Companions, grogs, and the Gift

No, this is not about companions or grogs having the Gift, but about their reactions to the Gift.

Now, we all know that mundane people generally react badly to people having the Gift - the immediate reaction being that Gifted persons feel weird, creepy, can't be trusted, etc. (ArM5 p 75-77)

This reaction holds true not only for strangers, but for covenfolks - grogs and companions - as well.
Long familiarity with particular magi will neutralize the negative reaction ("Yes, yes, Randolf the wizard looks really creepy. I know. But once you get to know him, he is actually a fairly nice chap."), but this takes time.

So, for a brand new covenant, how do magi manage to get grogs and servants for it?
And companions - why do they associate with the magi, and go on adventures with the magi, when they should have the same negative reaction to the Gift as everyone else?

For an well-established covenant this is less of a problem - grogs will either have little contact with the magi on a daily basis, or they will have grown familiar with the magi who live there. For a new covenant though, you need to recruit all those people in the first place.

Main roles for companions in the game is either to provide to specialized skills that the magi don't have and/or to interface between Gifted magi and mundanes who get scared by the Gift - but the companions in question will of course need to associate with the magi quite a bit, and how do you persuade them to do that?

This, how the grogs and (especially) the companions in a Saga can easily interact with magi despite the negative reactions of the Gift is something that seems mostly ignored in the books. The very few covenant-living mundane characters that are detailed in the Tribunal books never seem to have any problems associating with "their" magi. (Something that struck me right now is that reading the Tribunal books one almost gets the impression that Companions are specific to player covenants, since so few are even mentioned in most covenant descriptions.)

There is a suggestion in the core rulebook that many of the people who live in covenants are there only because they have nowhere else to go. That certainly works in many cases, but there are a great many fun character concepts that don't match that description.

This turned out a bit more rambling and longwinded than intended, but how do people handle the negative reactions to the Gift with regards to grogs and companions? Just ignore it, or what?

With us, a newly founded covenant will have a very few companions and grogs some magi brought from established covenants they had lived in some time, or made their apprenticeship at. These companions - plus the occasional magus with the Gentle Gift or Redcap - then hire the other grogs and companions, and establish initial mundane relations.
I remember, that an accomplished grog sergeant was also the gift of an established covenant to a newly established one at the Rhine - but didn't look this up now.

So followed this road for the saga that i run. The Covenant has been kept deliberaly small (13 grogs and a companion for 3 mages). I ran 2 prequel adventures to get the players into the game, since one was new and the others had not played it in years.

  1. Some of the starting Grogs were donated by one's apprenticeship Covenant and are second cousins to the Covenant born mage. They've known each other from birth. This eased things in.

  2. Two of the grogs have been involved, in their backstory, in deadly fights, so while they are not professional killers, they can't go back to their own lives, so they have no other options. The compagnon is the bastard son of a baron, who was kicked out upon his brother's ascension.

  3. The ones who are paid to be there. A sailor and a forester, they simply take an above average salary. They are foreigners in the region and would have limited other options.

One thing that helps things along is having a gently gifted mage, who smoothes things along. Yes the necromancer is creep, but that's just him right? And he heals us when we fall ill. The friendly mage is nice and buys the first round at the tavern.

The covenant has grown as some of the grogs and the companion get wives, so while they might be stand-offish about the mages, they have a reason to be there...

It's one of the default suggested grogs for the Rhine Gorge saga: Hilda.

Further Rhine Gorge spoilers:

I don't like Torwen so much, but he makes for an easy plot arc, find him a wife and in exchange him/his dad will become a vis source. Since he has a little faerie and magic lore, it's something he can teach the PCs or be their info dump source. So I chose to keep him for the campaign.

I would have considered Byrek for the party if there had been a Bjornaer, since he is strongly tied to the house, so he'd have a good hook. We were teens together in Crintera.

Wolkan as a recruitable grog fits the pattern of no choice to be there. He'll offer to work for the party as his old job of robbing merchants in exchange for not taking a pilum of flame to the face. Which considering that he is an amoral character works.

David ben David is my favorite of the default grogs outlined, sadly my players never went to Trier... He comes from a maligned minority, and as a businessman can gain a lot financially from cooperating with the party, if the party is willing to use their magic for financial uses. He also makes a good bridge for the party to interact with the vibrant middle age Jewish community of the Upper/Middle Rhine.

But overall, the people who end up working for the order are likely people who could not find proper work/fit in normal society. Whether it's a woman who wants to be a scholar without being a nun, a woman who wants to take up the sword or people who ran afoul of the mundane powers that be.

Considering that most Magi grow up throughout their apprenticeship, they will have developed friendships among the younger grogs. I am sure many of us had experience with a weird creepy kid who had a useful skill while growing up. Maybe they were good with computers or always had the newest video games. Now just imagine if that weird creepy kid could actually work magic.

So young Magi have a very good chance of having developed actual friendships (or at least an understanding) with many of the grogs they grew up with. If they leave on good terms with the Covenant then there will be at least a couple of those grogs who are willing to leave with them.

Now granted some of those grogs will actually end up being companions, but all of them combined will form the core of the new covenants mundanes. Each of them will be used to at least one of the Magi. This core group will handle most of the interactions between the Magi and others until the group expands and the non-magi members of the Covenant have enough time to get used to the Magi.


I agree.

In the last couple of new Spring covenants foundations where I have been involved, I have generally assumed that the young magi start off with one or two grogs of one description or other. I do not believe that a typical magus, even a young and inexperienced one, would travel without a servant, probably one doing everything from make the bed, via making camp and cooking, to negotiating with peddlars and inn keepers.

These grogs may be childhood friends or gifts from the alma mater. Either is very plausible. They could also have been recruited for extra Gift compensating wages, or be outcasts happy to get wages at all, but I consider that slightly less plausible than the other two.

Other plausible recruitment routes are,

  1. Once you have one grog, they are very handy to recruit another, and most grogs do not have to deal with the magi on an everyday basis.
  2. Above normal wages.
  3. Outcasts with no alternative, as already mentioned.
  4. Some people already aware of the Gift, may rationally know that it is know that there is nothing foul, even if that they emotionally feel that there is. Such people may consciously choose to follow the magi out of curiosity or hope of some personal gain. All it takes is will power.

But when OP asks how we play it, there is a certain difference in how we want to play it and how we actually play it. Roleplaying the effect of the Gift is not easy, and when it is always there and should be played, it easily distracts from the real story.

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Yeah, it's tricky.

One example from my saga is that even after helping the papal legate through the siege, instead of getting a recommendation letter, the legate says that he will send it to the important magus, since he does not trust the gifted mage in front of him enough to entrust him with a document that he has officially signed and stamped. I did that to emphasise the difference between the treatment that the gentle-gifted mage usually gets from NPCs.

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In the "House Loyalty" play-by-post game on here, the SG asked the players would they rather recruit locals with good local knowledge, but no knowledge of magi and not used to the Gift, or would they rather recruit from covenants so the grogs have knowledge of magi and will have experience of dealing with the Gift but no local contacts.

We chose ones from covenants, as we really didn't want misunderstandings.

Problems with grogs are why many covenants have an autocrat so the magi only have to deal with one mundane person who dislikes them.