Homebrewed Hedge Tradition: L'Incognito

So this is a bit of an incomplete idea for a homebrewed Hedge Tradition, that I've been brewing around the Ars Magica Discord (and many thanks to all of you in the Discord that I've been able to spitball some ideas).

Ostensively they are very much inspired in the Faceless Men from A Song of Ice and Fire, but giving them a Mythic Europe spin, which changes their core motivations and trying to make them more in line with the setting.

Their origin is in the islands and villages around in Veneto in particular the Venice lagoon, in a Benandanti Tradition, which is a rural folk tradition, where certain members fight periodic spiritual battles in Nightwalker form against other spiritual foes, where the result of these battles is said to ensure the prosperity of their communities (good crops, good fishing, etc.). However as Venice became increasingly important and sophisticated, by the time of the 1200s it is a quite strong maritime power with many of the things that we associate in popular culture with Venice (the Carnival already exists in unofficial form, while the earliest mention of masks seems to be in the 1260s, it's probably fine to have a bit of anachronism here). They've also reaped plunder from the Eastern Roman Empire as a result of the 4th Crusade.

So my idea, is that this is a tradition that eschewed it's folksy traditions and now is a Venice based tradition that instead of fighting nightly spiritual battles, they metaphorically fight for their Republic using far more subtle methods of intrigue and information gathering, subtly influencing politics, trade and using covert methods to ensure the prosperity of the Republic. They are not necessarily loyal to a particular Doge or family, rather they are loyal to the idea of Venice itself.

They are mostly an unGifted Hedge Tradition with some Gifted individuals, working more like a mystery cult, loosely organized but united by a common goal and set of practices. Due to their "masters" being Gifted, they act more like a collection of cells which can cooperate, but occasionally can oppose each other, as although having the idea of prosperity of the Republic as their unchangeable goal, they may have different ideas about what that means and how to accomplish it (e.g.: maybe groups differ in opinion who is the best candidate for the next Doge).

Due to their very nature as a Mystery Cult (as as we'll say later their Warping response) and their lack of Parma, it's impossible for them to actually become a very strict organized group. So think of them more like a culture within Venice, rather than necessarily the masters behind every plot.

I've named them L'Incognito (venetian language for "the unknown) and they mechanically are like this:

Favored abilities: Unveil* (new supernatural abilitity), Persona (from HoH: S), Magic Sensitivity, Second Sight.

Most unGifted members of this tradition will have only one or two of the abilities, typically Unveil and Persona, which are their signature supernatural abilities.

They have initiation scripts for their un-Gifted members to initiate atleast Persona and Unveil. Gifted masters who advance in their Mystery lore can know (and create) scripts to initiate these Mystery Virtues. Commonly these scripts will inflict a major or minor personality flaw Driven (Venice prosperity).

They can Open the Arts for a Gifted candidate which gives them the favored abilities Persona, Unveil, Magic Sensitivity and Second Sight.

UnGifted characters can be generated as Companions, with the apprenticeship package, balancing Virtues and Flaws to get access to this traditions supernatural abilities. Personality Flaw Driven (prosperity of Venice) or something to this effect would be almost universal.

Gifted characters can generated as normal, where they get this traditions Favored Abilities without needing to buy Virtues, but they get a free Major Non-Hermetic Virtue that can be spent on Ways of the Land (City or Town), Mythic Herbalism or possibly as it may fit the character some other Major Non-Hermetic Virtue (for example they could earn Wealthy as part of the apprenticeship, the master introduces to contacts, helps them set up a business, perhaps inherit from a Persona of some other member that needs to pass on to be credible). They also get a free Minor Non-Hermetic Virtue and an obligatory Minor Personality Flaw Driven (Venice prosperity). Different groups of this Cult, may differ in methods so feel free to be flexible here.

Their apprenticeship typically intense, 6 years for 150 xp to be spent in their ability, independently if a member is Gifted or unGifted. Normally Gifted members are picked up early in their life, but suitable unGifted candidates may be initiated later on in life. The apprenticeship focuses not only their favored abilities but also in the general social skills and whatever skills may be suitable. They focus a lot on understanding human nature in general, seeing and being aware.

A L'Incognito is supposed to have a cover identity, which they use to support themselves, which they need to work for two seasons (subject to the Poor flaw or Wealthy Virtue). If the apprentice is young, they typically for a few years are supposed to work on their own to support themselves and establish a useful niche in whatever community they are based on, to see how they can put their skills to good use.

The Unveil supernatural abilities works as follows:

Minor Supernatural Virtue: Unveil (“Verxar” in Venetian from “to open”). This grants the supernatural ability Unveil at score 1.

Unveil: This ability has 2 effects, passively it adds to Folk Ken rolls (like Mythic Alchemy adds to Philosophiae), when engaged with conversation with the target. Refer to the rules on HoH: TL, pages 24 and 25 on how Folk Ken can be to used to ascertain deception and perceive the target’s motivations. Note that this effect counts as natural magic (in Hermetic terms, it would be more like the personal Rego Mentem effect that allows to concentrate on a specific task), so it's not subject to Aura Influence nor does it need to penetrate.

This ability can also be used more directly at Eye Range, on a Per + Unveil roll for the following effects. It is a Magic power, subject to aura interactions. Beings with Magic Resistance get their Mentem magic resistance and if the subject is aware, they can try and resist on a Int + Concentration roll of Ease Factor 9+.

Ease factor 6: Determine the dominant emotion of the target
Ease factor 9: Determine all emotions of the target. Discover if a statement is believed to be true by the target.
Ease factor 12: Pick out the most relevant word or answer regarding a statement from the subjects mind.
Ease factor 15: Read the surface thoughts of the target

They are interested in Supernatural lore and while they have no direct uses for Vis, they understand its importance, especially when used as currency in the supernatural world or how certain vis can have other properties. They also understand and try to find lacunae or magic/faerie auras in the urban settings they mostly operate on as they understand it can facilitate entering and exiting the Personas they assume and they know they are important to other magical traditions. They know about the Order but probably not much.

While they'd not be a scholastic tradition, almost all of them would be literate in the Venetian vernacular as they probably find the concept of written ciphers useful.

Their methods should be very subtle, they are good at influencing people and finding secrets and can use covert methods (planting evidence, stealing, sharing of select information with rivals, even assassination using poison or "accidents"), but I don't think they're nakedly powerful (even compared to other Hedge Traditions), so they're probably not antagonists that would be near the level of the Order, but they could be tricky in Venice or whenever Venice interests lie in Urban Areas. The kind of stories they might be interesting I feel are more cloak-and-dagger intrigue stories in the mists of a Venice night.

While they are not favored abilities, Mythic Herbalism, Animal Ken, Entrancement, Lesser Craft Magic could be typical abilities sometimes found in this cult (they are descended from rural and folk practitioners but they are now sophisticated and practical) and some groups could at discretion be able to initiate them.

I haven't yet fully thought of their Warping Response, but I feel like it should work mechanically like a the Witches Moon (in the sense that it's a result of increasing warping score, not just getting two warping points) and would amount to something like they gradually lose personality traits or become locked into their Personas temporarily or eventually their identity can fragment into their Personas, where there's a common motivation but the specifics of plans become fragmented into different Personas).

I haven't fully thought also that mechanically, each Persona identity they could create, could be Mastered by XP points, where one could create some effects like the Persona having some useful virtues like Venus's Blessing, Forgettable Face, perhaps something like a skill Pretense to make the disguise more believable, perhaps a way to make them harder to pierce with magic.

Well, sorry for the long text, I hope you may find it interesting and I'd love to get some feedback. I've tried to balance things, but of course I haven't playtested this yet so tweaking could be necessary. Feel also free to change parts of this idea as you feel like, nothing would make me happier is something silly I've written ends up in someone's game :). They could easily be dedicated to a Faerie or Magical Genii Loci of Venice (or some other place) or even written as an Infernal tradition or perhaps a more scholastic conspiracy using an offshoot of the Mathematici with Persona.


Also as a specific minor virtue for this tradition (because as per one suggestion in the Discord, the idea of a Nightwalker who does some skullduggery is too cool to pass up).

Ancestral Benandanti lineage:

Your lineage comes from the ancestral predecessors of this tradition. More is expected of you, particularly in representing the interests of the Republic in the supernatural arena. You can take as your major free Virtue “Nightwalker” and “Versatile Phantasticum” as your minor virtue. You are also compelled to fight yearly spiritual battles during the season of Acqua Alta amidst spiritual foes in the hidden labyrinthic streets of Venice.


Common Initiations for UnGifted to initiate the Persona Supernatural Virtue and the Unveil Supernatural Virtue (which grants the Supernatural Ability Unveil at score 1).

The Game of Masks

Initiation Ease Factor: 15 (Minor virtue known by the Mystagogue)
Script Bonus: +8 (+3 Minor Ordeal, +3 Mystagogue Time, +1 Time, +1 Sympathetic Bonus)
The initiate must spend the initiation one season working as a thespian with a travelling troupe (time +1). After this season, he will meet the Mystagogue where in the presence of his group he will swear a Vow (Ordeal +3, minor personality flaw) to never betray their secrets and the Mystagogue will spend a season teaching the way of using the Persona ability (+3 Mystagogue time). +1 Sympathetic bonus

The Game of Lies

Initiation Ease Factor: 15 (Minor virtue known by the Mystagogue)
Script Bonus: +10 (+3 Quest, +3 Mystagogue Time, +3 Minor Ordeal, +1 Sympathetic Bonus)
The Initiate must find one significant secret involving people that could harm the interests or reputation of the Venetian Republic. It doesn't need to be incredibly politically significant or a major secret, it could even be symbolic: e.g.: finding out a scion of a patrician Venetian family is having illicit liaison with the daughter of a prominent Paduan family (+3 quest). The initiate will report this secret to the Mystagogue where he will spend a season being taught the ability Unveil. Traditionally in every lesson, the Mystagogue will tell a collection of truths and lies, it's up to the initiate to figure out which statements are true and which ones are lies and how they could potentially harm the interests of Venice (which may not be readily apparent). The initate gains the Minor Personality Flaw Driven (interests of the Republic) +3 for a Minor Ordeal and +3 for the Mystagogue Time, + 1 sympathy bonus.


So I’ll just add two more posts to finish the writeup:
One additional initiation script for the Major Virtue Ways of the (City):

Initiation Ease Factor: 21
Script Bonus: +13 (Sacrifice material wealth +1, time +1, quest +3, Medium Ordeal +6, Sympathetic bonus +2)

The initiate is required to already have the Minor Personality Flaw Driven (prosperity of Venice). The initiate give away his most prized material possessions or wealth to the Mystery Cult and will live (+1 sacrifice) as a blind or mute beggar on the street for one season, living on wits alone (+1 time). After a season the Mystagogue will task him with finding something in the city (e.g.: could be a safehouse elsewhere in the city or perhaps a symbolic item he must steal), with a cryptic clue of what or where it is (+3 quest) Once he has completed the task he will spend a season serving the Mystagogue where his loyalty to the Republic’s ideal will be tested (+6 Medium Ordeal, raise the Driven Flaw to a Major Flaw). +2 Sympathetic Bonus.

Initiation Total is the Mystagogue’s Presence + Mystery Cult Lore (L’Incognito) + Unveil + Script Bonus.

I was a bit uncertain on whether to include this, but I feel it could be interesting as it makes them more powerful in the sphere of gathering illicit information, but be aware this could make them more dangerous. This would be an additional favored ability for Gifted members.

Supernatural ability: Sensation (sensassion in Venetial vernacular). This ability allows the Incognito to handle objects and perceive the objects sensations as if they had human senses. Use the same guidelines as in HoH: MC for the Criamon path, but using the Sensation ability instead of Enigmatic Wisdom.

This tradition has the following magic defenses

Power: Persona, Confounding magics against Concentration Intellego effects designed to pierce illusions or read minds.

Power: Unveil, Immovable object against effects Mentem effects designed to control the mind.

Power: Second Sight, Accelerated Expiry against effects designed to target the senses.

While it would be difficult to get a member of this tradition to cooperate in Hermetic Integration research efforts (and their ethos is contrary to the mundane interference clause on the Code of Hermes), they could be a source of Insight to integrate the Subtle Opening or Second Sight (as Folk Witches) but additionally research on how their Unveil ability adds a natural insight into understanding people, a breakthrough could be a virtue that lets the magus add one of his Form divided by 5 score to an appropriate mundane general skill roll in a specific situation (like a minor focus for mundane abilities) (example Corpus for Medicine rolls - which would work for example against diseases but not to win a disputatio at Salerno, or Mentem to apply to Charm or Folk Ken in certain situations).

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L'Incognito are able to spend XP in their identities (so each Identity they create, works like a skill), similar to mastery of Spells, unlike other Tytali or other people who may have this supernatural ability each point in the persona gives you a mastery ability, reflecting their deeper understanding of this power. The mastery score adds to the Stamina + Persona roll if they are switching to that identity or back from it.

The following are mastery abilities possible:

Useful appearance: This identity may have a useful appearance minor virtue, such as Forgettable Face or Venus's Blessing (and may some other I don't remember)

Strong Glamour: Per mastery level, adds +1 to the magnitude of Intellego (normally to detect or dispel Personas you multiply Persona ability x 5 to get the magnitude of the effect)

Resistant Glamour: Per mastery level, adds +1 to the magnitude of Perdo Vim effects to dispel the illusion

Strong ties: The Reputation only drops 1 per one year and two seasons if not mantained, instead of 1 per year.

Flexible Persona: You are able to alter role, mannerisms and details of this identity. The change cannot be radical, for example a child cannot be changed into a old person, nor a man to a woman. Once you do so, the original identity is lost, so the Reputation of this persona will drop to 0.

L'Incognito specific virtues and flaws:

Minor Supernatural Virtue:

Convincing Pretense:

When using a specific identity, you are able to roll Characteristic + Persona Reputation to perform a General Skill you do not possess as if you had which is appropriate for the identity.

Minor Hermetic Virtue:
Skilled Master
Your training was unusually complete, perhaps due to your master being better than most. You get an additional 50 XP in your Apprenticeship.

Minor Mystery Virtue:

You gain the mastery ability for the Persona ability "Disguised Gift."
This mastery ability allows you to for a specific identity mask the effects of the Gift, but only for animals, faeries, demons or humans. You may only take one version of this mastery ability one for all your identities, but you may take different versions for different identities.
I'm not sure if it's too powerful, but I kinda don't want for all Gifted members to almost always want to have Gentle Gift, nor do I think I want to just give them a way to gain it. I haven't thought of a script for this but it ought to be only available to Gifted members of this tradition.

Minor Supernatural Flaw:

Freelance Identity:

One of your identities acts independently, so while it shares your skills and general goals, it is not aware of your current plans. It also has its own Personality Traits. You can only take this flaw once at character generation (but warping may inflict these). While you can set up dead drops to pass on your plans before you change, there's no guarantee that this persona will follow them (e.g.: a scribe identity might not want to steal a book, but he might find a way to copy it instead, which may not be what was intended). If you have more than one identity, this must be the identity which you have invested more XP in mastery.

Major Supernatural Flaw:

Intruding Identity:

Whenever you use the Persona ability, you must make a Sta roll of ease factor 9. If you fail, instead of assuming the identity you intended you assume another identity (distinct, from your crafted identities) that acts completely independently of you and your goals, with a completely distinctive appearance and personality and does not share your memory, which is very confused about why it has gaps in its memory and determined to find out the reason. For each Moon duration you may make a stress roll to revert to your real identity of Sta + 9 (-3 for each subsequent moon duration spent in this independent identity). No magic or faerie aligned power can pierce this disguise or change it to the original identity for the duration of the effect (in fact this person has become for all intents and purposes, real).

Major Story flaw Shared Identity:

You have attracted the attention of a powerful supernatural entity such as a faerie, magic spirit or demon. Whenever you are not using one of your identities at the SG’s discretion, this supernatural entity takes over the identity. It does not know what you know but it uses its exact appearance and may wreak havoc with your plans, making one of your identities possibly develop the Mistaken Identity flaw and generally wreaking havoc it your plans if its an identity that you have precisely crafted for your goals.

Finally their Warping response.

Mechanically it works like the Witches Moon, every time their warping score increases they switch for a Moon duration on the next night to one of their identities, losing access to their Supernatural abilities
To end it each month they roll Stamina - Warping Score + stress die vs Ease Factor 6
if it takes less than months to deal with it it’s a good experience, bad otherwise
Good experiences can grant a minor virtue or XP in abilities appropriate to the identity they assumed or to one of their supernatural abilities (equal to 5xnumber of months)
Bad experiences give you lost knowledge (less 2 xp in a supernatural ability)

Instead of a flaw, you could lose points 1 to 3 in your positive or negative Personality trait (except the loyalty to your vague mission) and one of your identities gains 1 to 3 positive or negative appropriate to that identity. You are essentially losing your own identity and fragmenting it into the disguise you use.

At scores higher than 3, the tendency will be to gain the Freelance Identity flaw atleast once and at warping scores 6, you'll always gain the Intruding Identity flaw.

Once you reach warping 10, your identity is lost forever, you either assume the Intruding Identity for the rest of your life (which would probably mark you for death from other Incognitos). Typically before this point most L'Incognito would arrange to get their final schemes and affairs in order and let themselves be eliminated as a mercy kill as they are too much of a liability for serving the Republic.