The Hermetic Way of Knowing

I have this idea I'd like to explore.

The Arts and Abilities are not different skill sets, they are the same thing seen two different ways. I've been experimenting with this in my games where the Order is the Royal Society: you can get better at Herbam by studying botany and you can use your Herbam when doing botany.

I'd like to spread that further.

Is there, in essence, a problem with using Art / 5 in lieu of Abilities in every case? Magi cannot have Abilities: they can only have arts, but the player can call in relevant Arts. So, if you are a Corpus specialist, you know how to brawl (but why would you? You can lift the danging puppet) and do mortal medicine. If you are an Ignem specialist you naturally know how to cook (although let you call Animal on it instead) but not a lot else: then again you get fire magic.

A lot of the magical abilities (Penetration, for example) are now Vim.

You can also learn a bit of magic by talking to mortals now. You can learn Terram by learning to be a blacksmith. As a source they aren't great and you top out quite quickly, but I like the link.

For non-magi, I've not experimented with it.

The idea does play into the concept of "wizards as wise ones", above and beyond the fact that they've got access to all the cool books.

However, my main question is "where do all the Lores go?" Because there is a LOT covered by mundane knowledge of human society. Is the implication that one can discern the history of Poland, 536-691, from the study of mentam? (Or Terram, perhaps?) I can see Intelligo Herbam or Intelligo Mentam (or whatever) covering the past of a specific object. What about larger or more abstract things, such as Philosophy or Law?

The other issue I see is PC differentiation - taking out abilities means less granulation between any given character.

My thought is to keep abilities, but to use the physical bonuses a PC gets from Forms, and add those to Abilities. so an Ingem 16 wizard gets a +4 bonus to all ability rolls relating to fire - blacksmithing, cooking, etc. You still need a minimum amount of points into the skill, however - as otherwise, you're relying entirely on your mystical understanding with nothing to ground it. (ie, you get the bonus, but you still have the increased botch dice.)

It also suggests that putting 1 XP point into a skill is a useful thing to do - which allows a wizard to have a broad study of a number of subjects. Just enough to ground his knowledge, and thus allow him to make the best use of their time.

And THAT I see as functionally a breakthrough of some sort.

The lore thing is a good point: basically I don't think most of them should exist.

A skill should only exist, as a stat, if by rolling against it you are going to take control of a scene. The vast majority of Lores don't do this. In City and Gild I tried to add the idea that if you have Area lore you can shape the world, by, for example, allowing a successful roll to deem that there is a place where you can get a resource you want. Mainly, though, I don't think your magus should have Law. I think your companions should. I don't think your magus should have a skill for the history of Poland, unless that's going to regularly matter in a "dice roll for substantial stakes" sense.

Well, I understand that from a gamist and narratives perspective - you put things on the character sheet that relate to the story and the game. Anything else is just fluff. And if the game will never deal with Polish history, then having History (Poland) isn't relevant. However, that immediately begs the question: I want my character to be a lawyer. Or a Gernicus, to put it into something more genre-appropriate. How do I represent that?

Your answer seems to be "you don't get to have a magi that knows that, even if the person who grew up next to him can." Which seems like an odd rule - so from a simulationist standpoint, it seems to break down. (And yes, I just broke out the old GNS model there.) So, basically - the break in verisimilitude I get from magi not having abilities is more irritating than what I get from having a character with useless skills.

Which is why I prefer the "adds to abilities" as opposed to "can't have abilities" - you'd have to get rid of abilities altogether, have the arts cover all possible abilities, or else explain why magi can't learn certain abilities, for me to enjoy this.


This is something I suggested years ago... and most people didn't like it. Not one little bit. (Things might have changed, though.... :slight_smile:/2)

I don't see a problem with using Arts to know things that are seemingly specific.

For example, who needs Area Lore to tell me where the blacksmiths are in a town if I have Terram, which tells me where they have to be?

Things get a bit hairier with "I have a good Mentem, so of course I can speak any of the Chinese languages," (though my Terram sucks so I have no idea where China is.)

For me, though, were I to run with my preferred rules, Mentem doesn't cover language at all, or if it does, it needs to Penetrate God's ongoing curse that makes understaning language difficult.

And what about using Area Lore to tell me that "Bob is the best blacksmith in town, has three daughters by his wife and one unacknowledged son?"

This gets into my feelings about virtues versus skills versus... I'm not sure what to call them. Everyone lives somewhere, but some people are better traveled. That's a virtue, not a skill. Rather than clutter an already busy character sheet with Area Lores, and other knowledge of that kind, maybe rely on more generalized virtues?

It also gets into my thoughts about the limits of Hermetic Magic, the kind not mentioned. I don't see Hermetic Magic as being able to provide you with a Name, true or not, except by reading someone's mind or coercing a spirit or something like that. I don't think it can produce writing, because that is itself a kind of magic, especially magic texts. (It is a seasonal ritual to write an Arts text, frex.)

Getting rid of existing Abilities is the big win from a playing perspective. If my magus already has 15 Arts, 25 spells, the usual assortment of virtues and flaws and personality traits (and a few unusual ones), adding 30 Abilities is just.... yuck. (And that's just for the Area Lores he has accumulated over the last century...)

One change that I'd love to see anyway is further reliance on virtues to allow ability at all. A character who doesn't have a warrior-like virtue ought never be able to develop into master swordsman, except insofar as he gets one of those virtues during play. Same for literacy, and any profession.

Then, even a non-magus might have a Professional virtue that unlocks a profession, a single skill in that profession that covers everything necessary; a guild master might have two (Guild Master and an underlying profession). Character sheet scrunches down.

We lose some specificity? I think AM has already reached the point where precision often comes at the expense of accuracy, or is at best noise.

Since AM shares a lot of DNA with games like GURPS, it is worth considering the ultimate uncurated conclusion, that a game that uses all the skills (thousands?) becomes unwieldy and unplayable. A GURPS fan might fairly argue that you aren't supposed to use all the skills. One game, say, about pro-wrestlers might have individual skills in various specific wrestling moves but with Nobel Prize Winning Greatest Scientist in the World being a 1 point Perk. Because in that kind of game, it matters immensely whether you are better at smashing someone with a chair when he seems down versus from behind (totally different skills, but they default), but being awesome at science affects your dialog, and maybe you have an atomic swirly logo on your headband. Another game has a skill for every medical subspecialty but none for Medicine; we're all doctors.

So I like it aesthetically in game (how well can you claim to understand Terram if you don't recognize a good sword when you see it, save that you cast a spell) and in play (Candlemaker guildmaster: Virtue: Candlemaker Virtue: Guild Master Flaw: Many Daughters Lustful +2; Knight: Virtue: Knight social status Virtue: Warrior (knightly style) Virtue: Essentially Chivalrous Flaw: Berserk Flaw: Single-Minded Flaw: Faerie Mount who is smarter than he is). How much do I really need to add to any of these?

Similarly, maybe you don't get to take Charm or similar everyman skills without an appropriate virtue. Anyone can be charming, but that's a matter of a good Pre, Com, some sort of special circumstance (Puissant Charm versus Good Pre as a virtue) and so on. Being an expert charmer that allows for further development might take more.

I've gone off into the blue yonder here.

Note that Corpus remains too awesome, so I'd rule that if another Form makes decent sense, Corpus cannot be used instead but the converse is not true. (That is, athletics is always corpus, unless it involves swimming or holding breath underwater (aquam), or stunt riding (animal) or climbing a rock face (terram) etc.)

Needless to say, I prefer this direction.




Because if you try to lift the dangling puppet to prevent the Evil Hedge Wizard from completing his Unspea, Ineff, um, very bad ritual of defilement at midnight in the cathedral, you might face more botch dice than you want to think about, and you will certainly set off the magical detection wards set up by the Augustinians or other, similar third parties and you'd really not have to deal with them.

Because if you lift the dangling puppet in a tavern you will get all sorts of negative attention, but being the geezer who wins bar fights at the Mos Eisley cantina is simply cool.

Because you can support your Persona as a veteran mercenary. And you can even teach the ungifted ducal heir how to defend himself while being his bodyguard.

Because you can do all this without having to worry about Penetration, or accusations of blatantly interfering with mundanes.

And, because, let's face it: Your starship might have enough phasers to melt a planet, yet somehow you always end up brawling on the floor while that Jerbiton over there plays fight music.



I hadn't really meant to go so long without responding to this thread. At first blush it sounds really good, but then the left turn...

How does Parma Magica work, under this paradigm? How is the lab total computer (and how is not having Magic Theory) made up for. For some magi, Magic Theory doesn't play a big part in the lab total, but for other magi, it's huge, especially if their Arts are low.

Going back to the idea of Magi only using Arts, and not abilities.

What's the purpose? To generalize magi and make them poorer at doing "mundane" things? A Terram specialist with an Art score of 20, has 210 xp in it, and he's got an effective 4 for blacksmith, while the blacksmith, with the same amount of xp has a score of 8 and is close to it being a 9. He's far better at being a blacksmith than the magus is. I'd feel better with the Art being divided by 3, rather than 5, which still means that the mundane is better at his job than most magi, but the magus is pretty darn good. That Terram 20 now has a 7 for his black smithing...

Languages are another special issue, how are these handled? They aren't typically rolled, so I can see excluding these from the abilities rule a magus possesses.

Most magi I make spend about 130ish of their XP from apprenticeship on abilities, 90 xp is (all but) compulsory for Latin, Magic Theory, Artes Liberales and Parma Magica. I'm curious as to how their life prior to apprenticeship gets transformed into Arts, too.

Given that the magus wouldn't have level 4 in just Blacksmith, but in every skill that's reasonably Terram-related, plus the magical abilities implied by Terram 20, I think it's quite fair that the mundane blacksmith would be much better at it than the magus for the same number of XP. Basically, with respect to mundane abilities, this rule seems like it would force magi into the "jack of all trades, but master of none" mold.

Much the same thing can be accomplished by having magi divide Art by 3, rather than 5. Granted, at a score of 20, it rounds up to 7 (if we use traditional Ars rounding up to favor the player)which is really close to someone with the same amount of xp has a score of 8 and not too far away from 9.

I understand the "fairness" you propose, but it does preclude certain things, such as the Verditius jeweler who makes wonderful jewelry, because, let's face it, his jewelry is mediocre. Dividing by three, and assuming a decent Dex score (2), he is almost assured average results, has a high probability of hard results and has about 50% chance of getting very hard results or better. At a score of 4, he is entirely average in his craft...

I kind of like my magi more... Customizable. Having the strength of their physical skillset dictated completelh by how advanced they are at magic falls way too far into the cookie-cutter physics of games like D&D for me to really accept it.

One of the best things about Ars Magica has always been how customizable and concept-centric its character-building is; as long as you're making an interesting character, it's perfectly valid to make a character who has odd and conflicting specialties or who is deficient compared to their peers, just as it's valid to play an average character, or an exceptional character who blows others away, without any of them being inherently superior from a storytelling perspective.

With this rule, you remove around half of the mechanical variation, well more than half of the concept variation, and most of the separation from the mundane experience and the experience of playing magi, who unless they specifically put magical study time aside to shore this up, ought not have any mundane skills. I get that this last bit is what you're trying to change, but keep in mind, magi can amp up their capabilities with a low score to be as good or better than those with a high score fairly easily. So if you give them a low score in everything with no effort on the magus's own part, you'll find you quickly invalidate whatever purpose your magi had for keeping your Companions around.

... Oh, and your Familiar would know how magic works better than you do so fast it's not even funny.

True, but, if I were to adopt a rule like this (and I highly doubt that I ever would), I would much prefer that situation over dividing by 3 and making them masters (or at least near-masters) of every existing mundane skill. In order for your Verditius to be a wonderful jeweler, he'd also automatically be a wonderful stonemason, wonderful blacksmith, wonderful armorer, wonderful miner, etc. Getting all of those skills at the same cost as a mundane craftsman taking only one skill at a rank 1-2 points higher is just too much for me to accept - it would make magi so versatile and competent with mundane skills that companions and grogs would quickly feel completely outclassed and obsolete. If you use a larger divisor, and keep magi in the "mediocre" range of mundane ability, then mundane specialists retain their place in the game, since no magus will be able to attain a similar level of mundane ability.

I agree that it would be a loss to the game in terms of customizability and would rule out many currently-possible concepts either way, but, if you were to do it, I would expect it to work out better if you used a scaling factor which didn't immediately send the game into "so why did we even bother to create any mundane characters?" territory.

Completely agreed.