Just looking for comments and advice.

Ok, so I'm mining this forum for information again. Coming out of Pathfinder, DnD, Mutants and Masterminds, I think AM5 will have much more story and less combat for a saga than I'm used to storytelling. So I'm going to present a magi here making some choices based on some information I've found in other threads.

My mage is named Pavarious Glorious. I think the best house fit for him is Jerbiton. He's gonna be a Herbam mage. His goal in life is to have the most wondrous botanical garden full of rare mundane and magical plants. He'll spend some time gathering seeds/shoots and growing his garden over the course of the saga. He may even have to establish faerie, magic, divine, or infernal auras to support some of the plants in his garden. The garden will eventually be a marvel for all of hermetic magedom to come and enjoy. It should also be a great source of He vis one day. So there's his mission.

Pavrious himself will have the obese and indiscreet flaws. Probably a Herbam major magical focus. In short, he's fat, happy, and loves flowers and probably perfumes. Probably will even give him some ability in perfumery and gardening. What would be some virtues/flaws that might go along with, or make his life easier, if he had them?

He will want to do most everything with herbam some kind of way. So let's look at Adauli's list of spells types he will need to design.

  1. Aegis. Probably nothing to see here, moving along.
  2. Some way to find/estimate vis. Maybe an enchanted plant, the way today's celebrities carry their teacup poodles around in their handbags. Maybe Pavarious has a little plant that blooms in the presence of vis, color of the petals for type, number of petals for number, sways in the pot for direction.
  3. Generate income. Make the corn grow bigger/faster seems kinda lame.
  4. Douse a fire. Fireproofing maybe?
  5. Healing without vis. Using creo herbam to grow or muto herbam to change a plant that can be turned into a poultice through apothecary skill?
  6. Attack spell. Again creo herbam to instantly create, or muto herbam to change an existing grass/flower/bush/tree to release pollen that makes people wheeze, cough, eyes swell shut? Rego requisite to get the pollen from the plant to the people/animal?
  7. Way to improve mundane interaction. Some type flower based perfume that gets mundanes 'high' so they lose inhibitions or just flat don't care that Pavarious is 'weird'?
  8. Way of travel. I don't like the sound of the self propelled wagon. I would love to have Tree A throw him to Tree B to Tree C, and so on.

    Anybody wanna gimme advice on if any of the above ideas sound Hermetic in nature, or are some of those ideas just not in line with hermetic magic? Feel free to offer any and all advice from other ideas, statting out a rough spell guideline, or point out why some of those spells just make you cringe at the thought of them.

    As a storyguide or player, what kind of stories would you center around this magus?
    I'm probably the most stuck here, like I said, I'm used to most RPGs that end in smacking the antagonist around until they die or change their point of view. I've looked on youtube to see if anybody had a recorded session of their AM5 game just to see how other people were doing it, but I had no success.

Thanks in advance. So far every thread I've started here has been a great read and very informative. Currently my favorite is the 'preparing for wizard war'. There's some devious folk on here that have posted in that thread.

Merinita, especially if you get Houes of Hermes:Mystery Cults can open up some more plant/nature stuff.

Herbam can't be a forcus, but something like trees, food plants, something within the realm of Herbam can be a (major) focus. Wood is a minor focus. Remember a focus is about whether the underlying affect applies to the focus area, either based on the spelll as designed or at the time of casting, or both. If it is mMF(wood) and you do something with/to wood, it would affect it. Consensus of the forum is that mMF(wood) doesn't apply to enchanting one's wand or staff made of wood, unless the effect actually does something to the wand/staff.

Both of these are Vim spells and won't take advantage of your focus, detecting vis is a low level effect, though.

It may be lame, and if it is, it's probably considered an off-screen activity. Maybe you cast The Bountiful Feast annually, doesn't need to happen on screen at all, but it's your character responsible for it.

Making herbam resistant to fire? Perhaps. MuHe 4 (Terram requisite) can change a plant to metal and thus be resistant to burning.

Probably not. Although there is a Herbalism virtue on Houses of Hermes; Societates, part of an ex Misc tradition. It reduces the vis cost of healing spells, IIRC.

Dance of the Staves, Piercing Shaft of Wood

This is a Mentem effect, and outside the bounds of the focus.

A corpus effect. to move from tree to tree, since you're moving yourself, not the tree.

All the effects you describe are nominally possible with Hermetic magic, but fall outside the form of Herbam and some sort of more limited realm of Herbam that would apply to a focus.

As an SG, I will have an overall theme for the saga, and then I take the players' story flaws and attempt to integrate those into the theme of the saga. I'll use story and major personality flaws to draw characters into stories, trying to specifically craft stories related to my overall theme. Story flaws are how players communicate the kinds of stories they want to be a part of, and there needs to be ample discussion about whether the story flaw is appropriate for a given saga.

Don't over-specialize. Being a Herbam specialist is great, but is he a gardener? A botanist? An herbalist? A naturalist? WHY is he studying plants?

If his goal is to make a beautiful garden, he'll need good Rego (to shape and control the plants), Creo to grow them, Muto to make them more suited.

A botanist might want Intellego to understand them.

A herbalist might want Corpus, and uses his plants as medicine.

A naturalist might also want Animal to create whole environments.

And, don't forget Terram (for soil), Aquam for watering, Auram and Ignem to control the temperature and weather.

I know you picked Jerbiton, but some ideas of Herbam from different Houses:

Bonisagus - A botanist, studying the finer points of plants, looking for magical insights
Guernicus - A simple herbalist, who uses his knowledge of plants to solve magical crimes (see: Cadfael imdb.com/title/tt0108717/)
Merinitia - Using fae magics to unlock nature's mysteries
Verditious - A magical craftsman, creating living magical items
Jerbiton - A gardener striving to make a perfect, beautiful garden
Ex Miscellania - A Pharmacopoeian root-cutter, knowledgeable in a forgotten tradition of herbalism

Just a quick remark on this (I really don't want to derail the thread). Although "wood" is stated in as an example of a minor focus in the corebook, my troupe and almost anyone I've played with thinks "wood" fits much more closely the definition of major focus and the examples of major focus in the book (it should also be noted that "wooden wands" is a canonical example of a minor focus).

According to the core book, a major focus should cover "less than half a Form" (or its equivalent). A minor focus should cover "less than a Tech+Form combination" (i.e. less that one fifth of a Form). Wood covers a significant portion of Herbam, probably close to half and definitely more than one fifth. If you check the 35 Herbam spells in the core book, you'll notice that 14 (i.e. 40%) would be covered by a focus in wood.

Similarly, if you check examples of major focus for Terram, you'll see stones, or metals. For Animal, you'll see birds, or domesticated animals. For Mentem, you'll see Memories, or Emotions. Wood seems to fit these examples, rather than the much narrower areas covered by examples of a minor focus, such as anger or lust, or birds of prey or mustelidae. I'd say that a minor focus wood be a particular group of wooden items (e.g. wooden weapons, or wooden buildings) or a particular type of common wood (e.g. oak or yew).

IMC, we use "wood" in the sense of "not timber". That is, once it has been processed it's not part of the focus. There's a dialectical difference in the US that calls felled wood timber, I believe, so if this sounds strange to you, that may be why.

No infernal auras. No magus (especially for a first time player) with ANY sanity left would ever make an infernal aura. Such things need sin.

I'm presently playing a verditius who is a wood-crafter and engineer (he's trained as a siege engineer, and has the woodwork skill for his craft skill), but that's my personal choice. Needless to say, covenants are RARELY short on wood and plants to work with.

Remember that in mythic europe, spices and herbs from beyond arabia are rare and expensive, so rice and such are going to be uncommon. Potatoes don't exist, etc.

As to a focus: Oak. A very specific kind of wood, but common enough to justify being able to use it for many things.

To me, it sounds like an excellent character for creating stories. There seems to be plenty of opportunity for exploration adventures set all over Mythic Europe (and, if you want, the faerie/magic realms) to locate and recover samples of rare plants. I think that a character like this is great, because he has a clear, proactive reason to go and do stuff. As storyguide you just need to dangle a rumour of a rare plant, and off the character should go (or off he should send his grogs). As a player, I would be getting the character to try to actively seek out such rumours (visit other Herbam specialists, talk to forest creatures, read travelogues of foreign adventures, talk to merchants/crusaders/mendicants/sailors/Redcaps and other long distance travellers etc).

Then once, the character is (or his grogs are) out questing all sorts of story opportunities should present themselves. The story could be directly to do with his botanical quest: the plant is somewhere hard to get to, the plant has some sort of (mundane or supernatural) guardian that needs to be appeased/defeated, the plants don't want to be collected, he may have a rival collector to contend with, etc. Or the stories can be unrelated situations/difficulties that the magus merely blunders into on his quest. For inspiration, perhaps look at the various 16-19th century expeditions by European explorers (or even modern expeditions into the amazon, etc), many of these had botanical collection aspects.

The other obvious stories are ones concerning his collection. For example, Magi with Study Bonus/Requirement may want to study in the garden, other characters may try to steal/destroy parts of the collection, plants from the collection may escape, plants from various places may interact strangely with each other or the local plants/animals, the plants may be valuable to a Mystery cult, the plants get some disease that needs to be dealt with, etc.

Way of the Forest, if your troupe allows that to work in settled lands. Way of the Farmland if they don't.

Don't take Aegis. Seriously, have a casting tablet in your Covenant's library instead.

That's not a spell, that's a magic item or a found treasure, unless what you are really describing is a complicated version of your sigil (the colorful in-world effect which makes your vis-detection spell look different from an identical spell cast by a fire magus).

It kind of is, but it's very disposable (easy to sell). Some of the most valuable things in Mythic Europe are plant-based dyes and flavors. Selling them requires contacts, which your companions can have.

Did you know larchwood doesn't burn at conventional temperatures? Look it up.

If you want a cloud of pollem just make a cloud of pollen. Also, plant-based poisons are Herbam.

I disagree with this being in the list. You have companions for this.

To go off of the previous post, we had a nice discussion a while back about the costs of spices in mideval Europe, and the (really low level) spells you would need to completely crash the spice market. (https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/the-break-room/102/1)

Wealth Creation: one observation is that, even without vis, you can create a "box of general spices" with moon duration that will work just fine - as long as those buying your temp spices know that they need to use them up within a month. Use it too much and your customers will start taking warp, but for a couple times a year, they're (literally) worth their weight in gold.

Travel: Might I recommend a ReHe "Flying Cart" effect? We use this one quite a number of times IMS, and we get a lot of stories out of the Teamsters that run the darn thing - he's currently setting up a smuggling ring to use it in the off-hours.

It does depend on context though. You wouldn't normally talk about a timber table, you would talk about a wooden table. On the other hand, you could talk about a timber deck, or a timber framed house.

Either way, ArM5 is meant to be written in US English, even if that is a foregin dialect for many of the authors.

Strewth and crickey, mate.

Regarding wood and the scale of the focus, I don't disagree, there are a lot of wood spells.

Splendid! That's exactly the spirit of playing Ars Magica!

As was noted, Herbam is too broad even as a major focus. A major focus would have to be less than half of Herbam. Since he's fat and thus probably a glutton, I'd suggest "food plants & their products", including any plant producing stuff that gets eaten by humans, or "domesticated plants".

An Affinity in Herbam is definitely worth its cost for such a magus; and possibly Puissant Herbam too.
You may consider taking the Major Virtue "Ways of the (Land)" focusing on "Gardens and Fields" (basically, cultivated land).

As for Flaws, consider taking the Personality Flaw "Weakness: foods & perfumes". It seems to fit your character quite well.
As does taking Deleterious Circumstances: poor lifestyle (your magic suffers if your magus is malnourished, stinking etc.)

Definitely take a Story Flaw; I'd suggest a Major one, as it's worth 3 points and Major ones typically are fairly "inimical" ones - which is good for anotherwise "soft" character. The best way to do so is to look at the covenant, the other characters, and in general the themes of the saga - and then pick a Story Flaws that "ties" your character to it.

This would put you at 8 Virtues and 7 Flaws. You can complete your character with another Minor Flaw (remember that you may have at most 5 Minor Flaws) or with another Major Flaw and two Minor Virtues.

Don't forget your Sigil!
A reasonable "spread" of Arts would probably be something like 15 each in Creo, Muto, Intellego and Rego (for a score of 5), and 61xp in Herbam (with the Affinity, this becomes a score of 13(1), +3 from Puissant Herbam).

Keep in mind that detecting and estimating vis you encounter requires fairly low level spells, and no penetration.
Consider just spending a few of your initial formulaic spell points here. You do not need to hammer everything with your Herbam. Though it's always an elegant touch to do at least "cosmetically" stuff "your way", e.g. detecting vis by smelling it as a perfume: Perceive the Perfume of Potency, R:Per D:Conc T:Smell (Base 1,+1 Conc, +2 Smell). As for evaluating the type and number of pawns in a vis-containing object each is a Level 5 spell straight from the corebook ... but remember that once you find the vis the best option is probably just to take it back to your covenant and possibly have another magus, specializing in Intellego or Vim, do the analysis for you (some Redcaps specialize in this too).

Grow the perfect grapes and make the perfect wine. This will seriously boost your rep with your housemates too.
Or grow saffron. Worth (more than) its weight in gold.

Uh. Not my first priority buy... smother it under a mass of saffron:
The Fragrant Blanket: CrHe5, R: Touch, D:Conc, T:Group (+1 Size) (Base 1, +1Touch, +1Conc, +2 Group) covers a circle around you, approximately 5 paces in diameter, with a 1 foot thick mass of saffron. You can probably cast this spontaneously without fatigue! Herbam 13+3, Creo 5 (+5 given the Focus) gives you 21. Get 4 more points from Stamina, Aura, and (unclassy but handy in a pinch) exaggerated gestures and booming voice and there you are. No fatigue, no risk of botching. In general creating a lot of basic stuff of a physical form is a cheap and effective way to slow enemies too; throw in another two magnitudes for size, and you can get a mass of saffron 60 paces across, and 10' high.

Uh. Again, not my first priority, probably not one of your characters strong areas. Remember that you are not alone at your covenant; there may be other magi who know how to do this better. In my saga, an excellent grog physician is generally more than adequate.

See above. PLUS: one GREAT advantage of Herbam is that you can animate plants, though you need a Mentem requisite to give them reasonable sentience. But even without that a chestnut tree (food plant, remember? Focus applies!) animated with Free the Striding Tree (or a Level 35, D:Sun version of it, which is probably within your grasp as a starting spell) swinging its branches can carry you and your possessions while stomping over your enemies. Also, consider any spell that will animate a vine (a grapevine, so your Focus applies!) or a hemp rope (no focus, but handier and still herbam) under your commands: superuseful for tying up stuff (including enemies) climbing, and manipulating at a distance.

Hmm. Again, probably not your strongest suit unless you take Gentle Gift, good Communication etc. In general, grogs and companions (or Mentem magi) are the best suited for this. For non-immediate manipulation, however, your stupendous wine (see above) should suffice...

See the animated tree above. And of course, with your general ability in Herbam it's well within your reach to make a (small) ship fly - it's a ReHe25 spell (Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +3 Structure)

Oh, but you have already stated them: collect your rare plants and build your exotic garden (consider Hermetic Projects: the menagerie for inspiration) following rumors and travelling to exotic locations, dealing with magical beings (how about the apples of the Hesperides - see Ancient Magic?) and faeries and ... well, no, not demons right? But maybe angels: wouldn't it be cool to have a fruit from the Tree of Life in your garden? Hire expert grogs, build a library on botanic matters, delve into non-magical botanical applications (see Ars & Academe for the applications of Medicine and Philosophiae), become the greatest wine maker of the region, dealing with the admiration, envy and/or enmity of your housemates, local nobles, vintners and wine merchants (again, you may consider winemaking an art and follow all the rules in Art & Academe) and possibly rediscover a lost Mystery Cult to Dyonisus, make a breakthrough and discover how to grow vis-bearing plants (see Legends of Hermes, the garden of Herisson)...

But, importantly, consider how to tie your goals to those of other PCs!

Don't have your character take Aegis.
But don't take a casting tablet. Seriously.
It's a bad idea for a ritual that you want to cast every year. Count the botch dice :slight_smile:
Have the PC who has Cautious Sorcerer, and/or Flawless magic, and/or Mercurian Magic, and/or a plan to bind a familiar with a strong gold cord learn the spell, and possibly study one or two seasons a Q15 summa on its mastery, ideally taking a specialty in "avoiding botches" and "adaptive mastery" (that allows your mastery to apply to other versions of the same spell) as a mastery ability.

For a Major Focus, it has to be "smaller than a single Art" - so you have to take Herbem and limit it. "How much?" is largely up to your SG & the Troupe, using the examples in the insert on page 45 as a guide.

I'm going to guess that this is an older post. Back in 3rd & 4th ed, Covenants did not (always) come with a text for Aegis of the Hearth, and it was a REALLY good idea for 1 magi out of the Troupe to bring the largest that s/he could cast.

That's not the case any more. Your character can be a ReVi specialist, but don't worry about learning it before the saga starts. (Altho' it would be a good plan if someone among your magi has a decent ReVi casting total, so they can cast that once a year.)

Not easy - if he really wants to do this, it might be easier to either hire someone (trading magical favours) or be a specialist in the necessary Te/Fo.

Note that, in a list like that, not everything can be done with 1 or 2 Arts. The more "spell solutions" you can re-define to fit into a list like that, the better, but some will just refuse to be shoehorned into shape - square peg, round hole stuff.

My point is that your mage may well need to take some few other Forms than Herbem. If nothing else, remember that he can't (without committing a low crime) take an apprentice until they have a "5" (or more) in every one of the 15 Arts.

That said, it's possible to find something (in Faerie) that does this for you. But if you want to "enchant" a plan, then, yes, you'll need InVi.

The need for this depends on the covenant. Some covenants have ample income already - but if not, silver does solve some problems nicely.

As mentioned above, it can be an "off-camera" thing (rather than an adventure each time), and/or if you're clever something that the mage starts and then grogs (if perhaps specially trained/skilled grogs) can keep going.

Examples other than mere grain might include...

o Hothouse/greenhouse, for flowers and fresh fruits out-of-season for a finicky noble
o Rare, exotic and/or "special" herbs for herbalists and alchemists (mandrake root, anyone?)
o Improving local crops for the local landowners - from food crops to timber.
o Magical items or spells that take mundane raw plantstuff and process them faster/more effectively, from flour to olive oil to dried fruits to jams to turpentine to plant-based dyes - etc. etc. etc.
o Winery

In medieval times, a fire is a dealbreaker, whether in a building or a dry field or forest. No pressurized water means fighting a fire with buckets hauled by hand, and often just letting it run its course. ANYTHING that a mage can do to prevent/stop/slow this is a win.

Saying that "every" mage needs this is a bit excessive. Being self-reliant speaks for itself, but hopefully someone in the Covenant can heal.

One of the joys of havng a good Focus is that you can then play with the concept, trying different approaches. LOTS of possibilities here.

But the point is that you need to be able to go on the attack, and effectively. Maybe start with Piercing Shaft of Wood and some variation on Wall of Thorns, and he can... branch out ( :laughing: ) from there.

At what point does it stop being Herbem and need to be Mentem? ymmv.

But simply taking a nice simple Mentem spell may be more practical than spending the years of research to develop something Herbem-based - at least to start.

Flying boat (or wagon, etc) is a classic, as is a walking tree or a broomstick.

And while there is nothing (too) wrong with that suggested checklist, there are others...


Same general idea, slightly diff spins.

In North America (that is, Canada and US), wood is used as a generic term meaning "the hard fibrous material that forms the main substance of the trunk or branches of a tree or shrub", just like in the U.K., while "timber" generally refers to wood in the state of being felled, cut, but still in planks or boards. Carved, polished, it is referred to as wood again.

Trees are made of wood
I bought a ton of timber for my deck
My desk is made of wood

If you want an impressive magical garden, you'll want a Magical Focus in Magical Plants. Because most of the other stuff is pretty easy (save growing plants in a very short period of time), but Magical Plants have Might and you'll need to penetrate their Magic Resistance.

This might be a Major Focus, but I'd probably consider it a Minor. This is Magical Plants, not 'all Supernatural Plants'; faerie/divine/infernal plants are not covered. In most cases Faerie Plants won't exist much or are sentient to a degree that you'll be facing Molesting the Fae charges. Divine plants get lots of mundane attention and are problematic to move around (such as the trees that grow Saint Kevin's Fruit in Ireland, or the divine trees of the Rhine Tribunal). Infernal plants...you kill with whatever's handy.

That screams realia (Cov p102), which is a low power equivalent to summae if you can get 64 or 128 excellent specimens.


It shouldn't be possible to do everything with Herbam, or with any other single Form; if it were, the other Forms would be unnecessary, and you'd have seen posts from people like me suggesting that all Forms save Herbam be neglected (and also posts from other people expressing dismay about promoting optimization :slight_smile:/2.)

So your Aegis will always be ReVi. But your sigil can be Herbam. And maybe you can also enchant/awaken/invent a vast, semi-intelligent thicket to protect the covenant?

Healing without vis is possible, but not instant healing. Using CrHe can cause medicinal herbs to grow to maturity in a matter of moments, but applying those herbs will follow normal rules for healing; using CrHe to instantly create the herbs will either require vis or not really work, similar to created food.

Pollen... if you create pollen it is a magical medium. You can create your ragweed or whatever, but not everyone will be allergic, and most sufferers will take only mild penalties, -1 or so. Now simply declaring that people are terribly is fine... if you include requisites for Pe (or maybe Re) and Co. (Or maybe your spell is ReCo, and the pollen derives from your sigil.) This reflects a similar issue with a category like, say, Imaginem: I create an image so horrifying, that anyone who sees is dies of fright. (That's PeCo! :slight_smile: Or maybe PeMe, or something. ) Of course, you can create real flora and derived substances, but with a medieval (not modern) sensibility.

I guess I'm saying that you can have fun using Herbam in all kinds of interesting ways, but the game breaks badly if pushed too hard in this way. I tend not to use "break" in the usual sense of "oh no, it's too powerful," but in the sense of things simply not working anymore.

Or maybe you're already ahead of me, and you're looking in a different direction!



A lot of people go overboard with Requisites that aren't always necessary.

A cloud of toxic pollen would probably best be represented by a CrAu spell (Create a debilitating kind of air) with a Herbam requisite (no added magnitude for requisite). Just as creating a poisonous plant juice would be a CrAq(He) spell. Extra magnitudes for being highly unnatural might apply. PeCo only becomes involved in extreme examples, in which case it should be built as a PeCo spell with cosmetic aspects - such as making the target suffer a deadly allergic reaction to pollen, which is basically everywhere. It's just a re-flavored death spell.

Or you could just create a big pile of pollen (Group target, 10 bushels of pollen is pretty much minimum) and drop it in the air to spread naturally. Pollen is sticky and incredibly fine, so expect choking, sneezing and blindness effects. No different from doing the same thing with fine-ground flour (actually easier, given that pollen isn't treated, while flour is).

Then of course, a magus may be able to collect, through agents, far more than that.

According to legend, the library of Alexandria had, at its peak, around half a million scrolls. A collection of plants of that size would be the equivalent of a summa with a Quality around 19-20, and a level around 26-28 (or drop quality by 2, and roughly double the level). Incidentally, that's roughly the number of known plant species today!

And while that is likely quite a bit on the high side, several modern botanical gardens exceed 8192 species. If you had one "perfect" specimen preserved for each, you'd have a realia collection with Quality 14, equivalent to 14 exceptional Q14 tractatus, or 112 sound Q11 tractatus - enough to keep anyone studying Herbam for a lifetime.