Hermetic Breakthroughs to Shoot For

We're starting a new saga and my wife wants to play a Bonisagus, aiming to make a Hermetic Breakthrough. This will be our first saga after the idea of the Breakthrough has been introduced. The game is set is the Dordogne Valley, around Lascaux and all the yummy magical cave painting sites.

She doesn't have a long history with ArM, so she picks up the old Houses of Hermes book, flips through to the Bonisagus chapter, and announces she wants to solve the puzzle of restoring physical energy so magi can cast more spells. I told her this would be breaking a Lesser Limit and therefore a Hermetic Breakthrough, then read he the passage that explained that the only one of those that had happened in the entire history of the Order was the Parma Magica. She was predictably cowed.

So she's now fishing around for other ideas involving Corpus, Stamina, etc. etc. Is there a master list of breakthroughs somewhere? I'd just like to point her towards an interesting (and hopefully possibly attainable) goal. Any advice? Thanks in advance!


I don't know about a published list, but your SG could come up with some general guidelines. In my troupe we've had several wizards pursue "unattainable" goals only to find them...still unattainable, but a heckuva lot of fun trying. We actually drew up a skeleton of a process, simply requiring a magus to spend seasons "researching" the issue. Every season they worked on it they made an appropriate Lab Roll and recorded their total. I recommend making them do this for years or decades...breakthroughs shouldn't happen easily or quickly. Maybe the SG should dole out tidbits, juicy hints of possibilities, at various benchmarks.

This is the house rule we developed (it's very rough, mind you, invented to aid a player researching something like your wife). Feel free to use it or ignore it:

[b]A magus may research a new understanding or application of magic, including attempts to circumvent known laws of magic. Every month spent in the lab with any necessary materials (as determined by the troupe) results

A lab roll is made with the appropriate arts. A target number is assigned by the troupe, only revealed to the magus after the first month is spent. This target number should be derived by considering years of work relative to the difficulty. There is no margin involved.

For example: Tampering with an Aegis to acheive the ability to jack it with vis after its been cast. The troupe decides that it might take a magus of fair Rego Vim mastery and moderate advancement (LT: 40+d) 2-3 years of successful research along a single line of inquiry. So 1200 research points for 2.5 years.

Storyguides may feel free to introduce artifacts or knowledge that can give the magus points toward the accumulated total.

If you ever botch your lab roll, the troupe may decide to dock you some accumulated points, or raise your target number, or some other calamity.

The research need not be done all at once.

Every month you must also roll on the Research table:

Simple Roll Result
1 Complete Failure: the line of inquiry you've been pursuing leads to a dead-end. Any accumulated margin is forfeit. You may,
however, restart your work from a new perspective.
2-3 Lose month: Inadequate lab equipment. Unforeseen delays. No lab total for the month. Pick up where you left off.
4-6 Complications: Distractions, unforeseen problems arise. Divide your lab total in half.
7-8 Slow Progress: Calculate lab total as normal.
9 Extraordinary Success:
10 Discovery: calculate lab total for the month, then double the accumulated margin.[/b]

Good luck! Hope you get some good ideas.

There's no Master List, but Ancient Magic is basically full of breakthroughs with adventure hooks attached, including one relying on cave paintings and stuff, which happens to be Corpus related. Maybe tell her that the character can be a bit vague as well, and then drop a story on her that gives her a bit more direction?

Other interesting "breakthroughs" can be adopted from Hedge Magic - while they are presented as integration of old magic, they can be discovered independently. The Mysteries (Revised Edition) presents the fruits of similar discoveries, which again you can harvest for ideas.

I believe GotF also has some Forest Path to do with circumventing fatigue.

Breakthroughs in Corpus... perhaps a better longevity ritual, say one that doesn't induce sterility (I believe Magi of Hermes has that)? Becoming a lich is also a possible breakthrough (akin to the Living Ghost or Alchemical immortality in some ways). I'm afraid that other than longevity and energy, I can't think of suitable limits here.


She can also research related spells and apply certain margin to the investigativ eprocess.

For example, she can invent a version of the spell Gift of Vigor that allows her to steal vigor from someone. or she might enchante an item with the spell and use the process to gain insight on how the effect is produced.

She might also chech how the humors in a body rebalance during the night consuming the eaten products in order to refresh a body (requires InCo spells), or how a runner recovers after a treck simply by resting: resting must have something to do with this. Maybe sweat has something to do with energy recovering as well?

TThere are quite a few areas of investigation and related spells here. If you use Yair's process, I would apply half the lab total while creating spells to his breakthrough XP points. That way, inventing spells related to the investigation and writing tractatuses et al about the issue becomes worthwile and part of the process, instead of being a mere die rioll 3 times per season.


While breakng the lesser limit of energy is a big deal, is the limited ability of being able to steal fatigue from others with a spell (which may or may not really be breaking the limit) actually worth a Hermetic breakthrough? We had a discussion here about using enchanted devices and tethered spells in order to get around it (and neither in my opinion did get around it) however I can see research to allow the requirements of gift of vigor to be opened up a bit so that you could enchant items that allowed the wielders to give their fatigue levels to others, being a minor breakthrough.

I think that gift of vigormight already serve as a source of insight (per ancient magic) into the bigger issue of how to break the limit completely. A story to find the notes of the 9th century maga who invented the spell might provide a second source of insight.

How about the ability to cast a spell that increases the recovery time for fatigue, but doesn't remove it immediately? Consider Corpus as a model: There are momentary healing Rituals that make wounds disappear. There are also some non-ritual spells that give a bonus to recovery rolls.

How about saying that any spell that removes a fatigue level is a Hermetic breakthrough, but any spell that slightly hastens the body's recovery is a Major Breakthrough? Say, a Creo Corpus spell of an appropriate level that cuts fatigue recovery times in half? So, 1 hour to wake up from Incapacitated, 1 minute to go from winded to fine, etc. It would require experimentation in any of Creo, Corpus, and Mentem.

I'm not sure that I'd say that spells that hasten recovery times to 1/2 normal need any breakthrough at all. I think that the rules are silent but I'm often inclined in these situations to decide in favor of normal magic.

Oops. Sorry :slight_smile:.

OK, new idea. A breakthrough allowing a different option of spontaneous casting. When a Magus casts a spontaneous spell and chooses to fatigue himself, he may make a Stamina Stress roll against an ease factor of 6 + the magnitude of the spell. Success on this roll indicates that he does not lose the fatigue level. A botch means he loses a fatigue level immediately, before the spell is cast (reducing his total), and then the normal one afterwards.

I have no clue whether this would be Minor, Major, or Hermetic.

I would suggest that she keep the big goal (perhaps still assuming it is unbreakable in the short/mid term, perhaps not), but that the two of you work out some minor breakthrough milestones which can provide inspiration to build on, such as new ranges, durations, and targets or the incorporation of a similar ability from a virtue. This way, she can have big aspirations, and, even if she never meets them, she will still have a lot to show from a rich and prestigious Hermetic career. (Be sure to have her elected to some of the House Bonisagus posts in honor of her new prestige--nothing slows down research like departmental appointments!)

Incorporating (partial) effects from virtues is a great source for ideas, and Hedge Magic would be a mine here. It would also potentially provide a lot of story ideas, as the character would need to go out and observe/gain the cooperation of practitioners of the virtue, perhaps from different sources. I would also suggest playing up inspiration--finding items of virtue that have similar bonuses for investigation, magical creatures that have similar abilities--get the magus out there and investigating just as much as they spend time in the lab. Ancient Magic is a great source of inspiration, and, though I am not terribly fond of the game-mechanical benefit of the corpus breakthrough, there are still a lot of good story ideas in that chapter, as in others.

A Verditius in the very 1st saga I ever played in had a similar fascination, though his main focus was the golden ring: immortality. He was of a necromantic bent, and had a Fear of dying so it was his ongoing obsession to "break" the limit of the longevity potion to achieve true immortality. That campaign spanned 30+ game years and he never attained the goal, though he did acquire a wealth of knowledge on the subject. In another campaign I played a Bjornaer fascinated by auras and who sought a methodology to study them beyond the limits of Hermetic magic at the time. Another player, who was a Jewish Criamon, was obsessed with proving that Jesus was a mage (or at least a magic-using, not Divine, person) and thus sought out an Intellego spell/s that could pierce the Lunar sphere.

In all of these cases the character's desire/obsession was an impetus for myriad stories. This is, I believe, the real fun in having a PC with these lofty goals...not so much that you'll actually get there, but what a strange and wondrous journey you'll have on the way. The "system" we devised did not equate magical breakthroughs to a "mere 3 dice rolls per season", rather it was a method for tracking a mage's general progress towards their goal. The major focus was stories, stories and more stories. The PC hears a rumor about another mage, maybe long dead, maybe not, who was rumored to be close to this same goal; finding some of his notes or texts or some other artifact could result in several interesting stories. The lead could prove a dead end. Or not. Maybe they get a hint that faerie knowledge could aid them, thus inspiring a series of quests to attain this understanding.

The possibilities are endless, and that makes such endeavors way cool. But the payoff should be commensurate with the effort put forth. Every story or saga has a series of ups and downs, getting closer to the goal, then finding out it was a dead-end, then in the midst of despair another chance! Following leads, investigating forgotten lore, researching curiosities, scouring libraries, and making connections are all part of the personal saga. I wish her well on her quest.

Thanks, all. Plenty of good ideas, and things to ponder!


More Discoveries that I have considered myself:

1.) Breaking the Limit on Arcane Connection (I believe there was a thread about this at some point.)

2.) The limit of Warping must be removed to be immortal... Perhaps a breakthrough that lets Warping points be transfered? i.e. a Ritual spell that transfers warping xp to another person = to magnitude of the spell.

3.) Improved Vim vis distillation from Magical Auras

4.) Improved Damage to spells via requisites, i.e. a Fiery Lightning Bolt that does double the normal damage, but say, requires some Vis to cast.

Given the goal of your character, I think the cleanest thing to do would be to incorporate Withstand Casting into Hermetic theory. It is widely known as a virtue, is obviously possible, and everyone would love you for it, even the mages who already have the virtue, because you can have more then one level of it.