Parma Magica without Books

I'm in a campaign (my first with 9players) where there are no books on Parma Magica, and am SG for another (with that SG as one of my 3 players) and I'm using the same rule so as not to adjust too many variables in my mind at once. All magi therefore only have PM 1, and we tend to avoid combat

So, again this is a call for other people's experiences:

have you ever run a game with this restriction, and how did it affect you? were you mostly unaffected/did it force you to practice like made with people you really really trust. what Roleplaying wrinkles did you run into when trying to improve your PM?


My initial thought is that

  1. This means that everyone will spend their XP on Parma as apprentices, where the source is kinda crappy by definition (2 exposure points for 3 seasons? Really?) - get it up to 30 or 50 (or whichever you want), and then
  2. Take a year or two between Gauntlet and the start of the Saga to read up on Roots and Branches.
  3. It also means that antimagic (PeVi) wards are going to be more popular.
  4. I suppose the way to beat that is to HR that you can only start with a Parma of 1, out of Gauntlet.

Only being able to take Parma 1 at gauntlet isn't a houserule, it's pretty much standard practice - page 32 of the main rule book says "Very few magi have a score over 1 in Parma Magica at gauntlet, as this ability is the last thing taught", and the red box Hermetic Magi Recommended Minimum Abilities on the page says "Parma Magica 1 (should be no higher if the magus is just out of apprenticeship)".

The main exceptions I can see would be people with Puissant Parma Magica (which might be a suddenly popular virtue) or extremely dodgy parens.

Apprentices expands that - you can put points into it without being shown the final hand gestures. So, it's only technically the last thing practiced; 99% of the skill is practiced throughout the entire apprenticeship. Also, what you describes there is "very few magi" - and were this to become a rule, I'd guess that the realm of "very few" would suddenly contain all the PC's.

So basically I'm saying that your House Rule would have to be to change that "most magi" into "all magi".

ahh but the fluff reason for the rule (which I am enthusiastically behind) is that books on Parma are too risky, in that hedgies could too easily crack the code. Having the the key gesture be not written down, would obviate the need for the HR.

All the player Magi in both the Sagas didn't take any precautions before it started, and we don't see many problems ahead, but as I'm SG for one of them, I wanted to see if there were any potholes ahead.


This is my/our default assumption. Which means I cannot actually actually answer many of your questions :slight_smile:
Parma is generally improved via practice and/or story XPs.
We have often offered to teach eachother, but rarely have anyone been taken up on the offer - perhaps the price has been set too high.

How high do you (or anyone else) normally expect Parma Magica to be at various stages of a magus' life?

Our sagas never allow Parma books anymore. Everybody fought over book access right at the start of the saga anyways, and Parma is supposed to be a big secret, not something you leave written down. There are other options:

A.) Adventure XP can usually be justified spent on Parma - probably a priority anyways.
B.) If your covenant has sponsors or senior magi, ask them for some teaching in Parma Magica. Parma is not a Hermetic Art, so it may be possible to teach multiple students at once. This makes those junior magi more valuable/useful so it's worth doing.
C.) Exposure XP in seasons you're doing something else. Parma is something you use every day and thus you can always justify exposure XP.
D.) Practice, though really only worth it if you have Independent Learner.
E.) Don't play magi straight out of gauntlet - they generally suck anyways. We usually start 10-20 years past it, and that lets you buy up your Parma to reasonable levels.

I'd expect most magi to push to get their Parma to 3 (a few years after gauntlet) ; this generally makes them immune to the high-magnitude spells most enemies might fling at them. The low-end high penetration stuff is nearly impossible to avoid.

After that, slow but steady increases as it becomes harder and harder to raise it. Hermetic Magi have so many places to improve and so many activities to perform that focusing on their Parma is an unattractive option. Magi that adventure a lot will put lots into Parma, the homebodies, not so much.

Phillipus Niger has a Parma of 7 and he's 125 years old. Assuming he gauntleted at 25, that's 1.4xp per year sunk into Parma. Darius in the main rulebook is 87 and has Parma 5; again, a bit over 1xp per year of being a magi. And those are combat-focused magi! Obviously they learned more xp/year in Parma early on then found a comfortable level. Magi who manage 2xp/year (one season of exposure) will outstrip most magi in terms of Parma over the long course.

Increasing your arts is generally more valuable - that's always on Magic Resistance plus Form Bonuses, as well as making your offensive magic powerful.

I had never thought of that, and was just the obvious-in-hindsight answer I was looking for, thank you!


In my current 5th ed saga, our Parma book was written by a PC. That PC was converted from a 4th ed saga that the same SG had run, and in that one every session our Flambeau had antagonised something magical, and every session put an xp into Parma, so over a couple of years of play he got his Parma up to ludicrous. Converted to 5th ed, he is broadly compatible power-wise but has much higher Parma and concentration and slightly less lores than the characters generated for 5th ed

One place low Parma sucks is Certamen. Not that Magi straight out of should be great at Certamen. But if you have character who want's to become good at certamen a 1 Parma is a rough hole to did yourself out of.

The characters who are more adventurous will have high parma; they can spend 5 xp whenever they adventure. Practice can happen without anyone else casting spells at them, as spells cast at touch range must penetrate. Cast forcelessly, and they will not penetrate.
Lower Parma scores will reduce the number of people you can cover with Parma, but that might not make a difference. How many people are willing to stand still and have a magus do some ritual around them with the penalties of the Gift making it seem really suspicious.
I don't agree that Parma 1 in Certamen is a big hole. Since only the score is used, Art scores seem to have a bigger impact on Certamen than anything. High stamina characters can also close that gap. Almost every magus has a Stamina of 1, but I have seen a couple with 2 or even 3.

Parma is too valuable. If their are no books-there will be a couple magi in the order with +2 com, great teacher and teaching of at least 5 (15xp minimum) willing to give lessons for three or four pawns/season. If you can teach two students over one season once a year that's 8 pawns of vis - better than you could pull out of an aura over the same period. The upshot might actually be higher Parma scores as teaching isn't limited to 1/2 score. It's possible that this might turn Parma into the province of a couple of "schools" of hermetic martial arts. If you go down this path, some additional mystery initiations might be called for.

Also Diedne magic becomes more valuable as it makes counterspelling easier.

Shieldbreakers also become almost trivial - PeVi (Target Specific Magic) - T: Individual, R: Voice (+2), D:Inst; a lvl 5 mversion of this can drop a lvl 15 Parma by shouting at it.

A High Aegis may be necessary to avoid Wizard's War, as you can't count on your Parma stacking (as much). Or the defenders will have to use the aforementioned PeVi Antimagic wards more.

As has been mentioned before the big disadvantage only hits characters entering play straight out of gauntlet. If you use standard character creation those who enter play later (including NPCs) will just be able to jack their Parma up to their age maximum. I might recommend either adding several years to the chart on the ArM pg 31 for the purposes of Parma. For instance you could just say that for Parma the chart is read as years post Gauntlet.

So no magi under 50 is going to have a Parma Score that Breaks 5 without an Affinity. Again this really raises the value of both the affinity and puisant ability virtues.

Just a quick remark. I've never played in a saga without Parma books. Sure, they were generally well-guarded books. But they were usually less vulnerable than young Hermetic magi out on a vis gathering mission (among other things, because to go after the books, a would-be thief needs to know he's looking for a book on Parma Magica rather than one on e.g. Order of Hermes Lore; also, we assume that just like an apprentice can gain Parma xp but can't raise a Parma without the "secret code", so a Parma book will give you xp that are useless without that same "code").

Well, yes and no. The point is that a magus has a single Parma score, but 15 Art scores. Sure, Parma is an ability, and thus advances more slowly, but in more than half the Certamens I've seen, a duelist had a Parma score at least as high as the Art he did not choose for the duel.

An Order that bans any book on what is defined as their most precious secret makes a lot of sense. But it does present problems, so it's not for every Troupe/Saga, admittedly.

(I don't believe that PC's have access to more than PM 1 at Gauntlet. "Very few" refers to the exceptional NPC plot device, not "any PC that wants it". I don't believe that it's possible to fully attain a score of "1" without that "secret code", and so therefore not possible to get beyond 1 in advance. ims.)

What it means is that Teachers become all-important. Expensive (price in vis/season), but they'd be the best resource. If you know PM and are willing to whore yourself for a season for a mage-load of vis, it's can be very profitable.

As a corollary, a friendly Parens ~might~ teach more immediately after Gauntlet. This is truly a ysmv issue.

In an Order such as this I could see certain Houses making it a point of providing instruction for freshly gauntleted Wizards. Tremere, Flambeau, Guernicus, and Boni Trinome all seem like the type to do that sorta thing.

Tremere particularly might employ a few Magi as highly specialized Parma instructors with very high teaching totals and Parma Score's. Sorta living repositories for the knowledge of Parma. Their primary Job teach young magi to reach moderate levels of Parma very quickly. Secondary job find and/or cultivate new instructors among their students with a talent for Parma (parma afinity) and good teaching potential (one or more of the well know teaching virtues). To those special students they teach everything they can as quick as they can.

In theory the next generation of Parma Instructors will reach high skill levels equal to their mentors sooner in their own careers. Having more productive years to devote to improving teaching and parma the skill levels of each generation should surpass their antecedents. Both for the specialist instructors and for the House in General.

The true net result would vary depending on many obviously saga dependent factors. Time magi would be able/expected to devote to their specialty, available (or create-able) talent pool, logistical resources of the House. Even on the low end the effects might be significant. It even would make sense in saga's where Parma books exist, maybe even more sense.

Wait the Tremere have a Parma Summa equal to what?!? Aren't they worried it'll be stolen!!!
Nah it's a Great work built into the wall of a cave buried under their Domus Magna.

You claim exposure xp when u dont have other advancement, is not a plus. I think books of parma will be secured in Durenmar.
Is extrange to have more than 1 rank in parma at finish of the apprentices, but a good teacher can give 18 xp in just 1 season: so is perfectly possible. By the way, if you think parma is so importan can put affinity/puissant parma for a real master resisting magus: both and a skilled master can give u parma 4 (near 5) in just one season of teaching.
I prefer start the magus as noobies or even as apprentices.