Advice on Archmagi

Howdy folks,

I'm relatively new to the game and I'm prepping my first saga. I need to come up with a couple Archmagi in detail as major actors.

Anyway, I'm struggling a bit with how to go about this and would like the advice of more experienced storyguides. And I doubt that I am the only new SG on this board and the advice might help others who are new. If some of you folks could chime in, I'm sure the rest of us would appreciate it.

I have a couple concepts in mind, but I'd like a list of pitfalls to avoid, ways to make them belivable as Archmagi without going the complete munchkin route, and success stories. I have most of the 5th edition books but am not currently using Guardians of the Forest or True Lineages since the have active story hooks that are being untilized an a saga I am a player in.

Thanks much,


I've for the most part kept Archmagi far away from my PC's. I want the PC's to be the movers and shakers, it's more difficult to accomplish this if there are archmages who can resolve most problems with a snap of their fingers hanging around the covenant or even withing close travel.

I did run a fairly successful game where I had a 120 year old maga in the covenant who was actually in a sort of permenent twilight. She could not percieve anything that was not in her environment twenty years ago. She called the PC's by the names of people she knew during that time and was only able to engage in problem solving regarding problems as they existed 20 years ago. She was actually a fun NPC to play and the fact that she had perdo and vim scores in the 40's and plenty of other arts that were respectable didn't make the efforts of the PC's pale to insignificance because she wasn't able to percieve her environment and wasn't able to bring her godlike power to bear on the PC's problems.

Beware of populating your world with NPC's who are as cool as the PC's. The players didn't come to your table to watch your NPC's tell a story.

Thanks. I can see that this could turn into an issue. However, I wanted to have these two for a couple specific reasons. The first is that they will be sources of major news items (and possibly subsidiary story hooks). Getting either to solve any of the players problems would be a series of stories in itself since (a) they are quite busy with Very Improtant Archmagus Business (tm) and (b) they are Archmagi and therefore very expensive to hire and the player covenant, by agreement, suffers from the poverty hook

Secondly, I wanted to show the players not just why Archmagi are as prestigous and fear/awe-inspiring as they are but also to show what is possible in the game system WITHOUT being a complete munchkin. I'm trying to wean these guys away from a certain very popular fantasy roll-playing game [sic]. I know that my transition from the thought processes induced by said system was a bit more difficult than I anticipated but was eased by demonstrating what a "high level character" <insert proper warding sign, here> looks like.

Again, thanks.


Some guidelines as to what you consider Munchkin would help.
How did these NPCs get to be an Archmage?
What noteworthy things have they done , good or bad?
Certainly an Archmage would be talked about and have a Reputation ,
Redcaps will bring news of these events.

If the Story Hooks simply involve having the Covenant (Adventurers)
going on Quests for the Epic-Level Wizards ,
who are way too busy with Very Important Archmage Business ,
this still sounds very much like Elminster syndrome.

Seconded. Thinking about a character 80 years out of apprenticeship at 30xp per year we end up with 2400 xp.

You can't get a weak character out of this. In fact the normal minmax tactic of over specializing could possibly lead to a character that's weaker than a generalist.

I personally like the idea of specialist archmages with one or two strong forms two strong techniques all of the other techniques between 13 and 20 and all of the other forms between 10 and 17.

Give them a generous handful of general spells and then a whole mess of stuff built around their specialty.

If they've a magical focus in wolves and their an archmage they'll solve most of their problems by using wolves.

You need to get a message to the prisoner locked in a castle's highest tower? Turn the second highest tower into a wolf then give the wolf/tower wings and the ability to relay your message.

Do you need to construct a shelter for the night? Create a pavilion of wolf pelts and bones.

Do you need to plow a field? magically create some wolves, give them instruction and then change them into oxen and (mentally challenged) farmers then set them to work.

Specialist archmages are more fun than generalists.

Nope. This is more in the nature of dealing with ripples from the big splash that they might make. And the splash was not even that close.

It is possible that they might meet the person at Tribunal, and I suppose it is possible to think up scenarios where they might even establish a limited working relationship with the archmagus. But that is not what is planned or expected and probably not even credibly possible in the early years.

No this is more along the lines of

-- "This is what a big dog looks like."
-- "This is why big dogs don't worry about little dogs, no matter how loudly they bark."
-- "You are not a big dog BUT if you eat all of your veggies and do all of your homework you might become one."
-- "Oh, and if you take the Pride (major) flaw, you have to understand that you think you are just as good as this guy."

Having said that, I don't expect the saga to run long enough to where the PCs can even entertain advancing thier characters to archmagus status and niether to the players.

For concepts, the first is a well-connected and generous Jerbiton who sponsors scholarship in Realm lores and related mundane abilites. He is one of the diplomats of the Order and has dealt with Fae and Daemon (note spelling, please) challenges in that arena and it has even been said that he speaks with angels regularly. He is well known for his ability in spirit magics and has written great works in Vim and Intelligo.

The second is a Flambeau Quaesitor who is an amazingly astute investigator who always, when acting as lead investigator, presents his case at Tribunal before any penalty is assessed, and has never lost a prosecution and has never NOT been in on the implimentation of the related penalty. I'm wondering about his particular art interests but leaning to the side of Perdo. I was toying with the idea of choosing a minor magical focus in Certamen (much to the consternation of the duelists out there) just to give the Tremere fits. Chalk it up to a perverse nature.

These archmagi are friends (or as much as two magi can be, anyway) and they are working on a project together.

Munchkinism. Yeah, tough to define. Lemme think on this a bit.


First, Erik, it looks like you and I were writing at the same time. My replay was not addressed to your points.

Thanks very much to both of you for your advice, any more wuld be well appreciated.

As to the specific issue of munchkinism ... well, I would say that it could be defined as designing the character around a set of stat bonuses as opposed to the other way around. Or, if the game system was real life, would the character in question be someone who is believable and a decent human being as oposed to a monomaniacal megalomaniac. Like the idea of 60-year-old highly respected surgeon who is also involved in his or her community, coaches the local high school tennis team, has raised a good family, been around the world twice, and gives to charity.

While I appreciate that power corrupts and that -- deliberately implicated or not -- Ars Magica seems to have that as a major theme, I have some difficulty accepting that most magi is a psychologically distorted, thoroughly self-involved, greedy, paranoids and schizophrenics. Maybe that could be a side effect of the Gift and time spent exercising it, but I don't see that it has to be so.

Anyway, thanks for the help.


You may want to consider waiting until Houses of Hermes: Societates is out before completely defining a Jerbiton Archmage.
Not because you can't already use the ideas you have ,
but there may well be plot hooks you can use.

Jerbiton are most likely to have The Gentle Gift (page 42) ,
this will significantly cut down on his early amount of power ,
due to it being his only Major Hermetic Virtue.

Mystery Initiation can involve loss of the Gentle Gift as part of an Ordeal.
Gaining power over spirits , even just to summon and converse has its price after all.
Ars Notoria (page 97) in RoP:TD could explain dealings with Angels (at least one anyway) and high levels of scholarship.

These things need only be rumours , not the actual powers of course.

A Quaesitor who has never lost a prosecution , ever! , would promote much speculation , imo.
Perhaps he gets advice from his good friend who deals with Spirits.
He only selects cases he knows he can win.
His Reputation is now such , that anyone he prosecutes is considered guilty ,
before any offical proceedings commence.

Was anyone ever wrongly convicted?
Does not matter if this is true or not , or if anyone living/dead/undead actually knows ,
but again , rumours abound if someone is too successful.

I have a couple of archmages IMS and to date they are the distant "political" powerhouses of the tribunal. The whole tribunal has only 3 archmages (1 verditius, 1 tremere and 1 ex misc, the ex misc is also Primus of his house). These 3 archmages have their own plans and ideas and plots. If the players plans and plots co-incide, co-operation is possible, if they conflict, trouble arises. One of the archmages is involved in a mystery cult that one of the PCs has joined, its sort of like a movers-and-shakers club for hermetic magi, very skull and bones/freemasons kind of thing.

I've always liked the idea of Archmagi being political beasts, simply for their raw power. An archmage can approach a freshly gauntleted mage and demand he votes a certain way at tribunal, its not like a young magus wants an archmage as an enemy is it.

Furthermore, archmages, due to their power should be able to hold multiple wizards wars with weak enemies at the same time. This would very much discourage anyone NOT an archmage to gainsay them, badmouth them, vote against them and suchlike.

I'd personally downplay the magical aspect in favour of the vast political power they can wield. Have them do something blatantly illegal, like mess with mundanes in a reasonably blatant way then in tribunal have everyone present vote to exonerate them. That might get across to your players the level of support/fear/power they wield.

As for the magical aspect, casual is good, teleporting without gestures or speaking, reading the minds of multiple people at the same time, being impervious to harm from an observed attack, such things might help get across the potential power by demonstrating the effortless power.

I'd think anyone seeking the status Arch-mage is a political beast; why else bother seeking the title?

If you are a conformist, that suffice yourself without recognition from others, you do not need to do it, but searching the recognition from your peers is something that most humans strive to achieve. Magi might be megalomaniac weirdos, but even them might feel this urge. Respect is a powerful feeling.



Respect is certainly a powerfull feeling...

But, there is much more. As stated earlier archmage have considerable political influence. But consider all the benefit. The scribal hospitality you can get from everywere(Durenmar here i come!) the apprentices you can seek, the redcap that want to do you favors, all the favors people wants to do for you (many of them want something of course, but consider the people that just want to pass time with you. Sentient creatures verse in OoH lore will hear of you...

Maybe it's because i've read too much sociology but to me behing an archmagus is power. When you speak people listen to you. You get a tremendous amount of attention from your peer. You're the pinacle of the OoH. Socially, your word act like a powerfull weapon on the battlefield (they can protect or kill).

What i did with my players is have one of the well respected and considered mentor be in respectfull admiration in front of an archmagus. My players did the math. The second thing i did is to rumor the archmage to have accomplish near impossible feat (the archmagus challenge).

As a story hook, i'll probably have an archmagus opently look down on a young mage(maybe doubting the potency of is gift), making him loose some status and pushing him (willingly or not) into exile or suicide. Who want's to openly contradict an archmagus without a good cause? The characters? Let them take the bait.


hehe..What about the Magi who DOESN'T have the title...but everyone is scared of him..even the Arch Magi...

Excellent story hook, one of the greateast way to bake the noodle of your player. So much speculation will come...

Let's say a tribunal with three archmagus that look like they respect a journeyman a magus as if he was an all-powerfull archmagus. The three archmagus doesn't want to talk about it or reveal information and they all seem to vote at tribunal in a sense that doesn't twart the younger mage. Almost no one know what happens... You can only glimpsed some information of an obscure event in the past of the tribunal.

Just throw that at your player and let them re-interpret every actions of the magus and archmagus, every vote, every discussion as relating to the mysterious event. In the end, even if nothing as happened the world seem richer.

(This technique was an all time favorite of my Unknown Armies games, the system is built to make the player fall for it)


I'd just point out that its line policy that the new books never make you can characters from the old books: you aren't going to be jumped by guys with a sack and beaten around the head until you suit the new book. David's said I'm the Jerbiton author, so I can't give you any detail, but I can say there will be some plot hooks you may not have thought of or used before, you aren't going to get stranded if you have a core book character once you've seen what I've done, OK?

It's true that Gentle Gift is important to this house, but a goodly proprotion of them don't have it, so you can work without it if you want, though.

I don't get the "Can't help you. Doing Important Archmagus Business" thing. IMC, the archmagi are very active, politically and socially. The reason they don't just solve all of your problems is that they don't -want- to, not because the universe is keeping them busy with the Kree=Skrull War.

Also worth noting: Most Archmagi have been very active - some of them get tired of it all, and also worth noting is that many archmagi will be hesitant to use their magic - they will allready be on the verge of final twillight..

And also worth noting is that an Archmagus's magic might not be able to solve your specific problem. It can be difficult to stop a rampaging dragon with Intellego Aquam and even a level 50 DEO won't faze the least faerie.

Intelligo Aquam? Easy. Have a chat with the ocean in the regio above the clouds, locate the local lordly inhabitant, bargain for the power of dropping a portion of the ocean on top of the dragon at a convenient time.

Less straightforward than PeAn(Vi)'ing it, of course...

If you have the arts to pull off a level 50 DEO you could spont "faerie's eternal obivion" at level 15 with enough penetration to hurt.

Mentem and vim specialists can get caught with no options in their strongist art but if you've got a good score in any of the other arts you can at least influence darn near any situation.

Fair enough. I am very much looking forward to Societates, but I have noticed that supplemental books are written in the "very useful but not required" mode with the possible exception of Hoh:MC. In that particular case, that book is so useful to a new player/story guide that it IS almost required. Anyway, I look forward to reading the book.

Yeah, been thinking about this. Right now I'm leaning towards normally gifted.

:slight_smile:) OK, I got the reference and I find that faintly disturbing.

No, nothing like that. It's just that these particular Archmagi are busy enough with certain things that require focussed attention and that they ARE movers and shakers so finding time for newly gauntleted magi that are NOT of thier house or political interest is simply not likely. Both of these guys could be described as active types and are not resting on their laurels/fearing that final botch.

As for Bellysarius' points on respect. Thanks. Excellent ideas. Although, I think if I was going to pull that last hook, I would wait until my players were more versed in playing the game. Don't want to push the players away from the table after all...

So, new related question: How widely advertised/discussed are archmagus challenges in your sagas/campaigns? I'm thiking that, given the fact that any Archmagus must have a big reputation that a PER+Intrigue roll or INT+Order of Hermes roll of Easy for local tribunal/player's house and Average for all others would be appropriate.