I'm in a sort of a newbie party preparing for our first game, trying to figure out the rules as we go during character and covenant creation. Now I stumbled onto a box about the necessity of Aegis of the Hearth and while I did read about how it works, I don't really have a feel for the rules yet. Non of the ideas the players have for their mages really go with focusing on Rego Vis and I haven't figured out how much you need to cast an Aegis worth its name.
So what is a smart way to proceed? Play an aegisless covenant? Ask the players to have one of their mages take a bit of rego vis for the team? Pay for some sort of a sage npc protector mage during covenant creation to cast the ritual for us?
An Aegis is a ritual, hence at the very least level 20. For a Spring covenant this might suffice at first - and can be upgraded later by engaging in trade or politics within the Order.
There are many different ways to organize casting the Aegis of the Hearth for a covenant.
Is there a magus good with rituals - e.g, with reasonable Artes Liberales and Philosophiae? Do the members agree to all learn the D:Sun version of Wizard's Communion and then cast the Aegis together?
Is there a friendly or mercenary minded magus from a nearby covenant - or at the Rhine even a peregrinator - who agrees to cast the Aegis once a year for hospitality or a fee in vis and thus causes some political dependency?
For a few years, an Aegisless covenant is suitable. An Aegis is a bit like home insurance. Most of the time, it's completely useless, however, if it every becomes relevant, you really want the Aegis.
As long as the party doesn't annoy a mage enough for a wizard war, or creatures with magic might which are beyond their ability, no worries.
Regarding asking a PC to get Rego Vis and a 20th level Aegis spell, I'd suggest that's a poor option. Character creation, it's often a struggle to fit in the desired spells and skills without spending 40 XP on a side project.
I'd also think an NPC sage casting it is a bit meh......
There's a few in game options.
It can be a story hook. Getting in good with a guy who casts Aegis for them every year.
You could have a magi, his own covenant, he's the second string Rego guy, so he doesn't cast the Aegis at home. He casts a few 7 league strides and does the Aegis as a day trip.
In the spring covenant library there's both a 6/21 Rego and Vim book and a level 20 Aegis. A character can spends 2 seasons getting Rego and Vim to 6. Even with only level 1 philosophae & artes liberales, +1 stamina and a +3 aura, that is a base casting level of 17. Nothing amazing, but a start.
It is worth keeping in mind that the Aegis needs to penetrate at least for keeping out beings with Might.
So for a level 20 Aegis you'd ideally want a (Casting Total + Penetration) of at least 40.
While it is possible to reach that with a starting character, they would need some heavy specialization for it.
A total of 30+ is much more achievable if you have a Rego Vim specialist, and is a lot better than nothing.
If you have no character specializing in Rego Vim, then you might consider starting with (or somehow acquiring) a casting tablet for the Aegis. (See Covenants p89-90 for rules for casting tablets)
Others have already explained my thoughts: I've given my players a casting tablet - often sold them one from an older magus during early game, or given it as a gift-with-hooks.
A spring covenant almost certainly has older magi who are supporting its growth. You can't have a group of four or six freshly gauntleted magi who can start a real covenant - they need donations or supplies for books, lab tools, money, etc. Its really easy to have one of their patrons get them an aegis.
And yes, the young magi might not have sufficient penetration to keep out the Mighty troublemakers. Good. Story time.
It is worth to consider that all the starting PCs know the spell Wizard's Vigil as a lvl15 or lvl20 one. That is a nice way to co-op in spellcasting,and with 3 or 4 PCs it is enough to bring down the lvl20 Aegis to lvl5. If the main Aegis caster PC can produce a 25+ Casting Total they can cast the Aegis and also have the proper penetration.
Good point: Though Wizard's Vigil as written doesn't easily work for rituals, because the duration can't cover the entire ritual. Giving the covenant a lab text for Wizard's Vigil (or the longer version of it) would be reasonable - it gives the players the option if they want to spend time beefing up their Aegis or not.
EDIT: I was mixing up Wizards Vigil and Wizard's Communion.
Wizard's Vigil as written is the long-duration variant, suitable for rituals.
Wizard's Communion is the standard spell from the core rulebook that was suitable for all rituals and non-rituals alike until errata came and fouled things up.
You're thinking of Wizard's Communion. Wizard's Vigil was specifically designed with D: Sun, for that specific purpose. I should know, I designed it and made Christian include it. And then "my" version was taken out because someone else had written the exact same spell and there was no reason to include it twice with different names.
The question you should ask yourself is what stories do you want to tell. And an important thing to remember is that you do not have time to narrate everything that happens or everything the magi set up. Another point to remember is that Mythic Europe is a dangerous place. There are enough
threats who would not be hindered about your aegis, and the only defense is to pray that they don't take an interest. The threats stoppable by your young magi's aegis are the faeries and demons that are more annoying than dangerous.
Thus you could
play a couple of stories about the incidents caused by lesser faeries at an aegisless covenant
brush the entire issue under the carpet and tell stories away from the covenant (why decide if there is an aegis or not if it has no bearing on the story?)
I am sure the covenant has received some startup funding (books, vis) from somewhere. An aegis tablet (rules in Covenants) is not a big deal in that lot, and an obvious thing to include from the sponsors. That's the obvious easy choice if you want to tell stories that depend on the covenant having some aegis.
tell the story about searching for and bargaining with somebody else to cast the ritual
It's a harsh world and the reasons why Spring covenants fold are numerous. Lacking an Aegis is probably not going to be your demise.
This is the key. The Aegis is fundamentally a Covenant's trait, and thus should be decided based on the types of stories you want to tell. Keeping in mind that, canonically, most Covenants in the Order have one, so in most areas of Mythic Europe not having even a weak one should definitely be a hassle.
Do you want lack of an Aegis to be the focus of some of your Covenant's stories, or not?
If you do, take the Minor Hook No Aegis: for some reason your Covenant lacks an Aegis, and any easy way to get one. Perhaps the magi have low Rego/Vim scores and no appropriate Lab text. Perhaps the resident Faerie Goddess just finds it insulting. Low-might creatures, hedge magicians, and other supernatural nuisances create stories for you until you resolve this hook.
If you do not, and want to play true to canon, take the Minor Boon Hermetic Patron: a senior magus has taken interest in your covenant, and is able and willing to cast spells for you, when he comes by (once or twice a year, at times chosen by the troupe) or when you visit him. The patron's available repertoire is made by 250 levels of useful spells, that can be chosen by the troupe, and need not be all selected at the same time. Without other boons or hooks, the patron casts these spells unfailingly and without recompense, though the covenant will have to reimburse him of any costs (such as vis).
Alternatively, the troupe can just find a reason why bad stuff does not happen to your Covenant without an Aegis. Perhaps you are playing in a version of Mythic Europe where the Aegis does not exist, but it's the fearsome reputation of Hermetic magi that keeps all but the greatest supernatural menaces away from their Covenants!