Mercurian Aegis contractors - is this remotely plausible?

There's an idea which occurred to me for a character. Not so much a PC (it'd be a dull and lonely life, albeit profitable), but as an interesting idea for an NPC who would be a useful resource and an example of a coherent, living breathing world. I wanted to run it past the scholars assembled on this board to see what people thought of it.

I'm thinking of the concept of a travelling Rego Vim specialist with Mercurian Magic, who puts up people's Aegis better than they can, and for a low enough vis cost to turn a handsome profit. The benefits of specialisation in this regard are high enough that it seems wasteful to do it as a cottage industry, with each covenant having their own Aegis caster, especially given the rarity of Mercurian Magic in PCs and the expense of reinventing the Aegis every time for each caster. The only real problem seems to be security-related: The contractor themself will, unavoidably, be able to gain entrance to any covenant where they've worked, and thus will have to be of unimpeachable reputation.

Suppose that you contracted them to cast a level 60 Aegis. Normally this would cost you twelve pawns. Instead, it costs them six. They charge you eight, which is as much as the level 40 Aegis you used to have. You've therefore lost no vis and have an Aegis 20 levels higher, and they've made two pawns profit. That may seem a slender profit margin, but it's not taken them long to do. A single contractor could spend a single season yearly doing (easily) the best part of a covenant. Ten covenants (easily achievable in 91 days) will give them a profit of 20 pawns, which is not bad for a single season's work - it certainly beats distilling vis.

Additionally, there's the matter of inventing the spell. For most people, it's a one off. You buy a lab script, possibly reinvent it to get it the way you want it, and that's just a one-off sunk cost. It's a headache; an administrative expense that nobody wants to do. And every time you want a different Aegis (perhaps you're a growing Spring covenant, or perhaps your Winter covenant can't afford the old extravagance and needs to scale back) you need to go through it again. Having a single person who does this many times, rather than many people doing it once each, is far more profitable for everyone concerned.

It goes without saying that if such a contractor was publicly found to have Harnessed Magic, their business would dry up in a heartbeat.

Therefore, questions:

a) Would your covenant be willing to contract such a service out? Assume that you can do background checks on the contractor in question and that they genuinely are of unimpeachable character, have testimonials from half the covenants in the tribunal, et cetera.

b) What safeguards would your covenant want to put into place, if any? What contractual stipulations would you insist upon?

c) What other things would such a contractor do? If they spend a season a year travelling and casting Aegis, then that means they have three seasons left and a big sack of vis. If that was your situation, what would you do?

d) What other abilities / virtues / flaws / Mysteries / etc would work well for such a contractor? Remember that this is a specialist: standing head and shoulders above anyone else's skills isn't cheesy, it's to be expected from a specialist in a specialised economy.

e) What sort of person, personality-wise, would choose this lifestyle? Would they be motivated by the profit margin? By the opportunity for travel and meeting new people? By simple love of Rego Corpus and Notatus's great invention? What would they be giving up, choosing this path over the normal magus one?

Food for thought. I'd be interested in your responses.

There is a problem for such an expert in the Duration: Year of an Aegis, and its customary casting on the winter solstice.
Unless he reinvents the Aegis (a major breakthrough by the book), he has only a very small time window each year to ply his trade.

Cheers

This was my first tought as well, but is that even canon anymore? (Nobles Parma)

Actuañly he can cast it at any moment of the year. The winter solstice is just a tradition, not an obligation. A Year spell lasts for 2 solstices and 2 equinoxes since it was cast, so as long as you cast it around any of those 4 days of the year it is perfectly fine to do so. Some aegises in the Order will be failing at any of the 4 equinoxes or solstices of the year.

Also, a guy that is good at ReVi can fairly easily secure a good ReCo as well, so transport time might not be an issue.

Penetration is a problem for the sole practitioner... So, such a character may not be as likely to exist in a world where wards must penetrate. Also, magi may be uncomfortable that this magus has the keys to their covenant.

Doesn't he need a covenant of his own? Isn't vagrancy a minor crime in most tribunals? And won't they want him to be at home on at least one of the four days a year to help cast their Aegis?

A maximum profit of, say, six pawns of Vim Vis a year doesn't seem much.

I would not do it for that profit margin (as a ReVi mercurian mage), pay me at least the full price, it is stressfull and botch prone. I'd want to master it for penetration of course (a few times).

The ritual only takes three hours. And as a Mercurian, there is no need for it to take long-term fatigue. So if the magus can travel well (see ReCo note above), the magus could easily fit in four in one day. Or let's say the magus casts it at an inefficient time. 4/3 the casting x 8/12 the cost = 32/36 or 8/9 of the vis. So this magus could still provide a net savings casting the spell at inefficient times. Perhaps he only charges 7 at those times, and he casts the spell for most the Order? Of course, don't get in a Wizard's War with him since he's got a lot of allies and can attack you with ease through your Aegis.

Chris

A Gold Cord and a little Mastery can handle that with ease.

Huh? Penetration is only taken once as an option. Also, many do not interpret the Aegis as needing to penetrate.

Chris

Not sure where I follow vagrancy in this, and canonically the only Tribunal that has defined Vagrancy is the Greater Alps. In Tribunal of the Greater Alps vagrancy is any magus who doesn't have a vis income of 12 pawns per year, 10 pawns for themselves and the traditional two that go to House Guernicus and Mercere, the two is on a per covenant basis, so a solitary magus would be responsible for it himself.

And then there's what Chris said about flitting around from covenant to covenant...

Laertes, if the vagrancy was a issue, then the Mercurian can certainly join this traveling covenant that I came up with:

[url]https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/are-you-a-affluent-archmagus/5609/1]

Talk about taking the business of being a maga and making a profit! Let's see we do your labs, we do your Aegis, what else can we throw in there to make this traveling covenant a one stop shop for all your covenant needs. :laughing:

Another thing to keep in mind, security-wise, is that not only can this magus enter the Aegis at will, but he can also grant tokens to others.

In the end, it depends on the overal tone of your saga. How much conflict is there in the saga, that involves other covenants? How much trust is there towards magi of other covenants? Is it quite similar to the question of longevity ritual specialists (do you trust them enough to be in their lab for a season, and certainly be able to gather long-lasting arcane connections). Except that this is a commnunal decision of the covenant.

In any case, some covenants will never use those services, because they are simply too paranoid to do so.

Also, as Jonathan.Link mentioned, there is the matter of Penetration. By RAW, wards and Aegis must have enough Penetration to beat the creature's Might to prevent it from entering. That means that your ReVi specialist must have a Casting Total that doubles the spell level to get full benefits from the Aegis. For a level 60 Aegis, that means having a casting total of 120! That means a Focus as well as scores above 30 in both Rego and Vim.

Note that the Penetration Mastery doesn't help much there, because it basically adds 1 to your Penetration Ability score for each time it is taken. But what arcane connection will you be able to use to multiply? So it ends up only adding 1 to your Penetration Total.

The best way to increase penetration would be through Wizard's Communion, but again there you have some limits. If you want to keep the vis-saving feature of Mercurian Magic, then by RAW all of the participants in WC must be Mercurian as well. And the total levels of WC must double the level of the spell to be cast. And those WC must be variant that have Sun duration, which reduce their effective level by 10. In short, you'd need a cabal of fairly high-power Mercurian magi working together to achieve a full-powered level 60 Aegis. Which means splitting the vis income amongst them.

Not saying it can't be done. Just that, unless you have house rules in place for some of the previous factors, it is not really that easy to get vis from this on a regular basis.

Thus the traveling Mercurian Covenant mentioned above. The Neo-Mercurian cult would work well for this.

Whether someone or a group of people travel around doing this is going to be a function of the saga is a fundamental choice you have to make. If you want to have this kind of world, you have to back into certain underlying assumptions, and make some calls on HRs. That's not a bad thing, at all. It also suggests a far more genial order, one engaged in a lot of commerce. Keep in mind this is a service, not a product, and service oriented economies are a fairly advanced economic system. Such systems are subject to disruption...

Depending on how the Order is seen in the given saga.
But this is generally true, for all types of "specialists for hire" (Commonly suggested specialties: Aegis, Longevity, Healing or Terram builders.
In the more paranoid visions of the Order, these will not be succesful, while a cooporative Order provides a wealth of opportunities for these (N)PCs.

Let's get this straight, now.

By RAW, Wards have to penetrate.

But the Aegis is never mentioned to be a Ward, and does not use a 'Ward' guideline - it sure looks like a Ward, but there are equally valid reasons why it could/should be considered a seperate concept.
Furthermore, the Aegis is an exception in so many ways already that there's no reason to assume it in any way behaves like an ordinary Hermetic effect.
Indeed you cannot invent versions of the Aegis with changed parameters (except level) without a Breakthrough - this is explicitly in the description of the spell.

I currently play in ... 4 sagas, one of them online on this forum. In each of them, the status of Aegis penetration had to be established (you didn't notice it n the online saga? That's because just went with the majority), so we currently have:
Saga 1: Aegis does not need to penetrate. Contains a few veterans who'd be bothered by the need to penetrate because "it never used to need that".
Saga 2: Aegis needs to penetrate - specifically because we wanted a reason to use Wizard's Communion. We also currently do not have an Aegis (as I recall).
Saga 3: Aegis does not need to penetrate, because we can't be bothered - that's not what the stories of that covenant.

  • Secret subplot that will never be run: the Aegis is based on Rune Magic.
    Saga 4: Online Saga. Aegis needs to penetrate.

callen usually assumes that the Aegis does not need to penetrate as I recall, and has argued for this elsewhere on this board.
Do not simply assume as a given that it must. Not without word from On High.

Only if said magus has the tokens, and the covenant keeping the tokens would presumably be part of the contract.

First, it's Casting Total + Penetration that should reach target level + 60, not just Casting Total. Second, the Penetration option doesn't seem to work that way for a couple reasons. One, it is unlikely you're allowed to take it multiple times since those that can be taken multiple times have such written in their descriptions. Two, the Penetration option doesn't say to add your Mastery score once each time the option is taken, so taking it twice is redundant and does nothing.

And then there's the issue that many troupes don't play with penetration on this spell.

But at very least it could be that magus plus an apprentice dropping the target level to 30 at worst. Overlapping apprentices could sometimes drop this to 20, but let's leave it at 30 so the magus gets all the vis. The magus would have a level 50 version of the Sun duration Wizard's Communion, leaving a level 30 variant for the apprentice, which isn't so bad to teach since the magus would clearly focus on ReVi instruction and have a lab built for those. So the magus would probably only have to hit 90, which I'll admit is still high. But is it that high? Let's say for safety reasons (plus Stalwart Casting, Penetration, Adaptive Casting, Imperturbable Casting, and Lab Mastery are all useful here) the magus has Mastery 5 and has Penetration (Vim) 5. Let's factor in the Aura, Stamina +5 (Mercurian after all), gestures/voice, and his Talisman, for roughly +14 more. Then include Artes Liberales (Rituals) 4 and Philosophiae (Rituals) 4. That leaves Re+Vi+(stress die)=50 as the goal. So a score of 25+ in each of Rego and Vim should be sufficient without needing a Magical Focus. In short, you really do not need such a cabal at all.

Chris

Actually, mostly the other way around. Primarily, I generally assume it will vary by troupe. Second, those with whom I play in person generally require it to penetrate, and I like it that way. Here's my carefully thought-out stance:

Chris

My mistake, I was remembering it adding 1 per time taken (as for Precise Casting) instead of adding Mastery Scoe to Penetration.

True enough. Sorry for implying that this is RAW, where it is in fact undefined.

Actually, WC states that you the added levels of WC must be at least twice the level of the spell being cast with it. And those 2 magnitudes lost to give D:Sun to the WC are painful there.

So, even with 2 apprentices, the magus would need to know a level 60 WC (effective level is 50), while each "apprentice" needs a level 45 WC (effective level 35). How many of your apprentices know a level 45 spell before Gauntlet?

But all that is based on the assumption that Aegis must penetrate. If it doesn't need to, then there is little need for WC to be used with the Aegis.

Whoops, sorry, forgot about the doubling. So you'd want two magi with their apprentices, they each earn one Vis per casting. That's still pretty good if there is a market for it in the saga.

However, I do have a much better method that doesn't require any apprentices and is very doable via Neo-Mercurians. You use Hermetic Theurgy and invent a few such spells. It's still your spells (Mercurian), so you should be OK. But I could see some ruling against that, saying the WC's aren't coming from a Mercurian.

Hmmm... What about multiple casting WC? It doesn't allow you to do anything much on your own. But it might get you to the doubling more easily so having an apprentice will be enough to halve the lab total.

But let's look at it without WC. Using the same numbers I had above, you'd need 30 more points. So scores in both Rego and Vim of 40 without a Magical Focus. With one scores of 27 will do. We could do better as there are some pretty good mundane books in Artes Liberales and Philosophiae. I'll have to check later to see what the best I could get out of a Talisman is.

Chris

I would be one of those who say that a spirit is not a Mercurian magus.

Actually, I don't think this would work either. If you look at the description of WC, it says that you add the level at which each participant know WC, not the level at which they cast it.

So we are talking:

  • Score of 25+ in Rego
  • Score of 25+ in Vim
  • Learning a level 60 Aegis
  • Mastering the Aegis to 5
  • Penetration Ability at 5 (useful for other purposes)
  • Artes Liberales at 4 (might actually be higher)
  • Philosophiae at 4 (might actually be higher)
  • Having cast enough rituals to bring Stamina to +5 (useful for other purposes)
  • Having a Talisman providing a +14 bonus (that's stretching it, I think)

This gives you a Casting Bonus of approximately +79, and an additional Penetration bonus of +11. Still 30 points short, but you get aura and a die roll, so 20 points short. (I discounted the Voice and Gestures bonuses, because I doubt anyone could keep yelling and throwing his arms around for 3 hours. But it's only a small +2 bonus anyway.)

So yes, it's doable by a single magus.

My question is, is it worth it? That's a huge investment of time and effort, to set up what amounts to a side business that can earn a few pawns of vis every year but requires you to travel around all the time. The investment is less if you use WC, but the rewards must also be shared. And travel becomes more complicated.

There are far easier ways to trade for vis.

One-time rituals are much more likely to be in demand, if simply because of the time it takes to learn the spell for that single casting.

Aegis would more likely be offered to Spring covenants that have not any magus who knows the spell yet, than it would be for well-established covenants. If a covenant needs a high-level Aegis, it probably means it feels threatened by powerful magic-wielders, which usually means Hermetic magi. So they wouldn't trust someone else to do it. Just MHO.