Spell (un)balance: Offensive teleport with Terram

One of my players has designed the following spell : teleport a massive amount of dirt (13x8x6m) from under the foot of an opponent 15 meters above him.
I consider the base effect 5 +1 (target:part), +2 (range:voice) and +2 (size) for a total of 30

The problem is, the spell is too effective : the guidline indicates that a size of 2 would be a +12 to the finess roll (which mean it will probably never fail), it inflicts +10 fall damage + the damage from the falling dirt (which should be probably quite hight at least +10) and bury the opponent, without any resist from parma or possibility to avoid it, unlike spell like Ominous Levitation of the Weighty Stone (Societas p.38) or The Earth split asunder (ReTe30) where it takes more than one round.
I know that lvl30 spell are powerful but here it's too reliable : no way to avoid it except by quickcasting or similar

I spoke with the player and he's very cooperative but I have no idea how to balance that. What is your opinion ?

It will require finesse and potentially allow a defensive roll to get out of the area of effect before being personally affected.

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Thanks for the answer !

Unfortunately if I follow the aiming rule (core p.86) because the size of the dirt moved, the spell gives +12 to the finesse roll, so my PC will have a total of +20 to hit.
It's highly unlikely that the attack will ever miss (even a legendary fighter like a fae knight with quickness 4 and weapon skill 7 would have approximately 1% chance to dodge).

That's my problem with the spell, nor the magic resistance nor the usual defensive skill help to escape

No... if the direct target is the base size of individual for the form there is no bonus to aiming, otherwise there is a +1 per magnitude size- hence this attack is at +2 to aim, not +12. Also if it is a stress die there is always a chance to miss from rolling a botch...
So they only have a +10 to hit

Let him get away with it a couple times and then put a foe on solid stone, with only a thin covering of dirt?


2x6=12, so that was calculated properly.

Now, this still isn't nearly an auto-hit. What about someone standing on a boulder or inside a building? What about someone who is flying? What about someone on a boat? Even if they're in the right situation, maybe they have good defenses (including things like +9 from sidestep).

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Ahhh, welcome to the wonderful world of magic pits.

The spell is too low level for what it does. First the a Base of 5 is too low to teleport anything. You are looking at a Base 15 for the effect, raising the spell to 40. The level 30 version moves, rather than teleports the dirt.

The Finesse roll is actually to place the pit, not strike the target (see varies other pit spells in RAW). The Finesse "attack" and the targets "defense" are two separate and mostly unrelated rolls. The Finesse roll is going to be fairly easy because of the size of the pit (that +12), figure a 6+ or 9+ modified by the indirect targets movement and size. The "defense" roll should be a base difficulty to avoid falling into the pit trap, rather than an opposed roll. Something like Athletics 9+.

The spell is intended to affect dirt, so any location with a moderate amount of rock renders the spell worthless. Rocky soil, paved or cobbled roads, and being near a building with a rubble base would all block it.

The limited range and large target size of the spell makes it worthless or even dangerous for the Magus to cast in many situations. The length of the pit is over a quarter of the maximum range. A fast moving target seeking to enter melee range with the Magus will often be too close to be targeted without the Magus themselves also being caught in the pit. Closing range with the Magus is easily the most effective defense against the spell. If the Magus incise on using the spell in situations like this, have them get caught in their own pit. They will not be the first or last member of the Order killed by their foolish use of magic.

Overall the spell is too low level for its effect and is a limited use battlefield spell which should be very difficult to cast against a single target closing with the Magus.


It's base 5 to teleport dirt up to 50 paces. (MoH p.92 and TME p.107)

It is base 5 for teleporting something that can be comfortably held in two hands up to 50 paces, with additional size modifiers for anything larger. If anything my math was to low level and the spell would need to be level 45.

It probably should require two finesse rolls- one to place the pit and the other to aim the falling dirt.
also base 5 does +5 damage, not +10, so that should probably be the basis for the attack. So you have +20 to hit, they have probably a +11 to defense, that gives you a +9 bonus on rolling d10s (aside from explosions or botches) which means it will likely miss 10% of the time in those situations. The real question is how much it hits by- if you wing them (succeed by 1) then you are looking at 6 damage versus a sack of probably 9- you hit them but didn't hurt them. In order to do damage you have to succeed by at least 4- roughly 50% of the time you will score a light wound on this particular hypothetical warrior. Then the warrior charges forward and stabs you with a sword after climbing out of the pit if he fell in... or shoots you with a bow.

This effect may be powerful, but while it bypasses the parma magica, it is relatively easy to defend against for a magi. Assuming a pit exactly centered on the target, a defending magi could react with a spontaneous fast-cast ReCo 10 Transport the target instantly up to 5 paces at personal range. For non-magi, it could also be defended against with abilities and powers like a powerful jump. Also, I would probably rule that, while the effect does inflict falling damage + falling dirt damage, the falling damage would probably unpack the earth somewhat, allowing a victim to try and pull himself out of the ground with a difficult strength + athletics check.

Well, the guidelines are written differently. One says that, the other doesn't. I don't know why one says that while the other is consistent with all the other things about using base Individuals. Regardless, using the base Individual as was done above fits one of the two perfectly well, and probably the better of the two to use since it's the one that's consistent with others.

Also, would you really have trouble holding under 2 cubic feet of dirt (assuming it's handleable rather than just loose)? I had difficulty with that as a little boy, but that doesn't seem so tough for most adults using both hands/arms. I think an extra magnitude to drop that to 0.2 cubic feet is overkill.

That is patently false, there is no way you were picking up two cubic feet of dirt and holding it in your hands as a little boy. Many grown men would have problems doing it. Maybe you just do not realize how much a cubic foot of dirt weighs. Possibly you might have done it with a wheelbarrow, which would be filled to near capacity by that much dirt.

On average two cubic feet of dirt will weigh between 150 and 220 pounds. About the only exception to that range is finely screened dry top soil, which would weigh between 90 and 100 pounds. That finely screened dry part is important, since two cubic feet of normal top soil will weigh nearly 200 pounds.

EDIT: a 40lb bag of dried and screened top soil contains 0.75 cubic feet.

Average is 150 lb, give or take.

I was carrying half of that up a ladder regularly when I was in middle school. Sure, at the time I could bench press well over my own weight. I was bench pressing about 120 pounds (which is more than I weighed, this was pre-puberty) at the time. Carrying 150 pounds? How is that patently false?

In ArM5 terms, a Str 0 character can carry around 100 lb of stuff and can hold that over their head. So they can hold more in their arms if they can hold that over their head. The maximum they can lift and hold comes out close to 200 lb, though that's pushing it.

Different people have different capabilities for what they can carry- when I was in college I carried 900 lbs of luggage across an airport- this was not by any means easy, but on the other hand I did roll a 300 pound individual off of me at age 13.
The other point here however is that just because someone is teleporting a couple hundred pounds of dirt above you does not mean it will al be on you- some of it will fall beside you simply covering more area and making it harder for you to dodge.

And I have tossed a couple of tons of palatized duffel bags on every deployment I have been on. That is no where near the same as saying I can comfortably hold greater than my body weight in two hands, which is that patently false point I am arguing against.

I do not think it needs to be balanced at all.

  • It's the same level as other spells that cause serious wounds or incapacitation at R:Voice (e.g. PeCo 30 causes an Incapacitating wound at R:Voice).
  • Its great advantage is that it bypasses Magic Resistance, while also requiring little Finesse.
  • Its great disadvantage, as it has already been noted, is that there are a lot of situations where it cannot be used (at sea, in a cave or building, in a city, while flying, while in close proximity with the target etc.) and a number of opponents against which it is useless (non-corporeal creatures, very large or very fast/agile creatures, magi who can fast-cast a ReCo 10 spell etc.).

In this sense it's great, because you can make your player feel very powerful by putting the character in a situation where the spell can wreak havoc, or completely neutralize the spell by having a (very natural) situation where it is not effective.

Ultimately, compare it with a six-men trained group of very capable longbowmen grogs (bow 7 including virtues, a specialty etc.), coordinated by a very experienced leader (leadership 8 including virtues, a specialty etc.), who apply the trained-group bonus to the attack while exerting themselves. Just run the numbers!


Depending on what you mean by holding in both hands I can (or could when I was younger) comfortably hold greater than twice my body weight in both hands- for example on a bench press. And no, I was not some kind of he-man, in fact part of the reason I could easily bench more than twice my body weight was the fact I only weighed about 125 at the time. Dirt has a wide range of densities, but by the guideline we are clearly talking some form of topsoil here, not rock, ad depending on how much sand, clay, or loam was involved the answer might vary, but again, its also not really relevant since the guidelines make no mention of what you can hold in both hands...

Please read what I wrote again rather that saying what I'm arguing incorrectly. Here is a complete guideline I referenced:

I recognized the other version as well and said that it's inconsistent with the rest of the rules, so this guideline is probably the better one to use.

And, as for my other point above, Str 0 person in ArM5 can carry around 100 lb. Statistically, the average ends up between Str 0 and Str +1, who can walk around with 142 lb. They can lift and hold roughly double that. The problem in the world is that Str 0 is higher than real-person type strength. However, in an age when most people did manual labor it might have been more realistic.