Breakthrough: Hermetic Teacher

I've wanted to run an Ars game set in a university for a long time. Apprentices goes into detail on the problems with this, notably: 1) Arts must be taught one-on-one and 2) The Gift is antithetical to the classroom environment. Fair enough. Setting aside the Gift problem for now, we are left with the question, "How would you teach the Arts to multiple people at once?" The obvious answer would seem to be a Breakthrough.

What sort of Breakthrough? Not Minor, certainly. Major Breakthroughs focus on Virtues that might be taught. While it is not the ideal solution, a magus might try to solve the teaching problem with a new Hermetic Virtue: Hermetic Teacher. This would allow the magus with the Virtue to teach the Arts to multiple people at once. While potentially transformative, the fact that you have to teach the Virtue means that Hermetic teachers would be rare and the knowledge would spread slowly.

The ideal solution would, of course, be a Hermetic Breakthrough that simply gets rid of the special rule on teaching Arts, and makes Arts work like everything else. Hermetic Breakthoughs state "Nearly anything is possible," and this would seem to qualify. However, a Storyguide who wanted to make this less awesome might decide that, rather than eliminating the restrictions on Teaching, a Hermetic Breakthrough will instead create a new Arcane Ability called Hermetic Teaching, which works just like Traching, but only for the Arts, and can be used to teach multiple people at once.

Set aside the Discovery process for now; lets talk stabilization. individual Sagas will have different rules, but for the sake of discussion, lets presume the Breakthrough requires 60 points to stabilize. Stabilization causes Warping, but if the magus is using a level 15 (magnitude 3) effect, the simple die rolled for this ensures he will never accumulate more than 2 points in a single incident, and so will not risk Twilight on this roll. But, because he needs 60 points and is using only a magnitude 3 effect, he will need to do this 20 times to stabilize the discovery. That's 5 years in the lab and he will be rolling on the Experimentation table each of those seasons. And that roll is a stress roll, and can definitely botch.

Discovery: The discovery process doesn't care about the level of the effect being experimented with. For stabilization purposes we went with level 15 effects and this also lends itself to discovery because such a low level is easily attained in one season of lab work. Every season we can roll on the Experimentation table and our goal is to roll a 10. This gives us the discovery. Assuming the magus has a Magic Theory of 5-10, he can add 1 to this roll, so a 9 is also a success. The magus has a 20% chance of Discovery each season. However, he can also botch, the botch will be occurring in an Aura for extra botch dice, and if he does botch, the +1 to his experimentation also adds to the Disaster roll, making damage to the lab, the magus, the covenant, and Warping points all likely.

Difficulty: This doesn't actually look that hard to me. A lot depends on the dice. The magus needs a 9 or a 10 on the die, and although experimentation botches put him back, or even give him some Warping, the odds are in his favor. He will probably make a Discovery in a couple of years (that would be 8 chances to roll a 9 or 10) but it might take three or four, with bad luck. Once he gets that discovery, he needs 5 years in the lab to stabilize it, and will accumulate more Warping, but never enough to risk Twilight. After Stabilization, he needs to write up his breakthrough and disseminate it through the Order.

Question: Can the statisticians among us figure out, with the assumptions given here, how many Warping Points the magus is likely to accumulate during the discovery and stabilization process? How often will he accumulate enough to risk Twilight? What is the most likely time elapsed for the discovery process?

I really think you are over-muscling this. The Gift is obviously much more common in the setting you want to create. The rules already state that people can "get used" to the effects of the Gift over time, which is why Covenants don't just melt down. More common Gift, more chances for people to get used to the Gift, and your University works without any new rules. There will still be "bigots", and so Gentle Gift will still be useful, if perhaps a minor virtue in your setting. A university of Magic will have many magi professors, and you just have each professor mentor a student the summer before their freshman year. Everyone's arts are opened, no new virtue was needed, and you keep the current university format, three terms and the summer off (because all the professors are mentoring the new freshmen). And this way, you get to keep the various Parens virtues and flaws......

Just my two cents. I mean, if you really want to do "Hermetic Teacher", I would say ten breakthrough points (canon says 30 for minor, which I think this is). This is a really dull discovery that won't do much at all in canon. Now, we do need a magnitude of effect, even though this is not going to be a spell. Looking at the Mentum guidelines, my WAG is a magnitude 6 or 7 (My closest Hermetic comparison to what you want to do is reaching many minds at once and treating them like one. Your vision, I'm sure, will be different). So mag 6 or 7 minus a simple dice, two to five rolls, depending on the amount of points needed (since each magnitude counts as a breakthrough point). Really, not enough rolls for pattern calling. You could very easily avoid any warping points, with dice just a little above average (two sixes or higher in a row is not hard). If you do get two or more warping points, you will need to check for Twilight, but before we can really tell how much warping points you gain, we need to know how your game handles the canon Warping rules. The canon rules seem (Serf's parma) to give extra warping points, but it is fuzzy enough that many games just ignore/house rule that away....

In rules as written, the Arts must be taught one on one. I don't see how a university can work as long as this remains true, and the end of "Apprentices," explicitly says as much.

Well, two things. First, I would swear that "Opening the Arts" must be one on one, and takes a season (thus my mentoring idea). Once they have been opened, serf's parma, arts can be taught to multiple people. Second, even it is not the case, so what? Every University has a Library, and textbooks. They can learn the Arts by reading their Terram textbook, with an "instructor" "teaching" the class (not actually, by game mechanics using the teaching skill, but there for Roleplaying moments and general assistance). Then actual teachers for skills, but you will call them labs. Like the "Parma Magica" lab, where students will get practical instruction on defending themselves. This, of course, gives you possible grinds/jocks stories, depending on what style your various players favor......

Note that with level 15 lab projects for Breakthrough research each Discovery in one gives you 3 (three!) Breakthrough points, still to be stabilized. No, you cannot stabilize the same Discovery result several times, getting several times the 3 points out of it. And for a Major / Hermetic Breakthrough you need about 45 / 60 breakthrough points.
So - if troupe and SG agree that this research makes sense at all - your magus is embarking upon the quest of his life, of which he will use up several decades. Few will envy him, and, depending on the type of campaign, he may become completely incapable to keep up with it.
In those campaigns I have seen, HoH:TL Breakthrough research is the last resort to finish a project begun with serendipitous Insights (AM p.6-9), once all sources for further Insights have run out. And even with Insights I have never yet seen a player character magus attempt a Major or Hermetic Breakthrough.


EDIT: Look up Aurulentus and Marcus Tauros from MoH as examples, how HoH:TL Breakthrough research affects magi.

My character is doing just this in my current game. The main difference is that he's starting off with the covenant children, in order to practice. After he's got a few years under his belt, THEN he plans to set up more of a university-style system for Magi. (But yeah - it probably won't work as well as he hopes, but at the least he'll get some well-educated grogs.)

Anyway... the only restriction to learning Hermetic magic one-on-one is if a student is using an instructor (via the Teaching rules) as a source. This is further only restricted to Forms and Techniques - any other arcane ability (Magic Theory, Hermetic Lore, Hermetic Law, etc.) can be taught as a group just fine. There are examples of doing this HoH:TL, in the Bonisagus section - teaching 2 apprentices MT at the same time.

Further, multiple individuals can use the same (non-Teacher) source simultaneously: it's common in Hebrew schools and at secular medieval universities. In fact, it's kind of what universities are known for at the time - students coming together, reading from a book, and having someone (the professor) leading a discussion on it. The game mechanics for doing this are listed in RoP:D, pg. 132. Basically, you end up averaging out everyone's Source bonus, at (# of students)/(# of students+1).

You can cancel out this penalty by setting up your learning hall/room as a lab - single use, optimized for teaching. You can only gain up to +3 on it, but that'll be enough (if you have a decent number of students) to cancel out the penalty for learning from the same source.

Have an issue with everyone reading from the same text? Set up an Imaginem spell that makes the book appear Huge (Covenents, pg.89) - Huge books being the technology at the time for works that multiple people can read from. The spell itself could be a variant of "The First Furrow Guides the Second" (Covenents, pg. 97) - just have the created image be 20x the regular size, so that everyone could see it. Or just do what normal medieval universities did, and force the students to buy/make their own copies.

EDIT - and really, this is a more efficient way of learning pretty much anything, at least for low levels. I would imagine that you can find high-quality summae for whatever you're teaching, up to lvl 3 abilities fairly easily; lvl 4 or 5 is probably doable as well, for "core subjects" (Magic Theory, basically). It's only after THAT that you need to start thinking about actually teaching, assuming you don't want to jump into tractus. (Which actually isn't efficient - Summae>teaching>tractus>practice.) Which, from looking through Arts&Acadamae, actually maps to the level of skill taught at a Univerity (3=good parish school, 4=cathedral school, 5=University).

The way my character is dealing with teaching via the Gift is as follows:

  1. Short-term: have all the magi teaching learn Parma at a good level, and then extend it to cover the Gifted students.

1b. Enchant the walls of the teaching room to be transparent in one direction - and have the labs of the other magi on the other sides. This allows the magi to keep their parma on students (they have to keep line of sight), but otherwise allows them to continue working in their labs while someone else teaches.

  1. Use the Tremere technique: assign a grog to each Gifted student at an early age - that grog is explicitly there to act as (at times) a physical barrier to anyone who wants to beat the magi up over the fact that he's a freaky weirdo.

  2. Research "Unaffected by the Gift" (RoP:M, pg. 47) - it's a minor general virtue, which means there are a few magical systems that can actually grant this ability straight out: putting together your own mystery cult, for example. Or set up a mass-production line of Figurine Magic practiconers to make dolls for the whole class. (That one is probably breaking the rules a bit.)

  3. However, because it's general, you may not be able to incorporate it into Hermetic Theory (troupe's option, of course.) Failing that, take a look at trying to fully incorporate Gentle Gift, so that it's part of the standard Opening ritual. Using the rules out of Hedge Magic (pg. 51) for Subtle Opening, opening the Arts of an Apprentice with Gentle Gift could possibly generate Insight. The Jerbiton would likely be delighted to help, although the possibilities of botching the roll are non-trivial.

Of course, assuming this is a Major Integration, you'd need to do it at least 15 times, at one season a pop. Relatively easy to do (assuming you work with the Jerbitons on it), but it may take a while - less if you can get some sort of Jerbiton researcher to do similar research, alongside you (ie, you both do the same research, then combine later at the end. That would require cooperation, of course - not something hermetic magi are particularly good at.)

EDIT 5. Other possibilities: Learning through tele-presence (ie, holographic clones.) Basically, have a ring-based Rego Imaginem effect: ring A grabs all the species moving into Ring B, and moves them inside itself. Ring B grabs all the species moving out of ring A, and moves them outside of itself. The end result is that the student sits inside ring A, looking out into the classroom. People in the classroom look at ring B, and see the student sitting there.

This does assume that the Gift is not translated through magic - if it is, then this probably wouldn't work. (Although it's a nice effect to build for remote instruction.) Your troupe will have to decide that, of course. Personally, my troupe didn't care for this one, as it was "too sci-fi-esque." Ah, well...

Thanks for your help here. It is actually a reading of Aurulentus which got me started on the math here. I can't figure out why it would take "several decades" for a Hermetic Breakthrough. Aurulentus spent only 7 years in the lab and successfully made a Minor Breakthrough. I'm not counting the seasons he spent learning, but by Gauntlet+20 years he had succeeded in his goal and made his breakthrough, a longevity potion that did not cause sterility.

From what I can make of your quoted post, to stabilize 20 discoveries, you need 20 separate discoveries to stabilize, which appears to be the mistake I was making. This is not clear in the text! Aurulentus spent 8 seasons stabilizing his Minor Breakthrough, which makes perfect sense since most of them were 4th magnitude longevity potions which each earned him 4 points. But if your reading of the rules is right, that would mean that Aurulentus successfully stabilized each of his discoveries in only a single season.

I guess I just don't understand what I am doing wrong with Hermetic Breakthroughs. I realize it is supposed to take a long time, but the difference between Aurulentus's 7 years of lab work to get 15 points and another magus who needs 60 points would seem to be simply one of magnitude. 7 x 4 = 28 years. A long time, to be sure. But hardly impossible. I presume that Twilight would be the big danger.

Major research projects should be done by large scale research teams. The Manhattan Project took far more effort than any Hermetic breakthrough yet it was done in a few years. Also another thing to help with large scale research projects is when pumping out items they can be used to improve the lab's experimentation and safety specialty.

I do think the true key to any research is snagging warping protection. Once that issue is dealt with you can make the projects you research bigger and bigger!

The description of Aurulentus Minor Breakthrough is on MoH p.20.

So he made 6 discoveries:
(1) experimenting on the Bronze Cord of his familiar, verrry risky (1 lucky and successful attempt, a second try was not even possible, a botch could have crippled both magus and familiar for life) -> 8(?) Breakthrough points,
(2) experimenting on Bane of the Decrepit Body (3 attempts) -> 5 Breakthrough points,
(3) experimenting on The Maculate Noblewomen (4 attempts) -> 3 Breakthrough points,
(4) experimenting on Widening the River Styx (3 attempts) -> 4 Breakthrough points,
(5) experimenting on Artemis' Fertility (3 attempts) -> 8 Breakthrough points,
(6) experimenting on several 4th magnitude Longevity Rituals (4 attempts altogether, and you don't want a botch with these either) -> 4 Breakthrough points,
And lucked out incredibly to stabilize these 6 discoveries in only 6 seasons.

He also spent time in the lab on unconclusive experimentation with:
Pose Clotho's Question (1 attempt),
Pose Nona's Question (1 attempt),
and Verifying the Presence of Artemis' Blessing (1 attempt).

So he took great risks:
(A) experimenting when binding familiar (also not sure how one can stabilize a discovery from that later - as the result is not repeatable),
(B) experimenting with Longevity Rituals (SG judgement what happens to its recipient on a botch),
(C) making discoveries for up to 8 Breakthrough points at once, with substantial risks for twilight when stabilizing them.
And he always was lucky where it counted. Though he gathered quite some warping in his first 15 years, and on top of it three twilight scars in the second.

Still, with fortune smiling upon the brave/foolhardy, he used some 7 years for the 32 Breakthrough points - and was that fast mainly because of his many Breakthrough points per discovery.
Just doing the same with only 3 point Breakthroughs would require not 6 but 10-11 discoveries, hence rather 12.5 years with still the same good success rate, and enough luck to stabilize 10-11 discoveries each in the first attempt. Without all his luck it is at least 15 years, I should think.

Does this help? Feel free to ask further.


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I should think so, too.
Hermetic research is not easy to communicate while you are at it, however.

Do you believe the following?
AM Insights on a particular topic are gathered by several seekers with excellent Magic Theory at once, written out for general reading, and then handed to the lab rats for experimentation in their specialty labs.
The lab rats will gather the Breakthough points that way and write out their lab texts for general reading again, so they can exchange them. And in the end one chief lab rat puts all those lab texts together, reproduces them in her lab, accumulates the Breakthrough points necessary and write the final tractatus, mentioning all her collaborators and contributors.
And while all this happens, a group of magi holds hands, smoothes ruffled feathers, disarms intrigues, negotiates priorities and tracks the project: the Order's poor middle management.:slight_smile:

Yes - but to break a 'big' Lesser Limit like the Limit of Warping to allow for 'big' research is a hen and egg problem for the Order.:slight_smile:


It's actually very easy to communicate while doing it. Successful stabilization creates a lab text that any Magi with a Hermetic lab can use. Getting anyone to share is the canon problem. Now, the real fun comes from your reading of the Discovery side of things. It's a lab activity and, by definition, creates a lab text. Now, the stabilization section implies, but does not clearly state, that the "Discoverer" must be the one to stabilize the Discovery. That's how I would read it. But, a game which wants to encourage this sort of project might read it the other way, at which point you can have a specialist (MT 11+) do the Discoveries, which are farmed out to less focused magi to stabilize. Wouldn't that be some fun....

It helps enormously. Thank you for the walk-through. Initially, I has thought he was using uniformly small experiments, and I went with a magnitude 3 effect for this purpose. Now I see he was using a variety of effects, and that there is merit to using large experiments, as these give you more stabilization points. Now that I understand each stabilization has to be performed on a new experiment, this makes much more sense.

Gratefully yours,

Stabilizing a discovery results in a lab text explaining your discovery (HoH:TL p.28 - and it is also quite self-understood). But making a lab text readable by others requires further effort (ArM5 p.102).

Not for the 'less focused' magi, who would get most of the Warping and least of the fame.:wink: Would they all wear infrared robes?


Yes, but if you read p29 of HOH, True Lineages, "You must successfully break the author's code", which says to me that the author doesn't need to add "code", for example, if he was part of a larger project.

Yes, canon is quite clear that sharing the fame is what stops this from going on. So one assumes that it's happening because of ugly circumstances trumping worries about warping or "fame". Like the Hermetic equivalent of WWII.......

To me it rather unequivocally refers to ArM5 p.102 "These Laboratory Texts are not immediately useful to others, as they include all sorts of personal abbreviations and shortcuts that others cannot understand." and "If you want to translate the Laboratory Texts of another magus, whose secrets and abbreviations you do not know, you must work out his system of abbreviations."
Unifying these abbreviations in a project with several magi would likely mean, that all magi involved must first work out the abbreviations of the boss (again as described in ArM5 p.102), and then use these instead of their own. Whether the latter is possible at all or runs afoul of individual quirks, even some connected with the Gift, is a decision of each troupe. And if it shall be possible in a campaign, the troupe would also have to decide the effort and consequences of learning to write another's abbreviations.


This is actually the relevant part. The limit is being unable to affect warping once it has happened. Stopping the warping itself is not actually in the limit.

Anyway, I can think of several ways to get protection from warping before completing the breakthrough:

  1. Greater Immunity (Warping). Okay this technically isn't raw. it should be lesser immunity. Warping never killed any Hermetic Magi I know of. Still I can see why some people would frown at this. I think its fairly well balanced when compared to this:
  2. Transformed (Human). You want to know what the worst part about having 0 magic might is? Not being God.
  3. Ablation: Becoming a demon isn't a Code violation so you aren't even breaking any laws! Plus there are even traditions that teach Ablation without needing to work directly with the demon.
  4. Transforming the Spirit: (From Hoh: Mystery Cults) Hey look Faerie might. You can even cast spells! Transform the body and you won't even age!

Yes, One Shot, but note that "abbr. and shortcuts" are not required to be used. In the real world, there is a difference between writing a shopping list and writing a lab report. Now, in canon, Magi write "shopping lists" because "why do the work for the other guy?". In an emergency, nothing seems to say that they would continue to be sloppy. Now, in an emergency, security would probably be an issue. What I think should be done is not blowing seasons "translating" notes, but someone would make a formal code, and everyone working on the project would spend a season to get a new specialization, ie, Latin (5), project code. Everyone who had the project code would be able to read the notes raw.

Ah, lamech, what Warping problem? This is why, just like the real world, research is a game for the young. Come in with a warping score of zero, and it's going to take years before you get a warping score of three, given that you are sharing the stabilization lode with others, and you are only getting warping half the time (assuming a magnitude of 7 because you are in a rush. Mag three has a one in ten chance, right? (three minus a simple die, only rise Twilight on a one)). Heck, many young members of House Criamon will probably be happy to volunteer.....

That's something to negotiate with your SG and troupe.

I can imagine a Mystery Cult that initiates a Minor Hermetic Virtue Hermetic Shorthand, allowing to write during your lab projects Lab Texts readable to all its practitioners without impact to your lab totals, in exchange for a Vow to share all your future lab texts within the Cult. But I can also imagine a SG and troupe allowing 'project code' to be written instead of idiosyncratic Lab Texts for a reduction in lab total; and of cause also the strict ones just referring to ArM5 p.102 and be done with it.


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Lamech, you also should negotiate your breakthrough goal with SG and troupe, not with the forum.

Note, that warping and Final Twilight, not aging, is indeed usually the limit to the power of a magus - so all will depend on the scope of the campaign.

No SG in his right mind will allow a magus character Immunity (Warping) - for the same reason why Immunity (Aging) is not possible. The same holds for magi with Transformed Human.
Anyway RoP:M character design is written so that SGs can come up with templates for players to complete, not for players to use these rules in an unmoderated fashion.

The magus turning demon and the magus turning faerie are examples how to force the troupe to let your magus quickly exit the campaign, and give every SG enough hooks to do that in a few months campaign time latest.