I've been digging to my latest purchase, RoP:M. During our recent trip through the Hospital's Due (from ToME), our feral-upbringing grog creatively solved some problems by befriending a rat, using animal ken to talk with it, and now has the rat with him as the grogs travel to their new employment at a covenant.
I figured that working the rat up as a companion-level magical animal (yes, a rat of virtue) would help familiarize myself with the rules and provide a companion character for lazy or still-learning players. I've got the character mostly complete, but I ran into some rules questions. Note that I don't yet have HoH:MC. RoP:M references that book, but it doesn't seem necessary to use both.
RAW question: The magic animal virtue (p45) is noted as being special rather than minor or major. What does that mean? Does the virtue have a cost, or is it a free choice? Does it use up some of the character's max 10 pts of virtues (if that many flaw points are taken)?
RAW question: p32 states that "all magic animals have innate equivalents of the No Hands and Mute flaws." Should these be taken as part of the character's max 10 pts of flaws? Or are they just something the character is stuck with, with no balancing virtues granted?
I found this statement not only confusing, but limiting. I'm running a high fantasy campaign, so I'm imagining that some magic animals (unicorns) would have "no hands," but some (racoons of virtue) would have "limited gestures" like the minor magical inferiority, and some (higher order dragons) could wield weapons and cast spells without penalty. But before I can figure out what I want to add/modify to my house rules, I need to know what the RAW is.
Historical Question: The Black death won't strike for 100 years, and when it does, A&A states that it will be divine in origin, not borne by rats/fleas. A&A also states that mice are the largest spontaneously-generated vermin, so rats must be creaping things. Anyone know more about how people in 1200 viewed rats and what they associated with them? This would be helpful for choosing his virtues, flaws, and powers. I had first given him the ability to inflict a disease and immunity to disease, but if there was no association between rats and uncleanliness in the medieval mind, that wouldn't be appropriate.
I'll post a link to the rat once I get my rules understanding solid.
Interpretation question, unrelated to the rat: Is a centaur a magical animal, a magical human, or a fairie?
I always asumed this was "for free", since it is a "defining" virtue, just like The Gift, that I think it's the only Special virtue appearing in the core rules, is also for free and "defines" the character as a suitable magus (or whatever)...
They appear in The Sundered Eagle, and are considered faeries, "although some magi believe that the original centaurs belonged to the Magic Realm".
Not sure about questions 2 and 3, even though I have always used extra virtues or qualities to add "gesture-" or "speech-capability" to animals...
You don't need to 'take' these Flaws, they are inherent with the choice of Magic Animal. You are stuck with them, with no balancing Virtues. In the same way, Magic Humans all have Monstrous Appearance, Magic Things have Temporary Might, and Magic Spirits have Magical Air. For that matter, it is also equivalent to the social penalty from having The Gift.
There are Magic Qualities which partially or wholly negate the intrinsic penalty of being a Magic Animal. So you could take Gift of Speech, which negates Mute, and I could easily posit a similar Minor Quality that restores functionality to the hands. The key point is that most Magic Animals do not have these, thus it is made the default position.
FWIW, there is some doubt in the modern era that the Black Death was bubonic plague. There is no doubt that the latter was around back then, but the epidemiology of the Black Death is a poor fit for any of the forms of the plague.
I would have thought it inappropriate to link disease and rats if you are sticking close to the medieval mindset. None of the bestiaries to which I have access mention rats specifically from mice, nor does Pliny's Natural History. This is probably due to the scarcity of the black rat, and the absence of the brown rat from most of Europe in the 13-14th centuries (one of the reasons why bubonic plague is unlikely to be Black Death -- no rats in the interior of England (at least) until much later in history).
The mouse (http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beast214.htm) is a good model. Maybe give them Dowsing, to account for finding gold. Adding Premonitions (with a specialty in buildings) could work, following Pliny (http://tinyurl.com/cuuv6pw). To simulate the spontaneous generation aspect, how about the ability to dive into soil and move through it freely (ReAn, Personal Power), or heal itself when buried (CrAn, Ritual Power). Perhaps they could fecundate soil, allowing the spontaneous generation of a rat swarm (ReAn, as per A&A Chapter 3).
Sorry, missed this one out first time around. The Sundered Eagle has them as Faeries; they enact a customary role by fulfilling stories. If you wanted them to be Magic Realm, I would design them as Magic Humans --- because they can speak and have hands, and having the legs of a horse falls within the Monstrous Appearance Flaw in my opinion. Magic centaurs would have no interaction with humans; there might be stories of their existence, but they would not rely on humans for vitality, so encounters would be unusual.
Thanks. I've got that book, I'd just forgotten the reference. Perhaps they drifted out of Magic and into Fairie because a 4 legged 2 armed talking horse with a human head is dang difficult with the magic character rules
Thanks for clarifying and confirming my understanding of the RAW. Since its a big shift in virtue/flaw points if Magic Animal is/isn't free and more so with No Hands and Mute, I wanted to be sure I was getting it right, particularly as this character will be an examplar to my players as to how they can create their own companion-level magic animals, should they so desire. (Hurray! Magic Animals for everyone!)
I'm thinking of using something roughly like the "limited gestures" minor magic inferiority. Obviously, that one states that "Magic Animals and characters with the No Hands or Arthritis Flaws cannot take this inferiority." But I think it could be easily retooled for use as a virtue. Something like:
Limited Gestures (Minor, supernatural)
The character has some ability to grasp and manipulate objects with at least some of its appendages, although they lack opposable thumbs. Its control is limited, allowing only vague gestures, and cannot wield a weapon with any degree of skill. This virtue is suitable for magical animals, and other characters with the SG/troupe agreement.
Full Gestures (Major, Supernatural)
Completely offsets the penalties of the No hands Flaw-equivalent for magical animals, and other characters with the SG/troupe approval.
I've seen a few docs positing that, and read an article or two, but I'm not entirely convinced either way.
An initial joke when the grog gained the rat companion was that he or his descendents would one day be the carrier of the black death, bringing it into the covenant.
Once I started drawing up the character, I imagined that his regio network would be perfect for rapid transmition of the plague, a disease immunity virtue would allow him to be a perfect carrier, and another grog's visions flaw might warn of this far-off danger..
Even if disease is a result of humor inbalance, rats might create a miasma that causes inbalances.
But I avoided disease-related stuff. As I've mentioned in other posts, my saga places the emphasis on Mythic in Mythic Europe, but you hit the nail on the head - I'm trying to stick to the medieval mindset and paradigm.
Once I cross-referenced A&A, I decided to stick with the canon that black death will be divine punishment for Europe's sins, not something spread by rats. Or at least, that's what I'd like my players to believe for the moment.
He was found in Palos (Iberia) although he claims to have visited Paris, London, and Genoa through his rat-hole regio network. I don't think I ever described his fur color, but in a saga where I've allowed a liger, I'm not too concerned with the accuracy of the exact rat species corresponding to those odd medieval european climate shifts.
Thanks for the links. I'll take a look at Pliny, but at the moment I'm working off the presumption that rats are amongst the smallest of creeping things, although some natural philosophers are holding to the spontaneous generation view.
This has become part of the rat's backstory as I developed him, as it explains why he has joined the grog and is going to the covenant. He has the susceptible to deprivation and age quickly flaws. He is intelligent, not cunning, and has the ability to use his fore-paws to some degree, although like all animals, he is mute.
How or where he came from is a mystery at present.
He claims to be, if you will, a Rat of Virtue (not in those terms of course), but in rules terms he does not have the Essential Virtue trait; he has the glutonous major personality flaw instead. He represents the rat who steals in and eats your grain and hay. This is represented by a Bad Reputation. He has powers such as Unmarked Passage, Dominate Rats, Shadow Form, Hands of the Magical Animal, Disguise of the Putrid Aroma, and something I'm cooking up called "the great feast," which is similar to The Great Rot PerHe spell in ArM5, but affects stored hay/grain rather than wood.
He also claims to pay homage to the rat king who lives at the center of the regio network.
He wants to find a female magical rat with whom he can reproduce, after a proper christian marriage, in the hopes that God will bless him with magical offspring. He hopes that the magi at the covenant will be able and willing to help him with this. I haven't yet figured out what story flaw this would equate to, but if he suceeds, it will become dependents.
I don't read spanish very well, but the image is perfect, as is the location; my covenant is located just across the pyranees in gascony. I understand Mark's point that if they're magic they don't need humans for vitality, but that doesn't have to mean no interraction. Being that my saga is high fantasy, there might be centaurs in a certain forest, either keeping it autocephalous or patrolling it on behalf of a mundane authority in exchange for something the centaurs want.
First introducing magic centaurs would also set up a nice contrast with a later story that could occur whenever I decide Semita Errabunda links up with Greece. One of the magi is interested in investigating the temple of 10,000 columns and other locations in Greece.