar instead.

As others have said, further mysteries and the fact that it is much easier to change form than via Hermetic magic are the main game mechanic advantages of the Bjornaer heartbeast. It can be particularly challenging to change form via Hermetic magic if you are in a Divine aura (due to the penalties to your casting total), it is also (usually) difficult to change via Hermetic magic if you are tied up or mute.

Since we are here:

if mentem cover intelligence, how do you justify that the mind of a bjornaer magus in his heartbeast is covered by animal?

For his physical form, it's animal, truly. But has he really an animal mind? I doubt so - he would have cunning, since even intelligent dragons (animal forms!) have mentem mind.

Eh? Last I check it was Mentem?

I'm not sure if there is an explicit RAW ruling on this. However, I'd say either yes, or possibly even do away with the CrCo requirement for Magus C. The requirement I probably would insist on is Magus C having a readable copy of Magus B's lab notes.

Re-performing a ritual is intended to be easy to do. The requirements implied by the RAW (explicitly and implicitly) as I see it are a) having the vis, and b) knowing how the original ritual was performed. The lab total of Magus C (who may be the same person as Magus A) should only matter when Magus C is re-inventing a new longevity ritual rather than simply sustaining an old one.

This post is full of YSMV and IMO's - use or discard at your leisure.

To my knowledge, just performing the ritual has zero requirements on lab total. As Kid Gloves said.

Yes precisely how I see it to. There are probably a number of reasons why demons would avoid fairy and magic creatures without a good reason.

Creatures of an equal might are going to be fighting in the same weight class so a 50+ fairy is going to be able to throw down with a 50+ demon.Add in the fact that slaying demons is exactly the sort of story some fae are going to eat up, as well as the problem that you can't tell how powerful a fairy is just by looking at it. Many if not most demons are cowards of one form or another and would probably prefer softer targets.

As far as hanging out with faerie gods in order to corrupt them or their follower there are a few issues their to. A demon will probably have an advantage in deception thanks to the Limit of the Infernal but then again creature powers don't always obey Hermetic limits. Also infernal power is penalized in other realms so demons wont want to hang out in them so much. Finally it is also distinctly possibly that a demon who hangs out with faeries and participating in their stories to much might end up becoming a faerie itself. "Coruption" can go both ways.

Finally when a demon corrupts a human be it pauper, peasant, bishop or magi, the pay out is immediate one soul for Satan. Yes a corrupted human can go on to assist the work of corrupting others, but for many demons thats just the icing on the cake. If you put a lot of work into corrupting a faerie there is no pay out just more work. Sure the demon now has the help of a powerful ally, a powerful now thoroughly evil and possibly even resentful ally.

Now that´s a nice point. Could make for an interesting story or ten...

No, it is Animal. See Am5 p.92: "A Bjornaer in Animal form is affected by Animal, not Corpus or Mentem." That does not mean she loses her intelligence, it is an exception to the normal rules about Mentem. It is because the essential nature of a Bjornaer in heartbeast form is that heartbeast's form, entirely.

Let's see... Re: Fae corrupting Infernals, I thought the way that worked is that there would be a fae copy of the infernal? Not that the original infernal would become fae?

Also, the main issue with Infernals in non-christian lands from my perspective was not so much whether the fae/magic gods could stand toe to toe with them, although that is an issue (and people bring up good points that while Infernal magic trumps hermetic magic in many ways, it does not, necessarily, in the model trump all magic or fae powers). The primary issue to me was the following:

etc. Assuming a lack of precise parity in beliefs, there are a multitude of sins which every pagan society would "innocently" conduct on a daily basis. Adultery, Worship of false idols and iconography, blood sacrifice, money lending, etc., etc. All these actions should, it would seem, cause pockets of infernal auras to spring up all over pagan lands. Low level ones, for the most part, but some less so. Pagan laws are not canon law, the stump upon which pagan criminals are executed would be the site of repeated murders. The pole death fights of the vikings would also be construed I think as violent and bloody murders. And so on. The issue with their gods being fae/magic was more that they had no way of cleaning that up. No repentance. No penitence. No redemption. Which is in theory why the Church is so eager to convert people. Or am I missing something?

Re: The Longevity potion
It seems like that section struck me differently from most people. The section that really has me "bothered" is the last paragraph...

this as opposed to earlier in the section where they say...

Now, like I said, maybe I'm reading too much into their usage of the words develop vs. perform. This was the basis of my question. I took the wording "perform" to be the application (or re-application in the case of failure) of the ritual. Requiring merely a lab text of the ritual and the requisite vis and an afternoon. Whereas the development of the ritual was the full season invention process. It seems like I'm the only person who took it this way :/. Assuming I'm right about the distinction they are trying to make, then the question is (or was), if it takes a lab total of 30 to perform, does that same requirement exist for the invention, thereof. And... does having the requisite 30+ absolve you from having to match the lab total of the original text (which it would certainly seem to from my reading). I merely add this description to explain my question. It seems from the answers thus far in this thread, that I'm probably just putting too much stock in their choice of verbage.

It's a laboratory work, thus it needs a season to develop, as any laboratory work, and that's why it's put in that chapter.
Performing it is the same as casting a ritual spell, unless you only need to have the gift, no matter your te/fo combination. Thus you need to handle vis, and your magic theory (or the magic theory of the one performing it) may be a bother on this step.

I'd say essentially what you're missing the basiclly egalitarian way that ArsM treats religion. By the same token that all the monotheistic religions are Divine, all the pagan religions are Magic/Faerie.

Now, if it works better for your saga, you certainly could run a game where all the pagan gods are actually Infernal. You could run a game where Islam and Judaeism are Infernal as well... and find historical medieval beliefs to support that perception. Of course, going down that road, a case could be made that Hermetic magic is also Infernal... and at that point, your saga runs into trouble. By dividing the supernatural worlds into the four realms (Divine, Magic, Faerie and Infernal), Ars Magica creates a setting wherein we can have non-Divine supernatural powers that are not automatically Infernally aligned. A consquence of that is that the pagan gods can be "real" but neither Divine nor Infernal.

More on point, in the case of Infernal Auras, my understanding of them is that "sinful activity" in this case is not defined as "anything the Church says is bad" but rather activities arising from the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Wrath, Envy, Sloth, Lust, Greed (Gluttony) and Avarice. The stump on which pagan criminals are executed is not, necessarily a site of sin and neither is the viking pole death fight... because killing isn't necessarily a sin. In fact, one could argue that the ritualized context of these pagan killings might help prevent them from being committed out of wrath, pride, envy or avarice.