Pros and Cons (on both sides) of Court Wizards?

I'm thinking the non-Hermetic kinds, because Hermetics pretty much have anything and everything to offer but would be put to death almost immediately if they tried to be one. What does each (you don't have to try to go through every possibe Folk, Hedge, or Rival group, just the ones you feel like and/or have experience with) have to offer that's useful to a noble? How much (and what kinds of things) would a given wizard need to be paid for it to generally be worth it, not accounting for extremely specific personal goals that might change the concept of "worth it" (like getting close to a given noble so they can kill them in revenge for the noble's misdeeds)? And would the value of such a person go up substantially if they could also advise on supernatural matters? (Usually by having one or more high (Realm) Lore scores) What pros and cons would each side have to weigh in agreeing to become or allow the other to become a court wizard?

Learned Magicians have everything to offer. A minor longevity amulet that doesn't cause sterility (and reproduction is important to lords and kings) is just the start; with a bit of prep work they can give 'is Majesty any Virtue he may need and some supernatural aid to boot. If you absolutely cannot afford to fail these peace talks, then Tueor Fortunam can keep you from botching Etiquette. You could be somewhat defended from the evil influences of demons and faeries. Your enemies would suffer bad luck on the way to battle. Lots of things, depending on whether he's Gifted or not.

As for recruiting one, the price is easy. Serving as a noble's retainer and secret weapon is an honorable, prestigious position. It wouldn't make him Wealthy (he has to be pretty much on-call all the time, which is the big negative about being a retainer like this), but it's at least as good a job as teaching at the University, especially if you're Gifted (and thus socially penalized). Also, if the Order of Hermes has started making ominous hints, and you don't want to join up, becoming accepted as a Court Wizard gives you a lot of protection from Join or Die. Money is likely irrelevant, since a good Learned Magician can probably make the Philosopher's Stone.

The main problem with getting accepted as a court wizard is that most such wizards are charlatans with a bit of education under their belts, that it's almost impossible for a lord to sift the wheat from the chaff, and that the ones with serious power are the ones that aren't even going to get a chance because the lord doesn't trust them (Gift).

Learned Magician and Gruagachan can both grant Virtues as well as a simple, static bonus to any specific (category of) roll(s).
Though as I recall, the Learned Magicians are better at recoverey and resisting aging.

Nightwalkers are almost unbeatable at information gathering.
The Augustinians though, have their Sortes which can be extremely flexible and useful as well.

Indeed, while the Augustinians are presented as actively trying to be an Order of Court Wizards, Learned Magician may well be better at it.

And this is without even mentioning the Vitkir, who're extremely powerful if they have the right runes, or Shairs (or any other sort of summoners), who obviously have access to any trick their spirits have.

I will take this from a different angle: which (super)natural abilities or magical power would be sought after by a lord ?

  • Premonitions & visions are good generic benefits but they are difficult to interpret - after a few useless visions, the hedge magician will get kicked
  • Dowsing: yes, useful but only on an adhoc basis - once the lord has found a silver mine and a few water wells, he won't need this skill any more
  • Entrancement: yes BUT, the lord need to be able to trust the magician - it will be easy to become a puppet
  • Hex/Curse is useful to harm, but it is more for vengeful purposes. Only beligerent lords would seek this skills
  • Animal Ken would be greatly appreciated by lord who enjoy a good hunt and likes their dogs and horses
  • Magic sensitivity, Sens Holy/Unholy, Comprehend magic: very useful for an advisor considering Mythic Europe abundance of surnatural, possibly one of the most discreet and inoffensive skills, especially combined with the proper Lore(s)
  • Enchanting Music: quite useful and appreciated for a lord having frequent guests - he gets both entertainment and useful abilities - if only just to molly people convictions prior to some negociation
  • Wilderness Sense: bof... not worth paying the wage of an hedge wizard for this skills. Usefull for a scout, but I don't think a lord will consider this an ability worth an court magician
  • Shapeshifter: possibly to spy on people if the person can take a small animal, ideally a bird shape.

Other interesting abilities:

  • Herbalism, mythic herbalism: anything which can increase longevity, cures diseases and heal wound will be greatly appreciated and highly prized. A smart Folk Witch can carve a nice career if she is careful in her display of skills. If she can read and get some basic Academic knowledge, she could impersonate a Learned magician yet packing some nice abilities on her own
  • Gruagach won't work for a lord, they are already following one master. It is possible on an adhoc basis one agrees to serve one lord, but between their master agenda and their appearance, there skills might be appreciated, but they won't be liked.
  • Elemental magician will fit equaly well as Learned magician
  • Alchemy, mythic alchemy, vulgar alchemy: are all useful abilities for a lord concern about building, money, craft so probably for a more "urban" lord as it is not so potent to heal/cure as herbalism, but provide nice opportunity to make money or have advanced/unique material. A guildmaster more than a lord who enjoy having such skills at his disposal.

That's a quick overview on what I could think on top of my head.

Elementalism is most useful for the court physician. If he's unGifted, Medicinal Divining and one Form are enough to make him an excellent healer of any sort of disease or injury (as the students of Avicenna have discovered), though this doesn't really make for a "court wizard." For Gifted elementalists (who have all the Forms), Medicinal Summoning is good for killing disease, Medicinal Refining is useful for a longevity potion (though remember not to administer this before the lord has had plenty of children), and Philosophical Refining can help to gather the vis for that. Other abilities are of dubious use (Elementalism is really not a strong school, at least not on its own).

One Philosofical Elementalist with or without Medicinal can be a great Court Wizard too.

He can summon wealthy and animals than the nobles can hunt or they could need.

If you are a noble what you want is a really, really good baker; if he's Mythic, even more so :slight_smile:

Mmm, pastries of vim and vigor.

I may or may not have just pronounced that in my head as "weem and wigor" :blush:

Honestly, any Gifted Hedgie can probably get in on the whole court wizard thing if they have some tact (and probably Craft Magic, which is just a ball of yes for any tradition that can't naturally craft). Just send a (preferably eloquent) letter and a magical item as a gift; remember that the Gift's effects only work in person, and with you not even being there when the noble uses the magic item (or has his assistant test it to make sure it isn't cursed or something, but you get the idea) he won't have any reason to expect something like slight of hand. This works best for Hedgies like Elementalists, whose items have flashy and actively functioning effects like spewing gouts of fire, instantly curing illnesses, or leading their bearer to a material like water or silver; there won't be any doubt that your item is special. Of course, that won't instantly guarantee your position, since you could've gotten a magic item from elsewhere, but it will make the noble in question interested in meeting you, and while he likely won't trust you in person due to your Gift, he can watch you (in most traditions, though in most cases it'll be Craft Magic) turn a normal stick into a Charged Item, and he won't really be able to deny that ability of yours. Heck, if I were a noble and thought I was being tricked by somebody without their own magic, I'd still humor the person in question due to their apparent ability to present me with enchanted (or possibly extremely useful non-magic items, but meh) items after a bit of time, so even if they're stealing them or something they're still a highly useful resource.

That's how I see it, at any rate. It's an option with some difficulties, but it seems like it'd work, as long as your messenger doesn't steal the first enchanted item or something.

As for pros and cons...

Pros, wizard's side: Provided you prove your worth, you can probably get some expensive books and a lot of free time to advance yourself, since crafting charged items only takes hours at the very most. If you or your noble desire a truly enchanted item, you'll probably be able to get free soldiers to go with you to find vis. Elementalists with Craft Magic have a slight edge here, as any vis found can be turned into an elemental vis in exchange for losing some of it. Working for a noble is also prestigious, and you'll likely have quite a bit of defense surrounding you as long as you remain useful. With some luck, you can also deadlock the Order of Hermes in confusion, as they struggle to find a compromise between not interfering with mundanes and giving you the Join or Die... And as long as you don't go and steal the secrets of the Parma Magica, the usual result will be them leaving you alone.

Pros, noble's side: Magic! And hopefully magic items, specifically. Plus, a (generally) powerful defender against things that wish to bring you harm; wizards make great bodyguards. Plus, many of them can even extend your lifespan!

Cons, wizard's side: If you're Gifted, people won't like you; if you're UnGifted, you may struggle to remain useful for a lengthy period of time. It can be dangerous, and while you have some protection as mentioned above, this puts the attention of the Order of Hermes right on you. Most noble manors do not exist in and generally aren't even anywhere near a place with a Magic Aura, so you'll be unable to draw greater power from that source. Also, while the noble in question may sponsor excavations and the like to help you gain greater magical knowledge, you'll likely have very few resources by which to read about (Realm) Lores and your own magical tradition's abilities. The Augustan Brotherhood is an obvious exception to this Con.

Cons, noble's side: Having a court wizard will likely make you some rivals amongst fellow nobles. They're pretty expensive to pay for their books, excavations for vis or relics/texts of their traditions, and likely luxurious living standards full-time. Will likely have the Order of Hermes asking you to "give" them your wizard, and if you refuse you'll make a necessarily subtle but powerful enemy. Wizards can be unpredictable. And that Gift thing makes you look worse for having them around.

That's about how I see it. Really, this deal is best for the noble, but I think both sides have legitimate reasons to want to be and to not want to be in such an arrangement.

If you haven't already, check out Antagonists, Chapter 2: Baron Geoffroi D’Arques, for more on the noble's perspective of having court wizards. The ToC free PDF gives some idea of what is covered and check out the Inserts. It's a good book but I found this chapter quite useful for some of my Provencal extended design concepts.

I agree that although the Augustan Wizards are in setting dedicated to setting themselves up as Court Wizards to exert their influence that in fact Learned Magicians (and to a lesser extent their Mythic Alchemist variant, perhaps even Cunning Folk) work better. Elementalists esp Medicine oriented ones can work OK as well. To be honest a character with a mixture of some of the traditions powers could work if carefully built.

Obvious MacBeth style realtionships aside I can't see Folk Witches working for a noble - Infernal witches behind an evil noble yes, but maybe that's all a bit Mortianna from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves...

Gruagach or Trollsynir might work in the appropriate settings... not sure.

As an aside, this is basically what the Redcap and Jerbiton led covenant known as the Coenobium does in Provencal - except instead of the nobles running the court wizards, the covenant runs their allied hedge wizards for similar reasons: low-cost low level magic, lesser longevity potions for servants (incl perhaps Redcaps), unGifted magicians to help coordinate and protect their mundane interests. I've detailed some of the more powerful hedge magicians associated with the covenant in the supplemental material posted over on my blog if you're interested.

The concept of House Mercere using hedge-magic to help support it's messenger and spy network (low level items at minimal vis cost, augmented by the occasional Hermetic Invested Device etc) or even "retired" Redcaps moving into careers as support team hedge magicians with the help of their prolonged lifespans when they're too old to fulfill physical duties is something I touched on briefly with the elder version (+30 years post Gauntlet) of my first example Redcap, Cymena of Rorschach.

IMO there's actually amazing potential to run a whole non-Hermetic Saga using the "Court Wizard" hedgies concept (either in service to a noble or perhaps even in service to the Redcaps of the Coenobium). One of my slow burn projects is a whole alternate Saga based on a group of hedge wizards essentially trying to make sense of the magic left behind in a fallen Winter Covenant...

I don't see why not. They'd be more likely to be helping out a local knight or baron than a king, but weaving curses against his enemies and healing him in dire straits sound like things a folk witch could do for her lord.

To clarify, a folk with as presented no - a Cunning Folk style witch possibly more so.

Then again I can see your point - "witch" as a role less appealing, but "witch" as a tradition masked as a "wise man of the woods" or "herbwife" yes.

The latter is pretty much the expected role of Folk Witches as they stand.

In 1220, when someone says "witch," that usually means "some kind of wise woman with a little hedge-magic, or maybe just herbal knowledge and natural magic." The term doesn't come to mean "infernalist" until the Renaissance. (And anyone who can tell the difference between a folk witch and a cunning man probably knows the difference between folk witches, cunning men, and infernalists.)

Can I just say that I totally would love there to be more information and official support on the existence of Court Wizards, be they Hermetic ones or form a Hedge Tradition. The whole idea of a there being some mundane knight, prince, or king who has the assistance of a magical adviser to assist in supernatural situations is really interesting to me. Especially if one player plays the Court Wizard and the other player plays the mundane noble of some kind. The relations that can come from this and the events that could occur would be amazingly interesting. Some changes would be needed to be made to the whole Hermetic Order as it stands for such a campaign to occur, but really, it wouldn't be that hard if one plays up a 'distant Order' sort of campaign idea.

The thing is that in a campaign with a court wizard a lot of events will have some supernatural backing to allow the player to do something. Team work could allow the wizard to remove the supernatural nature of a person to a level that lets the mundane noble do physical damage to it. To come up with magical cures for mysterious ailments that have an effect on the court, while the mundane lord deals with the political fallout from the sickness. To deal with the Faerie, Demon, or Magical creature/force that just came into the kingdom and needs to be dealt with in one way or another.

I guess the issue becomes where is the campaign coming from. Is the PC the wizard, are they both the Wizard and the Noble, are they the Wizard and maybe an assistant, or some other group.

In general though divination, even if its the impresise method existing in Ars Magica, could help. Weather sense, influence, and control has a great part to play. Learning about distant things through magical power. Knowing and advising on as many topics as possible - both mundane and supernatural - since most wizards are highly education would help. And of course working against supernatural effects that seek to harm the noble, his court, or the kingdom that they live and serve.

Really though, this idea is so amazing to me and I totally would love to see it developed further and maybe even gamed if possible. :slight_smile:


Jarkman posted something that I super want to comment on:

Okay, this is amazing and so totally potentially fun as to be epic! Think about the potential that could occur for a group of isolated characters in an isolated location that learn (all or bits and pieces of) Hermetic Magic from a fallen Winter Covenant. Imagine a world where there is no Hermetic Order, maybe the the Order was destroyed almost to the last in the Schism War or something. Obviously you wouldn't have to go with this, but this sort of idea lets there exist a greater golden past and present player characters that are on the cusp of trying to make sense of the magic that while handling some of the monstrous aftereffects that was created by the old forces. Very 'dark ages' sort of feel, with medieval kingdoms that doesn't know about the old high magic but is being effected by things long thought past.

So much potential!

That's... Actually a really cool potential saga. If I were to run it (and I might, and on this very site no less, once I feel a bit more experienced at SGing so as to jump that far out of the norm) I'd probably run it a bit post-canon, perhaps 1300s (but heavily modified, due to the profound effects the event I'm thinking of would have on history) after a war between the Order of Hermes and the Church entirely eradicated or sent into hiding the entire Order and damaged the Church so greatly that it lost most of its power and following. In the meantime, some Hedge Traditions went and developed their own Magic Theories, and now that the Order is all gone they don't need to stay in hiding as much. Society would become rather dependent on Magic-oriented help without the Dominion (both its aura and its servants) protecting them, and there would be rich opportunities for stories and conflicts as the Gifted members of each tradition try to integrate useful parts of Hermetic magic and acquire their more powerful leftover items... With, of course, the biggest goal being finding the secrets of the Parma Magica buried among the rubble, so that the Gifted can stop hating each other so much.

The only problem with that is that I can't really see a way for the Order to not effectively re-emerge in a different form, as all the Gifted individuals can now come together with their greater power and try to learn from each other without having the desire or the ability to just unleash murder upon each other. They'd form an all-inclusive Magic Theory so information would be easier to share, and boom... The Order is back, though possibly with different rules and guidelines allowing Court Wizardry.

I actually am currently working on that combined magic tradition that would serve as a backbone for a new group, but I don't think that's the point of a saga like this. Nonetheless, it sounds totally awesome... Hm. The ideas are flowing, I admit.

..."all-inclusive Magic Theory?" You're just assuming that everyone would get together, and that a Hermetic Breakthrough would happen out of thin air, especially when most of the hedgie traditions don't even have Magic Theory to begin with? Mmkay...

As for "the Church being destroyed," that wouldn't destroy the Dominion, unless not just the Church authority in Rome and most of the bishops are killed, but every single parish church is scorched down to the ground, nobody who believes in God survives and decides that hey, they'd like to keep worshipping God (probably with a bunch of local heresies because Rome isn't enforcing anything), and the Islamic powers and the Mongols all sit there with their thumbs up their fundaments while Europe implodes in turmoil. You might be able to shatter the Church as an organization and plunge Europe straight back into the Dark Ages (Learned Magicians will have to go away, of course, because you're taking out all the universities), but as long as someone keeps ringing the church bell, you haven't destroyed Christendom.

Your idea wouldn't get the results you want, is what I'm saying.

There won't be much official support for something that doesn't happen very widely. Remember that most court wizards are charlatans or low-rent natural philosophers, and Gifted wizards usually can't operate in a court because Gift.

The exceptions, of course, become plot points.

In an Order decimated by the Black Death, among a society which has been similarly decimated, the possibility of the Order disintegrating and individually powerful magi who know the secret of Parma may very well be court wizards. And the remnants of the Order are probably more focused on rebuilding and/or protecting their existing interests.

The Order, as presented in canon is a stagnant empire, ripe for corruption and disintegration. Just go past that period of turmoil, after it has "fallen" and you'll create many opportunities for stories.

I didn't mean to imply it would be instantaneous, Ramidel. I just meant that, given the nature of the Gift and its usual effects on those who have it (and the fact that most of the time Gifted children are supposed to be curious and naturally intelligent, at least according to the core rulebook), a Gifted Hedgie who found books on the OoH's Parma Magica would most likely share it, at the very least within their own coven or whatever group they might associate with, and usually within a much wider group, because it not only allows practical things like the sharing of information, but also simply because it will mean Gifted people can now talk to one another without needing outside pressures of some kind to avoid killing each other, in turn meaning Gifted people can actually form friendships and useful associations with less chance of backstabbing. There are people who wouldn't want to share it, of course, but those people would be dwarfed in numbers by those who would.

Then, if the Gifted mostly have access to Parma, and want to be able to benefit from all this association with others, they'd at least make a project of fusing their Theories (if they had developed them, within the 100 or so years since 1220's canon) or just making one in general.

Maybe it wouldn't happen, especially in play, where players might actively try to deter such an outcome due to OOC knowledge, but it seems the most likely course of events. Parma is simply the ultimate group magnet like that.

Of course, my general assumption was that the traditions had developed Theories in the meantime as a result of becoming big players on the mundane scene, meaning they'd want to understand their magic better so they know what they can and can't successfully add to their magic to try to stay ahead of conpeting traditions. Maybe that was unrealistic of me. Even so, there's no guarantee that any of the traditions Bonisagus drew together had Theories either, so it could and probably would happen again, in my opinion, after a few hundred years of turmoil and regrouping perhaps.

As for the Dominion, I didn't mean it would be gone, just heavily reduced. I even put words to that. The important thing isn't the Dominion or even the Church itself completely losing power, it's just the Church being weaker, damaged, and distracted by internal politics and rebuilding to the point where a large number of settlements won't have the regulatory influence of the priests on them, with the higher-level auras deeper within the church buildings themselves receding as individual idols, locations, and scripts lose their special significance. If practices become diluted enough, the churches stop being especially safer than the surroundings, and without strong leaders helping them uphold their faith, many more people would accept diabolism to the point where most small towns might contain pockets of Infernal aura.

At the point where Christianity's helpful influence starts being pushed back like this, I feel as though nobles would be looking for new ways to protect their townspeople, maintain their positions of authority, and root out Infernal influence that might lead to rebellions, attempted assassinations, or worse. Enter hedge magicians as court wizards.

That was my idea of how this would start, at any rate. Your concerns are legitimate, of course; it could easily happen differently. This is just one way I think it could pan out, and it makes sense that nobles would reinstate themselves in Magic auras to help their court wizards work, so it works better for the wizards themselves.

Okay, Akriloth, I now see better what you're doing.

Regarding Theories, being a powerful Hedge Tradition and having a Theory do not necessarily go together. In fact, there isn't even a Solomonic Magic Theory, and nobody (except maybe the Order) would call the Suhhar Suleyman a weak tradition! So some Traditions (for example, what's left of the Learned Magicians, if any such thing survives) might develop such a thing (though again, Hermetic Breakthrough; this is an extraordinary feat for any tradition to accomplish). I doubt the Gruagachan would bother, because they don't have a Theory but do have a Language.

What I think you're going for is to force the nobility en masse to abandon the use of the Church as a backstop of their power, just to allow an opening for hedgies to become Court Wizards. That's neither likely nor necessary, because hedgies can still become Court Wizards quite easily in a Dominion aura (they have a small penalty for aura strength, but to the extent that that's a problem they can set up their labs in Magic regiones), and because kings are very unlikely to abandon a concept of Divine Right that gives them Magic Resistance and a Commanding Aura. What you'll get is a patchwork of influences, where there's more lords taking to other influences than God for the source of their power, but not a wholesale collapse of the Dominion in "most" places.

Also, of course, there is a competing source of Dominion aura that's just as good and will be spreading through Iberia (and is spreading through the Theban Tribunal regardless of any of this). Something else for the hedgies to either fight or join with, and comes with its own hedge tradition that already does the Court Wizard schtick in its own way. We call it Islam.