Developing Supernatural Abilities

I've noticed that getting non-adventuring xp for supernatural abilities is decreased a lot if the character is a mage: by at least 15, or the total Arts score if that's greater. I realize there may be ways around this with books, but this seems like a very big obstacle. How does this affect House Bjornaer magi, who shapeshift into their heartbeast, and use a supernatural skill to do so, if I recall correctly. Does this mean that supernatural abilities can really only be improved while adventuring? If so, is there a reason why this isn't just stated explicitly?

Also, first post. This place looks cozy and well-looked after, so thanks to those who make that so.

Welcome to the board.

The penalty only applies when a Gifted person is first trying to learn a new supernatural ability, not when they're advancing it later. (Page 166: "Once the character knows the Ability, it may be advanced normally").

The key point is to prevent magi picking up loads of new supernatural abilities in play, whilst still making it possible under the right circumstances with enough effort.

Thanks! That clarifies a lot.

I thought that one needed a virtue to gain these abilities as well. I guess the storyteller can hand those out as the story requires, and be less concerned about magi becoming OP thanks to this impediment.

It is possible to gain them via a Virtue, too. That is how you would approach it with an initiation, which doesn't have as much difficulty to it as trying to teach a magus with even moderate scores in Arts.

Yep. The Gift represents the ability to (in theory) conventionally learn (ie, by being taught it or reading it out of a book) any magic system that is learnable. As such, one of the way you can figure out if someone has the Gift (aside from them being really creepy) is if they start accidentally learning magical techniques by osmosis.

However, the restriction is that the more you learn, the more difficult it is to learn NEW magic systems. The alternate way of learning magic is through Initiation, which represents an imparting of mystic knowledge through trials/sacrifice/ritual.

The other way around this penalty is through Integration - ie, figuring out the underlying principles of a magical technique, and working it into Hermetic magic. That takes quite a while, but it's the main way that Hermetic magic improves over time.

That being said, the Opening of the Gift is actually a combination of conventional learning and Initiation - a character is 'conventionally' taught the 15 Techniques and Forms in a season, but it's done in a way that allows them to learn them all at once without penalty (ie, Initiation). However, once they've been taught Hermetic magic, each one of those TeFo's acts as a penalty for learning a new Supernatural Ability.

There are magical traditions that aren't penalized NEARLY as much - Folk Witches from Hedge Magic, for example. (They have someothing like 12 separate magical abilities that don't penalize each other.) However, that's explicitly called out as unique to that group. In fact, one of the research opportunities for Hermetics is to try and figure out how they're able to do that. And successful research grants the "Subtle Opening" virtue, which means that Hermetics whose Gift is opened by someone who has that virtue isn't penalized (nearly as much) for learning new Supernatural abilities.

EDIT - oh, also note that non-skill-based supernatural virtues can also be taught...technically. Ie, it's possible to "teach" someone Gentle Gift, for example. However, it's really difficult to do, and these rules exist primarily as a way of justifying how Hermetics can pass on their House virtues to their apprentices. (As such, the rules are set up so that it's relatively easy to learn 1 minor virtue by osmosis or explicit training, but anything else becomes quite difficult to do.)

A short-cut may be the general minor virtue "Latent Magical Ability", which I have always interpreted as meaning that a character has an inherent propensity or potential to spontaneously learn an un-anticipated supernatural (magical) ability. If the right circumstances occur, and whatever the right circumstances are, your character has not yet been exposed to them.
Exactly how big the Supernatural ability is, is poorly defined. LMA certainly can be swapped out for a minor supernatural virtue, and I have seen suggestions that it can be swapped out for a Major Supernatural Virtue. If the character is a Magus, then Hermetic virtues are apparently included under "supernatural virtue", which makes it sound like some mage could spontaneously develop the Gentle Gift after character creation.

But there might be a hint that Latent Magical Ability might give you access to more than a single supernatural virtue. I seem to recall that I read somewhere that someone's character managed to learn a second magical Tradition through the intervention of LMA. Definitely something your troupe would have to agree on.

Then there is the case of Bjornaer. If I recall correctly, her origin story was that she was initiated into an infernal shapeshifter tradition, but when she communicated with an ancestor spirit she learned a whole new magical tradition based around the HeartBeast virtue. Nothing is explicitly said that she had a Latent Magical Ability, so I am merely speculating. I think I am going off on a tangent from the original post, and more towards what makes a magician be the source of a Mythic Bloodline.

1 Like