This question involves three books: Ars Magica v5 Core, Art & Academe, and Houses of Hermes: True Lineages.

I'm asking this question to try to get some external feedback on potential consequences of the Original Research (HoH:TL 26) into extending the art of Mentem.

The extension provided the ability to manipulate not only the wits, but their "links" to Reason (as part of the soul, reason is technically untouchable by magic. This original research... bends that rule)

As the largest consequence, I've stated that normally, as mentem can operate on one of the 5 wits at a time (Art and Academe) this breakthrough allows the creation of an artifical link two wits.

The 5 wits are: Common Sense (The ability to perceive the world), Imagination (The ability to composite images over time and store them) Memory (the ability to store concepts), Cognition (the ability to make reasoned judgements), and Estimation (the ability to make instictive intuitive leaps and the connection to the emotions)

Thus, instead of just instilling an item with common sense, it's now theoretically possible to do common sense + imagination, etc.. (all 5! combinations are possible.)

My main question is: is there any combination of the wits that's just stupid-broken? Are there any really fantastic consequences of any of these combinations?


Considering that they explicitly cannot create soul and therefore cannot create real reason or intelligence yet, what kind of effects are possible with each combination of wits?

  • Common Sense + Imagination:
  • Common Sense + Memory:
  • Common Sense + Cognition
  • Common Sense + Estimation:
  • Imagination + Memory:
  • Imagination + Cognition:
  • Imagination + Estimation:
  • Memory + Cognition:
  • Memory + Estimation:
  • Cognition + Estimation:

I'm trying to avoid thinking of this in computerized terms, but, for example, (I think) a door with Imagination and Cognition would be able to detect if an army was besieging it for a week: the imagination would provide temporarily, and the cognition would provide judgement as to the nature of the temporal event (army or fair, for example)

None of these dual combinations would be able to create actual reason or intelligence, but can be used to highlight aspects.

  • Without common sense, a spell or item has a very narrow sensing range: time of day, a very rough approximation of one of the five senses, simple environmental conditions, without the ability to integrate sense-perceptions.
  • Without imagination, there's no temporal image storage, the spell or item can't remember images that were in the past.
  • Without memory, there's no conceptual storage
  • Without cognition there's no way to filter, discriminate, predict, or decide on multiple courses of action. (The courses of action themselves come from the imagination stimulated by memory)
  • Without estimation, there are no links to emotion, no induction, and no instinctive reactions

For the clarification, to quote extensively from A&A:

Common sense: The common sense perceives all forms and images perceived by the external senses and combines them into one common mental picture. These composite images can then be compared with those stored in the memory or held in the imagination. It also judges the operation of a sense, so that when we see, we know what we are seeing.

Imagination: The imagination retains what has been seen and experienced even after the sense-impressions have subsided and serves as the link between memory and cognition. What the common sense assembles, the imagination preserves. It is distinct form the memory for the imagination stores only images, with no concepts, ideas, or emotions connected to them. What is commonly referred to as "thinking" is the recall of images within the imagination, though planning for the future is covered by cognition.

Cognition: cognition is the part of the mind where decisions are made. It is a receptacle of the judgement exercised by the soul, which then coordinates the other parts of the mind and body to enact the will of the soul. Cognition reaches decisions by manipulating mental images drawn from the other inner wits, separating and uniting the information they contain. The imagination can only hold in mind what has been directly sensed, whereas cognition can use the perceptions from the imagination and combine them into things never experienced. This faculty involves invention, planning for the future, design, and poetic imagery.

Estimation:The estimation covers instinct. It detects the practical, the biological significance of things. It enables a cow to pick out her calf or to seek shelter from the elements. Such decisions are not formed by reasoning powers, and friendship or enmity are not perceived by the senses. Estimation is the instinct to act in a particular manner based on judgement rather than decision, so is distinct from cognition. Cognition is concerned with the images of the senses to open the way to a discursive synthesis and analysis of sense-perceptions. Estimation, on the other hand, operates on the derivatives of the current sense-perceptions, recognizing danger, food, friendship, and so forth -- none of which are directly sensed -- and motivating the locomotive powers appropriately. It is this wit which causes emotional states as a response to the instinctual reaction to an object.

Memory: the power of memory is to act as a treasury or repository for information discovered by the estimation, and it relates to estimation in the same way that imagination relates to the common sense. The imagination is a storehouse for images whereas the memory preserves ideas. The memory is two-fold, the sensuous memory retains, reproduces, and recognizes representations of past experience and places those experiences in time. The rational memory is the power of recollection, reminiscence, and active recall and is the province of man rather than beast.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Clarification request: Why have you limited imagination to temporal flexibility? Wouldn't spatial flexibility be involved as well? The door with Imagination and Cognition should also be able to judge that an army that besieging it would be a lot easier to deal with if they were at a specific other position. This may require Memory as well - actually, that's a separate clarification request. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sohum
    Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 10:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ How is the ability to learn from past experiences distinguished from built-in static data? As far as I can tell, they aren't - both are implied by Memory. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sohum
    Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 10:10

3 Answers 3


Blergh. I don't like Aristotle.

First! Some of the names are not good names, because they don't fit their descriptions. I'm going to be using different names that imo make more sense. Here's a handy reference:

  • What I call Perception they call Common sense
  • What I call Working memory they call Imagination
  • What I call Instincts they call Estimation

Memory is fine. Cognition is also fine, though I'd like to be able to call it Imagination or Extrapolation. I won't, though, that'd be too confusing.

Second! I don't agree with some of their delineations. They've combined what I'd call Simple memory and Conceptual memory into one thing, and they've split Conceptual memory from Cognition. The former I don't like because while it's accurate, to an extent, it's a simplification that misses a lot, and the latter I don't like because it's meaningless. Cognition without Conceptual memory is not interestingly different from Instincts, and I can't think of a way Conceptual memory would be useful without Cognition. So, I'm going to be assuming that Cognition includes Conceptual memory, and that Memory is just the Simple memory.

This is the closest I think I can get to said conception of mind and still have unique, independent factors that work together and actually make sense.

So! To answer your actual question:

Perception + Working Memory

I'd treat this as perception becoming a very low-level cognition-like faculty, via temporality. More complex perceptions than perception alone are now possible: i.e. "Those are human-like things" vs. "Those human-like things are the same that were there yesterday, and they had and still have weapon-like things with them."

Perception + Cognition

I'd treat this as the cognition getting overwhelmed with the images it receives. Furthermore, reinforcement of concepts would become very expensive. This would seem like, from the outside, a ~dullard - slow to decide, slow to learn, and just wrong in what it decides and learns.

This is a bad example, but imagine only experiencing one second in five from birth. And you don't have your instincts and reflexes. It's a bad example because it doesn't quite capture the wrongness of arbitrary things getting reinforced in the conceptual mind, but it's almost there.

Perception + Instincts

This is a pretty good powerhouse, depending on the quality of the instincts. The door to the king's bedchamber would probably have the requisite rules you'd assume, but one with Perception and Instincts would also be able to detect that if no one had come by for a long time that that's an abnormal situation, and thus its normal rules don't apply, and thus open - letting the starving boy who'd somehow been trapped inside out into whatever catastrophe had occurred.

(The reason I'm not requiring Working Memory for this is because I'd consider this a "simple" temporal judgement, not one that, for instance, requires the identification of objects as the same objects as last time.)

It's important to know that these faculties don't give it the ability to learn. The door would have had to be told what is a normal situation as far as it's concerned explicitly.

Perception + Memory

This is the ability to perceive and learn without the ability to make any form of judgments about it. I guess it'd be useful as a generic "things-are-not-normal" detector, as long as you were willing to live with false alarms as it's learning?

Working Memory + Cognition

You are a brain in a vat, but without a full world simulated for your pleasure. Every now and then, maybe, a number pops into your head somehow.

...yea, I'd consider this utterly cruel. Though, is it really sensory deprivation if you've never known full sensory input?

Working Memory + Instincts

Kinda useful, I guess? It'd make a mean weather forecaster - simple input + comparisons over time + heuristics.

Working Memory + Memory

Useless, I think.

Cognition + Instincts

The above dullard, without the ability to perceive objects rather than things, but with a set of good instincts. This is probably roughly where near-future artificial intelligence will be.

Cognition + Memory

Useless, maybe? This might actually be able to construct its own instincts given time, though, at which point it's probably a slightly more powered up version of the above.

Instincts + Memory

The other powerhouse. Low-level perception, but you can store and learn from what you can perceive. I can see this being used for, say, in a door, learning which kinds of knocks tend to be allowed in and which kinds aren't. Or as a way to predict the stock market :P

Now here's the issue - I can't see how any of these would be useful on their own! This makes me think I'm working on overly restrictive understandings of the capabilities, but at the same time I can't see how to expand the capabilities without having them start to step on each others' toes and thus cause their combinations to useless relative to the base.

So, consider this a starting point. Ars Magica may have been written so that the individual capabilities were useful by themselves, in which case being able to combine two may not be a big deal - but three or four might be, and might map to these combinations neatly.


You have an agent intellect concept here. I recommend looking at the neo-platonists for some inspiration. I'd especially look at Alfarabi.

If the limits of magic are unchanged between 4th and 5th I'd say you just got to the gray area of having surpassed (or being about to surpass) one. By granting the Aristotelian intellects you've bestowed agent intelligence, which is life. You are in brass head territory. Which means you probably going to be drawing more from the writings of such renaissance luminaries as Marsilio Ficino who has a similar line. And Ficino is just so much roleplaying goodness.

To bring it back to gaming. I think once you've created life you have two major plot points. The hubris (Frankenstein is a great example) and the "everyone wants what I know" both of which brings you into some great story development that I'd be focusing on.

To answer your questions, none of the wits in combination are broken, but with only 2 or 3 you are also playing with life, so look to Dr Moreau for inspiration.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. As this is original research it is intended to in some ways expand the limits of magic. In A&A the soul allows humans access to Reason and Intellect, which differentiates them from animals. I've explicitly prohibited this research from directly effecting either, but unlike prior levels of mentem (which could only effect the wits) this can effect the wits and their relationship to reason (and thereby create the single link between wits). I agree with the plot points, though. (Time to go edit the question) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 0:06

If you have all five present in an item it sounds like you have the classic intelligent swords. So the best way to approach this questions is what would be an intelligence be like that omitted one of the five wits. For example a amulet that has Common Sense+Imagination+Cognition+Estimation but no memory. I imagine the main issue that the amulet would never learn that it would have to start from ground zero for every situation.


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