Full Hermetic Integration

New to the forum, not entirely new to the game.

I've a question about totally integrating breakthroughs from Original Research and/or Ancient Magic/Rival Magic/ hedge Magic, etc.

A successful major breakthrough could allow you to create a teachable Hermetic Virtue out of a Supernatural Virtue. No problem there. If there is an associated Supernatural (now Hermetic) ability, you improve it like any other ability, as per the rules.

My question is, what changes when our mage completely integrates his ability research into Hermetic theory, via another Major Breakthrough?

HOH: TL uses Life Boost as an example- a maga invents Hermetic Life Boost, which must be taught as its own ability and then, through another breakthrough she integrates it fully into Hermetic Magic Theory. Any magus who learns this improved Magic Theory gets Life Boost for free. Life Boost doesn't have an associated ability.

Hedge Magic explains that Certamen is a total integration of a version of the Nightwalker's ability to fight spirit battles. Since certamen has been totally integrated, it has no separate ability and no ability score, and depends on your technique and form levels. Okay, that's fine, but we don't really have any way to compare this integrated Certamen with whatever came before. The virtues that represent Certamen are "free and unnamed" parts of the virtue of being a Hermetic Magus.

So, what happens when a Supernatural Virtue with an associated ability is integrated?

Let us assume that some Magus Bonisagi has some Ex Misc. friends and is trying to create Hermetic Shapeshifting. He could take the cheap route and investiage the Subtle Opening breakthrough as mentioned in Hedge Magic, which would allow a Mage to learn any Supernatural abilities easily. (Seriously, Subtle Opening is an extremely powerful breakthrough, since the alternative is making a breakthrough for each ability that you want).

However, if he takes the proper route and develops a major breakthrough, creating Hermetic Shapeshifting. Mechanically, this ability is much easier for a Hermetic Mage to learn than Supernatural Shapeshifting, but it operates the same- your score in shapeshifting is the number of animals you can turn into, shapeshifting is Stamina + Shapeshifting vs Ease Factor 9. It's still an ability, governed by like own score, like Parma is.

What happens when this member of Bonisagus completes a second major breakthrough (okay, maybe his apprentic carries on his work or something) and integrates Hermetic Shapeshifting totally? Now it no longer is learned, but now is a part of Hermetic Magic. Do the mechanics change? What score now determines shapeshifting? Is it just like the Life Boost example? Are the rolls to change forms (and the number of animal forms you have) now governed by your Magic Theory score instead of your shapeshifting score? I can't seem to find any reference to how ability mechanics change when they cease to be separate abilities. The ability becoming part of Magic Theory seems to work, since it is an ability and would be advanced in the same way (though with enough time several new abilities could be amalgamated into it ..... just as Bonisagus did. hmm)

I don't think there are firm guidelines on this. Your idea of letting Magic Theory serve to limit the number of shapes is good, but the main point for me is to let the Arts now replace the Supernatural Ability. Of course, there are already Hermetic shapeshifting spells. I would therefore say Shapeshifting and Skinchanger are already fully integrated into Hermetic theory - you just use MuCo(An) spells, even with the "skin" like Skinchanger if you want.

The only real advantage that Shapechanger has is that the magic operates only at the moment of transformation, so the effect cannot be dispelled; you can leave that in as something that didn't pass through the Hermetic integration, or develop it as a new (Hermetic?) Breakthrough that modifies how Hermetic shapechanging spells, and perhaps other Muto effects, work.

As YR7 has already pointed out, full Hermetic Integration of Supernatural Abilities does not make sense, if such Abilities can already be replicated by spells.

There are some Supernatural Abilities which can't, though. And some of these might benefit the Order significantly, if they were integrated either as new Guidelines for spells, or merged into existing Arcane Abilities of Hermetic magi. The specific kind and details of this integration are coordinated by the player with storyguide and troupe.

HoH:S p.128f Comprehend Magic as an InVi Guideline would result in spells every InVi specialist would want to learn. HoH:S p.125f Mythic Herbalism as a function of Magic Theory would become a lab activity possible for every Hermetic magus.


Ones which can already be duplicated with the arts can still reveal new paths for researchers to follow. As YR7 said, you could rule that fully integrating shapechanger could be a significant step in semi-permanent muto.

Yeah, my interpretation of Hermetic Shapeshifting integration is that the shapeshifting aspect has already been integrated; the ability to make them instant (as opposed to having a duration), however, has not yet been.

As others have said - that's a saga-specific question. If your troupe wants to have functionally-permanent shapeshifting, then that's fine - it's an interesting story, especially if you focus on the political consequences with the bjorner. If they don't want it, you can rule that it's not something that's currently possible with Hermetic magic.

Personally, I would lean towards the former, as it's been established that "little" things like that are fully Integratable - as seen by the "Second Sight integration allows Intelligo magic to not need penetration" in the Hedge Witch section of HMRE.

Thanks for all the input.

I would agree that that the Skinchanger virtue has been fully integrated in the canon rules, given that the description for it and the MuCo spells for human-animal transformation are so similar... and also that Mystery Cults treats transformations by either method as pretty much the same. The integration of Skinchanger actually improved it- while a Skinchanger has one animal skin and can turn into that animal, Hermetic Magi using Muto and Corpus (and Animal) may turn into any animal, given that they have a skin. Integration actually made it more versatile.

I feel that Shapeshifter is still a bit different, since you don't need a skin (of course), there's no warping and, as pointed out, only the transformation is a magical effect, not the form itself, so it can't be dispelled. That only the transformation is magical is something which it shares with Heartbeasts, which suggests that any mage trying to integrate this would either have to work with several Bjornaer mages or find some Gothic Shapeshifters. Good luck, either way.

So, Shapeshifter could end up being a shallow sort of Heartbeast-lite for the rest of the order, though it'd probably cause another Schism War if one managed to develop it.
Though magi with Shapeshifter could become several mundane beasts, they wouldn't have the deep connection that Bjornaer do, and wouldn't be able to do any of those nifty deeper mysteries that Mystery Cult talks about. Given that the rest of the Order doesn't known about that stuff, they would think that being able to turn into a raven (and a bear and a horse and a cat, etc, etc,) while still being able to bond to a familiar as highly superior.

Naturally, I still thought about how it would work mechanically. In my first post I talked about how Supernatural Virtues converted into learn-able Hermetic Virtues (via a Major Breakthrough) would be mechanically the same. Looking again, I find I was wrong. Hedge Magic provides us with an example of Second Sight (a Virtue with an associated ability, hurrah!) being integrated. Instead of simply allowing Magi to learn second sight, the integrated virtue removes magic resistance from the target of your Intelligo spells. Like YR7 said, it's a matter of allow the Arts to replace the ability. Otherwise, it's not really Hermetic Magic, is it?

Anyway, I came up with some simple rules for a Shapeshifter Hermetic Virtue. They could represent a teach-able Virtue, or the mechanics of a new in-built part of Hermetic magic, like Certamen or Longevity Rituals.

Shapeshifting is based around the arts of Muto, Corpus and Animal. You must have a score of 5 in each art, at minimum, to shapeshift. Your Muto and Animal score, divided by 5, is the number of other (animal) forms you may assume. Round Down. At 10, you have 2 forms, at 15, 3, at 20, 4. At 14 you have 2, at 21, 4.

Your Muto and Corpus score, plus a simple die vs an "Shifting Total" determines whether you transform or not. You must reach or exceed the total to transform. A lower roll means nothing happens.

The Shifting Total is based upon the Animal you are transforming into. Size is the main component. You may transform into any mundane creature from Size -5 to +2. A Size -5 creature has a shifting total of 5. Each Size increase adds 5 to the total. A Size 0 animal (boar, deer, etc) has a shifting total of 30. 10 must be added to the shifting total if the animal is not a land animal, but is a bird or fish. Hence a crow (Size -4) would be 10 + 10 = 20. A maga with MuCo 10 better roll a 10, or nothing will happen.

-Since the Arts are easier to advance than abilities, I altered some things. I felt that allowing 2 forms from the beginning was fair, since it costs 30 xp to get Muto and Animal to 5 each, while an ability would only take 15 xp. Still, you can use Muto and Animal for many other things, so the extra cost is probably worth it.
-Yes, this means that a new Maga with only 5 in each of the arts cannot become a large creature- the best she could do is a Size -2 animal, like a dog, and even then she could not do it reliably. She would be able to turn into a a rabbit or snake everytime, however. This is a rough approximation of how the Shapeshifter ability works- with Shapeshifter 1, you could turn into a bear, though you'd have to roll at least an 8. This does mean that no newly gauntleted magus is going to be able to turn into a bear, which means normal I-need-a-bear-skin-to-transform MuCo (An) spells aren't going to be obsolete.

  • This added difficulty seems fair to me, since Magi who can shapeshift get the same benefits- no warping for long term transformations, and no chance of being dispelled back into human form. This also means that, like with the standard ability, one must roll again to turn into a human. Since I'm just spitballing some ideas, I'm not sure what the Shifting Total should be- probably 20, so that even a novice can transform back with a good roll. Any higher and a newly taught apprentice is stuck in rabbit-mode, and since this is not a magical effect, it could be permanent.
  • yes, I know that casting spells while as an animal has a -15 modifier, but transforming, like for a Bjornaer, is not a spell. It's like Certamen, or Lab work- it uses the Arts, but not quite in the same way as a casting a formulaic spell.
    -Since we keep hearing how a Bjornaer's heartbeast is an equal part of the magi, and that both their animal and human forms are equally natural to them, should research into creating Hermetic shapeshifting look into Rego magic? Turning into a horse is natural, for them at least.

An alternative would be that once fully integrated, any magus can learn the skill "Shapeshifter" without virtue requirement.
Like Certamen is a skill, Shapeshifter would become an hermetic skill. And all the rules regarding the Supernatural ability would apply.

To tie the integrated virtue to Hermetic Arts, the Shapeshifter skill cannot exceed (Mu+Co+An)/5.

It depends if you want to see every mage being able to shapeshift in several beasts or if you want to limit a bit the use of this ability.
In your original proposition, any mages will have at least 2 shapes (since to take apprentice you need a score of 5 in each Art).
In my proposition, most mage will have one shape (because they only need to invest 5 XP for the first level in Shapeshifter), but having more shapes will require a bit more dedication.
It is also a good story material, as some mages might want to keep their shape mastery hidden to surprise enemies during wizard's war, or just to escape in case of trouble.

ArM5 has no Certamen skill any more.

organicmcgee's complex Shapeshifter Hermetic Virtue, especially the mechanics, needs discussion with his troupe and storyguide. AFAICS the Forum cannot help a lot with it.


One Shot: Yeah, if this was about 4e, I wouldn't have started this thread at all. That being said, I prefer how 5e handles Certamen, since we are told that it is one of the things that Bonisagus incorporated into his theory. If there was a separate Certamen ability, there would probably need to be separate abilities for enchanting items, creating longevity rituals, binding familiars, casting spontaneous magic, etc, etc. All these were things that the founders contributed to his theory. If you wanted to play a game set in pre-Order Europe, than all those aspects of Hermetic Magic would be separately learned abilities, governed by ability scores, not by the Arts. That Bonisagus managed to combine them all is even more impressive when you try to do it with just one ability.

Also, don't worry about the rules I came up with showing up in a game somewhere. I chose Shapeshifting as a theoretical example for total integration, not as a plan for the future. I wanted to see if anyone had any good tips for turning abilities into Arts-controlled parts of Hermetic Magic. I guess most aren't interested in the whole double Major Breakthrough thing. To be perfectly honest, I'd just rather do the Subtle Opening Minor Breakthrough and then go off looking for friendly Hedge Wizards. It's a lot easier, though it does highlight the gaps in Hermetic Theory- and fully integrating these non-Hermetic abilities that everyone's suddenly going after could be a good goal for a fresh new Magi Bonisagi.....

I only put put up those possible rules to see if it others felt they looked workable. I was rather hoping that someone with experience in poorly though out House Rules could poke a bunch of holes in what I through together. To emphasize, they are not House Rules, but rather an exercise in thinking about integration. Though if they are workable and its a really, really long Saga..... eh, who knows?

Hm. I've always used the Second Sight integration as a template for integrating Shapeshifter, such as the following:

Hermetic Shapeshifting (major virtue: 65 Integration points) - All personal Muto Corpus (animal) spells can be designed with the Instant duration.

Yeah, that's probably the simplest option. Having to develop- or find and learn- a spell for the animal you want and having high enough Arts to reliably cast the Formulaic Spell is difficult enough. It's certainly more elegant than my own.

Your concept is better. Just like Second Sight integration simply makes Intelligo spells (much) better, Shapeshifting should alter how MuCo spells work. Now that I think about it, having MuCo (An) spells that can change your form and having another Hermetic mechanic doing the same thing means that they are not really integrated together. It'd be like integrating another enchanting mechanic- why are there two separate ways to do it? You might as well have the MuCo (An) spells and the original Supernatural Ability, if you want two ways of achieving the same thing. (YR7 and One Shot, thanks for pointing this out earlier. I think I'm getting it now). It's not a new mechanic, it's an improvement.

Yes, I think I can see it now. One Major Breakthrough creates a teachable virtue that allows the magus to create personal MuCo spells that are only magical effects at the moment of transformation. The versatility of Shapeshifter is replaced by the versatility of MuCo spell invention.

See, this is why I asked. My own idea was kinda overblown for what's really just a more subtle Muto effect.

No problem - I went through pretty much the EXACT same chain of reasoning, complete with integrated Hermetic ability, before I found the Second Sight integration, and realized "oh - THAT'S what an Integration that fundamentally changes how hermetic magic works looks like."

That being said, the version I posted above is actually a toned-down version. If we truly followed the Second Sight version, it would probably be more akin to "All muto effects can be made instant" - but that's probably a bit of a gamebreaker. (But to counter my own argument: Hermetic Magic isn't balanced. Integrations even less so.)

Probably the reason Second Sight was integrated the way it was is due to simplicity: if it was only "personal Intelligo Vim spells no longer require penetration", that would be more consistent with what the ability did - but it would also be a bit too fiddly, IMO. It seems that Hermetic magic theory likes to generalize powers. So there's certainly room for tailoring an integration to suit your saga.

With that in mind: I'd probably not bother with the "personal only" aspect - thus allowing the integration to apply to any shapeshifting spell. (So you could turn a target into a frog, permanently, if that is your wont.) However, retaining that restriction does keep the origin of the integration, if that's important. (I could see the "personal only" option as being an incremental change: with the "usable on anyone" version being the next-generation's integration.)