The sword of Damocles -- a problem in Magic Theory

There's a grog that's annoying you. She's always hopping around and dancing and tiptoeing in intricate patterns that you find distracting.
Even the sound is distracting! You've told her to stop but she can't control herself. She fancies herself a dancer, or perhaps an acrobat.
You want to make her feel ... on edge, so she'll stop all that unseemly bouncing around.

You are a powerful Terram magus -- any spontaneous effect up to 8th magnitude is easily within your reach.
And you are from house Jerbiton, so you know the classics, and you'll go for a classic: the sword of Damocles.
As the grog passes below your window, you'll dangle a sword above her head, point down. You'll call for her name. And you'll let the sword go.
Well, after casting a spell. The spell will keep the sword (Terram Base Individual, +2 Metal) floating, point down, exactly one inch above her head for a couple of weeks. Obviously, the sword should hang there without your constant supervision. The covenant has sufficiently high ceilings and doorways that the sword should not bang on anything, if the grog is careful. Which you think she'll be.

What are the Arts and final magnitude of the spell?

I'd say it's a 5th magnitude ReTe spell: Base 3 "move dirt in a highly unnatural fashion" (as in The Unseen Porter), +2 Metal, +1 Touch, +3 Moon.
From the discussion on the Gauntlet of Ogre Power thread, several people might disagree -- Ovarwa in particular. I'm curious if there's something like a rough consensus on this one.

My opinion? This magus is a horrible human being.

The magus is a indeed a horrible person, who should keep the door bolted and check each meal for ... additions.

I read the spell effect as: Level 3, +2 metal, +2 Voice (per your description), +3 Moon, and possibly +1 for "great precision" as per the ReTe guidelines. At least 6th / Level 30, possibly 7th.

Uhm, why not +1 Touch? The magus casts the spell on the sword while it is in his hand.

That shouldn't work. ArM5 p,156 The Unseen Porter demands "high Finesse stress rolls (12+ or so)", if "delicacy is required". And your spell demands at the very least that much delicacy, and a lot more supervision.


EDIT: Your spell effect is also ill defined. Just what shall it do, while the cavorting grog makes a somersault?

Well, this is exactly the point that's being debated.
Some people see the Finesse rolls of Unseen Porter as depending on the fact that the caster is constantly deciding where the Target should be next positioned. Because it's not "on autopilot", so to speak, you have to be careful about pushing it a little too far or dropping it a little too low.

The question is then whether you can leave a Rego Terram spell "on autopilot", if the movement is reasonably simple. Like, a crown or sword floating at a fixed distance above one's head. If I understand your position, you assume it's impossible (at least for Rego Terram -- for Imaginem, Corpus or Herbam it's canonically possible).

I bet she won't try :slight_smile:

You wish to appear to believe, that you can get "high Finesse stress rolls (12+ or so)" waived, if you only formulate a strategy in a simple phrase. I don't see anybody following you and waiving them, though.

Typically, formulating an encompassing strategy in a simple phrase is also anything but trivial. :wink:


It's not that the strategy can be formulated in a simple phrase -- some very complex things can be formulated in a simple phrase. No, it has to be intrinsically simple, though what is intrinsically simple obviously requires some subjective judgement by the troupe.

ironboundtome apparently agrees (check the Gauntlet thread) that moving an item so it remains at a fixed distance from a person can be accomplished without constant supervision by the caster (and without any extra magnitude for complexity). So does TimOB on this thread, albeit with some reservation about the fact that keeping a really precise distance might require an extra magnitude.

You appear to be of a different opinion, as does Ovarwa.

If something requires "high Finesse stress rolls (12+ or so)" only for delicacy, even without any interaction with an independently moving/changing/acting target and environment, it is not intrinsically simple in the sense of ArM5 rules. It causes the stress by itself.


Whoa - I said the crown example is ok as presented; this is similar but not the same and the devil is in the details... (YSMV )
This sword spell has a few additional areas/ problems to expect.
If very dramatic movement is needed then maybe a mag or finesse (and if finesse then it fails if the caster isn't present), if the effect can resist a solid force or move a fair distance unguided then consider a mag, and it needs to be Voice unless the caster is touching both the blade and the grog when casting.

As a GM I'd expect a clearly articulated spell description, and that would influence the level. So yes, this plausible at the initial level stated if it has some specific limitations.
Make sense?

Let me repeat. More than one person believes that the reason the Unseen Porter requires a FInesse roll, is not because moving an item around is intrinsecally complex. It's because the magus risks overexerting the control he has.

Your argument is like saying that, since it's objectively very hard to hold a glass for 5 minutes at the same distance from the ground (plus or minus 1mm) while you have it in your hand, it's obviously impossible to achieve the same by setting it on a table, where you have absolutely no control on the glass. It's an argument that makes no sense.

The one thing that's not clear to me is why the caster must touch both blade and grog when casting, to keep Touch range. The Target is the blade, so he'd only need to Touch the blade.

Other than that, I agree. I really expect people to disagree on a magnitude here or there. The big issue is whether the sword can move around without constant supervision by the magus. OneShot believes it's not possible. Ovarwa ... from what I read, not without a lot of magnitudes and/or requisites.

Than how does the blade know to hover over that person? Surely it would just keep hovering in its initial position, without some InCo effect to follow the person around OR a concentration duration spell, and the magus making damn sure it follows.

I can't see this working without one or the other.


But according to this line of reasoning, how would it even "know" it has to follow a person rather than, say, the first insect that touches it?

EDIT: Hmm, maybe I see what you mean. I find it strange, but reasonable. Basically, you are saying that if the spell has to react to portions of the environment, those portions must be in Range when the spell is cast so that the caster can in some sense "include them in the spell programming".

The reason is: spell Range is used to determine several "distance" factors in the effect design. A spells Range can be both the Range to the Target, and also the degree of distance something can move, and/or the distance to the secondary target.

E.g. The range of movement for the unseen arm is Voice, meaning the target object must be within Voice range and also cannot go beyond Voice range. You cannot cast on an object a few paces away and then float it out to R: Sight.

Likewise at R: Touch the Sword must be at hand and the poor victim of this dastardly (wonderfully intimidating) spell must also be Touched.

E.g. The Vilano effects are R: Touch which throws the object. As opposed to The Crystal Dart which rises near the caster and can travels far as Voice range.

This spell isn't throwing the sword, it is floating it above the target creature. The spell has two Targets to account (grog and sword) for and the Range modifier must accommodate both, and the distance between them.

Does that make sense?

Yes, it does, though it's an issue I had not considered when I started this thread.

So, I take it that you consider it impossible to cast a D:Sun ReTe spell to animate a metal door, so that it opens whenever someone - anyone - stands in front of it, right? Because you would not be able to include everyone into the casting range. Whereas it's possible with a wooden door using the level 10 ReHe "animate ..." guideline.

Nope. Both are possible. One is far harder.

I can animate a stone statue (ReTe/An, or ReTe/Me, or Co based - whatever) to grant a limited sentience, and that sentience can follow an explicit instruction.

We've seen those spells (and it's been argued they may or may not need the requisites - yikes, no more, no more, I'll be good).

Therefore I can animate a metal door almost as easily as a stone statue. Both the metal and stone are harder than the wooden door.

I think Herbam effects to grant limited sentience are easier than Terram because the plants were once living things.

You've got me wanted to write up that door spell, and a comparison by form on the base effect level.
I don't need more distractions!

Make sure it has a swooshing sound as it opens and closes. And make it a pocket door. Thanks.

Or a few grogs on the other side "magically" manually opening and closing it? Love your work.