Attrition rates for Magi


Below is the condensed version of a discussion we kicked around in our local AM group awhile back. There's definitely a tie-in to the "Census of Mythic Europe" thread I started several days ago.

I'm posting it here for general discussion and debate.

Let's say we break a magus' life into stages, each of 25 years beyond Apprenticeship Gauntlet:

Young: 0-25 years {Mundane ages roughly 25-50}
Established: 26-50 years {Mundane ages roughly 51-75}
Senior: 51-75 years {Mundane ages roughly 76-100}
Ancient: 76-100 years {Mundane ages roughly 101-125}
Legendary: 101+ years {Mundane age 126+}

Attrition is very high in the "Young" years. This is your personal "Spring". No more Parens protecting you. You're out on your own in the cruel world, trying to get established. Many of you get together with other Young magi to form Spring covenants (which don't have a very good survival rate). Perhaps 35% of newly gauntleted magi do not survive 25 years.

However, if you do, you're "Established". This is your personal "Summer". Yes, there are challenges, but you're a seasoned magus. Perhaps 15% of Established magi do not survive their next 25 years.

However, if you do, you're "Senior". This is your personal "Autumn". You are very powerful, BUT... You are more susceptible to political machinations, both from mundanes and your Hermetic peers. You might also be pushing yourself toward your Hermetic Legacy in some form. Warping and Twilight accumulate. Perhaps 25% of Senior magi do not survive this phase.

However, if you do, you're "Ancient". This is your personal "Winter". You are probably one of the 3 oldest and most powerful magi in your tribunal. Your legacy and reputation are established. Final Twilight and mundane physical sickness are serious risks. Perhaps 90% of Ancient magi do not survive this phase.

However, if you do, you're "Legendary". You have spent literally 100+ years as a Magus. You are one of the 10 oldest and most powerful magi in the whole Order of Hermes. Unless you've been doing horrible things (diabloism, vampirism, other dark arts), Final Twilight or mundane death are imminent. This is your personal "Deep Winter"; there will be no Spring rejuvenation for you...

So, going on these assumptions...

If you look at a group of 100 newly-Gauntleted magi,

  • 65 will live to age 50
  • 55 will live to age 75
  • 41 will live to age 100
  • 4 will live to age 125

Does this look right to you?
(Assume no extraordinary events, like Schism Wars and such...)

What do you think about my Attrition ratio assumptions of 35% / 15% / 25% / 90% ?


Where there is death, there must be birth in order to avoid extinction. The hermetic equivalent is training apprentices.

My assumptions:

  • 10% of magi in their "Young/Spring" phase train an apprentice.
  • 105% of magi in "Established/Summer" phase train an apprentice
    (Assuming some will train more than one, offsetting those few who train none).
  • 75 % of "Senior/Autumn" magi train an apprentice
    (Probably not their first)
  • 25% of "Ancient/Winter' magi train an apprentice
    (Perhaps their last, living legacy).

OPINIONS PLEASE: What do you think about these numbers as assumptions?


I've come up with a spreadsheet to model growth & attrition of the Order of Hermes, based on the assumptions listed above.

The primary goal of this exercise to get a sense of the distribution between the "seasons" of magi. This has been very interesting for me.

Tweaking these numbers up or down results in an overall attrition rate of somewhere between 30-35%. This means one third of ALL magi will die/twilight/whatever within a 25 year time frame.

I think this sounds entirely reasonable. It equates to an ANNUAL attrition rate of only 1.6%. Lets assume the average tribunal, like has right around 100 magi. This means 1 or 2 will die per year, assuming no catastrophic events.

But don't worry!
The Order of Hermes is OK.
Even though 30-35 of those 100 magi will die, about 40 apprentices should graduate in that same 25 year time span. There's a net gain of 5-10.

This was my main goal. What does the population of magi look like?

Once you let the normal attrition pattern settle in, here's the answer:
Young "Spring" Magi: 40%
Established "Summer" Magi: 28%
Senior "Autumn" Magi: 21%
Ancient "Winter" Magi: 10%

Rounding this off a tiny bit gives us a nice, easy-to-remember
40 / 30 / 20 / 10

So, in an average Tribunal of 100 magi, we'd expect ...

40 to be Young {Mundane ages roughly 25-50}
30 to be Established {Mundane ages roughly 51-75}
20 to be Senior {Mundane ages roughly 76-100}
10 to be Ancient {Mundane ages roughly 101-125}
and a small few to be Legendary {Mundane age 126+}

At each 7-year gathering, we'd expect the Praeco to announce the passing of around 10 magi. Probably 4-5 of those 10 would be young; not powerful or crafty enough to survive the trials of life in Mythic Europe.

We'd also expect 14-15 new magi to swear the Oath of Hermes.

I don't know about you, but this helps me conceptualize the whole Order of Hermes a lot better.


Schenectady Wargamers Association
Athena Coaching: Insightful Coaching for Exeuctive Women

This is very interesting to me. And I love you've taken the time and effort to break it down like this.

I have nothing really to add, except the obvious that your assumptions could be off by huge margins. They could be right on, too.

Have there every been any "official" numbers on the number of Apprentices brought into the Order each Tribunal or any "populations" beyond 1220 (c) 800?

Oh, and don't forget Hedgies joining instead of dying.

I rely on the rest of Ars fandom to work out the math. I always find it interesting, sometimes debateable, but often handy. Our troupe is heavy on story telling low on numbers for material such as this.

In our game we have saying, "There are no old foolish wizards."

One classic stereotype is the crack pot old wizard. Our troupe has always reasoned that the foolish wizards are all dead. Our game follows very closely the numbers you suggested, with the numbers narrowing as age increases.

There is of course an exception to every rule and one should not forget about the lab rat that doesn't leave his lab for 150 years. This magus can be incredibly foolish and simply by not placing himself on adventure like senarios, has survived to menance player characters.

I like your numbers, but that's because they compliment my game. Depending on the population, the level of 'mythic' in a game, and personal taste, these numbers may need to change for any particular game, but it's still a good arguement establishing the rareity of the ancient and powerful.

Happy New Year everyone! :slight_smile:

No disrespect, but the more I think about this, the less I like your first set of numbers. Thanks for making me think about it.

I'll admit that Mythic Europe is a brutal place, but I just can't believe 40% of Wizards die off in the first 25 post-apprentice years. This sounds like an aweful lot of fatal book case accidents to me.

Given the situation most wizards are in, rich and magical, I think death rates are closer to 10%. Yes, some take risks that others don't, but many are bookish, and many that aren't are well protected. Now you want to talk about a 40% death rate among grogs, and I'm aboard.

I'm no number cruncher, but the number of apprentices that would have to be churned out to keep the population level is getting close to 1:1, and this isn't how I've experienced the order in my play.

Still, if it works for you, great. Again, thanks for making me think.

I agree with angafea: the death rate should be far lower. If I see my mages (10-15 years out of gauntlet) and that they can defeat ANY magical, infernal, fearie and divine (exept the archangels) beeing... hermetic combat magic is so damn strong only other magi should be strong enough to fight against a 50 year out of gauntlet magus!

And things like dying from old age or warping shouldnt be happen before 100-150 out of gauntlet.

In my saga there are far more "old" mages, because I doubt any natural enemy of a magus other than another magus. And with the oath of hermes, the Quaesitores, certamen and the tribunals these conflicts should be rare and nothing a normal magus (a magus that is no Tytalus or Flambeau :wink:) should fear.

And in tribunals like the Rhine Tribunal with their guilds and their strong powers of order or in north italy with the high urbanization the normal age a magus will be should be around 120 or so.

In tribunals like the Novgorod the death rate should be higher... but not because of the mongols (10 Flambeau could kill the entire KIN of the mongols even in china within a few years): only because conflicts between magi happen in higher numbers than in other tribunals.

Sorry, this is not true anymore. The Mysteries in HoH:MC and TMRE offer diligent magi several effective (and not particularly horrible, usually) immortality methods to make their own "Everlasting Autumn". Your assumptions need to take notice of the immortal magi. They are not plentiful, but they are there.

I believe that this is where your system most varies from the game mechanincs (It also IMO varies from the setting).

Characters of this age will have sufficent power that between a solid but not extraordinary bronze cord (-3), a good but not great living conditions modifier(-1), and a solid but not extraordinary ageng ritual (lab total 50 for a -10 modifier) they will have little fear of ageing issues (-14 from my example giving a total ageing modifier of -7 from 70-79 to -5 from 90-99)

At this age, permamnent twilight will be the largest fear most magi will have. Useing an average value of 2 points per year past age 35 they will have on average 70 to 130 warping points meaning a warping score of 5 to 7. They're a few points behind the curve on any twilight experiences but they've still got a signifiicantly better than even chance of making it back from their twilight to continue their work.

The logical result of this is that characers of this age will step back from endevors with high twilight risk such as original research and monster hunting. This is the age when the characters will have the arts, knowlege and resources to write and commsion the most tractatuses and comentaries. When they will invent the most spells, when they will seekthe esoteric mysteries. This age is when they will pick up the pace in regards to apprentice training because working overtime and experimentation aren't going to seem worth the risk (and they'll want someone inthe lab distilling vis when they are busy reading).

Magi of this age wil be the hopolites. If they are political they will be just as movey- and shake-y as seinior magi, this is the age to try and make arch magus if you feel the need to.

I'd guess that more than half of magi who see age 70 make it to age 100.

No you see this 65% survival ratio fits pretty well with my games. Young magi have enough power to be cocky and sufficently small resources that they'll be put in harms way again and again.

We've seen that there are ways to achieve immortality. I don't think that we've seen it done unambigously. Quendolon undrgoing the becoming becomming, Merinita undertaking the Guardian of Nature Mystery, and Alexander of Jerbiton achieving Imortality of the Forrest are all left with enough wiggle room that a storyguide can say no without violating cannon. Sayoshyant's Elixer, Repose on the Criamon Path of the Body,and the three paths to immortality presented in Mysteries Revised don't even have any names associated with them for people who know them.

The existence of immortal magi and ageless magi will vary game to game.

I do agree with wanderer that age 125 is not, of itself, sufficent to be legendary (although certainly 125 years allows one sufficent time to become legendary twice over while still allowing time for long vacations and a sabatical of two).

We can see from this most excellent page

that mages are definitely grouped in Pre and Post 145 years old (post gauntlet about 120), those that make it past are starting to get rarer than those that didn't. This does not, as far as I can tell, take "adventuring" into account in any major way beyond botching.

However, even with twilight taking the hardiest, we see mages of 300+ who are very lucky, skillful and rich are possible.

The simulation does NOT take into account things like immortality, but given the increase in Warping Points it causes, I suspect that such effects do not actually substantially add to a wizards life.

I have some serious difficulty to understand what you would ask for, to deem the issue "unambigous". You have the lore shared about in the Order, you have the powers spelled out in plain English, full crunchy detail for any player to use, if they care about the necessary steps, you have full rules for immortal mages. Immortality mysteries/rituals by now have the same canon status than Seven Leagues' Stride or Incantation of Lightning. What would you ask for, a written invitation ? :open_mouth:

and both of them, shaping a whole House' lore about their deeds. How much more "public" can it go, in the Order's conditions ?

A SG can say no (if the players agree that he's doing sense, anyway) to pretty much every rule and setting bit. This doesn't mean that any of the powers you mention aren't by now as "canonical" as any other uncommon or rare spell or power in the corebook or sourcebooks. Rare and complex to achieve does not mean uncanonical. If you want to do a variant setting where immortality mysteries do not exist or are a sham, you are free with my blessing. I just don't think that one is justified in saying that isn't a house rule, though.

And so do most Mystery Virtues in HoH:MC and TMRE, and the vast majority of canon spells, for that matter. Likewise, I don't thnk that 98% of RL people can tell the name of the people that invented TV or laser. Some discoveries just do not get themselves marked with an iconical inventor figure, for whatever reason.

And so will the existence of spell casting tablets, for that matter, or Infernal Malefice powers, or any other addtion to the magic system from sourcebooks, for no other reason that some groups may miss the money or the opportunity to buy them. This does not mean that one should feel entitled to declare they don't belong in an hypothetical "average" game. If you want to make a comprehensive description of hermetic lifespan, it is highly appropriate to take the canonical existence of immortal and ageless magi into account. Differently from Ancient Magic discoveries, which may or may not include new immortality methods (at first glance at the preview, I'd say no; their lore goes elsewhere, to overcome other limits of hermetic magic), but which by canon yet need the integration research effort to be used, Hermetic Mysteries are canonically assumed to have already been integrated in the Order's lore and body of mystical knowledge, even if access is restricted.

Immortality methods do vary in effects; some still leave one vulnerable to Warping points accumulation, and Final Twilight (e.g. Immortality of the Forests, Great Elixir, Shoshayant's Elixir), as the price for keeping it intact the normal human abiliity to learn and change and having affinity for multiple Realms. Others (becoming a faerie, "living" ghost, daimon, or alchemical magical being) bestow immunity to Warping, too, but then one loses the ability to retain learning and change without special rituals to "fix" it, and one loses any affinities to any other realm.

Maybe that's using the (false?) assumption that they're all Player Characters. :wink:

This is a little like a thread I tossed out a while ago, trying to estimate how many "Spring Covenants" were generated each tribunal period.

Any one of the variables requires a best guess, but still one based on little or no hard data - multiplied together, that's a lot of guesswork goin' on.

Another way to approach it would be to take the total number of magi in the order (a number I believe we do have a figure for), and work backwards against a life expectancy with no accidents, just aging. Again, this would require a lot of fudging and faking, but if the two ended up close, that would be a bit more reassuring.

But if it gives you "an" answer, that at least feels better than a pure blind guess, even if, perhaps, not much more reliable.

Lots of good discussion here - Love it!

A few comments...

  1. You can now download the spreadsheet that I used at this link:

Please note that many of the other Ars Magica download links there are broken - thanks to the work of some meddlesome hackers a couple of years back. They're probably based in Brazil, and if any of you know how we could find this group of guys who like to brag about defacing PHP-Nuke web sites, please send the info along.

  1. Much of this work was done before many of the newer 5th ed supplements came out, so I did not consider obscure ways that magi can sacrifice their humanity for immortality. And given that, I still don't think I care to. I doubt more than a handful of magi follow these paths, and I'm not concerned about outliers at all - I'm much more interested in broad trends and what the numbers tell us about the makeup of the Order of Hermes at large.

  2. Yes, I have reviewed the most excellent work on Character Attrition at the site. Love it! I discovered that site after much of this work was done.

  3. I have been reading these boards for awhile now, and I am firmly not in the camp that believes every tribunal has one or two Min-Maxing magi who get their Creo and Corpus up to 40 each so they can get rich doing nothing but brewing longevity potions for other magi. I choose to assume that most magi somehow get ahold of a decent longevity potion that works "good enough".

  4. I'm not really concerned about the strict numbers, so if we want to assume that "ancient" should be 175 instead of 125, no problem. I like the recurring metaphor of the Four Seasons, and I think it's very valuable to keep that metaphor when looking a the life and progress of each wizard.

  5. The original source of the exercise was to look at the growth of the Order of Hermes, to figure out what it should look like today. Having no numbers to go on, I "reverse engineered" a number of about 300 magi soon after the founding of the Order back around year 750. I took even wilder guesses as to how many fell in each age group.

  6. The spreadsheet does not account for catastrophic losses (10%? 30%? Who knows?) of the Schism War period. Perhaps it should. And, if the assumption of the number of magi in 750 is way too high, then perhaps the attrition rates could be lowered and still get us to somewhere around 1000-1200 magi in year 1225. There seems to be a big change in the canon figure between 4th and 5th ed sources.

OK, enough from me for now.


OK, one more thing.

When I refer to "dying", I should really be ~less~ specific and say "passing on".

Final Twilight, explosive lab experiments, Wizards War, disease, assassination, ship sinks beneath you and you can't swim, entering the Faerie realm and never returning, monster biting your head off, old age... whatever takes a mage permanently out of commission.

So yes, I am assuming all relevent risk factors when talking about "attrition".

The discussion is meant to be about "passing on", and not so much about "death".


HaHaha well, if you're implying that I think they don't die because they have the luck of a PC, I don't. Actually I see the Order more as a scholarly institution than an "adventurer's club". To me, PCs are the "Indiana Jones" of the Wizarding world, the aberration that makes them often bound for greatness.

Not that other wizards don't put themselves in harms way, I just think it's, on average, less often than PCs do, and often not at such great risk. Otherwise you'd be telling stories about them!

Of course we're all shooting rubberbands at the moon, but given the upgrade in a Wizard's Parma I just see most careful/lazy/timid/powerful magi as falling to decrepitude and Twilight than Ogre clubs, Devil pitchforks, or the Inquisition.

I couldn't sleep before I got some stuff out of my head...

I went back to the spreadsheet and added a new tab with different assumptions.

  1. Order only starts with 120 magi back in 750
  2. Schism War period kills 20% of the Magi population
    2a) 50% fewer apprentices trained during Schism War generation

Also lowered the attrition rates to 20 / 10 / 15 / 85,
from 35 / 15 / 25 / 90 before.

This puts the Order around 1300 magi in 1225. Interestingly, the 40/30/20/10 split seems to be very entrenched.

I've uploaded the revised spreadsheet to take the place of the previous one, if you'd like to play with it yourself.


p.s. Notice how lowering the Apprentice Training percentages affects the numbers in 1225 a LOT more than raising the attrition ratios does. Interesting...

p.p.s. The original 35/15/25/90 attrition ratios give the Order a growth rate of about 6% per 25 year 'generation'.

The new 20/10/15/85 ratios result in a growth rate of about 15% per 25 years. How does this sit with you? Seems a little high to me...

Very interesting, where do you have the Apprentice Training percentage set at, if I may ask. I myself prefer it low, because it has been my experience with games and adventures published that there are not very many at a covenant at a given time.

I know it's totally arbitrary, but has anyone seen any canon references to number of apprentices or perhaps percentage of population with the gift?

Ars Magica 5th Ed. , page 75

Perhaps current apprentices are frequently one of those little "overlooked details" that do not garner attention? They've gotta be there.

The analysis shows that if a significant percentage of qualified magi are not training an apprentice (depending on what attrition assumptions you're making), then the entire Order will wither away.

... And "significant percentage", based on the more recent, softer attrition figures, is 50-60% in a given 25 year period.

And this could lead to a whole separate discussion thread, debating whether the Oath for Flambeau and Tytalus magi contains the obligation to "train double the number of apprentices as my peers in the Order", knowing that attrition in their houses is much higher.