After a long time, someone in my saga is thinking about playing a "holy" character again... but a holy magus (hermetic mage with Holy Magic, and possibly True Faith) or holy companion? The underlying question is whether there is sufficient "synergy" between hermetic magic and holy stuff to justify trying out a holy magus instead of a holy companion. So my question (EDITED for clarity) is:
What interesting stuff do you get from playing a holy magus, that you can get neither from playing a "vanilla" magus nor from playing a(n ungifted) holy companion? Note that answers like "a holy magus can raise the dead, which a plain magus can't!" do not count, since a holy companion can raise the dead. Part of the question is understanding what kind of magus (say, a Criamon vs. a Mercere Mutant) and what kind of holy tradition (zoroastrian vs. christian monistic mystic) is best for the hermetic/holy synergy. At first glance, there seems to be some synergy, though not too much (but please, I'm looking for input):
The holy magus can use guidelines from holy methods and powers for his hermetic magic, but if they break hermetic limits, he needs a ritual to pull them off -- and at that the holy companion is probably better (he might have slightly lower scores, but ceremony and faith go a long way, and he can also "spont" all his effects and needs no vis, so ...). Note that the "you need a ritual" clause also makes it impossible for the holy magus to make enchanted devices that break hermetic limits via holiness (short of powering them via imprisoned spirits, which does not sound very holy to me).
The holy magus can substitute long term fatigue for vis in spellcasting (3 pawns/level). That's very very neat... for D:Mom rituals, because the fatigue is not recovered until the spell is over. So, it's great for creating permanent stuff, for healing, and for Creo Corpus/Creo Mentem "improvement" rituals. But while this "visless rituals" are stuff that the vanilla magus can't pull off, they are stuff that a Holy companion can pull off via Invocation, Purity, Intervention and Wonders. Basically, if you have the right Methods and Powers, the vis-saving feature of Holy Magic is not very useful.
The holy magus is great at vanilla hermetic magic in the dominion (and suffers less in the infernal; but the minor virtue Dark magic covers the latter aspect much better). This is ... sort of neat, but not phantastically so, the way I see it. Though I've not given enough thought about its potential combined with that of raising divine auras where you want them, when you need them, with Intervention + Purity.
The Christian holy magus can go off and learn (and use) Ars Notoria. Every christian magus can do so, of course, but the catch is that many of the strictures that limit a user of Ars Notoria are the same that limit a holy magus, so the synergy is really about paying for them only once. This is neat, and the higher levels of Ars Notoria are super-neat. On the other hand, they are things that a holy companion can partially emulate already with the right Methods and Powers (the last two circles with Meditation + Understanding). So the only synergy is about applying them to Hermetic spellcasting. No botch dice when casting hermetic spells -- any spells -- or fighting certamen is certainly awesome. Everything else ... meh.
The holy magus gets access to the holy R/D/Ts for all his magic, including vanilla hermetic magic. These are somewhat neat, but nothing exceptional (basically, they tend to have a little more oomph than the equivalent Hermetic R/D/T), one cool exception being D:Devotion (which is essentially like D:Performance from the Performance Magic Minor Virtue).
The holy magus, with the approval of the troupe, can experience divine ascent instead of warping. This is great in and of itself for a Hermetic magus (no final twilight, and a better chance at avoiding twilight by spending true faith on the roll). In addition, divine form gives you magic resistance (cumulative with that from True Faith, and like that boosting soak) and penetration equal to your warping score, which is so-so unless you go out of your way to bring your warping score to ridiculous levels; the latter is doable, and you could easily gain Penetration and Magic Resistance in excess of 100... but it runs fiercely against my sense of aesthetics, and I'm wondering about the side effects of having a Warping score of 100+ (other than being out of the game for a decade when you ascend). Divine gloom is probably not very useful by itself, but if you combine it the monistic mysticism experience from The Church, it does give you the equivalent of Twilight Mastery for a much "cheaper" price (gain 3+ warping? choose your minor virtue; gain 5+? choose your major one). Note that a holy companion can get the monistic experience too, but only the holy magus can use it to boost his hermetic stuff -- which is quite justified after integrating magic in the monistic experience. This is probably the neatest advantage of the synergy.
Hmmm. Anything else?
And what houses/traditions would synergize well?
I may not have been too clear, but the question really is:
What intriguing possibilities does combining "holy" with "hermetic" offer, beyond the possibilities offered by playing hermetic magi, and holy companions/mythic companions on their own? So, looking at a non-hermetic holy tradition per se, no matter how interesting, can't really offer an answer!
The Mazdeans would be a marriage between hermetic and holy Magic. Hermetic Sahirs exist and a Zoroastrian Sahir would augment it either as holy Magic augmented hermetic arts OR align summoning with Divine and remain hermetic arts OR some combination.
You can also do hermetic Magic with holy powers and initiations through the Mazdean tradition. Also there are rules, where at the moment escapes me I think in RoP:Divine, which demonstrates Divine through a polytheistic religion.
You can also augment the rules slightly so that Divine isn't inherently monotheistic itself, instead the intent of the human spirit or soul leads to Realm alignment. That would require house rules, but is something I've done in the past for troupes irl.
The mechanical benefit a character gets is alignment with Divine, which means detecting demons etc. Something else which can be house ruled. Something like a Vedic hermetic Magi or a Mazdean could have Divine aligned Ignem, which may bypass Infernal aligned immunity to fire, as a for instance.
The creation of Vim purification spells, using ceremony for Ceremonial spontaneous casting, is also a possibility. Either with holy Magic or a hermetic Magi with Divine aligned abilities.
A character I was working on for a game is a hermetic apprentice from a Mobed community. She will become an Ex Miscellanea hermetic Maga, Tempestria, while maintaining ties to her hedge Mage Mobed traditional heritage. Being hedge mages they cannot open her arts and being female the priesthood isn't readily available. However a quest to join as a mystery cult in the future, since she is a devout practitioner, is remaining open. Something to sort out after service and a pilgrimage to Chack Chack. Her Second Sight and Ceremony are Divine aligned, as is her curse of hubris. Once she is of age she will be ritually cleansed, if she atones properly, and (fingers crossed) gain faith after her ritual passage into adulthood.
She may always be a hermetic Maga, just will have divinely aligned supernatural abilities. Or convert to Holy Magic. Mechanically very little changes. For that character. The synergy she will have is participating in religious ceremonies and having Divine aligned abilities to, some day, have Sense Holy and Unholy along with Second Sight. Using hermetic Magic to help her Divine aligned abilities.
The main reason I've looked at holy magi is because I want to do something impossible by normal magi. So I would say look at the effects you'd like to do, then work out what it would take to make the rituals you want and work from there. As you say, the vis cost of the rituals isn't too bad because of the spending long-term fatigue power.
If you want to achieve raising from the dead, then work out what characters could research A shadow of life Renewed and then look at building that with Holy Powers so you can make the level 75 raise from the dead ritual.
If you want general magic resistance as a ritual, then work out a good Vim specialist who has Invocation and Blessing.
If you want amazing understanding of things, then an Intellego specialist with Meditation and Transcendence and Understanding.
That's exactly my spirit; but for me, it's because I want to do something impossible for normal hermetic magi and "normal" holy companions (who are not hermetic magi). Note that something that a hermetic magus can't do, but a plain holy companion can do, doesn't count. While it's true that a holy magus cannot raise the dead, cannot grant MR as a ritual etc., a holy companion certainly can -- then I can get the same "fun" just playing a holy companion side by side with a hermetic magus. I'm apparently having a lot of trouble phrasing this but: What can a holy magus do, that neither a plain hermetic magus, nor an ungifted holy companion, can do?
You can use the Miraculous guidelines for your hermetic magic if you have the Holy Magic virtue as well as the needed supernatural power and supernatural method. The Miraculous guidelines allow some things that break hermetic limit but using them with your hermetic magic would make them a ritual.
The problem with Holy Magic is that the rules for it aren't really clear formulated and need many group / SG decisions how it will be handled.
Ah. Mechanically, extract divine vis from a divine aura. That's about it. Practically, they can achieve the big numbers needed by an ungifted companion much more easily. Your mage studies arts (at their cheap xp scale) and adds his Methods and Powers as a bonus to casting their big rituals. Your mage gets 30xp/year if given long periods of downtime, and is not expected to do any work for the church. A holy companion would have to study Methods and Powers on the Ability xp scale, and devote seasons each year to church work (even wealthy companions have to spend one season a year only getting exposure xp).
This worsens over time - a holy magus can get any of his sodales to create a longevity ritual and use the CrCo lab total/5 as a longevity bonus. A holy companion is not aligned to the realm of magic at all, so even if they persuade someone to give them a longevity ritual they would get a much lower bonus, so cannot spend nearly as long a time improving as a holy magus.
Your holy companion could get the big numbers if they get a lot of leadership, ceremony and teaching and then persuade a big enough group of followers to be taught ceremony. This then mean whenever you want to pull off your big effects, you need to transport your team to the church with the big divine aura you want without them getting waylaid in the process. This may be easier said than done.
Based on my experience in playing a Holy Magi for the past couple of years (Abjuration + the 2 related methods)...
I would argue that anything a non-Gifted Holy Companion can do, a Holy Magi can probably do better. Assuming that you're using an Ex Misc tradition that gives you True Faith for their Major Supernatural Virtue and Alternate Casting Technique for the minor Hermetic ability, of course. (ie, they're using Accelerated abilities for their magic, they don't take casting penalties for using 'sinful' words or gestures.) The exception would be "interact with people" due to the Gift, which is why I took Gentle Gifted for my PC.
The other benefit is that they can repeatedly cast their Holy-infused effects, and don't need to spend Willpower/Time/whatever. So, arguably, they make better combat mages than Holy Companions do.
Holy Magi can also treat the Realms as binary: Divine, and Everything Else....which means you mostly only have to design spells for the "Everything Else" category. This is handy if you're playing a Vim expert who doesn't have to learn their spells 3 times (or else moderately invest in MuVi effects.) However, depending on how you interpret the rules, this may be something specific to the Abjuration guidelines, rather than to Holy Magi as a whole.
Actually, speaking of useful guidelines - Holy magi don't need to spend vis to summon Daimons (at least from my reading of the Abjuration rules) - as that's specifically a Hermetic thing. So, a Holy Theruge is likely a much more viable summoner than a vanilla Hermetic is.
The main issue with Holy Magi is learning new spells and TeFo's. I'd recommend (if your GM allows it) starting with an established Tradition that has access to at LEAST the eqivalent of the Roots - the eqivalent of 5/15's - and a decent body of Holy lab notes. Otherwise, the restriction on character advancement really starts to take its toll after a few years of gameplay.