Just How Much Power Does Knowledge (not skill) Have?

I thought about this question while thinking about Intellego-specialist magi and how they might be perceived. How much power does increased perception really have? I mean, in militant situations, whether you're mundane or magical, knowledge can have exceptional power- because there's some other guy with different capabilities who can then act on the knowledge. For example, in the aforementioned military example, the person who gathered the knowledge can then supply it to the guy or guys (or ladies :stuck_out_tongue: ) with the firepower, to destroy or take care not to destroy specific locations to give themselves the best chances in battle.

However, knowledge by itself, while certainly valuable, and in certain situations even useful without an extra person's capabilities (such as learning a person's darkest secret, thus being able to threaten to reveal it), has no real power to speak of. I feel like all the other Techniques (heck, most TeFo combinations, exempting just a few like, say, PeHe, and even that can be scary in the right situation) have attributes about them that could incite fear or respect from somebody who may have reasons to oppose the magus specializing in them. Yet while they might be scary as part of a group (they've got the legendary Intellego specialist and detective Vector on their side!? Crap, they'll find us for certain!) there's really nothing particularly "powerful" about a magus who is notable for their Intellego specialization. On virtue of his own merits, it doesn't seem like he'd command much respect by walking a room... Particularly if he's attempting to command respect while walking into a room full of, say, dragons, who don't have to worry about things like InMe spells revealing any particular secrets of theirs. He can't walk onto the scene and cause previously-misbehaving monsters to leave in fear of his reputation.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I think Intellego is a great Art, and I think that there are good reasons to specialize in Intellego. It makes you a great asset, and socially the most threatening type of magus around.

But would there be any reason to consider an Intellego specialist "powerful"? Smart, sure. Good ally, sure. A damage multiplier to their allies, most certainly. But when they're old, walking into a place where a reputation as a powerful magus is the difference between an attempt to fry you and an attempt to negotiate with you, do Intellego specialists really have anything going for them? Are they the technicians of the Ars Magica world, can't live without em but can't let them into the line of fire? Or is there something there? Would most creatures be given pause by a magus who can tell them all of their (the creature's I mean) greatest weaknesses (physically and emotionally) after concentrating for a few seconds? Would a person with a lot of OoH lore, attempting to kill the magus, have any reason to be frightened upon hearing of his identity? I'm legitimately wondering about this, because it seems like they might develop reputations as unworthy to stand next to their peers, yet part of me feels as if I've missed something about the Art of Intellego. I just can't tell what.

So, yeah, that's my question, I guess. Are Intellego specialists "powerful" in the way that might awe somebody into fearing or respecting them? Are they powerful in ways I'm not thinking of that might cause other people to give them more merit in situations outside of detective/espionage duty and figuring out item enchantments? I'm really curious to figure out what I might be missing. Thanks in advance for your opinions on the subject.

I believe you are looking at your question from only one side: combat.

First, how many magi are greatful that their Intellego specialist was able to pinpoint exactly where were their enemies, how many of them and what kind of strategy they had. Of course, as you highlighted it, it does not win the war directly, but it makes it so much more efficient. I believe you underestimate the value of Intellego in conflicts: you can find dozen variants of combat mages (Terram based, Fire based, Perdo based, Animal master and what not), but they will all be useless if they don't know where to strike. Sun Tzu will disagree with you downplaying some much Intellego specialist.

However, all in all the Order is at peace since a couple of centuries so this change. You have to consider the Order like a huge University over all of Europe (and a bit further East). In such organisation, any expertise is highly valued. The fact that one magus has a score of 35+ in any Arts is in itself enough to be considered with a certain prestige.

And one group of magus put a premium on Intellego magi: Seekers. And since they are looking at ancient magic, they have a certain prestige - as long as they share their discovery.

Also look at what Intellego allows a magus to do (on top of the obvious ennemy detection):

  • find and identify aura and regio (very important as they become rarer under Dominion influence);
  • analyse magic on field, but also study forgotten items in the lab;
  • scry without limiting of distance (arcane connection) - and with a bit of Creo, attend long distance meeting - for elder magi, it is well appreciated.
1 Like

Thank you for the response.

One of the main reasons I was talking about the merits of an Intellego magus on their own was, in fact, because hostile contact is on such a small scale in the modern day for the Order; violence doesn't happen altogether often in general, but when it does, magi can usually only rely on themselves and maybe their covenants to deal with it.

Also, I admit I was thinking from a combat perspective (or at least a perspective of needing to be able to do something to avoid combat) but, then again, when I think of the word "powerful" and what might give somebody or something a reputation for being such, combat capacity is one of only three things that springs to mind. And the other two are politically, which any magus can be regardless of whether they even specialize, and as an object that's really good at providing other things (like machinery) with energy. So there's really not much else that could apply especially to a specialist magus.

Just, I can't imagine somebody calling another person a "powerful Intellego specialist." The ability to gather knowledge about everything you come across, by itself, just doesn't seem very awe-inspiring to me. I mean, I constantly hear magi being referred to as a very powerful group of people, but there's an entire fifth of the magical formula that doesn't seem to qualify as "powerful." Obviously getting to 35+ in an art will get you prestige on account of your dedication and knowledge of a complicated subject; I mean, people with scores of 9+ in Philosophiae today get paid gobs of money to write about their area of study, even though a 3 or so in that skill would be more than enough to explain everything that could be practical in readers' lives.

... Wow, I've never tried to apply RPG skill levels to real people before. Hrm.

Mostly, it's a matter of reputation and impressiveness. The Intellego specialist is the detective; the other Technique specialists are the cops. When the cop is alone, the criminal still has to worry about the fact that the cop is armed and knows martial arts. When the detective is alone, the criminal has to worry about him figuring out based on his posture that his right knee is his weak point and will buckle easily, but it probably won't matter because the detective is wearing suit pants and doesn't know anything about effective kicking.

The fact is that the detective is the scary one when you're in a building surrounded by military personnel and he's the one that can find you, but does he have something worth fearing outside of those circumstances?

My analogies are getting weird. I need sleep.

I can scry you out wherever you are. I know who you committed adultery with last night, and who you cuckolded. I know your weaknesses, I know the right things to say to make you collapse in a mewling heap. I can pick out your weakest Form in certamen. I can pull every secret screaming from your mind. And if it comes down to it, I can lie in wait at the right time to shoot you in the head with a crossbow bolt, because you don't need Creo Ignem or Perdo Corpus to brutally murder someone.

Sure, I can't use my magic to blast you straight into hell, just like a Perdo specialist can't conjure a cup of tea. In any case, I'm not going to walk into a straight-up fight unsupported because Intellego doesn't help with that. But just tell me I'm not powerful. Just tell me I'm not to be feared.

Of course, anyone who only has one Technique to draw on at all is going to be seen as deficient and wasting his potential as a Hermetic magus. Every magus should have at least one solid self-defense spell and that won't be from the Intellego Art. But with that caveat, only the dumbest prudhommes are going to dismiss the power of a diviner.

The way I see it, an Intellego specialist is probably going to be able to get arcane connections easily and be able to utilise them. Even if their other art scores are fairly low, having a decent penetration multiplier available will make them dangerous in combat too. Remember, they are likely to have a couple of decent forms, even if their other techniques aren't as high. Int 30, Me 20. Pe 10 = PeMe30, with a high penetration.

I played a Tremere scrying specialist, albeit only for a few sessions (he was killed by a botched healing spell after being mauled by a shade wolf/thing one year after gauntlet in his very first actual adventure). If he'd lived, he would have been dangerous: Scrying focus, leadworker, with a large organisation backing him up. Plus his friends (other PCs).

An intellego specialist would be regarded as one of the scariest magi by other magi. Is he reading my mind? How could I tell? How could I stop him?

A group of monsters who don't know him, sure they might not be scared on seeing him. If any survive after his low level spell penetrates their magic might and fries their brains, then they might spread the word.

Int Me

You swing a sword at me. I duck under it because I knew you were going to do that. I punch you in the place where your defences are weakest.

You threaten me. I tell you your home address, where your wife and child are, and details no-one should possibly know.

You have guards. I have the password.

Think of it as an equation where one of the factors is 0. You can work in ignorance, but that work will much less effective.

A Tytalus Intellego specialist is the scariest person you'll ever have to deal with. Because he will throw a thousand indirect attacks at you and you'll never know it was him, let alone prove it. How did the Church find out you were performing necromancy? How did the local baron discover you're magically creating grain? Why are your vis sources all empty? How do your supply wagons always get waylaid?

1 Like

I'm also of the opinion that an intellego focused magus is just about the scariest character in the game to another magus. Look at how easy it is for a magus to avoid conflict; Changing your appearance and sound is spontaneous for almost every magus even just out of apprenticeship, invisibility is common as are short range teleportation spells. If a magus wants to hide they pretty much can, except against an intellego focused magus. Look at peering into the mortal mind, that's only level 30. There is a target hearing version of posing the silent question in Magi of Hermes think of how easy that makes finding information. Look at the quaestiorial spells in true lineages, intellego can detect spells that you cast 9 months ago and figure out what they were. Look at the assassin chapter from hermetic projects intellego can find a stray hair or a drop of sweat, it can find arcane connections of you.

An intellego magus can find where you've been, find arcane connections to you and find out everything they need to do an arcane tunnel to you and have their way with you, whether that means killing you, rego mentem control, or just peering into the mortal mind.

I've done up both an ignem focused flambeau magus and an intellego focused Gurnicus magus to 120 years out of apprenticeship and, while the ignem fellow can incinerate you instantly even if you have parma 9 and ward against heat and flames cast upon you, I find the intellego focused character much more intimidating.

here are the characters:

1 Like

Well. I believe I'll remember to have some of my smarter monsters wet themselves when the well-known Intellego specialist walks in from now on. Thank you all for your insight into the matter.

Yep. Though the time for them to be really afraid is when the Intellego magus is nowhere to be found...

One special case, though. Demons are authorized to go "lol Intellego," because Demon>Intellego is a Hermetic Limit.

True as far as it goes, but demon intellego immunity doesn't mean that the intellego magus cant go rifling through the memories of every person and animal that the demon has interacted with and go and interview all of the inanimate objects that may have been influenced by the demon's actions. Granted, demonic influence can make any of this information incorrect but not too many demons have the ability to mess with the memories of people and demons are explicitly incapable of superhuman intelligence so predicting the actions of a PC is no easier for them than it is for anyone else. Yes, demons have a "You fail" button to use against hermetic intellego, but that doesn't leave intellego magi totally helpless.

Or to put it another way. Ramidel is more or less completely correct but I rushed to the defense of intellego without reflecting first simply because it is otherwise so powerful and I don't always think carefully before posting.

Except that he isn't, completely.
Too much, I think, is made of this. But when we look at the actual limit (ArM5, p. 80) and think about it for a bit, we find that demons are not immune to Intelligo, but rather able to manipulate the results. "To Lie Perfectly" was the phrasing in earlier editions as I recall.
This is not the same as immunity, nor as a simple Demon>Intelligo statement. It is at the same time both more and less powerful than that.
The end results are similar, but the process is rather different.

Given that Demons can't tell the difference between truth and lies, in theory, part of the time, you should get true results. The problem is actually that you'll never going to be SURE what those results tell you is true.

You never can then, because how can you know that the peasant who's mind you're reading isn't a fairly clever demon?