Diedne Magic Virtue

If a character has the Diedne Magic Virtue, is there anything in his casting of spontaneous magic that would look suspicious or out of the ordinary to another Hermetic Magus ? I'm thinking that stories around this would be more of Magi lineages that are a little suspicious (like "who was your parent and who was his parent etc.") or do you think that some stories could arise from someone observing the spontaneous casting (like "what was that in your cantamen you made earlier" ) ?

There is not much written about the Diedne Magic Virtue. But it wouldn't make sense, if an average Hermetic magus could distinguish it from other kinds of focus when watching the character spont a spell.

The Pralixian Virtue Comprehend Magic (HoH:S p.128f), however, might allow a maga to analyze such spellcasting sufficiently to find out its Diedne origin, if she has seen and/or studied Diedne Magic before. And there may also be Quaesitores claiming, that their powerful InVi spells (like those on HoH:TL p.75 or p.77), if mastered properly (see p.71 for Acute Sense), allow them to identify effects as Diedne Magic. So there is some reason for a little healthy paranoia.


For that matter, I always understood the down-side of the virtue "diedne magic" (implying the dark secret) as being the concrete result of a concrete analysis:

Threat 1 : the over-attentive fellow

  • wow you have cast a lot of spells today without exhausting yourself
  • yeah I have a lot of formulaic spells
  • I noticed some of them are quite difficult for you to cast, especially the magical spells you use for battle
  • yeah, i'm just not that much specialized in battle magic

Alternative version, threat 2: the over-relying fellow:
"can't you make me fly like that other day?"
diedne magus exhausted: "no sorry buddy.

  • but you have it on formulaic? why not?"

Threat 3: the listing magus
"Odd. Today you said you can't render yourself invisible, but on the 2 january 1221, you did on that fellow who was among us. "
"Are you sure you don't have the spell to teleport yourself? you did it that other day without any trouble other than exhaustion."
"I'm starting to think you have not much spells since when our grogs protected your lab during the wizard's war, they noticed you had a book with some labtexts on your desk, but none of the spells you usually cast on yourself while we are adventuring. How do you manage to cast so much formulaic spells if you do not have them?"

And then finally the threat 4: the wizard's war during which an opponent read your mind and ask you a question like: "are you a Diedne magus?" and your mind cannot lie.

So when you are playing Diedne, the best thing is to use scarcely your gifts with spontaneous magic and take notes on which spell you cast repeatedly because of this virtue, being ready to cast them even in less fortunate situations, just to cover tracks.

Another high trick for diedne magi is to know a lot of formulaic, so that when you do "diedne" spontaneous magic, it is plausiblely spells you also have, due to twilight etc. Memory magic (=> no labtext) is an excellent cover for some of the "not leaving hints" part of the role.

Assuming that the Order is still paranoid about Diedne, anyone exhibiting great talent for spontaneous magic will become suspect. Things that might draw attention:

Repeatedly casting level 15 spontaneous spells without tiring yourself (nearly impossible for normal magi, especially outside their focus)
Repeatedly casting level 20-25 spontaneous spells with fatigue (difficult for normal magi except inside their focus)
Repeatedly pulling off level 40 spontaneous spells in your focus

Basically, don't show off. If you're a middle aged magus pulling of tricks you'd only expect an ancient arch-mage to be able to do, they might suspect you're a Diedne.


I don't see there being an obvious difference in spellcasting.

I also think that someone would have to be very suspicious of a sponting magus to consider him a Diedne, because there are a variety of other ways to spont well, most of which are better than DM. (LLSM is much better for big sponts, especially if you are a Bjornaer; a Merinita with Charms is much better for low level utility sponting; a magus with Magic Foci and no sponting flaws is also better for few decades; some others.) DM also provides its biggest benefit within focus, and is not likely to have much other impact until a magus has 10 or more per Art.

That said, it's a story flaw! It doesn't matter if a Diedne casts spells or not; he gets stories, the nature of which depend on your saga. Maybe you require your Diedne to perform certain rituals, or maybe his superiors in the cult want him to do something, or maybe the covenant discovers a druidic site and he needs to prevent them from realizing it and desecrating the site. And yeah, maybe someone suspects his spellcasting. It only takes one spell, not necessarily even spontaneous. (My parens always said you can tell a Diedne by the extra finger wiggle they use for Perdo...)

FWIW, I really dislike the story flaw attached to this 'virtue':

  • If the PC is a real Diedne, that House needs to be developed and is no longer mysterious.
  • If the PC is discovered, it is a momentous historical event, the first Diedne found in 2 centuries! Um. (And it is too easily discovered, unless the character withdraws from active life, which doesn't make for a very good PC.)
  • The virtue isn't fantastic, even without the flaw.



It makes some sense from a story perspective- you aren't house Diedne, but house ex Miscelania. Your paren's paren's parens was a Diedne apprentice who was deemed not corrupted and passed to house Ex Miscellanea at the end of the Mage War. the one secret from the house has been passed down through generations, but the other magi are paranoid about Diedne, so you need to keep it a secret...
... the good news is that those in power in the order want to keep it a secret that anything of Diedne survived, so they aren't likely to call you out. They want to bury the secret, right along with you.

Of course,

Something of House Diedne did survive, and is known to have survived, because everyone's spontaneous magic is Diedne magic.



Not cannon but:

Flambeau the founder was always tinkering with his spells (flexible formulaic magic). Part of the great irony, Flambeau and Diedne (the Christian and the Pagan) didn't like each other - but many of their practices were more similar than they'd like to admit. The Flambeau took a number of Diedne apprentices as the spoils of war. By now Diedne magic is well entrenched in the house, being passed off as a continuation of Flambeau's teachings.

It's useful for fast casting a defense without fatigue.


Eh. First, he needs a relevant TeFo big enough to make a difference, which in many cases is exactly the limited case I described above. Next, he needs to be fast enough, which is not at all a sure thing. Finally, he has to be willing to risk all those botch dice from Fast-Casting, which may be worse than the problem.

In AM5, Flawless Magic is a much better virtue for fast-casters than Diedne Magic. Even normal mastery of a few judiciously selected spells is probably better. Mastery is necessary to fast-cast a formulaic, but also alleviates botch worries and can improve initiative, which increases the chance the spell will go off in time. And, of course, the spell is likely to be bigger.



Diedne Magic is simply poorly designed. Here's my reasoning:

1.) It comes with a Major Flaw, that is in no way balanced by the power it offers.
2.) It is of poor utility to young magi, who have low arts scores anyways, and doubling the lower Art still offers little in many situations.
3.) It offers poor utility to older magi, who generally have a broad selection of spells (so cast Formulaics) and the arts scores to manage decent spontaneous magic without the bonuses Diedne Magic offers. Also, older magi don't want botches that come from rolling a stress die anyways.

So it's useful for the narrow window of middle age, assuming the character prioritized arts training over learning formulaic spells.

The usefulness is inversely proportional to the prevalence of lab texts in your saga. If magi can find texts for most of their magic, then the virtue is weak. If they have to develop most spells from scratch, then Deidne magic is much more balanced.

It's easy to play down the story flaw if the troupe feels the virtue is too weak. Make it only come into play on very rare occasions, unless the Deidne magus does something particularly blatant.

I currently play/have until recently played a character with Diedne Magic.
And I have been pleasently surprised at how well it has worked.

The idea was not fast cast defences, nor any form of attack. the Idea was a utility mage - someone who "always just happens to have the right spell"
And it's been working a lot better than expected, really. I've spend my seasons in studies of the Arts - magic theory could be almost entirely neglected.
I've spend no seasons on inventing spells and only 2 seasons to invest a glove as my Talisman. Because of this, my Arts are generally fairly high compared to those of the other magi in my covenant.

Diedne Magic really has 2 advantages:
!) I can cast spontaneous magic without fatigue. Yes, I still have to roll a stress die, but so far, luck has been on my side. I have Cautious Sorceror, and now a familiar with a strong gold cord - I rarely roll more than a single botch die. Meaning that I can take a point of Warping now and again, but Twilight isn't really a thing. So this ability really allows me to use magic as freely and as frequently as a spell bsed caster.
2) I can sacrifice a single fatigue to double my lowest Art for the purposes of spontaneous magic. This is essentially how I've managed to make a decent generalist in Ars Magica. Low Arts are usually fairly fast and easy to improve. And since I don't waste time inventing spells, I have those extra seasons to study the Arts - meaning that my low Arts are nearly as high as the 'high Arts' of the magi I share a covenant with. So doubling the low Art is still a nice boost.

I agree with Ovarwa that Flawless Magic is a stronger Virtue. Almost every saga I've been in in the 5th edition has had at least one magus with Flawless Magic - for a combat mage, it cannot be beaten.
But for utility and flexibility, Diedne Magic is amazing!


Totally agreed. As written, I consider it closer to a Minor Hermetic Story Flaw than a major hermetic virtue.




Of course, the chances are that if lab texts are rare, so are Art texts. Diedne Magic is still bad. In those sagas, you'll (once again) want LLSM, which does not depend on texts. Or maybe you'll want Inventive Genius, so you can make your own stuff. Or maybe FM, to get the most out of the spells you can cast.

The meh-ness of Diedne Magic remains constant.

DM works best for a magus with huge Art scores and a way to remove the last botch die from sponting, at least sometimes.

By 'particularly blatant,' do you mean 'when he dares to actually use his Major Virtue?'

DM would be a fine (not overly powerful) Major Virtue if it went something like: For spontaneous casting, your Casting Total equals half of your Casting Score, which does not include a die roll. This costs no fatigue and is never stressful under any condition. You can choose to push your limits, which adds a stress die to the Casting Total (not score) at the cost of one fatigue level and the normal risk of having to roll botch dice. You might consider taking flaws like Judged Unfairly or Dark Secret to represent a possible association with House Diedne, or rumor to that effect, but this is not required. Note that other virtues have been associated with House Diedne over the centuries, including Life Boost and LLSM.

I'm still not sure it is better than LLSM, but is different in a worthy way.




To get just a single extra magnitude for your utility caster, the lower Art needs to be a 10. (Spend a fatigue to get +10, which is then halved. So 1 magnitude.)

This means that you have invested 825xp in Arts, at a minimum. At a generous 10xp/season, that is just over 20 years of study. Let's call it 17 years post-Gauntlet.

Being able to add 2 magnitudes takes something like 80 years. !!!!!

The LLSM guy could always have just the right spell from Day 1, adding up to 3 magnitudes. Of course, this costs fatigue. But being able to cast any level 15 spell out the door, and any level 30 spell in his specialty (he can have one!) is a different ballgame.

I'd definitely choose DM over LLSM for the Centenarian Saga generalist. Otherwise, it's a long time to wait.

The LLSM guy casts with fatigue. Sure. OTOH, he can have a real specialty since his sponts don't depend much on Arts, which means that he has more powerful Formulaic spells to cast. BTW, it also means that his familiar is also likely to be much better. If he rolls as well as you, he's still ahead.

The downside is that if he and you roll poorly, he fares worse.

Not harshing on your fun! If it works in your saga, great. Yet having a few formulaic spells is so powerful, that even a generalist should want to have some. As soon as you have a single level 20 spell that you like casting often, unless your SG changes the rules and lets you cast without a stress die, that spell needs to become Formulaic.

I think it's just ok. LLSM is better for pulling anything out of your hat, FFM is better for being more flexible within a specialty, and Merinita Folk Magic is better in a few subtle ways (requires some prep but can boost anything, costs no fatigue, and adds directly to casting total!) All of these are better; none of these comes with a Major Flaw.



I'd considered that, and if you could have DM and LLSM on the same characters (from start), I would've, for even more flexibility.
In many ways, LLSM is more powerful, I'm not saying otherwise. But I actual play, I found that not having to worry about fatigue was amazingly useful, and that you can do surprisingly much with level 10-15 effects. I don't mind admitting that it was kind of a slow start, but my character became useful much faster than expected.

Again, I don't disagree. Except. I'd intentionally designed my character to be an idiot in the lab (low int, weak enchanter, creative block, weak formulaic magic and weak scholar), and only very rarely cast the same spell many times. Spells that needed penetration was ... the territory of other magi. But I could be useful in any situation.
Unless there was a strong Divine (or Infernal) Aura.

I've seen LLSM in play, and was unimpressed. Essentially, he could cast any spell he liked, but only if he didn't mind being out of action for far too long afterwards.
A mis-calculation on what to do, and he would be out of the scene.

I've had FFM on a character and seen a few others, and while it was indeed very useful, I'd still say Flawless Magic is the more powerful of these two. For the concepts I've seen them used for, anyway.
MuVi lets you fake FFM, while faking FM involves a lot of XPs.

I have yet to see Merinita Folk Magic fully in use. I considered trying to initiate it on the Diedne caster (he's a Merinita anyway, so why not?), but never got to it.

EDIT: I'm not saying Diedne Magic is the all-powerful, be all-end all virtue to rule them all. But it's not bad, and it was certainly better than I expected.
That said, making it a Major Hermetic Virtue and stacking it with a Dark Secret, for no extra points? Too harsh I think.
On the other hand, if it hadn't been a major hermetic virtue, I'd have probably combined it with LLSM.


Yes, that is a drawback.

Although just as you designed your character to make the best use of DM, there are ways to mitigate the downsides of LLSM, such as:

  • Be Bjornaer with a shape that has extra Fatigue levels. Once you have an Inner Heartbeast, you can get up to 5 Fatigue levels beyond normal characters.
  • Or be a Shapeshifter. No Inner Heartbeast, but extra shapes.
  • There are 2 Heroic Virtues that make botching sponts much harder, and you are descended from Diedne herself! Or some other hero of her House; DM says so on the tin! Heroic Luck allows a reroll. Mythic Stamina (steady spontaneous magic; clearly associated with Diedne!) can remove that last botch die.
  • Situationally, Cautious with AL can remove the last botch die from a ceremonial casting.

Yes, some SGs will say no to some of this.

MuVi lets you fake it a little bit, but yes, FM is a better virtue in the medium and long run, and can be optimized toward nicely. Note that 'faking it with XPs' isn't as expensive as all that, because you only have to fake it for the spells you really care about.

The biggest problem with it is that because it is so rarely used, and because it was not fully playtested or edited (not a slam; just an observation that most ancillary AM material cannot possibly have the amount of testing and refining as material used early and often), each group will need to resolve various issues. For the virtue to be decent, these issues need to be resolved up front, and many troupes will rule in ways that make the virtue not worth taking. (Not necessarily incorrectly or unreasonably, just not making it useful.)

As you point out, LLSM is self-limiting, so this outcome would not be so bad.

I think the editorial decision to contain spontaneous magic was a good one. A party of specialists is interesting; a party of generalists is bland; if being a generalist is too easy, we either get too many of them or watch the generalist take all the spotlight.



A drought in Arts texts affects everybody equally. A drought in lab texts affects Diedne less than others.

Sure. But if there's a shortage of one, there's probably a shortage of the other. Unless the Diedne is causing the shortage. :slight_smile:

LLSM really comes into its own in a low-everything saga, as do other virtues that provide static bonuses.