Advice on building a "Spirit Necromancer"? (Virtues, Art Scores, etc?)

I was preparing for my first-ever Ars Magica Game, and when fishing for ideas on the internet, stumbled across the character template for a "Spirit Necromancer" on Redcap wiki (Character generation - Project: Redcap) - only to find out that the page didn't exist!

However, the concept of a mage who specializes in the incorporeal side of Spirit Necromancy seems cool, and I want to play that type of a mage. From looking at the core book, I guess that I primarily need to specialize in Rego and Mentem. But apart from that, I can't seem to figure out what else I need.
Our group hasn't decided on where to set the Saga yet, but we have ruled out the Hibernian & Levant Tribunal - and seem to be leaning towards Central Europe or London. We (3 magus total) are all going to be playing a magus 25 years old & fresh out of gauntlet.

  1. I did gather on the internet that House Tremere focuses on Necromancy, and that Tremere was taught from Guorna the Fetid, an ancient necromancer of sorts. However, I envision my character to be more Lab Rat/Grad Student than Ruthless Politician/That Student who sucks Professor's Ass (to use an a completely unrelated tangent, Ars Magica reminds me of Grad School: The RPG). So, can someone who isn't brave or ruthless or politically savvy be a good fit with House Tremere, provided that he's willing to do what his sodales says?

2-1 : Should I take either Major Magical Focus (Necromancy) or Minor Magical Focus (Ghosts)? The Major Virtue seems to be more encompassing and seems to provide potential story hooks (Oh, you mastered ghosts? Here, go create some skeletons now!), but I'm not sure if my character will be able to involve himself with corporeal necromancy for 10-20 years or so.

2-2: Currently, I'm thinking of the following "shopping list" : Major Magical Focus (Necromancy), The Gentle Gift, Affinity with Rego, Affinity with Mentem, Second Sight, and Skilled Parens (House Virtue, I talked with the GM and asked if he could take the alternate virtue instead, since I never saw him as a particularly brave guy).
Are there anything else that works well, especially for a new player?
Should I just take Pussaint with Rego/Mentem as well and hyper-specialize with a magical focus, like what is recommended for new players?
Is it okay having The Gentle Gift, even though I don't envision him to be a particularly talkative magus? I thought it would be easier for him to rob graves and stuff if he wasn't disliked immediately, but maybe that's too...criminal-like?

3: What do people consider to be "okay" art scores for a specialist mage immediately out of Gauntlet? I was planning to spend 55xp on Rego, 55xp on Mentem, and then 10xp on some other art (not counting skilled parens), for a total of 10/10/4. Should I just spend more on Rego and Mentem to bring them around 15 or 16?

3-1: What other art do you feel is useful all around excluding Rego and Mentem? I was thinking Animal simply because I liked animals, but I felt I might be missing something.

4: Nobody in our Saga seems to be a Rego Vim specialist, so nobody's really taking Aegis of the Hearth. The Book says it's really, really necessary to have your magical shields - so should I "take one for the team", and learn Vim as a secondary art? Or would it be okay having an older mage just cast it repeatedly until he dies or something?

Any tips and recommendations you have, especially for ghosts and necromancy is welcome - but then every word of wisdom helps, so please feel free to state anything and everything you want to say - and thanks in advance for helping a newbie out!

You can only start with one Major Hermetic virtue, so if you take Gentle Gift, then Major Magical Focus is out, and vice versa.

House Tremere are indeed the house most interested in necromancy, and they mainly concentrate on spirit necromancy - i.e. summoning ghosts - rather than animating corpses.

House Tremere has room for many different personality types. People who can follow orders are particularly welcome. Being brave is not requirement, but they don't have much use for complete cowards either.

Rego and Mentem are the main arts needed for summoning and controlling ghosts. Second Sight is highly useful for anyone dealing with spirits.

Gentle Gift is useful for all magi - it is very nice not being automatically disliked. However, when creating characters a lot of players come to the conclusion that there are so many other virtues they want that there is no room for Gentle Gift.

Rego Vim can be a quite useful combination of arts. With that you can summon and control spirits of all the different realms, as well as create wards against them. Plus being able to cast the Aegis

I general I would recommend being "not bad" in at least two Techniques and at least two Forms. Both for flexibility, and so you don't suck at Certamen.

One method of designing mage characters that can be useful is to look through the books for one or two higher-level (level 20+) spells that you want to be able to cast, and then choose virtues and allocate xp so you can learn and cast them.
It is possible to start with a level 50+ spell right out of gauntlet, but that requires very specific builds.

I think I will stop there for now, and let other people chime in.

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There are many kinds of necromancers, even within the realm of spirit necromancy. What do you want your magus to be able to do, and why? That will help determine the kind of spells he will learn.

The Leadworker virtue (Houses of Hermes:True Lineage p.143) can be very useful to fix the arcane connections you'll need to summon ghosts.

Summoning ghosts outright, as per the spell Incantation of Raising the Dead (ArM5 p.152), uses ritual magic which can consume a lot of raw vis. So something that would either reduce the amount of vis needed, like Mercurian Magic (ArM5 p.46), or provides him with a regular supply like Personal Vis Soure (ArM5 p.47), can be very useful. Of course, if he is raising ghosts for his House then it will provide him with the necessary vis, but he may may to have some in store for personal uses.

Note that Mercurian Magic is a major virtue, so if you want that you'd need to downgrade his Magical Focus to minor (ghosts) instead on relying on a Major Focus in necromancy.

The virtue Minor Potent Magic (The Mysteries p.31) can also be a great way to boost both his ability to cast spells more easily and with greater penetration, if he wants to affect ghosts that have a Might score. A good score in the Penetration ability would also be desirable for that, potentially with the Puissant Penetration virtue.

Puissant (Art) and Affinity with (Art) in the arts of Mentem and Rego are usually good investments. If you want to diversify somewhat, Deft Mentem will allow your magus to cast his Mentem spells without gestures and sound -- great in situations where mundanes are present or if you want to affect them unobstrutively.

That's of course too many virtues, so you will have to make some hard choices -- see my first paragraph. :slight_smile:

One possibility would be to be a Rego Mentem + Vim specialist, and be a more generic "Spirit Master" (including a Major Focus in Spirits). This allows you later on to dabble in stuff like theurgy, the immensely useful spirit familiars, goetia, demo-ahem, no :slight_smile: . Rego Vim is extremely useful in many other ways too (including the social credit you get from being the one who deals with the Aegis), and many forms of "metamagic" that unlike MuVi can apply to spontaneous spells too. Just an example: instead of taking Incantation of Summoning the Dead as written, take a level 25 version with R:Touch, and take a level 25 Wizard Tunnel for when you don't have the earthly remains of the ghost at hand. Eventually, you may also grow your Perdo, and become excellent at fighting spirits of all types. Consider being a Tytalus, of the Tytanoi lineage, instead of a Tremere; though if you are a Tremere, Leadworker (HoH:TL) is definitely a Virtue you want. Note that you can probably convince your Storyguide to have that as an alternate Tremere House Virtue, given that it's a "Tremere only" Virtue.

Second Sight is extremely useful to a spirit master, but not strictly necessary - though if you do take it, consider taking instead Magical Blood (Spirit) from RoP:M p.46, that yields Second Sight plus a little extra advantage in terms of an aging bonus.

As for taking Puissant/Affinity ... maybe. I don't think you'll miss anything if you do not take them; spirit mastery "scales" very well, allowing you to start small and progress from there (incidentally, choosing between Affinity and Puissant also strongly depends on the length of the saga). Even without a Magical Focus, starting with 10 in Rego, 1 in Perdo, 7 in Mentem and 8 in Vim is definitely adequate (this assumes no SKilled Parens either). Do note that even if you take Skilled Parens, it is recommended you do not exceed 10 in your starting Arts. For the same reasons, since you'll probably have arcane connections to the spirits you affect, I do not think you need anything to boost your Penetration ... though if you think you do, Life Boost is a good choice since you won't be casting over and over. Finally, do make sure all your Rituals are Mastered; in this sense, if you are going to cast lots of different Rituals, and lots of different spells under stressful conditions, and if you have not chosen any other Hermetic Major Virtue, strongly consider Flawless Magic.

I would definitely leave Gentle Gift out ... though consider a Minor Virtue that gives you a restricted version of it to Spirits.

So, for starters, I'd go with a minimum of:
Virtues: Magical Blood (spirits - granting Second Sight) and Leadworker;
Arts: Rego 10, Mentem 7, Vim 7
Spells: Coerce the Spirits of the Night (ReMe20), Incantation of Summoning the Dead (at R:Touch, ReMe25), Wizard Tunnel (ReVi25), Aegis of the Hearth (ReVi20, that's very adequate for starters).

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As long as you have some talents the House can make use of and/or are willing to operate within the House hierarchy, there is certainly a place for him in House Tremere. If memory serves, the House is more concerned about you have lesser control over yourself and magic (Fury, Painful Magic, stuff like that) than you not being the most ideal soldier archetype.

Generally, I'd say go for Minor Magical Focus (Ghosts) if Spiritual Necromancy is what you're after. Unless you're willing to pursue some Spirit mysteries, the Major Focus in Necromancy would be a hefty investment. Could always go about creating flesh/bone golems and binding spirits into them? Also, can't have Gentle Gift AND a Major Focus, as they are both Major Hermetic Virtues. Also, I would take the Leadworker Virtue. Very good for any self respecting Necromancers! Fixed arcane connections galore!

Vim is always good to have, but for your focus, Mentem covers most of what you'll need for spirits; summoning, banishing, warding, binding,. Animal would be extra useful if you were to go with Necromancy focus, I believe. Should be applicable to animating Animal Corpses, but again, we're trying to stick to the spiritual side of things.

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First things first. Hi, and welcome! :slight_smile:

Second things second: What books do you have access to, and how complicated do you want to your first character design to be?

That's because that's all you really need. Everything else just makes things easier/spicier.

I firmly believe that you can make a cool necromancer concept from every house, though maybe the Criamon gets a little unconventional.

  • Bjornear? has a canine or jackal as a Heartbeast, digs up bones and talks to the spirits of those they used to belong to.
  • Bonisagus? A researcher simply fascinated by the knowledge of ages past.
  • Guernicus? Dead Men Do Tell Tales, as it happens...


... that's because it kinda is ...

You don't have to, but it'll make life easier.
I have to admit, I regretted taking Major Focus (Necromancy) on my last necromancer. It made things too easy I felt. But I'll admit it wasn't my first character either.

If you have TMRE (aka Mysteries), maybe have a look at Potent Magic? And yes, you can have both a magical focus and Potent magic that covers the same field of expertise.

Meh. I wouldn't, but it's all about how much of a specialist you want to be. Thing is, for almost every Virtue, my answer to "Is it any good?" would have to be "Depends on your group and your saga."
If you can find other Virtues you like, go for it!

Works for me! :smiley:

My Troupe pretty strictly follow the recommendation on p. 32 about not spending more than 55 XPs in any single Art right out of Gauntlet. It can be really useful to have more than one trick - to fall back on. Then again, if you want to really emphasize specialization as a personality trait, go for it!

My last necromancer used Intelligo (lots of uses! And everybody loves Whispers Through the Black Gate (InCo(Me) 15, ArM5, p. 130) and Terram (makes it easier to dig up the dead ya know).
He later picked up Creo (for a number of reasons) and Vim for Wards and defence against the various odd critters haunting the same graveyards as him.

It's not an Art, but you'll probably also want to throw some XPs after Penetration, since most (read: ALL) pre-existing ghost will have some form of Might score that you'll need to penetrate to affect them.

Vim can be really useful for a Necromancer. Especially since you'll likely be messing a lot with Arcane Connections anyway.

Look at the above posts. And if you need more, come and ask for more.
We can give you literally pages of advice and old 'war stories' I'm sure, seeing how 'Necromancer' is a classic concept.


Everyone has really good ideas and I won't be too repetitive.

  • Any house can be a necromancer, but Tremere are a classic. Tytalus have a history towards general spirit molestation too, IIRC. Boisagus like studying all sorts of things.
  • Your primary arts are going to be Mentem and Rego, but with a bunch of Rego you can do a bunch of cool effects without focusing too hard, when spirits aren't around: Short range teleports, telekinetic stuff, freezing water, and crafting.
  • If you want to specialize in Mentem more instead of Rego, you're also a great social mage. A little Perdo Mentem helps you get away with grave robbing, and Mentem will go well with your Gentle Gift idea.
  • You can also consider aiming for a Muto Mentem effect to manifest your spirits physically.
  • I think as a new player, Mentor can be a great addition to your story.

Hmm, well folks, this seems an interesting "challenge":

Give the full stats of a fun-to-play starting spiritual necromancer PC, using only the corebook, but leaving room for growth (both in terms of the PC becoming more skilled and powerful, and the troupe expanding into different supplements).

I think seeing concrete examples would help a starting player more than abstract advice. Who's willing to give it a try? It would be fun to have one per House (well, maybe two for House Bonisagus, one per branch).

Nobody mentioned that Tremere's Magical Focus is locked in?

Don't let that stop you if it's the flavor you want though.

Here's a vulture spirit necromancer.

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The OP mentioned that the SG agreed to have Skilled Parens as the Tremere House Virtue, which is a reasonable house rule.

Oh hey I did this recently:

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You are right, I missed the insert for Virtues and Flaws in the corebook. I guess I'll drop Gentle Gift - after all, if I'm going to be digging graves for stuff, I might be as well as embrace the dislike.

Also, is "higher-level" considered to be level 20+? general, level 40-50 spells right out of gauntlet is considered to be hyper-specialized/munchkin-ism?

Thanks for all the detailed answers; I would've been lost in character creation without all the advice, still trying to figure out on my own if X was better than Y!

I failed to mention that we only have the core book for now; maybe, when after we start playing a couple more sessions, we'll buy more books - (probably Covenants and Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, as suggested by Redcap) but for now, only the stuff in the core book is available.

That being said, is it possible to just take 9 virtues/9 flaws at character creation, and once later I have Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, have a story focused around getting the Leadworker Virtue (with a minor flaw to balance it out)?

I guess I'll take Major Magical Focus (Necromancy), simply because I haven't played yet and a lot of the virtues that have to do with spontaenous casting (or casting in general) seem a bit abstract.

Virtues: Major Magical Focus (Necromancy), Ghostly Warder, Affinity with Rego, Affinity with Mentem, Second Sight, ("Space" for Leadworker, although Unaging sounds nice....)

Flaws: Susceptibility to Divine Power, Infamous Master, Favors(Sodales - hopefully that also explains the Skilled Parens Virtue thematically), Driven(Make Necromancy less Suspecious), Reclusive, Hunchback.

For the above, would having Infamous Master & Favours (Sodales) be a really bad idea - like, "Oh, expect to get challenged to certamen once in a year because your sodales pissed someone" - tier? I felt that it could lead to a potential story hook, although if it gives too much headaches, I might change it to something else.
Also, are there any interesting Hermetic Flaws? I intentionally only took minor flaws since I was worried about picking a flaw and then later realizing it prevented me from doing this cool thing X.

Now that I look at the Virtues & Flaws list, I wonder how do people ever finish character creation - I still have a ton of virtues I want to get, like a toddler in a candy shop.


Here's for inspiration a classical Tremere "Ghost" Necromancer just out of gauntlet, with a lot of potential for further development.


Covenant: Triamore

Characteristics: Int +3 (Learned), Per +1 (Watchful), Pre +1 (Handsome), Com ‑1 (Taciturn), Str ‑2 (Delicate), Sta +1 (Tenacious), Dex +1 (Deft), Qik +1 (Quick Reflexes)

Size: 0

Age: 24 (24), Height: 168 cm, Weight: 52 kg, Gender: Male

Decrepitude: 0

Warping Score: 0 (0)

Confidence: 1 (3)

Virtues and Flaws: Hermetic Magus, Flawless Magic (Study Totals: Doubled for spell mastery), Cautious Sorcerer (Bonus: Three fewer botch dice casting spells or in lab), Inventive Genius (Invent Lab Totals: +3), Leadworker [Pentration Bonuses: +2: Katadesmos tablet inscribed with the name of a victim; +2: Kolossos representation; +3: Kolossos constructed with a sympathetic connection from the body of the victim imbedded in it], Skilled Parens, Affinity with Rego, Affinity with Creo, Minor Magical Focus (Certamen)*, Second Sight, The Gift, Driven (Excel at Discoveries), Favors (Quaesitores), Ability Block (Martial), Weak Enchanter, Cabal Legacy: Disciples of the Worm, Seeker

Personality Traits: Authoritarian +2, Brave +2, Driven +3, Inquisitive +2


Dodge: Init: +1, Attack ‑‑, Defense +2, Damage ‑‑

Fist: Init: +1, Attack +2, Defense +2, Damage ‑2

Kick: Init: +0, Attack +2, Defense +1, Damage +1

Dagger: Init: +1, Attack +5, Defense +3, Damage +1

Soak: +1

Fatigue levels: OK, 0, ‑1, ‑3, ‑5, Unconscious

Wound Penalties: ‑1 (1‑5), ‑3 (6‑10), ‑5 (11‑15), Incapacitated (16‑20), Dead (21+)

Abilities: Art of Memory 1 (Stories), Medicine 1 (Physician), Latin 4 (Hermetic Usage), Artes Liberales 1 (Dialectics), Code of Hermes 1 (Certamen), Finesse 1 (Precision), Magic Theory 4 (Invent Spells), Parma Magica 1 (Ignem), Penetration 1 (Rego), Disciples of the Worm Lore 1 (Initiate Others), Magic Lore 1 (Ghosts), Chirurgy 1 (Bind Wounds), Concentration 1 (Casting Spells), Etiquette 1 (Magi), Folk Ken 1 (Magi), Guile 3 (Fast Talk), Athletics 1 (Running), Brawl 1 (Dagger), Low German 5 (Saxon), Order of Hermes Lore 1 (Tremere), Scribe 1 (Copying), Second Sight 4 (Ghosts)

Arts: Cr 9, In 0, Mu 0, Pe 0, Re 9, An 5, Aq 5, Au 5, Co 5, He 5, Ig 5, Im 0, Me 5, Te 5, Vi 5

Equipment: Small bronze weight containing 1 Pawn of raw Vim vis

Encumbrance: 0 (0)

Spells Known:

Circling Winds of Protection (Cr(Re)Au 20) +16, Mastery 1 (fast casting)

Purification of the Festering Wounds (CrCo 20) +16, Mastery 1 (imperturbable casting)

Pilum of Fire (CrIg 20) +17, Mastery 2 (multiple casting, stalwart casting)

The Far‑Speaking Voice (CrMe 20) +16, Mastery 1 (still casting)

Revealed Flaws of Mortal Flesh (InCo 10) +7, Mastery 1 (quiet casting)

Scales of the Magical Weight (InVi 5) +7, Mastery 1 (quiet casting)

Sense the Nature of Vis (InVi 5) +7, Mastery 1 (quiet casting)

Curse of the Unruly Tongue (ReCo 5) +16, Mastery 1 (fast casting)

Spasms of the Uncontrolled Hand (ReCo 5) +16, Mastery 1 (fast casting)

Aura of Rightful Authority (ReMe 20) +16, Mastery 1 (still casting)

Coerce the Spirits of the Night (ReMe 20) +16, Mastery 1 (penetration)


One Tech/Form with 10+10 is a reasonable target for a specialist straight from gauntlet. With affinities you can go higher.

My general advice is to identify the high-level spells you need to make your concept feel playable and useful for the first story. It is not very rewarding to start playing without being able to do what you wanted to do. Once you have your high-level spells, you know how high your arts have to be.

In my experience spirit magic is hard to pull off. You need to be able to both see, summon, and control the spirits. Ghost necromancy is a little easier, because you can exhume arcane connections, but it is still the case that you cannot just magically control them. Necromancers and spirit masters depend on bargaining or intimidation to get what they want, and you had better read the details of every stage to avoid disappointment, and possibly talk through the mechanics with your troupe to make sure that you will be able to do what you think you can.

I would not worry about secondary spells and abilities until you have a playable core for your main concept.


For a starting character spells of level 20+ could be considered "higher-level". There is no strict cut-off line for what is considered high-level and what is not.

To start with level 40+ spells does require a fair amount of specialization. I wouldn't call it munchkin - I mean all magi can be considered munchkin compared to non-magi - but it is often a bit too specialized where a slightly broader base would be better.

While you don't have to get 10 points of flaws, or spend all the points from flaws on virtues during character creation, you can't do it afterwards.

Once play starts you no longer need to balance virtues with flaws, and while it is possible to get new virtues and flaws during play it is not easy and generally something that takes quite a lot of stories and/or (in-game) time to achieve.

If you want/need the ability to add something like Leadworker later, you could always take the Virtue "Latent Magical Ability" now.

To me, when I talked about high-level spells, it is whatever makes the magus come across as a powerful wizard in his area of expertise. For some magi this is pilum of fire or coerce the spirit of the night which both are level 20. For a generalist this may be the limit of what they may learn from start.

For a specialist, I would call level 20 only mid-level. Even level 25 does not require much specialisation. If you specialise without a magic focus, you can get to level 35 (e.g. incantation of lightning) without being particularly abusive. With a magic focus you can add at least ten levels, and get to 45 without trying very hard.
There is a L40 ReMe ritual which would make sense to take with a focus in ghosts. I would not call it munchkin; it is just specialisation. Why take a focus if you don't use it?

So, I agree with @ErikT , there are no hard limits. It depends on how much you specialise.