Historical Magic Idea

As a random thing that came to me as I was laying in bed and thinking about magic (what, world building is what I do for fun, hehe) I had a potential idea for how things might have looked and progressed in an alternate Ars Magica world.

Originally magic was learned piecemeal - every spell was learned as its own 'Ability'. Wizards might have a really good understanding of what a particular spell could do but that didn't translate into knowledge of theory.

A later generation created the Magic Skills and the Magic Lores. The Magic Skills are learned individually for each Magic Lore. So like if the Magic Skills are Sense, Control, Alter, Destroy, and Create (the order representing how hard it is to learn) and some of the Magic Lores are Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Plant, Animal, Body, ... you would have to learn Sense Air, Control Air, Alter Air, Destroy Air, and Create Air but also if you wanted to know some water magics you would have to repeat learning the same skills just with Water instead of Air - so Sense Water, Control Water, etc.

You no longer have to learn individual spells as abilities but are still limited by the themes you know. Having Sense Air would do nothing to help one cast Sense Fire spells, no overlaps here.

The final generation, which represents something like current Hermetic Magic, is that you learn the Magic Skills in a general sense and the Lores in a general sense and you can combine any of your Magic Skills with any of your Lores with no need to repeat your studies. Your Sense Skill will apply to Fire and Earth and Body and Illusion equally.

So yeah, that's the idea. It was random but I had it and I think it is kind of fun. I mean I don't really expect to do anything with this idea but I figured that its close enough to Ars Magica that it might be somewhat interested to those reading this forum.

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Yes. That's called Mercurian magic. See HoH:TL p. 76

More or less. Really, what you seem to be describing is closer to supernatural abilities than it is to established Lore skills. And the generation prior to the Order of Hermes either relied on Mercurian Magic, or a mixmash of supernatural abilities.

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I'm really interested in the development of magic in the setting of Mythic Europe. It's something I speculate a lot about, and I enjoy seeing discussion of it!

I think your concept is really interesting, and presents some fascinating ground-work for something that could evolve into hermetic style magic. I could see some of the core of the founder's traditions being a set of Supernatural abilities like this, which are then combined into the kind of hermetic magic we get "today".

I've written a few pieces of homebrew about this subject myself.

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I wasn't entirely looking for mechanical support for this, more that I found the idea of this sort of progression (individual spell, to supernatural ability, to combined magic) to be an interesting idea, one that figured was worthwhile sharing.


Oh yeah totally. Like there is a lot of potential in thinking about how it was and what it was like as it changed to the now. Even if you ignore direct mechanics and go fluff and lore, its a very fun thing to discuss and think about.

I agree on the fun of figuring out the nature of the Founder's Arts. Like how they did magic and such back then. The idea that maybe it started piecemeal with each spell being learned on its own and then going to Supernatural Abilities to represent themes learned sounds fun. I could also see them haivng their own naming schemes - like it might be called Control Fire in our notes but they called it 'The Fire Within' or something.

Like we see in the Hedge Magic, each tradition has their own Opening which makes some abilities easier to learn. In the time pre-lores this was certain spells resonated with them and could be learned while others spells did not, and were either super expensive or outright 'impossible' for those of the tradition to practice.

I also super like the idea that some things aren't part of the spellcasting but got brought into the growing magic system either wholly or in huge part. Enchanting is one. Alchemy is another. Certain things were just good enough as they were to be brought in nearly unchanged.

Oh that's cool. If it seems to resonante with this idea - even if its not 100% the same (and such) I'd like to hear about it here. If its not really like this idea, but its a nifty bit of homebrew, I would be interesting in a link to where it might be posted. :slight_smile:

So I wanted to explore the possibilities of what the Mercurian-derived magic of the founders might have looked like. I find speculation about the powers and traditions of the founders to be pretty interesting!

I wrote this piece of homebrew for that purpose: Late Mercurian Magic.


Note that the Watchers taught early mankind magic that was similar to Hermetic magic in many respects (Ancient Magic), so the very earliest magic was basically an improved version of Hermetic Magic.

This was pre-flood, and thus presumably most of the practitioners of this form of magic died out, but beings from all the Realms were now aware of it and that mortals could wield magic (outside of Divine Powers which required True Faith).

Suddenly there's a compelling reason to teach magic to mortals. So you get the Infernal/Faerie Methods and Powers systems, as well as Forest Paths and other magical initiations. These would be the proto-traditions that practitioners could build a magical tradition around.

There's also the potential for Gifted individuals to start sharing. A Gifted person starts with one free Supernatural Ability and the capacity to learn more. A Gentle Gifted person can easily pick up 3-4 different abilities as minor Supernatural Abilities aren't uncommon even in ungifted people. This is probably how Hedge Witches got started.