Over on the Ars Forum Tugdual has suggested I should just double all the numbers so that the roll is a straight one, without the division, which would allow me to just say “Roll 1” What do you think?

 Spontaneous spell menu:

These are small spells you create as needed. So that you don’t need to design each spell on the fly, like in a normal Ars Magica game, this menu shows you what your character is capable of. You can cast as many as your Fatigue levels allow. Remember magical creatures may have Magic resistance, and these weak spells are unlikely to pierce it.

To see if you can create a particular spontaneous spell, check the table below. Either the spell is automatically successful, is automatically successful but requires the loss of a Fatigue level, or requires the loss of a Fatigue level and a successful dice roll. You can boost the dice roll by destroying vis (+2 per point), with broad gestures (+1), booming voice (+1). You can reduce the energy available to you by casting silently (-5).

All of the effects below require the magus to touch the target, and affect one thing for as long as the magus concentrates, unless otherwise noted. Casting a spell that affects only the magus and his clothes adds +10 to the roll.

Changing people into animals or vice versa,

  • Changing someone to gain a minor animal ability is automatically successful. You may make it last until sunset, or alter more than one person, or cast at voice range and still have an automatic success. If you want two or three items from this list, you must spend Fatigue, but need not roll.
  • Making a person slightly resistant to damage by giving them the hide or scales of an animal (+1 Soak) requires you to spend Fatigue, but not roll. If the spell lasts until sunset, or alters more than one person, or casts at voice range Roll 10.
  • Turning a person into a land animal: Roll 10. If it lasts until sunrise, is at vocal range, or affects more than one person. Roll 20.

Spells that change people or animals:

  • Changing something made from an animal product into another thing of the same mass made of the same animal product is automatically successful. If one or two of the following list are used (the change lasts until sunset, or alters more than one item, or is effective at voice range), then Fatigue is required. If all three are required, Roll 10.
  • Changing part of an animal requires Fatigue, but is successful. If the spell lasts until sunset, or at voice distance, the spell still requires Fatigue. If both Roll 10, just sight range is also Roll 10.
  • Changing something made from an animal product into a different animal product, at voice distance or lasting until sunset, requires Fatigue. If both then Roll 10, Sight range is also Roll 10.
  • Making a major, but not supernatural, change in an animal is requires Fatigue, Roll 10 for voice range, or sunset duration, Roll 15 for both.
  • Changing an animal into another animal Roll 10.
  • Making a person look like another, unspecified, person by changing apparent race, height, gender, or other features requires Fatigue. If it lasts until sunset or more than one person is altered or at voice distance, requires Fatigue. For two of these Roll 10. If the person is you, automatic success.

Spells that control animals or the body:

  • Moving dead animal matter, weighing no more than the magus could carry one-handed, slowly is an automatic success. If the spell (choose two) lasts until sunset or moves more than one object or a single object heavy enough to require five men to carry, or at voice distance: Fatigue required. If three from the list Roll 6. If at Sight distance Fatigue required.
  • Giving an animal a single command which will not endanger the animal requires Fatigue. If it lasts until sunset or affects more than one animal, or at voice distance, Roll 6.
  • Warding a person or place the size of a small room, against animal attacks requires Fatigue. If the spell lasts until sunset, or until someone inside a protective ring crosses the ring, Roll 6.
  • Causing a person to lose control of a body part at voice distance, or until sunset requires Fatigue. If both, Roll 6.
  • Moving a person slowly in one direction, provided the surface holds the person’s weight, requires Fatigue. If the spell lasts until sunset, acts at voice distance, or alters more than one person, then Roll 6.
  • Controlling the gross movements of a person, or moving them slowly in unnatural ways, Roll 6.
  • Moving yourself at running speed in an unnatural way Roll 6.

Any spell that transforms things, targets bodies, or targets animals, in minor ways:

Negotiate with the other players. Examples including making liquids into minor poisons, changing small details in memories and changing how objects look. The bigger the effect, the shorter its duration and casting distance. Spells that affect only the caster are more powerful than those which target others.


7 replies on “A revised take on spontaneous spell menus

  1. I feel this is too complicated for a beginner. The first thing you can do to make it easier is forget about the booming voice/extreme gestures bit.
    Listing examples with numbers to roll kind of makes other spells impossible: Spontaneous spells – the “Anything goes” appeal of Ars Magica is lost.
    “Roll 10” means what? Roll 1d10 and get a 1 or is it a 0; or do you keep all the rather complicated rules with stress vs simple dice?

    You know my proposal – radical as it is: Permit any small spell without any dice rolling. No penetration, damage maximum is the lowest Art score involved. Storyguide reduces effects that are too big (turns the created glacier into an ice cube).


    1. There are no examples: this is everything a magus with the scores this magus has can do, using the spell guidelines in ArM5. I have to say, this has been a persistent criticism of this work, and its convincing me that people don’t actually read it before laying in.

      This is kind of putting me off patronage model work in future. With a standard book like Rivals, people only get to tell me my work sucks at the end. In this model people get to tell me that my work sucks at every stage of the work.

      “Roll 10” means what it says it means on the simplified rulesheet from a while ago.

      Allowing any simple spell has some appeal;, but then it becomes a game of “haggle with the SG” at points of tension.

      “I turn him into a canary!”
      “Too powerful”
      “OK, a donkey.”
      “WTF? I can turn him into a horse but not a bird?”


      1. “…its convincing me that people don’t actually read it before laying in.”

        Part of the problem, and I am trying to be constructive, is that this looks nothing like ArM. And it is hard to see how it will play like ArM.

        People have an expectation that an con “introduction to ArM” sort of adventure looks like ArM to veteran players.

        I think that you are throwing away the interesting part of ArM. For me, what is really wanted is get some gameplay that goes something like:

        SG: “With a tremdous groaning, the support beams give way, and the cave-entrance collapses, trapping you inside.”
        PC1:”Can anybody teleport us back to the campsite?”
        PC2″Not unless somebody has some useful Rego Corpus formaulaic spells.”
        PC3:”I think that I can tunnel through to the surface using a Perdo Terram effect, it might need to be Touch range, though, and I think I’ll need several casts to dig far enough — so it will take awhile.”
        PC1: “I know, I’ll use a Muto Terram effect to turn the fallen rock into a very soft dust we can wade through.”
        PC3: “I don’t think that will work, it will be like trying to walk through a sand dune.”
        PC2: “While, you are thinking about that I’ll spont. a Creo Ignem light effect so that we can see what’s in here with us.”
        SG:.”Oh dear…the light spreads from your palms and dimly illuminates a ….”

        It doesn’t seem clear how your suggested rules will make this sort of gameplay more likely. For me, if you don’t get moments like this, then you aren’t really highlighting the best or more interesting parts of ArM.

        The good bit about spontaneous casting is what the players do — the making up and modifying of effects (using the guidelines). Your system seems to merely get a similar thing happening in the game world (much the same actual spell will get cast), but the players don’t do the same thing. The players just pick something of this list, which *works*, but is not interesting for the players.

        The problem, for me, while your system might be easier to understand (which is debatable), it doesn’t look like ArM and it looks boring.


        1. Yes, between here and the Forum, I’m aware you think my approach is wrongheaded.

          The thing is, your example above provides no mechanism to provoke the sort of play events you want. It’s all very well saying “I’d like the players to do X.” but in conventional Ars con games they simply don’t construct spontaneous spells on the fly, and no amount of telling me that this is not real Ars I’m writing changes that.

          If you’d like to expand the ideas you’ve expressed on the forum into a full con game, I’m sure people would be happy to test it, and then we can compare our outcomes, but lacking actual play, all we have is your opinion I’m doing it wrong and my opinion that, no, I think I may be onto something here.

          As to it looking boring: well, you are assuming your play style is universal. In particular I notice that all companions, by this test, are always boring, since none of them cast spontaneous magic.


  2. Timothy, first relax: Your effort deserves praise.

    If I thought you were a bad author my Xmas wish list would look differently. This is an attempt at constructive criticism limited by my language skill.

    Now compare my reply and Richard’s.
    Try to catch the gist – not the details.
    Both Richard and I seem to be unhappy about what I called examples (wrong word, as you pointed out – gently) and he calls lists.

    We both feel that one of the most important reasons to play ArM5 is the versatility of spontaneous magic (ArM is not like many other games in which Archmagi can’t light a smoke because there’s no spell for it).
    So what happens if a player sponts a spell that is too powerful because he has no detailed lists?

    The SG tells him: “You reach out for the fire of magic inside you try to weave its threads into reality. Then you realise this is too complex for you. You’ll have to try something easier.”
    (you can even be generous about fatigue – it is a tool to prevent abuse and should be used as one).
    No haggling needed!

    Richard and I are both afraid that a complex (and certainly well-reflected – you wouldn’t publish something that is incoherent) system of spontaneous magic might put off beginners, might stifle the creativity that comes with that system.
    It is great to know that there are rules – the real As Magica rules – that allow you to calculate almost any spontaneous spell, but a beginner at a convention won’t have the time to study and understand these (or your simplified version).
    The person who runs the game will be more experienced, right? She can tell if something is possible or not. I’d advise her to be generous in order to reward creative solutions.

    I remember an example from an early German edition of the game in which a magus sponts a spell to move stones in a river so he can get across with dry feet. He only manages to move some sand. No haggling!

    Rule details are there to resolve situations that common sense cannot solve. The less dicing, the more roleplaying.

    You’ve done all this work and it is hard to admit that the game can be played without detailed rules for spont spells.

    It is great that you have built a complex system – but sometimes there is an easier way. How about another poll about this – preferably on this website?

    You are not somebody who is satisfied with a good solution – you want the best. You can do it your way (it is your time and sweat that goes into this project, not mine) but feedback must be more than praise.

    PS: Try to treat your commentors gently. We are not your enemies.


    1. If a player tries to spont a spell which is too powerful, he fails, just like normal. With a detailed list, he knows what he can do. Without a list, he just keeps coming up with cool ideas and being knocked back, apparently arbitrarily, by the SG.

      It’s not a matter of you being my enemies – it’s a matter of getting frustrated when people reply without reading the text, or feel the need to say, over and over and over, that they don’t approve of what I’m doing.

      A new poll? Sure, let’s do that.


  3. Regardless of arguments about the worthiness of the project ,
    what about finding experienced Ars Magica STs for a convention?


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