Spells designed for laboratory uses

Something of some interest might be the "Calc" rune guidelines at the end of Thrice Told Tales. It's rune magic, not hermetic, but it does allow a rune wizard to make a magical repository of lore contained in the rune script which contains as much as a tractatus or summa (depending on the level of the rune script).

This doesn't really allow for searching or anything (debatably) but it does show at least that it is maybe possible to create some kind of magical effect which can store information, which is a step in the right direction.

How this might translate into hermetic magic, if it even can, I have no clue.

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[quote="silveroak, post:13, topic:168506, full:true"]
If there is even a tractatus in the library on artes Liberales they should be able to gain that ability in no time- [/quote]
Hmmm. They would have to be able to read the Tractatus first, wouldn't they?

Indeed. This is how Faeries enhance their Pretenses. Not by reading Tractatus.

Actually, TMRE p.27 Memory Palace of the Sage creates "a locus for the contents of an entire text in the target's memory palace".

There is HoH:S p.70 Other Tricks of Memory:

Storage: The core rulebook gives a guideline for turning a mind into a solid object, and gives the example of a bird (ArM5, pages 150 and 149, respectively). It is similarly possible to turn a memory
or emotion into a solid object. The base level of this is 5, and it requires a Requisite for the final form of the memory. The originator may feel the emotion, or recall the memory, while holding the object, but other people may not.

This looks like what you wish to achieve, but doesn't need "to create a somewhat very limited mind". It does however require to memorize the book first - be it by reading it, or by using Memory Palace of the Sage.

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They wouldn't have to read the tractatus, they would need to make sure they 'attach' their story to someone reading the tractatus, and gain the experience they do- faeries don't gain experience from their own actions but from the humans they associate with.

Interestingly, a 'book' "written" by a faerie is likely not in any real language but is simply a glamour of what is supposedly written, and might be able to be read by spell or ability that reads its glamour... although the fact that it cannot hold information on a real ability only a pretense limits the applicability of this technique...


Oh, nice one, thank you !

I can definitely see some uses for that trick in the laboratory :slight_smile:

Memory Palace of the Sage explicitly states that it can indeed hold an entire book.

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.

As this spell is not part of a mystery, it seems clear to me that this is within the scope of hermetic theory.

However, as you and @Euphemism pointed out, the use of Mentem to create a receptable mind is where it gets problematic. I don't know of any rule or guidelines explicitly saying that is not possible, but then again, it is not necessarily a good argument, because there is no clear and unambiguous precedent. Euphemism pointed out the spell The Walking Corpse. I would add that The Shadow of Life Renewed can imbue a body with a mind with no personality and no will, but able to receive abilities. So it is not clear to me that hermetic magic can't create limited or partial minds. But then again, I agree that it is a grey area.

There is also the effect pointed out by @OneShot, that a memory can be turned to a solid object. So it would theoretically be possible to :

  • use Memory Palace of The Sage to create a locus containing a book
  • use a MuMe spell to transform the locus into, say, a rock shaped in a miniature palace
  • let other magi probe the rock using InMe spells

Admittedly, this is a lot of effort for something that would be more easily achieved by mundane means, ie. simply reading the book :stuck_out_tongue: And this would make the magus creating the locus vulnerable if the rock was taken onto the wrong hands. But it seems feasible under the RAW.

Incidentally, and going back to my initial spell proposition, I note that Memory Palace of The Sage in itself does everything that I initialy wanted to do, ie. using magic to quickly probe a book for specific answers. There is in fact, no need for aditionnal fancy effects. However it is much more difficult (and arguably a little less flavorful for my merinita character) than I initialy thought.

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The human image created with ArM5 p.144 The Shadow of Human Life has only a "simulated intellect" - like an Eliza or an Alexa. I don't see how it could "receive abilities".

That's a thing to discuss with your troupe - but I might allow it.

EDIT: Sub rosa #22 has a memory artist magus, Candidus Norimbergensis, who makes extensive use of Memory Palace of the Sage.

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I think there might be more evidence in favour of this than you are giving credit for, although it's still very much something on the cutting edge of hermetic magic.

What is a limited mind in this sense? Well it's something similar to an animal mind - possessing the five wits in some amounts, but not possessing Reason or Intellect (which are functions of the soul). Such a mind should be able to learn to read in theory, as reading (in the limited sense of recognising words, not grasping the deeper meaning of the text) only needs:

  • The Common Sense, to combine the sense-images of the book into a whole.
  • Imagination to retain this image after the sense-images are no longer present.
  • Memory, to contain memories of different types of writing and so on that can be compared to the image contained in Imagination in order to recognise the words.

Cognition, Estimation, Reason, and Intellect are not really needed to simply recognise a word, though they are needed to actually read a text and understand what the words mean. Arguably some degree of Estimation or Cognition may be desirable for an expanded functionality, but we only need three wits to get pattern recognition going.

With that in mind, is it reasonable to say hermetic magic can generate these wits? Well, we know hermetic magic can:

  • Create an animal, which has all 5 wits, using Animal.
  • Interact with each wit individually using Mentem (see the specialised Mentem guidelines in A&A).
  • Permanently increase the amount/capacity of these wits, though only all at once rather than individually (this is how Mentem spells which increase mental characteristics actually work, according to A&A).
  • Animate a corpse and grant it some amount of the five wits (otherwise it wouldn't be able to act unless actively controlled).

So, to me at least, it seems reasonable to conclude that there is no reason why hermetic magic could not create a mind possessing the five wits. Wits and no soul means it would be, at best, as capable as a very clever animal - but this is exactly the kind of "limited mind" we're talking about.

You could argue that it is impossible to make the wits divorced of a suitable form - we only see hermetic magic ever produce them in an animal body or human corpse, both of which possess the physical structures of a living being with a mind. However, we also know that in Mythic Europe there are airy spirits, awakened items, and other beings who are intangible or non-biological but who definitely possess the wits (and arguably, a soul as well).

However the guidelines for doing this definitely do not exist in 1220, so original research would certainly be required. Still, I see no reason why it shouldn't be possible. It seems like an incremental improvement on existing hermetic magic rather than a great leap into the unknown.


I fear, that this doesn't work, because (ArM5 p.148) "Intelligent minds are affected by Mentem spells, while the minds of beasts are affected only by Animal spells." The Mentem guidelines in A&A do not override ArM5 (unless ArM5 has errata about it already), and A&A does not need to repeat any restrictions of ArM5.

As a breakthrough in a saga I would accept such an extension of the scope of Mentem, though.

EDIT: Such a breakthrough might be only Minor, if one of the A&A p.11 Hermetic Magic and Philosophical Breakthroughs, Platonic Magic Theory or Aristotelian Magic Theory, has already been achieved.

A few thoughts leap to my mind-

  1. If I memorize a spell tablet with the Memory Palace of the Sage then I could "read" it at will to cast the spell.
  2. Could I create an animate living body devoid of mind then use animal to imbue it with the mind of a higher level animal? Would the animal mind in a human body then be able to be affected by mentem? I expect the limit of the soul is buried in the question somewhere, though particulars probably vary with the saga.

That should work. The magus who memorized the Casting Tablet will soon wisen up and use it as little as possible, though: too limited and risky.

No. ArM5 p.119 The Beast Remade doesn't get a human mind either.

Yes, but the beast remade is a Mu spell that leaves the underlying essence of the body as being an animal, regardless of its appearance. Creating a body with corpus form might have a different outcome (though admittedly, I still suspect that the answer will end up being no in most sagas)

Although it is perhaps a trite and comedic response, you should modify the CrVi guidelines to to rarify a book elemental.
More seriously, the elemental rules are the most clear rules of creating an intelligent creature from nothing (except maybe CrAn magical animals) - and admittedly those come out simple-minded and slow-witted. Might be a fun lab research to improve your lab research, breakthroughs to create non-elemental magic things.

Regarding the initial spells, without running numbers, I could see an intellego spell that brings the letter patterns of a book to mind and lets you filter through them for particular words, but it would probably have to be a concentration duration spell, since your magus has the mind doing the filtering, instead of the magic doing the filtering.

On the other hand, there is one known hermetic method for giving an animal something resembling a human mind- which is to bind it as a familiar. How that fits in to various hermetic limits is another question which seems to be insufficiently explored.

Yes, it's even spelled out as "reading the entire text".

The full sentence is there, emphasis mine :

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.

Therefore, a 400 pages summa can be extracted this way, during the 75 minutes it take to cast the ritual. The spell makes it clear that is is not conventional reading, but an act of magic.

But even if that was not case, it's not really the point. The point is that upon completion of the reading process, hermetic magic can create a mentem individual, namely a locus, containing the whole book in all its details. In other words, this is an example of a standard hermetic spell which is able to manipulate information from a book, albeit through a long and tedious process.

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Calling a locus "a mentem individual" may mislead.

In TMRE p.25 New Ability: Art of Memory we find:

Those without the Art of Memory also lack the well-defined location system of loci.

Constructing a Memory Palace explains a locus thus:

The traditional approach is a square villa, with a central courtyard and entrance archway, although magi may choose more unusual designs if they so wish, to reflect their personal interests and background. Rooms lead off this central courtyard, containing five loci each, wherein distinct complex pieces of information can be retained for later access. A scene one witnesses, the details of a conversation, an alchemical formula, the names of all magi present at a tribunal or residing at a covenant, or any other lengthy piece of information less than an entire text may be committed to each locus.

So the locus from TMRE p.27 Memory Place of the Sage implies, that the caster knows Art of Memory and is thus able to handle loci in his own memory.

It seems that everyone just ignored the third spell of the OP...

...but it seems to me the most interesting one.

For once it feels like the more thematic for the magus. Also seems like a lot of fun. Not only the animae could think of their own, they could also lie, cheat and do faerie playful stuff all over the lab, probably something that would give a lot of trouble. But of course that Merninita probably will be used to deal with faeries anyway. I can see that lab having an increased Warping and/or a lower Safety because of that, besides the potential benefit.

As for the spell itself, as discussed above it should be MuHe(An). I don't really see the need for D: Season (and so Perpetuity mistery); just going for D: Ring., draw a circle around your book shelves and trick done (also breaking the circle would be a nice fail-safe mechanism if things go too much fairy). Also, you could also go for T: Circle, and cast it over all the books inside the circle.

As for the rest of the discussion, I have the feeling that a lot of you guys tend to think of magic as programming (same problems, same approachs. OCR? Really?). It is not: Posing the Silent Question shouldn't need to address either with human neural networks nor with database concerns. Until any of you can program a Pilum of Fire in Python you should probably give magic some room to be that, magic.

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If you take a second look at the comments about OCR, you'll find that nobody ever said "this works like OCR", it was just an apt comparison to something more familiar in the modern world - that is, the discussion was about whether a thing which lacks a mind or the capacity for understanding (a spell, or a computer in the metaphor) would be able to extract the intangible quality of "information" from writing on a page. Nor did anyone mention databases or neural networks until yourself just here, in fact we've mostly been talking about the medieval model of the mind. One mention of a computer does not turn magic into programming...

That said, magic in Ars Magica does have a certain logical structure, and it has limitations. You can choose to ignore all this and just say "anything goes - it's magic!" but that sort of goes against the grain of how the system is set up. A valid playstyle certainly, but for me at least if you want a narrative "magic is inexplicable and mystical" sort of magic system there are many better rulesets than Ars Magica for that. Simply having a mostly coherent internal logic doesn't make it so that magic is "programming" - logic existed in the 13th century too, and long before that.

To take your example - Posing the Silent Question. Is it actually some sci-fi mind reading thing, scanning neurons and so on? No, of course not, that's not how minds work in Mythic Europe. So does it operate entirely on hand-waving "it's magic" explanations of how it works? Also no, what it actually does is access the faculty of Imagination, which is a part of the mind under the medieval conception of the mind, and pulls the answer from there. There's a perfectly logical way to explain what it does and how, within the mythic paradigm.

On the rest of your comment I have nothing to add, I really like the idea of animae spells on books, and I think it only didn't get much discussion because it's a novel spell but one that would definitely work to some degree, rather than being an edge-case gray area like the other two.

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