Blindness Revisited(again!) - towards a comprehensive debate

As posted elsewhere I'm in the process of readdressing a 4 year old character concept involving blindness. A lot of material has been published since then that touches upon blindness - and several threads have been coming and going here as well.

I think there a several core themes in a debate on blind magi:

  • A)magic theory - what are the limits of magic and how to make spells doing X or Y, calculating spell levels etc;
  • B) a broader theme on the natural laws of Mythic Europe - how does a person perceive the world around them and to what degree does this happen in the surroundings, in the eyes, or in the mind, and to in what ways does blindness affect this;
  • C) an even broader one of narrative and game balance - what is the significance of flaws, why are they chosen and how should the inflict on gameplay and thus on the stories we tell?

It's pretty clear to me that a point can be made either pro or con using either one of these three central themes in the debate of what blind characters can and cannot do; but also that it is easy ending up mudding them all together. After all our stance on the magical theory might be influenced by our looks on the natural laws of the setting and in turn by our attitude towards meta like narrative and game balance. You can take any one of those and start from there, but to me it appears more and more important to start with the broader and move toward the narrower end of the subject.

[size=120]On Game Balance, Character Generation and Narratives [/size]
What are flaws and when and why are they chosen? I for my part intend my magus to be blind, not because I needed a holding spot for 3 points of flaws, but because I wanted it to have a bearing on his story - both his background and his presence. However, as my character is a magus, who as we know can bend and subject the world to their will, it begs the question whether it is befitting at all to take a major flaw that can essentially be overcome 'in the laboratory'?

A very strict gamist look at character balance could demand that a) someone with skills that trivialize a major flaw should not take such a flaw in the first place (either simply describing it as a cosmetic thing or at least only allow it as a minor flaw) or that b) the flaw inheritedly prohibits any bypassing of the flaw (the character choosing this flaw simply cannot use his Arts to effects that duplicate sight in any shape or form). I present this argument, not because I agree with it, but because it is a very valid argument. My disagreement with this argument is not out of questioning its logic, but out of preferences - my preferences being less gamist and more narrative. In this context it would be something along the lines, that flaws (major ones especially) are not picked as checks and balances of power, but that major importance is put on them having a significance for the character; be something that shapes and directs and sets a course for a character, making the character come alive in a distinguishable way. Both approaches are valid arguments but ultimately based on what your troupe prefers - and I also know both are only shades apart, but the distinction is nevertheless important.

So how much should a character be forcefully handicapped by a flaw? Normally this is very clearly given in the description of the flaw, but most bets are off the moment we are dealing with a magus character, as the variety of ways techniques and forms can be used to circumvent limitations of mortal life. After all Mentem can make the constable forget you are an Outlaw, Corpus can make you longevity potions that stall you from Age Quickly, Auram can make the Crippled fly, and Ignem make your Enemy burn... :smiling_imp: (all Major Flaws). But what of flaws that impair your senses? Nothing probably strikes a magus harder than something limiting his powers of perceptions. After all a magus has the whole universe at his feet (well, with huge caveats), but only if he can see the danger coming his way; and his massive powers can only be put to use if he can in fact sense what he is about to create, control, change, or destroy.

The more I dwell on this subject the more it strikes me both how handicapping this flaw is specifically on magi as well as how easily the responses on what can be done with magic to remedy this can get more restrictive than when it comes to using magic to overcome other flaw-based challenges. I reckon a lot of this has to do with the debate of what-you-can-do-with-intellego being a more grey area than what-you-can-do-with-rego-mentem (or a Pillum of Fire for that matter).

Personally I want my own character’s blindness to be a defining feature and I want it to shape him. He is a blind seer after all – a master of Intellego Imaginem even, focused and with little power in other fields (his main outward power being glamour-infused Imaginem). On one end of the spectrum a magus could be allowed constant effects to see everything around him as if he had eyes – on the other end of the spectrum he could be allowed no power whatsoever imitating the power of sight. Neither of the alternatives are quite acceptable to me. The first would make my blindness insignificant; the second would make my character marooned, the more so as intellego/‘seeing’ is what he is and his character concept would be pretty useless. I need to strike some sort of balance – not only within the character, but also in line with both RAW and thoughts on both magic theory and the natural laws of Mythic Europe.

[size=120]On Natural Philosophy and Medicine [/size]
The Art & Academe includes a great deal on how the clock ticks in Mythic Europe. I know the natural laws and the hermetic laws are separate things, but I take the latter to be based on the former, even if at times (mostly) breaking them as much as working with them. Another way to look at it is perhaps that most of the natural laws are how the world works when not interfered by either of the four mythic powers – and that even so there are natural laws that magic can never break (at least not without a Major Breakthrough).

As such the Natural Philosophy section and the Medicine chapter seem to be the places to look for more on how to frame blindness. Oh, and before you shout at me that I’m overcomplicating things then it is already a lost cause – or I wouldn’t have been making a wall of text on this issue in the first place (and then those who might find it overdoing the subject probably already left this thread at the second paragraph). I’m really not making this effort to let specific minor details, or reading into vague sentences, determine my final thoughts on what a blind magus can or cannot do. I’m doing it to add flavour to whatever approach I end up with and I’m doing it because it is a fun exercise!

I’m a bit unsure about the next bit, so please do chime in! Partly because I’ve yet to read Art & Academe cover-to-cover, partly because the text is, of course, not directed specifically at my query, blindness, but at natural philosophy and the body in general and broad strokes. What I want to attempt is to trail the path of visual impressions, or sight, and then look at what blindness might be (or maybe more aptly: where) in that context.

Sight starts in the Mundis Sensibilis, the world open to our senses, emitting through Species to our eyes, or Visus. Our eyes are auxiliary organs and part of the Sensitive Faculty (even if powered by the Vital Faculty). I was uncertain whether a visual impression is already in the Common Sense the moment the Species reach the eye or whether there is a movement, even if ever so brief, happening between the organ of the eye and the Common Sense; thusly separating them as two entities/processes. This is strengthened by a PeMe guideline (A&A p. 33) stating that using Perdo magic on the Common Sense does not eradicate sight itself, only the capacity to interpret the visual impressions (which will still be sensed).

Once the Species no longer reaches us, the sensed will lastly be retained in the Imagination.

What is blindness then? Or, rather, where? Is it in the eyes themselves or is it in the mind, in the Common Sense, or in both? Or does both ‘kinds’ of blindness exist (physical in the eye or mentally in the Common Sense) as two separate afflictions? This may not important in most contexts, but I find the thought intriguing – in fact I’m already starting to think of all sorts of virtues/flaws that could be inspired by the Arts & Academe passages on the body and mind.

[size=120]On Intellego and Blindness [/size]
Before continuing on the ‘blind path’ I’ve become curious about one thing. When using intellego imaginem spells to use any sense at a distance, does this than supersede you normal senses? That is if using Prying Eyes to spy on the neighbouring room, are you then still able to see what’s just in front of your eyes? In continuation, and inspired by the paragraph above, you might even ask if what you sense is then projected via the InIm spell into your organ (eyes, ears, etc.) or into your Common Sense (or even, with a twist or a as a sigil, into your Imagination)? These are interesting questions not only for us miserable blind magi, but also to InIm users in general.

The various mentem guidelines in Art & Academe certainly confirms that you can project images, sounds and smells directly into the mind – just as it equally established that you cannot make someone blind or deaf with a mentem effect; ‘only’ make them unable to make sense of what they see or hear. I reckon this is rather smart as it at the same time then also surely places afflictions such as blindness or deafness as corpus effects. What still remains unsettled is what InIm spells do with the impressions supernaturally sensed – through the eyes or directly into the Common Sense.

I do know of the magic item in the Magi of Hermes that reads and transmits letters, but I find it rather inconclusive in settling this question. One can both argue that it is a precedence that a spell requires a mentem requisite to project images into the Common Sense, as one can argue that this was not the only way to do it, or that this was indeed needed only because it was a magic item rather than magic wielded by a magus himself. Alas, a resolution of this hinges on how InIm spells are considered – which need not be bad at all; flexibility may feel like vague issues we really want to grasp, but on the other hand they are what allows for more or easier adaption to different troupes with different preferences.

[size=120]On the Limitations of the Blind Magus[/size]
I would like to try to make a shortlist of what I think a blind magus can and cannot. Please comment as well as give suggestions to more elements to add.

A blind magus cannot:

  • Use R:Sight or R:Eye
  • Target something not sensed, one way or another (this goes for all magi, but the blind are just the more challenged by this limit) ADDED
  • Use T:Vision.
  • Use Aimed spells without aid (though as suggested in another thread it might be logical to allow Aimed area spells in a general direction though with a fitting penalty).
  • Restore his sight permanently through a CrCo ritual.
  • ?

Depending on the take on blindness, natural philosophy, flaws, Essential Nature and intellego a blind magus might or might not be able to:

  • Share senses with his familiar (looking through the eyes of the familiar).
  • See through the eyes of another with an InMe spell.
  • Temporarily restore his sight with CrCo spells.
  • Read without a Mentem requisite (Magi of Hermes established it’s at a minimum possible with a Me req.)
  • See his immediate surroundings using InIm spells with a Me req.
  • See his immediate surroundings using InIm spells without a Me req.
  • See remote surroundings using InIm spells with a Me req.
  • See remote surroundings using InIm spells without a Me req.
  • ?

Thank you for reading - hope I didn't bore you to death. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments and on elaborating on this.

I think blindness is interpreted as a deficiency of the eye (either a malformation or an injury) rather than damage to the wits. I'll check my references tonight for any help here.

I think perhaps he is even more restricted than this. Remember that the Limit of Arcane Connections states he must be able to perceive a target to affect it without an Arcane Connection. This means that a blind magus must rely on his other senses to achieve the necessary 'lock', or even non-aimed spells will fail. This means that even R: Voice might be limited; it is assumed by the rules that a normal sound (such as conversation) can be heard over 15 paces, but the species of a quiet noise only radiate 5 paces. If there is no noise, then normal scents are effective at only 3 paces (see Sensory Magic in HoH:MC). This adds quite a major obstacle to many sorts of magus - naturally making the character that surmounts such problems exceptionally interesting!


I think the core problem is the meta-game one - how does the Flaw direct the character's nature, growth, and adventures? I think a Major Flaw should seriously hinder the character and should require adventures to be rid of, so that the character could not eradicate the flaw by himself. Now, blindness for a magus is a hugely crippling flaw, as you stated - but it is equally crippling for nearly all non-magus character concepts too, so I don't think that being a magus matters in that regard. So, I think the magus should be heavily burdened by the blindness, and these burdens should not be removable with Hermetic magic - requiring stories (mysteries, blessings of pagan gods, and so on) to remove the Flaw, if the character wishes to remove it.


I think it is fair to say that the magus' Vision Sense Faculty is missing or twisted, so that species aren't sensed. I'm very attracted to the idea of this being the case because his sensing faculty is attuned to another factor, e.g. Second Sight or Magic Sensitivity. This, I think, makes for a cool character. But perhaps not the InMe character you're looking for.

As Mark said, you then normally need to sense your target through some other sense to cast spells on it, which can be rather limiting.

Now, how does magic affect all of that? I agree you can't use R:Sight or R:Eye, nor restore his sight (even temporarily!) with CrCo magic, nor CrMe or similar combinations.

This means I would not allow the magus to see through his familiar or other eyes; that cheapens the Flaw IMO, making it meaningless, and also doesn't fit the idea that the vision-way-of-sensing is just gone for the magus.

The magus can still sense his surroundings with Intellego Imaginem magic that works through other senses (such as hearing), including allowing him to read and so on. I think that's a cool character that isn't very much impaired but her lack of vision at all, and that's what I'd recommend doing.

However, you seem to want to have the character see things. In this case I'd recommend being as limiting as possible, to preserve the significance of the flaw and what makes the character special. Perhaps the magus can use all sorts of T:Vision spells and effects to see, but such sight is always partial and warped for some reason? Another option to consider is allowing T:Vision spells, but not ones detecting visual species; so the magus could "see", say, Corpus things around him - a nice mythical flavor, I think.

I was leaning more and more toward that interpretation myself - even if I set out being very much in doubt. And that would be extremely appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Of course the other side to my pondering remains: whether intellego imaginem seeing things at a distance is percieved with the eye or directly with the mind / Common Sense and whether far-seeing supersedes what you can physically see at the moment, so to speak.

I absolutely agree. In fact my 4-year old thread about the subject was very much focused on that. I am not sure how I got to omit it here - probably because I was looking to start out with very general and firm things, to leave the discussion open, such as a blind magus will never be able to use those mentioned ranges, Sight and Eye, etc. I added the aiming bit partly because it is mentioned specifically in the Blind flaw and because looking through other threads involving blindness, I can see it's taken some space.

I am not sure where you get that from Yair. I've strived to keep most conclusions open to keep the discussion flowing and because there are elements I am undecided on. In fact I've purposefully withheld my own character design / concept from discussion for now - and thus what significance blindness plays in directing his nature, growth and adventures. And thus my motives for airing this discussion in the first place - and those are not about mindlessly counting to 10 (flaw points that is). In other words discussing intellego imaginem and blindness might not be an attempt to cheapen it, as you word it, but it could quite possibly enrich the story. I for one is extremely pussled by how or where InIm impressions are recieved by a normal magus, that is one that is not blind, and what effect this has on both what they sense through the magic and what they sense directly from their surrounding at the same time.

I agree that blindness is extremely debilitating. In fact I know intimately how it is to operate in total blindness. But instead of comparing the situation of a blind magus to a blind not-able-to-use-magic person isn't it just as valid to look at the magnitude of other flaws? I think Crippled is a fine example, which is why it was among the examples mentioned in the original post. It is a major flaw so they should be comparable in terms of directing the character's nature, growth, and adventures, right? Would you accept this magus to use Auram spells to fly or Corpus spells to move or manipulate his crippled body? A plentitude of other examples involving Major Flaws and magic are possible - when you speak of heavily burdening the character with blindness, shouldn't that burden by compared to other flaws with the same magnitude as much as with how burdensome you find blindness itself?

I'm voicing this because I read in your post a knee-jerk reaction to surpress what seems to be seen as a powerplayer attempt at cutting corners. I've not started this debate to galvanize arguments for watering down a flaw or finding convenient loop-holes - I've started it because I'm genuinely curious about how a blind magus would function in the world and get under the skin of what quirks and habbits this might foster.

My character has no wish to remove his blindness. Nor de facto. In fact his blindness is the blessing of a pagan god. And it is inherently linked to both his gift, its sigil, and other supernatural virtues.

Agreed! And if you recall - and I hope you do, because we had a fair few talks about the draft back then four years back - but my character is exactly that. Blind as a bat, but blessed (or cursed if you will) with Visions and Second Sight through those otherwise dead eyes.

I am sorry if I read you wrong, but I did sense some negativity. Please do not judge my character or my motives untill I've actually presented you to Tiresias - He is actually quite a likeable guy, even if often a strange and puzzling encounter. I'll happily raise the stake and toss the bonfire if you'll want to burn him, when that times comes that you've met him :wink: