creases's Magus

Hi all! This is my first magus for my first ArM game. I'm not, you know, super confident I know what I'm doing, but I think I've got some direction on it at least. Let me know what you think.


Berenger was born in Antioch in 1193, to Roul of Rouen and Matilda of Inverness. Roul joined the Knights of St John in order to fight in the Third Crusade; afterwards, he was made captain of a hostel for pilgrims in Antioch. Berenger was the couple's first son, and he took a keen interest in the hostel's work of protecting and caring for travelers on their way to and from Jerusalem. Although Roul recognized that his son was unsettling and different, he hoped (perhaps against reason) that Berenger would follow in his footsteps as a military man.

But the young Berenger was also Gifted, and he attracted the attention of one Yunus of Mosul. Yunus was part of a secretive group of Arab healers and alchemists called Jumhuru-l-Hukama'i, the Gathering of the Wise, a mystery cult notionally affiliated with House Ex Miscellanea. They labor to discover a Panacaea and the Elixir of Life. In 1202, Yunus abducted the nine year old Berenger, and began training him in the ways of the tradition.

In 1209, another member of Jumhuru-l-Hukama'i, Maryam the Black, accused Yunus of stealing her research. She also gave voice to her suspicion that Yunus had used scrying or other magical means to do so, and insinuated that he had truck with shayatin, genies aligned with the Infernal power. Although she was unable to substantiate the High Crimes, she waged a successful Wizard War against Yunus, and slew him. Maryam then adopted Berenger as her own apprentice.

Though Maryam did not implicate Berenger in her accusations against Yunus, and Berenger shed no tears for his passing, their relationship was never warm. Maryam imposed the condition that, upon completion of his training, Berenger would leave the Tribunal of the Levant. Berenger passed his Gauntlet in 1218. (Maryam's condition might attach to some post-Gauntlet training, depending on how I want to use the years between 1218 and 1223. Any thoughts on this?)

After that, he travels. Eventually he will wind up in Scotland! I'm not sure yet quite how that happens, but I am open to suggestions. I assume he arrived in Scotland via Inverness, his mother's home city, and thence travelled to Insula Canaria. Is it easier for him to arrive during a certain season?

He is still pursuing the secrets of Jumhuru-l-Hukama'i, but now he is preparing to do so without reliable access to the rest of the cult. With Peregrine_Bjornaer's permission, I've created Berenger with the Cabal Legacy Flaw from The Mysteries Revised Edition, to reflect his peculiar background.

This is Berenger as of 1218, except spells. I have a couple of questions about spells, actually. First: When choosing spells, I see there's a limit to the maximum level I can pick. Does Berenger's Minor Magical Focus affect this? Ie., RAW, Berenger can take a Creo Corpus spell of no higher than level 23; Focus applies to Lab and Casting Totals, and I'm not picking spells on that basis during character creation. If the Focus applied to spells I get during apprenticeship, the limit would be 30, right?

Second: The guidelines for Creo Corpus spells that affect Characteristics are unclear. Are they Rituals? Is a spell that increases a stat for "Momentary" duration permanent?

Anyway, without further ado:

Filius Miriam Niger (olim Ionas Mosili), Magus ex Miscellanea

(Magus virtues.)
The Gift (free).
Hermetic Magus (free).

(Ex Misc virtues.)
Hermetic Alchemy (min/free). Grants a variety of benefits to Vis extraction. (MR39)
Greater Immunity (maj/free): Fire. (ArM 43)

(Character virtues.)
Great Intelligence (min). Intelligence +4.
Improved Characteristics (min). 3 additional Characteristic points.
Inventive Genius (min). +3 to Lab totals when inventing new spells, crafting items, or making potions. +6 when experimenting. (ArM 44)
Minor Magical Focus (min): Perfections of the human body. When using magic to heal or to improve someone's Characteristics within the natural human range, the lowest applicable Art is treated as double its actual value. (AmR 46)

(Ex Misc flaw.)
Weak Spontaneous Magic (maj/free). Berenger can't exert himself when he uses spontaneous magic, and in stressful conditions, the stress die roll does not add to his casting total.

(Character flaws.)
Cabal Legacy (min). Initiate of Jumhuru-l-Hukama'i, the Gathering of the Wise. (MR20)
Driven (min): Immortality. (ArM 53)
Infamous Master (min): Yunus, suspected diabolist and scryer. Berenger has Reputation 3 to similar effect. Even though he calls himself "filius Miriam Niger", everyone who knows Maryam knows the story of Yunus as well, and knows the circumstances under which Berenger came to be Maryam's filius. (ArM 55)
Temperate (min). Berenger maintains a diet that requires moderation. (ArM 59)

Berenger's unassuming appearance belies a first rate analytical mind. He is reasonably hale, but otherwise physically average. Intellectually, however, he is a steel trap. He is very attentive to detail and nuance, and has an immediate grasp of the implications and possibilities of a situation. He is withdrawn in demeanor and even sullen by times, but he understands how to motivate people, through incentives as well as the occasional well-posed threat.

Intelligence +4, Perception +2, Strength +0, Stamina +1, Presence +2, Communication -2, Dexterity +0, Quickness +0.

Antioch Lore +2 (politics), Arabic language +4 (alchemical vocabulary), Artes Liberales +3 (logic), Awareness +2 (details), Brawl +2 (dagger), Concentration +1 (lab work), Folk Ken +1 (soldiers), Jumhuru-l-Hukama'i Lore +3 (Initiation), Latin language +4 (Hermetic usage), Leadership +2 (intimidation), Magic Theory +2 (inventing spells), Medicine +1 (physician), Norman French language +5 (laconic wit), Parma Magica +1 (protection from Mentem), Philosophiae +1 (Ritual magic), Stealth +2 (sneak).

Creo +7, Intellego +3, Muto +4, Perdo +3, Rego +2
Animal +3, Aquam +0, Auram +0, Corpus +7, Herbam +0, Ignem +3, Imaginem +2, Mentem +3, Terram +2, Vim +4

Forthright +1, Discreet +2, Studious +2

Likely a thief and a spy, maybe even a diabolist +3 (Hermetic).

I seem to have left my brain elsewhere today. Panacaea? What is? Where is this Cabal Legacy you speak of being inside my favorite book?

Why did they abduct him? Low on Mentem magic? Not willing to buy the unwanted kid? Children with The Gift are easy to acquire.

Depends on how much detail you want to put into the cabal first. Perhaps they simply require more esoteric ingredients and want the boy to study the plantlife of Scotland because he drew the short straw. Maybe he was given cryptic instructions to go on a journey to the Ends of Earth, because they were really telling him to bugger off. The thing is, when you're part of a secret cult, people rarely just exile you. They've put all kinds of training into you and they don't have a lot of replacement cultists to make up the numbers. So they'll go to some pretty extraordinary lengths to get you out of the way while still keeping their hooks into you.

I'm seeing that I already have a bias on this storyline -- if it were me, I wouldn't make the cult Islamic. Trying to leave that choice of yours alone, since it is totally valid, just not the creative direction I would have pushed. So, be aware of my bias and take the bits that you want.

My bias comes from the notion that it would be much easier for this secret cabal to have its greedy tendrils reaching out all the way to Scotland if they include a lot of white people. Then Maryam the Black (Black? Really? Get a more provocative color) would be able to spin you out to the edges of their network without losing face in front of the other cultists. If you're going to keep it an Islamic cult, then pushing past the Alps Tribunal is far. Scotland is SUPER far. Edge of the known world far.

How big is this cult going to be? Does it have mundane members? How does the cult buy their loyalty?


That's a set of spells that tends to get houseruled, since the MRB lists the guideline, but later books say that only House Mercere knows how to do them.

More generally, if a spell is a ritual, then the effect only needs to be momentary. If it is NOT a ritual, the momentary just means momentary. In this example, you might be able to use the effect for a fraction of a round, but you probably want it to be at least Duration:Concentration.

Gonna look at your actual stats now....

I believe you have miscalculated your Characteristics.
6 Int (+ Virtue),
3 Per
1 Sta
3 Pre
-3 Com

= 10 points. You have 14, plus the Great Characteristic.

I will leave your skill points to someone who has MetaCreator.

As advice on Art allocation, I have found in my own experience that there is very little value in having a score below 4. This isn't as true in this saga, since part of the setting is a poor library, but the prevalence of art sources is such that it's pretty easy to get to a 5 in a single season, and you're better off consolidating the XP into fewer arts.

Consider, for example, that when you have Technique 5 + Form 5, then this means that you can spontaneously cast any 1st magnitude spell for fatigue.

The spells that increase a stat may or may not be rituals, depending on what PB wants to do. Keep in mind that these spells are cheapest if they are rituals (momentary duration/permanent effect). And if you're creating a spell with a different duration, you're at serious risk of warping for being under the continuous magical effect, similar to the Longevity Ritual.

Only if you use it all the time (say, Dur: Moon, or even an often-abused Sun). Dur: Conc/Diam could be non-warping and pretty functional, though we'd have to expand the guidelines somewhat if you wanted more than a 1-pt boost.

Thanks for the critical feedback!

Panacaea is a thing real-world alchemists were trying to discover. It's Greek for "cure-all", a mundane drug that would cure any disease.

Sidebar on the bottom of p20.

I'm thinking it was a combination of two factors. First, Yunus really was a piece of crap who just didn't give a damn. Why pay the parents when you can pay a couple of goons to snatch the kid for significantly less, and without the risk of offending their morals? Why go to the trouble of using a spell when this purely secular means is available? (The cult's Hermetic flaw is a handicap with spontaneous magic, which would apply to Yunus as well; so researching an appropriate spell might actually be more trouble than it's worth for this sort of thing.)

Second, demanding a child of the occupiers in the open would likely attract the kind of attention the cult wouldn't want. Perhaps this is something they learned from bitter experience at some earlier point. I'm thinking it's not exactly the preference of most members to acquire apprentices this way, but once it was a fait accompli on Yunus's part, the cult's priority would be to ensure there was no blowback from the Normans.

Does this make sense?

That's a valid point. But exile is just what I was envisioning here. Yunus's notoriety stains Berenger, especially within the cult; it's likely Maryam wasn't the only member with grievances against Yunus, and suspicions of worse than they could prove. The attitude of most will be that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Furthermore, the conditions under which knowledge is shared between members are already restrictive, involving long periods of service and complicated initiations. Having someone around you don't trust is a big disincentive to share. Getting Berenger out of the Levant protects him to some extent, and eliminates a source of friction within the cult that inhibits research.

So Berenger can go, yeah, to the edge of the known world, and he can see how much further he can push his own research along the lines of tradition without access to any other members. I'm imagining the other cult members' attitude is something like, "Yeah, good luck with that, buddy. Don't call us, we'll call you." It's true they put a lot of time and effort into him, but at this point, I reckon they think he's just a sunk cost. But if at some point in the future he makes a breakthrough on his own, and they catch wind of it, they're likely to want to put those hooks right back in.

Hey man, sometimes the classics work.

I'm thinking, small. I'm thinking that, other than Berenger, there are four or five in Antioch at the time he leaves, and maybe two or three scattered about elsewhere (maybe in the Roman or Iberian Tribunals, and maybe one other floating around outside the territory of the Order). At least one of them has successfully become immortal, and Berenger probably met this member around the time of his Gauntlet, as part of a demonstration that the goal is real and research has a true pay off. There are no mundane members.

I figure, once you meet an actual immortal person, the promise of immortality is a powerful reason to remain loyal to the group. Additionally, the cult actively pursues research into healing and medicine, but carefully controls how knowledge is shared, who has access, and under what conditions. If you want to keep pursuing research and if you want to draw on the learning of others, you have to undergo initiations and long terms of service to other members. So, loyalty is the condition of access to knowledge. This is why Yunus's offences, which are serious by any magus's standards, were particularly offensive to the cult.

Roger. Awesome.

Sorry, I may have overlooked something here. I thought I get 7 points for Characteristics, plus 3 from my Virtue, for 10. What did I miss?

I'll definitely take that under advisement, and might rejigger things a bit.

Thank you again for the questions and suggestions. This is very helpful.

I'm sorry that I missed this before. If this is your first 5th Ed Ars Magica game ever, then I strongly advise against handicapping your spontaneous magic in any way, especially Weak Spontaneous Magic. It will severely impair your ability to learn the system. If you're really set on screwing your spont abilities, then go for Difficult Sponts instead.

My understanding of The Gift is that even your own parents find it hard to really love you. They might be a bit ashamed about that, but there's just something unnerving about you that they can't shrug off. It's like raising a child that you know will grow up to be a serial killer. But okay, sure, if you'd prefer a kidnapping to be part of your backstory, that's fine. Certainly the blowback will already be diminished because anyone whose ever met the kid is just the tiniest bit relieved to hear he's disappeared.

Okay. So that piece on its own makes sense. But then you start adding in the rest of the cult....

Three things.

First, a point of personal bias: I dislike straight black and white storylines. I think it'd be much more interesting if this whole Maryam/Yunus thing was a bit of a political situation, and that both Maryam and Yunus had allies who were opposed to the other guy's point of view on the subject. Now, you've left room for this already in your character sheet by calling Yunus a "suspected diabolist and scryer." What if this is all just cow patties shovelled out into the world by Maryam and Yunus's allies keep trying to reach out to Berenger, but B-man has bought into Maryam's version and he thinks that these "friends" must also be diabolists.

Because if Maryam was right, then that whole part of the story is over already. Bad guy defeated. Nothing to see here. And if that's the case, what's the point?

Second, it seems like you are creating a cabal whose purpose is The Mystery, rather than having a Purpose which is served by the mysteries. People do not form secret cabals for the express purpose of exploring alchemy, any more than modern day forum communities get together to write words. The search for the Philosopher's Egg wasn't a secret -- everyone on the planet wanted to get in on that action.

Secrecy is a byproduct of shame or amorality. Magi form cabals when they suspect the Order of Hermes would probably frown on their methods or their goals. So why are these guys secret?

Third, if all these guys care about is healing people and living forever, then doesn't that make them pretty upright guys? You're saying that a Secret Cabal of Mystic Ninja Doctors has to go around kidnapping apprentices? How exactly do you use your Secret Ninja Medical Powers if you're supposed to be covert about it?

From a mechanical point of view, I dislike this because it frees you of your Flaw obligation while retaining the benefit. You get to pick up the virtues, but are no longer going to be called upon by your cabal to perform tasks.

From a story perspective, it doesn't add any excitement or motivation to the character, unless he's deeply colored by his exile -- something that I don't see in your other VFs. Your Flaws are all about contact and connection with the group that ostracize and shame him for the sins of his father, and yet you're explicitly cutting off all ties with them.

Each saga varies, but when I developed my cabal for Base Camp, that SG felt that 8 people was a medium sized cult. Consider that each Tribunal has maybe 100 magi of each House. 8 magi is almost 10% of a single House.

~blink~ How did you verify his immortality? What made his Not Dying so impressive? Or are you talking about a Revival Tent sort of experience here?

Again, the value of healing and medicinal knowledge is that you help other people live longer and healthier lives. If this cabal isn't luring mundane sect members into their clutches with promises of healthier, cleaner living for only $19.95/month, then what are they doing with it? You can't use healing medicine on yourself. I mean, heck, nobody is even going to know you can.

~headdesk~ Once again, my stupidity runs ramapant today. Ignore me. I thought the virtue did something else. Pardon me while I go adjust MY character sheet....

It's worth noting that I'm giving you such a hard time on this because I like the concept, and have had the same questions put to me.

(Although I still think my cabal of Euclidean Assassins was a good idea. They can kill you with geometry, man!)

Hm. Well, B. is Ex Misc, and that means I have to take one Major Hermetic Flaw. They're all pretty rough. I would gladly take a Necessary Condition or Restriction if I could think of one that made sense for an alchemist. I was having a block with that, though, so I took Weak Spont because I thought I could live with it (more so than, say, Waster of Vis or Magic Addiction). Would you recommend a different one? (Difficult Spont is a Minor Flaw, unfortunately, so I can't just take that one instead and still meet the Ex Misc requirement.)

I'm definitely open to this possibility. Another possibility is that Yunus's other enemies might believe Berenger has, or has benefited from, research that might have been stolen from them. They might not be able to leave that alone. Or so Maryam may have told Berenger--!

I think their secrecy is a function of two things. On the one hand, the search for secular immortality is not exactly halal. Everybody's heard stories about alchemy, but it's another thing altogether to have people actively researching it in public and getting results. I think part of the cult's concern is that this might be construed by religious authorities as an act of blasphemy, tampering in God's domain and interfering with the order he has prescribed for death, judgment, and resurrection -- alchemists are cheating the system, trying to get their reward early and by means other than doing good and being penitent for one's sins. At least, this is how the cult is afraid their actions will be construed by others; and it applies both in an Islamic and a Christian context. I suspect this is something the cult is very neurotic and touchy about -- they don't want it to be true that they're blasphemers, but they really really don't want anyone else to be in a position to say one way or the other.

On the other hand, I think also they're aware that healing arts can also be killing arts, and they don't want all of their discoveries to be widely available. Research toward a Panacaea might also lead to the discovery of the perfect poison (and I suspect the cult knows of more than a few drugs that have, let's say, non-therapeutic uses). Knowing the causes of disease might enable one to create it. As for immortality, well -- they may be playing God, but they do it with full awareness that not even God grants immortality to just anyone. They want to be immortal, and they want their allies to be immortal, but, you know, not their enemies. They don't want their knowledge to fall into the wrong hands, and that includes other magi. (With them being the ones who decide who counts as "the wrong hands". Sometimes for moral reasons, sometimes for self-serving ones.)

Oh, sure, healing is good for the person being healed. But whether it's upright depends on who you choose to heal and who you don't, and what you make someone do before you heal them. Healing can be supremely exploitative. Not just in the "clean living for a low monthly fee" kind of exploitative. Maybe more like "I will heal your dying wife if you murder this political enemy of the cult, this upright public figure, in cold blood. Whether anyone knows it was you is your problem, just don't let it get back to us. You know, for your wife's sake."

This is not to mention the fact that healing, in the Levant and everywhere, is political. When you heal someone, you are likely giving aid and comfort to someone else's enemy. Not only is that not morally neutral, but also it skirts dangerously close to Code of Hermes violations.

Finally: the search for immortality and for perfect restoration of the sick has a noble aspect, but at base it's about power. The cult is predicated on ensuring that the benefits to humanity don't outweigh the harms that would accrue if someone used their teachings to really hurt people. It's also predicated on ensuring that the only people who can gain full use of their discoveries are people everyone else on that path trusts with that power and accepts among their numbers. This is why unconfirmed suspicions are so damaging to the normal functioning of the cult.

I understand. Consider this, and tell me if you still feel that way. Normally, Cabal Legacy is one of those Flaws that's more like a complicated benefit. The story guide gets a good plot hook, that's the flaw, but the PC gets a benefit in that he has access to Mystery Virtues and has a support network, and especially, access to a Mystagogue who can Initiate him into higher Virtues.

So I take your point that I'm removing some of the bite from those plot hooks. On the other hand, I'm also kind of handicapping myself, because I'm denying myself access to a Mystagogue. Berenger will mostly have to Initiate himself, which will require him to develop some pretty dramatic Initiation Scripts for himself. That may be grist for the plot mill that makes up for the lack of direct impositions by other members of the cult.

Hm. You are probably right on this point. Would you suggest some other Flaws that would better reflect what I'm angling for here? I've only got 4 so far, so I have 6 more to play with here.

Good point! What would be a better number?

Well, there might be an element of Stockholm Syndrome, if not Revival Tent. But the cult's elixir works by turning a person into a being of magic who heals magically over a pretty short span of time. Cut my arm off, and within a season it will grow back. Crush my ribs, and they will regrow. It might even be part of some higher-order esoteric Initiation Script for the immortal, as well, to endure these passions as a way to prove the truth of the secret to an apprentice. It's your Gauntlet; you figure it out, you tell me how it's happening, and I'll tell you if you're close.

No worries! This is all part of the fun. I could really use some help tightening the bolts here, so any guidance you can give me is welcome.


I would argue that you're having a hard time coming up with Necessary Conditions or Restrictions because your organization is still too heavily focused on the meta-mechanics of the universe.

They should have a goal. A purpose. A history that apprentices are steeped in. They shouldn't want to become immortal. They should want to become a SPECIFIC kind of immortal for a reason. Perhaps they wish to transform into Djinn? A quick google search into Arabic mythology indicates that the Marid are arrogant and proud. Perhaps the cult is in conflict with a Marid for some reason, and seek to become immortal beings capable of combating the creature to correct some ancient wrong.

Tapping into this mythology opens up lots of options. Blatant Gift, or Painful Magic because your work is inherently unholy, even if it is Just. How about Study Requirement, because they must be near the powerful spirits in order to access greater power themselves? Necessary Condition: Islamic Prayers while casting. Islamic religion should provide all kinds of viable Restrictions.

This is a character driven saga. You're going to be responsible for pushing a lot of detail into your flaw-activated threads. You want to pick one or "some" potential truths and run with it, the better for the SG to throw you curve balls.

Then why would an organization in an ultra-religious society choose to sin? Remember, in this era, the Moors make Christians look laid back, and this is during the Christian Crusades. What motivated somebody into all the effort of forming a secret cult? Or was it discovery based? Did the founder find some Hidden Truth that he dared only share with a few close friends? Have you thought about the founder at all?

(BTW -- what does the cult's name mean?)

This is an organization that has to justify its existence in a world where God's teamsters regularly shows up and performs miracles. Where magicians talk to the dead and ask them what the afterlife is like. There is a guy whose address you know who can show you the actual Light Of Heaven. He makes a really good cheese, too.

As Magi, it is entirely possible for them to meet the bouncers who guard the doors to heaven.

The standards required for this level of self-delusion are pretty high.

Again, I think it would be more interesting if there were specific bad guys they were avoiding. Directed paranoia. It's not that everyone is out to get me. It's just the government that wants to get me.

And why would they do this? What political agenda would they be willing to murder for?

You had me up until "benefits to humanity." Sorry, but I'm the sort of guy who actually finds book 4 of the Dune saga optimistic. However noble and pure the founder's intentions were when he created this organization, it's become nothing more than a power base for people with an agenda now.

How do you accumulate trust within the organization? If these were ninjas, trust would be earned by showing homage to the ancestors. Tibetian monks (a la Dr Strange), through diligence in the esoteric practices. If these were Christian extremists, by how good they are at gay-bashing.

You are still too focused on the powers that they gain (the meta mechanics) and not the story elements. What purpose do they have? What makes them get up and say, "Today's a great day to violate the Divine Order and serve my cult of heretics!"

~deep quivering sigh~

Instead of subjecting you to my rant. I will subject you to one that is already well edited and will quote Timothy Ferguson on this.

Again, my bias is against "exiled and cut off from the community that he bought into during char gen because I wanted the toys but not the obligations." I'm not willing to help you on this point, other than to say you're going to have to sell it.

Ask Peregrine! It's his game.

Once again, you are focused on mechanical advantage. Look, I'm Hindu. If I met any of my gods while walking down the street, their immortality would NOT be the impressive thing about them. Ganesha would be such an amazingly cool guy, how could I not want to worship him? Krishna would be so incredibly earnest that to be less than I could be would just....feel wrong, darnit. Kali would smile at me in a way that left no uncertainty in my mind about her ability to devour the souls of sinners whole. All Paravarti would have to do is greet me and I would want to cry in her arms and confess every moment of doubt and commitment-phobia that has ever prevented me from accepting joy and love in my life.

And they gorram well wouldn't tear off one of their arms as a party trick for the newbies.

You clearly need to watch Reign:The Conqueror. It's the story of Alexander the Great as told by the people who did Aeon Flux. It's where I got the idea from. The Pythagorean Assassins and Euclidean Magicians both seek The Plato-hedron, and will kill you with their triangle-ray attack spells and cubic force cages if you try to stop them. I tell you, I will never look at a d12 the same way again.

One thing I like in gaming (and perhaps it's the author in me) is the fact that characters are not merely the sum of their numbers. This is particularly true with ex Miscellanea. In my somewhat limited experience in creating members of different houses (I've played Bjornaer...quite a few Bjornaer, and an ex Misc, and will be creating a Flambeau this weekend for a new saga), I've decided that a good ex Miscellanea is possibly the hardest house to create a character for. With other houses, you only have to create your character, maybe some backstory, thumbnail sketches for your pater/mater and the covenant you grew up in/were apprenticed in. For an ex Misc, though, you need to create (for all intents and purposes) a new House with every character. Take a look at Fiona, over in JL's Ruins of Bibracte saga. I had (maybe not had, but felt the need to) flesh out her Tradition, the Daughters of Circe. Took a basic concept, did a little (Wikipedia-based) research, and came up with what seems to be a viable, if small, ex Miscellanea Tradition that has had a part in shaping not only the way I built Fiona, but the way I advanced her.

I used to have a superhero rpg called (I believe) Golden Heroes, came out in the early to mid 80s. Character creation mechanics were, for the most part, pretty straightforward and typical for its time: randomly roll the character's characteristics, powers, and abilities. But Golden Hero threw a wrinkle into it that stuck with me: you also had to come up with your character's origin and background on your own – no random table for it. And any power or ability that you could not justify in your character's origin, you did not get to keep. That mechanic stuck with me, and it's one I try to stay with in every game I play. The need to justify, even if it's a throw-away phrase somewhere, everything that's on the character sheet.

Now, with that being (finally) said, my rule of thumb is that I tend to be more flexible with stuff in char-gen if the player sells it. It needs to be more than "I think it would be cool if my magus had blah-dee-blah-blah." It should be along the lines of "My character has Mythic Herbalism because her tradition, going back thousands of years, has been particularly skilled in herbalism, and found ways to transform the minor magical abilities found in every living thing (in this case, plants) into something vastly more potent...something that can kill or heal a man, or something that can give whoever imbibes the transformed plant incredibly sharp vision". Something like that.

What I feel like I'm seeing so far, and granted it's still relatively early in the char-gen process, is some thought of motivation, of how and why his Tradition has certain things, but still a bit of cool-factor that we're trying to get hammered out.

For example, while I can see (from a real-world perspective) the appeal of immortality, the ability to not ever have to deal with the uncertainty of just what's in the Undiscovered Country. But in Mythic Europe, where the Divine is real and active, that should be less of a factor. People of all the Abrahamic faiths know what fate awaits them if they're saved Christians, devout Jews, pious Muslims, or what have you. And they know what they're sacrificing by turning to Diabolism (for example), but have convinced themselves that either the trade-off is worth it or that they will be able to find a way to get out of the fate they've chosen for themselves.

I'm having a hard time seeing why the tradition is seeking immortality, beyond the "I'm an immortal...being immortal is cool" factor. Why would a devout Christian seek immortality, knowing that if he found it, he would never be able to enter Heaven and spend eternity in the glory of God?

Perhaps the tradition all belongs to a religious sect that doesn't believe in an afterlife? If so, how does that color their tradition in other ways?

Anyway, it's late, I've got work in the morning (which sucks on multiple levels), and I'm rambling.

I'll try to be more coherent tomorrow.

I'm kind of at a loss as to how to proceed. I appreciate constructive criticism, but I'm really just trying to make my way through a complex system (and setting) that I'm still learning. I understand you want characters who are well motivated, but I'm not sure what counts as sufficiently motivated or sufficiently realistic in this context. I'm at your mercy here. Am I even on the right track?

ETA: Just to elaborate a bit here. The parts of the character that are most attractive to me right now are: healer, theoretician, Norman. I'm not married to Ex Misc, and if that's going to be too much of a burden to work into the story, I don't mind rethinking his background and education. I was drawn to the alchemical mystery virtues because I like the idea of having a difficult and ambitious research goal to work toward, one that has story complications and that's morally questionable in a few different ways without being obviously wrong, but I am open to other goals or other ways to introduce that goal.

Then you must simplify. Are you on the right track? Consider that there are many paths to where you want might want to go.

Healer, theoretician, makes me think of a Bonisagus. I would look at incorporating a virtue at some later point...and in play. From my perspective, the ex Misc seems to be a lot of work, always has, I've tended to avoid them as a player. And even experienced Ars players can struggle with a concept. It took a lot of struggling for me to get Talia to a point where I enjoy playing her.

So first, let me say that I think we were making a lot of progress in your original concept, but yes, it is certainly a whole heck of a lot of work.

Heck, if you really want to stick with the seeking-immortality concept, then why not play a Bonisagus member of the Order of the Green Cockeral? At that point, the morally questionable activity that you're doing is sharing research beyond the Order of Hermes.

Although, with their initiation structure, it's no wonder they've failed to find their goal. And minor/major Hermetic Alchemy is a really very cool virtue to start the game with. So how about your pater taught you Alchemy well before Green Cockerals usually teach it, as part of a small subsect of OotGCs who want to radically restructure the learning process (the equivalent of beginning a new formula for immortality), while the traditional members object to this process, and smear your lineage's name in public circles because of this.

Now we've kept several elements of your original story concept: alchemy, the search for immorality, division within the ranks, loss of prestige and reputation due to politics within the secret society. Only now, your pater wasn't a diabolist, he was a gorram progressive radical! Maryam becomes an extremist conservative. Your rallying cry is "information should be free!" You covertly aid mundane alchemists and converse with arab wizards through secret channels.

Oooh! And the reason you're moving from the Levant to Scotland? Because you have some strange method of moving information from Scotland to the Islamic world! It's genius! No one will suspect you and your Liberal cronies of contacting Moors through Scotland!

And if you start off with minor Hermetic Alchemy, in defiance of the traditionalist of the OotGC, and you if you still want to kill off your pater[1], then one of your goals in the game is to find allies outside the OotGC who will teach you new insights to work into their belief structure.

[1] I would keep him alive, if it were me. One of the features that really distinguishes ArM from other RPGs is the way your char gen process requires you to develop an entire community that you interact with. If you do kill off your pater, then you should develop some friends of his (in the OotGC and out) who are like guardian uncles to you.

Thank you! These are great ideas. I'll reflect on them and take another pass at the character.

Hi all. I had some real life things to attend to, but now I can take a look at this character concept again. Here's my redux version. I've dropped the alchemy angle. He's still a healer type, and he'll still be investigating immortality, but not necessarily through the framework of alchemy. I've retained the back story where he is caught in the cross fire of a power play. Let me know how this version looks!


Berenger was born in Antioch in 1193, to Roul of Rouen and Matilda of Inverness. Roul joined the Knights of St John in order to fight in the Third Crusade; afterwards, he was made captain of a hostel for pilgrims in Antioch. Berenger was the couple's first son, and the boy took a keen interest in the hostel's work of protecting and caring for travelers on their way to and from Jerusalem. Roul had hoped for a son who could follow in his footsteps, but it was not meant to be: the aura of strangeness that surrounded the young Berenger made it obvious that he would never be a great officer or leader of men. In 1202, Roul put Berenger in the care of his lieutenant, Hugo, with the intention that Berenger be taken to Rouen to be raised by family until he was ready to enroll at the University of Paris.

By this time, however, Berenger had attracted the attention of a Hermetic magus, one Radolfo of House Bonisagus. Radolfo had travelled to Antioch, putatively to survey some of the healing arts practiced by indigenous Levantine traditions, though there is no saying what other agendas he may have been pursuing as well. The magus was a cruel, lazy, horrid man, and decided to abduct Berenger to be his apprentice. He arranged to be on the same ship as the boy, and afflicted his guardian with a withering disease that incited terror and confusion on the ship for the duration of its voyage. When the ship docked in Marseille, Radolfo snuck off with Berenger to the magus's home covenant in a cave complex under the Chartreuse mountains.

In 1209, another member of that covenant, a maga named Maria Abscondita, accused Radolfo of stealing her research. She also gave voice to her suspicion that Radolfo had used scrying or other magical means to do so, and insinuated that he had truck with agents of the Infernal power. She was unable to substantiate the High Crimes, and rumor held that she had made her accusations partly to preempt scrutiny into her own activities; nevertheless, she waged a successful Wizard War against Radolfo, and took credit for slaying him, though his body was never seen by anyone else. Maria then adopted Berenger as her own apprentice.

Maria did not implicate Berenger in her accusations against Radolfo, and Berenger shed no tears for his cruel master's passing. But the relationship between Berenger and Maria was never warm, and many magi who had had dealings with Radolfo assumed that Berenger had been an accomplice. Maria imposed the condition that, upon completion of his training, Berenger would leave the Provençal Tribunal. Berenger passed his Gauntlet in 1218, and complied with Maria's request, although this did nothing to help Berenger's reputation.

At this time, he traveled to Rouen at long last, where he learned from family that his father had been killed in an altercation with a thief in Damascus some years before, and his widowed mother had returned to Inverness, where her brother Eudo was the sheriff's steward. He conducted research as a guest at a covenant near Rouen for a little more than four years, whereupon he travelled to Inverness to reunite with his mother, who had remarried a successful wholesaler named Robert Fitz Arnold.

Berenger's arrival in the Highlands presents an opportunity for his uncle Eudo. The Normans have good relations with the Gàidhlig speaking Highlanders, but currently have no inroads into the Loch Leglean Tribunal. Eudo suggested Insula Canaria as a place for Berenger, and hopes that this will give him a way to encourage more frequent contact with the magi there. For Berenger, the covenant will hopefully be a place to conduct his research in privacy, in a context that is less likely to invite accusations of plagiarism.

I'm really liking the back-story here. Good job.

Are you going to be reworking his stats (V/F, Abilities, whatnot) also?

Yeah, I am. That'll come tonight or tomorrow, whenever I have the chance!

Here are his stats! Let me know if I have screwed anything up or overlooked anything.

Berenger Antiochius Bonisagi
Filius Mariae Absconditae Bonisagi (olim Radolphi Bonisagi)

(Magus virtues.)
The Gift (free).
Hermetic Magus (free).

(Bonisagus virtue.)
Puissant Magic Theory. +2 to all totals involving Magic Theory.

(Character virtues.)
Great Intelligence (min). Intelligence +4.
Improved Characteristics (min). 3 additional Characteristic points.
Inventive Genius (min). +3 to Lab totals when inventing new spells, crafting items, or making potions. +6 when experimenting. (ArM 44)
Minor Magical Focus (min): Perfections of the human body. When using magic to heal or to improve someone's Characteristics within the natural human range, the lowest applicable Art is treated as double its actual value. (AmR 46)

Close Family Ties (min): His uncle Eudo is steward to the Sheriff of Inverness shire, and wants to keep tabs on the magi at Insula Canaria. As long as all he wants in Berenger is a liaison, this shouldn't put Berenger in too much trouble, but he might also want a spy. Also, his step father is a merchant of some success, and Berenger is on friendly terms with him and with his mother. (ArM 52)
Driven (min): Immortality. Berenger's highest ambition is to discover a magical way to secure immortality in this world. (ArM 53)
Infamous Master (min): Radolfo, suspected diabolist and scryer. Berenger has Reputation 3 to the effect that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Even though he calls himself "filius Mariae Absconditae", everyone who knows Maria knows the story of Radolfo as well, and knows the circumstances under which Berenger came to be Maria's filius. Not that Maria's reputation is that much better. (ArM 55)
Temperate (min). Berenger maintains a diet that requires scrupulous moderation. He avoids any intoxicants. (ArM 59)

Berenger's unassuming appearance belies a first rate analytical mind. He is reasonably hale, but otherwise physically average. Intellectually, however, he is a steel trap. He is very attentive to detail and nuance, and has an immediate grasp of the implications and possibilities of a situation. He is withdrawn in demeanor and even sullen by times, but he understands how to motivate people, through incentives as well as the occasional well-posed threat.

Intelligence +4, Perception +2, Strength +0, Stamina +1, Presence +2, Communication -2, Dexterity +0, Quickness +0.

Early childhood, age 5. Awareness +2 (15xp), Folk Ken +2 (15xp), French +5 (free), Stealth +2 (15xp).
Up to apprenticeship, age 9. 15xp per year for 4 years for any legal abilities. Arabic Language +1 (5xp), Brawl +2 (15xp), Chirurgy +2 (15xp), Concentration +1 (5xp), Leadership +1 (5xp), Stealth +3 (30xp).
Apprenticeship, up to age 24. 240xp for Arts and abilities, 120 levels of spells. Must have Parma Magica, Magic Theory, Latin. I'm spending 100xp on skills, and 140xp on Arts.
Artes Liberales +2 (15xp), Latin +4 (50xp), Magic Theory +3 (30xp), Parma Magica +1 (5xp)
Up to age 31. 30 points (xp or spell levels) per year for 7 years. Arts can be no higher than 10 until age 28, thereafter 11.
Age 25. Brawl +3 (15xp), Leadership +2 (10xp), Survival +1 (5xp). After leaving the Chartreuse covenant, Berenger scrounged his way across Languedoc and Normandy before finally arriving in Rouen.
Age 26. Philosophiae +3 (30xp).
Age 27. Creo +6 (6xp), Muto +5 (9xp), Corpus +10 (10xp). Finesse +1 (5xp).
Age 28. Creo +8 (15xp), Muto +4 (4xp), Corpus +11 (11xp).
Age 29. Muto +5 (5xp), Rego +4 (4xp), Herbam +3 (3xp), Vim +7 (18xp).
Age 30. Creo +11 (30xp).
Age 31. Cheating the Reaper (Creo Corpus 30, ArM 129). The culmination of his studies at Rouen.

Arabic language +1 (interviewing patients), Artes Liberales +2 (Ritual magic), Awareness +2 (searching), Brawl +3 (dagger), Chirurgy +2 (diagnosis), Concentration +1 (spell concentration), Finesse +1 (precision), Folk Ken +2 (soldiers), French language +5 (prose), Latin language +4 (Hermetic usage), Leadership +2 (intimidation), Magic Theory +3 (Corpus), Parma Magica +1 (protection from Perdo), Philosophiae +3 (natural philosophy), Stealth +3 (sneak), Survival +1.

Berenger speaks French natively, in the Norman dialect. His Latin is fluent, although strongly accented and with occasional Norman calques. He knows only a few elementary phrases in Arabic, enough to have simple conversations about physical ailments, although he is familiar with Arabic script.

Creo +11, Intellego +5, Muto +5, Perdo +5, Rego +4
Animal +4, Aquam +0, Auram +0, Corpus +11, Herbam +3, Ignem +0, Imaginem +0, Mentem +5, Terram +0, Vim +7

Berenger passed his Gauntlet at the age of 24. At 28+, he could learn Arts up to +11. At 32, he will be able to learn Arts up to +12.

Bind Wound (Creo Corpus 10, ArM 129)
Revealed Flaws of Mortal Flesh (Intellego Corpus 10, ArM 130)
The Wound That Weeps (Perdo Corpus 15, ArM 133)
The Chirurgeon's Healing Touch (Creo Corpus 20, ArM 129)
Gentle Touch of the Purified Body (Creo Corpus 20, ArM 129)
Purification of the Festering Wound (Creo Corpus 20, ArM 129)
Restoration of the Defiled Body (Creo Corpus 25, ArM 129)
Cheating the Reaper (Creo Corpus 30, ArM 129).

Forthright +1, Discreet +2, Temperate +2.

Likely a thief and a spy, maybe even a diabolist +3 (Hermetic).

You're leaving a lot of virtue points unspent... True it means you aren't getting flaws, but, IMO a lot of flaws don't necessarily impact characters in horrible, unplayable ways. Don't be afraid of flaws. Embrace them!

For your later life advancement (after early childhood) you indicate 15 xp for years for 4 years, but it totals 75 xp. So there is an inconsistency there, it can be resolved easily by adding +1 to your age, making apprenticeship start at 10, and pushing your birth year back a year.
I plugged this into MetaCreator quickly, but I think you're missing some XP...
Early childhood: 45
Later childhood: 75 (see above)
Apprenticeship: 360
Post Gauntlet: 210
Total of 690

Plugging in your spells, abilities and Arts, I get 666 (how appropriate).