Transforming thoughts into magic

Hello there,

Returning to Ars Magica after a few years, I am toying around with a bonisagus character concept with some fae heritage, and I have a simple idea for a spell he might want to invent.

Basically, the idea is to use Muto Mentem to transform a thought into a magical effect. I don't remember having seen any comparable effect in the book but I may be wrong.

Obviously, such an effect could really mess the game, and one could simply argue that this should not be possible, given that this is precisely what spontaneous magic is all about. While this is fair from a balance point of view, and receivable (but discutable imho) from a lore perspective, I see nothing in the limit of hermetic magic which could forbid such a feat. Also, I find the idea quite funny and I like some design challenge. So I've tried to design a spell guideline to cover the effect. I'm a curious as to what some of the most experienced players here think.

The premises on which I based my reasoning are the following :

  • there is a spell guideline under muto mentem which states that one could turn a thought solid by a MuMe effect of base level 25, which seems like a good starting point. Turning a thought to magic should be at least as difficult as turning it solid.
  • Muto Vim guidelines effects are usually designed to be specific to one form, so it seems reasonable that the same constraint should apply here. More generally, muto spells usually transform the target into a specific category of individuals. So it seems right that the Muto Mentem effect should have to be specific
  • Muto Vim guidelines also specifies that a change in power of more than 2 magnitudes requires Creo or Perdo to create more magical energy or destroy some. Following this principle, it seems that Creo should always be required if one tried to turn a thought into a spell, as there is no magical energy to begin with
  • the effect should not be an easy substitute for spontaneous magic, but it should provide some niche uses for a dedicated character
  • the effect should have some limitations related to essential nature. A thought is an elusive phenomenon, ephemeral and difficult to maintain. This should provide an interesting ground to impose limitations on how it could be manipulated, both from a balance perspective, and in respect to the above point
  • finally, using a spell to transform a thought into another spell effect is a very indirect way of working magic. This implies that the resulting effect could not benefit from any hermetic virtues or direct bonuses such as spell masteries as the magus is not directly casting the final effect. However, as it is still magic, it should come with all the risks associated, namely warping and twilight.

So, given all that, here is my proposition :

Muto Mentem

General: Turn a thought into a magical effect of a given form, of less than or equal to the (level - 4 magnitudes) of the Muto Mentem spell, with a Vim requisite. Turning a thought to a magical effect requires Creo to create the necessary magical energy : while Muto gives a pattern to the effect, Creo is essentially what fuels it.

The effect produced is designed as if it was casted by the target of the MuMe spell. If the target is trying to control the thought in order to produce a specific effect, she should make an intelligence + concentration roll against an ease factor of 12 + the magnitude of the desired magical effect. If the roll fails, the effect is still created, but the more the concentration roll is far off the ease factor, the more the effect will be different from what was expected. If the roll botches, the target must roll a number of botch dices equal to the magnitude of the produced effect and may gain warping points in the process. Note that these botch dices cannot be reduced by spell mastery or hermetic virtues as the target is not casting the spell, though the magical effect comes out of control.

A magical effect produced in this way is still essentially a thought, and as such, is very volatile by nature. Thus, its duration cannot be other than momentary or concentration. In the latter case, the effect may naturally change over time, at the storyguide's discretion, reflecting the vagabonding nature of the human mind. The target of the MuMe spell can push its concentration to maintain the form of the magical effect by making further concentration rolls each round she wants to fix the effect. Each failed roll transforms the effect (the new effect cannot be of higher level than the original) and cumulatively increases the ease factor of the next rolls by 1. The new effect retains some correspondance with the previous one: a cat may become a rat, which may become a swarm of insect, which may turn into an infectious disease. Note that for the effect to have a concentration duration, the Muto Mentem spell duration must allow the transformation to last more than a mere moment, and thus, must also have a duration of concentration or greater.

Magical effects obtained by transforming a thought have additional constraints related to their very nature :

  • a thought may not be turned into a complex effect, ie. it cannot reproduce any spell with a modifier related to intricacy/complexity nor can it reproduce an effect which would require a ritual,
  • the effect cannot reproduce the Intellego technique, as the target must be able to visualize the outcome of the effect in order for it to be materialized,
  • the effect always have a penetration score of 0,
  • the effect is an arcane connection to the target of the Muto Mentem spell, though this may never be an issue as the effect is very short lived,
  • the effect cannot be targeted by MuVi spells designed to transform hermetic spells at time of casting, as again, the target is technically not casting a spell

For instance, a maga can turn the thought of a bird into a Creo Animal effect of level 20 (base 10, +1 touch, +1 concentration). This requires a Muto Mentem spell of level 45 with a Creo Vim requisite (base 40 in order to produce an effect of level 20, +1 concentration). She then must make a roll of intelligence + concentration againt an ease factor of 16 (12 + 4 magnitudes) in order to determine the result of the transformation. If the roll is failed by a slight margin, the effect could produce a cat smaller than normal, with a handicap, or an unusual gait. If the roll is failed by a large margin, the mind of the maga wanders from the original thought and the effect could produce another animal of similar size, the corpse of a cat, or something very different related to the original thought, like a statue of a small animal, the sound of a yowl, or a warm blanket. The maga can try to fix her thought in the next round, by making another concentration roll against an ease factor of 17.

MuMe 50
R: Per, D: Mom, T: Ind
Req: Creo, Vim
When casting this spell, the magus concentrates on a particular thought which is then made real as a magical effect of a given form. The resulting effect is designed as if the magus were casting the spell, and cannot be of level greater than 25. See the guideline for the limitations and mechanics of this effect. There are 10 versions of this spell, one for each form.

(base 45, +1 concentration)

In summary, in order to make the most of the effect, a character would have to put a high investment on Creo, Muto, Mentem and Vim, as well concentration, though the latter could be made easier by rego mentem. This would give him an alternative but limited way to improvise simple magical effects. Another interesting use would be to enchant an item to give companions a indirect way to work magic, for instance, a "wand of wishes" enchanted with Weave the magical thought (Imaginem) could allow a non gifted character to produce simple imaginem effects, provided that she has the mental abilities to fix her thoughts.

What you guys think ? Would you allow such an effect in your saga ? Despite its limitations, it may still be too strong and be an open door for exploit. If so, how would you rule it ?

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I have to say, I find the whole thing confusing.
The magi use hermetic magic to transform their thoughts into spells, so in a sense there is already a way for magi for "Transforming thoughts into magic", especially if someone was to do a silent and still casting.

The example spell seems to boil down to spont anything of one specific form using the Mu(cr)Me(Vi) casting total instead, which I do not see meshing well with the system/paradigm as a whole.


I could definitely worry about it being too strong, although I'm always over-cautious. Let's take a quick look at the math; assuming you have a concentration duration, and assume we have someone specializing in this (because we're checking how abusable it is, we should assume a specialist.) You need 4 arts for this design, and your base guideline is magnitudes - 4. It is likely the caster will have an item that helps him concentrate with a ReMe effect, or a Maintaining the Demanding Spell effect.

  • Spell level 25 can do a momentary level 5. This is equivalent to non-fatiguing spontaneous.
  • At spell level 30 (minimum concentration) you can do a level 5 concentration spell.
  • At spell level 40, you can cast a level 15 concentration (or 20 momentary) spell. As a formulaic.
  • At level 50 (your example) you can cast a spell of level 25. Basically a spontaneous spell cast as a formulaic. [Added note, if you can get within 10 of the spell, it still casts but you fatigue.]
  • Anything past this is a ritual spell, so rapidly becomes not worthwhile. I don't know if I'd consider it broken or abusive, but at this point, it looks pretty strong if you have a good score in Cr-Mu-Me-Vi, which lets you cast any spontaneous spell with no fatigue if you have the Form spell.
  • But wait, my lab total is infinite! Well, you can break level-ritual rules with an item. If you can get up to a lab total of 240, you can create a wand (base 100, +1 touch, +1 concentration, infinite uses) can generate any spell of level 80 or lower for that form. This is where you have to worry about abuses, I think, but I am not spending more of my breakfast doing the math to determine where it breaks down. :wink:

In short, I don't think it's too bad unless you have people getting higher level stuff. I think it's a fun breakthrough for a Bonisagus, but I wouldn't let someone do it in my game without some kind of hermetic/mystery virtue or breakthrough.
(edit: math typo)

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Of course, but I think this is one of the many charms of Ars Magica that there is often several ways to accomplish one thing, including convoluted ones.

The way I see it, magi use hermetic magic to transform thoughts into spells in the same way that a blacksmith transform a thought into a sword. One may begin with an idea of what he wishes to accomplish, but his art is working on a raw material which is something different, namely magic and metal respectively. In this regard, this effect is doing something very different.

Well, as I said this spell is not meant to give a substitute for spontaneous magic. This is a thematical metamagic effect which was meant to give my character a purpose in his research.

However, you could not spont anything with this :

  • no duration other than momentary or concentration
  • no complex effects
  • no intellego
  • effect can quickly get out of control
  • 0 penetration

In other words, the idea of this spell research is creating a "proof of concept" for a bonisagus character working deeply in strange metamagic fields. It is meant to be convoluted and subject to other limitations :slight_smile:

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Thank you for the theorycrafting :smile:

Indeed, the possibility for an enchant abuse worries me. There is still a hard cap of 50 because even if the level of the MuMe Spell is over 100, the level of the thought effect is still limited by the constraint of ritual effects. However, this is still an issue.

Any suggestion for adressing that ? I am thinking perhaps putting a hard limit on the effect level that can be created in this way. For instance, stating that effects over level 25/30 are deemed too complex to be recreated in this way. This feels kind of arbitrary however.

Thanks ! I have considered this, but I'm having a hard time justifying it. But maybe I just don't understand well how the mysteries are meant to work. What hermetic limit, or default in the hermetic theory, should the breakthrough be related to ?

Maybe you can find some elegant way to transfer some of the limitations of MuVi metamagic to your new spell guideline? MuVi metamagic is notoriously hard to put to good use as an effect enchanted into an item because it can only apply its effect to spells cast by the item itself.

In a way it is already possible to turn your thoughts into spells. I would like to bring to your attention the spell "Inmost companion" This MuMe(An) spell turns the mind of the target into a bird. There is in principle nothing to force you to chose a harmless animal, or even an animal at all as the transformed state of the targets mind. you could turn the targets mind into a lion and use the lion to attack your enemies or you could turn it into a blazing fire or whatever you set your mind to. However this is a dangerous spell to rely on because if the transformed mind is killed your target is dead. Perhaps you could argue that the same spell with a Target:Part would be sufficient to target a thought. maybe you could even add a magnitude or two for flexibility and get to chose the transformed form of the targeted mind/thought at the time of casting rather than at the time of inventing the spell.

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And a shameless self-plug here, a while ago there was a thread about MuMe(Te) to forge your hatred into a sword.
(Forging your hatred)

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Which I found amusing because it would mean you had a sword, but no hatred...


A very calm murder about to happen here.
Actually, I really liked that interpretation, though I personally believe since you didn't lose your thoughts when casting Inmost Companion, there is space for discussion based on saga.

It would address the issue in an elegant way from a technical perspective. However I find it hard to justify for of a MuMe effect, although I can see a justification for MuVi. I fear it may lead to inconsistencies with other MuMe effects which would/should not suffer from the same limitations.

Oh, that's a nice one, thank you ! I didn't have this spell in mind, but it provides an elegant alternative way to produce a similar result.

So, it would be something like this ?

Thoughts made solid (Can't think of a cool name right now)
MuMe 45
R: Per, D: Sun, T: Part

The caster concentrates on a thought which is made solid for the duration of this spell. The transformed thought appear as a base individual of a given form. A casting requisite of the appropriate form is required.

(base 25, +1 Part, +1 Sun, +2 flexibility)

I like it. It seems much more simple indeed. However, it could not turn thoughts like "being invisible" or "I wish my ennemy were a pork" into an effect. But maybe this kind of uses should be covered by something more specific or require a mystery indeed. :slight_smile:

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Don't forget, will need an appropriate casting requisite, of course: Like, Terram if you're making your concept into a rock; Animal if you're turning your flights of fancy into a butterfly

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You are pretty spot here. This spell is of course very high level and thus difficult to cast unless your character is old or has a magical focus that covers the spell.

You post a list of exceptions, or things that the spell cannot transform into and I think that what you are getting at is that the spell can only transform thoughts into nouns. I.e. you cannot transform a thought into an action. You could transform your desire to be invisible into a bank of fog that might hide you.

Do be careful with this though as I think by comparison with "the inmost companion" that it is quite clear that if you transform your thoughts and they are killed in the transformed state then your thoughts are lost. So if you transform your hatred of your enemy into a sword as suggested above and your enemy then destroys that sword then you no longer hate your enemy! In other words be careful what thoughts you transform.

On a sidenote your idea is excellent material for a hermetic cautionary tale about a magus that slowly looses their identity because they keep transforming their thoughts and having them killed until they no longer love their friends and family, no longer recognize friend from foe and cannot tell right from wrong etc.


What I'm not fond of with this spell is its flexibility. A MuCo(An) spell specifies a single animal into which the target is transformed. Inmost companion specifies that the target mind becomes a specific sort of bird. Thoughts Made Solid is akin to a MuCo spell to change into anything you'd like with only a casting requisite.

Target individual is used for creating and destroying individual thoughts and emotions, I don't think you would want to use target part to transform one.

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I understand why you are concerned about the spells flexibility, and I dont think that such a spell is supported under the current rules. I suggested it because it solves OP's problem in a way that requires you to play hard and fast with the existing rules as opposed to having to invent completely new spell guidelines. In my own group we allow such flexible spells because that works for us.

As for the target I am agnostic about whether to make it Individual or Part. I chose part because the original spell targets the entire mind and the modified version targets a single thought or emotion and I considered that the mind is the collective of thoughts and emotions of a person and that thoughts and emotions are thus parts (and therefore T:Part) of the mind. I do think that you can legitimately adopt the viewpoint that you are taking.