Heresy! There is no Gift.

I thought I would share one of the canonical heresies in my own campaigns. Obviously, the official books disagree with me!

"Opening the Arts," which requires committing to a very serious Oath, 15 years of servitude, and a Gauntlet, is an Initiation Rite granting access to the Hermetic Arts. Failure of the rite is just failure of the rite, much like for gaining other Supernatural Virtues. At least in my campaign, the Rite also requires time spent studying Artes Liberales (or equivalent Academia), a reasonable magical language, and Magic Theory; but within the bounds of those requirements, anyone can become a magi.

When a maga goes looking for an apprentice, she looks for a youth with symptoms of high intelligence and social maladaptation, tells that youth that he is special and genetically superior to other humans (a form of birth aristocracy separate from the nobility), and then spends 15 years reinforcing it with the corruptive influence of unchecked power, privilege, and cultural norms.

"The Gift" is a theory created by magi to explain why people don't like them despite their excellent social skills, good looks, and charming attitudes; why animals won't obey their every whim; and why people in a position of power mistrust them. Powerful, poorly socialized, self-important, and inempathetic, the resulting magus' belief that "the Gift sabotages social dealings" is only reinforced by the reflexive dislike his behavior engenders in others.

Those few who slip through the cracks and socialize reasonably well are explained away as having a "Gentle Gift," although no mechanism or explanation of how a "gentle" Gift works is provided. It just is, okay?

House Jerbiton, obviously, is wise to the scam and have substantially succeeded in raising fewer spoiled brats.

(I think the behavior of the Founders is the most compelling evidence in this heresy: their brand new Parma Magica theoretically made them immune to the Gift of other magi, but still found ways to rationalize genocide and the destruction of the Others' knowledge... and still required iron-handed enforcement of rules like "don't hurt other magi in the Order" to behave themselves.)

I presume that InVi spells to detect the Gift either don't work in your saga, or else all magi suffer under a delusion that they do?

Even before I began using this heresy, I tended to take p. 106 of the core book fairly literally as the limit, so pre-heresy, InVi spells could not detect the Gift anymore than they could detect Second Sight, Puissant Ability, or Book Learner.

Pre-heresy: One stress + Per roll per season, Ease 12, finds a suitable apprentice.

Post-heresy: One stress + Per roll per season, Ease 12, finds an apprentice that Hermetic theory says is suitable.

There are canonical InVi spells which detect the Gift, but I'm not trying to say you can't make your Saga anything you darn well please!

The idea that the Gift can be granted by an initiation script is interesting. In a saga where every magus isn't suffering from a delusion ("The Gift exists in unitiated people.") it would be a huge boon to the Order, as it would pretty much end fighting over apprentices. (There would be edge cases of course, for special individuals.) We would move from a world in which magi go out seeking Gifted youngesters to a world in which young people are selected for their intelligence and education rather than for the Gift, which as currently understood ignores intelligence or education. The pool of apprentices would become better. Young people, and their families, would compete to gain admission into the Order. The third sons of noblemen (the first to inherit, the second joins the church) might have a tradition of joining the Order in a setting like this, which would result in an Order more emburdened with mundane politics, and increasing mundane wealth. It might start to look a bit more like the Templars, with all the problems that brings. Conservative Houses might move against this, though, and clarify a peripheral code to keep nobles out; after all, there are plenty of smart peasants, and the Order does not need mundane wealth, thanks to House Mercere.

Did you ever see Willow? The beginning of that film, in which a bunch of locals line up once a year to apply for the position of "wizard's apprentice," is the sort of thing I see happening. In a world where magi weren't suffering under a mass delusion, of course.

Canonical InVi spells

I suppose my other heresy is my definition of canonical :smiley: (id est, players are required to own a copy, and anything in the book is available without oversight by the Story Guide). But with that said...

I am aware of at least two supplements which treat the Gift as something that can be detected or manipulated with magic (Hedge Magic and Ancient Magic, respectively), but both are treated as optional sources of interesting tidbits at my table.

Wrong Hypotheses Righted and Impact on the Order
I'm replacing your use of the word "delusion" with "wrong hypothesis" in my head. I mean no disrespect by it, but "delusion" has specific shades of meaning for me, which I don't think you intended.

Specifically, within the context of my own campaign heresy, I am happy to have an Order magus decide to test the hypothesis. And if that magus found a way to prove it incorrect, many other magi could be convinced enough to test it themselves, resulting in changes in the Order. But a divinely ordained Gift that is undetectable to magic (demonstrated only by full apprenticeship) is difficult to disprove. (And note that demons also cannot be detected by magic, so I suppose a magi could argue themselves into a corner of saying that magic is inherently sinful, or at least that something can exist without being detectable with magic.)

The accepted reality of the Order of Hermes is that The Gift exists, and they have centuries of corroborating (if circumstantial) evidence to back it up, but while there is a strong emotional attachment to its existence (after all, "if there is no Gift, then people don't like me because I'm a jerk"), I would allow solid evidence to sway some, then a few more, and so on, much as evidence has overturned theories in the real world.

And in a world where evidence was found and the hypothesis overturned...

This wouldn't be my take, but I definitely see where you are coming from, and I think it would be quite interesting. Or to put that another way, I'd play in that setting :slight_smile:

2 minor points:

  1. There's also a spell to detect the Gift in Apprentices (appropriately enough) in the "how to find an Apprentice" section.

  2. Canonically, giving someone the gift is a pre-Hermetic ritual from the Cult of Mercury, as described in Mythic Locations, pg. 99 and 101. The fact that this ritual no longer works (due to it being dependent on the astrological age) is considered to be one of the primary downfalls of the Mercurians.

Obviously, neither of those actually affect your heresy, although it does have some interesting implications for what that ritual the Mercurieans were doing was.Concievably, it could have been just a variation of Opening the Gift, without your heresy.


InVi spells that can detect the 'Gift' might easily be due to a botch or flaw in the development of InVi. These outcomes might also be due to long term Infernal involvement, which Hermetic magic cannot possibly detect.

I do find this amusing... though unless a saga involves discovering that the Gift isn't real, how does it make a difference?

(Also, some non-Hermetic traditions have noticed a difference between the Gifted and non-Gifted too, so this flaw in InVi is not particular to Hermetic magic alone.)

Finally, House Jerbiton might merely have substituted an aristocracy of Gifted spoiled brats with a preference for run of the mill aristocratic spoiled brats. Of course nobles are better.



Of Course Nobles Are Better
Thank you for this. It's perfect.

What Difference Does It Make?
For me, about the same as deciding, ahead of time, whether or not Hermetic magic is inherently sinful.

  • If a player decides to pursue a Story delving into Gift Theory, they have some idea of how the Story Guide will treat the subject. (The original source of the heresy was a player wanting to pursue a fertility magic Story (Ancient Magic). I did not implement the heresy in that Saga, it was merely conceived there.)
  • The feel of the Saga, including the flavor of NPC interactions (even if the functional result is the same), is affected. (Or to torture an entirely different metaphor, I can get caffeine from tea, coffee, or chai, but given a choice, I usually go with chai.)
  • From a player perspective, it changes or restricts certain Ars-standard character concepts, like the maga who is a perfectly sociable individual who just happens to be crippled by the Gift.
  • In my experience, it also makes Gentle Gift more popular among players, even though the game mechanics remain the same.

As an idea, i find it great. I won't use this in a future saga, but I find it useful in a way: I will tell my players about it, and ask them to imagine it's truth when they play the disadvantages of the Gift.

I think it actually does a good job forcing players to play the Gift as it should be, rather than trying to avoid it (maybe that's why you see more people taking Gentle Gift).

KevinSchultz- you just sold a copy of Mythic Locations...

I would be pretty interested in your impression of the outcome of doing that, if you are willing to share!

This heresy had a fairly positive effect on my games, but my games were already pretty idiosyncratic relative to baseline Ars Magica.

Huzzah! :slight_smile:

While I have yet to read Mythic Locations; you could spin it that the reason why this 'no gift' reality exists is because the ritual no longer works. Once there was a thing such as gifted magi, after all some of the more powerful magics come from a time before the order and the fall of rome (ie the great riturals, the Hyperborean's etc), albit a bit singular in their focus compared to the works of modern magi; these magi had the gift, far stronger then magi know today, and when the main gift giving ritual failed, a weaker substitute was found, this initiation (of 15 years and/or other requirements) gave birth to the modern gift, actually available to all but long tradition and superstition leading to what we know today (1225). ie the punitive effects of the gift are what magi expect and so conduct the initiation on those with the social malus.