Ninkas Isle, Lessons Learned.

A number of people have noted that some virtues that should provide benefits to character advancement (Book Learner, Secondary Insight…) don’t under the ordinary rules for character advancement. The advice the rulebook says that if you want to take advantage of these virtues, you should use the extremely complex character generation rules and determine what they did each season. In order to do that, practically you need to have a covenant for them to belong to, to determine what books they had to study from, and what other resources they have available to them.

I was interested in having a campaign where the players started in a winter covenant, and it seemed interesting to start with four magi, some vis sources and have the covenant grow and decay and see what happens. The idea was that I would stop once all but one magi either aged to death, died on an adventure or went into final twilight and see what the result was. I would make the starting date of the covenant 1220-X where X is the number of years that the covenant had been progressed. I am stopping at 169 years, because 1) If I push the starting date of the covenant too much further back than this, it would predate the Schism war and that conflicts with the generally peaceful environment I assumed they had in their first years and 2) Two of the three surviving magi have the Driven Flaw, and under my assumptions, there is no reason that they would not be making such progress towards their goal that it would start to affect the setting. More about that in another thread.

Anyway, the purpose of this thread to go over what I learned from this exercise, so that if anyone else is crazy enough to do something similar they can avoid the pitfalls which I fell into and what sort of discoveries I made of how the system worked.

First, my starting assumptions. I started with four magi:

Cornelius, a Jerbiton who specialized in Mentem, had the Gentle Gift and Good Teacher and a high Com. He was driven to create a magical school, to improve how the Order of Hermes brings people to learn magic.

Hamspat, a Verditius, a silversmith specializing in jewelry, with Secondary Insight, Affinity with Imaginum and Affinity with Magic Theory. He started with Com:-2 but Cornelius invented a spell to slowly raise it to 4 after 100 years or so, looking for that L10, Q10 Magic Theory Summae he eventually wrote.

Ninkas, a Bonisangus with Mythic Blood, a specialty in Aquam Magic and a Minor Magical Focus in Ale. She wanted to turn Deft Form/Deft Aquam into a teachable Hermetic Virtue, she got halfway there before heading into Final Twilight.

Lucian, a Tytalus who was a Rego specialist, had flawless magic and also had the Good Teacher Virtue /high Com package and also wanted to find a better way to teach apprentices.

I started with 300 build points, and put two thirds into vis sources, planning to buy summae with vis using the prices in Covenants. The covenant took the Virtue: Inhuman covenfolk, which I designed as low level Magical Humans who were unaffected by Gift and were modeled after marshwiggles. The covenant was in a magical regio, in an island in the Lock Lochen Tribunal. I assumed that every 1-6 seasons, one of the magi would have to go on an adventure to support the covenant, I exempted Hamspat who was busy and made Lucian more likely to be called.

I assumed that magical activity could cause the aura to go up, and used the table from Realms of Power, Magic to do so. Once you make the move from Spring to Summer, Ninkas Isle (renamed after Ninkas went into final twilight) had +2 from being a Summer covenant and +1 for the casting of Aegis of the Hearth, so it didn’t take many additional ritual spells or studying from vis to need to roll to check for the Aura to go up.

I assumed that magi owed a season of service every two years, this could be writing a book of sufficient quality (Q8 or higher) scribing spells, crafting a magic device or so forth. By the end, Cornelius and Lucian had used spells to increase their Com from 3 to 5, so their default quality for books was 14, and they both wrote a L7, Q28 primer on their favored art.

I made assumptions on what rewards and dangers would follow from adventures. I randomly generated three 1d6+4 results, and took the medium for how much experience an adventure provided. I assumed that the number of events that might provide warping points had a poisson distribution with a mean of .2, and that each event had 7 botch dice. I used a normal probability table, if it was more than 1 standard deviation the magi received a wound, and the magnitude of the wound increased in severity for every standard deviation that it was over. Light wounds probably healed in the season they were received, but medium and heavy wounds had a chance to affect study totals for future seasons.

Lucian and Cornelius spent the first few seasons teaching a few marshwiggles Profession: Scribe, Artes Liberales, Latin and Magic Theory. Once they had them trained and had written some Q12 tractatus, I assumed the marshwiggles would make copies of works authored by Cornelius and Lucian and these could be traded for other tractus of quality 9+1d3. I assumed that they traded for two tractus per year, that they had little control over the topic, and it was equally likely to be one of the Hermetic Arts or one of the following abilities, Code of Hermes, Concentration, Finesse, Magic Theory, Order of Hermes Lore, Parma Magica and Penetration. I assumed that one of the following subjects would have a summae become available each year, the level would be 15+1d6 and the quality would be (34-level)/2+1d6 if it was an art, and if it was an ability, I calculated how many XP would be needed to write a ability summae of that level, and generated an equivalent level ability text.

Things I learned:

  1. The formula that I generated for levels and qualities of Art summae is consistent with what is in Covenants, but the levels and quality of the ability summae was much higher. I am not sure why this is.
  2. Aging rolls don’t follow the distribution you might think they would. You might assume that everyone will age at the same rate, but somehow the bad rolls tend to accumulate with one person. Somehow, Hamspat had dercreptitude 3, even though his rolling result was stess dice -7. Lucian, who was the exact same age and a less powerful longevity ritual only had 2 points of decreptitude and a score of 0.
  3. Assuming that you can get two tractatus a year on some hermetic subject is just as powerful as people suspected.
  4. Book Learner is just as powerful as I thought. Also, the lower the quality of the books involved, the more useful Book learner is as a virtue. If you have a L17, Q14 Art Summae, it would take you 9 seasons to raise your score from 0 to 17 with Book Learner, 11 without. If you have a L20, Q 9 summae, it will take you 18 seasons to raise your score from 0 to 20 with Book Learner, 24 without.
  5. Cornelius had five apprentices, and they got more and more ridiculously powerful when they graduated as he advanced. The normal assumption that an apprentice will start with a Magic Theory of 3 seems low. Cornelius had every motivation to teach Magic Theory to the exclusion of other topics.
  6. After a hundred years or so, there stops being useful things to buy with vis. Hamspat was making plenty of useful magic items, but is just started accumulating. I made the assumption that you could buy a vis source that produced one pawn a year for 100 pawns of vis, and that allowed the covenant to diversify what sources they had, but in the long run, it just made things worse.
  7. Secondary Insight is underrated in this sort of situation. Book Learner is better, but Cornelius, Hamspat and Lucian all had Book Learner and only Hamspat had Secondary Insight. Cornelius focused on the Techniques and Mentem and Lucian on the Forms and Rego, and Hamspat was better than Cornelius in all the Techniques and better in all the Forms than Lucian.
  8. Adventure XP. Using the assumptions that I made with regards to XP, if you spend every session adventuring, you end up with an average XP per year of 30.
  9. You should get a familiar earlier rather than later. By the time Lucian went to look for a familiar, his best lab total (ReHe) was 107. Assuming that he chose a Size +2 creature, such as a lion, that would be a Might 72 creature, and if we grow the Lion to Size +5, we have a Might 52 creature. Not that such a creature would fit in his lab for him to enchant as a familiar. That sort of stretches the system.
  10. There are not a lot of uses for Aquam vis. Hamspat made some nasty “Surround someone with a ball of acid, so even if the magic resistance keeps the person from being burned by the acid, they have no air to breathe” enchanted effects, and Ninkas made barrels that turned water into ale, but if you are planning on one person using a lot of Aquam vis and they go into Twilight, it is hard to convince yourself that people going to be willing to be paid in Aquam vis.
  11. Low might Inhuman covenfolk are awesome. First, while they don’t get exposure XP, they still get something from training or teaching. Second, they don’t age, so your investment in teaching them provides a return indefinitely. Third, whereas with humans you have to worry about warping for being under a mystical effect, magical creatures avoid acclimatization by being under a magic effect, Build a magic ring that makes the marshwiggle appear to be human, with enough penetration to affect them and they are good to go.
  12. Don’t name the books. I named all the books, and have come to realize that was a bad plan. While naming the books makes it easier to verify if you have done your bookkeeping correctly, and it makes it more flavorful, still if (for instance) there are going to be five Q14 Creo tractatus, nine Q12 Creo tractatus, four Q11 Creo tractatus, eight Q10 Creo tractatus and one Q8 Creo tractatus, the titles start to become a bit silly. If Creo was a real discipline, those who were experts in it would have their own special terms and language for discussing it, and the titles would reference those terms. Since there is no such discipline, there are no such terms, we have to use real world terms and I find I run out.

Re: point 10. If you've got an offensive spell text written down in the library, someone can find a use for the vis associated with it. If there's a nasty acid spell in the library, someone might want to learn it, and use vis to boost it.

If you've got something to create permanently, there's a use for it. Hector of Tremere (see the Anulus Connectens threads) is creating wine magically for sale (10 mythic pounds/ton, 4 vis fills 100 barrels). I could also create 1000 flasks of acid or 1000 flasks of naphtha, but that might cause people to wonder why I'm stockpiling for war. Yes, corpus will be always at a premium, because like having damaged bodies fixed immediately, and vim is always in demand for opening greater items and talismans, but most forms have something people are willing to pay for to have NOW.

Alas, for Imaginem, there's only so much offensive value in making people see hallucinations (relies on them reacting in a way that puts themselves in danger) or in preventing them making a sound (-10 penalty to spellcasting on an enemy mage is useful, but won't stop a lucky die roll getting a spell off to hurt you). You can't really use Im to create something permanent unless you're using Glamour or Dream magic. Mentem - there's room to boost offensive spells or cast rituals to warp the minds of a whole town, but in permanent creation you're really looking at boosting mental stats rather than creating items for sale.

Even if you've got vis you don't really use (like we had when we had a massive amount of Herbam vis, but only one Herbam mage), you can always feed it to magical creatures to give them xp or boost their might, as RoP:M seems to indicate you can use any form.