Spell Series: Fun with Log10

Here’s a thing that’s been tossed around my troupe for a while now. One of the least appreciated facts of the spell creation guidelines, we think, is that Group is a set of up to 10 individuals and this multiplies by 10 for each additional magnitude. A few of these have been the stock in trade for our examples of how to break AM for ages, some are more recently as it’s been coming up a fair bit in conversation lately, and we’d thought sharing might be fun. These spells showcase the... unique results... of taking exponential scaling in the spell creation rules to their logical conclusion, and in doing so completely violate the central rule of spell creation!

Of course, there are some ground rules. A spell that breaks a system as cool as Ars Magica’s must do it with style.
1) They must have a rather silly result. While destroying a city in a rain of fire or flooding a valley is impressive, it feels cool and plausibly medieval for a powerful magical effect to do that. These spells should generally show how odd the scaling is with utterly inappropriate effects such as, I don’t know, constructing a sand castle the size of France.
2) They should usually emphasize the potentially underappreciated fact about Ars Magica that pretty much any focused specialist can end the world or utterly change it in a few spells if they try really hard at their chosen field. Even melon-farming.
3) They should not be rituals, if at all possible, and so should be exactly level 45 or less (ideally 30 to make them easily used with minimal fatigue even with a starting character who isn't optimised much at all). Formulaic spells utterly changing the face of history and nations once per combat round is more impressive than a ritual for demonstrating this effect. Some amusing rituals may be included that are levels 80-100 simply because they are great, and quite doable for a focused elder magus, even if they cost vis and take marginally longer.
4) Whether explicitly discussed or not, unless completely impossible there should be a simple and obvious solution to the mechanical problem, such as reducing or removing exponential scaling of targets or modifying how base targets are reckoned. It's not nearly as fun or wacky to make spells that highlight major, insoluble flaws.

The three key features of these spells currently being displayed are:
1) Exponential scaling. If you can do something at base level 5-15, you can do it 100k to 1 million times more at levels 45, which isn't even that hard in the grand scheme of things.
2) Silly base targets. Several animal and herbam spells imply you create some things by weight, while giving absolutely generous max individual targets as if you were intended to create one individual thing. (Creo-ing things by weight rather than ideal unit also isn’t very Platonic and should be avoided if possible, although it's usually pretty unavoidable with undifferentiated continuous base matter like Terram or Aquam.)
3) Part Target + Size to affect continuous material forms such as Terram or Aquam in 90% of situations outclasses Boundary Target + Size, and can be arbitrarily shaped without being a viable target for any other category. While it's rather minor, without this dodge, it would be significantly harder to affect all of europe rather than merely a duchy or two with the upper levels of hermetic magic. (Removing this dodge would make it nearly impossible to affect seas or oceans with reasonable aquam spells, however, and it's not at all a simple issue to fix)

The fun part: Quite literally every single one of these effects was discovered accidentally by the authors while messing around with spell systems and realising that a level 20 spell with a cute group target effect could be bumped up to a 45 and have 100,000x the cute effects. In fact, the story of John Melitturgus of Jerbiton mostly actually happened (but the spell was never cast in a game- it’s just that the mistake on how targets/sizes work did happen). (Although the fearsome magic of the Societas Peponis sadly is just an in-joke, such spells don't exist in-saga.)

Produco Nimbum Magnum Apium (A Spell for Summoning a Significant Number of Bees)
Creo Animal atque Rego eadem, level 45 [magnitude 9]
Range: Touch
Duration: Diameter
Target: Group (Size +3)

This spell was created by Iohannes filius Porphyrii Ierbitonis Melitturgus, a hermetic bee-keeper (stranger things have happened) who took a short detour in his middle years from doing Rego waxwork to learn some self-defence with the Ars Creandi. Since he was already skilled in Animal magic and bees in particular, he decided to create a powerful spell to summon a large swarm of bees to defend himself, with terrifying consequences. Iohannes figured 10,000 bees would be enough- a small hive’s worth.

However, this spell turns out to create an utterly infeasible amount of bees: it creates 10,000 base targets. As a welsh pony weighs about 500 pounds (the animal base guideline) or pig weighs about 200 pounds (some p.117 CrAn spell guidelines imply this is the base) and a bee weighs approximately 10 ounces per 1,000 individuals, this spell creates approximately 50 billion bees which erupt out of the entire exposed area of the body of the caster in waves, creating a cloud of solid bee almost precisely 20 paces in radius, which will rapidly spread out subsequently.

The bees are under the mental control of the caster, who can upon creation direct them to do whatever sort of thing comes to them when 50 billion bees are available. Bees given an order cannot be given new orders without a Rego Animal spell cast at them as a +1 Requisite is probably insufficient to fully mentally control them. Hermetic magic is frequently fire-and-forget, so decide carefully. Bees created by this spell vanish in 2 minutes, so you can have out at maximum 19 times this number of bees if you cast constantly without becoming fatigued, or a swarm of nearly 1 trillion bees. This swarm should generally be capable of reaching anywhere on a battlefield and able to fly over castle walls and into towns within this time.

In addition to being an utterly terrifying and silly spell, this spell would likely cause and/or imply a mathematical revolution in the order of hermes in order to create numbers to describe its effect in the lab text, or else how was its effect composed?

If you are going for sustained swarm numbers, rather than immediate response to something, another level 45 version with Diameter: Moon, Target: Group (Size +1) will summon only 50 million bees but for an enduring period. This produces up to 150 billion bees per hour of work. A dedicated Apiomancer could summon 6 trillion bees in a 40 hour work-week, which could literally blanket entire nations and would probably be noticeable by everyone in an entire tribunal in practice since they will not stand end-to-end in a carpet but will spread out to do the Apiomancer's bidding (although what precisely that is is admittedly unclear).

A level 60 ritual version with locusts could be quite nasty, capable of exterminating all human life in mythic europe due to cancelling the next harvest and eating all vegetation continent-wide. But that wouldn't be nice.

Another level 60 ritual version would be permanent and thus gain +4 size magnitudes (+1 from momentary, +3 from increased level). Two of these will be spent on 2 more magnitudes of Rego Requisite (now 15 entire levels of Rego requisite based magnitude, similar to Rego Animal 15 Utterly Control An Animal). This should theoretically give 1 trillion magical bees permanently under the caster's absolute mental control at the cost of some vis.

Note that botch reduction is vital with this spell so as not to be surrounded by billions of magically enraged bees. However, your powerful grasp of animal should grant you at least +5 form bonus soak so it may be impossible for a bee to sting you as your skin is as resistant as leather scale armour and your bees may not be able to penetrate your own parma.

(Creo Animal 5 (Create Insect [1 Base Target of Bees]) + 1 Touch Range + 1 Diameter Duration + 2 Group Target + 3 Size [10,000 targets] + 1 Rego Requisite))

Nota Bene: As odd as it is, base targets for vermin in the corebook clearly work off of mass in Animal, as the weaver's trap of webs and curse of the ravenous swarm spells show. I personally believe summoning vermin should summon them by the swarm or hive, or set of webs for products, not the ponyweight.

QUO... SUNT.... OMNES? (A Spell Which Will Find Persons)
Intellego Corpus, level 80 (magnitude 16) [RITUAL]
Range: Touch
Duration: Momentary
Target: Boundary (Size: +9)

[Yes, these are supposed to not be rituals, but this was just too much fun. It’s also purposefully overengineered and impractical.]

This spell senses all pertinent information about all human beings on one continent (about the area of the Roman Empire- +1 more magnitude will affect all of Mythic Europe using 'the Known World- the Sahara, the Urals and the Indus' or something similar as a boundary) as long as you can find a boundary relevant- the shorelines are a pretty good bet for part of the boundary, or 'the entire Mediterranean' to find someone at sea. You can learn the exact height, weight, sex, humoural balance, skin colour, eye colour, hair colour, health status, and more with this spell. As long as you know who you're looking for, you can find anyone's location, as well as all of their utterly identical twins, as long as you know enough about them. Casting this spell forcelessly will also reveal to you all Magic Resistance in Europe by the blank spots in your information. And at the same time it will prevent you from violating the Code of Hermes harder than was thought possible as you avoid scrying on every single one of your sodales in one go.

It's a lot of vis, but there are some theoretical uses. Maybe you have to find out where a person is in all of the Muslim world, without an Arcane Connection. For 16 Corpus Vis, it's not too unreasonable. Failing to find them proves they have magical protection, but probably all of their known associates don't so you should still know roughly where they are. It could also be useful for demographic investigations of the mundanes, should the King of France want a census done and is willing to pay 50 Vis worth of magical resources or something for your trouble (maybe rights to a royal forest full of magic for a generation or something). Using it on commission is hardly the least of your worries about the Code of Hermes with this spell.

(Intellego Corpus 10 (Know All Pertinent Facts About Someone's Body) + 1 Touch Range + 4 Boundary Target + 9 Size)

Mismaking the Map for the Territory
Creo Animal atque Aquam, level 100 (Magnitude 20) [RITUAL]
Range: Touch
Duration: Momentary
Size: Group (Size: +14)

This spell creates a 1 to 1 scale map of mythic europe, coating the entirety of your campaign setting in sewn-together sheets of parchment. The detail is down to the character’s knowledge of maps, so it may not reflect cartographic reality without appropriate finesse and philosophiae (geography) checks unless Intellego and Terram requisites are included to have the spell detect what it will be overlaying and have the ink display that (probably requiring another +2 magnitudes for requisites as well).

(Creo Animal 15 (Create Treated Animal Product) + 1 Touch + 2 Group + 14 Size + 0 Necessary Requisite (Aquam for Ink))

Grandinat Melopeponibus (A Societas Peponis Battlefield Weapon)
Creo Herbam, level 30 [magnitude 6]
Range: Sight
Duration: Concentration
Target: Group (Size +3)

The Societas Peponis, an Ex Miscellanea group of herbalists who grow magical melons, was tired of being made fun of. They had seen that they were the go-to example of "Not all magical skills are equally valuable — if you waste all your virtues and training learning to be a hedge wizard Ex Miscellanea melon farmer, you won't be as good as other mages." Infuriated, the members of the Societas Peponis created this series of spells to prove they were at least as deadly as a Perdo Corpus or Creo Ignem specialist, if not even more so. This spell was created to destroy entire massed formations of troops threatening the melon fields of the Melon Lord of the covenant Peponica Magna.

This spell creates 10,000 melons one pace in diameter (base target size) in some kind of group formation over an area, usually a 100 by 100 square with each separated by an arm’s breadth, 4 storeys up. This is dropping projectiles equivalent in weight to perhaps 800 elephants or well over a thousand of cow, which will probably bludgeon any formation of men underneath to death. Damage is probably about +15. Unfortunately, the spell must realistically be sight range as you don't want to drop 4000 tons of projectiles packed within your own voice’s range.

Concentration is held until impact, then the projectiles are dissipated with losing concentration, leaving a completely empty battlefield besides the shattered corpses of the enemy. This spell can also utterly destroy an average village, punching through peasants' homes and inflicting massive casualties.

(Creo Herbam 1 (Create Plant [1 Base Target of Melon]) + 3 Sight Range + 1 Concentration Duration + 2 Group Target + 3 Size)

Notes: This spell probably is already dubious, but it’s well worth thinking about why. Example Creo Herbam spells imply you must create plants into a sensible location for them, or at least into your hand- you shouldn't create them in midair. This would also prevent Creo Animal elephant bombs.

However! You can still do these, presumably, (based on MuTe[Re]10 the Crystal Dart) with +1 magnitude as a Creo Rego-que spell to create on the ground and then fling the created object, though no spell guidelines exist for animal or herbam movement in that sense (corpus has some guidelines for levitation, so it stands to reason using Rego to levitate plants and animals should also be possible). They would have had to be aimed anyway if you're creating them hovering over the target, so it's not a big loss.

One may also argue it cannot create melons that are 1 pace in diameter naturally, in which case it should instead create however many normal melons are needed. From a height they'd still be deadly. Or it could use extra magnitudes for 'unnatural size', like how unnatural properties take extra in aquam or auram spells. There are similarly no guidelines for making a winged rabbit or an antlered dog or other unnatural animals compared to a normal hawk or cow, nor guidelines for unnatural plants, but it sounds reasonable. I'd generally say unnatural Creo spells require at least one extra magnitude, but thousands of cows worth of hard-exterior projectiles filled with water (a dense substance) is a pretty big error margin on deadliness.

Incantatio Quassanda Castrum Saxifrago Melopepone Magno Ultima Magnissima Trismegisti (A Societas Peponis Siege Weapon)
Creo Herbam, level 45 [magnitude 9]
Range: Sight
Duration: Concentration
Target: Individual (Size +8)

Of course, they couldn't just stop there. In cases where the Societas Peponis has to go on the offensive, they need a spell that can destroy an entire order of the Knights Hospitaller and the greatest fortress in Mythic Europe in one formulaic spell, since there might be something else worth 10 seconds of time to do that day. This spell was inspired by viewing the great castle Crac de l'Ospital (the future “Krak des Chevaliers”) and the pyramids of Egypt during the Societas's research trip on exotic desert melons.

Oh, and they wanted to create a spell to do this that their novices could do if focused and specialised in their preferred arts right out of gauntlet. It does cost them fatigue, and they can't do penetration with it well until they're a bit older.

This spell creates a single melon with the volume of 100 million base targets in the sky above a target of the magus's choice, within sight range. The one-third a mile wide melon looms above like a second moon descended to Earth, then, surprisingly fast for its bulk, slams into the target. The melon is approximately the mass of the entire great pyramid complex at Giza, and outweighs any castle by a factor of 200. It's not quite the equivalent in force to picking up the entire Rhine and throwing it at someone (that would take a few more magnitudes to get to and hence be a reasonably complex ritual), but it's close enough.

At its mass, the fact that it's a melon and not the world's closest re-enactment of noah's flood since the event itself is immaterial. The tidal wave of melon juice and pulverised bodies and stones would settle to become a new lake, or a flood down from the motte of a castle to sweep over the surrounding villages... but inevitably the scale of destruction will surprise the caster enough to lose concentration.

A pit to take cover in and a ward against stone is heavily recommended as the shattered shards of the city it is used on will not vanish upon concentration-loss. Even at 50-100 miles per hour the melon will produce a rain of stone fragments across a surprising area.

Forceless casting of this spell at one another is great fun for magi of all ages.

(Creo Herbam 1 (Create Plant [1 Base Target sized Melon]) + 3 Sight + 1 Concentration Duration + 8 Size)

Notes: If creating an unnaturally sized plant requires extra magnitudes (nothing seems to say this outright, but 'wood in an unnatural shape' requires +1, so perhaps +1), this would reduce the size, but even +3 (or +2 for very unnatural, +1 for rego requisite) would still make it hitting a castle with another castle made out of water(melon).

Incantatio quae Stagnum Siccaret (A Spell For Draining A Swamp)
Perdo Aquam level 35 [magnitude 7] (optionally, 45 [9])
Range: Touch
Duration: Sun
Target: Part (Size: Normal. Optionally, +3)

This spell creates a zone of destruction in a liquid 15 feet across and 6 feet deep, destroying all water that flows into this region for the remainder of the day or night. For best practice, swim down a bit so that it does not only skim the top level off, especially if the body is small but deep. However, it does not destroy the salt in the water, so that it can be harvested afterwards if the body of water itself is depleted. This spell has a number of uses:

  • If cast in a river less than this size, it will instantly dam it and destroy all water that enters as fast as it flows in. This will cause the river to dry up as fast as the last drops can flow downstream, although the bottom will remain muddy and wet with sporadic pools.

  • If cast in a small pond or swamp, it will reclaim land, although not instantly. It will take a dozen or more castings to reclaim a normal lake of about 300 acres in size. A larger one like Lake Geneva is effectively with this version of the spell impossible, taking over a million castings.

  • Normal salt water lakes will produce about 90-120 tons of salt per casting, although only upon the final few castings will the salt be readily available (a little bit of extra magic will be necessary to remove remaining pools that didn't flow into the perdo zone unless the lake bottom is perfectly slanted towards the perdo effect and the effect is placed on the very bottom). Remember that once volume is reduced by about 7x, life will no longer be able to survive in the body of water.

  • If cast on the ocean, nothing notable happens. Unless...

Magi should be cautioned it is far easier to incautiously destroy a lake than create a new one- the vis costs of creating a lake are quite large, and it would be easier to build a channel to the ocean and then optionally use a variant of this spell (destroys Salt in Salt Water but not the Water) to clean it back up if it was fresh water before.

(Perdo Aquam 15 (Destroy Part of Liquid [Water, but not Salt]) + 1 Touch Range + 2 Sun Duration + 1 Part Target)

There is a variant level 45 spell, Incantatio ut Lacum Magnopere Combiberet that sacrifices the ability to preserve the salt for the ability to drain any lake in europe within half a decade. This is proof that order of magnitude scaling for targets is, as the magi would say, valde insanissimus.

(Perdo Aquam 10 (Destroy Liquid [Water]) + 1 Touch Range + 2 Sun Duration + 1 Part Target + 3 Size)

Incantatio quae Novaterram Batavianorum Condet (A Spell For Creating A New Nation)
Creo Terram level 40 (magnitude 8 ) [RITUAL]
Range: Touch
Duration: Momentary
Target: Individual (Size +8)

This spell creates 100,000,000 cubic paces of mixed stone and clay in the form of a wall 8 paces wide, 20 paces tall, and 355 miles long, enclosing an area. While the uses in fortification of course are obvious, if sunken into the ocean at an appropriate distance from the shore (where the depth to bottom becomes approximately 12-18 paces) it will wall off an area no smaller than Wales which can then be reclaimed using water draining or the next entry, Cors Novaterrae Batavianorum)

The walls may need to be lowered for convenience on the shoreward side. Doors through your new country's wall, will require a Finesse roll. Craft checks for dykework or masonry are largely unnecessary given the sheer volume of land being summoned.

New colonists to your nation will be quite happy with its wealth of land, once plants and animals migrate in, but the previous fishermen and coastal lords may be very unhappy. Therefore, cast twice to make a fortification against them.

(Creo Terram 3 (Create Stone) + 1 Touch Range + 8 Size)

Item: Cors Novaterrae Batavianorum
Effect One: Convert One Wales Of Shallow Water Into Land, Muto Aquam ad Terram 84 (magnitude 16)
(Muto Aquam [ad Terram] 4 (Change Water to Earth) + 1 Touch Range + 2 Sun Duration + 1 Part Target + 12 Size + 1 lvl 2 uses/day + 3 lvls environmental trigger)
Shape and Material: Aquamarine gem (+3 material bonus to water) set into a Silver Chalice (Small Silver Object) that is filled with Mercury (+5 material bonus to muto)
Item Type: Invested Item (12 vis to open, min 6 Magic Theory). 8 vis to invest the power into (modified level of 76-78 depending on magic theory).

This chalice should be carefully placed on the surface of the heart of your new walled off ocean (you should be in a very stable boat or water-walking) and told the command phrase- Fiat Humus. It will convert all the water it touches- the entire Lake Novaterra - into earth. The size is such that it will always succeed if all the water is connected to all the rest (it should be, being as it was the ocean until recently).

Silver is used as gold is unnecessary and it's amusing that it's a metal that is famous for tarnishing that itself can never tarnish because it converts all water to dirt.

You should probably guard this item carefully as if damaged your entire realm instantly sinks beneath the waves when the effect fails. Maybe conventional water draining or filling it with dirt is more safe...

Lead Weight of Catastrophe
Effect One: Literally Destroying This Entire Ocean, Perdo Aquam 49 [magnitude 9]
(Perdo Aquam 10 (Destroy Liquid) + 1 Touch Range + 2 Sun Duration + 1 Part Target + 3 Size + 1 lvl 2 uses/day + 3 lvls environmental trigger)
Shape and Material: Small lead weight (Tiny Base Metal object) inscribed with runes of caution and disaster. No bonuses, but sufficiently ominous and durable.
Item Type: Lesser Enchanted Item if you can (PeAq lab total 98), otherwise Invested Item (5 vis to open, min 3 Magic Theory). 5 more vis to invest the power into.

This item is a small lead weight, when a command phrase is spoken ("Misereatur Deus"), activates and will thereafter continually function. When thrown into the deeps of the ocean, it sinks down and destroys the world. Slowly.

It will continually, each day, at sunrise and sunset, renew its effect of destroying an area of water each round (at bare minimum, perhaps even faster). Forever.

However, fear not. It would take thousands of generations to fully drain Oceanus. Even the Mediterranean, which would become a vast, deep salt flat, would take 110 generations. It is likely that the end of the world will happen before then, so this isn't so worrisome. More important would be the fact that the sea would recede from the shores by a hundred yards within the first few generations, and that the Pillars of Hercules, Red Sea, English Channel, and Skagerrak amongst others would close by then. If incautiously thrown into the shallows rather than the deeps, the effect will wear off once it is on dry land, assuming you do not walk to the item, sail out into the new borders of the world-ocean, and throw it right back in.

It is not likely this item would work due to the Limit of the Divine, not for any theoretical reasons but for actual practical ones. Since it is easily capable of destroying the world, one must imagine that the magus will be visited by angels warning of dire consequences if they continue in their work. It is likely, should the magus persist, the Most High will personally intervene by simply silently suppressing the item when it thrown into the ocean, rendering it a perfectly useless lead weight. The character may or may not keep their Gift, depending upon if God's Perfect Justice and Divine Wrath would demand that punishment (... probably).

Of course, no one has ever tried it. At least, no one has apparently ever thrown one into anything bigger than a small pond.

Post Scriptum: A variant that would merely de-salinify the world-ocean would take 10 times as long or else be 5 levels higher. Further every 5 levels added to the enchantment should also make it be 10x quicker due to increasing the size of the perdo zone, so if Hermetics can achieve a level 99 spell in an item, which they can in canon, they should be able to destroy the ocean in 6 minutes. Flow rates will probably prove to be a limit well before that level, but it can be accelerated at least by several orders of magnitude. Since you won't need 70 years (or even 7), you could probably make this item cheaper as a lesser enchanted item since it won't need to last long.

What can we learn from these items? Clearly, although amusing, these effects shouldn't happen. The main source of amusement in all of these is order of magnitude scaling- mages can cast spells from about levels 4 to 45 for non-rituals and 20 to 100, and targets scale massively over that range if the effect is weak and doesn't need lots of penetration to defeat magic resistance.

In practice, the abuse of group targets isn't a serious problem for the game, since if your players try to make something like this you generally just give them the look. In the case of John the Beekeeper, everyone had a great laugh when the actual size of the effect was realised and the problem was fixed by handwaving that the Platonic Ideals of Animal says the base target for vermin is one hive/swarm rather than the millions you'd get by ponyweights. But what if you did want to fix these in a hypothetical Ars Magica 5.5?

Well, one could prefer scaling by doubling, rather than order of magnitude. Group would still be 10 individuals, but each size would add only double (so it would take approximately +3 magnitudes to equal one old Size magnitude). This would allow low level effects to hit millions of targets in rituals, and pretty impressive effects to affect entire cities at the upper level of rituals. But the silly effects above that depend upon stacking 8+ sizes would find themselves affecting only football pitches rather than the entire campaign setting unless they can come up with two dozen extra magnitudes. On the downside, it would make affecting a crowd of 100 targets take +4 sizes instead of +1, and 1000 targets take +7 instead of +2, which is could be punishing to some legitimate applications of spells. It's hard to make a system that exponentially scales allow both the magic you want and disallow the magic you don't want- you want mages to be able to create New Batavia, but not trivially, and you don't want being able to light one man on fire at gauntlet translating into lighting nations on fire as an elder magus.

Ultimately, the only truly worrisome thing on this list is the Perdo Aquam effect. It was initially designed for a legitimate usage- reclaiming land for a Covenant using repeated Perdo Aquam casts. Then it was realised that durations can be used with Perdo according to ArM5 p.112 to create a continual destruction effect, which makes it a lot easier to drain a lake instead of just a small pond. Then it was realised that it could be enchanted into an item perpetually and simply thrown into the depths, since the water would naturally flow into the zone of destruction. Then "Wait, what if you threw it in the ocean?" and the room dissolved into laughter. An apocalyptic weapon had just been brainstormed by accident. Perpetual Perdo items are a truly scary thing and one must imagine there's rulings against them in the code.

It's amazing Mythic Europe hasn't been blanketed in bees or parchment or the red sea temporarily dried up by a curious magus looking for the pharaoh's chariots. Most magi must be saner than players. :laughing:

I think most magi would drain the Red Sea with Muto or Rego magic. It's the only sane way to drain a sea, although you might have to practice on other seas first to get it right.

Very entertaining and provocative. Thank you sir. (Totally agree with trusting in the central rule)

At least they stuck with bees and melons.

A copromancer/scatomancer(?) dropping hundreds or thousands of pony sized cow patties (the guideline specifies a single hair/hide/tusk as individual, hence the horse sized Individual turd) of whatever duration on a besieged castle or a water supply would be pretty disgusting... :blush:

Well, they can try, but don't forget that the game has a built-in omniscient, omnipotent God that doesn't want them ending the world (unless God does).

Also note that bees are Worms, which are spontaneously generated thus 'created' with Rego magic, not Creo. :wink:

Only 1 comment.

Bees spontaniously generate from dead cows. Medieval paradim and all that, whatnot.

Three small observations:

  1. If it's "impressive enough", it must be a ritual by the rules (what constitutes as "enough" requires some adjudication, but clearly if the entire troupe thinks an otherwise formulaic effect is sufficiently overpowered to "break" the system, it must be a ritual).
  2. Bees spontaneously self-generate from dead cows, so you can create them using Rego. But this does not mean that you can't also create them with Creo. It's like with flowers: you can create one with Creo Herbam, or by forcing a tree to bloom with Rego Herbam.
  3. This is the most important of point of all. Ars Magica is a game where wizards can wield world-shattering (or at least world-altering!) power. If you come from games like D&D or WFRP as opposed to e.g. Nobilis or even Unknown Armies, you might not be comfortable with storyguiding these levels of power. But trust me, it can be fun (in fact, Transforming Mythic Europe is a supplement showing how it can be fun), and the Ars mechanics can mostly handle it. Raising a continent from the seas (or plunging one into the depths)? Enslaving the minds of an entire nation? Filling Mythic Europe with millions of dragons? Building a tower that reaches the Lunar Sphere? Sure. The fun is dealing with the consequences of even trying.

These are all great.

Minor point, formulaic and spontaneous spells may not be greater than level 50. It is not stated that they must be less than 50th level.

Wikipedia says that the numbers we use came to Europe around 1000 AD. Most of the Order is probably familiar with it by 1200.

I disagree. The only one I'd be inclined to disallow is the Omega Melon. The others all look like good clean fun: huge and flashy, but only situationally useful and not likely to mess up the game.

If anything, the game ought to get more interesting when someone creates a new island nation which will be instantly destroyed should any harm come to a little silver cup. Or when someone crams an un-remember-able mass of information about everyone on the continent into their head. Or when someone tries to resolve fights using a massive swarm of bees that'll die in two minutes.

Cow pies? Pretty tame. If you want to be nasty, pig dung is no fun.

Though I do wonder about out-sized Creo conjurations, if they should just be allowed straight up or should a Muto requisite get involved. When you're making a single hide the weight of a pony, it's getting pretty unnatural, but at the same time, creating a single animal hide limited to what can occur naturally is also punitive if you're doing this ritually (though in those cases, Base5, Touch/Mom/Group = 20, minimum for a ritual anyways).

Ehm, are you sure that was BEES, because for wasps i could maybe accept that even though it´s stupid, but hello, bee keepers existed already, they knew damn well what bees were.

Indeed. For a spell to MUST be ritual, is when it is level 55 or higher.

Why? Sure you could use fire, water, rocks, sand, mud, clay, wood, asteroids, 16t weights, titansized corpses or goats to achieve the same thing, why would you disallow a melon?

Why not? If you´re not doing epic spells, why are you playing Ars Magica? Sure that´s an exaggeration, but the system is outspokenly "friendly" towards being creative.

Have you ever considered doing a highlevel Wizards Tower creation spell? Try a level 100 for example, Group+additions in size, meaning you can create hundreds of standardsize towers, or some really outrageous stuff. Or just add to +size, if you want to just pour on the BIG.

There´s good reason why i prefer playing with size increments of *3 for one magnitude increase, or *10 for every 2 magnitudes.

Yeah but there´s absolutely nothing saying what is "impressive enough".

And just killing off any "bigass spells" because they ARE superbig(literally) or super powerful is a total killjoy. But like you say, it´s players decision rather than anything else.

Might want to check if you can find the old thread with silly, rulebending and absurd spells. Anyone recall the name of that thread?

Or they can combine it into one really absurdly large single turd dropped from enough height to reach terminal velocity. Burying the target castle while destroying it.

Though i think any magi using such a spell would quickly get a nickname really NOT of his or her liking. :mrgreen:

Don't remember the exact page, but Transforming Mythic Europe, The Island of the Magicians mentions bees being generated from dead cows.

I wouldn't go so far as that. There are canon examples that can provide some guidance.
For example, consider the "bee spell" earlier in this thread, that creates 10000 base Individuals (group+3) of bees, and controls them for D:diam at level 45. In ArM5 we find a similar spell, Curse of the Ravenous Swarm, that creates locusts and controls them -- 1/10th the amount (group+2), but for D:Sun, so it's still Level 45. It's a Ritual, and not because of other spell parameters (in fact, it's one of the few cases where it says it's a Ritual because it's such a major effect). Ergo, it seems fairly clear that the "bee spell" should also be a Ritual.

Yes, some adjudication is necessary. Same spell, T:group (no size modifier), D:Sun -- and creating wasps, is not a Ritual in our saga, but a formulaic spell called "Octavia's legions". We'd probably rule that a version with +1 size must be a Ritual -- in fact, for us, Octavia's legions is bordeline "impressive enough".

Note that making them Rituals is not "killing them off". It just means that you can't toss them around casually.

Well, clarification, mostly kills them off as combat spells.

Okay, so I'm glad that people were generally amused by the spells. They were fun to come up with. Some thoughts and reactions to the great commentary.

(And eek, copromancers would be terrifying it's true. I'm not even touching that, so to speak. I'm sure you could come up with even more horrifying things, too, which is why I'm sticking with bees and melons.)

Speaking of bees! This is actually an interesting bit of historical detail that probably is worth expanding on. Virgil is the source so far as I can tell for them being generated from cows that AM is probably using, although other classical authors also talk about it, including the Egyptians, several Roman historians, a number of Greek philosophers, the Book of Judges, and others. This was a very common belief. Now assuming it’s true in AM, I think Creo can still work here, for the same reason that you can use either Rego to make a statue out of a block of stone, or Creo to make one ex nihilo. And it's more practical here because you won't need huge piles of dead cows to sustain your gigabees.

As for the cows. There was a lot of debate on the nature of bee reproduction, but as mentioned the bodies of putrefying oxen was the usual culprit, although sometimes other animals and even humans are occasionally mentioned, to the point where you would often kill oxen deliberately to give bees a breeding place, amongst other things, and we have numerous elaborate accounts of people trying to work out how exactly to kill the oxen to best get bees.

But what's interesting is that Virgil et al. weren't just making stuff up here. The explanation for all that in modern histories is a confusion with bees and the fly species Eristalis tenax, or the dronefly. The dronefly is a dead ringer for a bee, having evolved to mimic the appearance and even the behaviour to avoid predators. They feed off of flowers so they even go around flitting between looking like they’re doing bee things. Here’s an image of a female dronefly. It’s an eerily good match.

The match in behaviour and appearance is in fact such a good match that it often confuses scientists, let alone lay observers and the ancients. The dronefly, as you might guess, lays its eggs in animal carcasses, which leads to the confusion. The ancients did see bee lookalikes breeding on and emerging from dead oxen, and since the details of actual bee reproduction weren’t understood it wasn’t at all unreasonable to think that the dronefly was actually the emerging bees.

How this impacts bee behaviour in mythic Europe is kind of up to the group, I imagine. You actually could keep separate dronefly and bee production, and just have it be the historical mistake, or go full on Virgil on it. But it’s an interesting detail of history regardless, I think.

Yeah, I've always thought the make them rituals doesn't really do much. It means you can't use it in combat, and you're somewhat limited in terms of how many times a year you can cast, but that just slows you down.

...huh, so you’re right. I’ve been doing this wrong for years. Whoops. Thanks for pointing that out.

Which numbers do you have in mind? Hindu-Arabic numerals are only now starting to filter in with the Liber Abaci (written in 1202), but they won’t catch on for another two centuries or so, and Roman numerals are pretty terrible for handling things we use scientific notation for.

Okay, and since it’s been mentioned two or three times now, I suppose the scale and whether or not these spells are too silly is really dependant on the troupe. And it certainly is fun coming up with silly potent spells — my troupe’s spent hours finding huge effects and seeing where they go, as you can see. So there’s certainly nothing in principle wrong with throwing around a melon the mass of the pyramid complex at Giza (and much bigger), or coating Europe in a 1:1 scale map. (That was one of my favourites, although it’s blatantly out of period, since scale maps aren’t really a thing yet.)

But for me at least it’s an issue that my group is filled to the brim (all, like, three of us or so…) with amateur historians who spend more time looking up the history of double monasteries in the Carolingian empire and speculating on its potential influence on the early Order than actually, y’know, playing. So one of the big draws is having a setting where if we want an adventure we can go crack open a history book and then everyone is going off to have theological conversations with Francis of Assisi or meddle in the War of Flemish Succession. Immersion in a legendary counterpart of 13th century Europe or its near environs is important.

Which is a little problematic if the Order has melon farmers that can break the greatest fortresses of the day with a wave of a hand, or the ability to overturn large sectors of society casually. Granted, most of it’s common sense. We have a couple house rules that do things like explain why churches are so great for refuge (a properly consecrated church that’s rung the bells in emergency gets a Aegis of the Hearth-like effect so that Faeries or Demons don’t just perfunctorily ignore its Dominion aura), and there’s a cool idea for penetration scaling that I actually wanted to share sometime as I’ve never seen it done here as a houserule before.

Casually is the keyword here, though. I actually don’t mind great works that change the face of Europe, since one of the great things about the game is seeing how history changes as the game evolves. But it shouldn’t be within reach of any reasonably competent maga right out of gauntlet, and almost all the effects described here are. That’s really the problem -- not that magi are powerful, but it comes so easily.

Honestly, you could say that we want to have our cake and eat it too. We like Hermetic magi, but we also like the 13th century, and feudalism was in many ways pretty fragile. Hermetic magic is not a subtle or weak hammer to take to a societal fabric, and having a giant Divine hammer in opposition to prevent magi from accidentally unmaking the feudal political or economic order we find to be pretty unsatisfying. Because it’d be trivial for any 25 year old with the right Minor Magical Focus to do exactly that.

So it’s a playstyle thing. For a game that’s not as deeply obsessive compulsive about all immersion all the time these all work just fine. Even if they still are hilariously overscaled. Who really needs an Omega melon or enough bees to cover Wales? Making your own new country does sound pretty useful, though. Even we might want to do that, but for something of that scale we’d want it to be the focus of a saga, or at least a hefty series of stories, not something you can do with one spell and one item and a few years of lab work in downtime.

Sort of in that vein, the reason that these are oftentimes effects like, oh, coat Wales in bees instead of destroy Wales in a flood, or destroy the Crac with a melon than in a rain of stones, is that many of them are things that feel immersion breaking. Some are done just to show off how hilariously trivial it does to make new countries or destroy the entire Ocean with a single spell or item.

To be fair, there’s no good sense of what wizards should be doing, given they didn’t exist and all, but rains of melons that destroy armies doesn’t feel, hmm, truthy? Even if it’s completely valid under the spell creation rules. It’s all about flavour and personal judgement, but it works out for us, mostly. And hey, worse case we just gave you spells to give your group/GM a headache with, so great success either way!

Actually you CAN still even use them in combat, if you are VERY good at getting the battle set up so you know exactly when to have the spell activate.
Played with someone who managed to do that twice, for just one fail. :stuck_out_tongue:

Like i mentioned before, skulls, bones, corpses...

I just got the picture of 20m long bees in my head... :mrgreen:

Oh yeah, fake bees... Hmm, i just thought it was a matter of mistaking(or mistranslating) bees and wasps, because wasps really like meat, regardless of its condition.

Thanks for the exposition, i was not aware of that.

People kept bees since at least 3000 years before the time of the game, bees were even intentionally introduced to areas previously without bees, that makes me seriously doubt there wasn´t at least SOME degree of understanding.

:laughing: It´s quite funny how many do this mistake actually. Because you´re far from alone with it. While this was one of those things i read once first time i read the rules and just accepted it correctly from the start(which is definitely not true about all rules!).

Oh, and yeah the 1:1 scale map was funny.

Potentially interesting variant...

True, but not entirely easily. Still there are some ways to change things, like i mentioned above, alter the size modifier to be *3, *10, *30, *100 etc instead of 10,100,1000 etc..
Then extend the Formulaic Magic table on p81, so that a spell never succeeds unless you get a casting total euqal or above the spell level(or at least not less than -5 instead of -10), and that it´s only if you´re 5+ or 10+ above that you don´t spend any fatigue at all. So if you undershoot the target by 11 or worse, you might loose 3 fatigue levels instead of just a measly one.

Just those two changes alone works wonders at reducing the "silly big" magic stuff.
I´ve also stretched out how i run the R/D/T and raised the base level for a few effects, so all in all, even though i´ve almost always run with big number powers, they´re more often less powerful than these kind of stuff with original rules.

I think the vis cost is pretty meaningful. That stuff is valuable.

I was going by this

which is from the Wikipedia article on arabic numerals. I figure the Order is usually a little ahead of the mundane game when it comes to stuff like this, so I'd expect them to have heard about the numerals before Fibonacci got going.

These spells might be easy to cast, but inventing them isn't so trivial. And if you want to cast weird spells like these, you'll likely have to invent them yourself. So I wouldn't call these easy.

That's actually part of what I like about Ars Magica. It doesn't judge. The melon-farmer's goofy-ass magic is allowed to be effective, just like the pyromancer's traditional magic.

But yeah, it depends on your group whether that's really a good thing.