On the perceived power of Blatant and Gentle Gifts

For us, players, the Blatant Gift is a weakness (a Flaw), while the Gentle Gift is a strength (a Virtue).

I am wondering if perhaps magi see the Blatant Gift as a stronger Gift (with the stronger penalties just being the reflection of that); and conversely the Gentle Gift as a weaker Gift. After all, young magi with the Gentle Gift rarely exhibit great supernatural puissance (it costs them 3 Virtue points and their sole Major Hermetic Virtue slot); conversely, magi with the Blatant Gift tend to be mystically stronger (they get 3 Virtue points off it, plus it covers their "recommended" Hermetic Flaw).

So perhaps, among magi the more "Blatant" the Gift, the stronger the prestige or at least the reputation for power? And maybe most magi outside of House Jerbiton would prefer Blatant-Gifted apprentices, given that in Hermetic society the penalties from the Gift are mostly a non-issue, while magical puissance is usually a significant advantage?


I don't think it would be the default opinion but possibly a widespread and common minority opinion. Especially amongst those who have been apprenticed early and been shielded from the effects of the gift (magically and socially) within the order and who believe in Gifted superiority...

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I think that you are definitely on to something. Not necessarily that you are 100% correct, but I do think that you have a point.

You sort of touch on a deeper subject of how magi perceive the Gift and what it is like to be a person inside the Ars magica universe. For us as players we know that the Gift is quite binary, you either have it or you dont, and that having the Gift allows you to do magic. From a game-mechanics perspective the gentle Gift and the blantant Gift dont directly affect ability with magic, only coincidentally via the meta-game device of "game balance".

For your question to work it has to be true of magi generally that their virtues and flaws have to balance out the way they do for PC's. I dont think that is actually the case. Certainly when I create NPC's I dont usually balance out their virtues and Flaws unless I have good reason to want to do so. As far as I can tell from my limited experience analyzing the rules it is not quite clear that Virtues and Flaws would naturally end up balancing when creating characters using the apprentices system either. I.e. it is perfectly possible to create an apprentice with more virtues than flaws and vice versa. A magus might get lucky when searching for an apprentice and find one with a whole bunch of attractive virtues or might have to settle for one without so many virtues (or with many flaws). It is also possible to end up crippling your apprentice with a bunch of flaws during apprenticeship for various reasons like granting deficiencies due to opening the apprentice's Gift without having a score of 5 in all arts, mysterious lab accidents, not so mysterious ordinary accidents etc.

Since the characters in Ars magica dont have access to their own character sheets, they probably dont perceive virtues/flaws that affect their ability to do magic as being separate from their Gift the way we do. In my opinion the characters in the setting probably dont think of the Gift as binary either, they are more likely to think about it as a continuum, where some people have lots of Gift and some people have a little but not that much. A little Gift might be a hedge wizard with a single supernatural ability (who would not have the virtue "the Gift" in game mechanics terms) and a lot of gift might be someone with a lot of hermetic virtues and not that many flaws.

Imagine for example a character with the Gift and Subtle magic and Deficient(perdo). For us that is clearly 3 different virtues/flaws. But for the people within the setting it would be just as reasonable to describe that combination as a Gift that is subtle but weak at destruction.

Or imagine a Gifted magus with enchanting music and a non-Gifted hedge wizard with enchanting music. I would say that the magus' enchanting music is most likely an expression of their Gift. But given an un-gifted hedge wizard with enchanting music that cannot be the case, so where does their ability derive from? As a person looking into the game and analyzing it, the hedge wizard's enchanting music derives from the "enchanting music" virtue on their character sheet, (as would also be true of the magus from this perspective). As a person in the setting it would IMO be more reasonable to conclude that the Hedgie has a really weak Gift that only allows them to learn enchanting music.

On that account it is quite possible that you are right and that the Blatant Gift correlates with more powerful magic for most people in the setting but it is also possible that it does not correlate all that much. It has always been my impression that the Gentleness/Blatantness of your Gift is usually determined before you even become a hermetic apprentice, as I distinctly recall reading that Jerbiton magi often hunt for gentle Gifted potential apprentices (Nobles parma). It is in theory entirely possible for a magus with a major hermetic virtue to find a gentle Gifted apprentice and pass on their other major hermetic virtue to their apprentice who then has 2 major hermetic virtues. We dont usually allow that in games because of game balance, but if we try to imagine the Ars magica setting outside being a game there is no reason why it would conform to rules of game balance.

Like in the real world where some people are just naturally better (smarter, faster, quicker at learning etc.) than other people it seems to me most likely that some magi in the Ars magica setting are also just naturally more or less talented at magic than others. It is simply that the core rulebook is not designed to make us play like that because Atlas wanted to create a sense of fairness when it comes to designing your magus. They could in fact just as well have made a system where your characters Characteristics, Virtues and Flaws (and more even) were determined randomly and that would create a setting where most PC's were more or less naturally capable.


One advantage that the blatantly Gifted would have is that they will be discovered more easily- unGifted characters might have Might have a magical air but a blatantly magical air is unheard of- someone who is blatantly Gifted you can pretty much look at and know.
Consider as well that Jerbiton seek gently Gifted apprentices and also dedicate themselves to a lot of non-magical pursuits, and what magic they do know is designed for high penetration and overcoming divine auras, so they are probably known as weaker mages.

Blatant Magical Air is a flaw in RoPM, but I would expect it to be a much rarer find than Blatant Gift. The logic still holds true.

You're right- I was thinking that was an inferiority... of course you have to have magical air to have blatantly magical air, so that 6 points in flaws...which most SG would disallow without some authentic magical effect going on...

I might end up giving Blatant Magical Air as a warping flaw, which is why I like it, but I wouldn't want someone to use it on a companion - it's also takeable as a magus, though. Nice, it counts as Blatant Gift.

Toxic sorcery.

I am the baddest badass wizard. Look how people hate me.

(Not telling the visiting magi that I'm spoiling the peasants' crops and waking their dead - make them believe it's my potent gift and make them cower in dread awe)

This is sick - but it's brilliant!

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In my campaigns in would be more likely to be the opposite, based on my understanding of how the Gift manifests:

Someone with a Blatant Gift is more likely to be seen as just lucky, undeserving, not actually as good as they might appear to be, and so forth.

How they are perceived by people without parma and people with parma are two different subjects.

I think that there's a common school of thought among magi that using magic has nothing at all to do with the gift. Certainly the two phenomena are frequently found together, but they're not inherently related. There are powerful magi with no apparent gift at all (gentle gift) and there are also people who clearly have the gift, yet can't do a lick of magic (magical air flaw).

Would a spell like Numbness of the Gift (HMRE p. 6) detect the difference between the virtues we know as the Gift(s) (Gentle, Blatant and normal) and the flaw "magical air"?

If that is the case then magi are probably quite well aware of the difference between the Gift and magical air. However it is not quite clear to me whether or not numbness of the Gift can or cannot detect that difference.

That spell will give back a boolean response, It will say yes, character possessing the gentle gift is gifted and no, a mundane with the magical air flaw isn't. Those results will support the idea that the "magical stinkyness" of the gift and the ability to do magic are often found together but not the same thing.

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I like the OP's point, and I think it has merits.

But this is also what makes me wary about it.
If the OoH thinks that Blatant Gift = Stronger gift, this gives an unseen "good reputation" in the OoH to blatant gifted magi. And the reverse goes for Gently Gifted ones. You took it as a Major Virtue, and now, other magi look at you and say that your gift is thin?

Not to good think IMO, sadly.

I think any reputation based on the Gentle/Blatant Gift will be a mixed bag- obviously mundane and hedgies still see you in a negative light, and not ever magus will see a blatant Gift as a good thing, but a signifigant minority certainly might. Meanwhile the whole of house Jerbiton prefers the Gentle Gift, and they are undoubtedly not alone. Verdituous are more likely to see the blatant Gift as a blessing- followed by Bonisagus who are not seekers (basically those who want to stay in the Lab anyways)

Sometimes the meta has to kick in. These are +3 and - 3 virtues and flaws. Blatant gift is the same point cost as blind, crippled, etc. There should be nothing good from it.

If a house rule was put in to make them +1 and -1 virtues and flaws, perhaps.

I like the clever thinking behind the original post, but of course it is mechanically problematic.

There is an easy way out, though:

We have minor virtues to give a good rep or bad rep as needed. If the setting is one in which good things come to the player among hermetic magi, she can take Hermetic Prestige (minor Virtue).

I'd still make the player make sure that the character is not among other magi when the parma comes down at sunset, because once you've realized that the magus is very likely a satan-loving pedophile, a kernel of doubt might remain even after the Parma is up again.

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I dont agree with you on that. There is imo no reason why are -3 flaw cannot have upsides.

There are examples of +3 virtues that have downsides, for an extreme example look at Diedne magic which will give the flaw "dark secret" at no extra benefit, and more importantly if your virtue is discovered you will be killed. IMO the benefit provided by Diedne magic is not nearly good enough to outweigh the cost of the dark secret. It is like that because of how the Ars magica universe is put together.

Consider also that Curse of Venus, the blatant Gift, Restriction(must not have a beard) and Blind are all major flaws. That however does not make them equally bad from a meta perspective. At least I would not consider those three to be equally disadvantageous.

That being said I am not advocating for a change to the rules such that the gentle Gift comes with a bad reputation and the blantant Gift comes with a positive reputation. I do think that there are hermetic magi who consider both forms of Gift to be sign of superior magical talent. But those magi are not widespread enough to warrant that their opinions be described as a reputation. Similar to how you can probably find e.g. a magus Bonisagus who considers magi Bonisagus to be superior to all other magi, even though you wouldn't have all non-Bonisagus magi write down "poor reputation(not bonisagus), applies against 1 magus" on their character sheets.

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I know this is a tangent from the topic at this point, but Diedne magic is something I could only really see working with the entire party having it. Like running the Rhine gorge saga, but with as cornerstone that Murion is the highest ranked Diedne-Infiltrator and that's how the PCs have been chosen.

While the Dark Secret is a plot hook, with the character in question having to work hard to keep it hidden, it simply cannot be revealed because then it's game over for that PC. Which is why I see it as an all or nothing.

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Tangent or not, I will bite.

I think that it depends on how you choose to interpret modern hermetic views on house Diedne and the Schism war. If you decide that all contemporary magi believe the official story that house Diedne were evil and practiced human sacrifice and that they are still present as infiltrators in the modern order. Then having Diedne magic is a death sentence when it is discovered.

But you could equally well have most modern magi think that it was more of a witch-hunt by house tremere, and that most of the history about house Diedne is propagande used to justify the destruction of house Diedne by the winners. In this view house Diedne is more likely to be seen as victims. If most magi think like that, then it is more likely that their reaction to finding out that someone has diedne magic is either: "you better keep that to yourself" if they are friendly or "hmm I can use this knowledge" if they are not.

In other words I think that if you choose to interpret house Diedne and the Schism war in a way that allows for it then you have a player with Diedne magic and they would only have to hide their secret from the NPCs. Which is a big improvement in terms of playability.

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