How to play a Bjornaer


These rules were written before initiation.

The first stab at initiation rules in GotF tried to preserve a balance in vfs, and provided explicit rules for going above the usual max loadout. These rules did not allow for anything else.

The second and final stab at initiation provides explicit rules both for gaining an imbalance of vfs and for going above the limit. These rules do not provide for taking a single virtue more than one, or for initiating Hermetic Virtues without the Gift, etc.

I was pretty much expecting the suggestion that maybe something like Cautious Sorcerer cannot stack with itself, but there's no rule that says it wouldn't make the sorcerer even more cautious. On the other hand, there is a rule that says you cannot take a virtue more than once unless explicitly allowed; if that rule is adhered to, there's never a need to argue about whether these virtues stack with themselves, or which stackings are silly and which make sense. Clean and simple.




You might also consider allowing the bear player to rearrange his vfs to better suit what works for a Bjornaer.



Unless the rules explicitly say that a virtue can be taken more than once, I'd assume they simply wouldn't permit it. Quiet Magic can be taken twice, some of the Bjornaer Inner Mysteries can be repeated (generally those specifically stating so), and Withstand Casting can be taken as often as you like. But pretty much anything else wouldn't work, particularly those with a numeric benefit. For a character who truly wants to specialize in some capability, I'd be much more likely to allow upgrading a minor virtue to a new major virtue which improved upon what they already had over simply allowing iterative stacking.

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Thinking about it, and IIRC, one can argue that RAW this will only work if the Bjornaer does not add requirements to the core +7 Initiation script, because the rules for varying scripts say that the script can only be changed in one way, and the freebie Bjornaer changes count for this purpose. So a Bjornaer with a crazy high Bjornaer Lore would be able to vary the script, but anyone who needs to add more than +2 would not.



Except that only the last three come from the character creation chapter.

Initiations come later, and should still be limited by the first one, which comes from the V&Fs chapter, unless a Mystery Cult discovers how to become Blind twice.

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I quoted them all from exactly the same box in the V&F chapter.

Well then: let's stand to that and think what happens when initiations were included into canon: obviously you can get extra flaws as ordeals and virtues as benefits, breaking the 10 points limit. But I don't see what logic would allow to pick virtues or flaws twice, when they are not stated to be pickable a few times. As I said, I don't see how could it be justified to pick the flaw Blind twice.

This being said, I shall keep my mouth closed from now on (better late than never): this was about Bjornaer magi, and my biggest contribution to anything regarding them is the fact that I don't like (because they smell).

(Last night I had an idea of an alternate hermetic timeline were Bjornaer had been the subject of the Schism War, and Diedne were still doing their chants happily).

There are canonical ways to break limits on the number of times a Virtue can be taken. For example, look at Puissant Art. You could start with two an initiate a third.

Sure, but we're talking about taking different ones of the same type. Everyone considers Unraveling the Fabric of (Form) 20 to be ten different spells, one for each Form. Here it's many different Virtues of the same type, which is quite similar to Puissant (Art), which is 15 different Virtues of the same type.

Or not: would you allow a second Magical Focus, just because it's initiated?

I'd say that in order to initiate a third Puissancy you should be ready to lose one of the other two in the ordeal.

Yes, there are 15 different Puissant (Art) combinations, but it's one virtue, with two flavors. And you can't put more than two balls in that icecream cone.

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You're choosing a Virtue that has a special caveat with it to disqualify that. A Virtue with a special (unique?) caveat hardly counts as exemplary.

Do you do the same with Major Hermetic Virtues?

I'm starting to have the feeling that I should reread the Tytalus debate rules before keeping this on and probably start spending Confidence Points :grinning:


Well, I admit that Magical Focus says "a character can have only one Magical Focus, either major or minor, regardless of the source of the focus", and that while Puissant says "You may take this Virtue twice, for two different Arts", it doesn't include the "regardless of the source part", which could be understood as including virtues gained through initiations, though interpreting the corebook as meaningful for stuff that wasn't written back them seems a bit forced to me.

In fact probably we are looking at the wrong book to make things clear. Let's look at the book which came to create this mess. TMRE p. 19 says:

Once past Gauntlet and character generation, the purchase of Virtues and Flaws by character points ends.

To my understanding that means that the rules that get suspended after gauntlet are the ones regarding the point cost, which would be the 10 points limit, the 5 minor flaws limit because I understand that the idea behind that limitation is to restrict the number of points you can spend in small stuff and forcing you to pick the awful, gritty flaws if you want to keep buying these cool virtues, and the 1 Major Hermetic Virtue because a Major Hermetic Virtue gained through initiations isn't considered just as Hermetic class, but as Mystery class (and also because otherwise Merinita with MMF in Glamour and the Glamour Virtue wouldn't exist, and I don't want to live in a Mythic Europe without these funny guys).

On the other hand, the limitations behind Focus and Puissant don't refer to their cost, but put fences to how wide a particular magus benefits can get, if only because a magus with Puissant Muto and Intellego, just to say two arts, gives a pretty much clear character picture than a magus with 5 Puissant Techniques would.

Thus I'd say that yes, you can only get one Focus, but no, you can't get more than 2 Puissant (Arts).

(That being said I didn't remember that you couldn't buy Puissant (Art) more than twice!)

Initiations are mentioned in the core book.

That is saying, quite literally, you don't purchase V&F using character points. I.e., you no longer use the system of Major = ±3 and Minor = ±1 points to buy V&F.

Note that this is highly pertinent to Bjornaer refinements as your interpretation is only allowing a single Greater Immunity and a single Lesser Immunity as possible through refinement and other things. This means, for example, no one with Melancholic Mystery of the Chimera could refine to get Lesser Immunity.


I'd say that's correct, RAW. In a similar way, you get no more than one Cyclic Magic, so if you already have CM: Spring+Fall (or worse, Night) and want to initiate into a solar cult that starts off with CM: Day, then oops, you're clearly not suitable. Not everyone is worthy.

(Of course, if you already have CM: Night and then get CM: Day, you now have +3 all the time! Which is pretty nice. Then pick up 2 CMs to cover all four seasons, and 2 more to cover the full cycle of a month, and that's +9 all the time. Tangentially, or perhaps less tangentially giving the original topic, CM: Summer+Fall seems rather appropriate for a Bear Bjornaer, and CM is a fantastic though underrated virtue.)



So is the community saying that you cannot violate the core book's general V&F rules with initiations, enriched items of quality, twilight experiences, etc.?

Here are some questions I would ask then:

  1. Why do you think the writers and the line editor feel the special need to waste space when writing about Magical Foci?
  2. As that means you can only have one Major Hermetic Virtue, do you disallow initiations for Major Hermetic Virtues if you already have one?
  3. As that means you cannot have more than 5 Minor Flaws, do you disallow initiations that give Minor Flaws when you reach that limit?
  4. If we know some of these normal limits can be violated in canon, why can some be violated and not others (except quite explicitly the special case of Magical Foci)?

Because of fluff I guess.
Being twice "Cautious sorcerer" is absurd, since you can be cautious, not cautious cautious. Having perma bonus for "Cyclic Magic" too...because permanence is not cyclic.
Being Puissant in 3 Arts is not. You can get a deeper understanding of an Art for each Art...

Of course, Initiation can Initiate anything if you want it. That is why the first rule of initiation is "If the troupe and SG is okay".
Initiation is a tool, not a law text.



I'll speak for me though.

  1. I think that it would be cool and reasonable for some vfs to be taken more than once. But that's not RAW.

  2. I think that RAW, initiations and twilight do not relax the rule. Without reading the rules closely, I might not say the same about enriched items of quality or magic from a Gruagach or Learned Magician because these are temporary impositions that cause Warping; in a sense, the character does not have the virtue.

My InMe fails me. But that's the least of my issues with the rules about MF. I think a far better rule would have been to allow multiple foci but only allow one to apply at a time. This would have solved all kinds of problems, including the Tremere House Virtue.

That's a character creation rule, and it's clear in later books that this is RAI, at least eventually.

As above.

Because it eases game play.

If I do it your way, I have to decide for every virtue what it means to have two of them. Each choice represents maybe an hour of discussion among a gaming group, with the inevitable butwhataboutisms.

Why can't I take Cautious Sorcerer multiple times to be more Cautious?

Why can't I take Cyclic Magic once for Summer/Fall and again for Day? Seems reasonable for a magus all about heat and light. What about taking it once for Summer/Fall and again for Winter/Spring?

Maybe I have two Guardian Angels for double the MR? (It's a classic, Michael on my right and Gabriel on my left.)

Magic Blood or Faerie Blood 40 times, as I discover my diverse ancestry and associations.

I don't really have a problem with any of these from a balance perspective, except maybe taking Cyclic Magic repeatedly to boost all your magic by +3 per 2 instances doesn't feel right.

But I have a deep problem with it from a playability standpoint. It makes total sense to rule that this cannot be done unless there is an explicit rule describing how it can be done.

Indeed, rules for stacking virtues tend toward the particular, and are not the same. Characteristics? Get points that can be used up to +3 or boost from 3-4 or 4-5. Are you entering The Order of the Bear but already have Sta +5? Oops. Puissant Art? Only two, not as many as you want (I don't see a reason for this, so in a sense, the devs wasted time on that too.) Etc.

BTW, I also would rule that characters cannot load initiations with Story Flaws in excess of what is recommended.

Otherwise, have your initiations load up on Story Flaws! And maybe social statuses too. Especially the -1 kind that offer benefits. If you're a Bjornaer enhancing your Inner Heartbeast, why pay vis when you can get an animal companion or patron?

That said, it's fair for you to complain that rules of this sort should have been more clear.



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It's just as much a standard V&F rule as the one about taking a Virtue once. They're stated together, just the other is also mentioned elsewhere. If you relax just one of two, then you're being arbitrarily selective. If it's RAI for one, why not the other since they're both general rules for V&F in the core book.

As above, as well. If it's RAI for one, why not the other since they're both general rules for V&F in the core book.

Of course, you say this and provide a bunch of cases I didn't suggest, too

This doesn't get past difficult decisions. Let's say you have no Puissant Arts and you're granted 4 Puissant Arts simultaneously. Which two take effect? This is quite manageable in canon. Is this decision easier? Personally, I find it easier to just allow things like a second Lesser Immunity than to figure out things like this.

On a related note, do you warn Criamon players that they will not be able to pursue their Avenues very far if they start with a Major Personality Flaw? What happens to the beginner who starts a Criamon with one and then finds out they've crippled their advancement options?

So do demons, faeries, angels and lots of other stuff. So let's toss away whatever is written in the Realms of Power books!

It's kind of odd how well you understand the original quote but not the point I was trying to make.

Sorry, what!? Where did I said anything about allowing Greater or Lesser Immunities once?

I thought we were talking about Puissant Art, which also quite literally says that can be taken just twice, pretty much as strongly as Magical Focus is stated to be allowed to take just once.

Immunities don't say anything like that. You can have hundreds of them!

Quite an odd example: I fail to see why would anyone get 4 Puissant Arts at once. Why not 8? Or 312? If we are going to play that kind of game, why not stacking them, and getting a +12 to an Art? Would that make any sense?

Huh? I'm just pointing out that they had already considered that initiations would happen. Also, the core book is the only place for gaining Virtues via Twilight. So they were clearly aware of multiple possible ways of gaining Virtues later when writing the core book.

Now you're flip-flopping. They don't say you're allowed to take them more than once. So you are only allowed to take one (of each, as Lesser and Greater are different Virtues) at creation. If you can have hundreds of these, then why not ten versions of Imbued with the Spirit of (Form)? Meanwhile, Puissant Art allows more than Lesser Immunity at creation; it's less restrictive.

For example, you have four enriched Object of Virtue in your Talisman. Puissant Art is always available to a Hermetic magus enriching an Object of Virtue if the Art is available for a bonus with that material. So let's say your Talisman gives Puissant Animal, Puissant Corpus, Puissant Rego, and Puissant Vim. You touch your Talisman, and you are granted all four simultaneously. Which two do you get.


I am being selective. I don't think 'arbitrarily' in the colloquial sense, though I am arbitrating based upon what I think makes sense.

I cannot be at all certain it's RAI.

EDIT: When I wrote the previous sentence, I was thinking of a different 'it' than what you were referring to. To be clear, in my previous post, I said that I believe it is RAI that initiations (and twilight) can cause a magus to exceed one Major Hermetic Virtue or five Minor Flaws. The rest is not about RAI.

But I can be nearly certain that the rules we have for initiation did not exist when AM5 was first released, because of the abortive attempt at this in GotF. I can therefore be equally certain that when organizing the rules about virtues and flaws, no one was thinking about how these rules will play with initiation. They know Initiation will happen, just not how.

At this point in the game, I think the only way to get new virtues is through Twilight, in which the player gets the virtue the GM or group thinks is appropriate, not necessarily the one he wants, which makes things very easy. Groups that want to do weird things can do so, but most will add a virtue that does not require any special rules beyond "there's more than ten," and in a sense not even that special rule since the rules already allow it.

But again, I'm being subjective. I'm saying that these rules are all in one place and barely hint about what to do after character creation because I believe the authors did not organize these rules knowing the future. Because I don't believe the authors had any conscious intentions in this regard, or are unconsciously infallible, I do not think there is any knowledge to be gleaned from pondering why all of these rules are listed together, the way one might ask the deeper significance of why one law in Deuteronomy is adjacent to another, especially if it might better belong somewhere else.

I'm also saying that allowing multiple copies of a virtue after character creation but not during character creation seems absolutely silly to me. What purpose does it serve? None that I can see.

In short, I'm saying that your interpretation is just as valid as mine. You like it because you want to treat all the text in that box as applying only to character creation. I don't like it, because I think it's silly, and not in a good way.

  • Not allowing virtues and flaws to be taken multiple times unless explicitly designed that way makes equal sense during character creation and after for the same reasons.

  • Having either exactly one Social Status or a set of obviously compatible Social Statuses makes equal sense during character creation and after for the same reasons.

  • Limiting a character to only one Story Flaw except with explicit group agreement makes sense during and after character creation for the same reasons, one of which is explicitly listed.

  • Limiting a character's Personality Flaws again makes sense for the reasons listed, and these reasons apply throughout a character's life.

All the other stuff is per character type, and if I wanted, I could argue need not be considered the same way, but do not want to take that approach.

Instead, I'll simply note:

  • Limiting a magus' virtues and flaws to 10 is completely arbitrary, but setting some kind of limit makes sense during character creation but not afterward.

And now onto specific issues you raise:

In my previous post, I said that I believe it is RAI that initiations (and twilight) can cause a magus to exceed one Major Hermetic Virtue or five Minor Flaws.

We can talk about this if you want, but I consider it irrelevant to the question of whether a character can take a virtue multiple times, RAW.

Indeed! That's exactly what I did. Your reasoning legitimizes every case in that bunch of cases.

If I adopt your rule that a magus can take a virtue more than once after character creation, then a magus can reasonably do this with any of the virtues I suggested, because that's what your interpretation does.

It didn't happen because you cannot be granted this virtue four times.

And a Criamon interested in the Path of Strife will have to kill the Primus if he already has the Blatant Gift? Ooh, worse, a character who starts off as a Pious Criamon is also going to have problems, or are you going to let him take Criamon Piety twice? And what about a Disfigured Criamon who wants to tread the Path of Seeming? Or a Criamon with an Impious personality flaw (can he really be pious and impious at the same time even if he is a Criamon?)

Using Criamon as a general example is fraught with peril, because they are deliberately weird. Nevertheless, all of my examples as well as yours can be handled well using the normal rules:

  • There might be an alternate script.

  • An existing script can be modified using the rules for varying scripts.

  • The character might not be eligible. It makes sense, for example, that a character with too strong of a personality might not yet have the emotional availability to make the necessary full commitment to the House. Sort of the way William of Wonka weeds out potential apprentices with Major Personality Flaws (and had a variant script involving the Sacrifice of an everlasting gobstopper.) If this is the case, a good GM ought to talk to the player about this. A player might still be on board with this, and with the help of senior magi in the House, have stories in which he might tame that wild personality flaw that is an obstacle on his Path.

In a similar way, a character who is already permanently blind will have a hard time completing the final Huntress script.

So yes, there is a general issue of characters possibly not qualifying for an initiation script.

That issue is not a problem.