I'm running a Bonisagus as a GMC in our newly started campaign. He has dedicated himself to finding out why people feel uncomfortable around Magi (his entire social development has been stunted by him having the Blatant Gift but he tries not to be bitter).
His theory is that magi emit at all times a low level of unconscious magic which though it can't have any focused effect on people is still trying to affect them and which which people sense as an uneasy feeling that the magus is trying to cheat them or con them into something.
He wants to test the thory by making an apprentice detecting spell.
Now if the theory is correct then he needs to start with a base level of 10 effect (detect the presence of weak magic). Which will soon get out of his current abilities once he starts stacking on the range and stuff.
How do current methods of detecting apprentices work? Are there any published spells anywhere? I've a vague memory of seeing something but can't track it down.
His other thought was to treat the spell as transforming the invisible species of unconscious magic into visible light. (Vis with an Imaginem prerequisite or maybe the other way around.) Would that be any lower level?
Personally, I don't like the idea of being able to infallibly detect The Gift. It ruins the flavor of the setting for me; even if it ends up being such a powerful Ritual that you can really itemize it well I can't think of a reason why powerful characters, at least, wouldn't employ it all the time.
I've always preferred detecting apprentices indirectly. The social penalties of The Gift are easy to confuse with just being an ass, but it's a reasonable place to start.
If a PC has declared that they're looking for an apprentice, it's pretty much understood that they'll find one given a season of effort. That doesn't always mean things will work out the way they expect. "That strange boy who doesn't talk to strangers and avoids the Eucharist? Nope, he's just creepy. But the little girl who lives next door to him, well, it turns out he tried to corner him once and she lit his hair on fire. [Stephen King]With her mind.[/Stephen King]
If you're looking for something more mechanical, City & Guild has guidelines for using Area Lore to find "unusual" things; apprentices would certainly qualify. If the Gift has caused a Reputation of 6+, the Ease Factor is 9. If there's a Reputation of 3, Ease Factor 12. Otherwise Ease Factor 15, unless the person in question has taken great pains to remain undetected, in which case 18 is better.
The other players in my troupe seem, to varying degrees, go for the "I'll lower my parma and see whether I still like him" approach.
I find it utterly mind-boggling. And they know, yet do not understand, my despair.
Personally, as I'm always looking for the story angle, it seems the kind of thing that a magus might spend time in investigating. The boy might see him a few times throughout a season before the magus is sure the boy has the gift and confronts him.
Of course, you could just fall back on the old Sense the Gift routine. Either of those is immeasurably preferable to the "drop and feel" approach.
See, for me I don't see how the Order can exist without a definitive test for who has the Gift and who doesn't. Certainly you would run out of Gentle Gift magi in a hurry if all you had was the 'drop the Parma' test.
So while I agree that rumour chasing and observation will lead the magi to potential apprentices there must be a specific test to confirm that you have a Gifted person in front of you and it must be a spell.
My current difficulty (operating on the theory that I outlined in my initial post) is that I'm not sure how high the base effect to detect 'unfocused magical radiation' should be. Arguably as high as 10 (Detect the recent presence of weak magic) but also arguably as low as 5 (Detect any active magic).
Any views? The 'active' magic has no effect other than repulsiing people because it isn't actually capable of doing anything without conscious direction. But it is still active.
A routine for testing the Gifted? Well, there is this spell in GotF. Phillipus Niger uses it. It is called "Sniff out the with". I think it does detect hedge wizzards, though I do not know for sure (serf's parma). However, I think a spell similar to this one can detect gifted persons. Given the rarety of gifted children, it might still be difficult to find one with aimless casting of such a spell. Maybe House Mercere is a major source of gifted childre. All those redcaps travelling all over Mysthic Europe and encountering so may people. Without the protection of a parma magica....
If you look at the Creo Vim Guidelines, CrVi base of 3 "taints" someone with magic so that they apppear to have the Gift. This seems to sugest that the Gift is more of a taint than an active magic. So relaying on the base level 5 detect weak magic to detect the Gift is not very far off. However, it will not tell you how strong their Gift is or whether it is damaged in anyway. I would still focus the ingame search on the unsual characteristics that accompany magi.
The CrVi effect does indeed make someone seem to have the Gift but I don't think it disproves my character's hypothesis. ("You put magic into someone and he seems to leak it out for a while: where's the contradiction? Indeed the fact that this is a CrVi effect seems to me to support my idea. The fact that the creator of the spell thought of it as a 'taint' is an opinion not a scientific fact. Some days I think of it that way as well.")
And while I agree that the game play will be mostly about trying to discover children with the signs of being a mage, I think there has to be a definitive test or there would be a heck of a lot more people taken in as apprentices who turn out to be nothing of the sort. ("He's not Gifted, magister: he really is a sneaking, cheating swine who you can't trust an inch. Easy mistake to make. Pity about the three years you spent training him...")
Every magical tradition pre-ooh that existed must have had a way to test for the gift, and given the wide variety of magics, the test probably wasn't magical (though that doesn't mean it can't be done). I'd try a roll against magic lore.
I always allowed magi to be able to detect if someone has the gift... one caveat though. It takes time even if it is surefire, it takes a full day of examining the potential aprentice.
Think of it as a low-level ritual. It satisfies the "taste" of the system as well as makes it plausible that the order CAN find even those with the gentle gift. No such thing as "getting everyone in the room that has the gift light up green" though.
Not to focus magic (he/she was perobably roasting chickens happily with small PoFs before that), but to study in a systematic way. Not mature enough. Lacks the ability to start hermetic training (formal training to become a magus) buty not to use magic in a natural way.
I always think about Tetsuo (Akira) in those cases: uncontrolled raw magical power is there, but the teraining is not. Hmm... should think about a story hook using that image...
OK ... so The Gift is apparent even in a newborn babe? One rather wonders how any magi (excepting those with The Gentle Gift) ever come to survive to seven if they're "obviously dishonest and unreliable" from time of birth. You'd expect potential magi with The Blatant Gift to be throttled by their own mothers.
Many children lie, some get away with it, and others don't. Gifted children will be considered liars in any event. One with a blatant gift will probably be used to being beaten, and disbelieved by everyone.
Remember also that children tend not to get killed for their many tiny "crimes", but rather disiplined (even if most people will believe that these children will never learn, and cannot ever become good citizens).
The big problem occurs if their parents should happen to die before they are old enough to take care of themselves...