Magi Lifespans?

I'm running my first saga. As I develop the backstory, one thing that is difficult in establishing a timeline is that I don't know how long a typical magus lives. Also, what are the high/low extremes that are noteworthy?

Before anyone says YSMV or "it depends on the magus" I'll say "I know that!"

But even if my sister died at 20, and I live to 110, we can still generalize about the lifespan of an average lower-middle-class person living in the USA in the early 20th century. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for.

Calebais fell 50 years ago. The text discusses it as if this was some ancient event, but it seems like (if I understand the lifespan of magi) then there should have been magi who were newly gauntleted 25 year-olds, who are now 75. Pehaps even the quasitor who initially investigated could conceivably still be alive, right?

According to page 32 of the core rules, an average magus will pass into final Twilight at most 120 years after finishing apprenticeship. Warping is far more likely than age to cause an magus's demise. Discounting violence, disease or accident, I think 100 to 120 years after apprenticeship is a reasonable lifespan for a magus... though I expect violence and accident could account for a number before that (one doubts that the Magi Flambeau die in their proverbial beds for instance).

Thank you. I somehow missed that p32 reference in an earlier reading. And yes, that's what I was looking for - typical age of passage into final twilight and/or death from old age. (My book is loaned out to a player right now, so I'm really at a loss).

Since I don't have a book handy to study, how do living magi know that a sodale has gone to "final twilight" vs just an extended "twilight trip" from which the magus will eventually return? Are they even sure?

I wasn't looking for "average lifespan," as I realize that some will die before they even hit gauntlet, and many more in the years afterwards, due to accidents, violent death, etc. Trying to nail down a statistic for that is definately YSMV.

And I also realize there are various paths to "immortality"...

Old age for a magus? Only if they are dirt poor or have Difficult Longevity Ritual.

It's almost trivial (maybe I should say it's not all that hard) to get an LR 21 from a magus who isn't even highly focused in LRs. Good with creo or corpus (affinity only), a high MT (affinity or puissant or both), and the ability to field a few assistants and a familiar and a lab equipped for Creo or Corpus with a good GQ. Put that all together and LR 20+ is easily achievable. Add in things like mMF:Aging, puissant in both Creo and Corpus, and affinities in both... He'll be a rich PC or NPC. The recipient of the LR 21 will probably never worry about old age (for giggles, I aged a PC that recently received one of those), and she's 272 (247 years post gauntlet) before she had her first Crisis (a bit of bad luck). Her apparent age is now 89, and only started getting aging points in her attributes at age 252. Her warping score is 9 (12). Twlight experiences will likely claim her... She probably does very little magic by this time, if she even made it without any additional warping and twilight hadn't already claimed her...

You are, of course, aware of The Ultimate Twilight and Aging Simulation, right?

It suggests a median death age of 133, and as many as 5% living to be 250 years and older.

Of course, YSMV and it really depends on the magus... oh, wait... :wink:



1 Like

No I wasn't aware of that, will check it out.

Keep in mind I'm looking for the average, median, typical - the most common case. Any number of variables could change these generalities into a specific case that is irrelevant for my purposes here.

Tying together the answers I've gotten so far:

  1. The "typical" magus (as described in apprentices) will begin their apprenticeship at 10 and it will last 15 years, so an apprentice will be 25 at gauntlet.
  2. Final twilight will happen 120-140 years post-gauntlet.
  3. So the magus will be 145-165 years old at final twilight.
  4. Assuming no "non-natural" causes, Death would occur (median) 135 years after birth, although 5% would make it to 250+. I know this is incorrect, but I'm going to call that a lifespan range of 135-250.
  5. Final twilight can be avoided simply by not getting any more warping points, which the individual has some control over. Death due to old age is "innevitable" assuming no path to "immortality" is undertaken.

So while final twilight may be the most common reason for a magi to "exit" I would think it not all that uncommon for old age to take them first.

It seems like I can assume that, on average, Magi who don't die a violent or accidental death live to roughly 150 years, although twilight might take some as early as 145 years, and as late as 165, and old-age death might take some as early as 100, and others as late as 300.

If that's the case, we're not really very many generations removed from the founders, are we?

And Calebais as-written is making less and less sense to me.

Next, related question: at how many years post-gauntlet might the "typical" magus take his first apprentice? This would help me think about the lineages of magi in my campaign, how many steps removed the 1220 crop of newly gauntleted magi are from the founders.

I realize, again, that YSMV, it depends on the magus's virtues, flaws, house, personality, etc, as well as availability of a suitable apprentice.

There are even more variables there than in death/twilight age question, but I still think it possible to generalize.

I appreciate you pointing out significant variables that affect the upper and lower ranges. I just don't want to get too bogged down in specific cases and end up arguing over who's house rules are better.

First, you need to read 15 primers to get 5 in every Arts which means 4 years minimum. Not really a limit.

Second, why would you take an apprentice if you don't need help in the lab?

  • improve/refine you lab is useful early on, but is not worth the 15 seasons you lost
  • increasing your Lab Total by 5-10 is worth it if you ran out of summae on that TeFo, which would take about 8 years.
    We've had discussions about how to use apprentices in the lab before, and maybe about hermetic generations also.

I would WAG hermetic generations to be double human (60 years) since a 30yo is barely old enough to be a parens while a 100yo is still doable. Compare to 30 years human generations: 15yo is barely enough and 50yo is pretty old.

An apprentice is like a child for most magi,. Or so I would consider. You do NOT get one for the help, but because you want children. From an economic/synergies point of view it is really stupid for me to consider having children, and guess what we are discussing with my couple :slight_smile:

I would expect magi to get their first hermetic child 15-25 years after apprenticeship, once they are fairly OK with their arts and social status in their home turf, but still young from an hermetic point of view. From then onwards, it depends on the amount of progeny they want to have.


One thing about Twilight - the most common source is from spell botches. An older magus might go to the trouble of mastering his spells simply to avoid that. If you make it to 100 years post-Gauntlet, you probably have the means to get a really powerful LR and avoid Twilight.


This exact question came up for me when I was preparing for my current game. Here are my notes on the matter; what therefore follows is entirely IMS but you're welcome to steal it for your own.

Following the simulation that was done (kudos to YR7 for bringing it up), there's more or less the following age distribution:

For every 30 magi, there are:
10 between 0 and 50 ypg ("journeymen")
9 between 50 and 100 ypg ("masters")
7 between 100 and 150 ypg ("archmagi")
4 over 150 ypg ("ancients")

Before 100, the main cause of death is accident. After 100, the main cause is twilight.

I imagine that journeymen would move around a lot between covenants before they found one where they fitted in, which helps to spread the Houses across Christendom. Spring covenants would be net importers of young wizards and Autumn covenants would be net exporters (this is because Autumn covenants would have the fewest opportunities for young magi, while training the most of them; whereas Spring covenants would have less entrenched power structures and newcomers would be able to gain a better share of available resources.)

As regards Hermetic generations, I think that coming up with an "average" is not a useful thing for simulations. Rather, I assumed that wizards would fall into one of the following behaviour archetypes:

  • The Abraham gets lonely in their old age and takes an apprentice for company. While they're likely to be a very powerful wizard, there's no guarantee that they'll be a good teacher. Their doting behaviour might either retard the apprentice's development, or lead to them coddling them outrageously. Either way, there's a good chance that the apprentice leaves immediately post-Gauntlet. Other magi might find this sort of behaviour a little distasteful. Assume 100 years between master and student.

  • The Accessoriser has an apprentice in order to offset their Talisman and Familiar, and because all the other wizards have one too. They want the highest quality of apprentice in order to reflect well upon them, and while they might not be the best or the most attentive teacher, it will be important to them that their apprentice becomes an important magus someday and therefore they'll give them what they imagine to be a good education. Assume that this apprentice passes their gauntlet approximately 30 to 50 years after the master did.

  • The Apprentice factory is a wizard who likes having an apprentice around. Perhaps they enjoy teaching, perhaps they like the lab help, or perhaps they just like having someone weaker than themselves to monologue at. If they care about teaching at all, they'd quickly become good at it. However, they wouldn't look as long or as hard for the "perfect" apprentice before opening their arts, meaning that a larger number of their apprentices will be substandard and won't pass their gauntlet. Assume one graduated wizard every 15-30 years for an Apprentice factory (the 30 year mark occurs whenever an apprentice fails to make the grade.)

  • The Atoner had a bad parens and wants to give someone else "the apprenticeship that I never had." They probably take an apprentice very early, with the result that there might only be a 20 year gap between master and student. The apprentice will probably not be the very best candidate for Hermetic wizardhood (they'll be the first one who was available), but will have been given the very best that their youthful master had. In particular, this is the apprentice most likely to have spent seasons reading books.

  • The Doubler is an Atoner or Accessoriser who, later, decides to do it again and properly this time. Done well, the resulting filius will often be the very cream of the Order; done badly, the apprentice might not survive their parens's desire for perfection. Even if they pass their gauntlet, they'll be expected to upstage their parens's earlier student, who will have a few more decades of Hermetic age in their favour. Good luck.

  • The Walder Frey trains apprentices in order to have useful filii for their schemes. This wizard will probably have one every 30-50 years, since they'll take great care to find high quality apprentices and train them properly (although the training will probably be done carefully in order to make them useful servants, rather than capable independent magi.) Their filii will probably be browbeaten into obedience, and most probably will reside at the same covenant, forming an insular, incestuous brood jockeying for the parens's approval.

  • The Wolverine works alone and has no time for apprentices. Perhaps they plan never to die, perhaps they never had time, perhaps they're just such a disconnected, reclusive autist that they don't want the human contact. Whatever the case, their line ends with them.

  • The Wulfenbach wants to make themselves a sidekick. They'll hold off on it until they find the right one, and will look for someone very similar to themselves. The age difference will be perhaps 80 years, and may well result in the filius adopting this behaviour archetype themselves. For some reason, I associate this sort of thing with the Flambeau, but it could come from anyone.

The average number of apprentices from each archetype, assuming the simulation's life expectancies, is:
Abraham: 0.4
Accessoriser: 0.9
Apprentice Factory: 5.3
Atoner: 1
Doubler: 1.6
Walder Frey: 3
Wolverine: 0
Wulfenbach: 0.8

Which gives us roughly 2.4 apprentices who make it to their gauntlet, per magus.

(In my mental model of the Order, the Apprentice Factory and Walder Frey wizards are most common within the True Lineage houses, keeping their numbers inflated; and there's a steady trickle of magi leaving those houses for the Societies and Mystery Cults which more closely match their own interests, and creating the convection currents of the Order. YSMV.)


1 Like

AND the Wulfenbach. Someone reads Girl Genius :mrgreen:

It is curious that all the archetipes are derranged somewhat. Apparently nobody takes an apprentice out of a sense of (magical) bloodline. I imagine that this would be the normal one, not the crazed out ones you put there... An apprentice is YOUR SON, not your slave. At least from my POV and how most of them are played IMS...

Possibly because I view the Order of Hermes as being 1200 player characters spread lumpily across Christendom and bickering over resources and paper citations, I'm inclined to see them more as a carnival of grotesques, specialists, obsessives and madmen, and less as anything resembling healthy, normal people. These are, after all, people whose normal social interactions are heavily curtailed due to a magical curse, and who think nothing of spending three months reading a single paper on an obscure, academic subject. Although possibly that's something to do with the players I know.

If you want there to be more "normal" Wizards, double the prevalence of the Accessoriser and Wulfenbach archetypes (for early and late apprentices, respectively) and drop the average number of apprentices to just below 2. This will probably slow the expansion of the Order but will result in a higher overall quality of apprentices.

1 Like

Well, like a modern child. A Magus can decide to have a "child" (apprentice) or not. Throughout most of human history, most people had little control over whether or not they had children. On the other hand, they didn't have to waste a season training their kid - kids just worked alongside the parents and learned that way.

Thanks, that's the hard lower end of the range I was looking for. In theory then, a magus could get 5 in all arts during apprenticeship, pass gauntlet, and then immediately take an apprentice themself?

For the purposes of my OP, I'm less interested in why than when.

Thanks, that's the sort of "rule of thumb" I was looking for. If I'm writing up a sort of biblical lineage ("and Bonisagus begat Bob the magus. And Bob begat Frank. And Frank begat Jill. And Jill begat you.") I don't necessarily need to know the motivation for taking an apprentice of everyone in between Boni and the PC. I just need to know if I've created something wildly implausible. Like if I created a birth lineage where the humans were giving birth at 10 or 80, there would be a problem.

Thanks, very helpful.

Makes sense. My saga is set in a modified Semita Errabunda that I've described extensively in another thread. The regio was discovered by one magus, who founded a covenant there, and possibly created additional regio levels and/or modified the existing ones. I've stated that this founding took place roughly around the time of Calebais' fall (50 years ago).

At some time, he took an apprentice. Also, at some point, he recruited 4 other magi to join the covenant. At some point, the 4 plus the founder's apprentice all took apprentices. Their reasons for taking them of course varied with their personalities, but it was also a concerted group effort to some degree. The regio has more problems and mysteries than the 6 magi could /wanted to attend to.

At this point, 1220, the apprentices have reached their gauntlet. The covenant is in summer, passing into autumn. Last season, the founder passed into (final?) twilight. The newly gauntleted magi are going to be offered a sort of journeyman status at the covenant the next 7 years. Later, they may found a chapterhouse at Calebais. But for the present, I just wanted to know if everything I'd said happened in 50 years was plausible, or if the time-frame should be shorter or longer. If longer, that creates problems for me, as the senior magi would know more about Calebais than they do. If shorter, the problem becomes that the documents they found in their covenants' library describing Calebais' fall don't make sense (like one describing the Quasitor visiting SE on his way to/from tBCoC.)

I'd be hesitant to call that an exhaustive list of archtypes, but the examples you gave were very useful for conceptualizing motivations, answering the commonly asked question "why bother with apprentices?" The setting requires an answer; without them, the OoH can't exist.

And while I understand your point about averages not being useful for (some) simulations, note that you did come up with an average (2.4). Now if I was trying to calculate the potential growth rate of the Order, that would be a very useful number for my simulation. And that's one of the things I've been pondering. Is 400 years enough time to get from 12 founders + however many pre-existing sodales they had to the roughly 1200 magi today? How many would need to have been recruited from outside vs. being trained within?

Edit: removed duplicate post

I didn't see those examples as derraged. Sinful perhaps. But I agree that the common motivation of taking an Apprentice as "the rational path to immortality" was missing from the list. You will not live forever, but your tradition, your life's work, will live on past your death. The sin of pride.

Thank you.

If you can suggest any additional archetypes, I'd be happy to throw them into the mix.

Serf's Parma - being at work and not being an engineer by trade, the only numerical tool I have available is Microsoft Excel. This isn't going to be a very detailed breakdown.

I would model Hermetic population growth in two stages: From the time of the founders to the Schism War, and then from that to the present. Each of those periods is roughly 200 years, which is convenient.

Biologically speaking, populations can grow very quickly to recover from catastrophes if they have sufficient resources, but will grow slowly when those resources require a large amount of energy to increase. This is referred to as "explosive growth", and when it persists over time (for example, America's growth as she expanded from the East Coast inland, or any country's growth after the discovery of modern medicines and agriculture but before tiny modern families take hold), it looks terrifying. In the case of the Order of Hermes, the factors which would hold them back from explosive growth would be a limitation on vis supplies, and the unavailability of people with The Gift and a high enough Intelligence to be worth considering.

Assuming that the amount of Vis that the land produces is roughly constant (which is a big assumption, but I have no other data), and assuming that the number of people with a high Intelligence and The Gift is a function of population, then one would expect the Hermetic population to grow explosively as every wizard has as much vis and as many apprentices as they want, only to tail off as they reach a natural equilibrium stage. That equilibrium would grow slowly, matching the mundane population growth, as more areas are explored, more vis is found, and the larger population means more Gifted people for the next generation of apprentices. It might grow a little faster than that if population pressure meant that it became acceptable to take less-than-stellar candidates for apprentices, or to have less vis.

If we take my number of 2.4 apprentices per magus to be the "explosive" rate (that is, you can have as many apprentices as you want, without having to worry about the expense or the availability of suitable candidates, or where they'll get their vis from) then we can do the following analysis:

If we assume explosive growth from 767 AD to 100 AD, and then explosive growth from 1000 to 1220, then over each of those two-century periods you have about 900% growth. If we use the lower number incorporating Xavi's "magical bloodline" motivation, then we get 550% growth over 200 years.

In other words, in order to reach today's numbers through explosive growth, we would need as few as 133 magi to survive the Schism War and then begin expanding comfortably into a Mythic Europe which suddenly has plenty of elbow room. If we use Xavi's "magical bloodline" with its lower number, we only need 220. If more magi survived the Schism War than this (and they probably did), then the explosive growth would have ceased before 1220, and scarcity of resources and the unavailability of Gifted candidates would have meant that many magi who want an apprentice, end up being unsatisfied.

On the other hand, suppose that the Schism war was not genocidal. In this case, the total initial population we need in 767 AD is... 15. Which is basically just the Founders, plus Trianoma and Pralix, plus one other dude who's been forgotten over the years. This assumes the high rate of 900% over two centuries, rather than the lower rate. For the lower rate, incorporating Xavi's "magical bloodline", you'd need an initial population of 40. Again, you can take both of these numbers as higher and assume that, in the period before the Schism War, the Order had reached a population equilibrium and there were simply no more good apprentices to be had.

Please note, these figures already include magi who died before they could have apprentices, and magi who, like the Wolverine archetype above, could have had them but simply chose not to. The death rates are taken from the simulation YR7 linked to. This isn't a fictitiously high rate. I want to stress this point. This is what biological populations do whenever you give them all the resources they naturally want. Geometrical population growth is badass. If Hermetic magi were allowed to take as many apprentices as they wanted, whenever they wanted, the earth would not be able to hold them all.

In other words, the overall rate depends pretty much entirely on how brutal you think the Schism War was.

My opinion? The order was founded by less than 100 mages, who quickly spread across Christendom and reached equilibrium with the vis sources, strong magical auras, and available Gifted apprentices. The Schism war (and the Tytalus thing, and all the other problems) killed maybe half of all extant magi, but the Hermetic population recovered within a century, and has been uncomfortably crowded since then. Whenever magi move into a new area (for example, founding a new Spring covenant), the population catches up with available resources within about 100 years. In an effort to control the available resources and prevent new covenants from competing with them, Tribunals like Novgorod and the Greater Alps make strict rules to keep competition from becoming too fierce.