Hermetic Arts as Difficult Arts (?)

I know that some people here have talked about using the house rule of advancing Hermetic Arts as Difficult Arts (which is to say at the same rate as abilities). I'm thinking of doing this in my next saga, with the goal of lowering the immediate power level of magi and encouraging more creative use of low maginitude spells, abilities and roleplaying.

I'm wondering what the experience of other people who have tried this house rule tends to be. How does it impact the game? What pros and cons have you seen? Did you love it, hate it or just find it another way play? Does it really do what I think it will do?

Thanks in advance...

Can't say I've ever tried it. However if I did, I'd leave the Techniques as is and make the Forms Difficult Arts. This would put Hermetic Magic on par with Hedge Magic however...

To weaken hedge wizards, you could make all of their Arts Difficult Arts. That would make them significantly weaker.

Hermetic Arts as Difficult Arts works well enough. It has some impacts on the setting:

  • It makes characters that also know a minor non-Hermetic magic less likely, since the InVi total required to Open the Arts is too high for even older magi.
  • It leads players to scramble desperately for lab bonuses more than they already do, so you'll see the bonus-giving things emphasized significantly over actual Art scores. Notably, characters will tend to invest in Magic Theory a LOT, because it's no more expensive than an Art with this method and gives a bonus to ALL lab activities.
  • If you make Forms or Techniques Difficult and leave the other normal, you can get slightly weird results because one avenue of increasing power is five times as effective as the other, at least until it's basically maxxed out (it's not as big a problem with Hedge Magics because they generally have less than five Difficult Arts when they do use them.)

Which isn't a problem for my saga because I don't plan to include Hedge Magic, at least not based on arts. I'm planning on including slightly toned down Folk Witches (sans Cursing or Healing) and maybe Nightwalkers.

I believe Difficult Arts would kill spontaneous magic. It would also require your magi to dedicate 10-20 years to studies before they can take apprentices {5 Techniques @ (75 - 15 = 60) = 300 xp; 10 Forms = 600 xp}.

If I wanted to lower power levels, I would remove Focus, Puissant and Affinity from starting virtues and use a library of tractatus only. Let them hunt for level 10-15 books.

It has been suggested that the minimum to train apprentices should be dropped to 2 instead of keeping the current 5.


Additional house rules I'm considering as part of this:
Allowing training of Arts to begin at 2 instead of 5
Allowing magi to invent spells as "Potent Spells"
Having Ceremonial Magic casting totals not be divided by 2 (or 5)
Give all magi a variant of the Elemental Affinity virtue from Hedge Magic, giving them bonus exp in arts when they study Magic Theory
Including the following Hedge Magic integrations as standard (meaning everyone gets access to them): Subtle Opening, Energy Magic, Sense of the Mystic and Quick Charged Items.

The first change, as suggested, makes training accessible in a reasonable amount of time.

The second and third change the "flavor" of magic but allow magi to cast more powerful spells if they use casting items or if they take their time. Formulaic spells become something you learn to be able to cast quickly and reliably, and powerful formulaic spells require a focus. Really powerful spells are cast as ceremonies (or created as quick charged items).

The affinity business is intended to encourage studying theory and represent that understanding theory aids practice.

The folk witch integrations are really intended to represent an Order that has been around a while and adopted the most common elements of that branch of hedge magic. Quick Charged Items integration is another way to represent the ability of magi to achieve decently powerful effects given time and preparation and, in my head, ties in to the more powerful Ceremonial magic.

I like it except for the quick charged items. Going around buildng towers in an eye blink and raising an army of undead just snapping your fingers does not fly my boat. The rest looks OK to me :slight_smile:

Energy magic is something I do not favour specially but I would not say that it will change the power level much. I prefer the methods that already exist in the official supplements to regain fatigue (Theriacs from A&A and Mythic herbalism); this is because both are limited to 1 per day instead of allowing you to cast for decades without rest if you have enough booze to keep you rolling.

The rest, are things that IMO work great in the setting.

I would drop the charged items and rely in something that makes covenants a NEEDED feature of the order of hermes: ceremonial casting coupled with Wizard's Communion. Covenants exist because you need them (the other magi) to cast big stuff, not necessarily because you like your sodales. :slight_smile: Ceremonial casting + wizard's comunion + focus = big stuff can be cast, but not by a single magus.


Not that this would need to be adjusted, but you will definitely want to remember that making any Art difficult in that way will significantly raise the values of Artes Liberales and Philosophiae. Those two are already incredibly valuable for spontaneous casters if they're willing to spend the time. Point for point, Artes Liberales and Philosophiae win out for ceremonial casting over the Arts as-is. In such a game I would be highly tempted to play a ceremonial caster. The Ceremonial Casting option for Spell Mastery is available. There's also that choreography virtue. While it would make for a fun character, the character might be quite unbalanced in such a situation, especially if we throw in Puissant Artes Liberales and/or Puissant Philosophiae. This doesn't mean things need to be adjusted, but you should be aware of it.

Another thing you'll want to remember is magical items in general. Verditius are already extremely powerful, so powerful I can rarely build a magus I couldn't have built more powerfully as a Verditius. And the Verditius don't lose nearly as much as the others when you make the Arts difficult. Int + Magic Theory + specialty bonus + lab bonuses becomes very large very quickly compared to the Arts, probably about equal to the Arts themselves. For a Verditius, adding Craft and Philosophiae and their specialties provides the same size bonus as before, but that bonus is much larger in comparison to what it's added to; in this case the Verditius magi get roughly a 50% bonus to their lab totals. My typical Verditius in such a game would probably have starting lab totals for items of 30-35 in all Art combinations. (Seeing your quick charged items thing, I should tell you I could pull off lab totals for items for all Art combinations in the 40's with experience and virtues remaining, allowing me to churn out very powerful charged objects. I could put 20 levels into penetration to get +40 penetration. That would leave me room for about 20 levels of effects. I could make so many of these in a season. Are any of the other magi going to be able to cast level 20 spells of many varieties with +40 penetration without spending fatigue on a regular basis?) Again, this doesn't mean things need to be adjusted, but you should be aware of it.


To keep the various bonuses from overwhelming the importance of Arts, you could have a rule that your bonuses can no more than double (or triple) your Lab Total. I have always thought that the Penetration rules in ArM5 were unbalanced, and I have long instituted a limit on the Penetration total of a device at double the creator's Magic Theory score.

Good observation. I'll ponder that one but I think the idea of limited the amount of bonuses achievable is definately a good one.

Going off topic here...
That's not a lot of Penetration then. Mu current Tremere magus some 25 years post-gauntled had Magic Theory of 8, that's a mere 16 Penetration. Very few of his covenant mates can't match that with their Parma Magica x5 + Form score. It is even a bit low for supernatural beings, the kinds of Dragons, Demons of Faeries we meet at this stage easily har more than 16 Might. This effectively makes devices useless vs. all but younger magi and weak creatures. And if there is no limit on Penetration on spells, then why use Devices (ok, inside a catherdal the Pen 16 device still beats what you can whip up with a spell, but...).

At first glance some years back I really liked that you had to apply extra levels of effect in items for Penetration, and that it as a 1 level equals 2 Pen. I always thought the maker's Penetration ability should add intot he factor, but I'm sure it's best balanced without. Otherwise I'd reduce Penetration to 1 lvl = 1 Pen. If I were to limit anything, it would be how many effective levels of a device could be Penetration, since it is too easy to make a level 5 DEO with huuuge Pen. So perhaps limit the levels for Pen to the level of effect (without modifiers for uses/day or other specials), so the lvl 5 DEO could have no more then 10 Pen. An alternative would be to simply limit Charged Devices (since these IMHO are too easy to boost with Pen) to 1 lvl = 1 Pen, but retain the 1:2 on Lesser and Invested devices.

About Difficult Arts:
Hmmm, interesting. It would mean a draggingly slow progress. A lot of plot hooks could be about getting study materials. It woudl become a sport to be perfected to use low level spells creatively. Sure, it would gimp Spontaneous Magic, but it would encourage Communion - a thing I never see in use otherwise. But most of the high level spells would be impossible until you are a mighty magus. I guess it would encourage Spell Mastery even more, since the bonus to casting would mean more in the equation, as would many of the mastery abilities. I'm not sure I'd like this overall, since I like the progress of to be seen and felt. But I always think of how the next saga would be, by making as many things as possible different and new compared to what I've done before.

A few more rules to consider:

  • Starting Art scores are limited as per starting Ability scores. This just makes things more consistent.
  • You may write a number of tractatus on an Art equal to half your score in it. If you stick to Art/5, you won't get many...
  • Consider how dropping level now affects summa Quality. There are less levels to drop. I prefer to keep the RAW 1/1 rule, however.

I have limited experience with these house rules. In it, spontaneous magic worked well-enough (with some creativity), and magi were quite capable thank-you. The importance of circumstantial/odd bonuses is far more pronounced. However, all my experience was at "low levels" and limited to one and a half adventures.

I like your idea on Potent Magic, it certainly adds a good ambiance. Consider, however, allowing using fixtures from the plot/setting to add a freeform bonus if used as the focus. So casting Intuition of the Forest with a leaf focus works better when the leaf is taken from the actual forest you want to explore. (Alternatively, decide to increase the spell's effectiveness or whatever.) I think that would work well towards the atmosphere you seem to be aiming for.

Another point to consider is that this change increases the value of Mysteries, as generally these take time you could spend increasing your Arts (which is now less effective) and provide small bonuses (which are now more significant).

I don't like the "elemental affinity" idea. Magic Theory is already increased in importance, and with this... well, it's getting a bit ridiculous.

The change to Ceremonial Magic is interesting. It would "kill" fomulaic spells that are not combat (or other quick-) oriented, which means that now magi will not spend seasons studying such powers. Not sure if that's a flavor you're after. In practice, it would create a troublesome situation where many of the magus' signature spells may be Spontaneous ones, meaning that book-keeping may become more of a hassle.

Those are all great points! I totally agree with the ceremonial magic vs. formulaic magic thing.


What I'm really trying to achieve with here is to preserve the versitility and bredth of the hermetic arts, but capture the "feel" of the Learned Magician from Hedge Magic. I really like the Learned Magician, but at the same time I like the variety of things the Hermetic Magician can do.

This really comes down to the feel you want for your saga, but one idea is to make your magi more integrated with society now that their power level is lowered. You could consider dropping the negative social effects of the Gift and lessening or eliminating the aura penalties for the dominion. You could have your hermetics be the learned magicians, with positions in the clergy or courts of Europe.

That is also one of the things I'm seriously wanting to do.

One of the defining traits of Learned Magicians is that at least their ostentatious, direct magic is pretty weak. You need to decide whether this is the case, even for elder wizards. If so, then these rules are not suitable - assuming reasonable book/source quality, characters can become very capable in time. They can do all the high-end things ArM magi are supposed to do in-setting, like 75 level spells or so on. So if the magic level is supposed to be kept down, a more drastic change should be taken. Perhaps change the guidelines to pump ostentatious magic, at least, up by several magnitudes.

Sorry, I was unclear in my explanation. Magic Theory x 2 is the maximum number of points you can put into Penetration, and each point gives you +2 Penetration, so MT x 4 = Penetration maximum. So, an average, competent magus (Magic Theory 5) can get a 20 Penetration and a true master (Magic Theory 10) can get a Penetration of 40. You're right that it limits the types of creatures that you can affect with a device. I don't have a problem with that at all. I prefer to force characters to collect Arcane Connections if they want to defeat a creature with Might rather than spend a few seasons in the lab and create the "all-purpose wand of destroy anything I want" with a Penetration 60.