Faerie Magus Infiltrator

I am interested in making a character that is a Faerie Infiltrator, as per the RoP:F book; specifically, an infiltrator that is passing for a Hermetic Magus (magi, after all, are great sources of stories, otherwise we wouldn't be playing them). After reading through the rules a couple times, this seems to be basically impossible in the RAW, since it is trivially difficult for an expert to tell if a faerie is using pretenses, and such a character would be immediately detected by those he lived among. Presumably, this would extend to Faerie Glamours being detectable as not Hermetic magic, as they are based upon abilities. Faerie Trainer would allow the abilities to exist as regular abilities rather than pretenses, but there is still a problem with glamours, and I am not sure there is a good way to do this RAW, but I was looking for suggestions.

Well, just do it and ignore the rules as written.

Which, by the way, is in the rules as written: I remember putting it there.

The rules aid you to create the faeries your group wants. If they aren't doing that, then just do what you like and take the bits that work for you.

Now, the reason that infiltrators are easy to spot by experts is twofold:

  • Faeries are supporting, not main, characters. This is nedcessary because otherwise no-one will want to play mortals. Faeries are just stronger, classier and deadlier, and os if you make them possible as protagonists, then everyone will want one, and this is actually a game about a human community, not a godling and her pet humans.
  • It devalues human characters if faeries can do what it takes them years of experience to do, after a person redesigns the faerie using free expression (like in previous editions, where free expression and a faerie were the sonic screwdriver that you could twist to fix every story.)

Now, if your troupe don't care about that, then you should just do what you like. If your troupe do care about that, then just negotiate with them and see what they are comfortable with.

There have been faerie infiltrators in the Order before. Quendalon was one, and House Merinita has proof, according to OoH (2nd edition) that one of their magi was actually an infiltrator. They only found this out after breaking into his sanctum after his disappearance.

As a game balance issue, you are basically asking for the Mystery of Becoming as a from-the-gate freebie. Now, in most games that would tend to unablanace the party a lot, but in some games that would be fine, particularly if you agreed that as part of your faerie's role it would enschew the use of many of its powers (like functional immortality, for example).

So, just talk to your troupe and see what they are happy with.

I hadn't thought of it in terms of a Faerie being overpowered, as I am more interested in the Faerie's limitations while playing out a magus' role--I hadn't intended them to be equivalent in power to a magus, but rather a companion. The issue of mortals with free expression strikes me as more of a liability to the character than a source of strength, and I would be personally very skeptical of a player with Free Expression who actively used it to affect fae to their ends, as that does seem a powerhouse (and in a somewhat metagaming way). I was hoping there might be more subtle ways to create a character with the ability to pass as a magus but who is not necessarily commensurate in power, except perhaps in a narrow range of glamours that allows the pretense of having Hermetic abilities, without either being overpowered or significantly out of the RAW (I don't like to present a character to a new troupe that is house-ruled from the get-go).

I suppose this also raises the issue of how one would detect passive or social pretenses--is it obvious that a Faerie's Magic Lore knowledge comes from a pretense, not a trained ability? Does a faerie's ability to lie take a different form because it is using a guile pretense? How would you tell in either event, as there is nothing specifically to observe? How would you infiltrate if guile was detectable as a pretense to good liars (who are presumably more common than other experts)?

It has to be observed, so purely passive ones can't be observed and are undetectable.

Does its ability to lie take a different form, IMO, yes, much as a demon's does. They cheat because they know too much about their mark, or the surrounding events, to be purely natural.

A faeries infiltrator is going to fail if a serious and drab magus actually is inherently sceptical. For anyone that WANTS to believe then they aint even going to make a roll. Besides, why can't the faerie be masquerading as a Merinita using faerie magic and with their own inherint glamour? Any attempts to determine their true nature using magic would technically be a breach of the code.. scrying on another magus. Tribunals are infrequent and I believe only they can sanction an investigation into a magus.

Overall though I agree with the 'if the rules don't work do it anyway'. I was disapointed with ROP:F terribly. It felt like reading something originally written in hyperborean and tranlated through several other languages on the way to English.

If you'd care to insult my writing in a more concrete and less metaphorical form, perhaps I might find your criticism useful. :laughing:

Ok, step one, no offense intended, genuinely. If any was given , or taken then for that I apologise. Sincerely.

I found it necessary to read passages over and over again to grasp what was being said, in particular in the first few chapters. Trying to synthesize any outrageously abstract concept into an intelligible system must be extremely difficult I have no doubt.

I had hoped to open the pages and be greeted with a land of mystery and wonder. What I got felt like an essay on a subset of metaphysics. I am not saying that is wrong, but it was disapointing. I just didn't like having the Fey reduced to mechanical systems I suppose, and I didn't easily understand them. Reading it was work. Most of the ars supplements work like this: concepts first, but most of the other concepts in other titles are quite tangible, or at least simple so normally it works well. Compare the concept of vitality with tethers for example. I bought RoP:F at the same time as RoP:M. I started with Faerie and quickly switched to Magic. it is not that I don't grasp vitality, simply that the exposition of it in the text is, by necessity I suppose, heavy reading.

I was also was concerned that reducing the Fey to a series of tables that players can force didn't fit with the more arthurian approach to the fey I am used to in the groups I have played with. Faeries are something that happen to you in those... for good or ill. I also know that it isnt written as a series of tables, but there are lots of dice rolls to be made where we were always happy with stories.

For me I suppose what I am saying is a lot of the concepts in that book are explained in great depth and are abstract an complex. A sidebar and a lot of local variation is a style I am more comfortable with. I refer to things like glamour and vitality to be specific.

Again though, absolutely no offense was intended and I probably should be more careful in chocie of words here. This is a very subjective viewpoint, namely mine, but as you asked for feedback, so here it is.


One easy way to do this is to simply declare that this character is such a good infiltrator, so convincing as a magus, that you might as well create him using the plain old rules for magi, and just say "But this guy is doing it with glamour," and so on.

Maybe add a Dark Secret, a personality trait, and/or a flaw that is a very subtle telltale hint.

And Presto, a Faerie infiltrator.



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That's fair enough.

I do agree that Magic is the easier book to understand.

Mechanically Magic is a lot less simple: make a faerie dragon and a magic dragon and you'll see what I mean. 8)

It does help, I think, to have read Magic first. It was the initial layout of the power framework which Faerie uses, and it does describe the framework itself more fully.

Just to add my ha'pennorth, Timothy, I found the new version of faeries much easier to use and comprehend than the previous version(s). As one of my players said, it made him much more likely to use faeries now rather than avoid stories about them like the plague! That won't stop me using the traditional, independent-of-humans faeries as well....

I did, however, find RoP: Magic very poorly organised - it really felt like a series of articles that were about 'magic' but where the basics hadn't been agreed first. As a SG, whenever I make an important character using the book, I have to search through all the different sections to find little bits I wish to use (eg a magic human still needs me to look through the magic item and spirit chapters) and then it can be tricky to synthesise the final character. Each section is nice, but the overall 'feel' of the book is very messy.



That is a simple and interesting idea, but it doesn't really address the story that I would like to tell using the character--the point is not to just be a Faerie who is also a magus, but to focus on being a faerie carefully masquerading as a magus, in danger of discovery if he underplays or overplays his hand.



Ok. So you want to tell stories about the effort it takes to pretend to be a human and a magus. So let's set rules aside for a moment. All the rules. For the moment, there's no such thing as pretenses, no such thing as dice.

For the stories you want to tell, what kinds of things should be difficult for this character to do? What kinds of things can't he do that a magus should be able to do? What is he trying to accomplish by being a magus (and the answer should not be "gain vitality," but something that a medieval person might recognize as a motivation)? What traits must he make an effort
to hide ("I'm a faerie" doesn't count, but "cannot touch iron," or "turns to goo in a church" does)?



Ok thinking some more about your particular problem.

You need a magus doing magus things that no hermetic magus is ever going to see/use but will readily accept they are going on

Well... I would suggest the following then.

The magus is working on some Magnum Opus, a great work of mythic proportions which consumes all of his lab time and is not likely to yield any results any time soon.

The magus needs to have an hermetic flaw which would limit his use of casual magic considerably. Consider, for example, a verditius who also is forgetful and tehrefore tends to leave his casting tools in his lab/sancta.

The magus could have supernatural abilities which other resident are very unlikely to have and therefore might avoid suspicion. If the magus claimed these were fey gifts they wouldn't arouse suspcion anyway.

The magus can obvious have a strong faerie virtues list to all appearences and claim to have aquired a twilight flaw perhaps giving him an inherint 'glamour'.

The magus should claim they are seeking greater understanding of the Fey and thus are trying to attune all their magics in that way.

There are flaws such as unnatural magic in the order that already make use of standard hermetic gestures etc far from universal. The Faerie may look like they are pretending, or is that just that they use 'slightly different versions' as so many ex Miscellanea do.

These things SHOULD allow the magus to reside in the covenant without drawing attention to themselves and influence its inhabbitants by more traditional means. No-one is going to use hermetic magic to detect the faerie nature of his works for risk of being marched for scrying.

Plan B: make a faerie redcap. A few "magic items" should be easy to replicate without raising the alarm all around the faerie. And redcaps can be in expeditions where real magi are the protagonists easily. Still a magus that can take part in the OoH community and events, but not a "real" magus.


I wondered about this one too, although I suspect that House Mercere is the hardest to infiltrate. They handle so much paperwork like registration details for one thing and they are suppoesd to KNOW where everyone is at any one time. I also got the impression that lineage was quite important in their house, not just for the gifted.

I could, however, be completely wrong.

My troupe and I also tackled the problem of designing a Companion Faerie posing as a Magus according the rules as written (we hate remarks like "ignore/change the rules if they don't work for you" and consider them as euphemysms for "the authors' work is inadequate"). We found essentially four main hurdles:

  1. Faeries face a number of difficulties (e.g. inability to enter an Aegis unless invited ...) that set them apart from humans (including Hermetic Magi).

  2. Pretenses are quite easy to spot by masters of the field - and we believe it against the spirit of the rules to take "real" abilities through the Faerie Trainer Virtue unless the character's role is that of a Mentor teaching those specific abilities.

  3. Most Houses are sufficiently small and well organized that it's going to be really hard faking membership for an extended period of time.

  4. The virtue points of a starting character are generally insufficient to mimick more than a tiny fraction of a starting magus' capabilities (as it should be for game balance) - and there are some Hermetic feats that Faeries can't duplicate in any case (e.g. engaging in certamen, writing books about Arts, producing actual magical effects etc.).

Roughly speaking, 1 is more of a nuisance and a story hook than an insormountable obstacle (after all, Magi who have become magical or Faerie beings, familiars etc. face many of the same problems). 2 can be a more serious difficulty, though only if the character is observed using the ability (which makes "passive" abilities like Lores safe) by a master of the ability. Even then, all that can be gleaned is that there's something supernatural about what the character is doing - most magi will think it's probably some weird twilight effect unless they realize it permeates all of the character's abilities; and many of those few who know enough about Faeries to guess the truth will also realize that it's in their best interest to keep quiet about it. 3 and 4 are the really difficult hurdles, though we came up with two different templates that can more or less get around them.

The first is the hedge wizard ex Miscellanea. Ex Miscellanea is the House with the loosest affiliation, (the only one that has difficulty keeping track of how many members it has!), so if you claim that you are magus X filius of Y from the other side of Mythic Europe, most magi will just let you off with a shrug of contempt. Also, several magi ex Miscellanea never learn Hermetic magic save for Parma (which can be "mimicked" by natural might resistance) and 4-6 points spent in powers and/or supernatural abilities can create a reasonable starting magical portfolio.

The second possibility is to go all out with the bluff, and impersonate an Archmage who has mysteriously disappeared centuries ago. Perhaps even Bonisagus or Tytalus! This takes cares of point 3) above, and can considerably help with 1) and 2) as well (after all, we all know that Archmagi are a little strange and constantly surrounded by weird twilight effects). In terms of point 4), the idea is to take no "fake" magical powers at all, and just pile virtues and pretenses into such a reputation and appearance of fearsome might and ancient wisdom that no one will dare challenging the character - particularly if he does not attempt to dominate the political scene and instead recruits a handful of young magi (the other PC magi!) to help him (re)build a remote covenant dedicated to some mysterious magical quest. A PC in our saga - the companion character of our alpha storyguide - is actually built to this template.

It's hard to agree with such sentiments. What you'll find is that most work is more than sufficient for most people. But some troupes will have a different focus, or different requirements, or a different view of their own game and game world. None of the line authors can know or accommodate every troupe out there. If you're one of those troupes that isn't fully accommodated you're left with a couple of options:

  1. Grumble about it and just do your own thing, or
  2. Get on with it and just do your own thing

Both are pretty similar but the second one has less grumbling before getting on with your own thing.

Constructive feedback and criticism is worth its weight (if such things actually have any weight...) in gold, but I'm not sure how much your comment contributes in this case.

Mine was a side comment to provide justification of why we generally try to work with the rules as written, instead of immediately trying to sidestep them if they do not appear to work at first glance. Probably, I should have either kept it out of the thread, or expanded on it. I'll try and do the second here.

A rpg ruleset is a support to roleplaying and storytelling, helping players and storyguide produce stories and roleplaying sessions that have certain characteristics rather than others. As such there is obviously no "universal" ruleset, since different groups want to experience different "flavours" of game, and pushing towards one direction usually pushes away from another. However, a good ruleset should, in my mind, clearly state what type of games it's supposed to support, and support them. A ruleset for a game purportedly of fast and furious action where fistfights can take four hours of rolling dice and pouring over half a dozen rulebooks is definitely not a good ruleset for that game (guess what rpg I'm talking about?).

Making good rulesets is difficult: you have to anticipate a universe of different situations and gamers, and provide a relatively compact system to handle them all. Many times success is only partial - like in the making of movies or software. But saying "If you do not like the rules, you should change them" in a book is truly pernicious, I think.

Superficially, it's just useless. It's obvious that no one is forcing me to play a rpg as written. Getting explicit permission from the authors to deviate from their rules seems just an irritating waste of wordcount. But it's actually much worse than that.

First, it provides a justification to the authors for being sloppy and not trying to make a good system "Hey, this works for some people in some circumstances, so it's good enough - you can't it expect it to work for everybody, can you?" How would you take that on some sofware you bought and regularly crashed on you?

Perhaps more importantly, it hurts excellent but subtle rulesets - ones that deliver the type of gameplay they promise if you stick to them, even if at first sight 99% of the users would fail to grasp the careful and complex balance of mechanics behind their apparent simplicity. If users assume that most rulesets will not work for them as written, these jewels will often go to waste: people will not trust them, will tinker with them based on first impressions, and come up with something that works far worse than it could. Think if modern electronic products, instead of the standard "Caution: to prevent electric shock, do not remove cover. No user serviceable parts inside etc." disclaimer, carried a disclaimer saying "Caution: toasts, toast lovers and toasters are like unique snowflakes - if you do not like the way this product works, feel free to tinker with it". How bad would that be?

Please note that I am not criticizing RoP:F. I think it is a fine book, with only a few minor issues here and there - probably the best of the three Faeries books published for Ars Magica, and certainly the one that, to me, appears to have had more effort and care lavished onto it. Indeed, my post was meant to show that you do not need to sidestep the rules contained therein to accomplish what the original poster wanted. What I am criticizing is the "change it if you do not like it" disclaimer, with all that it implies.

You've done a fine job expanding on an admittedly very small quote. However, I still disagree with your underlying conclusion. I think it's very liberating to not only have the freedom to change things but to be actively encouraged to change them if they don't suit. I think most RPG books/systems, at somewhere in the line, present the content as a set of guidelines only. I know that there are parts of some books that I'd want to change slightly (for instance, I think Rego Craft Magic could be easier to use, Initiation Scripts easier to invent, and Automatons easier to create - there's a trend there) and actually I have and/or will for each of those in my own saga purely because it suits our style of play better.

But I don't want to labour the point, so I'll leave it at that.

The problem's you're an atypical buyer of Ars.

Ars has occassionally experimented with outcome modelling rulesets, which offer unique play experiences by rewarding your character doing things your character should do in role. Proper indie stuff. When the authors do this, we are usually told what bastards we are, and how we have wrecked people's campaigns, because they want to play a vanilla game and they can't anymore. 8)

Case in point: Criamon magi. Play the rules as written and you will be playing something quite close to a character in a mystery cult. They are far less popular than the mix-and-match-and-do-whatever-you-like cult given in Mysteries, because that's just how most players are: they want limitless choice, which means they want generic rulesets, not rules which are tailored to a particular play experience. They don't want to be told what the one proper way to get the Path of Seeming is: they want to look at it and go "No, that' doesn't suit me: I am going to design a script in which I just do whatever I want and am rewarded with the virtue instead." To me, that sounds exactly like fornicating your way to sainthood, but it's not my game, so its none of my business. And the counterpoint is: they want to have fun and fornicating your way to sainthood sounds like fun, so who am I, grumpy writer, to tell them that's not the way to have fun?

Go back through the forum and look at the heat I took for the Criamons. Why didn't I include an opt-out, so you could be a Criamon but not believe what Criamon believe? Why did I wreck the game they had been playing for two real time years? And so on, and so on... Now, was I writing tight rules, or was I defining BadWrongFun! for people?

The problem here. is that you, and I, frankly, like rules which model the game situations we want to play, and most Ars players don't actually like that. They like loose rules.

This means that the rules always need to leave space for the guy who wants to play a non-magical animal as his PC, rather than saying "This is a game about magi! Do you play a housepet in Vampire? Wake up to yourself! Make a character who suits the party!"

A book only has 75 000 words in it, so you can explicitly allow, but not describe marginal cases.

Which means that you necessarily write for what you think most people will do in their games, and you let the guy who wants to play a magical sword work it out for himself, and you add a clause that stops arguments in groups that try to play pure vanilla Ars, saying "talk with your troupe."

So, in this thread, why can't you play a faerie magus infiltrator? Well, you can. Why doesn't the book support it with detail? Because it means you are playing a faerie who is a magus. Which means you are playing a magus who lives forever and has the potential for limitless experience points, which is a You Win level award for years of great play if you are playing a Merinita. It's the very capstone fo what they do, and you want it as a starting benefit. That's too hard for most SGs to script. So, no, the book doesn't much deal with that marginal case. It, instead, says "if you want to do it, talk to your group." and then uses its remaining limited space on stuff which most groups seem likely to agree will be fun in their games.

It could say "If you want to play a faerie magus, there's a great game called Nobilis you should go and buy. It scales perfectly for what you are trying to do." but instead it says "If your group are crazy enough, good luck to you. Work it out amongst yourselves." I don't see that as pernicious, but I do accept it goes away from the tight design you get in some modern games, where you literally would have the author say to the player "Hell, no. This is a game about X. Make X. If you don't want to make X, then we need to play a different game, because in this game, you play X."

At the same time. I'd point out that Faeries have some modern design features often seen in indie games: like player defined skill lists, negotiated story role, metaconversations about story structure, player co-definition ofthe setting in play, and consentual or negotiated death. So, faeries do sneak into Ars some of the features of modern game design.

We just don't make a big deal about it in the text, about how artisanal and cutting edge we are.