Wizards and castles; thoughts on an alternate setting

I love castles. But in Ars Magica the potency of the magi PC’s tends to make them an afterthought. This is a variant setting that brings magic more into the open and makes castles more central to the game.
I also like to see the rest of the human world be less susceptible to being steamrolled by hermetic PC's so they're a bit better protected and supported in the setting.


The setting has two rule changes outside of normal house rules,

First: Aegis of the Hearth is not a Hermetic ritual but rather ritual that indefinitely effects a building until it is dispelled or replaced. It is somewhat more powerful than in the current rules in that when casting from outside the aegis, the resistance of the aegis stacks with parma magica. Also Aegis of the hearth does not need to penetrate (hermetic theoreticians believe that it functions by altering the aura of the area). Aegis of the Hearth is limited by the size of the building it is cast upon. A hovel can support level 5, in order to get a level 30 Aegis you need a castle. To get higher you need a big castle. To get above level 50 you need a castle the size only seen in fantasy, not in 13th century Europe.

The protection provided by Parma magica is limited by the level of the aegis that the caster's sanctum is in (in this case caster can mean anyone who knows Parma, including the ungified). Protection provided by Hermetic forms is not limited. Thus a magus or maga who does not have a sanctum will only have magic resistance equal to his forms regardless of his or her skill in parma magica, a magus or maga who lives in a hovel can get at best 5 + form. Parma magic is a skill learnable by any whether they have the gift or not. To date, the parma is mostly contained to the Nobility, the magicians in their employ and the order of hermes but there is no reason to expect that the knowledge won’t spread further in the next few decades.

Second: the rule of magic resistance is loosened. Some magic and faerie creatures can grant MR and Parma magical. Knowledge of Aegis of the hearth/Parma is more widespread, they are known to both the Augustan Brotherhood and the so called learned magicians.

Alternate idea - the power of a traditional Hearth means that those who live in a building gain such protection "naturally". As such, everyone inside their homes gains a bit of magic resistance - but the size, grandeur, age, importance of a building (and/or the metaphysical power of those who live there, or the time they've lived there) increases the natural defenses for those who live there.

With this idea, a less potent version of parma (5 magic resistance per 10 levels?) could be cast on top of the natural hearth, to improve and solidify it.


Castles are awesome, but castles with crazy-tall towers are awesomer! And awesomest is a crazy-high tower with a wizard in it, because that's where wizards belong.

So, adding to your rules, maybe a wizard in the tower of a castle can extend his parma as far as he can see, or maybe to a Boundary within sight, were he looking. At -3 to his parma score, maybe.

Now we have a reason why the new generation of fantasy castles have impractically tall towers, and why wizards have dibs on towers.



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Improbably tall towers are good.

By the use of spells like eyes of the eagle or eyes of the hawk (from projects) coupled with occasional perdo auram magic improbably tall towers can be used to see many miles and also to throw range sight spells for many miles (also think lesser enchanted device with intangible tunnel range sight). Hermetics already can get a lot more power from improbably high towers than mundanes. Would common, widespread laboratory texts for spells that take advantage of crazy high towers work sufficiently well as an incentive for them to make further modification to the parma/aeigis rules unnecessary. Or do you think that you'd want to hard code really tall towers rather than allow them as an emergent property of the magic system?

I like the basic idea of castles (and maybe city walls?) being capable of supporting Aegis of the Hearth-type effects.
I like Kevin's suggestion of 'natural' Hearths even more.

I think that there is a big problem with the suggestions in your initial post, in that any saga using them is likely to need to focus heavily in a major confrontation between Magi and mundanes/learned magicians. If that is what you intend, then fine. If not, I'd be more interested in some sort of 'natural' effect, perhaps open to augmentation.

I'd like to see a Threshold type of magic defense (possibly stealing from folk lore and also the Dresden Files, and others), whereby the age of a 'home' and the way it is inhabited, plus a factor based on size/grandeur/anything else, can all make it so supernatural creatures and spell effects have trouble crossing that Threshold.
Eg a mundane home with salt/garlic/relevant plant applied to each window and door is very hard for faeries/vampires/etc to enter or affect the inhabitants with their powers.

A real Aegis is better, since it has an effect throughout the location it is cast upon, not just when crossing the boundary.

Anyway, it's an interesting idea and I'd like to hear about how it turns out.

I would hard code them. I thought about the existing incentives, but those require a wizard to actively use the tower. The wizard gets little from actually living in the tower when he doesn't need the elevation, and even loses something, since everyone would know that the wizard is at the top of the tower. He can get the same benefit from flying.

I was thinking that we want the wizard to put his sanctum (or residence or library) in the tower, and we want there to be towers. Maybe even embed more benefits. I would consider eliminating the rules about what you can enchant: If your lab is in a structure, you ought to be able to enchant that structure. Think of the bonuses to enchantment a castle can provide! A stay-at-home wizard maybe enchants the castle as his talisman. (In this kind of game, surely the Primus of House Criamon does this, and one of the mysteries on his path lets him accept the entire Cave of Twisting Shadows (and of course, the crazy criamon castle guarding it) from the previous primus, retaining all the powers and enchantments.)

But... this is your show!



How about this?

The Aegis of the Hearth is a ritual that can be performed by magicians of some traditions. It requires no vis but does take several hours to perform. A building or set of buildings where the aegis ritual is performed at least yearly will be protected in similar to the effects of the aegis of the hearth spell in the core rules. The aegis in this setting however stacks with other magic resistance when a spell from outside the aegis targets a protected creature or item and the aegis does not need to penetrate the magic resistance of other entities to affect them.

A person whose sanctum is inside of a structure protected by Aegis of the Hearth may use the parma magica skill to acquire a magic resistance. Parma skill functions as normal but can not provide magic resistance greater that the level of the aegis. To designate a room or set of rooms to function as a person’s sanctum the person must perform the parma ritual within them for three days running. Furhtermore the person must sleep in the sanctum the majority of the nights after the sanctum is designated. If the person can not sleep briefly within the sanctum at least half of the time the protection of the parma weakens and eventually disappears.

To determine the protection provided by the Aegis sum up the following factors

Time the aegis has been up
Less than ten years: the number of years the aegis has been up
Between 10 and 60 years: 10 + 2 for every decade beyond the first (i.e. 12 at age 20, 14 at age 30, and 20 at age 60.
Older than 60 years:20 +5 for every complete century.

Size of the building or complex*
Unfortified building that isn’t huge 0
Tower 5
Tower with a surrounding wall 10
Proper castle 15
Big castle 20
Huge castle 25
Absurd castle 30
*the contribution to the aegis from the size of the castle is modified by the material out of which it is constructed. Something less substantial than stone, such as wood, ice, or bone, will provide the protection of a structure one category smaller (to get a score of 30 in this category a castle of ice needs to be even bigger than absurd). Something more substantial than stone, such as being forged from steel or carved out of a single sapphire, would provide protection of a structure one category larger of the protection (still capped at +30). Especially intimidating materials, such as fires that have been transformed into gemstones with muto magic or a wall of venomous snakes may at the story guide’s discretion provide more better resistance than would be normal based on how substantial they are.

How tall the tallest point of the structure is
Less than seven floors 0
Seven to fifteen floors 5
More than fifteen floors 10 (Structures that fly also get this same 10 protection)

I can see why you put the time restriction in, but I'm worried that it makes Magi very reluctant to visit each other, even for Tribunal, as the three day acclimatisation to the new Aegis would make them vunerable. My suggestion is "Ummm..."

This is very cool. If I weren't in the middle of running a campaign I would totally start one under these houserules if we can get them hammered out.


in that this aegis works in mostly the same way as the one in the core rules, I had still intended tokens for guests to be available.

Magi would still have access to their normal parma based on their own sanctum

I wrote it that tone because I wanted to engage the reader.

I did describe a situation where vis is no longer necessary for the aegis so there is reduced competition for vis and where the mundane powers have already taken the measure of the order and there is less secrecy and misunderstanding between the groups, the mundanes know the nature of the (slightly modified) oath.

I wanted to make conflict with the mundanes more practical as a source of good stories, not make it the inevitable direction of every game.

ls there a reason that it breaks suspension of disbelief to not have conflict? If so, I could tweak things.

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OK rereading I assumed something that is actually ambiguous: how long after leaving one's sanctum do the rules notice that `you have spent more than half the time out side: bye by parma for you'? If its the majority of time for a season then my objection is silly, if it it re calculated every day/week/month then traveling to othe rcovenants without leap of homecomming becomes risky.


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just to reiterate though: This little tweak to the setting is awesome. It's getting my imagination running overtime!


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I was originally thinking the majority of time. So if you've been in a place for a few years it would be a few years until you're in danger. But that seems excessively generous to me. I just didn't want to get all numbery in rigidly defining a middle ground.

Keeping things as they are; perhaps you sanctum needs to remain intact as well, no one else can use it and it must not be greatly changed. That way you can have labs that no one has disturbed in years because they don't know what happened to the occupant.

The way to decide is to figure out what gives us the most material to tell good stories and go with it.

Do I want a Perdo Vim spell be able to disassociate a target from their sanctum so they can no longer cast parma magica? Should a rego vim spell be able change the target's sanctum so that their parma has a lower limit? Are these cool ideas to tell stories with or not?

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YES those are cool ideas!

Regarding the rules on when and how quickly someones parma starts suffering from lack of association with their sanctum can IMO be winged most of the time.

As I see it a mages sanctum is really their home and that is why it protects them and the protection starts to go down once it ceases to be their home. I like the idea of magi go on Grand tours around europe and mediterranean or beyond to learn about the wider world. For that to work under your system a magus needs to able to retain the protection of their parma, and to it works as long as the magus considers their sanctum to be their home and as long as the sanctum is intact of course.

Because I imagine that the protection is based around the magus' feelings it is very hard to put hard rules and needs to be a negotiation in the group. That is fine by me.

The idea presented above with labs being left undisturbed for years because the fate of their occupants is uncertain is also really cool. I like the thought of old covenants having unused and undisturbed labs just sitting around with noone allowed to go in, just in case the occupant is still alive somehow.

P:S: I know I am engaging in a bit of thread necromancy but this thread was linked in a current thread and I like the idea proposed here.

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One of the interesting side effects of this is that the nobility, particularly the more powerful ones, become protected from weaker demons through magic resistance.
So one might reasonably expect to see less violence, jealously, arrogance, pride and all the other bad things that it should be assumed that demons are usually spreading.
It might lead to a slightly more stable Europe as nobles are more capable of solving their differences without violence.


It is true.

Personally I would prefer if the parma magica was widespread and protected buildings indefinitely if properly maintained but could only be cast by someone with the Gift.

This way Gifted individuals still have a central role in the modified setting. Of course not all nobles would be able to afford a Gifted court magician but the lesser and poorer ones could rent the services of a Gifted Parma'er temporarily since it would only be necessary to have a gifted person to cast the parma once.