Rating Magi over the Course of their Careers

Greetings, all.

I'm trying to figure out what "baselines" one might use to rate the relative power of Magi at various points in their careers. This will be one tool I use as ASG to help me define availability and Quality of texts as well as availability of Vis in the early stages of our Saga.

Character generation defines the apprenticeship portion of a magus's career pretty clearly for all. But, what of the rest of their careers? I imagine magi must move through "seasons" in their career just as their covenants do, but am unsure how to define each season.

So, say we start with Apprentice as part of Spring. Is that all of Spring in the magus's career, or does Spring continue until some average level of Arts, at which point they enter Summer?

I'd like your help in defining magi by their Art scores (and/or Twilight points) for the Seasons of their careers, or alternately along the continuum of Apprentice, Amateur, Professional, Expert, Master.

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Guardians of the Forests uses Apprentice, Journeyman, Master, Archmagus.


Apprenticeship lasts until Gauntlet. The quantifiable milestones attained here are almost always 1) 15 years of training, and 2) passing the test of one's House.

At this point, the character is a magus. We can call him a journeyman, although unlike journeymen in a mundane guild, he has all the rights of more senior magi, at least formally.

The next critical milestone is attaining a score of 5 in every Art. In a strict sense, no magus can be a master if he cannot take an apprentice. So perhaps a magus might be considered a master if, at the earliest, he has Opened the Arts of an apprentice, or perhaps if that apprentice has passed his Gauntlet. I'd go with the latter, since it's possible for a character to emerge from Gauntlet with a 5 in every Art.

In theory, it is possible to become an archmagus without training an apprentice, and without even being able to train an apprentice. But it's probably still a suitable capstone.

Or near capstone. A primus or praeco who is not an archmagus still belongs in a more exalted category than other mature magi, even archmagi, because unlike archmagi they have formal power recognized by the entire Order, so I'd save a higher tier for these magi, with the proviso that such a magus loses his status if he loses the office, whereas magi and archmagi retain their status unless Renounced.

I would also imagine that in a realistic Order, it would be appalling for a low status, green Quaesitor to get into the business of a high status magus and throw his weight around (though discreet, unnoticed investigation might work), or for a journeyman Bonisagus to demand the apprentice of an archmagus or primus. Unless the elder magus was absolutely reviled, I totally expect him to be exonerated even for taking extreme action in response.




I kind of realized that you're trying to put actual numbers to this, and my last post offered loose and useful thresholds. So less useful.

Ok. So no need to talk about apprentices or even journeymen, only masters and grand masters.

Although a character can be optimized so that he can take an apprentice right out of character creation, he is going to be a terrible master. He can open an apprentice's Arts, sure, but he won't be able to marshal the awesome totals needed to teach Arts efficiently, let alone preserve or transform an apprentice's supernatural virtues.

So let's say that most magi will wait 20-30 years before starting on his first apprentice. This isn't set in stone; some magi might start early, others might wait 30 or even 50 years, and some might live centuries without training anyone. But ok, 25 years.

Using the core rules for advancement, that represents 750 xps or spell levels post-Gauntlet. Those rules also recommend 2wp/year, for 50wp or a Warping Score of 4. No Twilight effects, either good or bad, RAW; no initiations. Very vanilla.

In 15 years, his apprentice will pass his Gauntlet, making him a real master.

Unfortunately, those rules encourage you to take 'lab seasons' in groups of 1 year, which does not quite account for 15 years of which 1 season is spent teaching. It's not quite RAW, but I recommend (and maybe one of the later sourcebooks recommends similarly) to advance the character 11 years, and 'waste' four years (16 seasons) on the apprentice. That's 330 more xps or levels, and +30wp, for a score of 5(+5pts).

So, the magus is now 40 years past Gauntlet. He has 880 points of stuff.

As for becoming an archmagus? Many magi never bother, having better things to do than play games. Other magi have extensive collections of dice. Different strokes. It should also be noted that a non-archmagus the same Hermetic age as an archmagus might actually be more powerful, because he did not blow seasons meeting some obscure challenge, and is more likely to pull out a nasty surprise, because fewer people know his secrets.

We can still put number to this, but need to make a decision. We know that the oldest magi are the most powerful, when they are not in Twilight, but are these magi past the age of bothering with such things? I'd think yes; that magi try to become archmagi while they are powerful but before long or final Twilights become a real possibility. Worse, an archmagus often has to take risks when other magi challenge him, which is not a game for magi teetering on the edge of eternity. Finally, ambitious magi will want to have time to enjoy and exploit their status, not simply put it on their tombstone.

So I'm thinking that magi usually achieve their goal between 60 and 100 years past Gauntlet, or never manage it for one reason or another, including being dead. I like to think of 60-75 as the sweet spot, something to enjoy before one's centenary (given that magi tend to pass Gauntlet at 20-30 years of age.)

We can put numbers to this too, the usual 30 points per year. We can also put Warping Points to this: 100 years past Gauntlet is 200wp, or a score of 8! That's kind of pushing it close.

Of course, all this is for NPCs, and will produce results in line with published characters.

PCs usually do quite a bit better at this in all respects, except for becoming an archmage: Such ambitions are usually crushed by the premature ending of a campaign. :)/2



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it is quite of a challenge to identify meaningful milestones with such a diverse cast of characters that AM allows.
There was the tradition for many crafts of "compagnonage", coming from the latin "cum" - the one who shares, "panis" = bread, which gaves "companionem", one sharing bread with the other. In French, it gave "copain" or buddy.
So the apprentice craftsman started as.. apprentice, then "aspirant" ("aspiring"), then compagnon (=journeyman). To go further, the compagnon should make a "Chef d'oeuvre", a master piece, that would allow him to be acknowledge as a master, granting him the ability of take apprentice.
Grand master and other titles more linked to political power and responsability than skill mastery.

In a magus life, the main common milestone you can find are:

  • taking an apprentice - it is the proof that you have a good grasp of all Arts since you need a 5 with each;
  • taking a familiar - there are no minimum requirement, except that you better have a good TM to handle the virtus and probably a combination of Form+Technique of at least 20 for your familiar to be meaningful
  • making a talisman - again, no minimum requirement, yet a good TM for the opening and funneling enough vis.
  • then inventing a spell of 6th magnitude or more is another sign of skills - since it is easy to use lab text, it should be a somewhat original spell - at least not one in the core rulebook, unless it is done through experimentation, with an interesting side effect. The presence of a side effect is a proof that it was done through experimentation, therefore an personal research (even if based on an existing spell).
    Here, you have some flexibility to decide if 5th level spell is worth a given ran, a 7th another rank and a 9th another, higher rank.
    Any Original research, even minor breakthrough are worth acknowledgement, and at least a rank of master.

You can also mix & match criteria for Bonisagus acclaim & Verditius Hubris to broaden it to all House.
Obviously, we are only talking about magic-related criteria, so achievement done through politics or military campaign is non-existent - which can frustrate some mages, who despite their achievement, are only wearing a journeymen title.

If you use seasons as criteria - which are broader and quite intuitive, and more forgiving:
Spring: any young mage, up to one or two Tribunals out of apprenticeship (max +14 years)
Summer: any mage more than 15 years out of apprenticeship
Autumn: any mage with a meaningful achievement, acknowledge by his peers - this is left vague, but it can be invention of a high level spell, winning a house contest, having his work collected by House Bonisagus for a folio, becoming Primus, Praeco, Archmagus, achieving a degree in a Mystery Cult (although a lot are secret so cannot display their achievement).
Winter: is never mentioned, officially a mage remains in Autumn, but his peers might refer to him as being in his Winter. When Twilight or Decrepitude are taking their toll, limiting their ability to perform magic (reluctance to cast spell because it might push them in their final Twilight) - they talk more about magic than they practice it :smile:. Some honest mages will talk about themselves admitting they are in Winter.

I like to use the benchmark of 10 XP per year per Art/Ability of focus. At gauntlet a magus has 120 XP in Arts, so a specialist might have two Arts at score 10 (60 XP). (The core book recommends 55, but lets round that up.) I assume age 25 at gauntlet, as per the templates.

These assumptions yield a score of 15 at 6 years past-gauntlet (age 31), score 20 at 15 years post-gauntlet (age 53), score 25 at 27 years post-gauntlet (age 52), score 30 at 41 years post-gauntlet (age 66), score 35 at 57 years post-gauntlet (age 82), and finally score 40 at 76 years post-gauntlet (age 101). I assume no benchmark magus reaches above this score, or significantly above this age. Note this corresponds to 134 Warping Points, with Warping 7 reached at 140 Warping Points, so I assume that magi generally reach Final Twilight by Warping 7.

With this benchmark in mind, I assume that generally a magus is considered competent but still a Journeyman after reaching 5 in every Art (so he could teach an Apprentice) with at least one Te + Fo combination at 20 - the initial fresh-out-of-gauntlet power level for a specialist. He is considered a true Master after teaching an apprentice and reaching 50 in one Te + Fo combination (30 years post-gauntlet is enough time to both raise those arts and train that apprentice). And Archmagus status signifies an achievement like a score of 35 in one Art or 70 in one Te + Fo combination.

Each such number corresponds inventing an original spell (or investing a power) of level (# + 3 Int + 3 Aura +4 MT)/2. So a magus

  • is considered a real magus once he independently invents a level 15 spell or learns a level 30 one;
  • is considered a Master once he invents an original level 30 spell or learns a level 60 spell;
  • and is at Arcmagus level once he invents an original level 40 spell (that's by-the-numbers, but actually I'd prefer more like level 45 at the least) or learns a level 75 spell (should be level 80 by-the-numbers, but level 75 is the core book's high level spells).

Now, a magus with an Affinity can reach much higher levels. Gaining 820 XP (score 40 without Affinity) lands you at score 49 with Affinity. And an individual magus may also earn more than 10 XP per year on average in his favorite Art/Arts, especially with Virtues that increase XP gain. And a magus could theoretically live well past Warping 7. And have much greater lab total bonuses. By investing several seasons in the project, higher-level spells can also certainly be invented fairly easily. So all these numbers may very plausibly be surpassed. But still, that's the benchmark I like to use. I leave surpassing them to unique NPCs and, of course, the PCs.

I found your numbers too high for generic NPCs - not unbelievable, or unrealistic, just to high for lambda mage.
By setting the standard that way, it create an environment where the PCs magi will struggle to shine. Of course, it depends on the Saga you want to run, but I would rather lower the standards, assuming NPCs rarely make optimal choices, get sidetracked easily, mundane issues going into their path of glory, delaying their moment of greatness.

By lowering the barrier, you have a broader distribution in each category. The other advantages is that you can have "pretenders", mage who have a title, but if challenged, cannot really delivered the goods. It has more story potential. It leads to interesting situations where confronted to a "Master", the PCs are wondering if they can best him, or will they be easily overwhelmed ?
Trying to have a bit (just a bit) of the feeling from the Wizards of the Discworld: mostly full of themselves, but once in a while, able to display some true expertise.

If you're going classical seasons, Spring is immediate post-Apprenticeship. Summer is somewhere between 15 and 30 years post-Gauntlet, when a magus becomes a (qualified) master: good enough to teach an Apprentice, but also with a few decent arts scores in their areas of speciality. The Rhine Tribunal requires Masters to actually produce a 5th magnitude masterwork, or a collection of lesser work, to be recognised, so that gives a ballpark: lab total of >38 in their favoured area (which means ~28 levels of arts, less if they have a focus, a stronger aura or more magic theory. A 15 and a 13 works, or you can specialise more).

I think there's another level - a senior master - where a magus has ~25 in their core arts, and a bunch of 10s to back it up. I don't have a good age bracket for this though.

Then there's the people with 30 - 40 in their core art, the ones who are true experts (and possible archmagi).

And on the gripping hand: the real question with quality of texts is how common Great Com or Good Teacher is.

Hey Chad,

As others have noted, it's very difficult to really find a good baseline. Because there's so much flexibility in the system, magi can be anything from super-specialized to broad generalists, or even magi who simply raised their Arts high enough to live comfortably for two centuries, so stopped.

However, the book Magi of Hermes was written with some assumptions about how much XP characters would get every year, and those magi are developed at multiple age points. So it's the best sample you have. I would look to that book. You'll have to do some math, averaging Arts scores among all of them for their various age categories. That would get you up to about Gauntlet + 45 years. Most of them don't go further than that.

I would caution against applying the seasonal framework to magi. You can do it; it's a compelling metaphor and so, like all good metaphors, we have a tendency to try to apply it to everything. But I would do the math first, figure out what the magi look like at their various ages, and then look at the data and ask yourself, "How are these characters developing?" Rather than starting out with a framework, to which we are naturally inclined to bend the results.

Good luck!

Magi of Hermes book provide a list a magi example, and the way they develop their capability along their career.
Each chapter describe one maga, with stats at gauntlet, gauntlet +15y, +30y, +45y, +60y and +75y

It's very useful to get some progression example.
as a generic rule, you have the 30xp per year which is provided for year after gauntlet, Magi of Hermes stick to this ratio, using 20xp per year for magic

I personally find than the new spell apprenticeship is very expensive with this calculation method (new spell levels are directly subtracted from xp, i find played new spell addition a lot easier than that, especially thanks to laboratory text)

Numerically, I think a pair of arts at (or about) 20 is an important benchmark for magi. Its at this point that book progression 'mostly' runs out for your best arts and you either have to really start scrounging for tractatus (and it's slow progress at that) or you spend time broadening your arts out a bit and become a more well rounded magus. It also means you probably have a lab total for your best arts somewhere north of 50 (70 in your focus) and can make the spells you probably really wanted when you were a wee apprentice. So your 'rush to power', while not over, has slowed dramatically but you've successfully established yourself and can commit to other projects (like politics, training an apprentice, pursuing Mysteries, and so forth). I'd call this the summertime of magical power.

Many magi never grow much more powerful than this - they broaden their arts and spells, but 50 years later they might have only gained 3-5 more points in their best arts but have raised most of their other arts to 10+ (because it's quick and easy to do so) and know a plethora of level 15-25 spells outside of their focus. At some point it's more worthwhile to be shoring up your weaknesses than improving your strengths.

Once you've become well rounded, that's when you can tackle the heights of your power. This is the magus' autumn, where he's well established, has no serious weaknesses and can achieve his pinnacle of strength. This is where archmagi are made, great projects completed, and so forth. Magi at this stage grow to at least the mid 30s in their chosen arts and perhaps mid 20s in related favorites and are capable of designing and casting those level 60-70 spells.

A magus enters winter when his magic starts to turn on him - either advancing age has declined his faculties, or repeated Twilight has given him serious flaws that restricts his ability to safely use his magic. Magi in this phase are just as capable as autumn magi - perhaps more so, as studying arts from books is about the only safe activity left for them - but actually doing stuff generally only hastens their end. Expect lots of spell mastery Abilities in this phase of life, as avoiding Twilight becomes a bigger and bigger priority.


Thanks for the input, folks.

I guess I was really coming at this the wrong way. We're doing a modern setting, quite Dresdenesque, and had talked about doing monthly study/Labs instead of Seasonal due to the greater availability of information now vs. Middle Ages/Renaissance times. I guess I was initially hoping to get figures like "X number of XP total in Arts at Y years past Gauntlet" to give me an idea of XP/year or month to make available. As some of you have pointed out that is not an easy answer to give with all the variables in ArM. I have enough experience in the system I should have known that before posting.

I'm also beginning to see that we will need to rethink either Monthly study or the Study Rules themselves. Using 4th ed. RAW for study in Months will get way over the top really fast


Well, the canonical AM5 30xp or levels per year does give you "X number of XP total in Arts at Y years past Gauntlet." But once the game starts, this translates poorly into monthly seasons, which will be much better.

That said, Dresden grows immensely in power over a few short years, and he starts the first book long out of apprenticeship. So making each season be a month isn't so bad at all, especially if many months will be filled with mishap and adventure rather than productive reading and labwork.



Thanks for that, Ken.

We were originally talking about doing one story per Season, so that would keep the traditional ArM 3:1 ratio of study/lab:story. I've tossed out three alternatives to the rest of the Troupe (continue as we are, revert to Seasonal study, or house rule different study rules) but haven't heard back on anyone's preference yet. I also suggested one of them might see a fourth alternative, perhaps a greater frequency of stories will be suggested by one of them.

I've barely scratched the surface of the 5th core book PDF so I hadn't seen the 30 XP/year that you cite. We're looking to far exceed that, though. We "aged" our magi through four uneventful months to let the others (all new to ArM) get a feel for the rules. Our magi gained an average of 41 XP in that time.

Maybe the fault (if there is one) is mine, for how I set up the library. I still had one from a 3rd ed. covenant from the late 90s and converted it to 4th per the rules in that book, same level and Quality at half the level. We have a pretty darn good library, with two or three books in the Level 13/Quality 7 neighborhood. In balance, though, no vis sources aside from distilling in the lab. We're also neighbors with a Summer covenant who has likely already laid claim to all the ones nearby.

So, maybe it will work itself out. I'll wait and see what the rest of the group want to do.

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The 30 xp/year is on page 32, in the character generation section of advancing magi past apprenticeship.
In practice, I've seen magi switch between 'education' phases and 'production' phases, where they'll spend a lot of time maximizing their xp gain (generally between 25-50xp if they have good books or good vis options) and then blocks of years were they focus on making items, spells, and problem solving.