Thinking Through Art Magic from the Codex

I spent a bit of time reading over the new Art Magic chapter that Luke kindly posted from the upcoming Codex. I read it side-by-side with the old chapter from the Magic Burner because I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything big since I’m playing a character that uses it.

I figured I’d start a thread in case any of you wanted to discuss it more because I’m working on trying to understand it better. I know some of you are viewing it as GM’s and are excited about it. I’ve gotta be honest, while most of it is pretty similar to the original, when I got to the Schools of Magic part, my response was more like, “oh shit.” That bit really changes things! Art Magic is still really cool, but now it’s less free-wheeling and more difficult. I’m not implying that it’s a bad change, and it probably only really affects characters already in play who convert, but it’s notable.

Do correct me if I failed my Arcane Knowledge test in reading this. But before, it was vague on the requirement to be part of a School of Magic. Being part of a school may have been the intent, I dunno, but it seemed optional because being part of one gave Advantage dice to using the idiom/effect taught by the school. But there was no penalty for trying other effects (unless of course the GM or world build included a limitation). In that sense, it acted like Circles with Reputation or Affiliation dice. (As in, you can still Circle without Reputations or Affiliations, but it’s to your mechanical advantage to use them if you can.) So being without a school would put you in neutral territory - no Advantage Dice for any type of spell. Tapping into magic would be more raw, less refined perhaps.

Now it would seem that being part of a School of Magic is a requirement, which is fine - that may have been the intent all along - but I came to that understanding by noting that there is no neutral territory now. Or rather, being part of a school IS the new neutral and there’s no Advantage Dice now. Now you build spells with Obs as written only if they fall within your school’s effects. Outside of that box, everything gets harder. This is more elegant because you only have to worry about modifiers if you go beyond your taught scope, but it’s more constraining and difficult than it was originally.

The pressure release valve on this is that it encourages you to seek out new instructors to teach you new tricks/effects. (You could do this before too, now there’s just more urgency to it if you want to be able to do more things well.) Doing so successfully means the Ob disappears, so with luck, over time, you could have access to a number of effects without penalty.

Also, it will be easier to get really effing hard Sorcery tests even when you’re a super competent wizard (not something my dude has to worry about for a long time, heh), because all you need to do is start dipping into magical streams outside of your teachings. So in the long, long game, it may be easier to get out of the rat race and achieve world domination (although admittedly, by that point your reps will be so big and bad, you’ll be everyone’s target).

What do you think?


I’m excited about it, our wizard in BHWS has just decided to convert from traditional sorcery to new art magic, (mainly to avoid the wheel of magic spinning up something Campaign altering), so I will get a chance to see it in play soon enough. (I wanna try it myself, but I am busy being a pretty Princess)

I will admit to not having seen old style schools of magic in play, but I think the most important change to the new school system is that (as pointed out in the other thread) schools are now free. Magical life-paths tend to get a bit more RPs than they really should in order to buy spells and such, but, if the wizard is using art magic instead, they have no such cost. While I am sure a decent amount of that will go to buying better gear, these wizards will also have more RPs to spend on Relationships, Reputations, and Affiliations, which, of course, are now vulnerable to failed castings. And if they ARE paranoid about it and insist on blowing their money on property and the like, they are likely going to be getting those bad reps and such anyway, and as a result of being generally disliked even that property could be in danger.

There was a small optional rule on p. 78 about limiting spells to the school. I played a play test chat with that rule and it was a lot of fun. We also had some rules about permanent side effects that didn’t make the final version.


Yes - that’s a great point to underscore. I paid less attention to it because my character is already built and in play, but I really dig the idea of a more well-rounded wizard person because they have more resource points to spend on life stuff now. It may offset some of the early limitations on magic by having more options for interesing tie-ins to the fiction. A wizard starting with close relationships or a place to live or connections or repuations was super tough to get before.

Geeze, kids. Back in my day, a wizard was lucky to have shoes.

The previous version of Art Magic was just out of control. I switched my character Petronax from standard Sorcery to Art Magic when we first put out the Magic Burner (had to start learning Sorcery over with Beginner’s Luck and everything – after reading a grimoire). Because he didn’t learn it from a master, he didn’t get any schools. Sure, he missed out on some bonus dice, but it was super easy to make spells of exactly the obstacle I needed to advance. Now Petronax has Sorcery G10 and no real limitations.

Sure, he’s very powerful (not quite to the level of Pete’s character with Faith W9, but close). He can do just about anything. But it became pretty bland because limitations are what make magic feel magical. It got to the point that I wouldn’t allow Art Magic in games I ran because it bored me to tears. I think the new version addresses a lot of my issues.

The only issue I have is the lack of coverage of “from first principles” type rules to cover a beginning sorcerer - you know, the Pug/Potter/Skywalker character learning they are gifted and going through the instructions learning to use magic…

These rules are setup that it implies knowledge of the effects from character creation (Ob modifiers, 3 @0, then -1 to -6/7) with a known school… Where do those modifiers start if you are not part of a school - this would just need a single paragraph (or sentence) about a school of magic being a particular praxis of magic… like “The force” being a school of magic, etc etc. So (as an example) when you meet your first school of magic, it gets defined with 3/7 effect split, and you either accept it wholescale, or replace one of your own effects with one from the new school.

While I agree that something in the art magic section about that would be helpful, barring such a paragraph or another section in the book saying otherwise (I recall the MaBu had some optional rules on gifted but unskilled mages that was pretty brutal), if a PC starts the game without sorcery, I’d suggest that they use the school of whomever their first sorcery test came from (as it must come from instruction, being a magical skill, and even if it comes from a grimoire, the author of said grimoire would write it from his own magical perspective). Alternatively, one could just expand the labeling from +1 ob to +10 ob, which would be pretty brutal but a new mage likely could still pass some of those low obs spells until they find a teacher for a school (and again, they have already at least found ONE way of learning about magic by having gotten their first sorcery test in the first place).

novaniv - yeah, I like your way of “pick up the school” from the source of instruction…

I ALSO like the +1 - +10 for unschooled :slight_smile:

I need to read MaBu again for those gifted but unskilled rules :slight_smile:

For the most part I think it clarifies things. One thing I do miss is how flavorful a school that deals in light, clarity, and air, or one that centers on whipsers, lies, and secrets can be. While this can easily be done as flavor, the mechanical bonus for spells within the idiom is cool as well. But it doesn’t seem like the focus is on that aspect in the new rules.