The uncoolness of Parma Magica

We are starting a new campaign and are discussing which system to use and I was promoting Ars Magica. I will not use the rules for Parma Magica as they are. Why? Because of the uncool way the system is exploited. Example: the mage Dartus Vaderus magically throws a boulder against the totally unaware Lucus. Lucus' PM holds and the boulder drops dead right in front of him as if it never had been thrown. The bard Georgius Lucius who happened to see this scratches his head. Vaderus now magically lifts the bolder over Lucus and drops it, on the now aware Lucus, using gravity. PM doesn't work and Lucus is crushed. Georgius has no idea how he will tell what happens to his audiencet and he decides to write up a better story.

1 Like

Any alternative? We all have ours :slight_smile: We do not use the trick you mentioned much, but we have issues with the pink dot problem so we had parma not stopping spells with a range of Touch or that were created at rqange touch. So a magically created sword (or a flaming sword) would not be stopped by Parma.

the rule as we use it is as follows:

Parma does not protect against spells targeting the magus that have a R: Personal or R: Touch AND ALSO a T: Individual. A temporary item (like a summoned sword) that was summoned at Touch range at the time of summoning avoids the Parma resistance as well, while a boulder summoned over the magus (range: voice) would be resisted.

However, it is difficult to find a system that is munchkin-proof. The best way to do it is to find what your groups does want and build a system that works for you :slight_smile:

Nice try :slight_smile: What happens with the summoned boulder? Does it stay in the air or does it bounce off?

We make it slide. In a sense we use a more "forcefield" approach to Parma. A star trek energy field. In general you will find that Parma is a hot topic for things like the one that irks you, and if you put 100 forum members together you will get 150 versions on what is the best way to address those issues.

The difference between a boulder propelled by magic vs a boulder thrown/dropped by magic is the Aiming Roll. A boulder propelled by magic is assumed to hit automatically unless it does not penetrate Parma. A boulder thrown/dropped by magic needs Finesse to hit.

1 Like

I think the star trek energy field also would have worked against a boulder from a catapult. The problem is that is is 100% in one case and 0% in another. If magic would have worked this way all the attack spells in ArM would have been customized to circumvent PM. All anti magus spell would be about invisible bolders made of different forms.

Only if

No, only the attacks spells that are going to be used primarily against other Hermetic magi. Against non-Hermetics the standard attack spells are more than sufficient.

Since Magic resistance and Parma are identical in practical terms, any attack that is supposed to affect the supernatural would also benefit from this. So yes, if you were going against anything you want to harm that is not a mundane animal or person you would have developed your attack spells either to avoid Parma or to maximize penetration to preposterous levels. We all have seen both cases in the forum and in our real-life sagas.

The complain is valid. Parma rules have not changed in eons. The answer is that you just need to find a way to correct it that is acceptable in your table. Ablative Parma, Parma that affects anything (including mundane attacks), Parma that affects any item moved during this round of combat... There are dozens of potential solutions. All of them.also have problems if you start digging (as said above, nothing is munchkin-proof), so you just accept the limit and do not try to abuse it or you find an angel that does not give crap about your magical or.mundane defences and that is out on a penitentiagite spree. Start creating a new PC :wink:

2 Likes

Well, last time I looked magical resistance scores were rather high. And why not go for the boulder meets head-spells that works in all situations? Besides... if the Flambeau are as bad ass that they say why do they specialize in spells only good to kill critters with?

Get a fire spell. Fair Penetration score. Penetration mastery. Multicast mastery. Some other mastery options. Easily 4 or 5 spells that do penetrate cast every single turn. You can beat MR by brute force as well as going around it

1 Like

Or go for boulder above head. Makes it possible for an apprentice to take out a demon with 60 MR without any arcane connection.

As someone who's played a magus who uses the "bypass magic resistance via throwing rocks at them" approach, I'll add my own observations:

It works great. Sometimes.

That "sometimes" is important, though. There are a number of downsides:

  • Spells in Ars Magica have to either penetrate, or make an aiming roll (this is spelt out explicitly on page 86 of the corebook - technically they have to do at least one - you can design a process that needs to do both, but it's generally a bad idea). This means that you have to overcome their Defense roll with your Per + Finesse + bonuses attack roll. With a sufficiently large rock the bonuses make this relatively trivial, but it does a) mean it's harder to hit an experienced physical combatent and b) mean you have a second chance to botch.

  • You need ammunition. Some places have giant rocks conveniently lying around, but most don't. If you create them using Creo Terram, they will need to penetrate, so you need to either create natural rocks (e.g. by designing spells to break up the ground until you get chunks of bedrock) or you need to bring them with you. Carrying around slingstones is relatively easy (and is what my magus does); carrying around huge rocks pretty much requires you shrink them down and then invest in a way to cancel the shrinking once you need them (e.g. Harnessed Magic, Perdo Vim unraveller, item that stops maintaining concentration). This adds at least one extra step before you can start actually hurting things, which is a problem if you're in a time-critical situation. Ammunition can also run out (although it may be possible to reuse it, depending on the range of your spells).

  • It can be harder to do large amounts of damage with them - a large boulder will do +21 damage, which is decent (although only just over 50:50 odds for killing a soak +0 person), but getting up to the +30 / +45 you can do with fire spells is a lot harder. It's also a lot harder to multicast than it is with fire spells - you (potentially) take aiming penalties (if attacking multiple targets), and use up your ammunition quicker.

  • It's relatively easy to ward against - you need stronger wards to protected you against stronger fire spells, whereas a single ward will protect you against all rocks thrown at you. The solution to this is to throw more than just rocks, but that requires you to invest in a variety of spells and ammunition.

None of these make "putting a boulder over their head" not a valid fighting strategy - but I think it's enough to make it far from the only valid strategy.

3 Likes

Stone over head was a figure of speaking. You could hit people with sharp wood, human or animal bones to bypass any terram protection. Ofc making them invisible first. Or collapsing walls or trees on the enemy. An earthslide should also be able to bypass parma. Fire might be useful but you would target anything but the magus you want to kill causing the surrounding to burn and smoke. Or ofc using spells that will make the magus own grogs turn on him. The only thing you would not use there worthless PeCo or CrIg that the "magus-killers" of Flambeau would try. With the current rules Verditius would actually be better magus-kilers using magically aided weapons. A magical arrow would not work, a real arrow shot from a magical bow would not work either but a bow pulled back magically and then manually fired would work. The arrows might have some charm against wind wards ofc. This is what the spells would look like after 500 years of magical experimentation rather than what we have now. I am actually not vouching for munchkin-weapons... I am vouching for a system where the magic looks epic and not like a computer game bug.

All of those can work (although making the projectile invisible will mean it needs to penetrate), but most of them are situational. At this point you've invested a lot of effort developing them, and someone who is willing to put an equivalent amount of effort into defending against them can generally defend themselves (human bone weapons are a bit harder to ward against, but also tricky to make all that effective whilst remaining natural).

An arrow manually fired will need to hit the target, in the same way a mundane archer would. Fine if you've got a decent (cross-)bow skill, but not particularly game-breaking.

That said, Verditius can be pretty good mage killers, but mostly by taking advantage of the rules on Item penetration.

Are the characters in your saga investing loads into Per + Finesse in order to be effective at aiming things? What sort of penetration totals are your focussed CrIg specialists getting (or would you expect them to get, were your troupe to build them)?

I think the invisibility of the arrow will disappear when it hits but it will hurt as an ordinary arrow. But OK... destroying objects around the magus would be the most cost effective way to kill him. Too bad he can do the same cheap things on you.

That's not the standard rule (although it might be a side-effect of a House Rule intended to prevent the "pink-dot" Parma loophole). Page 32 of Houses of Hermes: Societates states:

"One of the weaknesses of invisibility is that an invisible weapon is kept out by Magic Resistance (and an invisible character’s touch is likewise kept out). It is possible to pick up a weapon after becoming invisible: the weapon then remains visible and non-magical. Of course, this approach sacrifices much of the advantage of invisibility. In particular, it makes surprise attacks impossible unless the character is able to strike from behind.

Digging a pit under someone is another classic attack (although not usually fatal), but again, it requires aiming (and a suitable surface, which will be relatively common but not ubiquitously so). Collapsing a ceiling on someone also works, if they're inside and you don't care about the collateral damage.

What are you doing about actually hitting when aiming at things in your saga?

1 Like

Well there's always the old arms race; once one of the PCs gets famous for dropping rocks on people, they should not be surprised if their enemies come accordingly prepared.

Also, mind that the GM sets the enemies, the environment, and the difficulty. Things that my PCs flying rocks have literally never worked on include angels (too hard), a mechanical lion (too fast) and fire/water/air elementals (insubstantial). Also, mind that an aiming roll requires the PC to be able to see, or at least sense, their foes; invisible foes are much harder to hit.

I know this is a controversial opinion, but I think that Parma Magica ends up working pretty well. It seems like there are a number of workarounds dedicated exploiting the various quirks of how PM works but none of them are definitively better or worse than the others they all sacrifice some desirable characteristic in order to achieve some other desirable characteristic. e.g. some people prefer to aim and some prefer to penetrate. some people prefer to be quite sure to deal damage but then have to orchestrate the fight to occur in a special type of location or cause collateral damage. All of these should be valid approaches and seem like they are.

Regarding the potential for exploitation and trying to rephrase the rules to make it harder or impossible to munchkin I think is a futile approach. A system like Ars Magica is too vaguely defined to effectively prevent a munchkin from gaming the system. The only way to make it impossible to munchkin the game is to reduce the freedom of the vaguely defined rules to the point where you end up with a game like Magic: The Gathering. In my experience a sufficiently "good" munchkin can break any system if they want to and the only way to stop them is to convince them not to try.

3 Likes

There are enough replies probably covering this ground, but Parma Magica... It really does prevent the magic from affecting the protected individual or group.

I don't so much see it as a force field, but more... magical. The effect can't affect that intended target. The enchanted boulder can't drop onto the target, the enchanted sword (whether that's been enchanted by the Magus himself or by an effect in the blade) won't swing at the target. A magical poison won't leave the cup...

It's magic... That's how I think of it and play it. It's part of the magic, not a loophole.

4 Likes

This would be just amazing. The original poster argues (and this isnwell known in then forum) that even if your idea is very good this is not how Parma rules are written. I agree with that magical feeling, but the rules do not :slight_smile: And this is why there are a lot of people rewriting the rules for PM

1 Like