The Old Parma Magica Problem - What is wrong with this solution?

UPDATE 18th May 2020 for anyone coming to this thread fresh - the ruleset for MR I finally settled on after feedback is given in full detail in the 79th post below. The main points of it are:
Unless penetrated, magic resistance has four effects: (I actually think 1 and 2 could potentially be combined into one, but for clarity I have included them both)

  1. Any spells targeted at you or at something of you are a part (e.g., a group or room), do not affect you. [exactly as in ArM5 RAW]
  2. Magic resistance nullifies the force applied by any magic that reaches you. In this case, it does not dispel the magic, but it nullifies any force exerted on you by the magic. Something akin to a magical armour that suffuses a magus. This is a crucial part, and is explained in more detail in the 79th post.
  3. Any magic that attempts to extract information directly from you fails to do so. This means, for example, that magic cannot read your thoughts, or sense where you are or what your state of consciousness is.
  4. It makes you aware when something under the influence of an active magical effect comes within one inch of you.

What this means for common critiques of magic resistance:

  • No pink dot problem. The pink dot is not exerting any force on you, and even if it was, it would only be the pink dot that was nullified – the mundane sword would do damage as normal.
  • No boulder problem. A small pebble turned into a huge boulder and dropped on your head would do the same damage as the small pebble would have done (none).
  • No poison-wine weakness. If wine is turned into poison or poison turned into wine you will sense (as pick it up or move it to your mouth) that it is under a magical effect, so you will probably avoid drinking it. If it is wine turned to magical poison, then even if you do drink it, it will not harm you.
  • No "ground turned to water, then change it back and entomb the magus" weakness. You will fall into the water, but it will not be able to drown you, restrict you, stop you casting spells, or make you wet, and you can move in it easily and freely (to get out, for example).

End of update, and here is my original post that started this thread:

Hi - I know there is a huge history of debate around parma magica and how to get a consistent set of rules that work. It seems no matter what you choose, you either have the boulder problem or the pink dot problem (There is also the poison problem - wine turned to poison by magic, the magus drinks it and it has bypassed the PM). For 5th ed., David Chart said he thought the pink dot problem was the one to go with, as it couldn't get a magus killed like the boulder problem.

Now it seems to me there's a fairly simple solution for all 3 problems, and, as I'm certain it must have been proposed and discussed before, I'm posting to ask if someone can tell me what the problem with it is, before I mess my campaign up by using it. So, the idea is that if a magical effect fails to penetrate PM then:

  • Anything propelled by magic slows/stops, such that it doesn't reach the magus and cause any harm (this is standard rules in 5th ed.)
  • Any spells or spell effects with the magus as the target have no effect (again, standard I think).
  • Anything created entirely by magic (e.g., magical fire) stops when it gets within an inch of the magus, and goes around him/her, causing no harm (standard, except for the emphasis on entirely)
  • Any damage or damage bonus caused by a magical effect is reduced to zero. (non-standard, but this is the part that seems to solve many problems)

So with this system:

  • A boulder made into a stone then dropped on a magus would just remain a stone and harmlessly drop on the magus. The PM would do nothing at all. No problem.
  • Magically created fire, water, insects, etc. are protected against. Good.
  • A magus who drinks wine transformed into poison would be able to go ahead and drink it, and would not know anything was wrong, but they would sense their PM activate (unless penetrated) to prevent the poison causing any harm. No problem.
  • An enchanted sword would strike the magus just as any ordinary sword, but any magical increase to damage would be reduced to zero, and any instilled effects that made the magus a target of a spell-effect would not activate. A pink dot would not stop a sword hitting a magus. No problem.

So that seems quite satisfactory to me - what am I missing? The only thing I can think of is that people don't like the idea of a specific effect protecting against damage? Though that seems intuitively sensible to me, given the idea of a protective shield.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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suppose I do it backwards- I transform a potent poison into water, duration day. serve it at dinner before sunset. The mage drinks it- at sunset a perfectly natural poison sits in their stomach...

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Ah, yes, good. That is a problem. Still, personally, I think I may prefer it to the pink dot problem. What if:

PM means the magus senses when anything magical enters the body. Therefore, they can rectify the situation before the change to poison happens (i.e., make themselves vomit or withdraw it by magical means?). In fact, they would sense the first mouthful of water was magical, so would spit it out and not swallow any/much anyway.

Can you see problems with that too?

Wouldnt the potent poison transformed into water be prevented from passing the magus' parma, i.e. not enter the magus' mouth?

Not in my suggested ruleset in the OP, as PM only stops things created entirely by magic, not changed by magic. Of course, it could also stop things that have been entirely changed by magic, but I wonder if sometimes deciding what "entirely" meant in that case may get tricky (is acid turned into stronger acid entirely changed?). And if the rule is "anything changed at all" then that's the current rules and allows the pink dot problem.

In that case what does things created entirely by magic entail?

I would argue that things that are created with a momentary Creo ritual are created entirly by magic, yet under the current system they are mundane things once created. However it seems like under your system such things would be resisted with parma, presumably indefinitely.

You are going to have a lot of problems providing a reasonable definition for the word "entirely" and many consequences will hinge off of how you end up defining it.

regarding the pink dot problem there is also the counter argument that Parma magica does not resist the exemplary mundane sword with a pink dot on it instead it merely resists the "pinkness" of that sword but notably not the "swordness".

I think entirely created by magic is easy and a very clear boundary. If it's from a creo spell, it counts. As to your objection about creo ritual creations, that's a problem in the standard 5th rules isn't it? My "entirely created by magic" is only a subset of the 5th "anything created/modified/affected by magic" so it can't possibly result in more things being affected, only less. It does not include anything that is not included in the standard 5th rules.

Yes on the pink dot problem, but as I understand the term "pink dot problem" is still used to refer to the general problem that if a magus enchants an enemy's sword he suddenly becomes immune to it, and that is the current 5th ed rules. (and as I understand it, if you say PM removes the pinkness, you are left with the boulder problem, where it would remove the "smallness" of the boulder)

I prefer the "magus can drink water that then turns to poison" problem (that silveroak pointed out), to the pink dot problem in the current 5th ed rules. And I also think the water-poison problem might be solvable by saying a magus detects anything magical when it enters the body, and so would spit the water out. Right now, I see no problem with that as a consistent PM ruleset with no loopholes. As I said in my OP, I have probably still missed something and would be grateful to anyone who can point out what that is.

I have a somewhat similar solution, though definitely a little different. This is mine:

The "pink dot" is not a valid defense. Magic resistance keeps active magic from reaching the target, which can seem like suppression or repulsion, depending on the circumstances. Examples: A boulder turned into a pebble will bounce off harmlessly because it is entirely active magic. A magically flaming sword can still strike the target, but the flames will not reach the target. A sword Talisman with an effect to read the owner's thoughts strikes the target normally because neither the Talisman bond nor the thought-reading normally reach the target anyway.

Ultimately, as long as people know up front, any little variation on things is pretty acceptable.

a much simpler solution is that parma will not protect a magus from their own magic. Thus the pink dot only becomes an issue if an ally casts the spell...

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Yup, that works. It drastically changes Personal v. Touch, too, which should be considered.

Which is very easy as long as there are 2+ magi present, and still feels like it breaks the spirit of the game, so it doesn't feel like a solution to me. Not one I'm happy with, anyway.

I suppose one thing I don't find believable or very on-theme is the idea that an enchanted mundane sword is easier for a magi to resist than a normal mundane sword. Yes, they should be able to resist the enchantment part, but I don't think the outcome should be better than if it was a mundane sword, it should be the same.

I also like your solution, Callen. I suppose I might be wary about having to make the call about exactly what PM did on a case by case basis, but I can see it working.

So based on comments thus far my new revised version of (no loophole?)PM is:

  • Anything propelled by magic slows/stops, such that it doesn't reach the magus and cause any harm (this is standard rules in 5th ed.)
  • Any spells or spell effects with the magus as the target have no effect (again, standard I think).
  • Anything created entirely by magic (i.e., non-permanent creo) stops when it gets within an inch of the magus, and goes around him/her, causing no harm (standard, except for the emphasis on entirely )
  • Any damage or damage bonus caused by a magical effect is reduced to zero. (non-standard, but this is the part that seems to solve many problems)
  • If something with an active magical effect comes within an inch of the magus and fails to penetrate, the magus will become aware that the entity is under an active magical effect (e.g., poison made to look like water, or a deadly snake turned into a scarf).

If anyone can find any loopholes, let me know (I feel like there must be some and I just can't see them, like I didn't see silveroak's version of the poison-wine problem at first).

Tactically speaking there will always be issues, but I don't think it should be a perfect defense. It cannot distinguish water turned into wine from poison turned into wine, and even with the above modifications I feel it should not protect a magus from their own magic (except possibly enchantments). The magus can still be targeted indirectly, as they can currently... the biggest issue I think is that environmental effects can hurt the magus as this is written, though the error here seems to be with how the rules are transcribed rather than the new design- for example filling a room with water which is made with muto (change the bucket of water into a lake of water, or muto aurum(Aq)- turn air into water, may notify the mage they are being drowned magically but does not protect them...

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The water and drowning situation is a tricky one. In my version, something changed to a large amount of water would indeed drown the magus [EDIT: I just realised this isn't necessarily true, as it cannot damage the magus unless it penetrates PM. So I guess in regards magical water and drowning this ruleset will be in the same position as the standard PM rules - i.e., who knows how it's supposed to work?]. But a created amount of water... I don't know. It would be the same as it is in the standard 5th rules but it seems like an odd area. What happens to a magus who is stuck under magical water that does not penetrate his parma? Can he breathe the water? Is he in some kind of air bubble? Can he move through it freely? Does he act like it isn't there? Or does he just drown, despite his PM working, and think "ah, well, that's unfortunate?"

And yes, I agree, it should not be a perfect defence. I think it needs to be enough of one that magi have to struggle to kill each other, and no more than that.

  • Any spells or spell effects with the magus as the target have no effect (again, standard I think).

What about spells that affect the Room the magus is in? I don't see anywhere in your rules where this is covered.

  • Anything created entirely by magic (e.g., magical fire) stops when it gets within an inch of the magus, and goes around him/her, causing no harm (standard, except for the emphasis on entirely )

I don't understand why you emphasize "entirely", what is it being contrasted with?

If I have a Creo effect that grows the twigs on the ground to a piercing shafts that pierce anyone standing on the ground above them, is this "created entirely by magic"? If I change water into acid and pour it over my opponent, is this not blocked?

  • Any damage or damage bonus caused by a magical effect is reduced to zero. (non-standard, but this is the part that seems to solve many problems)

If I change a person's Strength, does the addition to his sword's damage count as a damage bonus caused by magic? What about levitating that rock over the target's head and then letting it drop naturally - surely that damage is caused by magic!

What about spells that affect the Room the magus is in? I don't see anywhere in your rules where this is covered.

Interesting one... But couldn't this be covered in the same way as the standard rules, which I think say that spells which target the magus or anything the magus is part of (such as a group or room) do not affect the magus (but affect other people)?

I don't understand why you emphasize "entirely", what is it being contrasted with?

With the standard rules, which block anything created or enhanced or changed by magic. In this version, the entity has to be entirely magical to be stopped, not changed or enhanced.

If I have a Creo effect that grows the twigs on the ground to a piercing shafts that pierce anyone standing on the ground above them, is this "created entirely by magic"?

I think almost all creo effects are, by definition, created by magic. If the thing was not in any way there before, it was created entirely by magic. If it is an existing thing that was changed or enhanced (here is where some creo effects would not apply) then it was not entirely created by magic. EDIT: This example I see was an existing thing (I originally interpreted as a new thing but have now re-read it). In that case, it is not created entirely by magic, so it would happen. But it would not directly damage the magus with the piercing shafts.

If I change water into acid and pour it over my opponent, is this not blocked?

It is not blocked, as it was transformed, not created, but it would cause no damage.

If I change a person's Strength, does the addition to his sword's damage count as a damage bonus caused by magic? What about levitating that rock over the target's head and then letting it drop naturally - surely that damage is caused by magic!

The increase in strength is caused by magic, so any increase in damage due to the strength would be reduced to zero. The rock is already covered in the standard rules - it's not propelled by magic so it falls onto the magus as a rock naturally would and with the same effects. If the rock had been grown in size, and so increased the damage it caused, that extra damage would not apply to the magus. SECOND EDIT: I'm not entirely sure the strength example works in this way, but it's all about where you decide to put an end to the causal chain. The standard rules have exactly the same problem (how would the standard 5th rd. rules deal with an enhanced strength situation, by the way?). I would be happy to say the strength had full effect, as it was one step removed causally. I'd also be happy to say it was affected, by, in terms of game mechanics, saying that any magical effect which conveys a damage bonus does not apply to the magus. Either of those would work for me. I'd probably go with whichever is closest to the standard rules interpretation of such an event.

So based on further posts and thought I am thinking perhaps the "blocks things created entirely by magic" thing is actually unnecessary, and those things could be dealt with the same way as transformed things, which keeps things much simpler and cleaner. That would mean it now looked like this:

  • Anything propelled by magic slows/stops, such that it doesn't reach the magus and cause any harm (this is standard rules in 5th ed.)
  • Any spells or spell effects which target the magus, or something of which the magus is a part (e.g., a group or room) have no effect on the magus (again, standard rules).
  • Any damage or damage bonus caused by a magical effect is reduced to zero. (non-standard, but this is the part that seems to solve many problems)
  • If something with an active magical effect comes within an inch of the magus and fails to penetrate, the magus will become aware that the entity is under an active magical effect (e.g., poison made to look like water, or a deadly snake turned into a scarf).

Neater, and I don't think removing the "entirely created by magic" clause has created any loopholes or problems. I originally put that in thinking of magical fire being shot at a magus, and it splitting and going around him, but if it doesn't in any way damage him, doesn't that amount to the same thing?

Again, I'm still eager to hear any loopholes people come up with, and am grateful to everyone who's posted so far.

I think the Pink Dot problem isn't really a problem.

Parma's not smart. It can't tell between something that's been created by magic nor if it's been transformed by magic nor manipulated by magic. It's Magic Resistance, it has one job - keep magic (supernatural effects) away from the magus.

Putting a pink dot on a sword is laughably easy (Base 1, +2M voice, +1M Diameter), it's true. So what? It's still an opportunity cost where you could have cast another, better spell. Like The Call to Slumber which removes the threat entirely. Or make him drop the sword with ReCo.

So Pink Dot seems like a problem but it really isn't. You've made his sword stop at your MR, great, he can still grapple you. Or toss a rock at you. You could use Group target (now you're up to MuIm10) to cover all of him and his stuff with pink dots and he can still throw a rock at you or pick up a tree branch.

I've never seen anyone use the Pink Dot defense in a saga.

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Thanks John - I agree with what you say to an extent, but that isn't my main issue with the pink dot problem. It's part of the issue, yes, but the main thing is that I don't find a world where the pink dot is possible is a believable one, or at least, not as believable as the rest of Mythic Europe which feels so wonderfully realised and alive. If someone casts a spell to enhance a sword's cutting power, I find it weird that a magus would be happier to face that weapon than the original sword, because the new enhanced one now bounces off his PM. I'm happy for PM to prevent the enchantment from affecting the magus, but not for it to prevent the mundane sword from affecting the magus. It isn't as much a power balance problem as a problem about suspension of disbelief in magic and how it works.

If someone put a sword sharpening spell on a sword, they should think about whether or not they have enough Penetration for it to be useful against magic resistance. And if they expect to be facing MR, having a backup weapon with no enchantment is still an option! Sword enchantments are still great vs mundane targets and you can usually tell when your opponents are likely supernatural.

Sending your favored companion against a magus is a bad decision that will end with a dead companion most of the time. Giving him a magic sword isn't likely to tip the balance even if it has lots of Penetration. A savvy wizard will have wards vs metal going anyways.