Newb Needing Help with Some Rules

Just a couple of basic things I need help understanding.

  1. Three of the Flaws in the core ArM5 rulebook are listed as "General, Supernatural". With no mention of being Major or Minor. Are they like the "free" Virtues except in Flaw form, or what? Did I maybe glance over a sentence explaining this?

  2. The different areas where this topic is addressed are controversial in their implications; does either having the Gift or being a Hermetic Magus, by itself, grant the character the ability to take Martial abilities? (This is a rules question; I'm well aware that most Magi would have little reason to train such abilities in most circumstances)

  3. Does a magus technically need to share a language with their apprentice in order to train them? If not, how would they go about it? It seems sensible that they would have to, but I'm somewhat endeared to the concept of a magus with Feral Upbringing who speaks no Living Languages.

  4. Is there a basis for the stats of mundane animals? They're mentioned repeatedly and rather important to nearly every Magus who has ever lived (Animal spells, familiars... Heartbeast... The occasional Lycanthrope...) yet don't even really have a foundation for building their stats or stat examples the way creatures associated with the Realms do. Is each individual Storyguide mostly just expected to wing it, or did I read the answer to this question and then promptly forget it?

Thanks in advance for the help! (Why isn't this game more popular!? It's awesome!)

I cannot find any Flaw without major/minor. Could you list which flaws on which pages?

ArM5 p63, repeated: "... or if they are magi." Also see p166 for supernatural abilities.

Latin is the academic language. Vernacular languages are for the uneducated.

Those were first detailed in the Bjornaer chapter of Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults. The Book of Mundane Beasts is a free pdf you can find at for other freebies.

As per ArM5, p. 63, magi may take General, Academic Arcane or Martial abilities freely.
This is a function of being a Hermetic Magus, not a function of having the Gift.

I was completely innacurate on this question; one of the other flaws doesn't list its Major/Minor status in its description but instead in the Virtue/Flaw list, and the three I mentioned aren't referred to as Major/Minor on the list (Aging Quickly, Lycanthrope, and Greater Malediction) but have it in the description instead. What terrible formatting mistakes. Nonetheless, my apologies.

Also, thank you for the link, and for your other answers to my questions.

In my book Age Quickly is listed as Major, supernatural. (p.51), the same for Lycanthrope (p.55). Greater Malediction is listed as Major, General in p.54. (this last one is weird, since it is Supernatural by any standards)

Ah, I see. They are listed as you say in the resume in page 39. I think it is a typo and it should read "Supernatural, Major". Greater malediction is certainly supernatural even if it is listed as General in its description. Good Awareness check :slight_smile:


I would add that in the Theban tribunal, the language of magic is Greek - as per The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal. I'd imagine small traditions may practice magic in other languages (Kabbalists in Hebrew, and so on).

I am not aware of an explicit rule requiring the magus to be able to know a language to teach a student, but then again I think one cannot communicate without a shared language (even with Hermetic Mentem magic).

  1. Others have already addressed this, but I thought I'd add that, in cases where a Virtue or Flaw is listed under both Major and Minor the player may choose which version their character has.

  2. Yes, while there are certain required subjects (AL, MT, and Latin), for the most part, the curriculum apprentice's study is chosen by their parens.

  3. I suppose it might be possible for the parens to use Mentem spells to communicate with the apprentice (particularly if the parens was deaf and/or mute), but even there the character would likely pick up Latin or vernacular languages by exposure. The concept is, probably doable, but would require expending buying virtues to eliminate the need to speak during spellcasting and probably Magical Memory since it's unlikely the character can read either.

  4. There are rules for designing Mundane Beasts in the Bjornaer chapter of 'Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults', which gives a lot of valuable help, but a lot of it still comes down to the SG's judgement in regards to what traits are deemed appropriate for the animal in question.

A Staff has a great defensive bonus (+3) - I often give my magi (at least of those who might fit the "mage with a staff" model) 1 level of Great Weapon (spec: Staff) so that, if necessity dictates*, they can add +5 (+/1 Quickness) to their Defense Total.

(* And that might be simply that, by necessity, they don't want to use magic - just one more tool in their belt.)

If the SG believes in "fighting defensively" this can become (slightly?) more, but that's pure houserule.

A crash-course in Latin is often the very first thing an apprentice has handed to them, tho' often with a Teacher/Trainer other than the Parens.

As for "Opening the Arts", there is nothing that says a common language is needed. In fact, as it's rare that a brand-spankin' new apprentice and the Parens share a language at that stage in their relationship, I think it's fairly self-evident they do not - but there's nothing in the Rules, one way or the other.

As for fulfilling The Code to train 1 season/year, that is fulfilled by the effort of training, not any measure of success or result. So even if that "effort" is almost pointless and the trainee gains almost(?) nothing, the Parens has "trained the apprentice" and met their requirements (altho' some members of House Bonisagus might take a different view).

And, of course, Exposure can always be a fallback, and can even be helped along by creating a more immersive environment.

However, that said, while the rules on Advancement and gaining XP (p 163 etc) state that "Training" does not require a common language, "Teaching" does - and Teaching is far more effective, if any Parens cares to get the most out of their effort.

There is a big diff between finding a (NPC) feral kid to be an apprentice, and having a "feral" Hermetic Mage - as in, I sincerely doubt you would ever find the latter, as ongoing "feral-ity" would (almost?) certainly be a dealbreaker for the Hermetic model.

The most important thing is that the Flaw is not "Feral", but "Feral Upbringing" - it's a past event that colors the character from their start of play. A character can certainly continue to be Feral - by avoiding society as a rule (ala the classic "Feral Kid" in Mad Max), but that's incompatible with the idea of apprenticeship of a mage - that they're going to endure formal education, the antithesis of any continued "feral-ness". Specifically, "you may only choose abilities that you could only have learned in the wild" precludes any and all magical training - dealbreaker. Plus, No Language = No Latin = no books and no communication with the larger Hermetic community, and that, also, would not be acceptable to a Parens, so the definition of the Flaw is now broken twice.

Even the most extreme Ex Misc would be crippled without a 3 in Latin and 3 in Magic Theory - and that ain't "feral" any more.

Also, speaking as a SG, I'd view taking Feral as a clear munchkin ploy for the 120 experience points in the first 5 years (instead of the standard 45), and would reject the character on general principle (and probably also take a dim view of the Player, depending :imp: ).

Now, that said, as long as the final product could function in Hermetic society and wasn't being munchy about it, I'd be all in favor of it! You certainly could have a backstory of being Feral, and create the effect of that early upbringing with other Virtues and Flaws and specific Ability choices. I'd allow a custom Virtue similar to Educated or Warrior (+50 xp into the skills listed under Feral Upbringing). Then you could add Troupe Upbringing for the bonus to outdoor-skills, some Personality, Story and Hermetic Flaws that all stem from this odd background and current mindset, and you're good to go.

Oh, 1st printing errata... I did not see it when I checked

If he wants to be educated but not in a standard language, he can go the route of Animal Ken. Animal ken is basically "animal language", so you can have a score of 5+ in Animal Ken and be educated. Maybe both the teacher and apprentice were shapeshifters.

The problem is that playing such a character will be extremely difficult. With no real means of communicating with other people, it would be quite a challenge to play well or in an acceptable way IMO. It is also a way to shot yourself in the foot since he will be unable to read any books or be taught anything: he will need to investigate all spells and the like on his own, so his first years (until he learns latin 4, at least) he will be massively gimped in his advancement.

Well, you're right about the communication, but I was only wanting him to not know LIVING languages; he'd probably have at least Latin 4 by the end of apprenticeship, or Latin 3 with a Hermetic Usage focus.

In that case "feral upbringing" is totally ok. It's not much different from an apprentice snatched from a culture speaking a language that the parens does not share.

You do realize that the having 120 experience is to give them an equivalent amount of experience to a normal person, right? That brain power that was going towards learning how to talk (and in the cases of languages with written form, write) is instead being focused on wilderness skills. Level 5 in a skill costs 75 xp, most people get 45 additional xp aside from that, Feral characters get 45 + 75 = 120 xp. Now, that IS a bit strong, and it could be argued that trade makes this Flaw more an advantage than anything else, so the xp should be reduced to, say, 90. But if it got 45 xp like everyone else but without the initial language package? That'd be a Major Flaw for sure, as crippling as many of the Hermetic Major Flaws in some ways.

As it stands, what can those extra xp be used for that's worth more than a spoken language anyway? The list of things they can spend xp on is rather limited in utility, especially for a prospective magus. Why do you cry munchkin?

If you believe that you'd make a poor munchkin. Awareness 5 is way too useful.

Thanks T - 'nuff said. :wink:

But, since A asks, and appears sincere in his confusion and naivete, I'll elaborate:

  1. At its most basic level, "munchkin" is anything that de-emphasizes social skills over action/combat skills - and that is the definition of Feral Upbringing. Not that FU (heh) is itself "munchkin", but once you claim access to education and magical training despite being only able to "choose beginning Abilities that you could have used in the wild" you are, by definition, no longer Feral - so why are you taking it, again? Why would you expect the SG to allow it, since you are in direct violation of the definition?

B) It's at best rare that a player can RP not understanding the other Players around the table "in character". Even if they can, at least unconsciously they will still find a way to be in the right place, to do the right thing, to "follow" what is happening at a level of high communicative competence. Oddly enough. (And a true Munchkin will count on the SG allowing and overlooking this, since the alternative is to marginalize that character - which is fair, but not particularly fun. At least not re the game of AM.)

B.a) Worse, a "native language" is often (read: usually) of zero use to a mage, who relies entirely on Latin or "the local". So, again, see 1).

iii) It's MUCH cheaper to learn a language than other Ability after the fact.

So - almost(?) without exception, either you are 1) not planning on staying "feral", and so are going to take advantage of the Learning speed of language over other abilities, or 2) you are going to pretend that you can RP ignorance of almost all spoken communication in the game, while still playing a mage, THE central and most powerful character class.

And to both of which I remark "Munchkin". :stuck_out_tongue:

That's why. ymmv.

[i](btw - slightly OT, but I believe Characters should start w/ Native Language 4, and a specialty of their choice for "fluent" in that. I've heard the uneducated speak - an' dat ain't no fluidsy.

If a character wants to sound educated, they can make the effort (i.e. spend the points) to do so, otherwise they sound like what they are, one of the unwashed masses.)[/i]

</elitist BS>

Thanks again for all the rules help guys!

I still can't decide if this game is good or bad for building a wide variety of concepts. It seems to suffer slightly from D&D syndrome... There's a mechanical option for everything, but that doesn't mean there's necessarily a GOOD option for all concepts. I find Weak Parens has been particularly annoying to work with, and the Major Hermetic Flaws (with one or two exceptions both ways in terms of quality) are way more bad than the Hermetic Major Virtues are good.

Ah well though. It's fun, at any rate. Thrice-damn the spellcasting system, though! So awesome, yet so against the possibility of you making a Magus character without your SG sitting next to you to adjudicate each step. Which is unfortunate indeed, as I don't even have a group to play with, and I'm not experienced enough to make reasonable decisions. :cry:

Well, while I'm wallowing in self-pity anyway, I have one more question. The rules in the Realms and Bestiary sections mention that a creature of one Realm cannot become affiliated with another. Sensible. But what about the idea this rule inherently applies? The idea of a creature "affiliating" in a not-literal sense with its own realm. Almost any creature could be applied to any of the non-Divine realms by said realms' natures... So... Doesn't that mean a Magic creature with appropriately high scores of the Magic realm could become magicians of some kind? Maybe even Hermetic Magi? (The Gift is a source of affiliation, after all, so most creatures should have that connection)

I'm sure that question is probably answered in the Realms of Power books, but I don't own those, so... I'll ask online. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think that's utterly unfair, if not far worse.

There are a number of concepts - usually very abstract ones - that AM cannot support - agreed. But D&D by and large offers just one concept.

There is a common structure to "all" AM magic - the Techniques + the Forms - but anything and everything that can fit within that structure (and it is a broad one) is welcome. The fact that "luck" does not (easily) fit is unfortunate, but is an exception, not the rule.

And, sorry, but beyond that I doubt you'll find much agreement with, much less sympathy for, your assertion.

If you want pure imagination and limitless power, play Amber diceless (I recommend it) - if you want any magic "system", AM is one of the best, hands down.

I would say comparing Major Hermetic Virtues to Major Hermetic Flaws isn't the point and see if they "balance" isn't the point. Ars really isn't about being balanced, it's about what's reasonable and interesting to telling a story. I wouldn't say that it isn't the goal of Ars Magica to make any Flaw equal to a Virtue, sometimes it happens, sometimes not. Generally speaking some virtues (Book Learner) are much better than other Virtues (Adept Student).

Weak Parens and it's opposite Virtue, Skilled Parens, are actually perfectly balanced, too. Both take or add the same amount in XP or spell levels. I find it ironic that you mention the Weak Parens flaw in the same breath as decrying that the (major) virtues and flaws aren't balanced. Again, the goal isn't that virtues and flaws balance with themselves on a tit for tat basis. I am interested to know which Major Hermetic Flaws you find so bad that they don't match up to the power offered by a Major Hermetic Virtue.

IMO, a new magus, just starting play shouldn't be making spells, but should instead be choosing spells from the books. The reason he would know these spells, as opposed to spells designed by the player, is because he's learning them from his master or lab texts of his apprentice covenant. Player designed spells represent something new that the covenant doesn't necessarily have access to, or perhaps won't share. There are exceptions to this, of course, but I'd say 100 out of the 120 levels of spells should be straight from the core rule book or the Houses of Hermes books.

Ars supports a multiplicity of mage concepts. To list just a few

1- firethrowing mad magus on a destruction spree
2- close combat fighter (personal and ally buffs)
3- weather mage
4- summoner and controller of animals (o0r a single animal type, like wolves)
5- social sneaky mind control mage
6- illusionist
7- elementalist (all 4 elements or just one of them)
8- plant magus (including fosuc in a certain type of plants like oak or trees)
9- magus centering around self transformation
10- healer
11- lab investigator (a certain technique + form combo)
13- private investigator
14- geomancer (a type of elementalist centering on earth and stone works)
15- necromancer
16- spirit master
17- ritualist (expert in casting ritual magic)
18- telekinetic mage
19- muto magus (changes stuff with magic)
20- wards expert
21- armourer or weaponsmith

All these without thinking too hard about it. There are dozens more. All those can be built out of the core book without problems. :slight_smile:


Woah! Sorry, I didn't mean to say something that would be taken offensively. I'm just making tentative observations about a system with which my only experience is reading the core rulebook. If I'm wrong, I very much appreciate the correction, but I wasn't doing it out of malice.