Hoplite status fresh out of Gauntlet

Is it possible for a freshly-Gauntleted mage to immediately step into the role and status of Hoplite?

I have a player interested in the idea of a Flambeau who regularly accompanied their parens in hunting threats to the Order, and then post-Gauntlet wants to continue doing so as their main activity each year, with the Independent Study virtue so that the lack of steady lab time isn't a problem.

Would that be canon-breaking, or just be practically nonviable due to lacking the breadth of spells, skill in the Arts, and other needed abilities and resources?

If the answer is "it depends", then what particular spells/Arts/Abilities/virtues would be strongly recommended for a junior Hoplite possess and focus on immediately acquiring so that they can survive long enough to become a senior Hoplite?

(Let's assume the "default" 25-year old mage using the Detailed Character Creation rules, as that's what we're using. Yes, the rest of the troupe does not mind a more combat/investigation-focused saga, but I also want to provide the new players a saga that isn't making special canon-contrary allowances to fit a particular concept so that they can get a baseline established.)

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Hoplites are an informal group, so there is nothing definite saying that one person is an hoplite and another is not.

You can start acting as one (i.e. help hunting down outlawed magi) as soon as you have passed the Gauntlet (it is technically the duty of all magi to help with that), but you will likely need some experience and showing some success before other magi start treating you like an Hoplite and asking you for help with Hoplite stuff.

4 Likes

Sounds like requiring them to take either the Famous or Hermetic Prestige minor virtue if they want to actually be tasked with hoplite missions would not be amiss, then. (Tied to some noteworthy performance while still an apprentice, like that Flambeau in HoH:S who got made a mage super young after she killed a marched magus with a spear.)

Edit: How about advice for the player about the kind of mage they should be making to actually be able to do this risky activity right out the gate and not die? (I've already warned I won't be pulling punches.)

3 Likes

A just past gauntlet mage gets eaten alive in wizard war. The book does say parma is the last thing taught, so it would be hard to justify a starting parma over 2. If you decide apprentice training parma is possible and the last season of training is teaching the "key" that makes parma work, that is an option.

Even then a beginning character doesn't have the XP to build a wizard war competent magi. Any wizard who has done enough to justify hoplites tracking the magi down, is likely strong enough to think they can take a hoplite, or they wouldn't have acted in such a a way to draw hoplites.

Detailed character creation is a solution. Let's say the parens is focused on having their apprentice be amazing post-gauntlet. The parens could decide getting a few bonuses for lab activities the first year or two is worth sacrificing to make a better magi.

The magi hires a good mundane teacher. 3 season later, the student is at latin 4. In season 4 the magi teaches something (as he is required to do), lets say parma majica. Season 5 - mundane teacher teacher artes liberales to 2. Season 6, student reads a summae, season 7 assists parens. Season 8, magi teaches the same art the summae was in.

After the first 2 years, each year, 1 season using a summae, one season being taught by parens, 2 seasons assisting parens.

This apprentice has got about 110 XP in the first 2 years and could average about 40 a year for the rest. Assuming the last 3 years the magi learns some spells from books and some from the parens to get the 150 levels of spells, you have a post gauntlet magi potentially with parma and penetration at the 4 or 5 range, and assuming a few affinities and a minor magical focus, a casting total of 50 in the magi's best area.

That magi can survive a wizards war, however, I was going to say that's a bit of power creep. More accurate would be labelling it a whole power surge.

3 Likes

There's a difference between Wizard;s War and Wizard's March.
Sometimes what gets one Marched isn't something you've prepared for, so the Magi might not be the best suited for war.

An Hoplite is likely to accompany a Guernicus that's investigating.
There's several ways an hoplite can do his job. One is to be powerful magically, and the other is to go normal combat, with magical defenses.
For powerful magically, a Magical Focus can help a lot, as can Potent Magic, and Flawless Magic, and/or Mastered Spells.
For mundane combat and magical defenses, a mMF in wards can be helpful, as can high weapon skills. Or take Fast Caster, and rely on quick casting spontaneous spells.

In any case, since Parma Magica is the last thing taught, having Puissant Parma Magica can help in surviving.

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I'm absolutely fine with a mage just building up their apprentice to be amazing post-Gauntlet. A Flambeau or Tremere training a fellow knight/soldier and not looking to get any lab help in return seems reasonable enough, whether it's a Flambeau being fully committed to bolstering the number of warriors for a cause, or a Tremere directed by their house leadership to do so and given additional resources to compensate, etc. Could even be the case for mages from some less-martial Houses as well.

We won't be using the Extremely Complex Character Creation, not a bad idea but the results are way too different from those from Detailed Character Creation that other people are already finishing up characters with.

One suggestion I discussed with the player is that they avoid penetration concerns altogether with something like a School of Vilano practitioner, maybe with 4-5x Spell Focus in Invisible Sling of Vilano to get a multicast barrage. Alternatively, some ranks in Penetration + Puissant Penetration, some Spell Focus in a choice attack spell (for yet more Penetration + Multicast), and a MMF is not an especially large investment of virtues/experience. I hadn't figured that a starting character wouldn't be able to land an attack spell, but more that they'd die from lacking defenses, detection powers, or utility capabilities. That is, it's easy enough to make a mage who can throw a heavily-penetrating Pilum of Fire even immediately post-Gauntlet, but can they do that AND find an invisible enemy AND survive a surprise spell or ambush by archers?

It's not an ideal solution but I'd consider allowing the virtue Puissant Parma if it was strictly necessary for such a character to have a chance against expected foes. Do you think it would be?

(I will often hand off control of major foes to another player, with a bonus to their main character as a reward if they're able to win/survive. It's led to some really nail-biter conflicts without feeling like I'm using my role as ST to "cheat", and both sides have to deal with the fog of war. This does mean that characters stand a very real risk of loss, but I wouldn't change it for the world. Rather, I'd just like my player to either build a mage that can handle the role they want, or opt to pursue it later in their career; I think this player will opt for the former.)

You did mention invisible foe.

The hoplite being invisible is an option. Veil of Invisibility is only level 20, so 30 XP, 15 in Pe, 15 in Im. Maybe save 30 XP and get mythic blood as a virtue.

Then a monomaniacal focus on sling of Vilano. Affinity and Puissant in Rego and Terram. The magi wants to be good enough to fast cast and multi cast in the same turn, so there are so many rocks, the chance of a 1 on a damage roll is high. Mastery of at least level 3, and the higher the better. Flawless magic may be better.

This will be a one dimensional character. The rock-thrower from the shadows. To be even somewhat effective and not be dead in moments, there's not much space for even token level 1s in some skills.

3 Likes

I will propose an alternative

An hoplite is usually a formidable foe in magical combat, but you could stretch the concept to the one investigating and uncovering unsavory behaviour that threaten the Order, whether it is hermetic threat or non-hermetic.

With that in mind, a young mage could have earned a reputation of shrewd sleuth, and although he won't be called - yet - in a role of combatant, he might be requested to untangle some strange events. After all, there is nothing worse that sentencing to death an innocent, victim of a clever Tytalus game designed to tarnish the reputation of a good hoplite. I am sure there are precedents - possibly carefully buried in Guernicus archives - that let overtime to a more subtle approach before calling the gunship.

Virtues & Flaws:
Clear thinker, Cautious with Intrigue or Folk Ken (Puissant is always solid), possibly Gentle Gift if involved in a lot of non-hermetic investigation. Sense Holiness/Unholiness will skew the young hoplite towards demon-hunting, but is not required.

Infamous master could be turned into Famous master, still as a flaw: he is the filius of a famous hoplite, and expectations are great. He is often called to assist and cannot say no if he wants to maintain the status and reputation that goes with it. Higher Purpose or Vows (to never left a crime unpunished) are both valid concept.

If you have access to HoH:Societas, a Pralixian with Comprehend Magic and access to both Rebuttal and Unraveling could become an excellent hoplite and groomed as such. It will fit nicely with the sleuth proposal as while investigating the potential foe, he is gaining insight in his ability to be able to counter them.

With a bit of creativity, Columbae could also make interesting hoplite with their ability to simply mark a location to affect it with a ward, trapping the entity inside. Made invisible as @Fishy suggested, and combined with their Virtues Warding and ring/circle magic, they could discretely trap an unsavoury character, holding him/her until the appropriate hoplite finished the job.

5 Likes

I've passed on advice from this thread, and got a first draft back. The advice about penetration and invisibility seems to have been taken to heart; the ninja rock-chucker idea on the other hand was deemed "not Flambeau enough", and they decided to instead see what really lean in on one House-favorite spell looked like. Advice for tweaking it has been requested by the player.

Foratum Ex Flambeau
Characteristics: Int +2, Per +1, Pre +1, Com -1, Str -1, Sta +2, Dex 0, Qik +1
Size:0
Age:25
Decrepitude:0
Warping Score: 0 (0)
Confidence Score 1(3)

VIRTUES & FLAWS:
Flawless Magic - Major Hermetic
Minor Magical Focus (Creating Flames) - Minor Hermetic
Puissant Ability (Penetration) - Minor General
Independent Study - Minor General
Second Sight - Minor Supernatural
Skilled Parens - Minor Hermetic
Mastered Spells - Minor Hermetic
Famous (credited with slaying a marched full magus while still an apprentice) - Minor General
Puissant Ignem - Free Hermetic

Deficient Technique (Muto) - Major Hermetic
Driven (Major: "strike down all of the Order’s enemies!") - Major Personality
Enemies (cabal of cultists or diabolists seeking revenge?) - Major Story
Covenant Upbringing - Minor Social Status

ABILITIES:
Athletics 1 (running)
Awareness 2 (vision)
Brawl 1 (dodging)
Folk Ken 1 (magi)
Native Language 5 (slang)
Artes Liberales 1 (logic)
Latin 4 (Hermetic usage)
Magic Theory 3 (ignem)
Parma Magica 1 (mentum)
Order of Hermes Lore 1 (Wizards’ Marches)
Cult of Mercury Lore 1 (Flambeau branch)
Code of Hermes 1 (Wizard’s War)
Infernal Lore 1 (diabolists)
Concentration 1 (spellcasting)
Penetration 3+2 (ignem)
Second Sight 4 (invisible things)

ARTS:
Creo 10
Intellego 2
Muto 0
Perdo 6
Rego 5

Animal 1
Aurum 0
Aquam 1
Corpus 4
Herbam 1
Ignem 10+3
Imaginem 6
Mentum 0
Terram 1
Vim 1

SPELLS:
+41 (includes focus) CrIg20 Pilum of Fire (Mastery 6: Penetration, Multiple Casting, Magic Resistance, Obfuscated Casting, Fast Casting, Quick Casting) [Total penetration bonus: +12]

+36 (includes focus) CrIg25 Arc of Fiery Ribbons (Multiple casting)

+18 CrCo10 Bind Wounds (Quiet Casting)

+9 InCo10 Sight of the True Form (Quiet Casting)

+12 ReCo15 Wizard’s Leap (Stalwart Casting)

+6 InHe10 Intuition of the Forest (Stalwart Casting)

+11 InIm5 Prying Eyes (Quiet Casting)

+15 PeIm20 Veil of Invisibility (Stalwart Casting)

+14 ReIm10 Wizard’s Sidestep (Quiet Casting)

+9* MuIm10 Aura of Ennobled Presence (Stalwart Casting) [*Casting totals are halved]

+6 InVi10 The Invisible Eye Revealed (Stalwart Casting)

+6 InVi5 Sense the Nature of Vis (Stalwart Casting)

1 Like

Late to the show but a "(de)buff" Hoplite could work from Gauntlet: either a rego specialist who wards his allies (school of Ramius) or otherwise a dispelling expert (in the mold of Philippe the Black ex Flambeau), hitting the target with PeVi dispells to try to neutralise their own buffs etc.

They don't have to be the point of the spear, just the hoplite in the 3rd rank pushing forward.

2 Likes

Also, really juicing your intrigue and/or leadership and running an agency of some kind is a great way for a fresh magus to have substantial advantages over the average, under the (imo pretty safe) assumption that most magi don't put a lot of effort into that kind of thing, a 5 or so(or more with pussiant) could potentially be huge. Also if they're going with a story where their parens is dead, maybe they could have inherited her agency?

The "gathering connections" section of the intangible assassin chapter in hermetic projects is probably a good place to look, even if it's hard to produce a powerful(or at least non-glass cannon) magical combatant right off the bat, being a "wizard" at obtaining arcane connections is another possible path. Similarly with casting horoscopes, producing representations etc.

Also knowing a reasonably strong wizards communion can allow you to help out a more experienced hoplite, particularly from arcane connection range which puts the fresh magus at substantially less risk

3 Likes

BTW, aurum is gold, auram is air.
Same, mentum is chin, mentam is mint, mentem is mind.

And reading a branch of Art will get you score 5, no point in sprinkling low scores around.

4 Likes

I passed along the ideas and they were well received (even the Latin, lol). As was me noting that while the pilum of fire had great penetration, it also could be stopped cold by the core spell ward against heat and flames - and at that point the would-be Hoplite would be well and truly stymied with no other options.

My player didn't especially like the idea of an investigator or running an agency, but the second draft took the dispelling idea into account. They are hoping both to have a shot at dispelling any wards against their cold spells in the short term, and be able to quickly develop a similar dispel for every other form in their first few years to be a reliable dispeller. (Meanwhile, 5 castings of Winter's Icy Touch is enough to fatigue a lot of enemies into unconsciousness.)

(Apparently those single points spread across forms were to get the associated resistance bonuses, but I pointed out those weren't likely to help much.)

They're considering swapping in either Wizard's Communion or Pit of the Gaping Earth, or seeing if they can add something for dealing with groups of enemies. I don't want to suggest anything myself since I'll be throwing them straight into an adventure in season 1, at their own request. (Quote: "Challenge accepted, ST"). But the player is interested to hear opinions from the peanut gallery.

Their current magus draft:

Foratum Ex Flambeau
Characteristics: Int +2, Per +1, Pre +1, Com -1, Str -1, Sta +2, Dex 0, Qik +1
Size: 0
Age: 25
Decrepitude: 0
Warping Score: 0 (0)
Confidence Score 1(3)

VIRTUES & FLAWS:
Flawless Magic - Major Hermetic
Minor Magical Focus (Cold) - Minor Hermetic
Puissant Ability (Penetration) - Minor General
Cautious Sorcerer - Minor General
Second Sight - Minor Supernatural
Skilled Parens - Minor Hermetic
Mastered Spells - Minor Hermetic
Famous (credited with slaying a marched full magus while still an apprentice) - Minor General
Puissant Perdo - Free Hermetic

Deficient Technique (Muto) - Major Hermetic
Driven (Major: "Strike down all of the Order’s enemies!") - Major Personality
Enemies (cabal of cultists or diabolists seeking revenge?) - Major Story
Covenant Upbringing - Minor Social Status

ABILITIES:
Athletics 1 (running)
Awareness 2 (vision)
Brawl 1 (dodging)
Folk Ken 1 (magi)
Hunt 1 (tracking)
French 5 (slang)
Artes Liberales 1 (logic)
Latin 4 (Hermetic usage)
Magic Theory 3 (ignem)
Parma Magica 1 (mentum)
Order of Hermes Lore 1 (Wizards’ Marches)
Cult of Mercury Lore 1 (Flambeau branch)
Code of Hermes 1 (Wizard’s War)
Infernal Lore 1 (diabolists)
Concentration 1 (spellcasting)
Penetration 3+2 (ignem)
Second Sight 4 (invisible things)

ARTS:
Creo 0
Intellego 3
Muto 0
Perdo 10+3
Rego 5

Animal 0
Auram 0
Aquam 0
Corpus 3
Herbam 0
Ignem 10
Imaginem 3
Mentem 0
Terram 0
Vim 8

SPELLS:
+40 (includes focus) PeIg10 Winter’s Icy Touch (Mastery 5: Penetration, Multiple Casting, Obfuscated Casting, Quick Casting x2) [Total penetration bonus: +11]

+37 (includes focus) PeIg30 Wizard’s Icy Grip (Mastery 2: Multiple Casting, Penetration) [Total penetration bonus: +8]

+6 CrCo10 Bind Wounds (Stalwart Casting)

+9 InCo10 Sight of the True Form (Quiet Casting)

+11 ReCo15 Wizard’s Leap (Stalwart Casting) [+8 with requisites for equipment]

+6 InHe10 Intuition of the Forest (Stalwart Casting)

+9 InIm5 Prying Eyes (Quiet Casting)

+6* MuIm10 Aura of Ennobled Presence (Stalwart Casting) [*Casting totals are halved]

+20 PeIm20 Veil of Invisibility (Stalwart Casting, Quiet Casting)

+14 InVi15 The Invisible Eye Revealed (Stalwart Casting)

+25 PeVi15 Unraveling the Nature of Ignem (Fast Casting, Penetration) [Total penetration bonus: +7]

Lots of good suggestions for character design, but I think they answer the wrong question. Hoplite is not an appointment but a CV. You do not apply for the role, but earn the reputation. Often, it is the case of volunteering for a task and being rewarded with the spoils upon successful achievements. Anyone can try, but only the successful ones make a living. (This is the case for marches in particular.)

So the important question to ask is what kind of stories will the junior magus take part in, in order to rise to the ranks of recognised hoplites several decades down the line?

Firstly, a wizard's march is a team effort, and promising younglings can play an important role scouting and scheming, even if they do not stand a chance in the final confrontation.

Secondly, while no junior is a match for a senior magus, there are also junior magi misbehaving, and you do not ask the tribunal's master hoplite to track down hedge wizard, orphaned apprentice, or even a just gauntletted magus of a non-martial line.

If you imagine the stories, it should be clear what skills to prioritise.

Hermetic prestige can be helpful. Inheriting a reputation from the master may attract some requests for help, which leads to stories, which lead to achievemnt, which leads to a self-earned reputation.

6 Likes

Yeah, requiring Famous or Hermetic Prestige definitely feels like the right move here. I'm also going to use the House Flambeau prestige rules in HoH:S. Knowing their limits enough that they chasing less-dangerous enemies and/or working within a team is also good advice, even if the spoils aren't going to be comparable.

(The "what kind of stories" question isn't important to our troupe at all; we run simulationist sandbox campaigns rather than narrative plot-based ones, where the overall story arises organically from how the world reacts to the activities of the players and major NPCs.)

3 Likes

But it is. It just means that the magus has actively to seek out those stories to build their track record. The question is exactly the same. It is just that the answer is interpreted IC.

1 Like

The Order, I think, relies heavily on reputation. Being a hoplite is a bit like declaring that you are a warrior as a mundane.

Are you a freshly knighted squire under 20, who shows some talent in swordfighting? Well, if your family is prestigious enough, maybe people will actually call you a warrior. But when a veteran crusader speaks the word, you'll always be haunted by the quotation marks. Are you a 40-something grizzled mercenary with two decades of war behind him and the scars and witnesses to show it? Even nobles - if they know what's good for them - will listen when you speak in matters of war. "I was at Mohi" says more to those in the know than any title.

Much in the same vein for magi. Are you a magus with a dizzying array of combat spells, a head full of wartime stories, and zero marches? Most magi who know you will think of you as a "hoplite". Are you a magus with no special backround who ended up helping in 2-3 marches before, and your peers have seen you keep your cool and do your job effectively when things went south? Most of them will think of you as a hoplite.

1 Like

That's part of the story, but it is also the case that a warrior would peak in their twenties, relying so much on physical prowess. True, combat leadership may peak later, but still. A magus in their twenties have only completed their introductory course. In their fifties, they may still have the physical abilities of their youth, thanks to longevity potions, and their spells will be of a new magnitude.

Thus, the magus needs age, both to earn reputation and to gain skills.

1 Like

Another one "late to the party"
Nevertheless, my thoughts:

:point_up: THIS :point_up:

A Hoplite, to me, is one (often both) of two things:

1/ shows up regularly (not "always" but "more often than not") to hunt down Marched wizards
Nominally, all magi are iirc "supposed" to do this (as the renegade is no longer a member of the OoH, they are subject to "Join or Die") but there's no stigma attached to not hunting the rogue. Anyone can join the hunt (or the fight, if they learn where the outlaw has been tracked-down) .

2/ Answering a Quaesitor call for muscle
Quaesitores are the investigators. Often, they are senior-enough to be able to force an issue at need, but sometimes they need backup, deputizing other magi to enable their investigation and/or apprehension of the target.

So, I would probably build the character-concept around someone whose Apprenticeship was in those roles, i.e their Master regularly did one (or both) of those, and raised their apprentice(s) accordingly.

Definitely add Fame/Prestige, "Apprenticed under Magus Mortus de Mortus" or whatever (my Latin sux).

Related:
I created a "magus-killer" PC concept.
He was a Tytalus. His master set his Gauntlet to be "kill that magus" and then declared a Wizard War against the target. As he was still an apprentice, his Master bore the responsibility for the death of the victim (and it was a duly-declared WW, so...) . Master had trained him up with hefty CrAu + Incantation of Lightning, and "accidentally" left a bunch of Pen-enhancing vis laying around the lab.

3 Likes

You make it sound as if Wizard's March is a common occurrence, with plenty of opportunities to earn merit for a hoplite.