Bonisagus the Founder: Virtues?


Bonisagus was the greatest genius of his generation (and perhaps all time), so I was wondering what Virtues you could use to represent someone like that in Ars Magica. While there are some obvious choices, I won't say anything because I want people's unadulterated opinions.

I ask because one of my players used a non-hermetic effect to locate Bonisagus's corpse in a bog near the Caspian sea, fished it it and has summoned him to be her Lab Assistant. As such, it could be quite relevant!

Your opinions are appreciated, thanks.


First of all, I would have given him virtues to have a magic resistance of at least 100 as a ghost ...

but, of course, there are tricks to get the penetration to beat that, so one might need more.

Bonisagus as a ghost is probably complete insane ... and anti-socially bored, I am thinking a little of the old age Lazarus Long of Robert Heinlein's and how many great minds of the real-world withdraw with mental illness.

... but I suppose you are committed to making a useful lab assistant. My saga definitely would vary, but never mind. I think it is important to note, even so, that the Bonisagus of his own time is not the same thing, and should not have the same virtues, as his ghost of the thirteenth century ...

why on Earth would he volunteer to be a lab assistant?

Oh, it's fine if he had a 100 might. The game in question has been going on for over a hundred years, and the Maga summoning him can easily muster a penetration high enough.

I suppose he could have different virtues? However, in my saga, his ghost is lingering because he was murdered by Amazons while he still yet had unfinished work. A driven and intelligent man gave rise to a ghost, so it would make more sense for his ghost to be something like him, right?

why on Earth would he volunteer to be a lab assistant?

You are the ghost of Bonisagus, the father of hermetic theory. You died hundreds of years ago, and now a descendant of your magical tradition stands before you. She shows you that your students did not idly waste the gift you gave them, but tended it faithfully and well. They stand at the height of their power, the unquestionably greatest wizards to ever walk the earth.

You, the ghost of Bonisagus, know better than anyone what kind of power they might wield. A Maga a hundred years into her mastery of magic, benefiting from the wisdom and knowledge of generations of your students, stands before you- and she is holding your bones.

Polite acquiescence to her demands is, perhaps, the best path to preserve dignity.


Great Intelligence x2 (for 5), Driven, Inventive Genius, Puissant Magic Theory are minimum. Probably Independent Study to generate his Magic Theory score from nothing once he's made the breakthrough to craft it. Plausibly a focus related to analyzing magical effects... Generous personality? You're talking about the guy who created a magic system mostly for others to use.

I would give him a custom virtue, probably name it something along the lines of: "great researcher" or "destined hero" or something. This virtue means that he can achieve breakthrough points faster, and crucially at a lower warping point gain. (though I would not make this bonus translate to others by helping them in the lab, so it mostly wouldnt matter).

As an aside, Bonisagus ought to leave an exceedingly powerful ghost, one that is far to powerful to be dominated by a maga with a handful of bones, centenarian or not. As a GM I would either make him into a daimon or give him a power with name that means "I win" which simply stipulates that Bonisagus' ghost cannot be beaten by any user of hermetic magic or any of their minions, he will always pull some overpowering magic out of his ass.

That said, I see Bonisagus as the kind of guy who would help a maga out in the lab, both because he is a helpful guy who likes to see that his descendants are doing well and because he just kinda likes doing magic, and hermetic magic in particular. Helping in the lab is a way for him to engage in his passion.

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I think it's not as bad as you think. Not everything he did was real original research from HoH:TL, his magic theory and parma magica were for sure, but I suspect most of what he did was ancient magic integration - the magic the other founders taught him. Using Ancient Magic rules is tougher because you need a very high MT score to not waste your time, and it's more restricted in scope because you can only replicate what you find, rather than create from scratch - on the other hand, it doesn't warp.

I was trying to stat an NPC who was trying to found her own hedge tradition via a combination of her own existing Supernatural abilities and integration of other hedge (/Hermetic...) traditions, and a lack of Magic Theory makes integration hard. Once he has the skeleton Magic Theory (and is improving it with the aid of the other Founders), life gets easier, but there's a period before that when he's just working off magical texts he's acquired and trying to synthesis something.

You need to roll Int + MT + 3 (Inventive Genius) + Insight Modifiers vs EF 18 to successfully generate an Insight.

So with Int +5, no Magic Theory (because you haven't invented it yet) and Inventive Genius, you have 8 + Insight Modifiers + die vs EF 18.

With no Insight Modifiers, you need to roll 10+ on a stress die, i.e. just under a 7% chance per season spent in study.

Mythic Intelligence (brilliant insight) will mean you only need 9+, and thus take you to about 17% - still not brilliant, but noticably better. That requires your character to have access to Heroic Virtues - Gifted people can't be Mythic Companions, so that means either Mythic Blood or Legacy.

If you do go down the Mythic Blood route, then at a stretch you could say that the accompanying Personal Power gave a bonus to Insight rolls - something along the lines of "Single-mindedness of the Concentrating Wizard" (ReMe 25, A&A p34), which gives a +3 bonus to Concentration rolls at the expense of failing any other Intelligence roll for the duration of the spell. But for Insight rolls, obviously.

The alternative approach is getting good bonuses from the sources of Insight you're studying. Bonisagus appears to have been working off a combination of Mercurian rituals he'd learned, and a large eclectic collection of texts. Ancient Magic doesn't actually give much guidance on the bonuses different sources of Insight can give, but Hyperborean Magic has insight sources that range between -3 and +4 (mostly +-2).

Hedge Magic specifies that Gifted teachers can add their Int + (Hedge Magic Theory) to the Insight roll by acting as a lab assistant to the researcher. I don't think it's ever explicitly specified whether the Cult of Mercury had it's own Magic Theory, but given the standalone nature of its rituals and the fact that Bonisagus felt the need to create a theory from scratch I'm assuming not.

So some sort of virtue that gave you a bonus to acquiring insight from Insight sources would be good, but I don't think there are any examples in canon.

I don't think canon actually says either way, but one of my theory was that Bonisagus probably got some folk witch magic theory from which he derived lab work, only to discard it with his own theory after realizing the theory covered so little magic powers.

The problem is that Bonisagus still needed to make his own magic theory and his own parma magica.

However both are hermetic breakthroughs (approx 60 breakthrough points each) and to make matters worse you need twice the amount of breakthrough points to invent magic theory. so in total 180 breakthrough points of original research. I havent ever played with the original research rules so I cant say for myself, but I have read from people on the forum that have used those rules that even a single hermetic breakthrough is a long shot in terms of making it before warping gets you.

The rest (especially formulaic spells which he had explicit access to before meeting Trianoma) can be explained away as being covered by various sources of insight or as integration of magic from other founders.

For the Virtues, I'd throw in Infernal Blessing a few times just for the fun of the implications.

Because all that "see oh father where we had risen from your sharings" with him replying "oh good boys, let me help you in the lab!" sounds just too clean for me. I totally see him asking what happened since his demise and getting quite horrified after hearing what happened to House Diedne.

Which makes me think, what about flaws? Dark Secret because of how close he was to Diedne is a must for me.

My objection would be: "Its not much of a secret is it?" Everyone knows that Diedne is the one who brought spontaneous casting into hermetic magic, and that Bonisagus is the one who did the integration. I can also distinctinctly remember reading about a triangle drama of Bonisagus inviting Diedne to come "see" his cave-home, as he had done with Trianoma and her being jealous.

So at this point it is kind of, not just an open secret, but official hermetic history, that Bonisagus met Diedne, practised her magic and that they got along well enough to have an affair.

Though I see where you are going. Bonisagus' ghost poses a considerable problem for house Tremere in particular. Because he was pro-Diedne in life and is unlikely to have changed his mind in death. Which in theory should bring the hammer of Tremere fury down on him, but on the other hand he is also Bonisagus, the literal founder of hermetic magic and the order of Hermes, so it is kind of difficult to move against him explicitly.

I think another great question is this: How exactly is the PC going to hold on to his ghost once the story breaks. Pretty much every ambitious magus out there will want Bonisagus to help them in the lab, to study at his transparent feet, and just generally to meet him.
Somehow I dont see house Bonisagus finding out about his ghost being out there without demanding to have it.

As an aside, the Primus of house Bonisagus casts the vote of Bonisagus by proxy under the guise of him potentially still being out there. His ghost would probably object to someone else voting on his behalf and legally speaking, even in the Rhine, he would be in the right.


One thing to keep in mind is that completely describing what Bonisagus and the other Founders did just isn't possible with the current rules.
Teaching Hermetic Magic to the other Founders, when all of them were already skilled wizards, would require implausibly high scores in various things just for starters

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I consider the founders don't easily fit in the current rules.

Flambeau arguably hits a creo ignem total of 80 by the end of his life. With no tractatus, how does he do that? They all teach their line hermetic arts.

The founders used different rules is the best logical option.


Vis study exists. Adventure exists.

And more so. O ne possibility is thatBonisagus was so good that he could open their Arts without crippling their non-hermetic abilities, thus allowing combination of Virtues that would not be possible for a pure Hermetic mage.
Maybe with Major Focus that would double two Arts, or strange interaction that would get powerful synergies (non-hermetic abilities giving multiplier to hermetic Arts score).

The alternative, which could be also very interesting, their abilities were greatly exaggerated, and where the results of unrecorded collaboration of larger group of practitioner from each tradition, who elected a single representative and some major Dream magic ritual(s) to make sure that a century later, no memories, no written testimony remains... almost none...

Maybe House Diedne never existed, but was fictionally created to justify very large rituals, purge of sensitive records, cleansing of non-comforming mages to anchor the "official" story into the Order, and swipe under the magical rug, major skeletons.

Frankly, to do what Bonisagus did would probably have required Comprehend Magic to boost lab totals and facilitate integration, even if the game in no way suggests he passed this on to anyone else.

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Clearly that is the fault of Criamon rewriting the way magic interacts with humanity. Clearly.
That madman ruins everything.

Honestly, I was adding virtues to the founder, I would give Good Teacher, Inventive Genius, Driven, probably Great Intelligence x2, maybe the mythic equivalent. I would probably give him a Magic Theory of 5 or 6, and a Folk Witch Theory for each of the Founders traditions.


Clearly you could not create Hermetic Magic using Hermetic Magic.

In order to make magic usable each path of magic has to limit itself and impose a cost on itself. And (it seems) once you are committed to a particular path you can't go back and change your mind. So the Order probably cannot recreate the conditions under which Bonisagus created Hermetic Magic Theory.

And who says that Bonisagus' ghost should be able to do everything that Bonisagus could?

So I'd say that Bonisagus was a spectacular Teacher and a supernaturally powerful Researcher and he probably knew things that no living Hermetic Mage does. But his ghost might not be as useful as the real thing was.

I'd probably put a booby trap into the path of the Magus so hubristic as to raise and enslave his spirit.


Agree on some points, obviously.

In my saga, I assure you Bonisagus's ghost is very much NOT going to be a useful lab assistant, because his knowledge of Hermetic Theory is probably going to be lower than the person powerful enough to raise him. I guess it'd be a very expensive way to get Int 5 Inventive Genius MT 5 assistant - If the ghost is Gifted, which I would not assume. Ghosts are often shells of their full selves.

However, if you're intent on the ghost of Bonisagus being useful, I might suggest the above numbers (Which are a +10 to +16) and maybe a Power to grant Affinity or Puissant in MT to a person he's working with. Maybe give him some ability to increase the aura he's in, if he learned tricks from Verditius.

Or, maybe, it's an Infernal Ghost who's totally Bonisagus, I assure you.


I also agree that RAW, I'm not sure how Bonisagus and the founders made Hermetic magic, I'm not sure it's possible. You need to consider that at the very least:

(1) Higher than 10 virtue points for Bonisagus

(2) Custom Virtues to integrate magic better AND faster. Bonisagus worked with each other founder for not even a year on average. Insanity under RAW.

(3) Bonisagus would originally have had to make Hermetic Magic Theory. Under Hedge Rules this is quite hard, and I think he may have used Luck or a modified virtue for this.

(4) Consider that Bonisagus could be a total liar, and much of the history before the Order of Hermes is a lie and or, the history of the Order is a Lie.

(5) This leads to my view, that in fact, Bonisagus merely refined existing Mercurian Magical Theory, or stole it from the Egyptians or Greeks. In most of my recent sagas "Hermetic" Magic is something that was once wide spread in various proto forms all across the Roman Empire and the Middle East. The knowledge was destroyed in the Roman-Persian wars, and as the Western Empire collapsed much was lost.

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