Spells designed for laboratory uses

Toying around with my merinita character, with a theme on books and living knowledge, I have to come to design the following spells for his every day laboratory uses. Tell me what you think :slight_smile:

Have your characters ever created spells specifically designed for lab uses ? Would love to see them ! Please, share !

Emergence of the Sleeping Knowledge
R: Voice, D: Mom, T:Ind
InHe(Re) 10

The magus targets a book while asking a question. If the book contains a relevant answer, it moves to the magus while its pages begin animating by themselves as if an invisible person were rapidly flipping through them to find the relevant passage. The magus has a split second to grab the book before it falls to the ground.

The book can only answer a question if the response is explictly stated on its writings.

Using this spell regularly during a laboratory activity adds +1 to Texts specializations, but reduces safety by 1.

(Base 3, +2 voice, +1 additional rego effect)

Question to the Invisible Librarian
R: Voice, D: Mom, T:Room
InHe(Re) 30

This spell is similar to Emergence of the Sleeping Knowledge, but is designed to be cast in a room full of books or notes, such as a library or a laboratory. While casting the spell, the magus speaks a question. If any book or note contains a relevant answer, it moves to the magus while flipping its pages to the relevant answer. It stays for a split second in levitation in front of the magus, who has just enough time to pick it before it falls to the ground.

If more than one book contain a relevant answer they all fly to the magus. In this case, they will all fall to the ground except for the one that he will be able to pick, unless he has a mean to hold them still.

Using this spell repeatedly during a laboratory activity adds +1 to general quality and +1 to text specializations, but reduces safety by 1. Indeed, the magus may unvoluntarily attracts many tomes at once. He may also put too much confidence in easy responses to complex questions.

(Base 3, +2 voice, +3 room, +1 additional rego effect)

Awaken the Living Knowledge
MuHe 25
R: Touch, D: Season, T:Ind, Ritual

This ritual requires an initiation to Animae Magic and the Illusion mystery of Perpetuity, which are both taught by the Shadow-Masters mystery cult (HoH:MC 83).

This spell transforms a book into an animae of might 5. If the book is a summa, the resulting animae has an score in the relevant art or ability and a teaching score such that his teaching source quality is equal to the quality of the summa.

The animae may also have a power related to the topic of the book. As a rule of thumb, the power should be designed as an hermetic spell of magnitude less than or equal to the summa score, with a cost of one might point per magnitude. For instance, a summa on Terram with a source quality of 6 may have a power equivalent to unseen arm, costing him 1 point of might.

Orpheus of Merinita designed this spell to make his book studying both more entertaining and more appealing to his personality. As an Apt Student, he would rather be able to converse, ask questions, make reformulations, and occasionaly share some stories with a teacher, than spending hours reading an inanimate piece of paper.

Theoretically, this spell could be invented with a lower duration and thus with no need for a ritual casting. However, each time the book is animated again, it looses all memory from previous interactions, thus preventing the necessary continuity in the teacher/student relationship for the season of teaching to be fruitful. It could however, have other uses such as quickly finding useful informations by asking the question directly to the animae. This kind of application may be interesting because, as an intelligent being, an animae may make deductions and conjectures, and thus be able to respond to much more sophisticated questions than one could ask with Emergence of the Sleeping Knowledge.

(Base 4, +1 touch, +3 season, +1 might 5)

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there are fundamentally two problems with this- 1) most inks have an animal component (egg thickener for example), as well as the pages being made from animal skins (vellum) and 2) the guidelines specifically state that you can get information about the animal/plant materials, not information that has been recorded via writing using those materials.

Well, I guess you could add An/Te requisites to account for the materials made from animal or mineral origins.

Concerning your second point, I realize I misread the Intello Mentem guidelines, which states that writing is Animal and Herbam or Terram, but explicitly adds that you cannot extract information directly :confused:

Note that writing does not contain any information of itself, and is generally Animal and Herbam or Terram, for the materials, not Mentem. To translate writing, you need someone who can read it, although you could read the translation from their mind.

So I guess that, at least for the first two spells, the effect are not possibles within the framework of hermetic theory, which makes me sad because I liked the idea. :confused:

In theory you could have an InIm spell to allow you to read a book with an arcane connection range, so you don't have to remove a book from the library to read it when you are away from the covenant...

1 sense (base 1), range arcane connection (+4), individual, duration concentration (+1), special effect - does not require light/book does not need to be opened (+1) for level:15.

As you have been made aware, what you are trying to do is more complicated than it seems to be at first glance.

The only solution that I have been able to think up, is to create a mind that is capable of knowing what is written in the books. That however is also more complicated than it would seem. Creating a mind should be creo mentem. However looking at the guidelines for CrMe spells in the core rulebook there is no guideline for creating a mind. Normally that would be the end of our hopes, however there is some precedent that mentem can create minds. Notably the ReCo(Me) spell "The walking Corpse". This spell includes a mentem requisite. Since ReCo is it self sufficient to control a corpse my only explanation for the mentem requisite is that it creates a limited mind for the corpse to do what it is commanded to do even when the controller is not concentrating. If you consider the other spell in rulebook that animates a corpse (awaken the slumbering corpse) that spell does not have a mentem requisite but it also has a duration of concentration, meaning that the corpse conjured by that spell will never have to function autonomously.

By my own admittance creating a mind would be a CrMe effect, however the spell I use to base my argument on only has a mentem requisite and no creo requisite. I dont have an explanation for why that is. Maybe "The walking corpse" is a unique spell created by experimentation and thus cannot be replicated without a lab text and cannot serve as a basis for deducing spell guidelines? Maybe it was decided that mentem was enough, the book does not say so it is not possible to tell.

Admittedly I am basing my line of thought on a very thinly supported argument. But I do think that there is a (stress on "a") precedent in the core rulebook for a mentem effect that creates a limited mind. Maybe there are guidelines in some of the splatbooks, I cannot rightly say that I know all of the extra guidelines that have been published (maybe there is a document where they have all been gathered in one place on the internet? kind of like the virtues & flaws masterlist).

Another possibility is to create a magical spirit entirely. This is much more well supported, by e.g. the CrAn(Vi) guidelines that allow you to conjure magical animals from thin air. Presumably you could conjure other kinds of magical beings too, like e.g. a bodiless spirit that wants to know the contents of all books it encounters.

It is worth mentioning that your idea is a bit cheesy in that you seem to be trying to get the benefit of the "Apt student" virtue out of reading books. As a storyguide I would be incredibly wary of what you are trying to do for that reason alone. If you want to get extra xp out of a book there is already a virtue for that: Book learner.

As you can see what you are trying to do is either, not possible or in a grey area. The best I can manage is an argument held together by far too many "maybe's", "presumably's" and "perhaps's" for comfort. The most I would personally dare to conclude is that what you are trying to do is sufficiently close to what is already possible that it is no further than a bit of original research away.

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Oh and if you feel like taking a risk you could use the following spell:

Release of the inner self
CrVi 45
R: Voice, D: Mom, T: Group
Base (20 + 2 voice + 2 group +1 magnitude)
This spell targets up to 100 individuals and grants each of them 4 warping points. The spells name was given by a made wizard who thought that warping objects caused them to transform into the truest and best version of themselves (whatever that might mean is unclear).

Cast this spell on the books in your library in the hope that they might turn into awakened items. But make sure that your covenant-mates are okay with it first, as there is no guarantee that the books will turn into awakened objects, they might as well be ruined by the experience.

When a computer uses ocr, it doesn't understand what it reads either.

So why can't there be a spell that looks for words like, say "mummification" in books.

What it does is look for ink particles that form a certain ink pattern, that's all.

I don't even think there's a need for a requisite. If it misses some particles because they are the wrong form, there are still enough particles left to look for the pattern.

OCR is actually pretty complex (that's why it's taken so long to even get it to be generally decent, and it's still far from perfect).

And, in a medieval sense rather than a modern one, it sort of does "understand" to an extent - it recognises the patterns and can connect their meaning with the same information in another format (that is written characters to ASCII or whatever format is being used). But then again, the spells above don't even need to do that - just the first part of recognising the pattern of ink.

I guess this broadens the question to "can spells perform pattern recognition? And if so to what degree?".

Personally I could definitely accept the idea, in theory, of an Intellego spell being able to recognise a specific pattern of ink, just as it could tell the shape of an object or identify a person based on appearance, as this doesn't necessarily require understanding of the words.

This would be most easy to accept if the word was worked into the spell from the beginning, so you have a "find the word 'mummification'" spell, rather than a general word search spell. But I could see the general spell being viable too (it's just a little more contentious).

However, there is one major issue - a written word isn't a specific pattern. Printing is not yet in use, nor is spelling entirely standardised (though it is much more standard in Latin than in many vernacular languages) so the word "mummification" can be spelt several ways, and written in many different fonts and styles. Not to mention sometimes there will be smudges or scribal errors. These are actually some of the very same problems OCR comes up against in the real world.

This takes it out of specific pattern recognition and into a much more complex and uncertain territory. How can one spell account for all the variances in the shape that can still contain the information that is the word "mummification"? A mind can easily perform this kind of recognition, but for an unthinking machine (electronic or magical) it's not a trivial matter at all.

edit: On a completely different note @Mortim I love the idea of that third spell, and I may blatantly steal it be inspired by it for my own saga.

edit #2: Riffing off of what @Euphemism has already said, but without going into the territory of new spells or unusual guidelines - can a walking corpse read? Could you use some combination of an animated head and a mind reading spell to create a kind of supernatural OCR machine? There's definitely something in that 'animate a corpse' guideline, even if it needs some original research to fully realise.


It has occurred to me that you can probably stay quite canonical by find and binding a spirit into a magical item and then having the spirit control some effects in the item that targets the books and moves them around. You of course would need to find a spirit that can read, but that has to exist out there somewhere.

Are we being too harsh with the interpretation? From the core rule book Intellego Herbam guidelines.

"Level 3: Learn general information, or a single specific fact about a plant or an item made from plant products."

You'd need to be more specific than the original spell was written. You could change it to

"The magus targets a book while asking a specific question about the books contents. If the book contains the specific information requested, {the rest of the spell here}"

For example. if I am reading an Ignem tractatus about explosive gasses, I could ask, "Open the book to the first time Flatulus of Flambeau is mentioned." That is a specific fact about an item made from plant products.

I'd argue requests like "most powerful spell", or anything requiring any judgement wouldn't work. It would be great for someone already familiar with the subject matter. A Quaesitor researching tribunal history to find a peripheral code ruling, etc. "Show me the first mention of the wizard Vexatious in this tribunal history."

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Aside from form (it should be animal instead of herbem, given medieval writing materials) the possibility exists, since you would literally be searching for a pattern of ink, not meaning. The big question is how well it adapts to handwriting and possibly spelling issues, which might require a finesse roll.

A very important paragraph summing up lots of ArM5 rules for Mortimer's spells is TME p.99f Magic Can Neither Read Nor Understand, especially:

Words on a page are under the purview of the Form relating to the components of the ink used (mostly Herbam and Terram), or the page itself (Animal for parchment, other Forms for different media). Manipulating the words however gets no sense of the meaning therein. There is, for example, a profound lack of a spell that can translate the written word from one language to another, even though there is a spell that translates the spoken word in exactly this manner. This is because the mind that uttered a word can be interrogated for its meaning with Mentem magic, but written words are just artifices of ink and parchment that have no intrinsic thoughts behind them.

This excludes spells like Emergence of the Sleeping Knowledge and Question to the Invisible Librarian.

Turning a book into an Animae Faerie for some time with a MuAn (He) Animae Magic (HoH:MC p.94) spell is certainly possible. Such Faeries might acquire the Pretenses (RoP:F p.62ff) of Speak Latin and Artes Liberales over time in a library.and afterwards "read themselves". That could indeed be fun - but might be slower and less useful than having a magus' or scribe's apprentice sift through that book and give the magus a summary.

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If there is even a tractatus in the library on artes Liberales they should be able to gain that ability in no time- faerie speech covers speaking most languages, but reading them is a bit trickier- again it is a matter of attaching themselves to the 'story' of people studying those abilities...

I think the issue here is whether something like "the first time Flatulus of Flambeau is mentioned" is not, from a certain point of view, either general information or a specific fact about the writing (in the sense of the specific pattern of ink).

Consider what were trying to find out here, when you break it down to the simplest level - we aren't asking "is this ink a certain shape" because the ink patterns that can represent the name are almost infinite. Two scribes may use different fonts. Another might spell the name as "Flatulos". Another might have smudged the middle so if reads "Flatulu- o- --ambeau". Also, in Latin (which is the most likely language here) the name will not always be "Flatulus" depending on the situation - it would be "Flatule" in the vocative (like "Et tu, Brute?"), or "Flatuli" in the genitive, or "Flatulo" in the accusative.

Any human reader could recognise all of the above as a "mention of Flatulus" (this is getting increasingly silly sounding the more I write...) but it isn't a singular pattern of ink, it's in fact a myriad set of possible patterns which we recognise based on a very complicated set of things going on in the mind. Even recognising a name in writing requires a capacity for judgement due to all the possible ambiguity involved. When you ask "where is the first mention of Flatulus in this book?" you are really asking "where is the first pattern in this book where it seems most likely the intent of the author was to mean Flatulus?".

We can only target the physical substance the writing consists of with magic, we cannot interact with the information itself, but we must interact with the information to do anything of use regarding locating things in a book.

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Thank you all for the insights. Indeed, I was not aware I was treading into difficult territory there :slight_smile:

Regarding the subject of accessing information stored in a book, I wonder if one could make use of the Hermetic Memory spells described under the chapter "The Art of Memory" in TMRE.

Specifically, there is the spell Memory Palace of the Sage (TMRE 27) allowing a magus to store the content of an entire book in his memory palace :

Memory Palace of the Sage
CrMe 25
R: Per, D: Mom, T: Ind, Ritual

Creates a locus for the contents of an entire text in the target’s memory palace. Once the locus is in place, the magus can recite the entire text and replicate any illustrations. Perdo Mentem magic can destroy this locus. As with Constructing the Memory Palace, a magical locus may exceed the normal locus-count limit.

As the spell is cast, the magus magically reads through the book, reading the entire text (no matter the length) in the exact time it takes to cast the spell. The pages seem to rustle by as if caught in the wind. Once memorized, the magus does not require an actual copy of the text to study or transcribe it.

The Library of Durenmar is permanently enchanted to prevent this Ritual from being performed within its walls, although only the Primus of the House knows how this was achieved. Additionally, rumors exist of texts that contain traps against such memorization, even fatal ones, and of the dangers of memorizing a text written by an incomprehensible Criamon or an author close to Final Twilight.
(Base 5, +4 magnitude for complexity)
TMRE p.27

Based on that, it is certainly possible for standard hermetic magic to extract information from a given book, provided that there is a "mind receptacle" to receive it, which is coherent with the Intellego Mentem guidelines.

Given that, if one accepts that Mentem can be used to create a somewhat very limited mind, may be this spell could be adapted to create an "ex nihilo" memory locus, directly binded to the book (maybe with one or two magnitudes added for additional complexity) ? Something like this :

Giving Life to the Dead Letters
CrMe(An) 40
R:Touch, D:Mom, T:Ind, Ritual

This spell creates a memory locus similar to Memory Palace of the Sage, but instead of creating the locus in the mind of the caster, it creates it in the book itself, imbuing it with a limited mind receptable, with no emotions and no volitions. The book memory locus can then be the subject of Intellego Mentem effects designed to retrieve specific informations.

(Base 5, +1 touch, +4 magnitude for complexity, +2 requisite additional effect "binding the locus to the book")

What do you think ?

If it were typeset there is no question that the spell could detect it, but keep in mind as well that exactness is not required for magic detecting a bird with InAn dos not require you detect this specific bird. Which is where I believe a use of finesse covers the variations in shape that represent the different ways to write the word. After all you could detect wood in the shape of a chair without having to specify exactly how the chair was made.

A locus in a memory palace would not hold an entire book, and creating seasons worth of memories is similarly disallowed. CrMe spells generally require a mind to work within- in the case of animating corpses the "mind" is deceased but can apparently be given a limited amount of revival, but there is still something there, you cannot imbue thoughts into vellum by magic unless it is with magical writing which leaves a more traditional target. In short the category of spells you are trying to create have been specifically considered and forbidden by the authors of RAW. If you want to invoke a breakthrough then of course anything is possible...

The accusative would be Flatulum most likely, but your error actually underscores your point. There are people who speak dubious Latin.

If I used "search" (ctrl+f) to check a text, I'd go for finding "latul" for this very reason. My native language is rich in ending, and we teach our children to simply omit the first letter (capital or not) and the ending when doing a computer search.

I admit this doesn't help with smudges and some typos, but believe me, I've used it tons of times to quick-find something in Ars Magica pdfs!

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Date and time would also play a major role in how easily a spell could pattern recognize writing.

There is the Carolingian minuscule from shortly before 800AD onwards, which is based on earlier ideas of standardisation from the British isles.

Your spell is pretty close to what I imagined when saying that you could possibly argue that it is possible to create a mind that can read the book for you.

However as mentioned above, and pointed out by @silveroak the spell that you propose is decidedly un-RAW.

That is not to say that you cannot have it in your own saga, just to let you know that you are straying from the majority opinion on what is possible within the rules as they currently stand.