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One of the great advantages of Hermetic Magic is that magi aren't constrained to using spells they have painstakingly learned ahead of time. With a good knowledge of the Arts, a magus can improvise new spells as needed. Magi call this spontaneous magic.
A spontaneous spell is a spell that a magus invents on the spot, at the time of casting. The ability to cast spells spontaneously is one of the most powerful aspects of Hermetic Magic. Used with imagination and insight, spontaneous spells can be very effective.
Casting Spontaneous Spells
Spontaneous casting is one of the most challenging tasks for new players of magi. It basically involves inventing a whole new spell on the spot, which requires a good knowledge of the magic rules, including what all the Arts do and how to calculate the Magnitude of a spell. With a little practice, beginners often find that it's not as daunting as it first seems. Here is the procedure, step by step.
- Decide what you want the spell to do. The first step in casting a spontaneous spell is to figure out exactly what you want it to do. This really is the hardest part, because there are so many possibilities. A spell can do almost anything. It's best to keep the effect as specific and simple as possible. Beginners may want to start by trying to spontaneously cast one of the low-level spells from the ArM5 rule book.
- Determine Form and Technique. Figure out what Form and Technique the spell will use. This is another reason to start by casting spells right out of the rule book; the Form and Technique are already chosen. Once you've decided what Form and Technique the spell uses, check with your Storyguide to make sure he or she agrees with your interpretation.
- Determine Requisites. Some spells have Requisites, but most don't. Requisites are most commonly used with Muto spells that turn one thing into another.
- Find the applicable guideline Refer to the Spell Guidelines for the Form-Technique combination of your spell. Find the guideline that best matches what you're trying to do. If nothing fits, take an educated guess based on the guidelines that you did find, and check with your Storyguide. The guideline gives the base Spell Level; it's easiest if you convert this this to Magnitude right away.
- Adjust for Range and Duration (and Target). Decide how far away you want to be from the target when you cast the spell. It's easiest if you use Touch range; if you chose something longer, increase the Magnitude of the spell by one for each Range category higher than Touch. Likewise, choose a Duration, and increase the Magnitude of the spell by one for each step longer than Momentary. Finally, you may also need to consider the Target category; this will usually be Individual, but may be higher if the target of your spell is large.
- Adjust for Other Circumstances If something about your spell is particularly tricky, such as if you're trying to create a complicated shape or conjure something that moves at your command, ask your Storyguide how much this increases your spell's Magnitude. This is another reason to keep it simple.
- Determine Final Level. Convert the spell's Magnitude back to a Spell Level.
- Decide Whether to Exert Yourself Now that you know your spell's level, you have an idea whether you can possibly cast it or not, and whether you'll need to exert yourself. Compare your Non-Fatiguing Spontaneous Magic Casting Total (ArM5, page 81) to the Spell Level. If your Casting Total exceeds the level of the spell, go ahead and cast it without exerting yourself. Otherwise, your only chance is to exert yourself.
- Cast the Spell Now is the time to lose a Fatigue Level and roll the Stress Die, if you chose to exert yourself. Determine your Casting Total according to page 81 of ArM5. If it equals or exceeds the Spell Level, then congratulations! The spell worked. Otherwise, the spell fails. Note: This is only true in ArM5; if you\'re playing another edition, the spell may partially work.
- Determine Penetration. If you were casting the spell on a person or creature that has (or might have) Magic Resistance, subtract the Spell Level from your Casting Total and add the other factors to calculate Penetration as usual.
Fatigue, Die Rolls, and Spontaneous Spells
When casting spontaneous spells, the caster can decide whether or not to exert himself (that is, spend a Fatigue Level) while casting.
If the caster chooses to exert himself, roll a Stress Die and calculate the Casting Total as indicated on page 81 of ArM5. He then loses one Fatigue Level, whether the spell achieved the desired result or not.
If the caster does not exert himself, no die roll is normally required under the ArM5 rules. The rules on p. 81 are correct and are not a misprint. Non-fatiguing spontaneous spells are magical effects a magus can produce safely, easily, and consistently. They only require a Stress Die roll if the magus is in combat or a similar emergency; in that case, the die roll still doesn't add to the Casting Total; it only creates the possibility of a Botch (ArM5, page 81).
Success and Failure
In Fifth Edition, a spontaneous spell only works if the Casting Total equals or exceeds the Spell Level. This is different from earlier editions, in which spontaneous spells always worked, but at reduced potency if the Casting Total fell short.
Fast-Casting Spontaneous Spells
It is possible to Fast-Cast spontaneous spells; those rules are explained on a separate page.
- Spontaneous Magic, ArM5 page 81
The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:spontaneous_spell