Teaching Hermetic virtues

A slight edge case:

I play a Maga of House Mercere, with Compassionate (Major) and Gentle Gift.

She has Gifted twins and can easily generate the SQ=21 necessary to teach them the Hermetic Virtue of Gentle Gift, and due to her Compassionate nature really wants to do so. Although I want to play with apprentices, the version of House Mercere in our saga has a preference for the gifted children of Magi to be apprenticed away from their home (so as to give them a wide exposure to different cultures), so these gifted children will probably (but not certainly) not be her apprentices.

The question therefore is, if the children are taught magic theory, can she teach them Gentle gift before their arts are opened? If she can and then the arts are opened by some other maga, would they run the risk of destroying the Virtue (like Supernatural abilities can be lost on opening)?

Obviously this is a YSMY issue, but I wondered if anyone had any thoughts.

Bob Dillon

Gentle Gift is not a supernatural power or ability, so it won't affect how difficult it will be to open the apprentice's arts.

One important thing to note is that you can Open their Gift to Hermetic Magic at ANY TIME. You could do it right after birth if you liked (provided the Gift had manifested, I suppose). This technically makes them legally your apprentice, which means you're obliged to give them one season of training (each) per year, though what you train them in is your own business. This also prevents other magi (aside from Bonisagi) from snatching them as apprentices. And you can trade apprentices to other magi at any time. The only real problem here is that the children will finish their apprenticeship very early in life and thus be less capable, overall, than an older starting magus. This is easily countered by giving them intensive training, and Gentle Gifted children respond well to dedicated teaching efforts. If you skip using them as lab slaves and put them in a classroom, they'll end up far better.

But I doubt that the other Mercere magi who are their 'final' masters would object to you saving them a season of work Opening the Gift, and another season giving them Gentle Gift. Even if this shaves a year off their use of the apprentice, you're saving them 2 seasons work at a minimum, which is more than enough compensation. It does make it harder to train them in further Hermetic virtues, but it's not an insurmountable problem.

And if that's a no-go, your maga just tells the rest of the house to go stuff it. House preferences are all well and good, but Mercere trained his own children, and what is the house going to do, kick you out and lose 3 Gifted Merceres? This isn't House Tremere or even Bonisagus, and the Prima of House Mercere probably doesn't even try to tell the Gifted Merceres what to do - her job is to manage the Redcaps. And it's not like you can't achieve the same goal (cosmopolitan Merceres) by different methods, like the way House Jerbiton does it. Spend a year or two on tour of Europe near the end of the apprentice's 15.

Yes, I agree. A vision of the Order in which Gifted children are never trained by their biological parents is all well and good, but if anyone was going to break that rule, it'd be a Gifted Mercere.

Ok but what about giving them Gentle Gift before opening the arts? She want them not to be hated by the other kids (and each other...), but opening the arts too early means that they aren't going to be emotionally mature enough to cope. So do you think that this is a flyer?


Teach them some Magic Theory (otherwise you cannot teach Hermetic Virtues to your apprentices), then open their Arts, then teach them the Gentle Gift. And if you deem them too young and immature to continue, make sure you have their tokens for the Aegis, unless they are under your supervision in your lab. :smiley:


I know the text says that the individuals must be trained in Hermetic Magic Theory (teacher and apprentice), but I think this refers to Opening the Arts (this is a season of training and sets all of the Hermetic Arts to zero, after all). I don't think it means teach them some Magic Theory, as in the ability, which pretty much anyone can learn Were it possible for knowing the Magic Theory ability to be the requirement then the following sentence in the text, about teaching a Gifted Hedge Wizard for the reason that they don't understand magic the same way is contradicted.

Handling one apprentice, let alone two apprentices in play is a huge time sink, as an SG who has done it and as a player (also a Merceris magus) who took an apprentice while he was unprepared, it's required a massive amount of preplanning. My magus also has the Gentle Gift and passing on his Gentle Gift is the best legacy he can leave with his apprentice.

Well, Opening the Arts is treated on Apprentices p.34ff. In Teaching Hermetic Virtues on p.40ff it is required: "Both teacher and student (scilicet: of the Hermetic Virtue mentioned before) must be Gifted individuals trained in Hermetic Magic Theory." As usual, you are entitled to your opinion.


Thanks for the permission, of allowing me my opinion, sir. One knows how insulting it is to grant another permission to his opinions, I'm sure.

But since the Gentle Gift is one of of those "Hermetic" virtues that non-Hermetic Gifted individuals may possess. How does it follow then? I know Gentle Gift is listed as a Hermetic Virtue, but, IIRC, Rival Magic discusses other magical traditions having their own Gentle Gift, and that it is closer to a Supernatural virtue than Hermetic virtue, but not explicitly redefined. Without having the Opening the (scillcet: Hermetic) Arts being the basis for "trained in Hermetic Magic Theory" one creates the remote possibility that a Gifted individual who is not a Hermetic Magus with the Ability (scillcet: Hermetic) Magic Theory could teach the Gentle Gift. Of course, this may be a feature, rather than a bug, but I really consider Opening the Arts to be the basis of training in Hermetic Magic Theory, rather than having XP in the Ability of Magic Theory. Although, it is possible that in that season where the Arts are Opened, Magic Theory receives the exposure experience, rather than an Art, Latin, or whatever else might be relevant to the activity.

We have no rules that apply to teaching virtues before the Gift is opened (other than Supernatural Abilities). For teaching hermetic virtues, the procedure is:

Open the Gift.
Teach them some Magic Theory (note that this step can be done teaching more than one student at a time).
Teach them the Hermetic Virtue.

Also note you can 'abandon' an apprentice - i.e. stop teaching them annually and the only risk is that another magus swoops in and claims them. Even then, the magus has to suspect they are being abused and/or the apprentice has to complain to someone that he's not getting training for service. It's VERY hard to justify either one of these circumstances when the apprentice is younger than 10, because magi generally don't even start training apprentices until they're at least 8. And most apprentices are basically useless until they're 3-4 years trained anyways (the bulk of the first few years is going to be basic education).

I don't imagine Merceres has much trouble in this regard. There's so few of them and the Redcaps are so protective of them that only an idiot would try to snatch a blooded Mercere apprentice (or Gifted offspring not yet apprenticed). It's one of the few circumstances where you'd actually get the Redcaps to vote in Tribunal for the return of the apprentice, or the entire group of Gifted Merceres declares Wizards's War on the offender (possibly along with the Redcaps...all of them...from every tribunal).

It may well be that these children have the Gentle Gift at birth, too. Having Hermetic virtues doesn't inhibit Opening the Arts, only passing along other Hermetic virtues.

There may be indeed a hint in Apprentices' Teaching Hermetic Virtues, that practitioners of other magical traditions with their own magic theories - like Folk Witch Magic Theory - also might teach their pupils Virtues tied to their magic in the way Hermetic magi do. And then the Gentle Gift would be a likely candidate for many traditions.

But this is neither a topic for this thread - about Mercere apprentices - nor for Apprentices. And it is for troupes to decide anyway.

Interestingly, the eight year old Apprentice of House Bonisagus on p.34 box has the Arts opened, but no Magic Theory. Apparently, her parens preferred to teach her Latin instead.

But given that the Mercere maga's twins need to know Hermetic Magic Theory before they can be taught the Gentle Gift, they must have the maturity to understand that theory.
And to make sure, that
(1) other magi - but for quarrelsome Bonisagi - cannot interfer without the Mercere maga's consent,
(2) the responsibility of the Mercere for her children's early development as apprentices is documented (which includes their acquisition of the Gentle Gift, which might block future parentes' differing preferences for their apprentices' Virtues),
she should open their Hermetic Arts in time, thus making them formally her apprentices.


Yes, we only have rules for teaching an apprentice a Virtue after the Gift has already been opened.

But it is also true that a character can take a Virtue as latent; the child has Gentle Gift, it just hasn't actually manifested yet. This is up to whoever designed the child's character sheet, presumably you, the GM, or some combination of the two.

We do not currently have rules for teaching Gentle Gift BEFORE the Gift has been opened.

In my campaign, I say that when a mecere finds a bloodrelated gifted child, they always see to that a Gifted Mecere gets it, because if someone else snatches the child, then that magus will be politely asked to give it away to House Mecere. If they do not, then said Magus will be forced to count on lost letters, being banned from help by redcaps etc. A little like a Maffia-organization. They will use threats and convince other Magi to coerce and harass the Magus.
Most Magi in the Order knows that you do not mess around with gifted children being of Mecere's blood.

The Gift itself can be latent; it does not always manifest at birth. Once it has manifested, however, one would expect that if it was Gentle or Blatant that this would also manifest. It would certainly be strange that a person's Gift would change character without the action of some outside agent (Twilight, Initiations, etc), and if I was the parent of Gifted children I certainly would not expect that to happen. Obviously apprentices develop virtues (including Hermetic ones) without being taught, as part of the abstract nature of their development, but there's certainly no good reason to just do nothing and hope they develop the virtue you want them to have (and some, like Mercurian Magic, are almost exclusively taught rather than gained naturally).

Probably the first response will be a Bonisagus arriving to claim the apprentice back from the snatcher, probably with Tremere and Guernicus hoplites right behind him. Then the child is quietly traded back to House Mercere.

I don't know, I could see the gift becoming blatant at puberty...

Careful, you're letting your prejudices show. :laughing:

Everything is for troupes to decide, sir. I'll point out further that the same paragraph that describes Magic Theory (vaguely) being the threshold for teaching a Hermetic virtue also says that "Teaching an Hermetic Virtue combines aspects of learning a Supernatural Ability (ArM5, page 166) with learning a Mystery Cult Virtue (The Mysteries Revised Edition, page 13)." That alone should suggest that knowing (Hermetic) Magic Theory isn't sufficient to being taught a Hermetic virtue, but in fact, that Opening the Arts is the "mystery" that must be unlocked to teach Hermetic Virtues.

The rules illustrate no need for the character to be "mature" enough to understand Magic Theory.

Nobody here claims, that Magic Theory is the only prerequisite for teaching an Hermetic Virtue by the means described on Apprentices p.40ff. This idea you found all by yourself, and I do not know how. An understanding of Magic Theory by teacher and student is just a prerequisite. Check for this also https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/teaching-hermetic-virtues/10166/1 .

Without any common sense at all, Apprentices p.40ff does not make - yes - any sense. If you need rules here, look up ArM5 p.31 Early Childhood.

Just which Hermetic Virtues can be taught in a campaign by this method is a necessary decision each troupe must make. There was a lengthy discussion about this on this forum (see https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/apprentices-in-my-hands/6864/66 ), that we do not need to take up again here.
I give just two examples:

  • You significantly change Mark Shirley's 1470 AD: After the Plague (subrosa #16 p.106ff), if you allow the remaining Jerbitons there to just teach their apprentices the Gentle Gift and continue.
  • Allowing i Trained[/i] (GotF p.20) to be taught according to p.40ff would make a campaign very weird. As would, to rule that an apprentice already i Trained[/i] incurred the p.41 penalty of teaching a student with an Hermetic Virtue.


You ask two questions here.

(1) What is the required relation of instructor and student of Hermetic Virtues on Apprentices p.40ff?

This is not certain. The structure of the chapters in Apprentices puts Teaching Hermetic Virtues as a subchapter into Hermetic Apprenticeship, implying that teaching Hermetic Virtues requires an Hermetic apprenticeship. But

puts this into perspective again. And on https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/apprentices-in-my-hands/6864/66 the author of Apprentices, Matt Ryan, appears to see no problem with shopping around for another teacher:

So this is utterly YSMV.

(2) What happens to existing Hermetic Virtues, when the Hermetic Arts are Opened?

Nothing. Only non-Hermetic Virtues form an obstacle here: see Apprentices p.35f Opening Arts with Supernatural Abilities, which is not cleanly worded, but clearly shows the intention.