The initiation of unGifted people into single hermetic arts

Salvete, Sodales!

After we all have cast our aegis ritual, had a nice midwinter/Christmas party and are sobered up by now, it is time to get back to work:
Going through the mechanics of Hedge Magic one question came to my mind, and I think that a positive answer to it could lead to an interesting story ark centered on research and hermetic politics. Unfortunately it might also lead to dramatic changes within the order's structure, so not everybody would like this development. Well, I'll just post my thoughts and wait for your comments on this idea:

The initiation of unGifted people into single hermetic arts

I know that there is no mentioning of this in the RAW but considering the rules for the various Hedge traditions it seems that Hermetic Magic is not all that different from other kinds of opening the Gift. Sure, at the end of the day the complete package of a hermetic magus is more powerful and versatile than that of any other character, but one of the reasons for this might be that it just encompasses significantly more arts. So it might just be possible to give a small part of this enormous power to unGifted mundanes by the way of initiation into the single arts.

I'd rule that this is basically possible, but that the order as a eliticist society of Gifted mages never thought along this line. Because of this there are no base procedures worked out within hermetic theory and there are no initiation scripts yet.
But this is open to original research.

Considerations about rules:
I think the basic concept should just be considered as a minor breakthrough, so after accumulating ~30 breakthrough points a character has developed the basics of hermetic initiations. These points can be converted into xp for the new ability 'Hermetic mystery lore', which will function as cult lore for initiations. So the researcher will have a score of 3 and can develop the skill further by the rules presented in 'The Mysteries rev. ed.' To gain any practical benefit from this he would also have to develop initiation scripts by the rules presented in the same book and in 'Hedge Magic'. I am not sure whether each hermetic art should count as a minor virtue or whether the techniques should be considered as major ones. Mostly among the hedge arts the techniques are considered as major virtues, but one could also argue that among the hedge traditions all those virtues resulting in a difficult art are considered to be major whereas those causing a normal art are minor. I'd vote for considering them as major:

Story lines:
A player (or NPC) magus going through all this might trigger a whole bunch of stories over the years:

  1. research state: As long as the researchers have not accomplished anything real they might not be in trouble for their research, as long as they can keep quiet about their project. Of course, if a Bonisagus lab rat frequently brags about his projectthis might differ: Some people might consider the potential consequences and decide that the character's aim would at least diminish the status of a magus and at worst endanger the whole order, so they will try to stop this either by political means (i.e. Tribunal rulings) or by sabotage or in the Flambeauish manner (i.e. WW). Others might appreciate the effort, and those could either be helpful allies against the former ones or use the spying, blackmail and sheer force themselves to get access to the new knowledge. But even if this can be avoided the research itself can lead to stories:
    1.1. development of the basic concept: Of course it is possible to develop all this with the rules for original research, and this needn't be very interesting, but perhaps a faster way to gain breakthrough points would lie in the acquirement of people who have been initiated into the hedge arts or of their initiation scripts. This could either happen as a result of open communication - in this case the hedgies certainly want something in exchange – or by abducting people and stealing their secrets, which might enrage some senior members of that tradition who will find a way to take revenge.
    1.2. development of the initiation scripts: It is difficult to make predictions, but there will be numerous of experimental scripts, leading to throws on the experimentation chart. This has to lead to some botches as well as to story events until there is a functional set of scripts.

  2. secret knowledge state: Only the researcher's conveant (or even only the researcher) knows about the new skill. They will almost certainly use it to improve their situation: get new Vim-Vis sources( just initiate some grogs into Creo and Vim, teach them some magic theory and invest in some specialized labs), boost your military power (PoF for every fighting grog)... This might first be simply great for the conveant but should lead to new stories:
    2.1. Other conveants will recognize the rising new power and start to investigate. Again, here is opportunity for espionage stories
    2.2. The newly initiated grogs themselves might get to like the taste of power. Considering themselves as mages now they might demand more influence in running the affairs of the conveant or (being denied this) even try to start a revolt.
    2.3. Perhaps the players' mages can't agree on a course of action: The Bonisagus researcher wants to publish his result and get into the run for his house's primacy, the Tremere wants to use the knowledge for his and the conveant's advantage first and hand the secret secretly to his house elders second (gaining further promotion), the Redcap is drooling because of the prospect to get some real magical power, nobody knows what the Criamon and Tytalus want, and the Jerbiton is warning not to overdo it because he sees dire consequences... Every SG should love it, when the PCs manage to occupy themselves without his interference.

  3. the cards are on the table: Somehow the new knowledge has finally spread. This can lead to various stories as well within the order as in relations to the world:
    3.1. Within the order there might be a new candidate for the primacy of House Bonisagus or the title of an archmage, but others might be interested in those positions, too, and perhaps they have acchieved comparable results. Some factions might argue that the creation of semi-mages in this way ridicules every real wizzard and try to forbid the usage of this by tribunal rulings and perhaps even march the innovators, others might even second them. Redcaps can suddenly learn magic and perhaps demand full voting rights, some Jerbiton might forgo the training of normally Gifted apprentices at all and instead take their own offspring (Gifted or not) as apprentices. In any case, the order has to find a formal position for the semi-mages. Are they to be taught the mystery lore themselves or not? (This would free the proper mages from the chores of initiating the grogs but leave them with less controll.) Wilderists in house Bjornaer and other militant factions might try to use initiations to create an army to strengthen the order's position and drive back civilisation and the influence of the dominion... After the dust has settled the order might look significantly different than before.
    3.2. external relations: If the order makes massive use of its newly found option, soon enough people outside the conveants' walls will hear about it. Perhaps one of the newly boosted grogs starts bragging in the tavern or to his family, perhaps a vis-making slave escapes, perhaps there are just witnesses to the turb's new powers. After a while rumours will reach the ecclesiastical and mundane lords, especially if parts of the order start to run rampant, and they are likely to intervene. This could result in a all or nothing war of the order against the rest of the world, or the situation might be handled politically.

Well, Sodales, any criticism (either on the technical part or on the story seeds)? What do you think of it?

Alexios ex Miscellanea

You're not talking about something that is a footnote in the Monthly Magical Miscellanea Digest - you're rewriting the way that Magical Power works in Mythic Europe, or this corner of it, anyway. To be able to take a mundane and make them a mage - even a badly flawed and weak one - that's huge. If I was playing in your Saga and this breakthrough happened, I'd expect massive ripples and backlash in the Order, as it opens doors that have been closed since the founding.

So, first, I have to ask "Why?" Is this a plot device, or an increase in Character Powers? And the answer I more than half-expect is that a certain other game is influencing expectations of what a character needs to look like. Meh - that's your call, but this game isn't designed to be like some others. Those games are fine and fun on their own - why make a major rewrite to this one when you can just play ones that are already designed that way?

If it's NPC color, that's one thing - but if it's for a Player Character, one of the strengths of Magic in Ars is the flexibility and power - I'm not sure the spell effects would be very impressive or satisfying if only one of Te or Fo were involved, especially if the character were not a dedicated mage type.

I have not yet read HedgeMagic, so parma & etc on that count, but it strikes me that there is a significant diff between partially opening the Gift and giving someone a partial or imperfect Gift.

You can offer it free with any box of Crackerjack, just consider what long-term effect it will have on your saga. :wink:

Also, I'll freely admit that I have a problem with any breakthrough that starts "This is actually quite easy, but no one has thought of it yet..." Imo, with centuries of magi, if it was easy it would have been done long ago. But that's just me...

Um, or the fact that every Bonisagus is sworn to share their findings, and that if someone notices that Bonisagus Bob has been in his lab for a couple years now and not said word one... yeah...

Ya think?

If it gives them any real "power", then they should be brought in to the Order. If not, then no.

I always do wonder about non-Hermetic Wizards who have a radically incomplete Gift or Tradition, one completely at odds with Hermetic Theory, but who are clearly too powerful to leave wandering about. How, exactly, are they "brought in to the Order"? If you create a Fire mage - just Fire - what does the Order do with them, assuming they're cooperative?

But back to the main point...

Why do you want to insert this into your Saga? What do you wish to achieve?

If it's just for NPC's, then don't worry too much about the mechanics - but make sure the Breakthrough will not fall into the hands of the PC's, one way or the other. (Or see next...)

If it's for the Players, or if you want them to get hold of it, then... (well, then it sounds like they need to play a fighter-magic user in a certain other game, but we already touched on that.) If it's for the Companions, to make them more versatile and interesting in the eyes of your Players, then you have to decide if/how they can survive in the same world as the Order, and make it believable. Either keep them weak enough so they are not of any serious threat to stability of the society and thus no concern to the Order, or possibly have a sub-plot be the expansion of the Code to address "semi-magi" - allied persons (and creatures) of some power who are not full Hermetic Magi, but who are willing to abide by The Code and co-exist with the Order - toe the party line, as it were.

If the Order finds out and takes no significant action, there had better be a very good explanation - or every player is going to lose belief in your world, and your Saga will simply become an exercise in blowing stuff up. Which is fine, but, again, there are better games for that if that's your only goal. :wink:

And to thing that Bonisagus scrubbed all that Mystery stuff away to achieve a purified Hermetic Magic Theory. :unamused:

Make Techniques Major and systematically treat them as Difficult Arts (or at least slap Deficiencies): you've reintroduced Mystery Crud into Bonisagus's masterpiece, so you're not going to get full benefits! (in which case you're going to have to HR the handling of summa levels).

Traditions in Hedge Magic can typically either open your Gift to get the whole range of powers or, if you are not Gifted, initiate them one by one, with a mandatory ordeal each time. It is therefore not unreasonable to consider the possibility of initiating individual Hermetic Arts.


Magical Air makes a wonderful flaw to inflict as an ordeal.

The False Gift is always a viable option if it is power they want... no initiation or ordeal required. :smiling_imp:

Except we have thousands of real world cases where people do just that. The Greeks invented steam power back around the time of Christ. But it took over 1800 years for someone to think about applying the idea to locomotion. Steam power is an amazingly dirt simple idea.

But anyways, Alexios, I say go ahead and experiment with your idea in play and see what happens. If you don't over think it, none of the world shattering consequences others warn you about will ever come to pass. If the experiment works, then you have a new and interesting house rule. If it fails and it become unmanageable, have the offenders die heroically and seal the idea up in a brass bottle corked with lead.

I might see the initiation being into a Technique/form combo. They get initiated and suddenly CrCo is open to them. Each major ordeal is another technique/form combination.

Ah-Ha! Yes, excellent idea. Make each specific combination a seperate Minor Virtue. Also, limit what they can do with it. Spont spells only? Formulaics only? Only Enchantments?

I am interested to see the data from your gaming experiment :slight_smile:

Check the guidelines given for the non-hermetic powers of House Ex Miscellanea - all Major Virtues for something with very narrow scope. Heck, even Methods and Powers are Major, increase like Abilities, and you do need at least two of them.

MM, I am disappointed.

First, I don't care - your "exception" doesn't change the way I feel - which was the point of that passage. I still hate that as a plot device, regardless of "historical plausibility".

Second, the Greeks didn't invent "steam power" in the same sense that locomotives and traction engines used it - the technology to create a vessel that was reliable, large and powerful enough simply did not exist. Once that changed, steam power slowly, laboriously came into its own. Here, nothing in Magical Technology has changed to make this suddenly more possible.

(and "1800 years"? The concept wasn't around all that time - there was this long period, the so-called "the Dark Ages", where much was lost - and then that had to be reinvented, from the start, which didn't happen for centuries after that. Meanwhile, both bronze and iron casting techniques were re-perfected to even allow that rediscovery.)

Third, if a mage did achieve such, they would rival Bonisagus in fame and inspiration - and, if you look, that comment was specifically in response to the suggestion of this being "a minor breakthrough". If one were to look at the slow, painful progress of steam power over a century or more, from gargantuan cylinders operating at a cycle every couple minutes (as pumps for mines) up to the first self-motive engine, that's hardly a "minor" advance.

And, please, equating "Steam Power" to locomotion? The perfect support to my point. Steam power took about 100 years to get "reinvented", from something as novel and unimpressive as the uses that the early Greeks could claim, to what we might consider as "locomotion". If you're going to use an example, use early Mezo-americans and the wheel. (They had them on their children's toys, but never invented the wheelbarrow.)

So... I'm not saying this cannot be done. But a "minor breakthrough"?... blech, ick, ptooey, for so many reasons.

Sounds like a very interesting idea overall.

I must say at the outset, I have no idea how 5th ed Mysteries work, so I can't comment on the mechanics or the development stage. I don't think that the magi who develop this will go around initiating all their grogs however. That's a very "gameist" sort of action in my mind ("oh, I'll buy this upgrade for all my Troop models"). Even if you can initiate other into magic, I think magi would still see magic as something special, as a "Gift" not a weapon to be handed out to lowly warriors.

Even once it's widely know, magic would not, IMO, be handed out willy nilly. It's a Mystery only given to those who earn the right to be Initiated.

Truthfully, in myth-history, that's what magic was (and is for many of those who believe in it). It was a secret, a mystery, that you can only access once you are accepted into the inner circles... and those who were accepted were only those rare, special people who could truely grasp it.

Sorry you feel that way :wink:

Well, let us agree to disagree. I don't rely on "devices" so much as I rely on versimilitude. If it seems plausible in paradigm (gasp! I said the P word!), then it seems perfectly plausible for the game.

To use an example from cannon...
Durenmar could be a lot better organized, they could have their libbrary stored in a much safer manner, they could do away with the black fir, they could streamline the process by which they disseminate the creations and discoveries they make. But they have done none of this, because no one has though about it yet. That gives players in said covenant a goal to work on. The addage "someone would have thought of it by now" holds no water for me. What if you happen to be that someone?

They most certainly did. Check this out.
Hero of Alexandria used it to power mechanical contraptions, such as opening doors and such

Yes it did. The Greeks had brass and bronze and, guess what? They also had steel. Yep. Steel was around for a long time, it was just expensive to make. But in the middle ages, they totally had the technology to make a steam engine. At the very least, in Byzantium and the Arabic world. They just never thought of it.

No, it was the result of human inginuity. Nothing technological naturally evolves on its own. It takes a human being to have the epiphany and idea in the first place.

Thanks for reminding me how far off topic we have drifted! But anyway...

I have a different perspective on history than you do. The Dark Ages is a false term. Most of Europe was already dark. For most of the people, the middle ages was an era of progress and improvement. For the Gauls and Hispania, yeah, things fell down a bit. But in Greece and the Levant, there was no such sudden "loss". The Greeks, whose invention I am speaking of (, lost no technology or sience due to Germanic invasions.

Well, it isn' that spectacular of an effect. If it was a Minor Breakthrough resulting in a Minor Virtue, each one reprenting a specific TeFo combo, you would need to take 50 points of Virtues to compete with a Hermetic Magus. If anything, this is a step backwards. This may be the magic that had existed before Bonisagus.

Hero of Alexandria was using it to power doors and other things. There are many other applications for the steam engine other than massive locomotive power.

That is another great example. Thanks for reinforcing my point :smiley:

Don't go "ptooey" on other peoples ideas. You don't have to use it in your game. You can express your thoughts and criticisms, but don't use "ptooey".

I don't see mages using steam though as an idea. I could easily see horseless carriages but they would be ReHe(Te) wagons to control the movement. Steam engines had lots of working parts and ideas upon ideas to develop that came about with one person creating the idea and publishing and someone else reading adn coming up with next idea from different perspective.

Magi are jealous of their works and don't cooperate that much. Even the Bonisagus responsible for sharing their work only need to publish it to Durenmar library where it might lay unseen for years unless the house choses to add it to their special publication and then that document might not get seen far and wide.

The invention of the printing press did a lot for the development of many other inventions by the spread of knowledge.

True, true. I am not talking about magi using steam engines. There is Rego magic for that. I am merely demonstrating that some ideas require no more that an epiphany of inspiration, which could happen instantly or it could take a thousand years. Printing press is another example though. Not much complicated about that. Carve some wooden blocks, press them in ink, and away you go! It could have been invented far sooner than it was, or far later.


:stuck_out_tongue: :laughing:

Technological evolution is more than technological advancement and possibility. Social pressures and need, social usefulness are also involved. One facet of the advent of the printed word was the literacy rate, and the concept of any "writing" designed to be widely read, as opposed to personal or record-keeping.

Can it happen? Sure. But it's far more rare than you present, and far less "easy", imo. And in a story, it can still leave a bad taste in my mouth. Your ptooeys may vary.

Wow. OK, having now read the whole thread ... this is the bit which I think is most appropriate to the discussion and with which I disagree.

Possessing the Gift has never been necessary to acquire magical powers and/or Virtues aligned to any given realm. Said powers tend to focus on quite small areas though. The Gift allows you to learn new powers freely (ish) however, with the restriction being that the more you're attuned to Magic X (represented by ranks in the relevent Abilities), the harder it is to learn Magic Y. The Opening of the Arts can thus be viewed (and this is how I think of it) as taking advantage of the Gift to attune a person to a corpus of magic and doubtless requires more in the way of rituals than teaching, making it a special kind of broad initiation. Each TeFo combination is roughly what you'd expect for a major virtue, though given the granularity of the system that's an easy quibble to ignore.

So ... initiating a nonGifted person into a single virtue is possible, as has been established in canon. The Gift allows you to do far more than this if your Gift is opened, otherwise it allows you to gain smaller chunks more easily. Either way, this isn't reqriting the physics of the setting so much as extrapolating a possible but hitherto unexplored aspect of it.

I can see no reason why such scripts would not exist for specific combinations - CrAn, CrCo, CrHe and CrIg being the ones most obviously useful for healers, farmers and warriors respectively. Certainly an enthusiastic early Flambeau might have managed the latter and used it to form a cadre of followers to aid in the battle against the Order of Suleiman. Even if they died out, his notes would likely still be possible to find.

As a more relevent question, would such a person be able to learn such Arcane Abilities as the Parma? For the rules as they stand, that requires the Gift, and I can see an easy justification for such. If not, then the initiated would be very poor sorcerers compared to any but the weakest Hermetic and their emergence, whilst a shock to the Order, not likely to provoke too great an outcry - Magi do, after all, like having magically adept and comfortable grogs and companions.

This makes for an interesting question. I would say that Parma is out as it does require the gift. I would say they could learn Finesse since that is practice aiming and precision. I see nothing to prevent learning arcane abilities such as Magic Lore, Dominion lore, infernal lore or Faerie lore.

Penetration though is the tricky one. It is more of focusing to break through resistance and the question is whether without the gift you can pull in extra magic to add power. On the other hand, supernatural powers of creatures can have penetration so my vote would be to allow it in sagas where I have say.

That was awesome! Glad to see you are able to keep up your sense of humor :stuck_out_tongue:

I disagree that a single TeFo combination is equivalent to a Major Virtue. Hermetic magic in a single TeFo combination is generally much more useful than a single Major Virtue. For example, Entrancement is much less useful than a ReMe combo. Entrancement only allows you to well . . . entrance.

If you're interested in trying this idea, I would suggest each Technique be a Major Virtue and each Form be a Minor Virtue in a manner similar to the Gruagachan or Learned Magicians. If you want to ensure that Hermetic magic remains most powerful, in addition to the mandatory Ordeals and no carry over of points required for non-Gifted people for Initiations in Hedge Magic, I would suggest making the Techniques Difficult Arts. If you really want to be punitive, make the Forms Difficult Arts too.

John - it would seem we agree. :smiley:

What's more, anyone being initiated in Hermetic Arts is already going to have a large advantage over other traditions just from the wealth of books produced by the Order.

I can see Hermetic Initiation be offered preferentially to learned folks with a good Communication and/or Good Teacher, palliating the dearth of such blessed individuals in the Order. True, given their few and low Art scores, you cannot expect Hermetic Initiates to contribute many texts, but even a few high-quality Tractati can be welcome.

In fact, a magus might just decide to initiate the single Art he is interested in ("Look, Sodales, there is nothing this mortal can do with a single Art, so he's not competition!") to all comers (children?) in exchange for a few Tractati.

There'd be a bit of bookkeeping involved regarding Summae if Hermetic Initiation opens Difficult Arts. Should levels from Summae written by Hermetic Magi be further divided by 2 (or 3, the ratio between Art and Ability scores at equal experience oscillates around 2.23 which is the square root of 5) when read by Hermetic Initiates? I think so. On the other hand, book written by Initiates would keep their full level for other Initiates, but not get multiplied by two if read by a full Magus. So you would have to keep track of the source of the book.

Of course, you might just decide that their imperfect understanding of Hermetic Magic means that Initiates cannot use standard Hermetic texts and conversely for Magi and texts penned by Initiates. Or at the very least, require that a full Magus spend some time performing an adaptation of the text. Or make them Incomprehensible.

Finally, an argument could be easily made that an Initiate can act as a laboratory assistant in the right TeFo combination, making the search for apprentices that much less interesting. (John, would you object to ruthless exploitation of mere Ungifted Initiates who are not full-fledged Apprentices?)

Having Hermetic Initiates already changes the hermetic landscape quite a bit by its purely political ramifications, but the "economic" ramifications aren't to be neglected either.

There already exists the Major Virtue Hermetic Inclination in (Form) which provides a single Form which may be used without techniques but solely for enchantment, but without the use of Vis, though hermetic texts may be used to advance it as normal if Magic Theory is known. This is arguably far more powerful than a single TeFo combination over a long time, though far less useful in the short term.

I can see that requiring a seperate Virtue for each Te and Fo, with those split as Major and Minor, might be fair provided that they have the full function of the normal Hermetic Arts. And yes, I agree that this would have long term ramifications for the Order, but I suspect that they'd not be as great as people suggest. Initiating Mundanes is very, very difficult. It would take years to acquire a sufficiently skilled Mystagogue to do so reliably, and even once that was achieved training in the Arts and spells would be required. The initiations themselves would likely require a great deal of time too, for quests and ordeals to be performed. All told, you'd be dedicating the time normally required for an apprentice to, compared to a Gifted apprentice, a magical cripple. I'm sure that some Winter covenants might have the ability to do this, and certainly it'd be a good way to set up interesting lineages, but I can't see it becoming wide-spread within the Order itself.

Very good one :smiley: I like this! :smiley:

Hum... Not sure where I read it, and I might be wrong, but I once saw that ideas "mature", and that inventions happens when the idea is in the air and everything else is right for it.

This is why so many discoveries were done by different people at about the same time, thus leading to competition between them. If you don't have the idea, someone else will. But usually not a thousand year before you.

Thus, IMO, a genius could have some centuries of advance over his time, but this will be rare, and it might easily be overlooked, like da vinci's inventions (tank, helicopter...)