On how the psychology of magi change throughout their lifespans

I have for some time now been considering how aging might affect the psychology of magi and have reached the conclusion that my observations are interesting enough to be worth sharing here on the forums.

My key thesis is that as magi age they will experience an ever growing sense of estrangement, or alienation from normal people. In the following I will try to justify why I think this happens and how I think it will most likely play out.

Magi generally have a lot of advantages over mundane people. These advantages are too plentiful and diverse to list exhaustively. But taken together they will slowly, as the mage develops their power, cause most of the day-to-day problems faced by normal people to go away.

Key to my idea, is that people tend to view themselves as the reference point for what is normal or expected capabilities. Especially so, when we talk about capabilities that the person is unlikely to notice that they have. Things like how far a normal person can walk before needing to rest, or how painful something is.

The first example I will consider as evidence is the form bonuses and the familiar cords.

Generally form bonuses and familiar cords provide a benefit in the form of increased resistance to some normal phenomenon. Not all form bonuses will have an equal impact on how the mage views normal people.

The forms of Aquam and Herbam and the bronze cord provide resistance to thirst and starvation. Whether this actually causes a lesser need for food and drink is debatable. But certainly a magus with noticeable form bonuses in these two forms can go for noticeably longer without food and drink compared to a normal human. Even just managing to squeeze out a form bonus of +2 (score 6+) will effectively allow the mage to match the performance of person with a stamina of +2 above what the mage can muster. If we count a modest Bronze cord score of +2, the difference increases to a net +4 difference in effective stamina.

Mages with a high Corpus and Bronze cord score will fall sick much rarer than other people and recover faster.

The scores in Animal, Corpus, Herbam and Terram and the Bronze cord will render the mage more resistant to practically all forms of injury. This means that they are likely to perceive different types of injuries as being less severe. Bee stings dont hurt as much, a fall is less likely to result in a broken bone or sprained joint. Here again the bronze cord adds to both the roll to resist and to the roll to recover. This surely applies not just to injuries that are big enough to cause injury levels but also to smaller more insignificant wounds, such as a small cut, like a similar in scale to papercut or a bee sting.

Auram, Ignem and to a lesser extent Aquam provide significant protection against the elements. Making it less unpleasant to get caught in a rainshower, less exhausting to travel in extreme temperatures etc.

Mentem and the Silver cord makes the magus more resistant to trickery and mental influence. Thus the magus is much better able to see through various attempt to charm them for ulterior purposes or to attempt to scam them.

Imaginem is more subtle than most of the above but noteworty too. The imaginem form bonus applies to resist having ones senses overwhelmed. Thus magi with notable imaginem form bonuses can stare into the sky on a bright day and still see, they can powerful pepper and still taste the rest of the food much better, likely affecting their preferred flavour profiles.

The Gold cord and the Vim form are exceptions in that normal people would never suffer any adverse effects from their comparative lack of these bonuses, since they apply exclusively to spellcasting.

In my opinion, magi are likely to slowly forget that most people arent equally as tough, and in turn to come to perceive mundane people as being frail in both body and mind. Suffering worse from adversity and taking longer to recover, being tricked into buy things they dont need at inflated prices while the magus easily perceives the trickery.

Of course I have avoiding around the elephant in the room thus far: The longevity ritual. A mage in their early 5s are very likely to be in the same shape they were at 35. While their contemporary mundane friends and siblings have reached the point where life has peaked and is starting to slow down, a mage in their 50s would still be considered to be young and only nearing the end of the early phase of their lives.

Spells are likely also a significant contributing factor to this. But they are much more diverse in their potential applications. Generally though, magi tend to quite quickly acquire enough “combat potential” to easily overwhelm or fend off even a group of mundane attackers. Thus they can generally feel much more secure than mundane people, in most situations, knowing that they are by far the most dangerous person in the room (as long as they are the only mage).
But spells can do much more than attack and defend. They can allow the mage to light a fire wherever they go, to always have light, shelter from the elements, immunity from weather, the ability to travel far quickly, the list is almost endless.

The big question then is, when and how does this set in? Everybody knows that a crazy archmage who is 225 years old and has spent the last 125 of those trying to break the limits of hermetic magic has lost touch with humanity at large. But what about younger magi?

As mentioned above a mage at 50 is still likely to be perceived as a relative youngster by their hermetic peers. In the meantime a 50-year old person in the mundane world has usually passed their peak. This means that at this time already a mage has little in common with a mundane person, in terms of where they are in their lives.
I chose this age as my example as I think that this is likely where most magi start to notice the sense of alienation for the first time. In their 40’s many people are still strong and on an upward trajectory in life, but few people pass into their 50s without having to slow down, or starting to pass on the torch to their children.
At 50 years of age many magi will also have started thinking about taking an apprentice and thus started increasing all of theirs arts to 5+, causing an increase in overall toughness, most magi will at this time have found a familiar and will have started to come into their own in their chosen specialization while also having found the time to do some things outside it.

I think that the best parallel to understand how magi probably start to view mundane people from about this time onward is how Tolkiens elves view humans. As temporary and frail beings. They pass away quickly and live fast and hard lives.

A note on terminology: I have chosen to use the term “mage” as opposed to “magus” or “maga”. The reason for this choice is that “mage” is comparatively ungendered.


Well, magi in general are estranged from regular folks from the get go because of the effects of the Gift. Following one's apprenticeship, magi probably 'bloom' socially, because now they have a Parma and can interact with ANY other member of the Order on a relatively normal footing. Certainly this isn't 'normal' society, but it is social interaction that they didn't get much of growing up.

So a magus probably starts fairly misanthropic, and comes to slowly realize that other people (magi specifically) maybe aren't so bad after all. Whether or not this opens them up to accepting normal folks is hard to say, depending largely on the individual circumstances.

I don't think Form bonuses amount to too much in this regard, they're generally minor advantages. Many of the soak bonuses would be eclipsed by the Tough virtue for quite some time, for example.

Longevity and spellcasting ability definitely would separate a magus from the mundane. A magus can have a productive lifespan 4-5 times that of a normal person, and will have much higher skills, a way higher danger threshold (and confidence), and so on.

So mundane folk become dumber, weaker and more cowardly the older the magus gets. It's easy to see how arrogance can bloom in a magus. But that said, even if mortals die a lot younger than magi, magi don't live so long that the 60-odd years of mortal lifespan is something small. That's a long time by any measure to get attached to people, especially if those people grew up getting used to the magi's Gift

Also raising an apprentice is a good way to ground oneself in the realities of 'being young and fresh'. After all, the magus will be forced to remember when they were young and the struggles they had when they were weak. That might make them a bit more sympathetic to mundane folk.

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One more point is that beyond how estranged they may feel there is estrangement on the other end as well. Not only does the Gift make other people uncomfortable, if your familiar does not speak verbally (perhaps mental communication) then the magus is likely to be perceived as a crazy person who talks with their cat (or whatever animal) as if it were a person. They walk without fear into spooky forests to collect plants (vis) or other curios, they certainly travel more than regular people do, and they live like a noble but with no noble lineage.


The effects of getting bullied or ostracized as a child, on someone who suddenly gets power, should not be underestimated. Most Magi (not just Tytalus apprentices) were bullied before they became apprentices, and then treated like servants. Not to mention that the covenfolk are uncomfortable around them, and that can't go unnoticed. Then, when they complete their gauntlet, they are released into the world, with a massive advantage over all who have bullied them. That transition is going to have more of an impact than getting older.
It wouldn't be surprising if most magi treat mundane humans poorly, fresh out of gauntlet.


Oooor remember what it's like to be bullied and don't want that for other people.
Although these are probably a minority :smiley:


It does suprise me that there isn' more hermetic research into solving those problems- like trying to initiate commoners to have the unaffected by the Gift virtue, or initiating/learning Gentle Gift. Of course doing so would undermine one of the mechanics of the game that has been around since the very early editions...
it would at least be worthwhile for Mercere to have an initiatory tradition to cover that though...