How Long Can a Magus Really Live?

tl;dr: Max out bonuses on aging rolls and delay longevity ritual as long as you can. Use every advantage to reduce magical botch dice to lower Warping Points and the chance of triggering Twilight. With that, age 300 is easily achieved, 350 is probable, and 400 is possible. At the extreme, a magus could last into his 600s before his LR gave out, assuming he could avoid triggering Twilight.

So I got to wondering just how old you could get a magus. (Theoretically, of course. No saga is ever going to go as long enough for this analysis to matter.) To get a magus up in years, you have to battle the twin problems of Decrepitude and Warping. I ended up designing an "ideal" long-lived magus and then ran some numbers. Here's what I got.

Let's start with Virtues, because that can make all the difference. I opted for the following:

Strong Faerie Blood: This gives a critical +3 to Aging checks.

Mild Aging: Another +1 to Aging checks. The +3 to Aging crises is nice, though in the end it probably won't matter.

Affinity with Creo and Corpus: This helps him get a high-level longevity ritual when the time comes.

Affinity with Magic Theory and Puissant Magic Theory: This gets his MT up as high as possible so that he can use as much vis as possible. (This will allow him to make a LR at a high age when his Cr, Co, and MT will be high.)

Careful Sorcerer: Lowering his botch dice when casting will significantly drop the number of Warping Points he gets.

Flawless Magic: By mastering all spells, he can actually reduce the number of botch dice on his formulaic spells to zero.

Minor Magical Focus (longevity rituals): This will significantly increaase the potentcy of the LR he can get.

For those of you playing at home, you may have noticed that this gives me 13 points of Virtues. Not to worry. We'll just make him an Ex Misc magus with Strong Faerie Blood as his supernatural virtue. (Legit according to HOH:S.) That pays for SFB, leaving the accepted 10 Virtue points spent. Technically, this would allow Careful Sorcerer or his mMF to be taken as the Ex Misc Hermetic Virtue, freeing him up for another regular virtue. But that might be pushing things too far. We could take Mastered Spells as his hermetic Ex Misc virtue, just to give us a head start on building up those spell masteries. And that could fit with the concept of a faerie-blooded magus for whom magic comes easy.

Flaws are largely unimportant to this analysis. So long as he doesn't take something like Difficult Longevity Ritual or Poor Living Conditions, he should he okay.

For Characteristics, let's just make sure that he has a good Int and a good Sta. Those are what matter in Aging and Twilight.

For Attributes, he'll start with good Creo, Corpus, and Magic Theory. He'll also have some points in Concentration, Vim, and Mentem, with the requisite 5 points in Parma Magica.

Now, onto advancement. Obviously, the character has to devote a lot of time to learning Cr, Co, and MT. But what else can we do to help him along?

First thing is to get a familiar as soon as possible. (CrCo, of course) It doesn't matter if the familiar bond is low to begin with. (We can always build it up later.) Let's assume that he can get a bond value of 30 by the time he reaches the age of 30. That doesn't seem unreasonable since his Cr, Co, and MT will start high. At this stage, we put it all into the gold cord. That gives him another -3 to botch dice with magic, bringing his total for most spells up to -7, and -8 for those spells that he's built up the mastery to level 2. Moreover, since at least one of these dice is from mastery, that means the botch dice can go down to zero. Given the situations I've seen, it's rare to have 9 or more botch dice on a roll. So, if he limits himself to formulaic spells as much as he can (the chance of this varies by saga), the magus can almost eliminate the accrual of Warping Points.

We'll need to rebond the familiar before he's 50, of course, to get some bronze cord action. Let's be conservative and say that we only get to a 45 bond value by age 50. That still gives a +2 bronze cord with a corresponding bonus to Aging checks.

Once he turns 50, we start making Aging checks. But he doesn't get a longevity ritual yet because of the Warping. We'll assume that by now he's managed to get into an Autumn covenant, so his base living conditions are +2. For the sake of argument, let's also say that he picks a covenant that has a +1 living condition. This means that his Aging checks are at +9, which is pretty good. Even with the minus for current age, that still puts him in a pretty safe place. For most Aging rolls he'll at worst get an increase in apparent age. Only rarely will he get an Aging Point. And the chances of getting an Aging Crisis are very slim. We should easily be able to drag this out until he passes the century mark, probably a few decades past that, especially since during this time he strengthens his familiar bond again to raise his bronze cord another point or two.

Meanwhile, he's been doing more than just raising his Cr, Co, and MT during the past 80-100 years. Our magus has also joined the Order of the Green Cockerel and started initiating in its mysteries. He should get to the second tier reasonably quickly, we hope, which gets him Unaging and stops what Aging Points he might get from harming him too much. He also gets Hermetic Alchemy, which helps him start to accumulate the vis he'll need for future longevity rituals. In time, it will also get him Lesser Elixir (which helps with LRs) and Philosophic Alchemy (which further ramps up the accumpulation of vis). We'll set aside the Great Elixir for now, since I'm trying to find out how long you can stay alive without trying to become immortal. (Let's just assume that philosophically he doesn't want to make the sacrifice of humanity required to become immortal.)

We'll also want him to pick up some Cheating the Reaper types of spells (designed for him so they cause no Warping) for when his inevitable aging crisis hits. After all, it only takes 5 Aging Points to get there. He'll probably get the first crisis around about age 100-120. Let's say it's 120 so we have the worst possible crisis. He's going to roll a simple die +12 (for age) +1 (for Decrepitude). That's a 50/50 chance of a Terminal Illness. But by this age he has vis and a CrCo 40 spell he can cast to cure himself. (I couldn't find anything in the rules to say that you couldn't cast a Cheating the Reaper spell to save yourself.)

The aging crisis is probably the hint that it's getting time to prepare a longevity ritual. He might be able to last a decade beyond this point. But he has to consider the chance of rolling a 13 on his Aging roll (which triggers the next crisis). Once he gets down to a stress die +4, he'll have an Aging Crisis on the roll of a 9. That's a one-in-ten chance of a crisis, which is just too much to allow. He finally prepares himself a longevity ritual.

By this point, of course, his Cr, Co, and MT are relatively high, meaning that he can create a pretty darn good LR. Let's say he's 130, so he has to spend 26 vis for the ritual. All he needs is an 11+2 in MT to do that, which is easily doable by age 130 with Affintiy for MT. This LR will definitely see him through for a long time. But even so, we'll want to push things to the limit. We'll want to monitor his age and his MT and renew the LR as late as we can based on what vis he can spend. Moreover, we want to give him some time to make a good lesser elixir to add to it. That can give a -10 or more modifier to the LR, which could potentially buy him another century of life.

So, the longevity ritual is in place, and it's a good one. Now the issue is Warping. He starts to accumulate at least 1 Warping Point a year, no matter what he does. By now he might well have a +4 gold cord and Mastery 2 in all of his important formulaic spells (with Mastery 3 or more in some of the really important ones). That's -9 botch dice, potentially down to zero. If he manages to restrict his use of spontaneous spells, he will have kept his non-LR WP gain down to nearly zero.

As a further note, he can also make sure that he enchants a talisman and some various magic items. (He has the vis by now from Philosophical Alchemy, even with saving for LRs.) This allows him to use many of his spells from items instead of casting, which means that in bad situations (e.g., in non-magical Auras) he can use items and avoid lots of botch dice. We'll also have him avoid being subject to high-magnitude spells against his will (a decent Parma Magica should suffice for that), and avoid being under the effects of spells for a long time (easily enough done).

Normally the rules assume 2 WP/year for older magi (which I assume includes the 1/year for the LR). With this build, we can expect to drop that to maybe 1 WP/4 years, or even less. Even so, those WPs will start to accumulate, if nothing else from the LR. But all hope is not lost. Even when the magus gets to a high Warping Score, that's not the end. Yes, once your Warping Score is 10 (275 WP) you're likely to hit Final Twilight anytime you enter Twilight. But we have to consider the chances of entering Twilight at all. First, it requires getting two WPs at once. With -9 botch dice, that's going to be rare. Then there's Twilight Avoidance. That's:

Stamina + Concentration + Vim Form Bonus + stress die vs. Warping Score + Number of Warping Points gained + Enigmatic Wisdom + local aura + stress die (no botch)

To simplify things, let's assume he's upped his Stamina to +5 with CrCo spells (his CrCo should be pretty high, and he'll have the vis to spare), he's pumped some points into Concentration to get it up pretty high (say an 10 with a specialization in Twilight avoidance), a Vim bonus of +6, no Enigmatic Wisdom, a local Aura of 5, and 2 WP gained. With 10 WS, that makes the roll:

22 + stress die vs. 17 + stress die (no botch)

That's not ideal, but on the off chance that he gets enough WP to check for Twilight, he has a better than average chance of avoiding it. He can do better if he ups his Concentration or Vim even more, though he'll do worse if he's in a higher Aura. Not something I'd bet the farm on, but he won't have any chance by this point, so he'll have to accept the risk.

Once he does enter Twilight, odds are he's not going to comprehend it, given the rolls he has to make. So he's in for the whole duration. That means that until he reaches a Warping Score of 10 he's relatively safe. (He needs to botch the comprehension roll at a WS under 9 to go into Final Twilight.)

Depending upon the number of WPs he gets over the years, he'll probably top 300 before he reaches a Warping Score of 10. He might even hit 400 or more if he's very careful. But at that point he's a vial of nitroglycerine, just waiting for a shock to set it off.

This being Ars Magica, I ran some numbers to see what they looked like. I took a conservative estimate and said he'd get 1 WP every four years. Given that the build is designed to avoid WP, that seemed more than fair. Under that assumption, he gets to a Warping Score of 9 at 288, and a Warping Score of 10 at 328. Obviously, if he gets fewer WP per year, he lasts longer before he gets to a WS of 10. Just for grins and giggles I ran the numbers for him getting 0 WP/year from sources other than his LR (the ideal to strive for). That's not likely, I know. But it does represent the best he could hope for. That takes him to age 404 before he gets to a WS of 10. At that point he's a ticking time bomb, just waiting out the clock. But he still has to get 2 WP before he triggers potential Twilight. And with -10 (or more) to his botch dice by this point, he's unlikley to roll more than one botch die, even with spontaneous spells. So he might last a good while beyond that if he's careful. His LR isn't a problem, since that'll last him until past 600. That's the point that his aging penalties start to get too high for his LR to cope with.

Now, I understand that you can't always control the WP you get. And there are spells that he'd be particularly vulneraable to that give WPs. He also could roll really badly on any of his aging rolls, and trigger a crisis, even with a really good LR. But I did this as an intellectual exercise to see just how long it was possible for an ideally suited magus to survive without immortality and under ideal circumstances. Based on my analysis, it seems to me that 300 is easily achieved, 350 is probable, and 400 is possible. After that, things get really sketchy. But in theory, with everything going just right, he could last into his 600s before the LR gave out.

Of course, this assumes all goes right with a magus designed to live a long time. Each advantage he has that's stripped away and each assumption dropped lowers the maximum age by a bit.

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Hmmm. There are a number of ways that allow a magus to live virtually forever. The key is:
a) always avoid gaining more than 1 warping point at a time (not too hard, unless events really conspire against you) and
b) find some way to avoid making aging rolls. Many, perhaps most Criamon paths grant you such a boon. A Forest path grants you such a boon. A Zoroastrian mystery grants you such a boon. Many faerie magics grant you such a boon. And that's just off the top of my head, and without sacrificing your essential humanity (i.e. without changing into a being of Might) because in that case there are a myriad more ways.
Living forever is not that hard in ArM5!

There are a few things I think you might want to consider (ignoring becoming a magical/faerie being or living on the edge of repose or the forest path since you said no immortality):

Affinity w/ Magic Theory & Puissant Magic Theory: Higher Magic Theory scores let you do more with your lab, giving you a higher lab total. You really want to use a big lab and boost it a lot.

Faerie Magic: Though this doesn't boost the lab as much, it's much better for handling vis if you make sure you use all faerie vis.

True Faith: Even at high Twilight Scores, you don't get taken out forever.

Solomonic Physic, Solomonic Alchemy, and Improved Magical Defenses: Bonuses to Aging Rolls (the last one increasing the former two)

Mythic Characteristic: Help avoiding Twilight, for instance.

Living Conditions: Learned Magicians, Excellent food, physician, etc. (I think this is limited to +10 total.) Edit: Also, a lab with a good Health score.

I believe magic items that do things (such as) freshen the air and never let it get cold also add bonuses to living conditions - but that may be capped by the +10 (although I've never heard of that rule, it doesn't seem unreasonable.)

You can also put enchantments into your Familiar that affect you - these effects don't cause long-term warp, I believe.

And if you don't mind dipping into the Integration or Original Research rules - Parma is an effect that doesn't cause long-term warp. A sufficiently-creative magus may be able to extract that Insight from Parma, and partially integrate it into a Longevity Ritual. (Although it's never explicitly stated, I've ruled that a partially-integrated Breakthrough can be studied for partial insight. Ie, you can't study that source for Complete (2x) integration, but you can get halfway there with it.)

It's buried in HMRE:

While it might seem to only apply to the amulets, the way it's written is more general. Also, this fixes a potential big problem that shows up even without amulets. For example, I made a character who ended up somewhat breaking the game, as the character could make such incredibly Excellent food.

The result was that the character could sustain the entire Order of Hermes as though they had great longevity rituals and without making them sterile.

The broken part in that case really came from Faerie Sympathy. But no matter how health your living conditions, you really shouldn't get to a Living Conditions modifier that lets you live something like an extra 200 years without Warping. And without that +10 cap it starts heading that way. You can pretty easily get +2 from the covenant providing for you, +2 from the lab, and a little more with Healthy Feature. That's +5 fairly easily, and I've surely forgotten several things. So as soon as you move into using a Learned Magician or a great baker or similar, you're quickly heading toward breaking +10.

monstrous blood is a flaw which also grants a +1 bonus to aging rolls, if you goal is to live as long as possible. Strong faerie blood, mild aging, monstrous blood and +10 in living condition modifiers gives a total of +15 to your aging roll with no warping... which means you aren't likely to even show signs of aging or need a ritual until 140...

Don't forget bad luck. Saw a 36 year old magus buy a farm once. Got a minor illness, botched the stamina roll. Of course no one had the CrCo 20 ritual prepared to survive the crisis, so he died...

Seems like Monstrous Blood and Faerie Blood should be mutually exclusive. Monstrous Blood comes from the Magic Realm, and Faerie Blood comes from Faerie Realm, and having both reside in the same person seems odd and a bit unreasonable. Faerie Blood should inoculate one from being so tainted by the Magic Realm, but that's more story and not mechanics, so la.

Don't forget what The Hermetic Alchemy page 39 ff. from The Mysteries Revised can do for you even without using the Great Elixir.

I would agree that

Monstrous Blood (Magic realm) = oil
Faerie Blood (Faerie realm) = water

and don't mix well in the same person. Looking at it from the Medieval paradigm and the theological order of the world (and realms) as set by the deity, I'd say it wouldn't be allowed. My two cents...

I would think, if you could have different types of blood like this, you ought to be able to have Strong Faerie Blood of one type and Faerie Blood of another type. But that is explicitly not allowed. So I would assume it's supposed to be the single dominant blood that grants the Virtue. That suggests to me that Jonathan Link opinion may be close to an actual mechanic ruling even, and that you should only be able to have one type of "blood" Virtue/Flaw.

Personally, as an SG I think I would also find it distracting, as I think the bloodline is supposed to help characterize the particular character and multiple bloods would pull in different directions.

Oh, I forgot to mention some RoP:F and RoP:tI tricks. There are four good tricks between them. One is to make a lasting bargain with a Faerie and not age. One is to bind a spirit to you and not age. The third is to use Faerie Wizardry (Weal), which can grant enormous bonuses (3x(3+magnitude)) to aging rolls. Sure, this last one makes wound recovery difficult, but if you're not using Vis to heal, you cancel it and heal and then redo the faerie effect. The fourth is to use Incantation/Consumption to move your soul or to keep giving your Decrepitude to someone else.

Now that I think about it - rolls to resist aging are probably an implicit CrCo guideline - totally normal, but we only see them implemented in Longetivity rituals. So the ritual itself is really a standard CrCo guideline, with another CrCo "Resolve Aging Crisis" effect, with a ReVi non-deterministic "Delay the spell" effect that's set to go off "when you have an aging crisis".

EDIT II - In thinking about it a bit more, there's probably no ReVi involved - it's "just" two CrCo effects, but one is "prevent Aging Crisis" - and when that expires (due to an aging crisis), the entire effect goes away.

Huh. That implies you could take the Aging bonus and put it in your Familiar, and gain the bonus without warp. You could then put the delayed crisis effect in (say) a breakable clay tablet, and carry it around with you - "break on aging roll", essentially. There y'go. No warp involved.

(EDIT - in looking at the Limits: nope, limit of Aging is simply that you can't reverse Decrepitude.)

Interestingly, at my own level, my RL character, a bonisagus, is busy inventing the mystery list of the [hermetic alchemy to greater elixir] by breakthrough, but since becoming an immortal being is quite dommaging to his power, I asked the SG to have a last step: create a guideline for aging rolls (which is the idea on which the LR is conceived!), in order to put it in my familiar bond.

The character is not by himself age-resistant, but his lab, familiar cord are, and I'm trying to achieve a very slow aging process without warp.

(I already have his LR formula but i'm trying to not use it to avoid warp...)

Oh, another helpful Virtue: Imbued with the Spirit of Corpus/Vim (possibly another Form). That will give you a few more decades for inventing Longevity Rituals.

Why would living on the edge of repose, or using Saoshyant's Elixir, or following a forest path that prevents you from suffering aging while you live in a Forest be "disqualified" by the "no immortality" clause?

And why would these instead qualify? I'd note that using Weal or Bonding were the two "tricks" I was referring to myself in my first post.
In general, I think that the question the OP posed is not terribly clear. I'd assume "no immortality" to mean "the magus must remain human", so becoming a being of Might is forbidden. But all the analysis the OP proposed, and a lot of subsequent responses, seemed to focus on LR + mundane means (including "intrinsic" longevity by the magus, e.g. by Faerie Blood). Is that what was meant?

Because the Longevity Ritual is a nice, cheap, accessible means of living to 200 or so. It's particularly attractive because another magus can make it for you, so you do not have to be a Creo Corpus specialist, and the only limitation it places upon you is sterility (in particular, it requires no association with another Realm, and no restrictions on how/where you live). You want to live significantly beyond that? Then there are many other means that are more effective, and do not require you to focus your entire character on stockpiling bonuses to your aging rolls -- and still leave you human.

I'm sure the problem with binding a faerie to you to stop aging is that it stops you benefiting from the other uses of faerie bonding.
RoP:F p133 says binding a faerie gives you access to one of the effects from a list. It also says a character may only benefit from one bond at a time. Therefore, if you bind a faerie to stop aging, then great - no aging, and you can put off eating, drinking and breathing until you get a chance to catch up. However, you won't be able to use a faerie's characteristics/pretences, or use a faerie's powers, or bind a one-use faerie effect. Seeing as you want your anti-aging effect to last until you're ready to die or attempt immortality, this means once you do the bond to avoid faerie warping/fatigue/aging/deprivation, you give up the chance to use the other versions, which could be annoying to a faerie wizard.

The other problem is that the fae can end the effect at any time - they would prefer not to, but if another magus finds the fae you are bound to and destroys it or persuades it to drop the bond, you are in deep trouble as age comes crashing down on you. Likewise, the Weal level 4 guideline allows you to cast a ritual to defer all aging rolls until the ritual ends - if cast with aura duration you are unaging while you remain in a magic or faerie aura, but this confines your character. If cast with secret duration, you are now Dorian Grey - unaging until someone locates your secret object. This is very stylish and atmospheric, but not the world's most secure form of longevity. Using the Weal general guideline for the aging bonus and recovery penalty is probably safer, as you only need the effect to be active for more than half the year to get the aging bonus - just avoid needing to spend half the year healing from wounds or diseases.

The infernal binding a spirit to you has the drawback of warping for being under a constant effect and having to treat the spirit's personality traits as your own and gaining an Infernal Reputation - I think it's the personality traits that could drive you mad or get you into trouble quickly. I don't think the demonic version causes aging to catch up with you if the demon is destroyed/drops the enchantment, so this is what it makes it more powerful than the fae version.

Of course then you're consorting with demons, which brings its own trouble ...

Oh, I wasn't suggesting those are the best solutions. I was just putting forth more possibilities.

Thank you very much for this resource! : )

How'd you do the calculations? You have a spreadsheet or app?