Aren't runes overpowered?


The basic assumption of my saga is that the history of the Order has been "cooked" like it used to happen to the lives of saints and kings. Centuries of retelling and fine tuning have made us believe that the Order success was inevitable and everything ran quite smoothly, despite the major crisis. In my saga, things are much rougher instead, and history is not bound to unravel like we are used to. The infancy of the Order, in particular, is ridden with internal mistrust and rivalry, while external menaces threaten to destroy this fragile project. Magic theory is still incomplete (no Aegis, for instance), the Code can't be easily enforced, and politics are inconclusive, as each House has its own worldview. There's still no shared vision of the future, and the founders are not legendary figures, but just men and women undertaking a very tough task.
So yes, the OoH won't get off the ground so easily in Germania. They'll need to fight hard and to find an understanding between the Houses.

But vitkir won't be a major threat (and there won't be that many of them). They are just committed to save their people and their culture and don't need another enemy beside Charlemagne and the Church. And also the Order will have nastier threats to face: I'm thinking about witches, shapeshifters, dreamwalkers, muspelli and other dark characters... Led by Gyongy (Birna's sworn enemy), Veia (Trianoma's witch sister who stole some of Bonissagus secrects) and Gullvaig (the Jotun of witchcraft and greed). I'm also hoping to get some ideas from the upcoming Dies Irae.

I started this thread because I thought vitkir were overpowered and I wanted to nerf them, but you and the other posters almost convinced me that it's not the case. So thank you for your insight, which I'll put to good use. I hope I will be able to handle the vitki PC as well :slight_smile:



Hmm. I remember it being otherwise: You get Warping, but once you have a Magic Virtue, you stop accumulating Flaws. Could be wrong.




Please note that I do not dispute the goodness or 'legitimacy' of what you want to do. If it's fun, make it so. But you seem to want agreement or discussion about 'realism' such as it is, or plausibility or verisimilitude. And.... I don't see it:

Which leaves me with a problem of realism, since the Rhine was an early center of Hermetic Magic.

Which leaves me with another problem of realism, because your setup totally contradicts this. More magic, more vitkir, more cooperation. Meanwhile, Hermetic Magi are few, and their techniques just beginning to be developed.

And another problem of realism for me. These seem like 21c Vikings to me. I don't expect the real article to think about saving people and culture. (And from what? 8C Vikings were doing just fine, thank you.) Vikings also seem to spend a lot of time fighting other Vikings!

Hermetic Magi? Viking wizards are a Classic Enemy of the Order, at least according to magi. Unless you want to change the setting (which I do strongly recommend!) there will and should be conflict here.


considers Vitkir can be powerful. If one of them somehow manages to stay healthy into his second century, he can become very powerful. Gentle Gift and Not Offended by the Gift are very good for this guy, who can go around (maybe dressed like Odin! :slight_smile: ) to other vitkir, one at a time, and point them in a direction of his choosing. This guy still wouldn't want to leave ACs dangling around. But he can still be very effective and dangerous without equipping the Vikings with D&D-style loot.

But most vitkir will be marginal characters, interesting but not much better off than witches. Literacy is rare in their society, so magical resources are especially rare. They are not powerful enough to rule, so must spend lots of time making ends meet. They have difficulty organizing because their magic offers no way around the Gift (unlike, magi, sahirs, LMs...) Their magic has some very cool effects, but mandatory stress dice and ACs force vitkir to be stingy.

This makes vitkir work well, I think! You can have your very rare exceptional vitkir antagonist (or patron?) but also have quite a few vitkir hedge wizards. And if one vitkir NPC does equip an entire Viking band with +2 swords, +2 armor, etc, the PCs then get to use the ACs against him, maybe with the help of a rival vitkir (who joined rather than died?) thus demonstrating why other vitkir do not do the same.

Thinking of each vitkir selfishly, rather than part of an NPC horde helps. Is casting these runes worth the risk of botching? Do I trust that the item will not reach the hands of my (clearly untrustworthy) rival? Am I better off just waving my hands over the sword and not casting any magic? (Or, mwahaha, cursing the item instead; that'll show Olaf for stealing my girl?)

A few rune effects probably do need adjudicating. A few interesting effects, but I don't think in the same league as Sahirs or Learned Magicians or Gruagachan. (Unless, of course, a trivial rune casting makes them immune to all hostile magic, and another to all aging....)



Or in this case, as he said upthread, PC. PC vitkir are likewise expected to be exceptional magus-level characters - the point of the thread was that he was worrying about how powerful one got.

"I, (the runemaster), am thrice blessed" allows for a vitki to work around the Gift. It's obviously not grant-the-Gentle-Gift perfect in that it only allows the vitki to speak as if he's unGifted, but it means that Gandalfr can usually establish a working rapport with other vitkir if he works at it. (In other words, it's like a Gifted sahir's Storytelling bonus - with the same corollary that a Gently Gifted vitki is going to be an awesome social adept.)

No fear on that score. While it doesn't come with impotence and can be cast quickly, vitkir have the weakest longevity effect this side of Folk Witches. Sahirs they are not.

Just throwing in a few historical musings...

Germany in 790 was very different in size and shape from the Germany of the High Middle Ages presented in AM5, not to speak of the Germany of later times. The differences were profound between the old Roman territories on the proper sides of the Rhine and Danube and the wilder lands across the rivers.

It's very conceivable that Bonisagus and his Hermetics originated and thrived in Frankish-controlled ex-Roman Germany and had an entirely different experience in Saxony and other further territories. I can't remember how this corresponds to the maps placing Durenmar and other early Covenants but I'd feel free to move them around a bit if necessary.

8th Century Saxons were, needless to say, not Vikings. While Rune Magic is certainly appropriate for them, one shouldn't forget that the Saxons were in the process of being invaded and conquered by the Christians while the Scandinavian Vikings were just starting the process of doing the invading for themselves.


1- As Jabir said, Durenmar sits well inside the frankish empire, while Saxony has never been touched by "civilization"... although today both of them are parts of Germany, it was much different back then.
2- Being an early center of Hermetic Magic doesn't mean that it was easy.
3- As I said, I don't strictly follow the canon, as I have a much more troublesome path for the Order to walk.

Yes, more vitkir than in a regular campaign, but not a very lot of them. I'll have many different kinds of magic users, and vitkir are just a part of it.

Again as jabir said, we're not talking about Vikings, we are talking about Saxons (who share mostly the same culture, but are not vikings). Saxons are fighting Charlemagne as the Franks try to conquer their land, and vitkir are fighting alongside their people. So they have their own big war to fight, and don't need another enemy. The player characters may decide to side with the pagans or with the christians or remain neutral... this decision will determine if the vitkir will be friends, enemies or neither.

We'll see how the situation develops, but I am definitely changing some of the classic setting. Here's the introduction to my saga, if you're interested:

Some good ideas here. Thanks Ken :wink:

Actually, most rpgs regrettably do that. I've found that a quick and often accurate test, when browsing through a new rpg, of whether I'll find mechanics overall well-designed or broken is to look at the fumble rules.

Viktir have the options to be extremely self-sufficient at very low effort (the Jera 5 effect of making a field prosperous is a big deal, as is the Othila 15 effect of making an object exceptional quality with -2 botch dice), and thus have little need to sell their magic, and almost no inclination to sell it cheaply. The lowliest viktir will have prosperous lands, the best equipment and a well defended home, all at far less risk than equipping a group of murder-hobos with powerful death-assisting magics that might easily turn against him (due to his Gift) once the plunder is about to be divided. That can/will happen even if he is Gentle Gifted, as greed makes murderers think about making the long division of booty easier.

Except that the above tactic appears to be what the PC is doing in the OP's game, so it needs to be addressed. (Said player should be very sure of his men's loyalty, unless he makes sure that his gear is better than his men get.)

Fehu and Jera help with having prosperous peaceful wealth, this is true, but the former requires a business model and the latter requires having some farmable land to begin with, and both make one a target for one's neighbors. (The Early Middle Ages are not really a safe time to be living in.) If one doesn't have the Gentle Gift, then one is likely to have strained relations with one's kinsmen; his wife and sons are probably used to his Gift, and his brothers may be, but anyone further out probably isn't, which means fewer hands to call on when he needs to respond to a raid (remember that while he's likely to be a powerful warrior, he is only one man). So a vitki may find it better-advised to aid someone else's fields and collect a tax, or to extort someone with curses, or to make money by the sword than to have immovable land wealth. (The calculations for this are different in 1220 and different for the Gently Gifted, of course.)


"Fine Tradition" == "regrettably"




This is the kind of thing I mean. It is not in a vitkir's interest to equip murder-hobos who totally mistrust him with weapons that are likely to be turned against him. Better to stay home, out of the way, establishing a very few close relationships, and prospering.




I think it is being addressed. Playing the social effects of the Gift (it isn't just a -3, but a baseline of greater antipathy to be overcome at -3) help with this. Playing all the NPCs as people rather than elements of a culture helps too. Enforcing stress dice, making sure that every now and then NPCs lose some of these precious items (they don't understand why it is bad to retrieve every item rather than retreat ASAP from a lost battle, and explaining why it is bad is likely to make things worse), and so on, helps too. Making sure the player understands that study materials for Runic Arts are limited and poor compared to more literate traditions, and then limiting these appropriately both keeps things under control and fits the setting. Finally, recognizing that some runes may need adjudication is especially apt. (For example, the level 10 script that makes a target immune to the effect of magic also makes the script not work!)

All of these other methods have problems too, of course. There are ways to get around them. The Gift comes with a built-in flaw and story flaw that put most of the Gifted on the margins of society, struggling to prosper. Hermetic Magi get around this by having immense power, by having a shared literature that promotes cooperation and trade, and above all by having a core group of people whom they can trust and with whom they can cooperate for individual and common good, the very stuff that makes a society possible. Parma allows magi to trust each other, sharing books gives them a reason to, and the power magi accumulate gives them the ability to say Stuff It to almost any outside threat.



Ok, I have a question: since the runes, like all arcane connections, are two-way connections, I suppose it's easy for the vitkir to destroy them. Isnt' it? I guess vitkir are paranoids that check every night before sleep if all the runes are where they're supposed to be, and destroy them if they aren't.

Most ACs are not 2-way!

Or, classically, equip one murder-hobo with whom the vitkir has a working relationship and help said hobo become chieftain. Then live off the fat of the land together until the relationship breaks down and one ends up killing the other.

That's exactly what I would expect a vitkir to do.

The chieftain becomes accustomed to the vitkir through long association. As is traditional, no one else likes the evil vizier/shaman/etc. Neither really has anything to gain from killing the other; they need and even understand each other. The chieftain not only gets magical support, but an advisor he can trust (because the vitkir has few other friends, possibly none, and many enemies.) The vitkir also gets far more than a figurehead, but a supporter and friend, and will likely advise the chieftain's son too. Maybe they fall out with each other, but that doesn't seem the most likely outcome.

This is a case where game rules work with folklore/story/legend quite nicely.



One of my hair is an AC to me, and I am an AC to said hair. Am I not?

In general, no. The Part is the Whole, but the Whole is Not the Part.

Why should you?

AFAICS, in ArM5 there is nowhere an argument for this kind of reciprocity.


Which is why no-one has ever created a "destroy all arcane connections to this thing" with range arcane. If we could it would be a must have spel for any Maga.

Could be what all the Bonisagi are working on though and, because it's impossible, might explain why no-one has made any breakthroughs in recent decades. The fashion is to do this because it gets you house acclaim for trying. And so it sucks all of the research effort away from more profitable avenues. Sort of like string theory.