An unGifted Bonisagus

A player in our troupe has come up with the following basic concept for a(n unGifted) Companion. A young follower of Bonisagus lost her Gift in a magical accident a bare month after her Gauntlet. A wily one, she decided she'll just bluff her way up to Prima-ship. Since she is a Bonisagus, she can take apprentices whose Arts have already been opened by other mages. She can trade for magical items and longevity potions, and ask others to champion her in Certamen. In fact, without the Gift she'll be better at dealing with people outside the Order, and since she cannot study the Arts, or Parma, or Penetration, she'll have more time to hone her political skills.

How would you model such a character with Virtues and Flaws?
I would be inclined to say:

Dark Secret (Major Story Flaw)
Failed Apprentice (Minor Virtue)
Puissant Magic Theory (Minor Virtue) - she's still good at it, and as a Failed Apprentice can assist others in labwork.
Hermetic Maga (Free Virtue)

I am somewhat uncertain about the appropriateness of the Hermetic Maga Free Virtue, as it does seem to pack a lot of advantages. On the other hand, I tried comparing it with the "Redcap" major Virtue, and the "Lone Redcap" minor Virtue from HoH:TL (that is essentially equivalent to the major Virtue, minus the magic and plus a bad reputation), and it does seem reasonably balanced: unlike those two virtues, it does not include the "house virtue" (Well Traveled for Redcaps, Puissant Magic Theory for Bonisagus - the character has to buy it separately), nor the ample package of skills provided by Hermetic training (the characters needs to buy Failed Apprentice for that).


Well I would say Hermetic Maga certainly applies as she still would be a member of the Order of Hermes (until one discovers she lost the Gift) and because it is a social status, not a hermetic virtue. Dark Secret definitely.

On the other hand, I don't see why she would have the Failed Apprentice virtue given she DID passed her Gauntlet :question:

Seems like fun but won't it be difficult to play on the long term ? She can take apprentices, but they will soon discover she can not teach them about the Arts and could complain to other Magus. And if she doesn't have the Gift anymore, she can't work/help in a laboratory right ?

And ... I'm thinking ... aren't the Hermetic Virtues and Flaws somehow linked to the Gift ? If a Magus loses his Gift, does he loses all his Hermetic Virtues and Flaws as well or not ?

  • Nicolas -

If you're going with what it says in HoH:TL, she'll have a hard time becoming Prima. She needs to attain the highest possible rank in the House's hierarchy (dendrophori (sp?)), and achieving that takes lots of lab work - inventing stuff, writing books, crafting talismans and so on. Or she could find a few magical geniuses and pass their work off as her own.

Well, lose the gift is not a casting out the order (Redcap...). You must have take the gauntlet and swear the oath... but nothing say you have to keep the gift until your dead.

To be more precise, she would have a "Failed Maga" virtue that is functionally equivalent to Failed Apprentice, except the magical accident took place after - rather than before - the gauntlet. The purpose of the virtue is giving access to a package of skills normally unavailable except to Gifted members of the Order.

Very challenging, but not impossible by any means.

Well, not necessarily. She can take apprentices whose arts have already been opened by another magus (that's her right as a Bonisagus), and perhaps have already been trained a little. She can teach them Magic Theory in person one season/year (making a good case that she's really teaching them invaluable foundational stuff) , or Organization Lore (Order of Hermes), and allow them one season/year of book learning for arts and/or spells ("Well, to tell the truth, Pirofilus of Flambeau does know more than me about tossing fire around. I tend to find it rather, well, crude, but I do believe that it's my duty ensure my apprentices receive a well-rounded education, so here you go, "De Ignis Natura"). She can assist her apprentices in the lab, rather than the other way around ("Tsk, you learn nothing by walking in the footsteps of your mater. To truly learn what research is, you have to take the initiative yourself!") having them make useful magic items that she will retain as "mementos".

The Failed Apprentice virtue says you can. So she could really become an invaluable member of the House, never initiating projects of her own, but willing to lend her vast experience on Magic Theory to other projects (and again, since she does not have to spend time learning Arts, spells, parma etc. she can have a comparatively higher score than other mages in her age bracket).

Well, not necessarily. Your master stays Infamous even if you lose the Gift.

That's certainly a possibility :slight_smile: I mean, take a young magical genius as an apprentice, assist him in the research rather than doing it yourself, refuse to take credit for it, and - with a little applied psychology - you will have him swear that the genius behind all his discoveries was yours alone, and that you are simply being too modest.

Or, one could become known as the House's premier Magic Theorist, writing Summae and Tractati on Magic Theory alone. It would make one something of a very narrow specialist, but perfectly in line with the requisites.

And of course, there are avenues of research that do not require the Gift. One could rediscover the lost power of the Adamic Language, for example (see Ancient Magic), through pure linguistic research.

Ok, she would be like Mercere the founder then.

Sounds like fun :mrgreen: I suppose she could also more focus her work on politics and intrigue than pure magical research, but it's your player to decide.

I would give her some supernatural vitues to compensate the loss of the Gift, like Entrancement (useful to convince others) and maybe Hermetic Prestige for something great she did before she lost the Gift (or maybe she lost the Gift because of this great achievement). At some point she could acquire the Flaw Blackmail (somebody discovered her secret and blackmails her).

I like the idea but there's something I'm wondering about ... after she lost the Gift, she doesn't have a Parma anymore, meaning she would be annoyed by the Gift of her apprentices until they somehow learn Parma (from a book e.g.).

And what about Warping ?

  • Nicolas -

Another question(s) to answer, would she have any Art scores and would they be totally useless or not and will she ever get a chance to regain her gift?

I think its a lovely concept to play overall.

Drop "Failed apprentice".
Add an affinity or two for skills where she could excel(like Magic Theory), Good Teacher and Book Learner combined with Affinity MT(and possibly a Communication score 4-5) could get her a LOT of respect. Could make herself a career of teaching MT for example, maybe adding Affinity and/or Puissant Teaching.
Magic Sensitivity or Second Sight perhaps?
Social Contacts(well connected within order as a whole or within house Bonisagus(very nice if aiming for a place as a bigwig))?
Strong Faerie Blood+Unaging to allow her to "stick around" for a long while and "look mystical"?

Id say let her keep the Parma, but unable to improve it beyond what it was when loosing the gift.
Otherwise there´s a bunch of problems that will be very hard to handle. Ie treat it as a skill that could only be improved while having the gift but still be used afterwards...
And warping, good question... Handle as normal? Handle as for ungifted? Handle as normal i think is preferable...

I think it's a brilliant concept. I'd allow it on that basis alone.

As a maga, she could participate fully in Hermetic politics - voting, tribunals, representing the covenant, and so on. I'm not sure if that's appropriate for a magus slot, depending on your saga and desires.

Obtaining a magic item that she could use to "cast spells", perhaps pass as her Talisman, would be useful.

Certain Mystery Cults also teach virtues and flaws that are not related to the Gift, and might make for further social contacts and perhaps some nice supernatural abilities. The Legion of Mithras is one such cult, but there could be others. Likewise, Nature Lore is arguably obtainable, as is walking Forest Paths, to obtain various supernatural capabilities even without the Gift.

To reach the Prima status, she would have to make major advances to magic theory. I think some books on Magic Theory won't do. However, would it be possible to integrate ancient or hedge magic into the theory by an unGifted person? If so, she could proceed along these lines. If not, then she could locate the interesting ancient/hedge magic, and assist in its integration instead of leading it, taking the credit for her apprentice's and co-worker's work. An option would be to work with a partner secretly, and then make sure he has an "accident" before the big reveal.

I like how you handled it mechanically, too.

What about a damaged Gift? She cannot cast spells anymore but still has the Gift and can perform some actions which need it. Lab activity shouldn't be allowed either. Or 1-2 elements may be performed e.g. creating lesser magical items OR charged items OR vis transfer OR fixing arcane connections OR inventing spells OR familiars OR investigating enchantments.
She would be able to learn supernatural abilities and parma magica. Longevity rituals would affect her as a magus or a mundane which is better for the saga.

Actually, the player decided he wanted to play a character as mundane as possible, even though heavily involved in the politics of the Order. It's part of the challenge, and we all think that "diluting" it would not be a good thing. Besides, the character is going to take the Companion slot for the player.

So, no Supernatural Virtues at all - neither at character creation, nor through Initiations/Forest Paths etc. And no Parma. Also, there is an agreement that the character will not regain the Gift while a PC in the Saga. Longevity Rituals affect her as a mundane, and so does warping.

I think it's going to be tremendous fun.

Understandable. Do consider allowing her once-open Forms to offer some Magic Resistance, however, or else, consider allowing her to retain some Corpus/Mentem MR somehow. Otherwise, her lack of Parma will mark her as a mundane too easily. An option there is for the maga to align herself with some Jerbiton society appreciating art by removing Parma.

Also consider the effect others' Gift will have on her, without some Mentem magic resistance.

Also, the Legion of Mithras largely initiates mundane virtues such as Strong Will; joining it or some society like that is still possible.

The most difficult hurdle is still conducting enough original research to convince the House to appoint her as Prima, but the solutions have been discussed. A very interesting concept indeed!

If a player came to me with this concept, my first response as a storyguide would be "cool, how do we make it work?"

There's a hundred and one reasons why an NPC might fail, but those only turn into a hundred and one stories/events/challenges for the player to overcome and keep the deception going. Sure there might need to be a bit of bending of the rules but that's what this is about, right?

So as a storyguide I'd start lining up those challenges and let the player character knock them down, one by one. And along the way, I'd have key events that feed into the PC's goal of rising through the ranks. And if I absolutely needed to expose the character in order to play out the dramatic revelation, I wouldn't do it until either the PC failed in one of those challenges OR she had attained the highest office.

I would say, fail spectacularly or more than once, ie not making every single problem a "do or die" situation for the player.

Indeed! Thats the reason of my previous suggestion...

Will the lack of Parma Magica really be a deal-breaker for the maga pretending to still be Gifted? Magi who don't enter combat won't tend to be the target of other magi's spells that often, it seems: a maga who is so targeted unexpectedly can probably adopt a very litigous role, claiming to have been harmed under the Peripheral Code, and thus discourage future spells cast upon her even more. Any single incident can be explained away (by a good bluffer!) either by saying that the spell penetrated her Magic Resistance (possibly leading others to believe that it's weak or flawed, but still exists) or that she had temporarily relaxed her Parma Magica for some personal reason. Conceivably, she could even claim to have intentionally lowered her Parma when she saw that she was being targeted by a spell, on the theory that it would her case easier to prove when she brought the caster up on charges against the Code....

It seems to me that the hardest part of not having Parma Magica will indeed be the affect that all other magi's Gifts have upon her. It's an amusing situation: a maga who has a very good reason to be paranoid about other magi (namely, the fear of being found out at a Giftless phony) needs to act as if she's not at all paranoid, except that being surrounded by the Gifted slowly makes her kind of paranoid anyway!

All in all, such wonderful prospects for stories that, as Mark said, "cool, how do we make it work?".

Quite. Though with the needs of other player characters to attend to, I'd only make a meal of the "do or die" moments anyway. You can add a few throw-away easy ones in during the course of other stories; You wouldn't want this uppermost in every session so downplay it until you run the next make or break.

And remember, as storyguide you're not trying to trip the player or the character up. The storyguide is there to provide the challenges, not suck the fun out the story. I wouldn't waste my time or the player's providing an unassailable challenge. And I wouldn't devalue all the hard work by off-handedly cutting the story dead mid-way. If getting to the top is the major challenge, the player should be helped to tell that story. And once there, the obvious "taking things to the next level" story is the one where the character gets found out.

I fully agree.

Remember that familiarity eventually erodes the negative social effects of the Gift. So it's going to be a problem only with magi she does not know well. Also, it's not going to be a problem for written communication. Finally, considering all your colleagues nasty sharks who deserve neither their positions nor your trust ... well, it's the typical workplace atmosphere in many of today's jobs, and people generally have little trouble coping with it :slight_smile:

ah yes, good point.

Or - people generally have lots of trouble coping with it - so more fun to play! :smiling_imp:

Not ofyen, but too often, IMO. Remember forceless casting is generally considered good defense, and being affected by your peer's aura of noble authority or his covenfolk-warding ring looks strange.

Also, magi will often deliberately cast "friendly" spells on their sodales. Helpful wards, spells to let people see in the dark, teleport spells, healing spells, spells to diagnose whether you are under a hostile magical effect, etc. Normally, a character lowers their Parma Magica to allow such casting (if they are conscious)...but lowering your Parma is something that can be seen, it requires Concentration and is a bit like casting a spell. The magus with no Parma could probably try to fake this, but another magus might be able to detect that something is not quite right.