Upon consideration and discussion, I've decided against the Hermetic Arts as Difficult Arts idea I was toying with and now plan to run just a pure Hedge Magic saga, specifically a saga of Learned Magicians and Cunning Folk.
As always, I wondered if anyone else has tried doing something similar and if they had any tips.
One thing we're going to do is use the idea of the Folk Witch Coven to create a relationship between the characters... they are all members of the same coven, which is based around an English market town. So, using the rules for Folk Witch covens we started statting out the coven. One things we've noticed as we start to stat things out is that we don't have much to spent build points on. Since most of the "magi" are illiterate cunning folk, we don't have a lot of call for texts. Since cunning folk/learned magicians can't make permanent items, there are no magic items and we really don't need vis. Frankly, we're just not really sure what to spend coven build points on apart from specialists, who we'd really rather write up as characters.
I'll post other questions and observations as things progress, just in case anyone is interested.
If you're going to allow the witches to create healing potions, you'll need vis. If you're going to have learned magicians like those presented in Hedge Magic Revised Edition, they'll want texts. If you'll be using the Cunning Folk option, they are less necessary.
You might want to assign less build points to a coven than you would to a covenant.
Also Folk Witches don't have to be illiterate. Even if they are illiterate, there is nothing stopping them from having texts about their powers, that they can't read, but which were owned by a previous generation of witches who were literate. Learning to read these texts (and maybe recovering a Supernatural Ability lost to the coven) could thus become part of a story.
We're currently using an alternate rosta of hedge wizards in my saga. They started off as characters in pretty much a one-shot, but the situation was just too good to throw away so I've embedded it into our wider story. We picked up with the hedgies again last week, to the surprise of the players, and they're doing something... audacious, to say the least.
Interestingly, we found that playing hedge wizards was incredibly liberating. You're not playing members of an Order that has declared rules on just about everything. You have pretty much a blank slate. So much so that I slotted a Goetic sorcerer into the mix of hedge wizards. Do that to a bunch of vanilla magi and the sorcerer's toast, but these hedge wizards of different traditions just accepted him as one of their own. So there's a huge amount you can do. What if you actually have a proper diabolist in your midst? How does that character's story play out (and for how long)? What if you replaced him with a practitioner of the Holy Methods and Powers?
I think you'll find a host of opportunities and I wouldn't want to limit powers or learning in any way. Just open it up to your players and let them tackle any non-Hermetic tradition they fancy. You'll get some interesting stuff out of it.
They don't have to be made for a specific person? I know the chartae can be filled in afterward, but many characters might be hesitant to use an item that requires them to volunteer a Sympathetic Connection to a known magician.
Edit. Are you aware of the errata indicating that the Lab Total is divided by 2 for chartae?
Additionally, Mythic Herbalism allows the creation of multiple doses. It still probably doesn't compare with Chartae insofar as speed of creation, but it does give the Herbalist a slight advantage when it comes to producing more powerful supernatural effects in the much same way that Folk Witches do.
Ok, so last night our intrepid band of hedge wizards struck at the heart of the Order within Stonehenge. In doing so, they showed two things. Firstly, hedge wizards are fun (of course, hedge wizards with a grudge are more fun), and secondly... they can actually pose a threat.
We found the folk witches to be a little weak (though I'm not sure we were playing them to their full potential), but we really got a handle on the learned magician.
And actually, throw a goetic sorcerer and some spirit binding into the mix and you do end up with some interesting play options. There's actually something to be said for playing a set of lead characters that have different powers and abilities. It's a lot more varied than just specialties within the Hermetic Arts.
If you haven't given it a go, I recommend running a few sessions just to mix things up a little.
I agree, folk witches are the weakest of the hedge traditions after nightwalkers. On the other hand, folk witches have something about the way they are designed that makes me love them better than any other hedge tradition. I can't really say what it is.
From my experience the strongest of the supernatural traditions is probably that of the Volkhov (from Realms of Power: Faerie). Basically, it's the combination of Grant, that allows you to lend powers to mundanes (and yourself!), and the Faerie version of Ceremony. The tricky part is getting the right Sympathy traits, but while it's hard to do it on the fly, with some preparation it's not too difficult.
One of the very, very few times when we had to "reboot our saga" was when a (companion) Volkhov PC was so upset by the actions of some arrogant Hermetic hooligans from the Ash Gild (see Guardians of the Forest), that he first Granted the rest of his pagan village (about a hundred people) Ceremony, and then, with their support, called upon the Old Gods to cast a massive curse onto the whole Order of Hermes (symbol range and target) - turning every member into some type of vermin if I remember correctly. Even with the vast effect, they achieved such a ridiculous penetration (500+? I really don't remember, but it was something that ridiculous) that basically every member of the Order fell to its effects. That left only two types of hermetic magic practitioners in mythic Europe: a handful of renegades (who had been cast out of the Order, but had managed to hide from a Wizard's March), and a few score apprentices. We started a new saga where the "magi" PCs were apprentices trying to find out what had happened to their elders.
New question: Learned Magicians can cast verbal charms from texts, called forumlaries. When building a coven of learned magician, using the covenant rules, how would a formulary be purchased using build points?
Formularies aren't lab texts. They are collections of hundreds or even thousands of random charms which can be cast from text. Mechanically, you determine if a desired charm in the formulary by making a roll against a predetermined ease factor (3-9), not by having a list of all the charms in the book.
I would assume that tjhe formulary of a given nartural magician is basically his shorthand "class notes" detailing how to cast a multiplicity of small spells. As he learns more, he keeps taking notes and his formulary grows. Generally the formulary of another natrual magician would be useless to you except as a study source.
Nothing whatsoever in the rules to suggest that. In fact, quite the opposite. Formularies are expressly not study sources. They have no Level or Quality. There is nothing to suggest that a magician cannot use any formulary he happens to pick up, assuming he can make the Language roll necessary to find and read the desired charm. Also, there are no rules covering the creation of formularies.
This basically boils down to "natural magician spontaneous magic with some flavour". If you feel that you need to complicate things, go for it, but I do not think this is really necessary . As another thing to consider, having hundreds of thousands of spells (not to say millions) in the book(s) you carry around comes down to a load of 0 anyway. I would justify it like "classroom/lab notes of the nat magician taken as reminders" but whatever rocks your saga's boat In general there are quite a few points where hedge magic has some rough borders because it is a lot of new magic systems with few pages to settle it down. Whatever you and your mates decide will be THE TRUTH (TM) in your saga world.