Let's Design a Hedge Tradition - Step 1: Brainstorming

In response to Xavi's recent post on using existing hedge traditions to represent the various pre-Hermetic magics practiced by the Order's founders, I thought it might be a fun project to collaboratively design our very own Hedge Magic tradition here on the Atlas Forum!

Having never designed a tradition before, I'm not actually sure where to start, but it would seem like the best place to begin would be with a brainstorming session to acquire a list of the various characteristics we'd like to see expressed in our finished tradition. The main reason I selected a known tradition (The Cult of Mercury) is so that we have plenty of pre-existing details to use while fleshing out the tradition's crunch and fluff respectively.

So without further ado, let's plot out what we already know about the Cult of Mercury and its powers based on what exists in published Ars Magica 5E supplements:

  • They were individually weak and apparently incapable of spontaneous magic at all.
  • They were capable of conducting great rituals requiring many participants and prodigous quantities of Vis.
  • They absorbed the Cults of other classical deities, bringing their magic under its own Aegis.
  • They apparently had very weak Enchantment abilities outside the Cult of Vulcan.
  • They invented 'Wizard's Communion' and a number of other Hermetic spells such as 'Hermes' Portal'.
  • They were at least nominally led by the Roman Emperor.
  • They may have improved their magic primarily through a process similar to Spell Mastery.
  • They possessed 38 Great Rituals though what these were and how they differed from their regular rituals is not known.
  • They conducted magics in the Hercynian forest that are still functional as of 1220.
  • Their magic system had been fragmented by Bonisagus' time and thus it was not integrated into Hermetic theory.
  • Elements of their magic live on, however, among the Neo-Mercurian mystery cult founded by Mercere's first primus.
  • They are believed to have possessed great divinatory abilities.

Well, that's about all I can remember reading about them, but I look forward to reading what the rest of you post!

Anyway, once we get enough posts, we can proceed to Step 2 which I envision as discussing the fluff and how we want that to relate to the tradition's background, organization, etc.

Nice subject ! :slight_smile:

For what I read in the fifth edition, a hedge tradition have between 10 and 15 points of magic virtues (arts or supernatural powers), which symbolize her tradition. The only one exception is the vitkir magus.

After, up to 10 points of flaws, 10 points of virtues and 1 free virtue.

Since the mercury magi were of several types (depending of the cult), the arts should be major virtues, a magus can have 5 of them, and we should have a lot of different arts so the character needs to choose.

For example: Divination, Pure magic, Magic tools, Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Healing, Mind control, Mind reading, Theurgy, Nature, Destruction, Necromancy, Illusion.

Like this, we can have a lot of different magi, for every cult (like the muspelli).

Shapechanging, a barbarian ability, shouldn't be allowed. It's for the celtic and the german traditions, berk... :angry:

For each art, we could create a specific guideline.

This magic should be focused only on rituals, I think, but they should be more powerful than the ones available to the Order. No formulaic spells (and of course no spontaneous spells).

The system could be:

The arts are difficult ones, but the collaboration between several magi of this cult can help them with the possibility to add their scores in the art necessary for the ritual. This collaboration doesn't need any other ritual, it should be a specificity of their magic.

The need of vis could be reduced by the number of participants (since the actual virtue divides by two the vis necessary for a ritual).

Well, that's all for now... :smiley:

Its probably easiest to flat out grant them ceremony. Its not exactly balanced, especially when you get a group of people together, (level 100 effects? Yes we can!) Then I would probably grant them 5 abilities, and give them some guidelines, probably kifed from wherever. I think they also used the roman road system, so give them targets and ranges related to those. They were with the romans so targets related to armies wouldn't hurt either. Like a group, but one that can move people in and out. They also need something to generate long-lasting effects if the Hercynia forest magics are any indication. Like enchantment, but less portable. Finally, I feel like their magics fit better if they are "subtle". A spell that grants soldiers nigh invincibility or courage and skill in battle over simply smiting the enemy. A spell to make crops grow well over a large area, not a spell to make food appear everywhere. Its hard to be a cult when your effects and spells are overly blatant. You do that and you become the guys who vaporize the enemy, or the guys who make food. Farmers and siege engineers, just really good ones.

I am working on some of them,..

Ancient tradition: i was working on the most highly, not killer but yes powerfull. I was working on one Platonic Chore. Difficults and common Arts, but the Techniques are based upon the Ploatonic politics (Crown/head for wise-kings, Sword for the warriors and Tool for farmers, equivalent to Intellego, Perdo and Creo more or less with Rego uses over all three); and Forms that grow with the knowledge of the wizard philosopher. i th nk that Forms should be difficults, and Techniques common.
Like the Folk Witches, they should have a limited easy access to other Arts and magical Abilities, since many Platonic Mystical ideas were heavey on all Roman and Classical Period.

Others are more common, near to Muspelli and fol Wittches: user of Magical Abilities.
One group is related to Mercurians, but only on the roll of thief-mages; they could steal magical powers with study, near to the Investigating method frrom the Order. Canon abilities: Flight, Shapchange and Entrancement, with others. My created Ability is one to steal since one distance.
Other are tempestarian, with Flight, Wilderness sense, Whistle-up the Wind and Eye of Storm; maybe Winter's breath. Not more complex, i must think magical defenses.
Another are Beast summoners: Animal Ken, Entrancement, Shapechange, Summon Animals and Animal Healing. When tehr are botches and Corruption, they lose their beast links.

Other are mix for Elemntalist, Sahhirs and Night-walkers, shammish shamans. Tehy have Elemental Theurgical summoning and all four Forms, travel and others sahhir Abilities (except for Astrology and Alchemy); and they can get phantasmicum to learn more. One corrupt or problematic brethren doesn't have Theurgical summoning, but Spirit Summoning (Goethic) instead,

Fencil's rituals are apparently cribbed from the old cult of mercury. I don't have a book here but I do recall that
they eat vis like crazy,
they seem to be very free with defining their targets. The three great rituals we have target a nation, a magical tradition and ... I don't recall the last one.

The last one targets a person.

It may well keep affecting them once they're dead, given how much power it takes.

I've actually been brainstorming cult of mercury recently, and came up with some ideas.

  1. All rituals are non-supernatural abilities, just like Fenicil's rituals and the Parma Magica

  2. Opening the gift to Mercurian Magic could grant, among other things:
    Magic Sensitivity/Dowsing
    Minor Supernatural Virtue (they need some way to find Vis given how much of it they eat)

Masterful Ritualist
Major Hermetic Virtue
Whenever you perform a ritual you need expend only half as much Vis and special materials. If you are leading a group ritual then this benefit applies as long as at least half of the ritualists have this virtue.
In addition, you may always co-operate in the casting of any ritual, without need of the Ceremony virtue. [Equivalent to the Mercurian Magic virtue

Ritual Learner
Major Hermetic Virtue
Affinity with all ritual abilities [a simple way to make them better at rituals without bogging things down]

  1. Due to the communal nature of spellcasting, the Mercurian warping reaction can be, and often is, a group journey. While 10 magi who enter twilight from the same incident may be separated straight away, 10 Mercurians will go through a linked event of some sort. I picture a sort of ethereal senate where they have to justify their actions.

  2. Some ritual that could temporarily hide away the stench of the gift (a forerunner of Parma) but was expensive in terms of Vis would make sense. They can't afford to always use it, but it explains how they're able to form an order at all without ungifted members.

I hadn't planned to discuss mechanics for at least another week or so once we'd settled upon a theoretical underpinning for the tradition, but I'll cheerfully admit to having given the matter plenty of thought - I think I may have even posted my ideas before in some form. I have three big ones:

Basically, my first idea was to take a synchretic approach to Fenicil's rituals and Vigilo. Basically, where Augustan Magic uses Difficult Arts for its Schools and Arts for the individual spells, Mercurian Magic would do the reverse this allows Spell Mastery to play a role and by excluding Schools from the Casting Totals, they can be kept nice and low. Like Fenicil's Rituals, however, a group of Mercurian Magic could add the sum of their abilities to improve the Casting Total. The Schools would, however, contribute to learning new rituals and Magic Defense. Ideally, I'd also like for Spell Mastery of a spell to contribute directly to a spell's effectiveness not unlike Amazonian Chant...

Idea #2 is something more akin to the Hyperborean Magic-based method Xavi referenced. It's a bit fiddly for my tastes, but does fit the requirements outlined in the OP and I feel, would work better than just about any other method if we decided to do away with 'Ceremony' and replace it with a power more similar to how the Hermetic "Wizards' Communion" spell is written up. As YR pointed out, lack of an activation roll can make spellcasting seem anti-climactic.

My third and final idea was inspired by a throw-away line in RoP: M stating that some Hedge Wizards might possess Might Scores. Basically, this method would see the CoM members as Magical Humans with lots of Ritual Powers. Thus the Vis cost of their spells is actually to both replenish Might lost in the casting and to stave off the effects of Acclimation. There are problems with this method too, of course, but I think it's probably the most intriguing of the three ideas I had.

A way do to something like this.

Take the hermetic guidelines, design the spells normally, then double the levels. Keep the "lvl 50 = ritual" guideline, so that all old "lvl 25" spells are now rituals.
Every spell can be cast as a ritual (which is useful to make them castable at all), but some must.

Take every technique/form combination, and make it a single ability. For exemple, some mercurians would have a "CrIg" ability, others would have a "InCo" one.
Casting total becomes Stamina + Appropriate ability + Spell Mastery (ceremonial casting being a common mastery) + die.

Rituals cost twice their magnitude in vis (so a hermetic lvl 25 spell needs 20 pawns). The Mercurian Magic virtue still works, hopefully. (Note: this may be too high, so feel free to scrap that)
When people cooperate on a ritual casting, all must have the required ability (CrIg, InAu, whatever) at 1+, and the Ceremony ability. Otherwise, this works quite like wizard's communion: The sum of all the participant's Wizard's Communion must be at least equal to the spell's level. The primary caster, however, rolls against (spell level)/half the number of participants.

So. A bunch of mercurians want to cast “The Bountiful Feast” (CrHe 35). This is a Mercurian lvl 70 ritual, which costs 28 pawns of vis
All of them must have the CrHe difficult art at at least 1, and enough ceremony so that their total scores are at least 70.
Say, the leader manages to get 20 guys for this.
He roll his Sta + CrHe + Mastery versus lvl 7 (70 / 10), easy.

Now, you’ve got a proto-flambeau that know CrIg 6, has stamina 2, is in a friendly lvl 05 aura, and has mastered a primitive PoF (does +05 damage at voice range, hermetic lvl 10, mercurian lvl 20) to lvl 05. His casting total is 6+2+5+5= 18 + die vs lvl 20. Not very impressive, especially given all the dedication he put into it.

This is rough and may need to be polished, but:

  • It seems to mostly work: individual spells are possible but suck, mastery is very important for them, big rituals are easy for groups
  • You can easily transition from there to hermetic magic: Bonisagus separated the techniques and forms, making spellcasting easier. This may have cut levels in 2, or this may be the result of further work, just like the transition from difficult arts to “normal” ones.

Hi there!

I had not seen this thread! (DOH!). Great idea opening it!

Now my recap on the Mercurians

  1. For starters, NOT all the magics of Rome need to be Mercurian at all. Mercurians were a specific cult after all, so no need to have the priests of Diana or Jupiter able to cast the same spells.

  2. Able to cast ritual magic with HUNDREDS of participants.

  3. No spontaneous magic that we know about, but able to cast (at least) low level spells.

  4. Able to cast spells that affect large areas, maybe as large as the whole empire. The use of the Roman Road Network is likely.

  5. Spectacular magics required the use of large amounts of vis. Ot is likely that the use of small magics might have required vis as well, but that is more debatable.

  6. They worked around some formalized large rituals, since Fenicil recovered those, apparently, and adapted them to a pseudo-form of hermetic magic.

  7. The high priest surely were Gifted, but the lower ranked memnbers not necessarily.

  8. Other taditons had power over spirits, cursing, augury and the like, but I cannot find references to hermetics doing such things, so I would put those things in the hands of other Cults.

I think this is it from my recap. :slight_smile: For actual rules I will wait, as you suggested.

I think it depends to some extent on the time-frame involved, but several of the sections referenced imply rather strongly that the "Cult of Mercury" came to be something of an umbrella term for Roman magicians. I would agree, however, that priests of Mercury ought to have a different set of powers than say those of Aphrodite with certain exceptions, of course - Mercury and Pluto sharing dominion over ghosts or Mercury and Jupiter's common association with xenia, or Mercury and Apollo's mutual association with medicine and and the arts.

Also, I have another to add myself:

  • They are said to have extremely limited magical repertoires, rarely exceeding a dozen or so spells. Though this apparently did not preclude acquiring additional spells by theft and murder so it may have been the result of the cults having a limited ranges of powers rather than any actual difficulty in learning new spells.

I am glad to see you participate, Xavi. I think this will be a fun project if we can wrangle enough participants! :slight_smile:

We also need to define WHAT could be done with mercurian magic, and what sopecial RDTs they might have had.

O see the CoM favouring Rego and Creo-like effects. Those would be my favoured magic styles. Some Perdo as well. More boosters than direct creation of stuff, and stuff that looks natural to the untrained eye.

  • Travel (speed up movement)
  • Resistance (incl. crop resistance to damage)
  • Morale, belonging, identity
  • Assimilation (everybody speaks Latin, after all)
  • Production?
  • Earthworks? (via creation, summon volcanoes, ...)
  • Weather (the spectacular effects)

I have not checked Fenicil's rituals, so this might not be what is supposed to be RAW rituals.
IIRC there are spells to summon volcanoes that Guernicus knew about. Anything else? Mercere portals?

Special RDT:

  • Via (Roman Road)
  • Via Network (those highways were for something more than plain mundane transport)
  • Named Person (?)
  • Bloodline
  • People (maybe a variation of bloodline?)
  • Entity (a very flexible (and expensive!) one)
  • Dominion (empire wide effect)
  • Totem (eagle legions: duty, pride)
  • Lares (home, equivalent to structure; city)
  • Flame Duration
  • Latin durastion?
  • Chant duration?