Passing on Non-Ability Based Virtues

I’m reopening a question. I am curious to hear people’s thoughts on this, how does someone pass-on or teach a Virtue that is not tied to an ability. We now know how this is done for House Mysteries, but how about for other traditions?

The example I am most concerned with, because it will certainly come up in my game, is when does a Bonisagus’s apprentice get Puissant Magic Theory? (The only reason it’s important is for applying it to the master’s lab work when assisting—I understand the short answer is not to worry about it, but I enjoy having solid rules.) Now, this is a bad example, because Puissant Magic Theory is tied to a skill, although it isn’t a Virtue that grants a skill in the same way, say, Entrancement does.

Maybe a better example would be the Tremer’s Focus in Certamen.

Any thoughts?

Perhaps the process of picking an acceptable apprentice involves finding someone who already has the appropriate virture.

The books detail that apprentices are suppose to be hard to find. Perhaps the challenge is not in finding someone with the gift. By the number of magi in the Order of Hermes, clearly there are 'plenty' of people born with the gift. Perhaps the challenge is finding a person with the gift that also possess the Puissant Ability Magic Theroy, Certamin, ect.

This would mean a Bonsiagus might find many gifted children, but find it difficult to find one with Puissant Ability Magic Theory, the virture they admire and want in a student.

An alternative idea could involve time. Like opening the arts, perhaps the virtue is opened. Need to think about this one more. Personally, this is a very nuanced aspect. In our game we either find the right student or we don't. While we did establish that starting apprentices didnt' have all their virtues and sort of grew into them as they developed, we never took the time to make rules that detail when their unique virtues actually developed. While I see it as novel, it's to much book work for my taste. However I'll keep thinking about it and chime in again.

There are several perfectly legitimate approaches to Role Playing- some see it as a "model" of (a) reality and an individual test of the Characters against chance and fate, others as a story-telling process, an act of authorship on the part of the GM and/or the Players, where a more active (if equally invisible) touch is desirable.

And, in my own opinion, a balance of these must be reached, and it is up to each GM/Player group to find their own ideal of that balance.

To try to rationalize "how" is to pursue the former course exclusively, while to allow for unmoderated personal customization is to both remove the element of surpise and discovery and (in some groups) risk abuse of the act of creation.

In the books and elsewhere it is suggested that a newfound apprentice not be allocated their full allotment of Virtues and Flaws, but allow them to grow either organically from their ongoing story as it unfolds, or to the tastes of the Player/Parens. It would seem ("realistically") that some apprentices could be nurtured beyond their immediate talents, and Virtues could be cultivated, to one extent or another.

On the other hand, handing a player a "blank slate" and allowing them to fill it in as they please is, as far as story-telling and player-GM interaction, fairly dull- there is no unexpected challenges for either Parens nor Player, and the apprentice runs the risk of being taken completely for granted, an utterly known and predictable (and therefore fairly uninteresting) quantity.

So, something in between perhaps, a nod to the desires of the player, and to the needs of the story; both some training and some "fudging", to achieve the desired end result, be that anything from legendary Bonisagus icon to a future "failed apprentice"- both stories could be equally entertaining, and entertainment is, after all, the goal.

Well, yes. But this will be an instance of the player wanting to know when, exactly, he can expect his mechanical benefit after having role-played getting an apprentice.

In each of the sagas I've run we've had at least one Gifted child show up, and one or more player interested in taking him or her as an apprentice. The actual match between the apprentice's Gift and interest and the master's interests have been very slim, which has suggested to me that finding apprentices happens in two ways. One is the classic search, where a magus decides he wants an apprentice and goes out looking for one. This sort of apprentice is most likely to have a compatible Gift. But the other is the wizard who stumbles upon an apprentice and take him even if the interests and inclinations don't like up appropriately. And ultimately, I think this is more common.

And mechanically I've built the children as young grogs who, once they become apprentices can start accumulating additional virtues and flaws.

The impression I've gotten from the books is that some Virtues and Flaws are innate, others are taught, and some are "inherited." I had presumed that the House virtues would be either taught or inherited, as there is no room for them not to be.

So now I've a PC Bonisagus who has a proto-apprentice and I have to make some decisions. Is "Puissant Magic Theory" an innate ability, and if so does this child have it? If it isn't and the PC takes him as an apprentice, at what point (if any) does the Virtue kick in.

I would prefer there be a logic to the answer, to help build verisimilitude within the setting and so that my players can know what to expect. And I was hoping that other people's thoughts and opinions (even if I disagree with them) would help me reach my decision.

My feeling is that any of the house virtues could be inherant but if they're not they then would require some sort of training, this doesn't need to be focused time such as opening the arts, it would develope as the apprentice works with the master and picks up their ways of thinking/shortcuts what ever you want to call it.

So your apprentice Bonisagus would develope Puissant Magic Theory over time as he picks up "the secrets of the trade" from his master. How long this takes is up to your troup, and could be directly related to how much time is actually spent working with the apprentice. ie: your apprentice has 3 seasons to do what he wants then it would take longer than if he worked every season with the master


Well, okay, but let me say this- the most important phrase above is "... and now I have to make some decisions..." I can (and will) give my opinion, but I don't know your game, your troupe. I could sit in on a half-dozen games, and it's still not my game- it's yours.

That said...

I like to keep my players guessing. When I have a situation in my group like a "...player wanting to know when, exactly, he can expect his mechanical benefit ... I immediately kneejerk to break that expectation. Story >> Mechanics. If he got pushy, I would simply explain "Shut up! Sit down! Trust your GM!"

That may sound flippant (and the first bit is), but the last is Truth. The players must trust their GM- he doesn't need to provide rationale explanations for each and every decision, nor is every game mechanic predictable.

If you had the Fae Queen of Winter show up, no player should be asking "But where did she come from?" or "What are her stats?" or "If she gives us this blessing of hers, is it a +5 bonus, or a +6?!" Not even if they "need to know" for their lab totals. That's all your secret. Exactly the same with an apprentice. GM's don't let players read the story notes.

As far as "bulding verisimilitude" or "logic", well, you have nothing to fear there. If modern knowledge can't predict the equivalent today, you are free to do what you think best! How does a child develop? Not always "logically"! At what point does Nature yield to Nurture? Is there an Imprininting Threshold for young magi? Can the Gift be predicted, manipulated, enhanced, bred? What is "Genius", or "Intelligence", and how can it be measured? Your players want Rules for that?! If so, that smacks to me of something other than storytelling, and I, as a GM, would either try to breed that out of them, or find others to play with. NOT that you should, but that's me.

Now- if a pilum of fire were put to my head and I was forced to choose, I'd say do the following.

  1. No promises.
    Make it clear that finding and developing an apprentice is NOT the same as building a mage character. The apprentice is a story element, and as such, is neither perfectly predictable, nor ever completely knowable. Just as with any other plot hook, surprises should be possible, probable, and probably preferable and plentiful.

The GM will keep track of things, but things may not go "by the book", nor the same way any two times.

  1. Talk your player off the ledge.
    Speak to him not in terms of "what's best" for his character, but for the Story. Make sure he's on the same page- this is not a D&D character feature, not just a group of numbers to make his Lab Total higher, it's part of the story, and a very dynamic (and therefore unpredictable!) part. As such, he should neither take it for granted, nor feel he, the Player, has "control" over it- only as much as his Parens character does over a young Apprentice.

  2. Wysiwyg
    Have his mage, In Character, begin to notice trends and tropes, an affinity with Ignem here, a vulnerability to Cold Iron there, a natural gift in the lab, whatever makes sense that he could notice. Until then, the Mage decides, based on best guess, what the Apprentice does for a Season, and you, the GM, lets him know how it works out- no hard explanations or guaranteed Math until, IC, they become clearly obvious. That +3 might be cyclic, it might be puissant, might be inventive genius, might be something else. If the Player gets creative, his Mage can narrow in on this faster- this is part of the Story.

  3. Some for you, some for me.
    In the end, the Mage may never discover every last detail- this keeps the Player guessing, keeps the character interested in the development. For that matter, unless the apprentice will be a PC, no reason that NPC has to have 10 V&F, or a balanced mix- could be more, or less. (Heh, just when the Player thought he had counted to 10...)

  4. Life is like that sometimes...
    Be unpredictable. Just as in #1 you made no promises, things can change. A lab accident, a multiple botch, puberty(!) - any of these is a perfectly reasonable reason for the storyline to suddenly change direction, and for a promising student to become troublesome, or a mediocre prospect to suddenly blossom.

In short- you're the Story Teller- that is your first and most important job. Not "Game Mechanic Rationalizer", not anything but to provide a good story. Consistancy is part of that, but not itself the end goal.

Insofar as every member of (Bonisagus) Bonisagus has "puissant magic theory", every (non-Apromor) Flambeau has "puissant Ignem", etc., I would lean towards thinking that House virtues weren't innate but taught.

As for why this is so... [hand waving about tradition, refined and specialized teaching techniques, etc.]

As for when your Bonisagus apprentice would get the mechanical benefit of his puissant MT... Giving him full benefit from the time has arts get opened seems a little generous to me, while witholding any benefit until the apprentice is gauntleted is unnecessarily restrictive. As a rule of thumb, I dislike sharp breaks or jumps in power curves. I'd give him the first point of bonus after his MT score reaches one and the second after his MT score reached three. That way, he gets eased in to the full effect of the bonus, but it's evident pretty much from the get-go that he's better than normal. (That should be a safe rule, as I can't imagine a Bonisagus who'd be shameless enough to gauntlet an apprentice with a magic score below three.)

I haven't thought too much about the other Houses. For puissant arts, a point of bonus at 0/2/4 sounds reasonable. I would think that the Tremere focus in certamen would be operative from the beginning - mechanically, its usefulness scales nicely with the apprentice's power level, and I'd always imagined that certamen was tied pretty tightly to how the Tremere viewed magic in general. As for the Mystery Cults... I'm afraid you'll have to ask someone who isn't waiting on Amazon due to the fact that his FLGS didn't stock the book.

The above presupposes that members of a House can pass on their house virtues to all (or at least most) of the apprentices that come their way. If you like Tuura's suggestion that finding an apprentice is more a matter of sifting through Gifted kids until you find one that suits the style of your House, then you obviously need to decide how hard it is to determine whether a Gifted child is suitable or not. I would think that a magus should probably have a reliable guess before training began and should know for certain after opening the apprentice's arts.

My rationale is my belief that apprentices require enough of an investment in time that delaying such a determination much past then would tend to dilute the distinctiveness - at least with regards to virtues - of a House. After investing 10 years in this kid, Bob of Bonisagus isn't going to give his apprentice to Flambeau no matter how good his apprentice is in Ignem. Likewise, Fred of Flambeau might be mightily disappointed that Fred Jr. couldn't manage palm of flame with the aid of a tinderbox and jar of Greek fire, but - after 10 years - you might as well finish training the lad.


(Good points all- esp the "easing" into a bonus. Combine that with playing cards close to the vest, and a GM can keep things interesting for a long time.

Also about "might as well finish training the lad"- as I touched on further above, not every apprentice turns out exactly the way you'd want, nor with a 100% positive relationship with their Parens, and that's fun too.)