How to create a more powerful Order

I've been thinking about progress in the order. Although the medieval idea of progress isn't like ours, its clear that the mages have gone from a system that was terrible (pre-order) where magi just gunned each other dead in the streets to steal their stuff, to collegiate. Now magi get more out of sharing. Those books can be traded for instead which means everyone benefits.

Likewise, although slow, hermetic magi does grow. Bonisagus magi are constantly working on breakthroughs and integration of non-hermetic magic is a thing. Its entirely possible that over a 150 year lifespan, a magus will see the introduction of several new ways of doing hermetic magic that simply weren't available when they gauntleted.

Given this, its clear that magi should have a better concept of progress. They know their own history and can see how things change and improve for the better.

Now picture a young, talented (int 5), Inventive genius. He wants to move the order on to be bigger, better and stronger than it is.
Where would you start?

The obvious starting places for me are

  1. Sharing of very high quality books to all covenants, ensuring that freshly gauntleted magi are studying from the best quality sources and advancing much faster in their arts. This is also mechanically easy to do. Well trained scribes can do this without the intervention of the magi and its not impossible to imagine a well funded covenant employing dozens of such scribes in an almost monastic environment to produce such tomes in bulk.

  2. Integration of non-hermetic magic and hermetic breakthroughs. These are the only real ways to expand the scope of hermetic magic but are hard to do if done by a single magus. The only way to do this more rapidly is to get teams of magi working together, sharing notes and running different experiments on the same project. This doesn't mean lab sharing or other such demeaning work, rather working parallel on the same problem. For hermetic integration, you'd need not just the lab teams, but also organised teams of seekers to find the sources from which to work.

  3. Vis distribution. Vis sources are randomly distributed meaning that some covenants are stockpiling vis they aren't using and others are crying out for vis they don't produce. There are two ways around this, a better vis distribution system and hermetic alchemy. Alchemy is the province of mystery cults but has the capacity to dramatically change hermetic vis production entirely, especially the virtues hermetic alchemy and major philosophic alchemy. This lets magi create vis of any art, right out of their aura without committing any extra time to it (beyond time they would spend in their lab anyway)

  4. Hermetic numbers. Hermetic numbers are limited by two things, vis supply and gifted children supply. The vis supply is because every extra mage is a competitor for a limited fund of vis, although, see above for how to address this. The gifted child supply could be addressed by non-gifted grogs dispatched to population areas bearing magic items that detect the gift (using the guidelines in Apprentices). With an abundance of gifted children, Magi could be a little more picky about who they train, probably leading to an increase in the quality of young magi. With better quality libraries and an element of self directed study, assisted by mortal tutors, you could even have multiple apprentices at once, although their safety would really depend on changes to the code.

  5. Magical Infrastructure. Moving vis, books, gifted kids, magical animals, lab equipment, specialised components and ingredients and so on around is currently done on an individual covenant to covenant basis or by redcaps. Redcaps are few in number and travel light and fast. Moving a book or a rook of vis is no problem, but moving fresh venentian glass for 5 labs requires something else. There is considerable scope here for an enterprising covenant to develop a system of distribution while setting themselves up as a manufacturer of goods, such as glass, fine quality steel tools, particular herbs etc, and hermetic magic can help in the production of these to standards far higher than normal mortals can aspire. This would allow magi to address deficiencies in libraries and vis stocks swiftly and maintain better quality labs.

Social change
Almost all of these changes are not mechanically difficult, not like erecting networks of Hermes Gates. The great stumbling block is social. Many of them work directly against the prevailing mindset of magi and how they view themselves. Some of them even work against the code (such as having multiple apprentices). So a magus or covenant wanting to really move the Order as a whole forward, would need to think carefully about how they would change the culture and the legal framework of the order. The legal framework after all was created to be acceptable to fiercely independent magi who would otherwise be murdering each other and taking each other stuff. Arguably, and Tytalus aside, the order might be ready for some provisions, if only in local peripheral codes, that move towards a more collegiate atmosphere.
Magi would also need to have their mindsets changed. Perhaps the best way would be to create some of these changes between what willing partners could be found and offer them to others with a oath of reciprocity, i.e. you can get the benefits of using the new book system, but to join the scheme you have to open your library to all other members of the scheme, as they have opened their library to you. This in turn would require enforcement for those trying to cheat the system (Tytalus again) and perhaps some peripheral code rulings.

An in game example of how this could be developed already exists in the Theban tribunal, where magi are well used to coming together to form leagues with a particular purpose. These could certainly be practical for research groups and could be expanded out more broadly to the other provisions.

The aim of all of this would be more powerful magic, and thats a good sell to other magi. Join this system, and you'll get access to all the best books, all the vis you need for your projects, multiple quality apprentices and great lab equipment.



As you mention, most of what you describe have little to do with lab work. As such, high-Int with Inventive Genius is not the right magus to implement it. It would rather be a job for a high-Pre/Com magus of the Trianoma tradition.

He/she needs to convince people that a new system would benefit all. This means talking to them, promoting trade and convincing individual magi, covenants and Tribunals to put new measures into place that will promote this growth. That also means a lot of politics, as some will consider such ideas bad for a variety of reasons (inertia, selfish interest, personal dislike, etc.)

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Seems to me you need someone to design the logistics systems (the inventive genius mentioned) and someone to promote them throughout the order (the trianoman). One person need not do all the work and may be counter to the goal in a certain sense, or at lease getting others fired up about it enough to work to spread it themselves is an important part of getting everyone to convert.

Your inventive genius should join House Tremere. It has some of these properties already (sharing books, sponsoring research, infrastructure, population control).

They also offer yearly tribunals, central control of vis use, military preparedness, apprentices, longevity potions and access to labs.

See you at Lycaneon.


True. But they are a True Lineage, so they don't really take in outsiders, now do they? :wink:

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Yes. Most obviously, free access to high-quality books, and a better distribution of vis obviously threaten established power structures and the status quo (under which scarcity of both accrues political benefits to the powerful covenants which possess them). So, its an outright political battle. And given the way power increases with age in the Order, it is likely that it would be fought on a generational timescale - change is partly a matter of waiting for old, powerful magi to die or enter final Twilight.

On the "more civilised / less violent" front, one way of pushing that change is to get magi to swear an oath that they will never declare wizard war on another magus (so they can defend themselves, but can't use it offensively). Perfectly legal - one can always decline to exercise a power one has - but if enough magi do it, and then train their apprentices to do it in turn, it effectively changes the Code without ever publicly doing so. An enhancement is to add a mutual self-defence clause: no voluntary wizard war themselves, but if anyone declares on a member (or anyone else), then they will fight them. Tytali obviously would exploit the latter by provoking people to declare wizard war, and I suspect the Quaesitores would view it as a destabilising influence (in that big leagues of magi with oaths to declare wizard war under certain circumstances is ripe for a second Schism War).

I don't think that would work. You cannot simply "jump into" a WW declared at someone else. You need to declare WW at the agressor, which takes time decause he need to be notified 1 month in advance. Unless your saga has instantaneous travel, it may take a few weeks before you become aware of the 1st WW and than get your declaration to the initial agressor (if it can even find him).

If you attack the agressor without an active WW against him, you are breaking the Code.

Yes, I mean declare on them. Legal, but a potential cause of mass-Wizard Wars, the sort of thing the Quaesitores dislike.

Transforming Mythic Europe has rules for convincing the Order to adopt a change, through debate and published works. It even has an example text written by Trianoma about accepting the Ordo Miscellanea as the 13th House.

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It's using classic gang/mafia tactics. "You attack one member of the family, you attack all the family."

Before the month is out, 8 magi all get together and declare Wizards War at the same time on the agressor and say they'll back down if he drops his war. I don't care how hard core the aggressor is, how annoyed he is, most wizards are going to back down.

Worst case scenario the anti-war co-operative team can't get together before the month is out, they war and kill the aggressor as a message.

You do that 1 or 2 times, no more wizards war. Unless.......

You could have a proper war. The pro-wizards war types might be incensed, especially Flambeau as they could see it as an insult to their founder, and respond by doing a multi magi wizards war as well. You then have a huge multi mage warfare event that could be the worst crisis in the order since the Diedne schism. It's all up to the SG.


Yes, they have a special covenant for them and everything.

I mean join in the sense of "work with" not "give your sigil to". Lycaneon is basically a massive R&D centre with logistical infrastructure left over from when it was Coeris, back before the Sundering.

House Tremere : Doing The Right Things For The Wrong Reasons since 868.


I had forgotten that this is broadly the "Hat" of the Tremere.

However, even they think too small. They also have a very rigid hierarchy and top down command structure that would repel a lot of magi, even ones who agree with their distribution and infrastructure methods.

I particularly like the idea of a group of young magi setting off to form a new covenant and the tribunal as a whole providing the basics of a covenant, e.g. a starter library, with a copy of each of the great works on an art, a bunch of vim vis and a casting tablet for Aegis of the Hearth, and a big bunch of cash. All with the explicit proviso that, once established, the covenant signs up to the scheme where it shares its library and engages with the vis distibution system. For young magi, you'd be talking decades of study with the books before they got to the end of their magical interests (given that even narrow interests often have a spread of arts), relieving pressure on vis to study from. In fact using vis to study from would become a niche activity, since the books would be so good and so plentiful.

I was thinking of the Int 5/inventive genius more as a hand wave for why someone would think in such modern terms about logistics and development. But yes to get this done the lab rats really wouldn't be the most important figures, it would be the diplomats.

Perhaps the most easily introduced aspect would be points 2 (expanding the scope of hermetic magic) and 4 (gifted kids). I can particularly see that the Transylvanian and Theban tribunal already have explicit mechanisms for shared research, with Tremeres research covenant as Timothy Ferguson, and the Theban Leagues. The trick would be to expand these practices outside those areas. Somewhere like the Rhine Tribunal could ask for expressions of interest for understanding the Rune Magic of the north and crowd source funding, with a promise to share the rewards. With the obvious side effect that chancers (Tytalus) might sit out the funding since they know they will get the benefit anyway, I can well see that even modest new covenants might fling a pawn or two of vis and some cash at the research group, particularly if the group are open about everything, share findings at tribunal, etc.

Much as I love the hermit(ic) wizard living alone and secretive in their tower, the 7 yearly tribunal and more common house social structure really does indicate that some magi might be happy enough for a more collaborative order.

Of course I often see the order another way, that of prideful, arrogant magi who use tribunal solely because it reduces the risk of murderous magi kicking their door in and that Hermetic politics might be very cut throat and deadly with those who loose reputation and standing being easy targets for wizards wars. Since like this covenants seem less like scholastic retreats and more like mutual defence pacts. In particular the mutual ownership of resources means you can't raid a covenants library and vis stocks under the banner of wizards war unless you've declared on the entire covenant.

Read Against the Dark as that is exactly what the Tremere want to do. Slow changes that make the Order work for the benefit of all the magi.

They are only in the HoHTL becasue they needed 4 in there. As close as you get is you must be raised as Tremere to buy into their vision. Bonisagus will take(steal) smart people from any House and they are a True Lineage.

The Rhine tribunal has the sort of mutual defence pact against wizard's wars where each guild has a standing threat that if you declare wizards war on one of its members then combat capable members of the guild will declare wizards war in retaliation. This does not prevent you from killing your rival in wizards war, because you have a month's headstart but it does mean that most people will not declare wizards war because it means that after a month you are in serious trouble.

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Oh, just working with House Tremere. Well, I can only approve of that, now can't I?

This is very idealistic and I don't see why Magi would go with it.

  • 1 and 3 are the direct solution to one another. Those who have an excess of vis can purchase training and books from those who have a lack of Vis.
    If the people with good book share them freely with the rest of the Order, they have lost their leverage and gained nothing from it, having merely weakened their bargaining position.
    If the people with Vis just start handing it out, they have lost even more than the book hoarders, because the book owners at least can keep their original copies.

  • In Academia (depending on fields) the first and last author get credit (as the one who did most of the work and the one who supervised respectively), in the case of breakthroughs only one person gets the virtue and information, and it is up to them to share it. So the trust and faith magi can put into one another limits the likelihood and depth of their collaboration. I can see a Covenant forming for people to specifically study together towards one topic. But this ultimately limits the size of the research groups.

  • 4: Do current Magi really gain much by the order increasing in size? New magi need to be trained for years and in the long term are competition for the ressources. Having a more organised Redcap system that would crisscross the land looking for gifted children, possibly with a kind of Tribunal-wide bidding system for potential apprentices makes sense, it would be easier to bring about especially if it still allowed magi to find their own apprentices through their own means. That way a mage who doesn't want to run around the villages chasing rumours of children throwing curses could just trade a good book or a lump of Vis for an apprentice.
    What would make most sense to drive an increase in Gifted children recruitment would be installing a 2-tier system for members of the Order: Magus and "acolyte". The Magus being what they are now but acolytes would have less training and be focussed on more menial hermetic duties, and only a few seasons of teaching by the Mage. They'd need their arts opened to stabilise their Gift, the parma to make working with them smooth and either just a point of MT, as Latin, Artes Liberales and Scribing could be taught by grogs, or for lab hands more points of MT and the prefered language of the local Covenant/Magi. The Acolyte would be bound the the Covenant/Magi who opened their arts but have more limited perspectives/voting rights than full magus. They'd be more akin to failed apprentices in their work and status. Effectively decreasing the cost of gifted lab help would encourage Magi to find every possible Gifted child so that the best Int/STA can become full magi, while the others would be permanent assistants or possibly "bears with Parma" to deal with magical threats.

  • 5: The magical infrastructure is by far the easiest problem to solve. Making flying ships is cheap and easy. All you need are two items: one from a ReHe mage to making the ship fly, and one from a CrAu mage to generate wind to move the ship. None of these items are above level 20, meaning that with a script most Covenant could afford it. (This is our Covenant's set up, a longship can travel at ca 30 km/h with favorable wind, which is guaranteed by the item). The relevant mages in our Covenant has discussed releasing a book titled "the Aeronautical Mage" which would contain the scripts for both items and possibly a couple of tractatus. But that means sacrificing seasons to just copy lab scripts out...

Having spent too long in academia, I have certainly become cynical to the system. Grand old professors telling us that it is up to us to change things and fix the problems in/with academia is pretty laughable, as they are the ones with that power, but it is not the ones at the top of the ladder who are going to cut the rung they are standing on. And as people reach those levels, the disincentives to changing things become greater and greater, even if when they started, they wanted to fix the problems.

So overall, I do not see the Order changing much.

I would look at this change from a metagame point of view, that is what kind of interesting story the PC will enjoy.

So to lay the ground and give more opportunity to my players, I always set the background as "static", meaning that no NPC was ever successful in doing what the PCs want to do or even in some case, nobody has bothered of even trying (at least when it looks like a major change). Basically, I give them the opportunity to be the Bonisagus or Trianoma of their time.

Once it is set, I reverse engineer some reasons why it was not done before. Often, I simply use the reason:nobody thought about it before - I consider that being truly creative, with a vision of what could be the world is rare in the medieval paradigm, with a rather rigid society, with well defined roles (the Church save souls, the Nobility protects, the common folk take care of the needs of those who protect them and their souls). Because mage have a unique education and upbringing they are more likely to have original thought.

Another reason why mages did not try it before: it does not benefit them personally enough. Working on the integration of some non-hermetic tradition will only truly benefit the second generation, the one who only need to read a Tractatus after full integration. The Researcher had to sacrifice a great deal of time with trial and error to generate those 45 or 60 points of original research, then integrate it.
So yes, I consider most mages as being - to various degree - selfish and self-centered, thus less prone to consider the greater good.

By the way - I am not a historian so I could be wrong - was it not widely consider in the academic field that everything had been discovered by the ancients (aka, the Greek) and thus no original work could surpass them. So recopying what had been done was the greatest achievement an academic could do ? I am pretty sure that it was the thoughts of many academics, but I am not sure about which historical period of time what this belief popular.

Once this is set, if my PCs want to change the world, I am all for it! That's so many story seeds!
This is were I will start to think of what kind of active resistance but also possible support they will meet. For the same reasons I gave for "why it was not done before", I would consider that a majority of mages won't actively oppose the change, unless it really hurts them - they just want to keep cooking in their lab. And if somebody with a decent argument, tell them "This will benefit you in that and that way, and you only need to do that..." as long as the "you only need to do that" is not too much according to their point of view, that should fly.

Then, there will be a couple of factions that would actively fight or hinder the PCs efforts and also some that are able to see the great picture and will support them.

After all, if the PCs build a strong case, they can rely on history: if Bonisagus and Trianoma did not pushed some drastic changes that was consider impossible at the time, the Order and the magical feats that his members can achieve would not have been possible. So of course, NPCs will make fun of the PCs hubris of pretending to bring such a large scale change, but it is up to them to prove them wrong.

That's my thought when I look at major change in the Order - not what can be done, because with enough time and resources, mages can do everything - but why it was not done before, and my answer is usually 95% inertia, 5% active resistance. Beat the 5% and you can make the inertia move.


I can see why young magi would be very keen on a more equitable distribution of books. But they may not have the votes to force change. What they can do is be the change they want to see in the world: assemble a Covenant of like-minded magi, build political connections, and just start doing it - e.g. build an alliance of Spring Covenants who agree to share all their (non-mystery) books to the others. With time, the balance of knowledge will shift. Its also relatively easy for a Covenant to get into the apprentice-selling business, and if you're good at it then this is actually providing a hugely useful service to other magi (though there are obvious potential complications, and all sorts of trouble will come from it if one Covenant or House feels like they're being cut out. Which is of course Story).

Magic grad students OTOH would require a pretty major revision to the core Code, as there are long-standing precedents about training.

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Oh for sure, this would require the creation of an entirely new category of Order memberships. This alone would be a huge change, but one that most established magi would benefit from so easier to pass.

Oh, those who lack both books and Vis are the ones who stand to gain from such redistribution. In the short term getting a league of Spring Covenants who lend each other books makes a lot of sense. but as they grow older and powerful, they would become the "establishment" and as they shift into Summer/Autumn, they would gain little by allowing new Spring Covenants into their leagues since they would lack the texts to contribute at an even level to the rest of the League. So this would be great for 1-2 generation of magi, but then the system would be a lot like the previous status quo. As some covenants might not want to invest their time/vis as much as the others they could still get the benefit of the Book-Lending-League without bearing the cost. Over time the Covenants who made the largest investments in books might not see a reason to keep freely lending to the other league members who they feel are taking advantage of them. And so after a while, the League collapses. It's the tragedy of the (un)Common.