New Major Hermetic Flaw: Hermetic Savantism

We were brainstorming with our troupe for the sheer fun of it and wondered if and how you could translate the Grog Minor Flaw Savantism for Magi. You know, the one Flambeau had :smiley: The basic goals we had were:
a) avoid crippling a character to the extent that nobody would ever want to play one.
b) avoid balancing the Flaw with such immense bonuses that, when coming into play, they'd unbalance the game the other way round.
c) make the mechanics concise, clear and elegant.
We considered a lot of things, but this is what we came up with. It's completely untested, and no one in our troupe is likely to try it out any time soon, but let's hear what you have to say:

Hermetic Savantism (Major, Hermetic)
Due to a serious deficiency in your Gift or in your training, your magic only encompasses a very narrow area -- in which, however, you excel. This Flaw grants you a free Major Magical Focus of your choice. Any activity to which a Focus could provide a bonus, but your Focus does not, is simply impossible for you.


I'd be a bit careful with this. Probably manageable in your saga, but if this were in a general game, someone would suggest that 'spontaneous magic' might qualify. A major focus in spirits does qualify, and this includes all of theurgy, a spirit familiar and a spirit talisman. Theurgy isn't very good, but having a focus that includes it that is bought as a flaw, makes it much shinier.

Hmm. Shinier, in the sense that I would bother to try a spirit magus.

Consider me convinced.

(And even the spontaneous magic version is reasonable, as it precludes having a familiar, crafting items or a longevity ritual.)



It seems to fail the "Does this make my combat Flambeau more powerful?" test. IMC, because the magi work in teams, this would cause no particular disadvantage to the party, and so it's not much of a flaw.

I am with timothy. Maybe if its a minor focus, or if its an invariable bonus in an area in place of a mayor focus. You cant give a second major hermetic virtue to a character from start...
What's about Parma magica? You can perform it or not?

Wait, I'm confused. There are parts of magic a Focus couldn't theoretically apply to? Or is that the point?

Anyway, it doesn't seem unbalanced, per se, but I wouldn't allow it in my sagas. I feel like it'd result in an unpleasant combination of the "Homer Simpson narcolepsy" excuse and the "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" mentality, both of which I would want to avoid in how my PCs treat their magic.

I think it means that unless the magic is part of the focus the magus cannot do it.

I dunno. When you have a hammer, all problems are nails. A screw just needs a bit more force with the hammer, ya know? Most of my characters are specialists, and most of those characters try and solve their problems with their Maybe?


That's also a reasonable way to look at it.

(Although lots of flaws are like this: If magi work in teams, then my Blatant Gift isn't much of a flaw since when it matters I can just hang back and let the Jerbiton do his thing. My Deficient Technique, also no big deal. Etc. (Teamwork changes things. I once did a Schism-era Tremere designed under a different doctrine than current, preferring specialists over generalists since it was assumed that magi would always deploy in task forces with overlapping specialties; his Deficiency in Intellego didn't matter much then but turned out to be a big deal when he showed up in a current scenario))



It's sort of an "I'm no good at doing stuff except for the stuff I wanted to do anyway" effect. Not much of a flow, IMO.

Of course, so many flaws are like that.

Still, a combination like this one does allow more specialization to fit into the +11/-10 (+14/-13) allotment for magi. So even though the Restriction is much larger than is usual for that major flaw, maybe the combination is too good to be worth a major flaw, especially since it leaves room for a Major Hermetic Virtue above and beyond the included focus.

Note the phrasing. I did not write "activities to which a Focus could apply". I wrote" activities to which a Focus could provide a bonus".

So, if your focus is, say, storms, you can raise your parma and that parma defends you normally even if attacked by a Pilum of Fire.
You can fix arcane connections, even if they have nothing to do with storms.
You can open a device for enchantment as can magi without the Flaw.
And so on.

But you can't bind a familiar, unless somehow you can find one that qualifies as a storm (maybe by taking Spirit familiar, and binding a Storm Spirit?).
You can't duel in certamen.
You can't create a longevity ritual for yourself.
You can't extract vis from an Aura, barring exceptional circumstances (say, if you have the Virtue Auram Vis Extractor, you can extract "Storm" Auram vis in appropriate locales).
You can enchant any sort of magical items, but only with "storm" effects.

Well, it's certainly a Flaw that forces a PC to try to conceive everything as a nail. I think that can be a cool challenge occasionally, for the player. And one that makes the SG's job easier, in that it simultaneously makes it easier to have the PC shine (through against him stuff against which the Focus can be fruitfully applied) and ensures you can always challenge even an optimized PC without having the other PCs face insurmountable odds (just make sure the Focus does not apply to the situation, or applies only in very roundabout ways). But if you are saying that it would disrupt your sagas because all or most your PCs would take it and ... uh ... I am not sure what would happen then ... well, I'd like to understand more what the exact problem would be (e.g. I have no clue what you refer to by "Homer Simpson's narcolepsy excuse").

That was a (the?) major issue when we discussed it. We wanted something that would not give e.g. a Creo Ignem specialist with the Flaw an overwhelming advantage when compared with someone without the Flaw, even when dealing with making big fires. In this we had to confront two problems.

The first is that as written the Flaw gives you lots of "free Virtue points". Namely, three for the Flaw, and three more for the "free Virtue". Frankly, I think that if a Restriction that only occasionally applies is worth three points (and thus one that e.g. virtually never applies when you choose your ground and time, such as when dealing with lab activities), one that you can't ever escape is reasonably priced at six. Compare e.g. with Astrologically Mutable Major Flaws. So this seemed fine.

The second is that the Flaw allows you to do something that you could not otherwise do at character creation, i.e. effectively have two Major Hermetic Virtues, (although one of them has to be the Focus). Is this unbalancing? We thought long and hard about it, and could not find a reasonable example. If you can find one, I'd be happy to change the wording to say that the Free Major Focus granted does count as your sole Major Hermetic Virtue at character creation.

My intuition is that it does not fail it, but unless you are a little more specific about the test, I have no way to prove or disprove it.
The Flaw does give you extra Virtue points, plus an extra perk, like Savant-for-Grogs does (and like other Flaws-with-a-perk, like Outlaw/Outlaw leader that give you access to Martial Abilities, Failed Monk/Nun that give you access to Academic Abilities, and Monstrous Blood that gives you a bonus to Aging Rolls).

But it also hinders you seriously. If your "combat Flambeau" takes it, he can't engage in certamen. Depending on his specialty, he may find it impossible to bind a familiar. Fast-cast defenses, including that "burn a rook of vis to spontaneously teleport back home" and that "let's move out of my way this pile of sand I've just been buried under by a first magnitude spell"? Again, it depends on the choice of the specialty, but this Flaw creates a lot of vulnerabilities.

And let me state, this is the real catch that makes it work. Because it can be easily tuned "in play" by the troupe. You find that the value of the Flaw is too high, it seems really easy to confront the PC with situations that are really challenging for him, without creating too many problems for the other PCs (or creating them, as you wish :slight_smile:).

The need to work in teams is itself a Major Flaw. Restriction: your magic does not work unless there's another friendly magus around. In fact, this would be a pretty serious Restriction as Restrictions go! More in general, as ovarwa said, if you can choose your time, ground, and allies, very few Flaws are a disadvantage. The catch is that you can't always choose time, ground and allies.


I might start by creating an Ex Misc Spirit Master, with this as as his mandatory Major Hermetic Flaw! Major Focus in Spirits. He'd take theurgy and spirit familiar (spirit talisman isn't very useful, since the effects would not be allowed imo). Not sure what extra major virtue to grab. Potent Magic also with Spirits? Goetic Sorcery (half of all realm lores go to Vim; half of all goetia go to Rego, though this virtue isn't very good since hermetic goeticists only need ReVi; otoh, theurgists can make use of realm lores)? FM and FFM are less useful for this guy, but still not bad for his more normal hermetic spells involving spirits.

But a master of weather could add FM or FFM.

I suspect that having the extra virtue points is better than the extra major.




Overall, I think it works.

Most magi who take this will lose:

  • A familiar
  • The ability to create one's own LR
  • Certamen
  • Most magical effects

I'd allow a magus to open an apprentice. Parma is definitely fine; you don't even need any Hermetic Magic to have this.

This flaw is actually near-perfect for a Founders of the Order saga. And maybe it is doubly beneficial for an Ex Misc, but it also seems very appropriate.

Do the 3 extra points matter very much? FM is usually awesome. Potent Magic is just ok. Having room for more puissant/affinities/deft arts/book learner/good parens/inventive genius/cyclic is always nice.

But is it sufficient to overcome the nasty penalties? Even if you allowed a Diedne to take both this and DM, I'm not at all sure. (Tripling the lowest Art is pretty nice, though!) I suspect the spirit master is better, overall. Most specialties are very limited.

Of course, another way to go is to rule that this is a 1 Major Virtue + 2 Major Flaw package, yielding the same -3 cost but not otherwise affecting vf balance. But I don't think that's necessary.

This doesn't seem to break anything.

It's interesting, though, what different people react to.



None of those are available, since the free Major Virtue for house Ex Misc has to be non-Hermetic (ArM5, p. 30).
... and so you're still limited to a single Major Hermetic Virtue during character creation.

As for Foci and Certamen isn't it a rule that only a Focus specifically in Certamen (like the Tremere have) can apply here?
I mean since the exact nature of the phantasms in the duel are determined depending on the Tech and Form chosen, letting any Focus apply means it's more difficult to agree on what happens. Who gets to choose?

None of those need to be the free Major Virtue. An Ex Misc can use his regular virtue points for this.

Yes, the only Focus that applies to Certamen is ... the Certamen Focus (the Virtue that all Tremere get for free).
So yes, anyone taking the Hermetic Savantism Flaw is barred from participating in Certamen; unless somehow the troupe agrees that there's a Major Focus that encompasses the entire Certamen Minor Focus and expands upon it. The reason is that Certamen is an activity that can derive a bonus from a Focus, so if the Major Focus of a Savant does not cover it, that Savant finds Certamen impossible. This was taken into account when balancing the Flaw.

Yay! Passed the Ovarwa test!

As the Flaw is written, a magus can open the Gift of an apprentice lacking supernatural abilities.
For one who already has supernatural abilities, I'd say as written the Virtue forbids opening, unless the Focus is something like a Vim Focus in non-Hermetic magics (because such a Focus would provide a bonus to the Intellego Vim lab total used to determine if the Gift can be opened to Hermetic Magic).

This may or may not be desirable. In my opinion, it probably isn't, and is a flaw in the phrasing of Hermetic Savantism. I'd probably try for something like allowing the preservation or attunement to Hermetic magic of supernatural abilities in line with the Focus, and the destruction of those not in line with the Focus. I'd have to think about the implications and a concise and unambiguous way of phrasing it.