Another School of Magic Thread

First, pardon me on my seemingly repeating of certain thread topics. There are just some saga ideas that supremely come to me again and again whenever I get enthralled with Ars Magica. Among that is the whole school of magic idea. It just calls to me and begs me to create it and to talk about it and to seek the thoughts of others. And well, when that happens I turn to this forum since we are all Ars Magica lovers.

My question this time is on a saga game based on a school of magic do you think it would be too much to have the player's main characters be students in the school, secondary characters be employees of the school (redcaps, grogs, etc) and an alternate character being one of the teachers, one of the founders. The idea is that the student apprentices are full PC material, the player has all the normal control over them, but the teacher character is only semi fully controlled by the player - the ST has some influence on behavior and skill set and stuff like that. I was just thinking about it and I thought it would be kind of cool if the players had some influence in the teachers themselves, even if it is less than it would be for when they play the students themselves.

As a second thing, I am going to post my basic idea for the saga (which will seem familiar since it unites some of my older talk together) to see if it seems to heavy handed.

The below note is before I came up with the idea that the players get to play both student and teacher, so most of the below is focused on them as teacher.



The players represent the Founder Magi of the first true school of magic in the Hermetic world, the Scholae Magicae. Teaching is only going to be a small part of matters, for there is much to be had in order to prepare the school for the official meeting of Tribunal in seven years and then the Grand Tribunal in eight. Plus there are local politics that need to be delt with that can have many ramifications for the covenant's existence. And of course there is all the potentials when it comes to the supernatural - be it Magical, Faerie, Divine, or even Infernal.


The Founder Magi went through the Gauntlet in 1214, seven years previous to the starting year of 1221. Though of different Houses and under different masters, they were all Opened to the Gift using a specialized technique discovered by an elder magi in secret. Due to this fact all the magi know each other, even if they didn't actually spend all their time together. In fact, upon Gauntlet they found themselves having more in common with each other and so began slowly organizing just as they began undertaking adventures. One of these actually brought them to the attention of Talos, the Magical guardian of Candia (or as we know it Crete), who they befriended.

As they matured they also began talking about a dream to found the first true school of magic among the Hermetic Order. They began laying the ground work for the project in late 1219, early 1220 upon the discovery of the Petraploio, or ship of stone, in the Gorge of Apollon in the depths of Candia. They even began the process of discovering potential apprentices, though they did not take them as formal apprentices at this time as that would go against Theban traditions.

In 1221 the Founder Magi went before the Theban Tribunal and presented their interest in the founding of a school of magic. This took some debate and had a bunch of discussion, but in the end they (with the support of their mentors) were able to get enough support to be given temporary permission, but with a requirement. Between now and the next Theban Tribunal in 1228 they had to prove the worth of their school in as many ways as they could. If they succeeded then the Tribunal would permanently recognize the Scholae Magicae and even support it and if they failed then they agreed to change their mission to something else or be dissolved. Certain promises would be made and concessions to certain factions given in order to ensure support.

Just as soon as they were able to get away from the meeting, after giving all the required thanks, they began planning how they would get the support. Though multiple ideas were pulled forward - including the gathering and disburtion of Vis and magical lore to the Tribunal - the biggest was the idea of using the seven years given to them to train their gathered apprentices in the lore of Hermetic Magic. What more could prove their worth than presenting at next Tribunal a number of apprentices who in seven years knew all - if not more - that those who took fifteen years to learn.

An interesting fact is that one year after the Theban Tribunal is the next Grand Tribunal, which could increase the power of the Scholae Magicae if they play their cards right.

Campaign Start

The covenant site lies within a portion of the many massive dozen mile long highly meandering Gorge of Apollon. The actual site of the covenant is on a natural crossroads area of the Gorge that sees the meeting of five ravines. In this valley center lies an outcropping of rock some two-thirds the height of the banks that looks like a majestic stone ship. This is the Petraploio and it is the home base and center of operation for the Scholae Magicae.

Entrance to the covenant is from a small gate on the ravine floor which meanders through a path and stairwell through the interior space to where it rises upon the surface of the Petraploio. In the center of the island lies a number of tents and prefab structures in a very preliminary design, though talk of conjuring structures has already begun. On the the five wing plateaus a natural balcony can be seen, each containing a massive and ancient tree. The covenant also owns a building in the capital city of Chandax, right near the docks.

The majority of the Petraploio and the areas by the natural balconies are at least Magic aura 5, though certain portions have an aura of 6. While none have yet been found, mystically it is quite likely that one or more regios exist within the span of the covenant boundary.

The covenant contains a small number of vis sources, though even the preliminary examination has proven that there is many more to be had.

At present time the aegis of the hearth covers the Petraploio, though there is some discussion of expanding it to cover a large portion of the nearby region.

Early Goals

The first and most visible is the fact that this is a school of magic and there are students who need to be taught magic so that in seven years they can take their place as full members of the Hermetic Order. Besides that is the whole paving the way for how the school will look and run and be. Let us not forget there is a wider world out there - both local politics (that of Crete) and wider ones (wars history says are occurring). Then their is the Hermetic world and all its influences, the Houses, the Tribunals, the Redcaps, and magi of other groups. Side quests also involve seeking vis sources and working to make claiming them easier. Or the presence of monsters of various kinds and what does that mean for the covenant. Finally, of course, there are personal goals and projects - standard laboratory work that make a magi a mage.

Some Changes

Latin is the official language of the Theban Tribunal not Greek, they didn't feel it would be proper to be different from the rest of the order in that field.

I changed the date of the future Tribunals a tiny bit.
1214 - Theban Tribunal
1221 - Theban Tribunal; GAME START
1228 - Theban Tribunal
1229 - Grand Tribunal
1235 - Theban Tribunal


Randomly, one of these days I should play in an Ars Magica game so I can experience it even though I know I enjoy being the ST (and thus having creative influence/control) more than a player. :slight_smile:

The first step to making a Magic School setting is tossing away the Gift's social effects nonsense. Gift's social effects are the reason why there aren't any magic schools in default setting, since by 13th century people have already figured out universities and benefits of organized education.

Or just have a magic aura with the curious side effect of making everyone Unaffected by the Gift inside the aura.

It's possible that Bonisagus came across such an Aura during his travels, and he used it as a source of insight, but it became in accessible/lost this property for reasons.


There are a few workarounds, but my opinion (and I am apparently in the minority) is that the Gift's effects are somewhat to severely overplayed by various groups.

One workaround is to simply cloak the Gifted in the class in the Parma.

Well, teaching the Arts to multiple students is also kind of a big deal that needs to be addressed. Admittedly, there are a lot of abilities that need to be taught as part of a Hermetic education, but Arts will create something of a bottleneck.

Once your students know how to read, you can have them learn Arts from Books.

For some reason I never got notification that comments were made in the thread. But thank you all for your thoughts. :slight_smile:

By the way I solved the whole multiple student and social penalty of the gift thing through the use of an an alternate, more refined, version of the Hermetic Opening of the Arts.


The School of Magic uses an alternate (and somewhat secret) technique to open the Gift of their enrolled students. Beyond the standard benefits of Opening the Gift this version has three special features.

Teaching the Art: A character may teach several students the Hermetic Arts, and a student may learn by a teacher who is educating others. The number of students is still the teacher's Teaching Ability times five. No additional virtues are needed.

Unaffected By The Gift: Those who have had The Gift opened using refined techniques are not affected by the negative social effects of The Gift in others. Even a Blatant Gift does not especially bother the character. [This means that it is not the Parma Magica that provides sense immunity, it is the way their Gift was opened.] Thus students with the Gift but without access to the Parma Magica are able to spend time with each other without any negative side effects.

Subtle Opening: The Arts are Opened using a subtle and flexible technque unique in the world. Consequently, a magus does not suffer a penalty to the study Source Quality for his Arts scores when learning Supernatural Abilities (see ArM5, page 166). The magus is still penalized for scores in other Supernatural Abilities.

Transmission Secret

This variant of the traditional Opening of the Arts is a secret technique based on three Major Breakthroughs and combined with a fourth Major Breakthrough. Even those who have had their Arts opened using the new method do not actually have the appropriate knoweldge in order to Open the Arts of others using the altered technique. To learn the method of using the technique one must gain Hermetic Teacher (Minor Hermetic Arcane Virtue). Though in some ways the ability is considered a part of a mystery cult, the theory behind it has become fully unquestionablly a part of Hermetic Magic Theory. Until such a time that the virtue escapes, only certain members of the Scholae Magicae have the Virtue.

It always comes down to this: just give them books. But even then, there would be something of a bottleneck in getting students to the correct book. It's still a one to one interaction. So then you say make multiple copies, which is perfectly legitimate under Cow & Calf, which applies to sales of copies, but then requires a significant investment of time in creating a sufficient number of copies. These aren't insurmountable obstacles, but examining the logistics and its impact on the Order isn't to be ignored.

I have an aborted PbP Saga, Stealing the Future here on the forum. I resolved the difficulty of teaching multiple students by having someone with a Major Hermetic Breakthrough start the school with House Tremere being a primary benefactor to the school. The breakthrough was a new arcane ability, Hermetic Instruction, which is used like teaching and instead of teaching for teaching the Arts. A new ability, different from teaching was appealing to me.

Ohhhh. This is a really good one.

Or the notion that magi are deliberately keeping their apprentices weak by giving them substandard instruction (because really, hermetic education is the worst; apprentices have to learn a LOT of abilities but don't even receive Training XP in most seasons).

I ran the math (vanilla) and it's close assuming SQ10 teaching/books. I assumed a class size of 5 and teachers averaging Com+2 Teaching 5, and Parma5 to negate the Gift issues. The apprentices have 28 seasons available to learn. There are 5 instructor magi, who potentially have a total of 140 available seasons during that time (note the apprentices will always be doing the same things, while the magi benefit from some efficiency here)

Season1: Arts are opened (1/28 for apprentices, 5/140 for magi, Exposure XP +2xp)
Seasons2-6: Speak Latin instruction as a group (6/28 for apprentices, 11/140 for magi, +50xp)
Season7: Artes Liberales instruction as a group (7/28 for apprentices, 12/140 for magi, +10xp)
Season8: Reading by apprentices (8/28 for apprentices, 12/140 for magi, +10xp)
Year 3-6: 2 seasons reading, 2 seasons instruction as a group (24/28 for apprentices, 20/140 for magi, +160xp)
Season25: Reading by apprentices (25/28 for apprentices, 20/140 for magi, +10xp)
Season26 & 27: Spell instruction by magi, one-on-one (27/28 for apprentices, 30/140 for magi, Exposure XP, +4xp, 120 spell levels)
Season28: Parma instruction as a group (28/28 for apprentices, 31/140 for magi, +10xp)

So the 5 magi have collectively spent 31 seasons teaching over 7 years; averaging 6 seasons each; slightly less than would normally be spent each year training an apprentice normally. Yes, they save another 7 seasons by not training them for another 7 years, but they also get no lab assistance. The apprentice gains 256xp and 120 levels of spells, putting them a touch above a normal apprentice, though their XP will be less than optimally spent (many abilities at 1 with leftover XP).

It can be done, but it does require magi with good communication and teaching skills, and a willingness to part with any laboratory assistance on the part of the magi - this could be seen as part of a magus' duties to the covenant in return for access to resources, depending on the charter. Apprentices turn out better if the books/teachers are better, of course.

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Compared to an average magus, one that decides to become a teacher in a school is probably more interested in teaching and less in his own projects. He's probably OK with receiving no help in the lab.
I can even see a committed magus that teaches full time, especially late in his life. Find five magi willing to do so, and they can churn out young wizards at a very fast pace. They sacrifice a lot, of course, but there are people who like to teach and pass knowledge to the future generations. And there's also a tangible upside to this: the political weight of the teachers and their patrons is going to rise higher and higher as their pupils become a growing percentage of the tribunal's population. I can totally see House Tremere exploiting this.

And you can expect political opposition for the very same reason. A school like this could turn out 25 apprentices in 35 years, that's a significant fraction of any tribunal's population in a very short period of time. Most magi don't have more than 2-3 apprentices over their lifetime, so this is an unprecedented population explosion (assuming you can find that many gifted children).

An option about Laboratory project could be allowing a magus who is teaching in a season to also take a laboratory action at something like a -5 or -10 penalty (depending on how 'difficult' you want it to be). I see nothing wrong with teachers who do some laboratory work before or after classes or on weekends.

As another point the idea of being able to have school magi learn in seven years what traditional magi learn in fifteen is interesting. It lets new magi have longer time to become even more potent and powerful given time.

Its amusing, I had originally liked the idea of keeping the training fifteen years but then I thought that what could be cool is having education be 7 years - which is the time it takes between Tribunals. So every new Tribunal gets a load of new magus joining the Order.

On the whole plot line of older magus hating the new system. So what! A magus is not breaking the rules of the Code in teaching apprentices this way. They are not going against the system, and in fact their new magus are actually more efficient and capable than the traditional ones. Plus, the teacher magus and their trained apprentices are going to be able to marshal more forces and support to defeat any wizard wars that might be declared, if that is the sort of theme that one wants to approach in story. Me, personally, I would have particular magi be threats and enemies and stuff but I wouldn't touch the whole idea of the entire Order hating on the school covenant for reasons of just because.


As another note I also have an organized Roll of Years chart which basically sums up the way that students at the school get XP for the courses they take. I am kind of manipulating advancement rules for the sake of logic, which I am totally fine with. The cool thing is that those who undertake this rigorous scholastic program graduate with around the same in 7 years what those who do the normal apprenticeship graduate with in 15 years. Which I am totally fine with because I consider the school to make better all around Hermetic magi generalists as compared to the current system. I figure everyone graduates with near the same level of general expertise, and then they have the rest of their lives to become specialists if that is what they want.

The major issues I have is figuring out all the ways to get all the Hermetic Houses to in the end accept, agree, and join in with the whole school system. I personally am fine with the future removing some Houses since they don't play nicely with others, but I figure its probably best to find a way to let all coexist with the new school system once it becomes basically the status quo of how training works.

Intrigue, that's what. Old magi get offended by change to status quo, and those old magi are the ones a the top of the power structure. Will they do something about it? Maybe, maybe not. Some of the things that schools will have to deal with:

1.) Bonisagi magi come by and poach apprentices. Imagine this happening in the 7th year, and then the apprentice gets to put in his 'full' term of 8 more years while nearly fully trained. The Bonisagi magi in question wouldn't even feel bad about swiping them, as the student is an 'apprentice' in name only (not working under a particular master for any period of time).
2.) Teachers get declarations of Wizard's War. Even if they're not followed through, these would disrupt teaching. Other intrigues to soak up teacher's time could easily occur in an effort to make the school 'fail'.
3.) Movement at tribunal to FORCE a 14/15 year apprenticeship, because 'tradition'. Many magi would be annoyed at the idea of the apprentices getting a full hermetic education while doing NOTHING in return to earn it (i.e. lab assistance). The students would be viewed basically as freeloaders and may have bad reputations as a result. Local covenants might not accept 'schooled' magi, forcing them into exodus into other tribunals (which is a good way to keep them from politically dominating the tribunal).
4.) Apprentices don't form strong pater-filius relationships in the school setting because they spend very little time together, and have little time to from attachment with their House. Graduates will be very independent, and importantly - very young when they graduate (probably 14-17) and likely to cause all sorts of troubles from being young and unwise. This will also lead to a bad reputation for school-trained apprentices.

Magical schooling would probably go over a whole lot better if it was one of two things: A hermetic pre-school (2-4 years that grounds them in Latin and Magic Theory), or a hermetic finishing school (2-4 years of school after around 10 years of apprenticeship) to ensure all apprentices have the same access to quality education.

It depends on what skill level you expect your students to have in a particular art once they graduate and how many students you expect to have at a time. A L5 Q15 or L6 Q21 primer will only be useful to a student for a single season, If you assume that a student will spend 15 seasons reading primers for every art and and another four seasons reading books in an art they will specialize in, and spend the rest of their time learning Magic Theory, Latin, Arts Liberales, and other things that can be taught in class, or spells from lab texts (or copying lab texts in return for schooling) I don't think you need that many books, at least compared to the other resources you would need.

8 years is really a drop in the bucket when taken against the backdrop of a Hermetic lifetime.

Magi, as a whole would hate on it. They spend 20-30 years getting ready to take an apprentice, lining up their lab projects and acquiring resources, so they can maximize the time they have the [strike]lab slave[/strike] apprentice doing stuff during his 15 year period. An apprenticeship, if undertaken when one is prepared, is a huge boost to a magus's personal power, allowing him to do things he couldn't without one.

One of the things I did, so that I had a system where not everyone came out looking pretty much the same, was to create classes on thematic groups, assign a total number of XP available per class, and allow the player to assign those XP to Arts as they desired. I also changed how Defficient Arts were imparted, and it happened if/when a student took an Art to 10 and other Arts were still at 0. Totally student/player choice. The following is the 1st year's schedule, and is repeated twice, as in two semesters/terms.
[tableborder][tr][th]First Year Course[/th][th]XP Taught[/th][th]Ability or Art[/th][th]Professor[/th][th]Time[/th][/tr]
[tr][td]Magia Theoria[/td][td]5[/td][td]Magic Theory, Compulsory[/td][td]Fiona[/td][td]7:30-8:20[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]De Architectura[/td][td]5[/td][td]Corpus, Imaginem, Mentem[/td][td]Catrina[/td][td]8:30-9:20[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Elementa[/td][td]5[/td][td]The four elemental forms[/td][td]Fabricus Diabolicus[/td][td]9:30-10:20[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Flora et Fauna[/td][td]5[/td][td]Animal and Herbam[/td][td]TBD[/td][td]10:30-11:20[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]History of the Order of Hermes[/td][td]5[/td][td]OoH, CoH, Magic, Faerie Lore[/td] [td]Ancel[/td][td]1:30-2:20[/td][/tr]

There was also a hidden third semester, during the standard school year, that had extra curricular activities, independent study, or whatever. The idea was to get to 75 xp per school year (30 per term +15 for the extra curricular). Those experience points could be spent by the players, and they could be used to purchase virtues, similar to the rules laid out in Apprentices. Don't forget the virtues, which are pretty important. My goal was to finish in 6 years. And while 6 years at 75xp per year seems like a lot, when you have to account for buying your own virtues, and they get progressively more expensive, they go fast. And, IMO, magi have too many compulsory abilities that eats up a large portion of the canonical magus XP.

Both a school and a traditional apprentice system can coexist. One of the ways of selling it, perhaps, is that all magi who graduate, need to have a finishing year or two in assistance to a magus and/or covenant. Kind of like an internship.

A better education system does not necessarily translate into shorter apprenticeships. The years of study could stay the same, but you would have stronger new magi.
After 15 years in the school, a new magus would be as skilled as a veteran one. Not saying this wouldn't upset the traditionalists, though :slight_smile:

And appeasing the traditionalists is going to be a big deal.

One of the reasons I chose to place the school in the Transylvanian Tribunal and supported by House Tremere is their stance on Wizard's War would minimize the risks of it being declared against teachers. Further, I was working up a clause to the Oath (it existed within the saga, but I hadn't detailed it to the players, just that it existed), whereupon Bonisagus couldn't Boni-snatch students from the school until it was closed, either because of failure or a subsequent Grand Tribunal.

The nature of the Order makes introducing a school fraught with risk for the participants, without changing the workings of the Order a fair bit. Appease the traditionalists, because they will WW to get apprentices. Prevent Boni-snatching. Get a House to support the school, Tremere is easiest because they have resources to woo professors, and a relatively safe place to sponsor the school. Need to have a Major Hermetic Breakthrough to be able to teach Arts to more than one student, or you need a pretty sizable library, or a master librarian who can schedule the books properly (this is an exercise in logistics that really isn't fun for the troupe, IMO).

What happens after the school participants graduate? How do they begin changing the Order? Do Houses disappear? Does they disappear gradually or quickly? Do the participants, full of their own power, much as Bonisagus's 4th apprentice did, bring ruin upon their sodeles and get marched in significant number? John Prins has made several good points, all of which I considered in my aborted saga. The age of the graduates, and the speed with which they are given power suggests trouble. Lots of little Annakins running about isn't a good thing. Running a school for 15 years might well solve the angsty teenager with more power than is good for him problem, but then you're stuck with the problem of slowing down his advancement to curve out closer to RAW, or just dealing with really powerful young magi, and you go back to the traditionalists being honked off. And they have two reasons, these young whipper snappers can possibly do as much as they can AND they've possibly lost out on access to the [strike]apprentice[/strike] lab slave for 45 seasons.

People keep saying that you have to have a breakthrough to teach Arts lectures for a school to work. You do not have to have Arts lectures.

To preserve the one-on-one character of apprenticeship, rotate teachers.

Take 3 magi with 5 fairly high differing Arts, or 5 magi with relatively high Arts, or 15 magi with a single expert Art. They open the Arts of one apprentice. Then, one mage teaches one Art to one apprentice each year (which always leaves a 0 in something, unless opening Arts does not count as training under the Code).

Alternately, rotate through the major Arts of a small number of magi, still one-on-one. There will be Arts gaps, but so what?

The apprentice still must serve a Season of service.

It is not clear to me what "training" consists of beyond Arts. If training in Magic Theory and Lores counts, then any mage-appropriate lecture counts. Establish a curriculum of knowledge and skills a mage should have; the artes magica Ordines Hermeticales.*

It may be that the master mage must actually train; in this case, foster-training - you teach mine, I'll teach yours.

Magi outside of the school should have little Code basis for complaint.

Wizards Wars may happen, but it strikes me as an open invitation for a mass counter-declaration.

Houses Tremere and Bonisagus should be all over this; probably Jerbiton too.

*pardon my probably bad Latin