I am messing around with creating an ambitious Bonisagus necromancer who will eventually be joining the Cult of Worms (from mysteries, revised) - a group of hermetic necromancers.
The Leadworker virtue from True Lineages looks very promising and I figure that it could have been learned by a Bonisagus Magus snagging a Tremere apprentice. Likely earned him an enemy, but it might be far into the past.
Anyway, by my reading the virtue allows the magus to instantly create an arcane connection to any ghost that he knows the name of. Isn't that a little over the top - just inscribe the name of a well-known heathen and you can summon him. Doing this with, say, Caesar or Nero seems a little anticlimatic. Arguably such a famous and powerful person might have a powerful ghost with magic resistance that hinders this. Yet... It seems a little easy. Am I correct in my reading of the virtue?
Indeed. Although, reading it, it also allows you to connect with any spirit or animal that knows its own name, which is potentially extremely powerful for the purposes of contacting, summoning, and affecting all sorts of spirits.
I don't much like the idea of a Bonisagus lineage running around with the secret teachings of the cult of Aita, and I don't think the Tremere would have allowed an apprentice with such secrets to be taken - especially given the Bonisagus oath to share his knowledge with the Order. But it's your saga.
Caanite Necromancy, from Ancient Magic, is really spiffy for a necromancer, and is even stronger. I think it's way cooler, although Leadworking is pretty cool too. And it's a good target for a Seeker bonisagus magus.
That'd raise an interesting point at Tribunal. The Bonisagus lays claim the the apprentice, and the Tremere kill him to prevent the art being shared. The Bonisagus then accuses the Tremere of damaging his magical potential and thus violating the very core of the Oath which, after all, doesn't protect secrets at all, merely guarantees privacy from magical spying.
As for the secrets of the cult of Aita, whilst many of that lineage ended up in House Tremere and others became the Leper Magi of Tytalus, they were a Roman magical lineage and I can see no reason why one of their number might not have joined House Bonisagus or the matter been investigated by a Seeker.
Of course, that famous ghost has probably already been bound, disposed of, or found some other way to hide from such summoning. I'm vaguely remembering something in Malficium about already summoned demons not being available for further summoning. A thought anyhow.
True, the well known ghost would likely either be too powerful or someone else has already done it. Still it seems a little empty to me - a little too easy. The Caanite Necromancy does the same thing.
Perhaps making up an alternate virtue to represent a bonisagus tradition of necromancy would be more fun, something that allows a magus to fix an arcane connection to a dead person much faster and more effectively. Nothing as massive as the Caanite +4 to penetration multiplier, but something substantial. That seems more in line with a minor virtue... I dunno. Part of the fun of playing a necromancer is having to explore forgotten tombs and pagan burial sites - important to keep that flavour in my opinion.
Well, I don't see an apprentice as much of a mystoguoge, to train the Bonisagus, I'm not sure the dark powers which aid leadworkers would be too pleased, and I think that mysteries naturally hide themselves, so there's not much worry here. That is, in game, it's not a Virtue, its a contract with cthonic powers who demand secrecy: don't lose sight of the in-game consequences just because the mechanics of initation look simple.
Well, this could have happened generations ago, with the bonisagus taking the apprentice to secure the ability for the house. Assuming his apprentice's apprentices would inherit the ability. The Bonisagus are foresighted that way, IMO.
As for the Dark Power, that is setting and saga specific. The Ancient Magic goes into detail about even Caanite necromancy being neither good nor evil, that is neither aligned with the Infernal nor Divine realm as such. Further is specifies that pretty much anyone who actually died, but didn't go into heaven, can be summoned as ghosts by necromancers. Even someone who is in hell or purgatory.
For me, the entire process of taking a mystical tradition and translating it into an hermetic ability sort of purges it of it's roots. That's why it often becomes a slightly weaker version - much of the worship and pacts are stripped from it and only the power itself remains. It depends on the virtue though, I kinda like the idea of both integrated nordic runes and verditious runes loosing power the moment ragnarok begins, as the powerful beings they depend on withdraw from the world. This one seems to be cleansed of it's influences though, keep in mind how obsessed the Tremere are about not making any deals with deities of ANY sort. Hell, that's their entire justification for wiping out the diedne.
None of the Virtues in the Tremere chapter are restricted to House Tremere. It is entirely possible, indeed even likely, that other necromantic traditions exist that have the Lead Worker Virtue or an equivalent. If you look at the Ancient Magic chapter on Defixiones, or the books mentioned in the bibliogrpahy for that chapter, you will see that curse tablets were very common in Ancient Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. It would be hard to believe that other traditions using the same type of magic weren't incorporated into the Order over the years.
I do agree with Timothy though that an apprentice probably couldn't teach his new parens the Virtue, but the apprentice and his curse tablets could serve as a source of Insight for the Bonisagus to make a Breakthrough and create the Virtue himself. For an alternate character background, the Bonisagus could know the Virtue himself. He might have been found initially by a hedge necromancer who taught him the Virtue. When he was rescued by his Bonisagus master, his parens was able to retain the Virtue for him. Or maybe your Bonisagus was a former apprentice in House Tremere and learned it there before being "rescued" by his Bonisagus master.
In any event, I doubt that House Tremere would kill an apprentice just to save the "secret" of the Lead Worker Virtue. The current incarnation of the Tremere are no longer the Borg or Nazis. They don't break the Hermetic Code for silly reasons, I think this would qualify. There is no question that killing someone's apprentice is depriving the magus of his magical power and would be punished, as long as it occurred outside of the Transylvania Tribunal anyway.
I don't see that a mystagogue is necessary. The virtue is Hermetic and part of a lineage within the house, and also is stated as having been successfully integrated into Hermetic magic at the cost of some power. Whilst its true that all learning magic in Mythic Europe is as much attunement as education, the whole point of Bonisagus' theory of magic was to strip out all the religious paraphenalia and reduce it to the core magic itself. Thus, in game, it's not a contract with cthonic powers but what was learned by studying those with such contracts. People with those contracts will have more and more specific powers, also represented by virtues.
I really do think that the initiation rules are the most over- and mis-used parts of the game. They should, in my opinion, stick to their original remit of allowing people to learn new magic without the penalties of their previous affinities, not for allowing people to learn more of things which are already a part of their magical framework. As is, Hermetic Research is basicly useless because noone can recreate your results without decades of work unless you ignore chunks of Ancient Magic and TM:RE. By placing so much emphasis on the mechanics, I feel that the real cohesion and reason for Mystery cults are underemphasised. It becomes about Cult Lore, rather than on social ties, desires of power and shared knowledge, with all the consequences thereof. Modern football supporters are the best example of a mystery cult I can think of, and they certainly don't do it for magical power. Well, I hope not.
If the Tremere in question represents a religious sect, however debased, then keeping it a secret could easily outweigh concerns for the code. After all, look to what House Verditious did when the secrets of Hermetic Automata became a teachable virtue known to the rest of the order, and they had no justification save pride. The real question to put before Tribunal, however, is at what point does the apprentice cease to be that of the Tremere and become the apprentice of the Bonisagas? I can see magi putting a lot of thought into that before voting at Tribunal.
As mentioned by John Post, curse tablets and lead working were fairly standard and widespread in Roman times. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that the cursing was standardized so much that it suggests the existence of a cursing profession in the Empire. There are thousands of curse tablets in parts of the Empire that span several thousand miles in distance, and still are very similar.
So I would second the opinion that the leadworker virtue should be found outside house tremere as well. After all it is not the secret of house tremere, but one of the minor virtues that some of them have. No biggie there with it being also in existence elsewhere.
I think the exact wording of this virtue is somewhat ambiguous.
The first part of writing names of ghosts down to use as AC is clear enough.
But the part about including ACs from bodies in kolossoi to fix them with no need to spend a season a vis - si that only for ACs fron dead bodies in order to get ACs to ghosts, or is more general for use with any AC from say living magi???
The virtue's description from HoH: TL seems to imply that the effect is inapplicable to humans, but this may be the result of a restatement of the Limit of the Divine which prevents baptismal names from functioning as sympathetic connections.
The Defixiones chapter of Ancient Magic briefly mentions the virtue too, and lists the Cult of Pluto a form of Defixio Lore which allowed Rego Mentem effects which would also (reasonably) point to a necromantic focus.
Ultimately, the virtue seems focused on necromantic applications, but it's not really clear if that's the only way it can be used or not. Personally, I'd allow it to work on the living, provided the other requirements were met.
Threadomancy to the extreme, sorry! But I'm still baffled by the Leadworker virtue from HOH:TL
Help me out here:
The Leadworker can make a Katadesmos - a tablet with a name, og a Kollosoi, a figure-representation. They become active through the name (unique power for the Leadworker) or through a physical AC, like a body part or hair (lile normal AC rules). This is useful for Penetration, see below.
Either can work as an AC to "the restless dead, and to those animals and spirits able to recognize their own names".
2a) That sounds to me like undead & animated corpses (or corpses to be animated later on!).
2b) And to animals, living animals or so it sounds like to me.
2c) And to spirits. The last two need to be able to recognize their own names, so it sounds like no wild animals, only domesticated ones. But definately no living people, so this is a virtue for Necromancers as well as animal- and spirit masters. Although the Animal part seesm less useful. Except perhaps to curse another magus' familiar...although that might be a bad idea.
He can make a Kollosi with a fixed AC without the need to spend time or vis. Now, this text could be misinterpreted to mean that you could take an AC that's already been fixed and do this, but there seems little point to this then, since it's the Fixing that takes time and vis. But otherwise seems like a great thing to able to do, if you're in the habit of wanting ACs, since they're nice for Penetration.
4a) A Katadesmos is an AC just because the Leadworker etched the name, cool enough.
4b) The Kollossoi is a symbolic representation, that's in sync with the regular rules. Although does it require the creator do make some Dex+Craft roll as ArM5 says? Or does the Leadworker skip this part?
4c) And finally the Leadworker gets a Penetration multipler of +3 for using "a Killossoi with a sympathetic connection from the body of the target". If that's meant to be the aforementioned Fixed AC (which the Leadworker can create using no time or vis) that's actually worse than the Core rules, since that would give a +4. Or it it additive with the +4, for a whopping +7?!??! The text does say "sympathetic connection" and not "fixed, permanent AC". So is this if you just have a body part, where the AC has run out? Because if you find an AC from a body which is still active, the Leadworker can apparently Fix this in to time and with no vis.