[House Rule] Weaker Magi. Seeking opinions/help

For a while I've been experimenting with trying to make magi a little less powerful for whatever reason... In my case, trying to fit magi a little more smoothly into the rest of Mythic Europe. I've played around with the Arts as Abilities and a number of other house rules, all with this goal in mind. I've finally landed on a simple set of house rules that, I think, will achieve that goal... and I'm hoping the charming folks here one the forums can rip them apart for me.

The rules are simple. Magic and arts advancement are unchanged. Instead, the character creation rules for Hermetic Apprenticeship and After Apprenticeship are changed. Instead of receiving 240 exp and 120 levels of spells for apprenticeship, magi recieve normal exp for their age, plus 50 exp in Arts and 50 levels of spells (this also assumes a shorter apprenticeship... more on the lines of basic academic or clerical education). Additionally, magi recieve only 2 free seasons after apprenticeship (and thus only 15 exp per year if creating a magus out of apprenticeship) and magi must take a Social Status virtue in addition to Magus. Essentially, magi are assumed to live in the world and support themselves much like everyone else.

Thoughts, comments, opinions, etc... and especially, if anyone is feeling bored/ambitious/really helpful, I'd love to see how someone who isn't me or one of my players would make a magus character using these rules.

Here is a sample character I tossed together using these rules (I think I followed all the other rules normally, but I have so many longstanding house rules I may have forgotten a few :slight_smile: )...

Characteristics: Int +2, Per +0, Pre +1, Com +2, Str -1, Sta +1, Dex +0, Qik +0
Size: 0, Age: 25, Decrepitude: 0, Confidence: 1(3)
Virtues: The Gift*, Hermetic Magus (Jerbiton), Clerk, Educated, Planetary Magic, Magic Sensitivity, Book Learner, Good Teacher, Clear Thinker
Flaws: Cabal Legacy, Slow Caster, Proud, Meddler (major)
Personality Traits: Meddler +3, Proud +2, Scholarly +2
Reputation: none
Evasion: Attack: n/a, Defense: +2, Damage: n/a
Dagger: Attack: +2, Defense: +1, Damage: +1
Soak: +0; Wound Penalties: -1 (1-5), -3 (6-10), -5 (11-15), Incapacitated (16-20), Dead (21+)
Fatigue Levels: OK / 0 / -1 / -3 / -5 / Unconscious
Abilities: Artes Liberales (astrology) 3, Brawl (dodge) 1, Charm (clergy) 2, Chirurgy (palliative care) 2, Church Lore (views on astrology) 3, Concentration (spell casting) 1, Finesse (aiming) 1, Folk Ken (clergy) 2, Guile (lying to clergy) 2, Magic Sensitivity (auras) 1, Magic Theory (intelligo) 3, Magoi of the Stars Lore (traditions) 1, Medicine (regimens) 4, Order of Hermes Lore (local tribunal) 1, Parma Magica (corpus) 1, Penetration (intelligo) 2, Profession: Scribe (neat hand) 2
Language: Norman French (nobles) 5, Latin (academic) 4
Arts: Creo 4, Intelligo 8, Muto 3, Perdo 0, Rego 3, Animal 0, Auram 0, Aquam 0, Corpus 6, Herbam 0, Ignem 0, Imaginem 0, Mentem 3, Terram 0, Vim 5
Spells Known: Bind Wounds (CrCo 10), Purification of the Festering Wound (+6)(CoCr 15), Revealed Flaws of Mortal Flesh (InCo 10), Spasms of the Uncontrolled Hand (ReCo 5), Sight of the Transparent Motive (InMe 10), Perception of the Conflicting Motive (InMe 15), Opening the Intangible Tunnel (ReVi 10), Sense the Hour (InVi 10)
Warping Score: 0 (0); Warping Scars: none
Equipment: clerk’s robe, knife; Encumbrance: 0 (0)

Limiting learning seasons is a cool and simple idea.
-I would forbid affinities on arts and limit art specialization at the beginning to level 8. But I have no problem with starting xp and spells.
-Halve focus bonus.
-Maybe I would remove spell mastery. Especially reading the munchkin thread. :slight_smile:

However it is still possible to have the gold creation spell thus magi might get rich and could remove the reason of time limitation.

My question is, what are the Magi doing with their time during their not-free seasons.

That depends on the social status virtue they take. A Priest magus is tending to his parish. A Magister in Artibus magus is teaching. A Wise One magus is performing helpful magics and dispensing advice to his village.

So you are thinking Mages as part of the community at large rather than a Covenant?

Will you do away with the covenant system or significantly alter it?

How are you going to address issues of the Gift? A Gifted priest or teacher is at quite a disadvantage.

Also (Serf's Parma) non-magus social classes get exposure experience for their working seasons. As well as potentially making money, crafting items and improving their station with the rules in C&G. You may have players specifically choosing backgrounds that let them advance magus type skills.

I can easily see a Verditius working by producing items for the nobility and rich merchants, so that would be quite likely, or a master hunter magus that tracks supernatural creatures to hunt, either because he has been contracted to do so or because he is tracking them for someone else that will do the fighting.

So in your system magi are basically very skilled laborers.

If you ewant to limit their power I would

  1. Make books be quality = to Comunication, not com +6.
  2. Make lab texts rare
  3. Make lab bonuses difficult to get. No Covenants used, but instead a simple scale of a scale of +1 per 10 magnitudes of effects invested in the lab. +2 for 30 magnitudes, +3 for 60 magnitudes.... Those should not be items that can leave the lab. It will limit lab totals seriously, that it seems to be your main thing here.

For social interaction what are your ideas?
And the code? Will you modify it?

In a sense I have a folk witch (warlock, since he is male) that would fit the description of the magi in your saga, but I think he is more powerful than that mage of yours at character creation....


I'm trying to gauge the power-level here. A magus, say, 60 years post-gauntlet (how old can they get?) would have up to 475 XP in two Arts [clearly, this is an exaggeration, but i want to get a rough scale], for a score of 30. Add in a Focus, a +3 Aura and +3 Sta and we have an average casting total of 102. That seems too high [even given the unrealistic assumptions].

My concern is that your setting won't "make sense" in that magi could easily create items and effects that should by rights land them lots of riches and allow them a lot of free time. Furthermore, their power isn't sufficiently reduced so that they can still pull off too powerful effects and it doesn't make sense that they aren't doing lots of high-fantasy stuff - especially given how closely they are integrated with society. That said - it's not like the canon setting makes sense (IMO). So I'd still need to suspend disbelief in your model - but that's not a real problem.


Did you use the 15XP/year only?
How did you get to 102? 3+30+(30+30)+3=96?

Still, an 80 year old dude IMS would be near archmagehood status if he pushed for it. And you character is clearly a te+fo combo nasrrow character, just the kind of obsessive nutter that PCs play and that get to the big stuff early even if he is looked over the shoulder by his sodales :slight_smile: So I would not think those numbers are unreasonable.

I agree with the second part of your post completely. He would have some issues maintaining his "village priest" status there.


and I included an average die roll of 6.

Yep. The guy is clearly TOO focused, but then again he doesn't even have Affinity or Puissant, let alone myriad other bonuses and perks. I suspect this is a good rough estimate of plausible power-level.

In my head, the covenant exists as an association or school of magi within a certain area. In my current saga, one covenant is "hidden" within the chapter of canons of the local cathedral. Another is a secret association of masters and students at Oxford.

This would be one of the those house rules I sometimes forget isn't a rule. My take on the effect of the Gift is influenced by earlier editions, where it is less "burn the witch!" and more "that guy's kinda creepy."

Yup... 4 experience points a year. Still less then they would get in a standard campaign.

As opposed to a standard campaign where you get twice that? By the same logic an 85 year old blacksmith can have a Craft and Bargain of 13. As you say, it's an unrealistic set of assumptions. I don't find those particularly compelling.

Ah, but a blacksmith won't reach that age. He'll drop off at 60 and change, and with plenty of Decreptitude and aging points eating up his capabilities. Not so with Hermetic magi - unless you change the longevity rules, too.

Be that as it may - let me turn the question around to you: you've given us the low-magic, entry-level journeyman magus power level. What is the archmagus level? How powerful do practitioners get? How strong would a typical Master be, and how strong can he reasonably get with time?

I suspect that doing things like making gold or improving the crops is just too easy with Hermetic magic, so it would still be too easy under your system as well. But I didn't do that math, maybe I'm mistaken.

Magi will have far less time to do things so lots of other things will be reduced within the setting to.

Longevity potions will be less potent on average. On average magi won't live as long. Fewer old magi means even less total magical knowledge.

Less time+less knowledge=a lot less books. What would qualify as high level summa would probably be comparatively low.

Fewer seasons for adventures and vis hunts so the vis economy would be tighter. Even harder to do really powerful enchantments and other vis heavy activities.

It would be harder for magi to get to the point where they could train an apprentice. Once they have an apprentice it would be harder to devote the time to train them.

Overall most any magi with an apprentice, a familiar, and a talisman could probably claim to be an Archmage in this setting.

I could see something like this working in a saga where the the Order of Hermes is significantly weakened or doesn't exist at all. Maybe it's been destroyed by demons or the church (or both) or collapsed by infighting. Hermetic magic could still be suppressed and have enemies. Covenants could be built on far fewer points and run in secret like folk witches covens. Having to work in secret with out a support system could also explain why magi don't just cast spells to get rich regularly.

A very good question and one I really need to work out. I mean, the level of power a magus can achieve is based largely on the reasources available... and the availability of training and texts depends on the power of the magi who came before. I guess I need to sit down and start crunching some numbers and making some assumptions.

Drat and blast... another of those house rules I forget is a house rule. :slight_smile: No making gold, period (no permanently creating something from nothing, period) and improving crops IMS isn't perhaps as effective as is generally assumed in others (I don't recall any firm rule on the effectiveness of Bountiful Feast... I just assume a moderate increase in yield, as from a good year).

What about making things grow faster than normal, e.g. maturing in a day? Or creating salt from seawater? Or constructing buildings over-night? Or....

I don't think there is a real way around it - magic didn't exist in the middle-ages, and it changes things. I am all in favor of reducing the power-level, but I don't like to "cover the loopholes". I prefer the standard ArM approach here, actually - keep magic out of the way politically, but keep it powerful enough to do all kinds of cool stuff. I don't want the game-upsetting stuff to be EASY, mind you; but I do like to keep it possible.

I take a slightly different approach... I favor the Mythic Europe concept, that magic exists the way the people of the middle ages believed magic exists. Maturing a plant in a far, or raising a building overnight is something a powerful wizard can do. But they generally don't because a) you don't have that many powerful wizards laying around and b) the ones who are around have better things to do with their time then growing crops and doing carpentry... that's what serfs are for. Also, really powerful wizards have long grey beards because they are old and they have been studying magic for decades. That kind of power is something your character can aspire to and maybe achieve, but it's not where you start. OTOH, nearly every village has a witch who can put the Good Word on your crops or curse your neighbors. Physcians are required to cast horoscopes for their patients before treating them for a serious illness.

At it's heart, magic is mystery. A secret grasped by only a few and if that secret is shared too much it is diminished.

We actually share a similar view but I keep magic in check by attitude rather than politics. In the end my goal to enjoy the Europe part as well as the Mythic part... to be able to have magi involved with nobles and churchmen and peasants as part of the world, rather then hidden away from the world in a tower on the edge of a magic forest.

Those do make it more difficult but real money making schemes should seldom be as vis intensive as flat creo ex nihilo. The magic system is so flexible you have to seriously hamstring it to slow down a creative player. You don't even need to be that powerful. If you can make a wand that boils water a covenant can make a pretty penny producing sea salt. Or rego craft magic or just good use of intellego. (Yup there is gold, silver, pearls, or truffles right over there)

I think the biggest limit to Magi in this setting is time. If they had more free time they could make money if they had more money they'd have free time.

Overall most magi in your setting have half as many seasons before they die to become great. Maybe a lot less once you figure all the ways being less powerful compounds.

You realize that by requiring a social status and having Magi take seasons to support themselves your creating a system where many Magi are growing crops and doing carpentry. (Or scribing books, treating the sick, tending to a figurative or literal flock) They just aren't apparently using magic to do it.

Don't get me wrong I actually like a lot of your ideas. It's giving me some ideas for running a low powered saga of my own. :slight_smile:

Stupid question (since I'm sure you've already thought about it): Why don't you just drop the quality of books? Or even just magical books?

Since the problem is magic, you could very well say that explaining magic is difficult, so that any study total is reduced by 3 (or even 6 if you want to be castrative).
That would drastically reduce the power level of magi, while still allowing you to keep the covenants and all, and avoiding the (IMO irrealistic) issue of the magus who could use magic to easily make a living (thus freeing 2 seasons) but don't.