One of my players is building a Hermetic Menagerie.

There was some discussion during the game about how to enchant the Menagerie to securely contain the animals stored inside.

The requirements are straightforward:

  • What setup can contain might 35 animals such that they are unharmed and prevented from doing harm to the rest of the covenant?
  • How does this solution scale with incoming animals?
  • How does this solution provide for animal feeding?
  • Does this solution function in an Aegis?
  • How much time and vis does it cost?

I am not at all interested in theoretical answers, especially theoretical/unresearched answers that deal with other systems.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the solution need to account for protecting the animals from one another, each in its individual area, or can they be mixed freely? This will help determine whether we need several Room-sized rituals, or one large Structure-sized ritual. \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Apr 6 '13 at 9:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Assume that we want to safely contain, preserve, and show off the animals for at least 10 years. This is effectively a magical zoo. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 7 '13 at 0:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ To amplify, if you find that several rooms are cheaper than one structure, go with that choice. The magic will place constraints on the building, not vice versa. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 7 '13 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the purpose of this zoo, if they're there for research rather than just to see them, could you not use Muto Animal and shrink them all to teeny tiny size. The animals will then be much easier to contain, control and feed. \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Jun 19 '13 at 16:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rob, little from column A, little from column B. Muto-shrinking is certainly a viable answer that I'd love to see (especially if you could articulate its costs.) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 20 '13 at 4:00

I'm using Ars Fourth Edition for this for page references, as I don't have 5th - but the spells and principals hold for fifth as far as I know.

Making a full-sized zoo is much too big; let's make a mini-zoo!

Beast of Outlandish Size (p 109) is the key spell for this, it's level 15 and, helpfully has a duration of Inst when Vis is used, so permanent tiny animals!

This does mean that, however, for each animal it's going to be 3 pawns of vis to permanently shrink them, a little customisation of the spell may be also required as Size directly effects a creatures health (the spell notes that smaller creatures "look like runts unfit to live" and what we want it for is to reduce the creatures actual physical size, but this is the closest stock spell there is and it's not a huge leap to do so.

There is also a limit of -2 reduction to the creatures size with this spell so depending on the Storyteller you may need a little more than that to get your tiny animals an extra 5 levels (and therefore more Vis) should probably cover us down to -4 size for insanely teeny beasties.

How much do they shrink?

Ars itself doesn't really note (in Fourth, that I can find) how size changes the size of a creature; but lets check some example creatures:

Horse Size +2
Human Average +0
Wolf Size -1
Dog Size -2
Bird of Prey -3

So we can see that as far as size goes, it's not really a brilliant stat for measuring it; What I would suggest from the sizes above for shrinking creatures is that for every size change down you halve the size of the creature. So a -2 would get you 1/4 sized creatures, with that in mind let's take the level 20 spell proposed above as our benchmark and say from that we can get creatures 1/16 of their normal size - that's pretty manageable, but more Vis cost.

Vis Cost

So the cost is going to be 3 or 4 pawns of vis per animal (depending on the Storyteller and the spell used)

But with that and your 1/16 sized creatures, they're now (depending on what they are) hopefully a lot more dangerous. If they're still too dangerous, what can you do?

Reducing Might

This is tricky, as high might animals are going to be tough; the only comparable spell is from (Form+Technique) Perdo Vim (the spell being Demon's Eternal Oblivion p 158 that reduces a demons might) But we don't want to store demons (we'll get in trouble) we want to reduce the might of animals. However the description of Perdo Vim states:

Gen: Reduce a targets Might by one point for every point by which the level of the Vim spell + a quality die exceeds its Might. Different spells are required for creatures tied to different realms.


So we have a way of reducing the creatures might! This will require a custom spell for each classification of creatures (and don't let the Order of Hermes catch you trying to stock your zoo with demons!) But Demon's Eternal Oblivion has a duration of Inst and no Vim cost! The spell even notes that repeated castings of this spell are particularly effective. So we can blast our creature down to zero might with this. Note that at zero might demons are banished, so magical creatures at might zero may well snuff it, so reduce them to might 1 instead.

So now you have teeny tiny slightly magical creatures!

  • What setup? A couple of large rooms will probably fit them all in, depending on shrinkage, containment is much easier with simple bars of standard metal, the creatures will be too feeble to break them now (hopefully ;) )
  • How does this solution scale with incoming animals? 3 or 4 extra Vis for a new creature and a small amount extra room.
  • How does this solution provide for animal feeding? It doesn't but now all the creatures are super tiny the quanity of food required is massively less (say 1/16th) less so feeding 35 creatures is no worse than feeding (say) 4 horses, depending on specialist diet. Making any specialist food is going to cost you Vis however, so that's not brilliant.
  • Does this solution function in an Aegis? The duration of shrinkage is Inst with Vis, so there's no residual magic to dispel, the spell effect "persists as a mundane thing" (Durations, p 104) - so it can't be dispelled. So that's okay. But how can we get these magical creatures in? Their might is going to be 1, so there's no way they're getting past Aegis of the Hearth (Unless your Circle of Magi are unbelievable wusses!!) We are saved by the clause:

Magical, Infernal, and faerie creatures and persons may be brought within the Aegis, if they are formally invited by one who participated in it's casting and given a token to represent the invitation. (The tokens are used during the casting of the ritual, and thus conform to the laws of sympathy)

Can you say "collars of invitation" for the creatures? Sorted! Just make some whenever Aegis of the Hearth is cast.

  • How much time and vis does it cost? Vis isn't a big cost here, 3/4 per creature to shrink the, Time wise the shrink spell is a level 15/20 - that's really not a stretch, building micro cages for the animals really won't be that hard either, if you can't be bothered to hire someone for it just Muto Terram yourself some cages but that's going to cost you more Vis. The reduction of Might spell is a little higher (up to 35) depending on the creature you're trying to de-power, and you'll need to recast it every once in a while to keep those beasties from getting loose.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, Ghost's Eternal Oblivion, thereby (in the hubristic minds of magi) a) prolaiming that you can't hold real creatures, and b) causing a certain problem when they regain their might after a few months. (This is an annoyingly fiddly problem, I know. It's why I asked it here instead of just solving it :) ) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 21 '13 at 7:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and to make it worse, MuAn size is unnatural, and therefore not nominally instant. On the other hand, this is something that, given sufficient pentration, you make into circle/ring duration. So it's still a valid (if far more difficult) approach. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 21 '13 at 7:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Magi would have to keep Eternal Oblivion'ing the creatures as their might comes back, yes. \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Jun 21 '13 at 7:14

If it were my magus the menagerie would be within a Regio, and not a constructed physical zoo in the mundane world. This is so that (a) the owner can more closely prohibit entry & exit, and (b) the magical beasts will be sustained by, and contribute to the aura (as per RoP:M chapter Auras).

This solution meets your desire to avoid damage to the covenant, to allow for growth, and avoids the room/boundary vis costs where rituals and wards are needed. The magus can then build their lab within the aura too, perhaps as a building at the entry point on both "sides" of the regio.

Finding a regio and exploring the entry and exits is story-worthy, as is then finding animals who are happy to exist in the environment within the regio.

This avoids an exceedingly large investment of vis - in ongoing wards which will limit the actions on a Might 35 creature, as asked in the initial question are too prohibitive. e.g. M:35 requires a ReAn level 35+ spell with +35 penetration, so CT of 70+; plus the costs of T:Boundary which probably make the spell level 50+, requiring 85+ casting total, with 10 pawns of vis each casting. Better to avoid it.


House each creature in a pocket dimension where time moves so slowly, it is all but imperceptible to those visiting the zoo. The windows into the enclosures are actually portals with barriers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And how exactly, do I create a "pocket dimension" in ars magica? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 13 '13 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not applicable to Ars Magica, at least not in full. ArM5, p.80, under "The Limit of Time": "Hermetic magic is incapable of altering the passage of time." Depending on interpretation, creating pocket dimensions could also be seen as violating the Limit of the Lunar Sphere. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Jun 14 '13 at 11:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regiones are the closest things to pocket dimensions in ArM, I believe, and ArM5, p.190, states "Hermetic magi would love to be able to create regiones at will, but they have yet to learn how. Attempts to create regiones through spectacular magical events have not succeeded reliably, and have often had very bad consequences." \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Jun 14 '13 at 11:18

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