Consideration of Magical Superiority

As a general rule, people consider Hermetic specialization vastly superior to Hermetic generalization, to the point that I've heard undisputed assertions such as "being a generalist is a flaw in its own right" and "once you can train an Apprentice without committing a crime, more specialization will always be better than less." Paraphrased, because I can't find the exact topics, but it's the idea that counts. And while I usually disagree with the idea of mechanical power being considered more important than concepts, some concepts do require a good amount of mechanical power. So how might you make a generalist who can establish a niche for themselves and/or overcome the weaknesses inherent in not being a TeFo specialist? A "power is subjective" stance is actually welcome here; the effect that I'm looking for is more that if this generalist character and a standard specialist character were evaluated purely on magical merit by the rest of the Order, the generalist would be considered magically superior.

Is such a character even possible? If so, how? If not, why not? Thanks in advance for any input.

I've played with 2 concepts that have been fairly succesful as generalists, though each of them are a sort of specialist in his own right.

  1. Utility Magus.
    Diedne Magic and a focus on increasing Arts in general. This character is very much a 'master of none', but he essentially always "has the right spell" - as long as the right spell isn't too high a magnitude. He also sucks in combat. Hard. He could use school of Vilano attacks, but his Finesse is low. He does have some capacity as a party buffer though, as surprisingly few spells to strengthen your friends are above magnitude 3. In general, he should avoid combat though.

  2. Verditius Enchanter.
    Enchanters can function with surprisingly low Arts, and as such can do passingly well as generalists. Except, this is a lie. The trick is to focus very hard on Magic Theory. Keep it at least as high as as your highest Art, and it's suddently very widely useful. This idea becomes much more viable with a verditius, given the advantages of Verditius magic (ArM5, p. 93) and the various mysteries of the house (HoH: MC), but even more so with the lab specialisation rules in Covenants.

I've found that such a character is actually possible, though it does make your life a little more difficult as a player, as you need to be constantly thinking.
Let's assume a TeFo Specialist has a Te/Fo 30, allowing them to generate (theoretically) around level 55 spells. That's 2 * 465 XP = 930 XP
Dividing that equally into all 15 Arts, 930 / 15 = 62, which is an 11 in all Arts. Arguably (Sta +2 or +3), someone like that could generate level 25 spells, and being able to learn any spell gives you a lot of options. I'll take the stereotypical Flambeau as the example. CrIg 60, Sta +3. Using Pillum of Flame, his Penetration is at least 43, with no Score in the Penetration Ability (which he would probably have). That's pretty impressive. However, a generalist could easily deal with this, a Fast Cast (or Interrupted, if you're using those rules) PeIg 20 Spell (Base 4, extinguish a fire, cooling the ashes to merely warm, and +2 magnitudes for 2 * +5 damage beyond the first +5 (as per the PeIg guideline, and +2 Voice) would snuff this out in its tracks. PeIg 20 is learnable by our generalist (PeIg 22, Int +3, Magic Theory 5 (Int should probably be lower, Magic Theory should probably be higher)) in two seasons. In a pinch, Spontaneous Casting would generate at least an 11, which could be used to rip 10 damage out of the Pillum, mitigating the amount of damage done. Instead (if the storyguide allows it), the generalist could fast cast a CrAq spell near himself, or in the path of the fire to snuff it out.[sup]1[/sup]. Alternatively, alternatively, he could cast a MuVi 25 spell and change the target to the Flambeau, or a PeVi 25 spell and just write the Pillum out of existence. Of course, the Flambeau might respond with a higher level spell that the generalist can't MuVi (Level 25) or PeVi (Level 35 at least), but then the above point about CrAq applies, or CrTe to create a wall to block the projectile (since the spell wasn't aimed). If he learnt from that mistake, you could always fast cast ReCo and teleport out of the way.

That was a simple example, but the point I'm trying to make is that a generalist has a lot of options, while a specialist has only a few. Sure, leaning towards a favoured Te or Fo is beneficial as it gives you some power to leverage, but a true generalist can still be incredibly powerful, if he's clever. Of course, a generalist will lean heavily on mastering his spells, and knowing how to best leverage them to his use, and he'll spend a lot of time inventing simple utility spells he can master and fast cast like a maniac as the situation dictates (being able to generate 24 tonnes of water in ~1.5 seconds can be awfully destructive in the right hands. CrAq 24 tonnes of water. MuAq it into ether. CrIg to light the ether on fire. Instant siege breaker/house burner/general death machine.)

Remember, when all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. The generalist has many more options to deal with his issues than a specialist, even if his raw magical power is lower.

1 - an Individual of water is a puddle 15ft across, and 2 paces deep at its centre. Assuming 1 pace ~ 1 metre, and puddle is hemi-spherical, 2/3 pi * r^3, or 2/3 * 3 (ish) * 2.3m^3 (7.5ft being just over 2.3m). That gives us 2 * 12.167 = 24.334 m^3. Or about 24 tonnes of water.

This depends on your saga.
If you are only 3 Magi and the two others are Necromancers, you´d better be a generalist.
And if the kind of adventures you will experience in the near future are highly unpredictable, a generalist is a good idea, too.
On the other hand, if you know that you´ll often have to deal with wizard´s wars or demons, a highly specialized Perdo-Flambeau will be good. But what do you do with him, when your saga is about "interfering with the mundane without alerting the Quaesitores?"


My experience is that specialists have a bit more to do and have a bit more flexibility. Spontaneous magic isn't all that great unless you are a specialist, and it opens up a wider list of spells that are not only possible, but have a reasonable degree of success. A generalist is a bit harder to manage unless one has a huge grimoire of spells. But it's a bit more challenging for a generalist to get a large grimoire of spells, because they generally don't have a lot of synergy with learning multiple spells of the same TeFo in a season, or if they do, they are extremely low level spells. Yes there is a bit of an issue where all problems look like nails because one is holding a hammer, but that's not a bad thing and can lead to stories. Playing a generalist means that there are areas where you are simply outclassed. I'm playing a bit of a generalist in the HBO saga, Victor. I think he's a viable character only because of the size of his grimoire. He knows 405 levels of spells just out of gauntlet[sup]1[/sup]. So, in one respect, he's not a generalist. He's a specialist, because of the size of his grimoire. So, yeah, specialists rule. Oh, and he's a Tremere, and has about the worst House Virtue around, because Certamen is just not that common unless troupes make a real effort to make it common.

[sup]1[/sup] The saga played through the apprenticeship for all of the magi, a house rule that granted apprentices 1 xp per season with which to purchase spells of 5th level or below (60 xp in all), and provided ample opportunities for learning.

A generalist who specializes "off track" would be the way I would go- look to some of the mysteries or ancient magics, and try to get them to work for your character. You can be a strong educator, good with magic theory, and always have a strong apprentice and familiar to boost up your lab totals. Then develop house mysteries, or research ancient magic...

I have one character who is a generalist and seems to have a lot to do. This character is a Verditius (haven't done any items yet, though) with Affinity/Puissant Philosophiae and Mystical Choreography. AL 1+1 plus Phil 5+1+2 after just two seasons of post-apprenticeship work on Philosophiae is great for Ceremonial Casting. Having gotten most of the Techniques to 5 or 6 and some balance in the Forms, I can spontaneously cast nearly most level-15 spell on the first try, many level-20 Rego spells on the first try, and the rest at least level 10 or level 15 with a few tries before leaving home. These tries don't take that long, either. I can cast all sorts of buffs before leaving and maintain concentration with one of my few formulaic spells for as long as I want. That essentially gives me some free magnitudes by keeping some durations low, too. I don't do quite as well without as nice an Aura, but not too far off. And they don't take that long as I have another formulaic spell to create a casting circle on the floor/ground.

Sure, right now (not long out of gauntlet) I cannot do much as far as penetration in combat. But being able to do all sorts of useful Intellego magic, flight, invisibility, etc. makes me pretty versatile outside of combat. I'm finding the key is to do whatever I can that doesn't need penetration instead of trying to figure out how to penetrate.

As a Verditius, the Philosophiae will come in handy. Sometimes it's capped by Magic Theory. But it will allow me to do some things that are not capped by Magic Theory. For example, opening an object with a Queen of Vis after not too much more work and one initiation - yes, a bunch of seasons, but really less than expected. (As a long-term goal I'm actually targeting two Queens of Vis, not one, though I'm not sure who would need something like that even opened and could even pay for it. House Tremere?) Items of Quality are also not capped by Magic Theory. I'd have to check others. Eventually I should be able to write a really awesome summa on Philosophiae, too. So I've got some synergy going. The same type of thing could be done with a non-Verditius who likes languages and uses Artes Liberales, for example.

So I do think being a generalist can work. But it's harder to make it work, and it really helps to set up some other sort of synergy.

A Rego Vim specialist (or at least one that has a moderate focus) with the following to effects in enchanted items can be a fairly potent (or at least not sucky) spontaneous generalist.

Intangible Tunnel - turns every R:Touch effect into R: Sight (or Arcane, or whatever you want). Note that to use an Intangible tunnel, you need to be able to perceive it - and a Tunnel cast by an enchanted item counts as "someone else" casting it. So you'll have to discuss it with your troupe in terms of how that will work. At the least - put a taste-based InVi effect in your familiar, and kiss your enchanted object when you cast the Tunnel.

Maintain the Demanding Spell - turns every D:Concentration effect into D:Moon.

With those two effects, you can limit your spont castings to Touch and Concentration, respectively. If you want to add penetration, Add a triggered Perdo Vim anti-magic effect that goes down the tunnel right before your own, low-level spont. Shieldbreaker is the purely Hermetic version, but that's an all-or-nothing approach. I don't think there's a PeVi effect that only drops innate Magic Resistance. There is one that drops art scores - I'm not sure if that would also affect a magi's MR. You should probably discuss that one with your Troupe.

Alternately, use a theoretical Creo Vim effect to add levels of penetration to a spell (This is does not exist in the current rules - but adding magnitudes to a spell with CrVi is implied in the MuVi section - that's another one you should talk over with your troupe.)

Also - get a Talisman that adds a +4 F/M bonus or so to your castings, so that spont spells are that much easier. I think the Technique F/M bonuses are usually +3, but there's one that is a +1, and another that's a +4. (I think.)

EDIT - wait, just have your talisman be a Glove - all of your spells will be touch-based anyway, and a Glove adds something like +4 to touch-based spells.

Alternately - a MuVi focus on spontaneous "superficial changes" can take huge advantage of a generalist, low-level grimoire. Mainly, it's implied that any MuVi effect that doesn't modify the magnitude of the spell is "superficial" - which suggests that you can use a MuVi superficial technique to change the implementation of a spell. For example: learning a "change into wolf" spell, and using a superficial MuVi effect to make it "change into cat" instead.

Note that some changes may be "superficial, but complex" - earning an additional level of magnitude, even if it's still using the "half the magnitude of the target spell" guideline as a base. For example, "change into wolf" -> "change into octopus" may be considered "superficial, but complex", as it's getting out of the elemental attribute of the beastie (wolf->earth, octopus->water). So you should check that with your Troupe.

There are a number of effects in the lvl 10-20 range that techniques such as these are useful on- shapeshifting and Mentem effects come immediately to mind. Also, some PeVi effects are very specific (EDIT - such as Shieldbreaker), and become much more useful when generalized in this fashion.

Recommendation: take Cautious with Concentration, and the Silent spellcasting virtues, if you're gong to go this route: you'll be casting a lot of MuVi effects, which tend to take time.

I guess there are nuances of specialists and in some case, being specialist is required.
As far as I saw in various Sagas, a true specialist (= very high Te+Fo) is really only beneficial if it is a combat magus who needs high Penetration total to be able to cast high level spell with good penetration value.

Otherwise, there are a range of "medium" level of specialisation, which requires a little bit of dedication in some Arts, but will already be quite efficient with Te+Fo of 30-35. For example, a weather master will needs almost every Technique and good Auram and Aquam, he does not really need high Penetration since most of his spells will be affecting the environment, so as long as he is able to cast his spells without fatigue, he is fine.

A craftmage will need high Finesse, but most spells will range between 15 to 35, so if he has a Rego and Creo around 10-12, he need might be happy with 8-10 level in the appropriate Forms to be good to go.

A magus with only a high Te+Fo combo is a kind of a monomaniac, but to pretend to be a specialist, he would also needs a set of decent skills & abilities, like Lore in the appropriate Realm, Artes Liberales or Philosophae (with the right specialty), Craft, Area Lore and what not. Then, he will be considered by his peers as a specialist in the field.

There is a few other occurrences where high specialisation will be valuable: if you are frequently casting with penalty like silent or in hostile Aura (that would be Infernal and Divine for most mage) and if you want to invent your spells instead of learning from labtext or are targeting those very high level spell (>55) and needs to cast/invent them by yourself.

All my players have "thematic" mages, meaning there are specialists, but their specialities covers four to five Arts, and none sees the benefit of having a Te+Fo of 60.
It is true as well that I have never seen a young magus with 5 or 6 in all his Arts - it is possibly the only case where I would not find such concept interesting as it will really limit to low level his initial list of spells.

Yup, that's the method I'm using. I've found it really doesn't require specialization in ReVi to pull it off. I have Vi 6 (on par with other Forms) and Re 12 (double other Techniques), bu that could have been 9 and 9. It's just that I took the opportunity to study Rego recently. Rego was lower when I started. To maintain a level-15 spell this way only takes a level-25 ReVi spell. And the tunnel can be relatively low since the spells going through it are artificially low due to D: Concentration.

Having played this character, I would tend to disagree that this applies because of the intense focus. I had high Muto and high Vim along with a Minor Magical Focus on changing my own spells and Deft Vim to make it work really well. I even discovered I was better off only having a few Vim spells (set with varying targets and the like) and entirely altering them than I was having a huge variety of low-level spells. So this really is a specialist, just a specialist that can also handle a lot of spontaneous magic.

No, it really isn't. Several of the guidelines go against this entirely. Look at changing Form or Technique, for example. Plus, increase range and decreasing duration or similar to maintain the same magnitude would be two applications of a more difficult guideline. And all this is beside the fact that the superficial guideline explicitly says that the basic effect cannot be changed using that guideline. That guideline is for changing things like the sigil. This is why it takes a specialist, because that lowest guideline isn't so useful for what you want to do.

Becoming. I did it with CrMe, so that also worked with improvement rituals. But it's the route to take with Becoming and similar things.

Another thought if you want to go generalist- invest some virtues in education (Baccalaureat or doctor) as well as good parens. Having your magic theory, artes liberals, and philosophae pumped up help a lot. The other direction I tend to go is great com and good teacher, which allows you to write great tracti almost from the beginning and gets you in good with book trading a lot sooner.

I think that you can think of it as being a specialist in things that are not arts.

Tellus' suggestion of the Verditious enchanter and the spontaneous specialist strike me as reasonable ways to go about it. the obvious strength of a generalist is the ability to get off spells with tons of requisites but I don't imediately see a way to leverage that into something useful.

You could create some virtue/situation that allowed you to get a hold of lots of lab texts for really useful spells and work towards having a tool for every job then match this with some virtues that allow you to maximize the utility of spells that you know (flawless magic, flexible formulaic, enchanted casting tools, life boost, method caster, and so on. Tamed magic or mutantes if you have a tolerance for cheese or some house rules)

There is a guideline for someone else casting the spell. It is harder. It isn't like this issue isn't covered by the rules and needs to be developed, it is explicitly detailed by the rules. What you'll need to discus with your troupe is implementation of house rules to let this trick work at a lower level.


I think that this is a good character design, my current character in my saga is kind of like this, and is a fun character to play. He has lots of utility formulaic spells, mostly learnt from purchased/acquired Lab Texts, and is effectively specialised in hitting things with a sword. He also has Leadership so can lead trained groups of grogs in combat. In play, he tends to have something direct, useful, appropriate, and capable to do in most stories, but he doesn't tend to have a one-spell solution to many problems.

Whereas the more specialised magi at the covenant, tend to find themselves either able to resolve their problem with a high-level, one-spell solution, or having to flail around approaching problems at right angles and doing things in complicated or risky ways so that they can use their specialisation (or having to find somebody else to solve their problem). Which are all fun too, of course. Just different.

Yes, TeFo and adding/removing magnitudes is the bailiwick of the medium and heavy guidelines. My bad - I was unclear on that one.

However, "Basic Effect" is not defined anywhere, from what I recall - so I interpret that as "guideline". (From what I recall, this is one of those sections that was copy/pasted from 4th edition, and as such it isn't exactly the clearest in the world. ) If you care for a linguistic argument, I find "change into animal" more basic than "change into cat." Therefore, the "basic effect" of a shapeshifter spell is the guideline, rather than the implementation of the guideline. However, that REALLY starts to get into semantics (is an abstract concept more basic than a grounded one?). Also - compared to what the medium/heavy changes can do, changing the implementation of a guideline does seem relatively superficial, to me.

I find it to be consistent with the progression of the other two guidelines: a medium allows you to use a different guideline or +/-1 magnitude, and a heavy uses a different TeFo or a +/2 magnitude. Therefore, a superficial should be able to use a different implementation, or a +/- 0 magnitude (ie, changing the implementation from Touch/Day to Circle/Ring). Do you know of any canon spells that resolve this? I've looked, but have been unable to locate any.

I can't find "primary effect" defined, either. I do note that without an explicit definition the book does say the "effects" of the spell are what are written in the "description" text block and that that covers about 95% of the circumstances, which does seem to describe a primary effect while not being explicit. Meanwhile the "base level," which is how the guideline appears, shows up in the "design" bracket.

So, while I'm not saying yours is not a reasonable interpretation, I'm pretty wary about it. Even accepting it, I'm not so sure that makes for great spontaneous magic via MuVi, though.

A slight issue here would be that changing the target (not "Target") changes neither the guideline nor the magnitude nor the R/D/T and yet falls in the middle category. Again, I'm not saying this makes your interpretation unreasonable; I'm just pretty wary of it.

No, I don't either. However, on HP 97 there is "Passing the Reigns of Corpus." This, like the "target" issue noted above, uses the medium guideline and changes neither the guideline nor the magnitude nor the R/D/T. So, again, I'm pretty wary of your interpretation.

The guideline in question is described on pg. 79 of HP - "Anybody using the tunnel must first sense it...other characters must use Intellego Vim effects to detect the tunnel." You can also use a Magic Theory roll to infer the existence of the tunnel, but not to cast through it. You can also use other Magic-detection abilities to sense it, as well.

If you assume that an enchanted ring creates a Tunnel in the same location relative to itself - say, an inch above the back of the hand of the wearer - then you can stick your tongue in the area you know the Tunnel to be in, and use an InVi "Taste the flavor of Magic" effect to specifically identify it, and then use it. That's what I was referring to from "kissing your enchanted device with a Taste-based InVi effect".

HOWEVER - my reference to "talking to your troupe about it" refers to exactly why you need to sense the tunnel before using it. If the act of sensing it grants specific information about the tunnel, then yes; you'll need to use InVi. If, however, it's because the tunnel is invisible and you don't know exactly where it is...that's a bit different.

According to the "how do you attack something that's invisible" rules (in the Flambeau section of HoH), you can attack something that's invisible if you have good indirect evidence that it's there. If you have only general evidence, you can still fire the spell - you're just likely to miss. Thus, In reading through that section, the implication I get is that you can't hit something that's invisible due to the abstract nature of the combat system, not of a specific limit of Hermetic magic. That is - if your foe is surrounded by an invisible wall, and you shoot your foe, you're going to hit the invisible wall. Similarly, if you have no evidence that an invisible person is sitting in a 2x2 square in the middle of a room, and you aim a pillum of fire into that 2x2 foot square - you're probably going to hit any invisible individual that is sitting there.

THEREFORE - if the reason you need to see it is simply to know where to cast your spell, and if a device can be designed to create the tunnel in the same location, then it seem reasonable that you wouldn't actually need to see the tunnel to cast through it (assuming you knew where the tunnel was going to form).

I'm actually fine with either interpretation - while not having to have a sensory effect is a bit more convenient, having an InVi sensory effect in your Familiar Bond is a crazy-useful thing to have anyway, so it's not like it's a bother or anything. The main reason I suggest that it's location-based is that the rules suggest that you don't need to use Hermetic magic to detect the portal. (it's "Inteligo vim or similar" effects). But Abilities like Sense Magic don't give Hermetic-specific targeting information. Rather, they just let you know that something with magical power is nearby. That suggests that it's location that's the most important thing.

Yeah, it seems to rest on which word you put the stress on. If it's a PRIMARY effect, then that leaves the possibility open that the implementation is of secondary importance to the guideline. But if it's the primary EFFECT, then I agree that the effect is what is written in the spell description. The word "primary" really does confuse things in that context.

I do agree that you need to have a decent amount of MuVi to get it to work, as well as a couple of additional virtues. And if you're doing the Intangible Tunnel/Maintain the Demanding Spell route, most of your spells will have to be invented in the lab - as they're all Touch/Concentration, rather than their conventional listings.

Personally, I see this as a sort of Mystery Cult that may develop in Ex Misc - "wand wizards" whose Great Talismans are all wands (with the ReVi effects in them), and who use harry potter-style wand-waving to cast Potent spells, at the cost of being limited to their own specific spells and wands.

So, going back to the OP, I think we have general agreement that specialization by Arts is not needed. As Erik said, you'd still want to specialize in something. Right now we seem to be noting a few areas that work well: Verditious Magic, Artes Liberales / Philosophiae, writing / teaching, and Finesse. I would add Gentle Gift plus social /subtle stuff, though that may have been mentioned above, too. These all tend to revolve around penetration not being critical. So we might be able to generalize this as: if you don't specialize by Arts, then specialize in something that does not require penetration.