The Best and Worst Virtues

It got me thinking. I sort of miss 4th edition in the way that it forced XP purchases based on house, and I'm of the opinion that apprentices get a raw deal, XP-wise. I agree that the arts/spell levels is good, but the notion of "apprentice = 3 season lab slave" is pretty unrealistic. Maybe for House Bonisagus (research! research! research!), but even they have seasons where they publish or study.

Let's look at the houses and how apprentices might get more XP than mere exposure:

Bjornaer: apprentices are considered magi after they express their Heartbeast. They still do the 15 years, but it would be grossly inconsistent to call your filius a magus and still treat him as a full on lab-slave 3 seasons of the year. If you're not needed in the lab, your master can arrange for a book or a teacher or even (gasp) some free time to do what you might want, like practicing Heartbeast.

Bonisagus: early on, at least, the faster your apprentice knows Latin and Magic Theory the better. The first few years of a Bonisagus' apprenticeship would be getting Latin to 5 and Magic Theory to 3. After that, yeah, one season of teaching/year and 3 of lab slavery, unless the parens is doing something else, then more reading Magic Theory for the apprentice!

Criamon: Hard to pin down. I don't see a lot of Criamon being hard-core laboratory users, but I can see them dragging apprentices around to gain mystical experiences. Adventure XP might be common for Criamon apprentices.

Ex Misc: Another hard one to pin down. I'd expect more training in the Ex Misc special virtue(s). At the very least I'd expect an apprentice to get more seasons of Practice than in most other houses.

Flambeau: Less focus on Latin/Magic Theory, more focus on practical training. If you're not using the apprentice in the lab, hand him over to the arms-master for training. Make him practice spells for Mastery.

Guernicus: Prospective Quaesitors need a LOT of training. Awareness, Folk Ken, Code of Hermes, Intrigue, Etiquette, Leadership, the list goes on. Not helping in the lab? Here's a Teacher, get learning. I'd expect these guys to have far and away the best training any house would provide.

Jerbiton: Study magic? Sure, we could do that. Or we could visit Paris. Apprentices get a lot of practice in Area Lore and Social Skills as well as adventure XP (social adventures with other Jerbiton apprentices).

Mercere: Apprentices are family - literally. Combine high expectations with familial indulgence. Stir in the necessary skills to perform as a Redcap if need be. Extra teaching necessary, but there are plenty of Redcap volunteers for this.

Merinita: Less focus on Magic Theory, more on Faerie Lore. Probably not a lot of bonus teaching, but some adventure XP dealing with faeries.

Tremere: Apprentices need to be useful to the house. Probably at least one extra season a year of teaching, if not by their pater, by someone else.

Tytalus: enjoy being miserable. Mastering magic is your only hope of escape. Your master gives you seasons of mind-numbing work, during which you do as little as you can get away with and Practice what you can, Read what you can't practice - just as your master planned. Oh, and your pater sends you on terribly dangerous (carefully constructed) adventures to make you strong.

Verditus: Training is the rule of the day. Your pater doesn't need your small contribution to lab total often. While he makes stuff, you get trained in his Craft.

I kind of see the logic there, but personally I'm not a fan of forcing how players spend their xp. (And I would never, no matter what House they chose, force them to have a starting Magic Theory of less than 3. If they don't want to spend the xp that's on them, but I'd never take away the option) And of course, you have to remember that not every member of a House is going to follow the usual rules. Sure, there are general things, especially for Mystery Cults; Faerie stuff for Merinita, crafting for Verditius... I mean, the Magus wouldn't be in the House if they didn't do that stuff. On the other hand, there's an entire section of Bonisagus that cares more about politics than improving Hermetic Theory, and you can expect at the very minimum for different instructors to have different levels of strictness and study allowance regardless of their House. Except Tytalus, again, because their House Virtue is literally based on how grueling their training is, 100% of the time. (Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; I mean, Adventure xp is certainly a better source of training than Magic Theory exposure in the lab, even if it sucks for the apprentice in question.)

There's too much potential teacher variance, and too much concept choice that I wouldn't want to take away from my players. YSMV.

The game already takes away choice. You need Latin 4 to read and a host of very necessary skills (Parma, Finesse, Penetration, Code of Hermes, Magic Theory, Order of Hermes Lore) and you get 240XP to buy it all with - and if you want to be half-decent at anything else, FORGET IT.

My point is that apprentices should have more XP, because it's easy to justify them getting more than 1 season teaching + 3 seasons exposure. Even one extra season a year of learning is in the order of +150xp over the apprenticeship.

Yes and no. I agree that a starting magus is pretty green; having to spend 90 xp out of 240 in Latin 4, Magic Theory 3, Artes Liberales 1 and Parma Magica 1, and 150 xp for everything else doesn't allow for a lot of differentiation. But every magus character is very much the same. So there is choice, every starting magus can spend 150 xp freely as they want, they could even cheat some of the XP from the recommended Magic Theory score of 3 away, but it's not recommended. And if you don't like that, you can age magi a few years, which is pretty standard.

And you can do that, if you want to do all the work that is necessary with the optional rules for Extremely Complex Character Generation. And it is a lot of work. It's almost as if you're playing an apprentice. And yes, apprentices played through apprenticeship will be stronger than one generated by RAW. But so too will a magus 40 years post gauntlet be different if he's played than if he's generated by RAW.

I never said it took away all your choices, but it does take away some of the player's choices. The game basically gives you enough points to buy all of the basic, recommended stuff and little else. Heaven help you if you chose any other Ability granting virtues (Heartbeast, Faerie Magic, Second Sight).

Yes, ECCG solves the problem, but as you mention, it's a ton of work. Since we're agreed that an ECCG apprentice comes out better, why not just make apprentices better so we don't have to do all the work? Choose a house, and get (amount) XP to spend on (limited selection of) Abilities. This hinders powergaming (you don't just get 'bonus XP' you can throw anywhere), you are actually more shaped by your selection of house. Right now a Flambeau and a Jerbiton out of gauntlet are pretty much the same.

For consideration, the rules I have my players use includes 300xp for apprenticeship (150 + 150, just like the old days). Strong Parens/Weak Parens is an option on top of that. Post gauntlet development (I allow elder magi) equals on average 10xp per season, and a season in the lab grants 2xp Exposure.
As a comparison: I have a character that started out using core RAW, was retconned using JL's house rules, and was retconned again latter using mine. Three different sagas over the course of six years or so. In all cases, advancement opportunity is much better in a live saga compared to even my generous HR's. In Novus Mane, the original version using Core RAW, I was able to hit 10xp or more a season on average. In Bibracte (Mon Electi), I was able to hit those averages and higher and had a much more powerful Aura for lab work. In Andorra, using the rules there, I struggled to hit my marks and keep even with where he was and would have been at various stages. These are the stats for Roerto in 1235, in the Light of Andorra saga. If he would have stayed at Mons Electi and played through tp 1235, he would have been a bit more advanced. The plan I had laid out for him there would have taken him to a minimum score of 5 in every Art and equipped him with another half dozen spells.

Which is just to say that I think upping XP slightly for newly gauntleted magi and for advancement beyond is perfectly reasonable and does not unbalance anything.

No, it absolutely does not take away the choices. Every character has to spend 60 xp for Latin 4 (50), Artes Libreales 1 (5) and Parma Magica 1 (5). Every character should spend 30 xp on Magic Theory, but even that is possible to do differently if a player wants to accept the consequences. So, it's 60 or 90 xp or somewhere in between that everyone has to spend the same way. Since all characters are more or less in the same boat and what a character can do with the remaining 150 xp is completely their choice they have total choice over the 150 xp, just as any other magus character does. And the Ability granting virtues are immaterial to the discussion of choice. Do the characters with these have one more thing to spend XP upon? Yes, sure, but that is the player's choice, too, and isn't affected by the compulsory ability scores necessary to be a magus. Such virtues as you mention might make choices harder, but that isn't a bad thing, and players can certainly make those choices.

I don't agree, it's pretty easy to make Flambeau and Jerbiton coming out of gauntlet look a lot different. When my magi start to appear the same, it means I'm not looking at the character, and that I'm looking at the mechanics more than who this magus is. I'm focusing on mechanical things to make a character similar to another character because I like doing something a certain way. Case in point, I take Flawless Magic a lot. I wasn't even aware of it until recently. None of my magi with Flawless Magic look anything alike, though.

I do commiserate with you about the lack of XP, that when you say an apprenticeship grants 240 XP it seems like a lot until more than a third of it gets chopped away into compulsory ability scores. I have considered that in my next standard game with straight from gauntlet magi (or even slightly aged), that all magi will start with the compulsory ability scores where they need to be and the 240 xp for the apprenticeship can be spent as desired. This does devalue certain virtues a bit, such as Educated and Skilled Parens, but it's not a big devaluation on those virtues.

Edit: added words in italics for clarity.

I've houseruled that it makes your sun duration magic work like moon duration: It ends once you've passed two checkpoints, rather than just one.

It keeps the basic principle (which I actually really like) intact, while making it significantly more valuable.

It would be interesting to work backward, from what a newly gauntleted magus ought to be able to do, to apprenticeship rules.

For example, a generic Guernicus ought to have at least 5 in Code of Hermes, because that's a basic professional level. He also needs to be able to Intellego with a solid Penetration, and either have a reasonable offense when a hoplite isn't around to protect him, or excellent infiltration and escape. Then there's Latin, AL, Parma....

Since a good faerie is a charbroiled Faerie, a Flambeau ought to be able to handle a Might 20 Faerie as a minimum benchmark. (The Flambeau do have a (short) oral exam before the practical part of the Gauntlet: What do you do about a large mob of peasants? How would you handle a demon? What about a tricksy faerie? Your first Wizard's War... discuss. How many magi does it take to declare a March?) He needs enough knowledge of the Code to survive his first Tribunal. Etc.

A Merinita without Faerie Lore 5 is hardly committed. It takes more than just knowing the difference between Grendel and a grindylow...

I have noticed, over the years, that proponents of less powerful magi are more vocal than proponents of more powerful magi. Those sagas are easier to run too. It is natural for rules to follow in that direction.

Potential Rule for Far More Powerful Magi out of Gauntlet: Opening the Hermetic Arts creates a mystical bond between master and apprentice. During any year that the master spends at least one season devoted to teaching or training the apprentice himself, an apprentice gains the same experience and learns the same spells as his master during any seasonal activity they perform together, including reading a text, even if the Apprentice's scores do not normally allow such learning. An apprentice is not considered to have read a Tractutus that his master reads from, since he is really learning from the master.

It's not hard, 49 seasons of exposure, 12 seasons of one on one teaching, 3 seasons of spell instruction. That's what an apprenticeship is at a minimum. It can be more, and if you play through it, it is quite often more.

Err. No. Penetrating with Intellego, for what purpose? To violate the code? And having a Code of Hermes of 5? Because it's a professional level. He's a magus first, and then a Quaesitor second (if at all). Is it a good idea for the Quaesitor to have a score of 5? Sure, but it's not required.

A might 20 creature isn't all that hard to get to, but I've seen even well advanced magi of being incapable of handling all possible threats. As to how many magi it takes to declare a March? By code, a minimum of 7 so long as they are from 4 different covenants and there were 12 magi in attendance. That's a legal question that I wouldn't expect a Flambeau to necessarily know, though.

What? This is much like the Code of Hermes score mentioned above. By such reasoning every House should have something that it is better at than everyone else, and thus every House gets 75 xp to that end.

Yes, and?

Ugh. No.

Yes, but 11 seasons of one-on-one teaching, not 12. That would be just how it's laid out in Apprentices.

Dang it did it again

That Flambeau magus I like to keep bragging about, Roberto; in the original saga created using strict RAW, straight out of Gauntlet he was able to Penetrate a Magic Resistance of 20 with his Pilium of Fire. The Virtue choices made in order to do that have served me well down through the years, and are quite relevant to the discussion at hand.

  • Puissant Ignem (House Virtue)
  • Puissant Creo
  • Life Boost
  • Self Confident
  • Flawless Magic

The Puissant Ars add +6 to Creo Ignem, or +3 to just one or the other.
Life Boost adds +5 per Fatigue Level spent, and is the single most important Virtue if you are hoping to yield high Penetration totals.
Self Confident can add a +6 bonus to anything. I would call this the single most powerful and important Virtue in the game for designing characters that take action and actively do things. If you are a lab rat, maybe not so much.
Flawless Magic is a gem, worth the price and a fair value. Mastery grants a boosted casting total, another boost to Penetration, and many other perks. I shy away from calling it the best Virtue in the game because some people have conflicting opinions on how different Mastery abilities should be applied, not every spell is worth Mastering, and the official available mastery abilities are not as plentiful or open as they should be. But it is a powerful Virtue, and I call it fair Value ranked as Major.
As for the other criteria, had it in the bag since day one. :mrgreen:
As for the charbroiled comment, I get dirty looks whenever I quote that :laughing:

I don't say that. I have never said that. I have always fought against that. I am not as vocal as I used to be, perhaps I should be more so again. Have fear of what you have unleashed :smiling_imp:
But I have always had the very opposite experience. A low power level (across the board) makes it difficult for me to come up with stories. I don't like to study the characters, I just make up stuff and gamble that they can handle it or think of something. It is a technique that has served me well. I also like to make presumptions about background details and handwave away nonsense that bogs down the story. If it was a low powered world, I would be stuck with endless calculations to check and see if this or that is plausible or even possible.
I dowant some structure as opposed to all-powerful chaos. But a loose structure that adapts tofit the needs of what is as opposed to worrying about what could be but probably never happen.

:laughing:
Of course, you are so far on the opposite side of the spectrum from low-powered ideas that you make me look conservative!
I am not keen on this idea. Not so much because of the numbers, but because it doesn't seem sensible or thematically appropriate to my imagination. And it is too chaotic. I like medium chaos.

Phft! That's almost trivial.
Even the flambeau example in the core book (ArM5, p. 25) can do that.
Did we forget the 'Frightening Munchkinism thread already?
Everything done in this post can probably be done equally well with fire.
That's a stable penetration over 30 (before dice) on Incantation of Lightning IIRC.

Any roll that doesn't represent a seasonal activity IIRC

For a pure combat mage, it ptobably is the best.
For anyone interested in anything besides combat, probably less useful, but still very good.

Where does that put me then?
I tend to think newly Gauntleted magi should be more powerful, but the powergain over time should probably be a little slower.

Seconded.

Agreed.

Oh, virtually no one ever actually uses any of the rules I post here. (Though I have noticed that some of my perspectives have become adopted...) It mostly really isn't that chaotic; for fast chargen simply provide 30xp more per year but require house by house minima.

As for power, I'm not sure you're right about my preferring outrageously high power. I do prefer capable characters, but for me it is more about the fear of player power and about powerful != broken.

30 xp more? That's another 450 xp. Wow. I could have 6 abilities with a score of 5!

:mrgreen:
Just razzing ya

As for that Virtue selection I listed, everyone take notice that it does not include any sort of Magic Focus. The package described grants an edge in Creo & Ignem, but a broad number of benefits apply to casting a variety of spells. A Focus would trip the cake and take Penetration to a potential 35 or more.

I'm roughly in agreement with the 'compulsory ability scores' being free, I just think that what those scores would be would vary by house. There's plenty of things that magi 'should' by all rights have but don't take due to lack of points - things like Area Lore for the covenant they were apprenticed in. Mandatory freebies makes for better fleshed characters, as long as you still allow for sufficient discretionary spending. 120xp in arts is plenty, and another 120xp in Abilities would be sufficient if the Latin/Magic Theory/etc were taken care of.

I feel like there should be an optional pre-apprenticeship life block representing the fact that some parentes teach or have someone else teach their intended apprentice Magic Theory and how to speak and read Latin, personally. I mean, that's literally an established (if somewhat dangerous in practice, as your apprentice is unclaimed) method of increasing your apprentice's usefulness as a lab assistant prior to the actual apprenticeship.

Alternatively, a lot of problems are also solved if you consider just how much a Magus might have to instruct their future filia throughout the day so they don't cause a bunch of errors due to their lower Magic Theory and Arts and not really knowing what's going on. Not to mention that the apprentice is in most cases helping the Magus to produce something while not producing anything for themselves. Really, it would almost be reasonable to rule that the seasons spent as a lab assistant are more appropriate as Training experience than Exposure experience. That by itself would add something like 120 or 180 xp to the total apprenticeship, assuming a Master who didn't just get all their Arts to 5 and Parma to 2 two years out of apprenticeship and promptly go searching for an apprentice.

It may end up adding much less. Remember, you cannot train the Hermetic Arts. So the only thing that can reasonably be trained is Magic Theory, maybe Latin, so the only effect of this would be to get the Latin scores to 5 and the Magic Theory scores closer to 5. And apprentices, especially apprentices in play may be greedy for experience points in the Arts and much more interested in taking exposure experience over training experience.