Hermetic Theurgy — Minor Hermetic Mystery Virtue

So ... it happened. My Caracter got initiated into the mystery.

Well played by the SG. Didn't expect the virtue, thought I was earning points in diplomacy toward a Mercurian circle.

Now, questions about the virtue. What is exactly the created spirit when spending one or more seasons to create an effect of Invoke the Spirit of (spell) or Invoke the Spirit of (Form) ?

I mean, can it talk? Does it have a will of its own? Can I slay it and take the vis? Can I feed it vis to make it grow? Can it be binded as a familiar? Can I capture it within a circle ward?

A few easy questions to start with :slight_smile:


In terms of meta-gaming, Invoke the Spirit of (Form) allows you to cast fatiguing spontaneous magic for a specified TeFo, only as a formulaic spell. The trade-off is that you need to spend an extra turn to cast the spell (ie, you summon the spirit one term, and then it casts the spell for you the next turn), and you give up any hope of having additional penetration (ie, the spirit always casts the spell with its own Might/2, without any additional possibility of rolling high.)

The main benefit of this is that you don't spend fatigue, and you can't botch unless it's a stressful situation. (Casting a formulaic spell is a regular roll - meaning you don't actually roll a stress die unless you're in combat or whatnot.) It's arguably one of the most powerful "utility" minor Mystery virtues out there. However, it's also dependent upon what your preferred TeFo's are.

For example: probably the TeFo to benefit the most from Hermetic Theurgy is MuVi - as this allows you to 'spontaneously' turn any formulaic spell into any other spell, assuming your MuVi scores are high enough. Theurgy takes out the irritating part of "you either have to memorize a bunch of MuVi spells, or else risk spontaneous casting". It also takes out the concentration requirement for casting that MuVi effects have.

Some TeFo's don't benefit as much from spont casting - CrIg, for example, probably needs penetration to be useful.

As such, you'll probably want to have the spell for your preferred TeFo be as high as possible - lvl 50, if you can manage it. You may be able to get your fellow cultists to help you design the spell. Getting the requisite penetration isn't that hard either, as you only need to penetrate the spell once, on your first casting: that means you can go ceremonial, with all the big props, and blow vis, and whatnot. You've also got the spirit's name, which is super-helpful. Alternately, if you cult is large enough, there may already be a spell laying around that you can memorize, instead - the spells aren't unique to an individual. (It's just that they can't be cast by different people simultaneously - so if the original author is dead or has designed a better version of it, then the older one should be available to copy and use.)

In contrast, Invoke the Spirit of (Spell) lets you design a spell that has Flexible Formulaic Magic built into it - useful if you don't actually have that Virtue. It has the same limitations as Spell of (Form) - you have to summon the specific spirit the first round, after which they can cast the specific spell, with whatever Flexible options you want.

Note that you can work your way around the problem of it taking an extra round by designing your spell to have a duration other than momentary. Or alternately, design it to have D: Concentration, and then use a Maintain The Demanding Spell effect to have it last however long you want. Note that this means the spirit simply hangs around for the duration, waiting for you to tell it to cast the spell (then it leaves automatically).

The spirit itself it just a spirit - you can do whatever you want to it: However, as the only thing it exists to do is to cast your specific spell (or your spontaneous effect, if you're using Invoke the Spirit of (Form)), there's not much you would WANT to do to it other than summon it and tell it what to do. And although it's not explicitly stated, I suppose you could render it down for vis if you wanted to - although that would probably be considered a waste of the seasons it took you to create the spell. Although that might be an interesting way to summon Vis, if you had a high enough TeFo score in a low-vis game and didn't have a regular source...

Note that you could put it in a ward (any summoned spirit can be put into a ward) - but the spirit will be unsummoned the moment the spell ends, so the only thing that would do is prevent the spirit from moving with you. Note that most spirits can unsummon themselves out of wards - the ward exists merely to keep them from crossing a physical line in the ground. The only thing keeping a spirit on this plane of existence, if it doesn't want to be here, is the duration of the summoning spell. Once it ends, it can leave if it wants to. Although some spirits, such as airy spirits or fairies, exist in the material world. As such, most summon spells work like teleportation effects for those kinds of spirits, and they wouldn't be able to get back to wherever they were without outside help.


Interesting perspectives.

Not sure I agree that creatures with might scores can dismiss themselves from a ward that should contain creatures with might just because they were summoned.

I could buy that they are not the creatures and just a temporary manifestation of a greater creature that simply dissolves itself after having released its power. But then, we could use that manifestation as an arcane connection to get to the greater creature...


It's not that creatures with might scores can dismiss themselves - rather, a subset of creatures (that just so happen to be summoned often) have the ability to dismiss themselves. Specifically, spirits that dwell in the Realm of Magic have this - although I would imagine that the equivalent Farie spirits would probably have this ability, although that's starting to get into semantics. (EDIT - yep, apparently you can use Hermetic Therugy on spirits of any of the 4 realms - it's just that you have to have a connection to that Realm to be able to do so; callout on TMRE, pg. 78). So, in this particular case, Daimons and their ilk, which is specifically mentioned on TMRE, pg. 81 (Aspects of Daimons cannot be bound.)

Although in the case of Invoked spirits, it looks to be less an issue of willful intent, and simply the duration of the summoning spell - they last for as long as the duration lasts, and then they blip out. So it's less "them choosing to leave", and more "the spell that is keeping them tied to this realm unravelling" - which can occur regardless on which side of the ward they're on.

EDIT - also: wards don't prevent summoning or dismissals - that's why you can summon INTO one to begin with. They literally just prevent the entity in question from physically crossing the line. I usually envision it as though wards are 2-dimensional, and a summon/banishment is 3-dimensional, up into the magic plane. Seeing as things that can be banished in this fashion usually can't re-summon themselves, this doesn't really seem to be an issue.

EDIT II - there's an alternate rule in TME that takes this to the logical step, and declares that all Rego "instant travel" magic is just moving really fast - and thus leaves teleportation as the province of the Divine. (TME, pg 106).

AC connections don't work across dimensional boundaries. That's why such summons are usually rituals. That being said...sure. If you grabbed the vis left over when a Daimon leaves (if you banish them, they usually leave an amount of vis equal to their might/5), I'd be totally fine using it as an AC to that spirit...if you were in the Magic realm. Unless there's an explicit rule disallowing this, but I'm not aware of any such.

I don't agree with this either. I don't think a entity can just "blip out" to its home realm regardless of magical or other constraints put on it.

This is one of several nagging inconsistencies about summoning spells and otherworldy entities in general in the game rules.

Without an AC, summoning should be entirely impossible, since the entity is unsensed (see the Limit of Arcane Connections, AM5 pg. 80). The most classic sort of summoning involves True Names, which are an AC as per the game rules. It's immaterial whether the spell is a ritual or not, although I do think spells that cross realm boundaries are properly of ritual nature.

Could you give me a page reference for this please?

It's the whole "you can't use them through a regio boundary" issue. (Which is why you hide in a regio during a Wizard's War - you can't be found or targeted through an AC there.) - I'll see if I can find the specific ruling for that. Obviously, True Names for spirits work into the Magic realm - they seem to be the only ones that do, though. I've always used "...and that's why it's a ritual" excuse to justify that particular inconsistency.

EDIT - while I haven't found the specific ruling, it's implicit in the entire Magic Realm section of RoP:M - if you could use AC's between realms, you could just teleport between them, without having to deal with the whole "travel through boundaries and the Void and whatnot".

The rules explicitly state that Aspects of Daimons can do exactly this. "A maga cannot bind an Aspect - it will just fade away, discarded by the parent spirit; she can only bind the Daimon itself if she can find the core spirit in the realm where it resides." (TME, pg. 81).

Also - if spirits can't dismiss themselves from spirit circles, then how do you dismiss them? You can't teleport them back to the spirit realm - that's a blind teleport without an AC. You can't just break the ward - that's just letting them loose in the physical world. I suppose you could perdo Vim them into oblivion, but that's "destroy", not "dismiss".

The simplest solution is that a summoned spirit can't cross a physical ward, but can un-summon itself back to its realm - as long as it isn't being commanded to stay (either through a Duration-based summon, or else some form of command spell.) I am specifically referring to circular/room/structure wards - they can't cross the line, but they can simply un-summon themselves if they aren't otherwise commanded to stay. Obviously they have to stay if there is an explicit spell that is telling them to stay - not simply a spell that is saying "don't cross this line".

EDIT - as to "well, in that case, then why do we have instant summons, then?" - TME pg. 81 talks about that. Generally speaking, Daimons like being summoned, as it increases their power. Similarly, the other Hermetic Theruge spells represent agreed-upon contracts with spirits, and so they do the thing they're asked to, then leave. Demons want to corrupt the people that summon them. The Abjuration Holy Magic effect is explicitly Concentration-based, to get the spirit you summon to attend you - but when it wears off, they can do whatever they want. I think there's also a "Summon Farie spirit" somewhere in the books, which talk about the fact that, at the least, the farie spirit will be interested in why it was summoned, prior to determining whether or not to hang around.

Hi! I don't think this is the way it works. Lots of people grab arcane connections when they go into a regio, both from outside the regio, and from within the regio, so that they can teleport in and out with the right spells. In AtD, the Oppiddum of Tablinum is located in multiple regios, some of which can only be reached with ACs.

Perhaps you are confusing the bit about traveling into the actual Magic Realm, "Arcane Connections to things outside the Magic Realm are interrupted when they are brought into the Magic Realm, though they are re-established once the object is returned to the mundane realm..." from RoP:M p 20 (there are also further consequences for ACs for traveling in the Twilight Void, "all Arcane Connections to or from the character to degrade one level", doesn't affect indefinite duration ACs, but are interrupted anyway if one is in the Magic Realm and the other outside it)?

Huh. Interesting (AtD, pg. 59) -explicitly has a callout saying that you can teleport through regios just fine. I did not know that. I stand corrected.

But yeah, I found the Twilight Void one in my previous research (that's part of what I was alluding to in my 'implicit' comment). I was attempting to find something explicit about regio boundaries, and it turns out I was wrong on that. Ah, well. :slight_smile:

It came up during the AtD playtest. I couldn't find an answer then. If you'd had one, it would've pleased me.

That's only for Aspects of Daimons though, not otherworldy entities in general. I have problems with Daimon rules in general, but that's a different issue and you're right in RAW terms.

You issue them the order to go home and then break the ward to allow it.

I like to draw the distinction between summons of entities from the Earthly realm and entities from the other Realms, with the latter being significantly harder for Hermetics. Theurgy spell spirits are some sort of Airy Spirit, imo, and reside in our world. They can't be Magic Realm Daimons because Theurges use different rules for such entities.

Also, remember other magical traditions may be more focused on summoning and better at it, such as the Goetic Arts or Holy Powers.

RoP:M is explicit that ACs between the Magic Realm and other Realms are "interrupted" (pg. 20). However the same book says that "An Aspect is a constant Arcane Connection of indefinite duration which is inconstant mental contact with its Daimon" (pg.102). So that's another inconsistency, along with the question of how the Law of Arcane Connections allows summons if the AC is not there.

In any event, just having an AC shouldn't necessarily allow instant travel between the Realms. Different rules can still apply.

I suspect it may be due to the nature of True Names, which seem to have special rules or privileges surrounding them - they're the only kind of AC that work on demons, for example. As the precedent is set there, it could be plausibly argued that they're also the only kind of AC that works through the Realms....which suggests that they aren't actually AC's, but rather something else that happens to act as an AC in certain circumstances.

EDIT II - which, in turn, suggests that if you could figure out the True Name for a human being, you could teleport them into the Magic Realm. But there may be a metaphysical issue with free will in that sense - can a True Name truly encompass a creature that can choose to change itself in such a fashion? (Dresdenverse answer: "Yes, but you have to get their True Name directly from them, and it decays rapidly as they change.")

EDIT - that being said, this brings us back to the whole "summoned spirit in a ward" issue. I do agree that airy spirits, when summoned, unless they have some sort of explicit teleport power, end up having to (essentially) walk back to where they were summoned from - in the same way that a Fairy or Elemental would have to walk. In this sense, the Rego Vim summon effect really is just acting like a Teleport power, in the mortal realm.

The disagreement here, then, seems to be regarding the exact nature of a Summon the Spirit of (Form). I'm assuming that it's a native of the Magic realm, whereas you're assuming that it's just another Airy spirit, and thus native to Earth. I think my main argument is the type of sprit itself - Forms are something of an idealized state, and as such their avatars don't seem likely to be hanging around in the mortal world. (In fact, I think that's my main argument - that these spirits seem to be low-level Aspects of their TeFo, similar to Aspects of Daimons.) However, I do agree that this is not explicitly stated in the description, and the actual text simply calls them a "spirit" that "departs" when the casting is done - no mention to where they go, or how they get there.

Regarding your description of how to command a spirit to leave: that...doesn't sound right. Wards explicitly allow the summoner to ignore a ward when summoning a spirit INTO a ward - it seems reasonable that they can be ignored when dismissing them, as well. Which brings us back to the question - how do you dismiss a spirit? And again, I do agree that Airy spirits don't intrinsically have the "teleport back to where I was summoned from" ability. But other spirits do seem to have it.

Agreed, Theurgy Spell Spirits are hard to place conceptually. It's interesting to look at the original writeup of this sort of effect back in 4th edition Mysteries. It was called Thaumaturgy and was the ultimate virtue of Theurgy, not the starting one. Magi actually used CrVi to create temporary airy spirits that performed magic effects like the 5e spell spirits. Conceptually it made a lot more sense than just happening to find the right existing spirit to cast a desired spell but, as with much of 4e Mysteries, the mechanics seemed a little confused.

Spell Spirits are loosely placed within Airy Spirits in RoP:M rather than Named Spirits (Daimons), based on where their box is. But RoP:M even states that the classification is debated:

More evidence that mundanes such as ourselves have ranks in Hermetic Magic Theory. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that's actually how I was conceptualizing Spirits of (form), as well - you were actually creating them, rather than finding them. Or rather, you're doing research to create the True Name, which caused the spirit to come into existence, which you then downloaded from the Magic realm to do your bidding. (Or alternately, creating the True Name impresses the TeFo-Daemon-Eqivalent to grant you the opportunity to get your own TeFo-Aspect for your own use.)

I always had a conceptual problem with the 5e spell spirits in that they seemed more like a rules-thingie (as in - you can effectively cast a spont spell without fatigue, and we'll call that a "Spell Spirit") rather than, well, spirits. If they're really spirits, they can do much more than just cast a spell, surely - they should be able to see other spirits, they should be able to communicate with the caster (perhaps via other spells), they should have a low cunning at least, if not intelligence...

I would personally favor an overhaul of the Hermetic Theurgy virtue, breaking it into two parts - a Minor virtue that allows you to summon Airy Spirits and a Major one that allows you to summon Named Spirits. And then introduce Spell Spirits as airy spirits whose Power is a single spell and which dissipate (expanding all their Might Points) when they cast it. And have guidelines for bargaining/commanding with spirits to escort you or to cast their one-power at a target, including guidelines on them using their cunning to decide what to do, on communicating with you, and so on. Probably based on the Agents guidelines from the HoH book, to limit the number of active spirits at your service at any one time. This is a simple change & rules system, that fits better into the general rules. And you end up with a nice theurge, surrounded by spirits that do his bidding and protect him and spy for him and so on.