Lost Knowledge...

...or not. Interesting things found, and I'm hoping someone can help me.

In Ancient Magic, it is stated that Heron's writings are all but unknown to the Order, and that very few Mechanica and/or Anima continue to exist. It further states that rediscovery of these ancient ideas and ways could bring some serious tension into the Order, especially where Verditius is concerned.

However, I was reading through The Sundered Eagle, and I got to the part about the Mercere covenant at Alexandria. At first, I had to reread that to make sure we weren't talking about the fabled city. Which we aren't. Anyhow, the entry goes on to detail both a Mechanica and an Anima that This covenant not only have, but fully understand. And use.

This strikes me as odd. How is it that AM states the knowledge is all but lost and lays out the groundwork for Magi to go get it, but then TSE gives all this info on Mercere having it? Is this a case of books being written simultaneously with unchecked info? Or did I miss something in the write ups?

Having a few animae is not the same as being able to create more. Does that work for you?

Not really when you consider that the books contradict one another. That's the heart of my question: is the knowledge part of the order or not? And are the anima and Mechanica lost, or do they exist?

Also, the fact that some Greeks have some anima, that they know how to use, doesn't mean that a magus in Normandy (say) knows anything about it.

The way I understand it is that, while certain individual mechanica may perhaps be known to the Order, the OoH doesn't know that they are mechanica or indeed even that the Mechanics of Heron were ever a magical tradition in the first place. It is, I suppose, conceivable that some enterprising maga has sought insight from such items in the past, but without knowing the source of the enchantments, actual Integration seems unlikely to succeed.

Edit: rechecking my books, page 75 is quite clear that, due to the corruption of his texts, the OoH considers Hero to have been a mundane engineer.

"Mechanica were always a rarity, but discovering one in the 13th century is not impossible, as they have considerable value as art objects." on p76 fits with Alexandria's 2 known artifacts. No contradiction here.

"Heron’s secrets are unknown to the Order of Hermes [at] large" on p 75 is the only "unknown" you could refer to. It discusses integrating the ability to make animae. Alexandria cannot make them, so no contradiction here.

I am sorry, but you will have to clearly cite which sentences (and where) are in contradiction.

Or to put it another way, "All but unknown to the Order of Hermes" means that is IS known to at least one person in the Order. Or in this case, one Covenant.

More generally, there are lots of magical gizmos and dodads and traditions that can act as sources of Insight for Hermetics that haven't been touched. For example, most of the minor Supernatural abilities in the core rulebook seem to have some power or technique that isn't duplicated in Hermetic magic - Second Sight, for example, can be Integrated to get no-penetration Intelligo magic. And from what I understand of canon, these powers are actually pretty common - most peasants know (or know of) someone who "has the Sight" or was "touched by Faries" or something like that. So if you figure that there's a 1:100 or so ratio in the general population for common magics, that's a lot of opportunities to expand Hermetic thought.

The question then becomes, "if all this Insight-ful magic is laying around, why hasn't anyone already Integrated it?" The best reasoning I've heard of is as follows:

  1. It is being done: the current state of the Art of Hermetic Magic in 1220 is as a result of more-or-less continuous integration over the centuries. Vim used to be 4 Arts, before they were consolidated, for example. And the Circle/Ring parameters were added after Bonisagus's time. And Detect Magic (the minor Supernatural Ability) seems to have been completely duplicated - which implies that it may very well have been the source of Intelligo Vim magic to begin with.

  2. The Schism War interfered with the growth of Hermetic thought - and it's only been recently that the Order has recovered enough to really start expanding again.

  3. Despite the ability for players to design hyper-optimized lab-rats who can't help but gain Insight whenever they study a Source (Int 5, Pussiant Magic Theory, Affinity with Magic Theory, Inventive Genius), those kinds of people are actually pretty rare. In an order with 1,000 or so magi, there are only one or two of those people a generation.

  4. Wizards don't collaborate on research projects - while they share knowledge for prestige and bragging rights (or because they're required by Oath to do so), it's only after they've completed their research. So there's probably a non-trivial amount of duplication going on.

  5. The rise of Scholasicism is only just now starting to bear fruit in the Order as a whole - that, as well as mundane politics setting the stage for the High middle ages (before the plagues of the 14th century come along to wipe it out). So society as a whole is just now getting to the point where magi can really start doing this sort of thing again.

An excellent list. Also:

  1. In-character, there is no-way to know in-advance what is actually a possible research project and what is merely wishful thinking / delusion / red-herrings. So a non-trivial number of potential Hermetic researchers may be wasting their time on projects that are simply not possible.

[edit: changed number to 6!]

As said, there are quite a few items. Ancient Magic also describes quite a few mechabnical items and at least 1 mechanica. The mechanica described there is also in Constantinople, so there are at least 2 mechanica in the Theban Tribunal. In Alexandria there are quite a few items in use or awaiting discovery as well. And finally you can find some more Mechanica stuff in Hooks. Those are all potential sources of Insight. That, however, does not mean that they are common knowledge. A few mechanician items scattered around does not make for common knowledge, just enough to make it possible to investigate the supernatural ability if you put your mind to it. :slight_smile: Same with the books. it is quite likely that a few uncorrupted copies are around, but they are just engineering books if you do not have the Gift and the resources to use the acquired knowledge, as will be the case with 99.9% of the potential readers. Now, when ones that does have the Gift reads one of these you have a story :slight_smile: Or when you trade gifts or books with say, a monastery that has had this bok for 500 years and does not know what it really contains.


I guess my confusion on this is due to the insinuation that the people who inhabit the covenant at Alexandria are aware of the nature of the devices, as well as how to operate them, yet AM indicates that the knowledge has not yet been integrated into the order. I mean, I guess it's possible that the one Magi at Alexandria knows about the nature of the devices. And I guess it's possible he could have shared this information with the Redcaps and the other non-gifted covenfolk there. It just seems contradictory to what's in Ancient Magic about nobody in the Order having any idea what the devices are other than engineering wonders.

Does that make sense? Or should I just drop this out of not fully understanding the situation here?

I can know that the throne is magical and pre-hermetic. I can also know how to use it. However I might be totally unable to tell why it operates when I activate it since I have not investigated it at all.

I guess I'll just drop it. I'm still confused on this, as the way I'm reading things are contradictory between AM and TSE. Apparently it's just me, even though I'm not getting any indication from anyone why I'm seeing things the way I am; instead, I'm just being told that it's possible and that's that.

I'll just deal with it, I guess.

One thing you'll find about the Ars line that I've not seen often in other lines (although my experience is 20+ years out of date), is that things are rarely presented as a hard and fast rule. A lot of particular things are painted with broad brush strokes and you fill in the details. Duresca scrolls and Guernicus hit squads involved in The Sundering are some ambiguous concepts mentioned in Houses of Hermes: True Lineages. Yet, I built a saga (Bibracte) based on those two things being absolutely true for that saga, but isn't the case for Stealing the Future.

So, yes, you must deal with it, you must decide for yourself how to use it. You can create entire sagas where there is no mention of Ancient Magic (or items mentioned therein) and you can create sagas focused on just one aspect of it, and how rediscovering something like Mechanica of Heron would change the Order. Just like the Mysteries presented in TMRE (and to some extent HoH:MC), not all of the virtues/abilities/magic mentioned within the text are appropriate for a saga/magus. Some Mysteries might not even exist within a particular saga, because not all mysteries CAN exist, otherwise every magus would be part of some mystery cult or another...

It is just how you (and us) differ in the interpretation on what "to know about" means. We have said that knowing that something exists and how it works does not mean that you have a working knowledge of the thing; You can operate it even if you have no idea of its inner workings. The later would mean having the virtue Mechanica of Heron or having investigated the item in the lab, and we are saying that this is not necessary. You are interpreting that "to know about" means a thorough investigation and knowledge of the item :slight_smile: No real difference apart from that :slight_smile: It is an interpretation of this.

Also, consider that most magi are megalomaniac weirdos with small contact with people outside their circle of interest. And even if a few people have investigated the item they might not share that knowledge; nothing forces them to do so except if they are Bonisagus or they want to brag about something. My players always does the later, sometimes with undesires consequences when the bragging falls in the wrong ears :mrgreen:


I appreciate all of the input. I really do. It doesn't help answer my question, but I can deal with it.

I scanned through the text in The Sundered Eagle again, trying to understand where the dichotomy is here.

Sure, I can envision someone having investigate the enchanted item in a laboratory with Intellego Vim. The rules in the main text are focused mainly on Hermetic effects, but I don't see why they can't discover other effects, I seem to recall reading about that elsewhere but I can't remember where at the moment.
Regardless, knowing about the powers of Mechanica is similar to operating a car, and not necessarily building or even repairing (maintaining) one. Many people know how to drive, fewer people know how to maintain a car, and even fewer still actually can build cars.
The covenant has two mechanica that they can operate. They can't fix those mechanica if they become broken.

But TSE goes on to state that the Covenant is AWARE that they are Mechanica, and that at least one Verditius maga - Philagrius, if I remember correctly - has studied them and knows of their properties and such. I can't find a write up for this maga to find out if he has any of the applicable virtues/flaws, but the book (TSE) makes it sound like everyone knows about both of these devices, and that everyone knows they are mechanica/anima. In fact, here is the passage of which I speak:

Now, I realize that this could just mean that they know they are mechanica but are unaware of how they were created. I get it. But this passage describes the Covenant knowing exactly what they are, having done research to go after and retrieve them, and at least 1 Verditius magi spending extended time with them to discover what they are. It makes it sound as if these devices are just lying all over the place, and anybody and everybody knows about them and can just go off and get them.

This is the crux of my question. Ancient Magic states that they are all pretty close to being lost or destroye, save for Justinian's Nightingale (which is nearly lost), but The Sundered Eagle puts two of them directly in the Theban Tribunal with an entire Covenant AND a magi from outside the Covenant having intimate knowledge of them.

Guess I'm just confused as to this situation and why the books seem to conflict with one another.

If there's one thing I've learned about playing Ars Magica, it's that every mage in existence has more things to do than time to do them in. Also, it could very well be that someone has investigated it for Integration purposes:

  1. And failed - you need to roll an 18+ on a Magic Theory roll to even start - that's a non-trivial roll. (Identifying it as a creation of Heron? That's one thing. Integrating the magic theory behind them? That's another.)

  2. And doesn't have the arts to perform the Integration: to get the Integration points, you need to be able to create the effect you discovered in the investigation - and that's somewhat arbitrary. The individual may very well be an Intelligo Corpus specialist, and discovered a Creo Mentem spell, or something.

  3. Or has, but hasn't bothered to do it yet - because, let's face it: he's got better things to do than to study the statuary that has been in the living room for the past two millennium. It's not like they're going anywhere, right? (EDIT - aside from, y'know, the statuary ACTUALLY getting up and moving.)

Well,that is because the mani problem with question like that is almost invariable that the best answer is YSMV (your Saga may vary).

For example; no one above mentioned Dar al-Nujum, presumably because it may not exist in cannon and even if it does the relevent story seed might not. But it certainly is relevent to your question and more to the point, is as valid a resource as the published suppliments.

Ultimatily it is about what you and your troupe decide (or are comfortable) to include.
Best of Luck, Snape.

One final question on this topic, and then I promise I'll let it go.

Is Philagrius statted out somewhere? Is there a write-up for him, or is he just left to the SG's imagination?