The uses for Automata


I re-posted this text as an suggestion on what good you could get from an automata. They seem as a poor invesment for the time and resources nedded.

Perhaps you could count the automata as the following lab improvements but taken as a free choice unless its huge. If you enchant it so it can move and assist you with manual labour in the lab and defend you if needed.

· Minor feature statue, +1 rego, +1 aesthetics.
· Lesser guardian, + 1 safety, +1 aesthetics, +1 in appropriate art (suggestion same form as material of automata.
· The tireless servant, +1 safety, +1 general quality.

This means a total of +1 in rego and say terram or herbam, +2 in safety and aesthetics and a +1 bonus to general quality. Perhaps a weak return for the trouble and costs of making an automata but at least something.

What do you think


That seems reasonable to me.

I was thinikng of learning a level or two of profession scribe and having it turn out (admittedly inferior) books at a fantastic rate as it wouldn't need to eat drink or rest.

It somewhat bothers me that there's no real point to automata.

Or am I wrong?


(Kryslin walks in to the forum, and reads the messages. Then, abruptly, walks out of the forum, whistling the theme from Giant Robo : The Animation.)

I believe, waaay back on another forum (Gaming Outpost), when the Original Mysteries came out, there were certain Genre that various authors were aiming at, or trying to make possible. With Theurgy, it was Dueling Monsters (aka Pokemon). With Alchemy, and Automata, it was Giant Robots (Giant Robo, Vision of Escaflowne, Aura Battler Dunbine, Battletech, Mobile Suit Gundam, et alia).

There is no real purpose to Automata, except these.

  1. They're Cool.
  2. Bragging Rights (for the maker, and the covenant).


OK, I guess I'm in the contrarian's seat again.

Actually, I like automata a lot. To be sure, the investment is high and I've been fiddling with some house rules to make them more appealing to the PC magus, but on the balance I think that a good place can be found for them -- particularly for the Verditius as was intended. My thinking goes like this:

  1. What would it take to make this into a Great Work?

No, I've not run the numbers according to the canonical rules yet, but it seems to me that this would make a fantastic alternative to the summa/tractatus written by other magi. And particularly to as a means of Verditius-to-Verditius knowledge exchange. The vis cost IS high. But play with level limits and quality levels a bit and you have yet another Hermetic income source for the magus/covenant. Consider: "Johann, you simply MUST take the time to study our brother Marcus' automaton at <>. He has successfully integrated perdo ignem and creo auram effects with mechanisms for circulating air around the entire covenant keeping it ALL at a VERY comfortable temperature without violating anyone's sanctum, the grogs never complain about day or early morning duty due to temperature leaving the council to deal with more important matters. And there is so much more. I've studied his contrapation for a year (and paid him and his covenant a pretty pawn, I don't mind telling you), but what I gained was so much more fascinating than what I got out of those prigs at Durenmar back in '03. Go, I say. Our House is better served this way." Hey, I don't think an automaton really has to be anthropomorphic, jst wonderfully complex.

  1. I don't know about you guys, but I would let a Verditius who has House-trained (pardon the expression) in the Mystery make a minor breakthrough to be able to cast a ritual for transferring (or "copying", we should be nice occasionally) an Ability into the automoton. Vis cost of the ritual and prep to be, say, twice the Ability score in pawns of vis. Maybe more, maybe less. Play with it. Note that I would make this a major breakthrough for a magus from any other House.

I may just wave my hands and say that an NPC Verditi did it for a recent Master-grade contest and is willing to sell copies of the lab texts and summary commentaries to other Verditi (only) accompanied by dire threats including a hint of his next project casually mentioning his observations: "... the similarities between anthropomorphic automata and ... what was that term Jacob (a Jewish magus with a reputation for swordsmanship) used?? <<snap, snap, snap>> Oh yes, 'golem' was the word he used. I'm told they can be implacable..."

  1. Spies.

Allow the artistry of, say, a dragonfly. Fly him over the castle wall of the local Lord. Record conversations and mapping until condition X. Use info to keep him out of your back yard, so to speak. Code violation, maybe -- and I do mean maybe. But with subtle handling and the right palms greased, worth the risk and investment if you would otehrwise get mixed up in a covenant-destroying war.

  1. I agree that the "mechanical" reliability rules may need adjustment. So adjust them to suit your campaign.

Or allow specialized ReTe/ReHe/ReAn effects with a group target and constant effect. Might add some interesting "aging" effects to the assembly. For example, if you have an effect that, say buffs out scratches (yes I know some would scream CREO Herbam, here), the magus may find that those subtle details in the "cheeks" of the automaton's face are getting smoother and smoother. Or maybe that the effect that monitors the strain in the cords of the lifting mechanism seems to shut things down at lighter and lighter weights. Just a thought.

  1. Figure out a way to use this to reduce mundane expenditures of the covenant -- fields plowed, potatoes harvested with less waste, horses exercised. I imagine with a bit of focussed creativity everyone on this list can figure out a way to cut staff levels and efficiency and damage losses, let alone real and soft costs associated with managing the footprint of said covenant. The sentence "There is a large town on the other side of that hill and they're getting bigger and We Don't Trust Them," might poke a covenant into investing in an automaton AND might tempt the Verditi to (gasp!) Reveal Secrets due to the need for help with some enchantments.

  2. The issue of skills and effects requiring concentration is real but managable. Or maybe I should use the term "mangle-able"

If the skill doesn't require creative thought, like, say, grading and bagging milled grain for trade, let it be. Or "Aquire target. Point at target. Activate flamethower effect. Roast until done." InCo, ReTe, Trigger CrIg (concentrate), InCo Trigger (drop concentration). Let it be.

Debate creative tasks with the troupe. Cooking, for example: "Make porridge and unleavened bread" -- no problem. "Make slow-roasted pig with 40 gallons of potato soup" -- eh, OK, but the soup might be a bit bland. "Make cider-braised pork loin finished with lightly toasted saurkraut and white potato bread with a savory herb butter, served on our best plates, and make sure the plates shine like a clear morning" -- em, perhaps we need to hire a real kitchen staff.

I have to be reminded time-to-time of the First Rule of Gamemastering (and I'm sure the other folks on this list can state it better): Cut The Players Enough Slack On The Rules To Have Fun.

  1. Bragging rights. OH yeah! There is a LOT of ego in ME to be stroked and that translates into security (read income, safety, solitude, focus, privacy, privilege, what have you). I'm loosely modelling a Verditius Archmagus off of Terry Pratchet's Leonard of Quirm. He's going to be fun. He's going to make a number of automata along with "standard" enchantments. My players are going to love this guy.

  2. Picture this: Swarm of magical rats + plenty of exercise wheels + lots of pulleys and gears and chases + Bind Magical Creature Mystery + Automata Mystery + Re/In/Cr Animal effects == I'm sitting here at my keyboard trying to keep my maniacal chuckle down so as not to wake the neighbors.

Well, I've rambled on long enough. Let me finally say this, however.

To the author of the section in question and Mr. Chart, thank you very much for the inspiration. We may have some minor differences of opinion on some of the details, but you crafted a really great foundation to build upon and the guy in my saga who is playing a Verditius and I are going to have a blast with this (and other stuff) by your good efforts. Well done, well done, well done!!



I think that the automata as a great work is most interseting. Do you or anyone else have any suggestions about how the rules for such a device would be.

Good thoughts


I don't think that you're really in the contrarian's seat. You admit that "the balance is off" and that you'll be fiddling with house rules for them.

Urien has stated that he finds them uninteresting but to my recolection he is unique in this respect so far.

You're just a contrarian in taking the tack of "what can we do with automita that's cool?" rather then "If I were going to not twist the rules to fit the game that I wish to play. What could I squeeze out of the rules as written that wouldn't be an irrational waste of time for my magus?"

Still twiddling, but my first go round is somewhere along these lines:

-- Expense raises Quality Levels through purchase of resonant materials. Great works recieve triple the usual bonuses through use of such, so this could be well spent (and allows the Verditii to have a high Q "text" without having to have a high COM score).

-- If I recall correctly, great works are purchased at covenant creation as ediface boons or with build points equal to its value as a learning tool and I'd like to preserve this. However, an automaton is not a book or a tower so I might fudge the BP cost as follows:

  BP for text value + BP for vis stocks used in enchantment + BP for silver used

Still "expensive" as books go, as it should be, but I think that it would pay for itself over a long saga even setting aside the soft benifits of having a great work at your covenant.

-- For the PC making one, and I have not run the numbers on this, I would say that construction time could generate a text value in the relavent craft abilities that an equivalent amount of time producing a book would. Maybe a bit less just because it isn't a book, but only a very little bit. So, a year spent fabricating could generate four tractatus, say, three Woodcrafting and one Metalsmithing, but obviously the mix of those tractatus would depend on composition. And at first blush I would subsitute Craft ability for any scibal ability that might seem appropriate when calculating Quality values. Oh, and incidentally, I WOULD allow the four in this example to get the florigelia (sp?) bonus since they obviously depend on each other.

Equivalently, time spent opening the assembly for enchantment would translate into tractatus in magic theory. In my saga I would limit that by saying only those initiated in the mystery, regardless of House, would be able to study the machine for that subject with a +1 or +2 study total bonus if the student is Verditii.

Enchantments would generate lab texts, again, "readable" only by the initiated.

So, at a guess, a well-made automaton that was lovingly crafted for 8 seasons, and then awakened, if you will, and had , say, 8 enchantments would be a walking library that might look like this:
*Woodcrafting tractatus Q8 x3
*Leatherworking tractatus Q8 x2
*Metalsmithing tractatus Q8 x2
*Stonecutting tractatus Q8 x1
*Magic Theory tractatus Q8 (Q10 for Verditii) x1
*Lab Text x8

Quite a good bit of work. Yes, it may run up against the limit on how many books an individual magus can write, but then an automaton of this scale would more likely be made by a magus of very significant experience anyway. Could be wrong, but that works for me right now anyway.

Thoughts, anyone?


True enough. I guess I get tired of the complaining tone I seem to see from time to time (particularly on the Berklist -- and I just lurk there for that reason and the fact I do't want to get caught up in the "I'm smarter than you (or him/her) and I can prove it" garbage that also swirls around).

You've hit it on the head in terms of my attitude. I go in with the assumption that the designers/authors -- particularly in this game -- really do know what they are doing and are unafraid of serious playtest and proofread time so it is going to work within that context. Thing is, they don't know how I run the game or play it. Therefore it will require some tweaking.

What really impresses me is how strong a foundation the authors/editors/playtesters have built. I can build quite a lot on it and live in the resulting structure quite happily. Sure, I've had to modify MY floor plan and maybe shore up a couple small spots in the foundation so as to build that tower I really, really want, but I've decided to spend time building and living instead of looking at the hole in the ground, pointing at it, and saying "Well I would have done it differently, and therefor it is utter garbage." Let's keep it positive.

In this particular issue, I've heard, in numerous forums, how the automata are wasted page space. I wanted to underline that that particular view is not universal and I wanted to make sure the folks knew that the effort and creativity spent was very well appreciated.

And it is.

Thanks for helping me clarify that.


I think this would be good indeed. I would add the following:

-- For a large automaton, say, size +1 or +2, I would increase it from lesser feature to greater.
-- I would make the aesthetic bonus a little more dependent on craft ability(ies). If a creative magus spends the time to make it look like and fly like an angel accompanied by choral music, then perhaps the aesthetic bonus would more appropriately be a +2 or +3 but everthing else is the same as if it were a statue on wheels.

This could be a really great boon for a Verditii at a covenant where he has to not only generate his own income, but contribute to the covenant as well. Consider that such a lab assistant could increase the production speed somehow (e.g. forge companion) except that it might be able to work a double shift.

I like this idea. Yes, expensive for the lab bonuses, but totally in keeping with the Verditii theme. Besides, a good and well-connected Verditii can make a truly stupid amount of income so why not have an accomplished one own a 'Ferrari'? A person doesn't buy a Ferrari for the practicality of it...

Note that with the right enchantments you could bring in other bonuses as well. Examples right off the top of my head include magical heating and lighting, organization (and the maintenance thereof), maintenance of excellent equipment, and so forth.

Let's take a few days to munchkin on this and see how far we can get. As for limits, let's say the work has to be done in 6 years at 3 seasons a year. Let's also assume that the magus is a Verditius of 30 years after gauntlet and of good reputation and decent covenant situation. What would you propose as a vis limit?


There might be a bit of misunderstanding, I am not one of those who think that automata are a waste of space. I am just giving suggestions of how to fit it into a lab and to give reasons to craft it. I agree on the Ferrari argument, an automata should be in a verditius magus or magas lab after a while when they grow in power. The suggestions I gave for lab improvement are just an attempt to merge the verditi rules with the covenant rules. I posted the text in the post “Why bother to make automata” but there it didn’t get any response.

I also think that a verditius magus/maga who crafts an automata will make it into the finest magic item he or she can produce. If you are buying or crafting a Ferrari you don’t go cheep on some parts. It’s a piece who should impress everyone. A vis limit per season would be 25 assuming the magus/maga knows the elder runes mystery. But the practical vis limit should be about 10 vis per year if the magus/maga don’t spend time selling magic items for vis. If such an sale I say that the maga or magus should make an profit of either 4 or 6 vis depending on how powerful the seller is. Should we agree on a magus/maga stats before starting to munchkin on the automata?

Thanks for the thoughts


If you have the time I suggest that we do the following. Create a character and advance it using the normal rule. When the character reaches 30 years out of apprenticeship it starts making an automata using the premises you specified earlier. The time up to that we assume that the character is living in a covenant with a vis grant of 10 pawns a year in form vis. This vis may be exchanges according to the standard rules, i.e. one vis equals 10 pounds of silver or two form vis equals one technique vis. In this way the character can acquire the resources needed. All books need to be purchases according to the normal costs in the covenant book. This means that excellent only can be acquired trough trade of equal items. Any magic items that are made for sale can be sold of. Minor mysteries are leaned in one season and major in two. The covenant in question has a magic aura of 3 and the lab starts with zero in all characteristics.

When all this work is done we post our magi and their power level at three different levels, just of gauntlet, after 15 years and after 30 years. This together with our libraries, labs and the final automata and a short background text.

If you like this exercise we take few days and then post our material, thus our fellow gamers can se how much fun you can have with an automata and six sample characters.

If you don’t like this suggestion can understand but I suggests that we use these rules and the at least post the final automata.

Please respond.


A good exercise. I would propose the following modifications:

-- Let us assume that, between salary and very minor enchantments, he has a net average income of 12 pawns of vis and 5 pounds of silver per year. This is going to be a Ferrari owner, let's skew him to the wealthy side. Larger enchantments for sale can be specificallly identified and added in.
-- This guy is a smart planner. He would aquire the "right" kind of vis so I'd like to just drop the form/technique exchange. He plans his commisions well enough and the covenant enjoys the benifits of his work so he can be picky. Let's DO keep the 10 pounds per pawn exchange rate, though.
-- He's helped out the Mercere (very deliberately) so he can get any mundane material available in ME from aged oak from the central continant to good steel and gold from Spain at a reasonable cost. However, truly exotic magical materials (like, say, leather made from the wings of fetal dragon or gryphon feathers) would have to spend adventure time AND lose his income for that year or those years to represent the expenses of the aquisition.
-- Let's place him at a summer or autumn covenant and say he has access to maybe 350 BP of useful books (some should be spent in his Arts -- NONE in his mundane crafts). Don't know if 350 is too high or low, though. The remaining books, I agree should be "bought" normally/cononically.
-- Allow some one-on-one training in the House for abilities. No more than maybe 10 seasons worth, maybe.
-- He does have to work for his salary let alone extra income so let us say that after apprenticeship (sp?) he has 3 seasons per year to do with as he pleases.
-- Twilight: 3 minor episodes and 1 major = ~20 warping points, give or take plus whatever he gets from aging and experimentation at 30 years. The major is definitely a "bad episode" along with one of the minors. To get a "good major" or another "good minor" just declare it and add the warping points.
-- Finally, my availability right at the moment is erratic due to job and medical issues. I would think that I can get this done in a couple weeks for sure and I may be able to get it done earlier. Let's check in with each other through personal messages before we post the results.

Fair? Thoughts on my proposals?



Your suggestions looks fine, perhaps we also should post any magic items or invented spells also. Thus adding onto this forums spells and laboratory sections. When all is said and done.

Lets starting to make up concepts.

Happy gameing.


I'm just jumping this back to the top as I've finished reading the Mechanica chapter of AnM.

There are two things really.

Firstly, I'd like to know whether the perception of Automata informed the rules for Mechanica (filling in the gaps that we didn't like) or whether it was all part of some grand plan to make the two types of artefact very different.

Secondly, given the two are so different, how could we combine them as in a breakthrough to meld Verditius and Heronic crafts?

I have to say, I really like the Heronic Mechanica for a few simple reasons. They can learn (well, the awakened ones can). They can have powers invested that affect targets other than themselves. They have personality. They appear cheaper to build.

My understanding of the rules is that when the magus integrates Heronic thinking into Hemetic, he still needs to use Vis to empower the automaton. This seems a reasonable limiting factor. The associated supernatural virtue allows for vis-less construction but that's a breakthrough further than just integration.

I spoke with my Verditius player and we agreed to delete the useless and total crapy Automata Mystery and instead gain him access into Herons secrets which were incoroporated into Verditius magic long time ago.

Ha, not the answer I was expecting but fair play to you.

First post but hey...

Glad you liked it. From the various Ancient Magic threads, I wasn't sure if anyone liked poor old Heron's toys. :confused:

I wasn't aware of the Automata rules for the Verdi when I initially wrote Heron's Mechanica. They were not intended to be compatible or complementary but the possiblity of intergrating the two was always inherrent (especially after I was given the rules from HoM).

Hope this helps!


Top marks from me. I'm looking forward to starting the integration/research road.

Welcome author of my precious game bow