The Automaton Phenomenon

I was looking at the Automata virtue in Houses of Hermes:MC. It appears very fun and flavorful, but from what I've seen on the forums it is considered a very weak virtue for the investment it requires.

I can see that... a single Automaton requires as many pawns of vis to build as a normal magic item, with the result being a single absolutely loyal minion who cannot botch. Problem is that the Automaton cannot have any Abilities which the magus does not already know, so the machine can only be used to delegate tasks the magus could do but finds to be a waste of time. It is true that an Automaton can accept enchantments NOT dependent of an Ability score, though it specifically cannot target and cast abilities on others due to having no will, so it is limited to Personal range... and it can't have an always-on Concentration power because a machine with no will cannot concentrate... AND Automata constantly "wind down" over time, so they require a magus who knows the mystery to repair them, in a time frame slow enough that owning more than one or two of them is impractical (in a manner stunningly similar to modern DRM, which is... exactly what I would expect from House Verditius). Effectively, an Automaton only works if you have their creator present to constantly give new orders and perform spot repairs.

Suggesting that the magus builds normal Rego craft magic items and hands them to a competent crafts-grog is a moot point, since the magus likely makes an Automaton to avoid human contact in the first place. The real question is, could this task not be done more easily by a normal Major magic item? Sculpting a statue and giving it a Rego Terram enchantment to follow direct commands would be slightly more expensive than the canned power the Automaton provides, but the magus hasn't spent a year of his life learning how to make it and has none of the limitations the mystery places on his magic. It is true that an Automaton is a proper creature with a Might score, and thus resistant to magical tampering... except any Automaton a magus cares about will either be operating under an Aegis of the Hearth or sold to the wealthy and foolish, whom the magus cares less about.

Would it be possible for initiated Verditius magi to have a Breakthrough which improves the Automaton virtue? Despite being a bunch of sellouts, the Brotherhood of Vergil has a much easier time creating magical constructs- constructs with bound spirits (???) which can reason and make decisions to some extent. This is how their tradition is balanced against the Order of Hermes, of course, and the advantage over House Verditius is amusing enough that I'm okay with it. A rabbi who knows how to build the Golem can also have a thinking, reasoning and disturbingly strong HUMAN BEING, but that is God's doing. In both cases, there are existing magic items/beings which can be studied to produce a Breakthrough. Come to think of it, could Divine aligned magic be experimented on at all?

In addition, anyone who could share a character sheet for a finished Automaton would be appreciated. That detail seems to be missing from the book...

What about some of the additions to the game after HoH:MC was published? Could they have an impact on how useful Automata can be?

For instance -

  1. Magi of Hermes, pages 31&32 - the CrTe 15 guideline/Vulcan's Favored enchantment. T: Part can cover p to T:Ind, so how would/could this affect the maintenance roll?

  2. Legends of Hermes, page 107 - the ReVi guideline to activate an enchanted device. R: Personal covers items worn or held, so could this be used to expand what an automata can actually do, if it has some add-on items?

I don't have either of those supplements. In your experience, how well do those new guidelines work?

Both of the guidelines mentioned are here, under CrTe 15 and ReVi 5.

Not sure how well they work, but the one repairs an item, returning it to an "as new" state - Vulcan's favored is a constant enchantment version of this - the question is how could this enchantment affect the breakdown roll automata require. The other guideline could(?) allow automata to trigger enchanted items attached to, worn or held by them. Those items could(?) ignore the restrictions (range/duration/target) on enchantments that go into the automata themselves and don't take up their enchantment spaces. The ReVi trigger does take up space, but you may only need a limited number of triggers - as long as one creates devices that use that same set of limited triggers, different items can be triggered by the same effect, although you would likely want to avoid automata having 2+ devices that are both triggered by the same effect on them at the same time.

Other people here may be able to poke holes in this and/or YSMV.