A Hedgier Order

I'm idly contemplating replacing Hermetic magic with Elemental magic, similar in theme (and perhaps mechanics?) to the Elementalist from HMRE. The idea is to both ingrain magic more into the Mythic setting, tying it up to the four elements, and to lower the power level of Hermetic magi, which I consider excessive. This got me thinking about a more fractured, hedge-magic, Order, and I came up with something like this:

House Bonisagus: Believed to be a reincarnation of Hermes the Thrice-Great, the genius Bonisagus united the three types of elemental magic, which forms the basis of the "Hermetic" magic now used by the Roman houses of the Order. But his direct lineage holds to another secret - the Parma Magica, allowing them magic resistance with which they can shield themselves, others, or cover an entire area with an Aegis (which has the additional benefit of neutering the social effects of the Gift). Accordingly, Bonisagus magi enjoy great prestiege and respect as mediators in the Order, and a Bonisagus-erected Aegis protects nearly any covenant.

House Flambeau: A Roman tradition, its magic receive Puissant Ignem for free, as well as further secrets of magic like Fire duration and calling on various fire-spirits.

House Criamon: Aristotelian physics implies the existence of a fifth element, quintessence. While most elementalists are confined to the four elements, Criamon magi can also affect the fifth - the stuff angels and demons are made from. In addition, they have inner mysteries related to Divination (Astrology).

House Merinitia: Founded by a Roman pagan maga, this house eventually became a safe-house for various pagan traditions. It now mainly houses Faerie Wizards (as per RoPF).

House Bjornaer: Founded by a sorceress from an ancient Celtic lineage, this house is centered on Forest Lore and associated mysteries, including Heartbeast, Control Fertility, Summon Animals, and more. They do not practice roman magic, and their main powers lie in the development of their Inner Heartbeast and in their powerful Magical allies.

House Tytalus: Founded by a powerful conjurer claiming descent from the Caanite necromancers of old, this house practices the Goetic Arts, a non-Roman system of magic.

House Didene: Founded by a famous English witch, this house unites the various Folk Witches (as per HMRE) of Mythic Europe.

House Verditius: Founded by a priest of Haephestues, this House practices a form of Rustic Magic (as per HoHS Ex Misc) said to have been taught by Haephestues and Wayland Smith.

I think Hermetic magic would be a little more streamlined than core elementalists:

  • They'll probably have access to the appropriate spell guidelines, instead of rough rolls and effects that core elementalists have. So, for example, they could use Rego, Intellego, and some aspects of Creo with the four elemental Forms (as well as Animal or even Mentem to some extent, with element-appropriate animals and so on).
  • They'll have social access to mysteries to open all options for elemental magic: philosophical, medicinal, and theurgic.
  • They'll have Potent Magic for free, to encourage use of Shape & Material bonuses.
  • They'll have social access to virtues such as Divination (Astrology), Hermetic Architecture, and so on, to represent their "learned magician" nature.
  • Extensive use of Objects of Virtue will provide "magic items" and meaning to S&M bonuses.

So... basically, just rumbling thoughts...

I'd like to see this worked up into one or more articles in Sub Rosa. It's a great idea that has knocked around in one form or another for ages, usually by regressing the Order to the time of the founders. I'd love to see how the Order looks when the different Houses really do represent different traditions.

Yes, it's a great idea :wink: . But why lower the power ?

There is two kind of magic: the spiritual one (like elemental, witch folk, faeric, divine or goetic magic), and the formulaic one (hermetic, gruagach, runic or natural magic). You can divide the houses between partisans of each ones.

What I'm doing in my own saga (actually, in the south of the sun) is: I gave the possibility to my players to create their own tradition, with the powers they want (but I want these traditions to be well explained, and harmonious ones, no divine + ars goetia, for example !).

So, an obligation of 24-25 free points for magic virtues, to represent the magic training (instead of hermetic arts).

One free virue to represent the speciality of their master.

Optional: Up to 10 points for virtues, as usual for a magus

And up to 10 points for vices to compensate the optional virtues.

I imagined this when I compared the two most powerful kind of magi in the mythical world of Ars:

-The hermetic one: 5 techniques (major virtues) 10 forms (minor virtues): total: 25
-The vitkir (which is designed exactly as a hermetic one): 24 runes (minor virtues): total: 24

And in the beginning I wanted to have true and powerful hedgies to interact with my players. With this rule, the only (and very big) advantage hermetic magi have is the parma magica (and my players know very well how powerful is this advantage) which permits the formation of the order. The hedgies can be powerful, but are disorganized. When my players were seeing a non hermetic one, they were (at least for some of them) cautious, you can be sure.

As example, I created a Sahir from the Ordo Suleiman, and I get:
24 magic virtues:
All magic virtues from the elementalist (The four elements (4 minor virtues), the four medicinal techniques (4 major techniques) the 4 philosophical and theurgical techniques (8 minor virtues)
And of course, among the optional virtues, the major one for sahirs, Sihr.

It's possible to do the same with infernalists: all maleficia: 8 major virtues... And nightmares for your players (especially if you transform maleficia and make them accelerated abilities) !

If you want more possibilities, you can mix the different magic, and even the ancient magic (and a true hyperborean magus with 25 hymns (mercere), a true follower of Davnalleous which is a gruagach with ars goetia and the ward virtue (Ex Misc), or a powerful true witch, which the mix between the Cunning folk and the folk witch (diedne or true merinita)) or the mysteries (a true verditius will have rustic magic, create an automaton, verditius runes, great talisman, etc...).

With this, the possibilities are endless, and the ennemies will be powerful as well.

But what about the progression and discoveries ? Hey, it's always possible, with breakthrough, when players want to collaborate to elaborate new magics, or a whole new tradition.

So if you want a more fractured order (and it's very interesting), why not change completely, and have a complete different magical tradition for each house ?

Why to keep Houses?
Or you may create new "Houses" from mysteries and from each ex Misc tradition.

Not my cup of tea, but we have different tastes. You like low fantasy, I like over the top style. Having said that, I find your idea to have many admirable qualities. The only issue I have is the alteration of the ethnic origins of the Houses.
To Birbin, the setting of the Order of Hermes and the Houses is my favorite feature of the game. Troupe style and a clever magic system are cool features, but it is the actual background setting invented by Jonathan Tweet et-al that keeps me hooked on the game after these many incarnations. Otherwise I could take any generic game system, plunk my setting down in Europe in the middle ages, and have a go at it from there. But for me, the thrill is playinga Flambeau magus (old school style). The lofty goals and expectations of Bonisagus magi, the dark yet disciplined magi of House Tremere, the conniving magi of Tytalus, the insidious and presumed dead House Diedne, and etceteras.

In other words, to me it isn't Ars Magica without the Order of Hermes and the Houses of its magi. Rules are just numbers.

Pretty much my position as well. Tweet doesn't get enough credit for what makes the game a sucess IMO.

Well, in turn:

"regressing the Order to the time of the founders" is a bit different, I think that's interesting but to create truly different traditions for different Houses you need to change the Order somewhat too.

Letting the players make up their own tradition is of course always fine, but I'm contemplating the overall ideas and creating some traditions of my own - I have a right to do that for fun, too :slight_smile:

I'm torn on whether to keep the Houses. On the one hand, I like the political ramifications, and these are just not the same without the power primi hold. I also like at least some of the Order-specific mythology and ideas of the Houses. On the other, an all-societies/cults Order makes more sense in may ways. I think a reasonable compromise is to make some Houses inclusive of many traditions, as is my Merinitia for example.

As for the power level - I like high fantasy, but lower power level. The dragon isn't that fantastic when you can blast it out of existence, and the faerie lord isn't that interesting when you can kill it and render it for raw vis instead of having to bargain with him; especially when you can do that 20 years post gauntlet. I like it when characters have to scramble to get any advantage, and therefore use the various colorful options the setting offers. It's definitely a matter of taste.

I'm not overly enamroed of the Houses themselves. I think they're very nice, but what I find alluring is the broader setting - the Realms, the politics of the Order, the semi-authentic magic... And it is that that my ideas hope to emphasize. Not to say that the Houses aren't good, they're just not that captivating for me.

That said, I do preserve much of the canonic Order, just highlighting the good parts. Hermetic magic is still Roman, it just connected to the (authentic) four-elements now. Bjornaer still pursues the inner heartbeast and communion with nature, now more than ever, but are now Celtic so as to have a more ancient and endemic heritage (rather than the Germanic Gothic of cannon). Tytalus is still a frightening conjurer of Titans and nether spirits, now even more so than before. And so on.

We now have so many different traditions and styles of magic that I'm sure you could have the Order with each House using magic in a different way. The power levels may be off a little and need bringing into line but it's a really interesting thought experiment; What if Bonisagus didn't have a unifying theory? What if Parma Magica was the sum of his contribution?

The Order could still form around the Parma Magica, but the level of cooperation across magical traditions would be less as their magic is diverse and likely incompatible. So that means (broadly) that I can't learn your shape-changing ability and you can't learn my mastery of the elements. But I could see covenants becoming more like Mystery Cults, in that the magi within the covenant may share their magic through initiations rather than outright tuition of Arts and spells, assuming the Houses allow such things to go on.

The ramifications are quite large and the idea of disparate traditions does some interesting things to the Order itself.

It's a very interesting idea.

As a longstanding hedgie advocate, I'd encourage you to explore this further! A Sub Rosa article is a good idea. It's a bit like the old Heretic's Corner... sort of a "What If?"

I think keeping the Houses is central to keeping the flavour of the game though.

I like rules, but there only there as guidelines - capturing flavour in a mechanic is tricky. You could keep Parma and Certamen and the Code as unifying features and then just take it from there. The concept of a universal magical system, while mechanically brilliant and a great aid to playability is a bit of stretch. It would be interesting to see how the Order would have developed without the Universal Theory but with the other political, cultural and magical elements intact. The incorporation of the Mysteries & Initiation into the mainstream rules makes this easier to realise than previously.

Go for it!




It's an interesting idea.

I find the AM fluff out of sync with what the rules do. Lowering the power of magi would help some of that.

Unfortunately, I think that lowering them this far causes other problems.

  1. Parma becomes very good. Human magics would almost never get through. That would be a good thing if everyone in the Order had it--that would bring the OoH fluff closer in line with game mechanics.

(Right now, Parma is supposed to be so effective that it lets magi gather without fear of being attacked by their fellows. That was a big incentive to join an Order of wizards rather than hide from them. The mechanics, however, do not support this. Most magi have penetration totals that far exceed their defenses. This is true out of Gauntlet, when magi have Parma 1, useless against a combative magus, and later too, except for the rare magus with Parma 10 or so(worth getting). Worse, Parma is completely useless against Aimed spells; their use is so obvious that it's hardly "clever." Finally, Parma goes down twice a day, supporting another "ooh, how clever am I to have thought of that" tactic.)

Hedge totals are much lower than Hermetic Totals, so Parma becomes more immediately useful. And I notice fewer indirect effects.

You probably would not like what happens when Parma reaches 10, though: Supernatural beings cannot use direct magical effects, which puts you right back where you started.

  1. Power imbalances. Not all hedge traditions are created equal. Some are far more useful and powerful than others. This matters less when they are primarily for NPCs, and the PCs are Hermetic Magi.

  2. Rules weirdness. IMNVHO, AM5 has begun to stagger beneath the weight of its rules. A few supplements ago, I thought the system was carrying it rather well. Increasingly, its old-school roots are showing. Where a modern game might seek elegant abstraction, AM5 provides lots and lots of rules and detail for marginally less return. I'm now up to date through ToME, and increasingly notice rules whose numbers do not match the fluff, that contradict (er, elaborate upon) others; figuring out a ruling has become a Talmudic affair with 5 books or so open at a time.

When everything is a Hedge Tradition, the entire game lives in the thicket of special rules and variants, in the stuff that has been playtested less.

  1. Less powerful magi make more sense in a larger social context than in an Order that seeks to divorce itself from society. Pretty much all of these magical traditions were either part of their mythic culture or (more rarely) preyed upon it. Not separate. These guys are not strong enough to make it on their own, and the rewards for having mundane support matter. But maybe this is a bennie for you, wizards skulking on the fringes--while more powerful wizards stand beside kings.



I think it's an excellent idea YR7, and one I'd love to see written up in more detail.

My own ideas for a more low magic setting revolve around the Roman Empire time as described by the canon storyline, where the Cult of Mercury is the dominant magical power defending the Roman Empire, but Haephestus priests and the minor magics of the other cults of the Roman Empire would have their place. The witches of Thessalay and other conquered traditions like Canaan Necromancy, Sahir magic, Deidne druidism would all be lying low at the height of the Empire, but would agitate more and resist as it begins it's decline and fall.

Set wherever you like in those times, with the troupe as either a part of the Empire, loyal and defending the borders, or resisting vassals who are determined to get their own freedom again, or as the barbarians beyond the border. There are enough options out there that the core of the troupe, the gifted characters could live long enough to play a campaign of surviving through the decline and fall.

That's not, strictly speaking, true. Parma Magica was that effective when Bonisagus introduced it. After all, he introduced it into the sort of world you describe and the original poster is proposing. But there is nothing that says the Parma Magica is that effective now, with several hundred years of combat wizards pushing against it. The Penetration ability didn't even exist until after the Order was founded, for example.

Its a state secret still because it is that effective against rivals. And its useful in shrugging off the nuisances of pixies and imps even if you don't develop it heavily. And I'm sure that a lot of wizards just accept it on faith that its useful in general.... or, at least, that it would be useful if they actually developed it.

I don't know about that. After all, Penetration as an ability is useful to and used by traditions other than the Order. I think the traditions in Hedge Magic Revised Edition make use of it.

Hi, I've been running a saga with the PCs as the first Hermetically trained magi - the founders are brilliant at their specialisms, but the PCs are their first apprentices since Bonisagus shared his magic theory.

As the above posters have said, parma is superb - it's keeping almost all hostile magical effects off the PCs except for really powerful ones. Slightly frustrating as a storyguide at the moment, but as soon as the Order is big enough and rivalries really get going, they will find that it isn't as useful against their supposed 'friends'.

I've done a mixture of Houses - some, I've kept as canon; most are my own creation. This was for two reasons.

  1. a mixture of players, 2 very familiar with AM, 3 new. With all the political aspects changed along with house mysteries etc, the new players weren't at a diadvantage.
  2. I wanted Bonisagus' unified magic theory and the hermetic arts to be based on sharing ideas from the founders (as the fluff says) rather than having their specialisms added on as extras (familiar binding; spontaneous magic). Otherwise, the fluff/RAW has Guernicus supplying Terram, but no other founder contributing any actual Arts (unless I've missed something..).


Sounds like a very interesting saga!

I believe it is said Bjornaer contributed much to Animal, but generally yeah, their contributions were relatively mild.

Flambbeau, IMO, improved upon the Art of Ignem and contributed much to Perdo (that which he learned from his master Delendar).
As for a Hedgier Flambeau, I would return that noble House back to its Hispanic roots, and have them focus on Alchemy and Astrology.

The contributions of the founders according to 5th Edition Canon:

Bjornaer - Helped to expand Animal to cover living creatures.
Bonisagus - Developed the Parma Magica and the Hermetic Arts.
Criamon - Taught Wizard's Twilight (apparently MUCH better than Hermetics' previous reaction to Warping).
Diedne - Introduced methods of Spontaneous Casting.
Flambeau - Instrumental in developing the Penetration ability. Recruited new members.
Guernicus - Made significant contributions to Bonisagus' understanding of Terram and outlined the Peripheral Code.
Jerbiton - Refined the system of Voice & Gestures as well as improving Imaginem & Mentem.
Mercere - Natural Philosophy, Shapechanging and a few Mercurian Rituals. Courier Service!
Merinita - Familiar Binding.
Tremere - Helped Bonisagus develop Certamen.
Tytalus - Recruited new members.
Verditius - Introduced methods of Enchantment.

While it might be true that some other these may appear to be rather minor, it should be remembered that Bonisagus had already developed his theory and wanted help refining it using input from the other Founders. Trying to smoosh different traditions together into a coherent whole is very different and probably impossible.

Well, HoH: Societas states that Flambeau spent years searching for ways to overcome the Parma Magica in case it fell into the hands of enemies. I suppose it doesn't strictly say that he invented Penetration, but it does say he pioneered the study of it as an arcane ability. Regardless, its pretty clear that the Parma Magica was far more effective in the days of the Founders than it is now, in part because of his research. It still puts any hedge magician's efforts in the field to shame.

Ah, yes, I recall that statement. I myself tend to gloss over the history section of Flambeau in Societates. As far as I am concerned, his name was Reculed and he was from Spain and his master was Delendar. And he died in battle.
But anyway, the idea that any magus invented Penetration, and that this event came after the development of Parma; well, this seems just plain silly to me. Anyone with Arcane Lore can take Penetration, especially Hedge Wizards. Any magical creature can take Penetration for their powers, even a ghost that was sealed in a jar since before the Order. Penetration has nothing exclusive concerning Hermetic magic.

It is possible Flambeau contributed in the area of arcane and sympathetic connections.