Magic and Arcana – The special way to powers in Lex Arcana

Published by Redazione on

Francesco Nepitello: Working on the new version of the game, we decided to change and update many things. Others we have retained without compromise. Some elements of the setting are part of the true heart of Lex Arcanaand we do not want to change them.

One of these core elements is the approach to magic that the players and their characters have. In Lex Arcana, the Custodes use “Investigative Magic“! The characters are all sent by the Emperor to investigate a certain mystery and the arcane powers at their disposal are strictly “oracular”, and include premonitions, omens and divine responses to interpret. There are various reasons for this.

Lex Arcana “Sortes” prototype testing session.

First of all, we want to remain absolutely consistent with the Roman setting and with the kind of portents and wonders that permeated everyday life in that culture. We don’t want to insert something forcibly in our Rome. There are many magic and mythic elements from roman times that can be used instead of anything else, which would seem inconsistent and unnecessary.

 Secondly, we also wanted the magic to remain connected to the game’s focus: the investigation of supernatural threats. Assaulting temples filled with deranged priests, attacking demons of the ancient world and destroying evil artefacts in the Vesuvius are not the primary objectives of the game. In Lex Arcana,missions are mainly focused on investigating and gathering information. From this perspective, magic is another way for the Custodes to find out what happens, and through which the Demiurge can provide them with clues, riddles and dilemmas.

Finally, we wanted to avoid the “fireball effect”. Ours is not a high fantasy game set in ancient Rome, but a sort of Sword & Sandal setting where magic is rare, subtle and dangerous. It is also true that while the poor Custodes only have oracles and visions at their disposal, the enemies of the Empire can actually target them with terrifying curses and powerful sorceries… this is the hard life of the Custodes!

Marco Maggi: I agree. The Sortes, the new element we added in the second edition, goes in the same direction. It is on one hand a tool when playing and an additional feature for players, and on the other an “omen” which they can use during a session to steer the investigation and attract a bit of luck!

Example of real Sortes found near Fornovo (

We also decided to expand the range of powers a little bit from the first version, step by step with character advancement. At first only rituals and prophecies are available to the Custodes, but things become more interesting (and dangerous) as they progress intheir Curriculum, unlocking occult secrets and mysterious powers reserved only for the highest level initiates of their Cursus. Each hero of the Cohors Arcana is endowed with the power of a specific god, and this will grant them greater benefits as they rise through the ranks in the service of the Empire. So, the magic remains investigative, but its possibilities increase in powerful and secret ways as the Custodes rise in rank.


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