The Mercere Family

In preparation of a new Saga, I am seriously looking hard at playing a Gifted Mercere, that rarest of lines.

So, naturally I read the House Mercere chapter in True Lineages and discover that the House has only a dozen-odd Gifted Mercere, because they only train their own. Each magus Mercere is expected to start producing offspring as early as possible. This strikes me as a mixed r/K strategy; not only many offspring, but well cared for. I further discover that there's a case example; Mutantes had three unGifted sons, each of whom had 'several' unGifted children, and finally in the fourth generation a Gifted great-grandchild was born. Assuming three children in each iteration, that's 39 descendants for the Gift to show. (3 sons, 3 each grand children is 9, 3 each again grandchildren is 27: 27+9+3=39). One case does not make a pattern, but it's all I've got.

There are a dozen, let's say exactly 12, Magi Mercere of the bloodline, all descendants of the Founder, meaning that to produce those 12 took about 468 births to produce that dozen, assuming the above is typical for this bloodline. I wonder where the other cousins are? I doubt they are all Redcaps, or even all the various other administrators, merchants, and other necessary functionaries of House Mercere (that would be 36 per Tribunal, by the way). I seem to understand House Mercere recruits inclined mundanes.

It follows that the House tracks as many of the descendants of Mercere as they can in the interest of breeding back distant cousins, and to watch for the rare birth of a Gifted child.

Back to my proposed character,though. If a male magus, it seems that he would have relatively little difficulty finding women willing to bear a child or two for the relative luxury a mage can offer, even considering the off-putting Gift. It's mercenary and calculating, but also quite medieval. I wonder how many "wives" could be reasonably supported. The strategy is straightforward: have a many children as can be supported, and make sure they are well cared for. If he takes a dozen wives (which seems quite a lot) and they all produce two children, that's 24 children before it's time for the Longevity Ritual. If they all have 2 children, that's 48 grandchildren, and 72 descendants in two generations; the odds of a Gifted child being born, and possibly 2. Many children would have more, but some would have fewer, or none. There are, of course, many social consequences to this sort of thing.

If a woman magus, there's a mother-months problem. She can usually only have one child at a time. Even if she is absolutely dedicated to being as pregnant as possible, she can "only" have about 16 children, and that's unlikely. Less than twelve seems more likely - although my great-aunt Ruth did have a dozen children, and she is not the only woman of her generation I've met with similar accomplishments. If a Maga Mercere were to produce 12 children in her reproductive lifetime, and they had a more reasonable number, say 6 (again, medieval), that's 72 children in two generations, as above.

All of this ignores the various problems of surviving childhood, although a covenant should make an excellent place for child survival, especially the child of a mage.

It occurs to me the thing to do for maximum likelihood of producing a Gifted child would be for a Magus/Maga Mercere to find an equally interested Gifted person of the opposite sex; this might be expected to double the odds, although this may not be the case. The story hooks are plentiful: other mage might have entirely other plans for the child. M on M breeding may be better for the Maga Mercere, as she might be reasonably thought to be able to retain control of the child.

Yes, this is all very calculated, but that's medieval inheritance for you.


Naturally, I am scouring the ArM books for useful spells and effects. So far, the most useful bit is the rules on childbirth in Art & Academe.

You are reading too much into it. The Gift is not consistent and there is no hard evidence that the trait is passed on or inherited. It is just random. Some may think it does, some think it doesn't, but there is no hard evidence. If the numers seem too low for you, increase the number of magical Mercere up to 20. My saga is in 1234/5 now, and I stated that I figure there to be around two dozen of them at that time.

My (only character so far) Maga, is a Gifted Mercere. I was totally new to the system, and only around to play for half the year each year, so the SG suggested House Mercere as an excuse for her not to be in any session : being away with redcap duties.

I read around the subject and came accross the same line in HoH:TL and immediately realized I needed to start breeding, otherwise the house would look very unfavourably on me.

She has just had twins, the SG rolled (I don't know on what table) and they may or may not be gifted (the Maga is gentle gifted, the Father a is Blatent gifted smelly Mongol ex Misc), and she is now looking for another sire - the mongol has not quite realized that she is looking for as many different husbands as possible. She doesn't expect to take her LR until her 50's just because elder women are seen as more respectable, and she wants to grow into that look.

Other notes about House Mercere being small is:

Your character has a high probability of being Mercere's Quasitor.
The house needs two rego terram specialists to be able to cast the Mercere Portal initiations (ReTe in the 60's I think), so it might be an idea to bump those up/The house should have really good texts on those subjects.

Bob on behalf of Patricia doctrinae Mercandi Filia Simoni Dicit

It's really easy in Ars, to go back and fill in the details about what a character's background looks like. That's part of the fun. The books say something exists as so, and then players, troupes go back and fill in the details. How much detail? That's entirely up to you.

I don't think canon supports that two magi have a better chance of having Gifted offspring. And then again, there's a relatively small window in the life of a Hermetic magus to make babies, unless you delay the longevity ritual. How the Gift manifests is something of a mystery. I do tend to think that it runs in families, but it's not at all predictable, and it's not something based on probability, such that you can stack the deck and be assured of getting a Gifted child. It's "magic." The reason I say it that way, is that I don't have to deal with a lot of details on the specifics of whether a character has the Gift, I simply state that it is so. I had a Bonisagus magus with two Gifted daughters. I simply made it that way. He later on discovered that his lineage was tied to Mercere's through a Redcap of the Founder's lineage, so one of his daughters was taken as an apprentice by a Merceris magus. The point being, that if you want to play a Merceris Magus, just make it happen. You want to define his family, make that happen. You want to make him the grandchild of his master, again, make that happen. And, as always, discuss this with your troupe, but don't treat it like a rigorous research project and you are defending your work.

Some other tidbits that don't really fit anywhere else: Magi of Hermes, specifically Aurulentus, has some spells for assisting in childbirth, too, and perhaps conception. 16 children isn't at all impossible, or even unlikely. My grandmother was 13 of 16.
I'm playing a Merceris magus in a saga right now, the twist is that he is of an illegitimate lineage (for now) and has a Latent Magical Ability that will become Mutantum magic. He has the blood of the Founder in him, but no one, not even he, knows it. The Redcaps hate me, and he was just recently brow beaten by the Senior redcap to take an apprentice (he's 5 years past gauntlet), because everyone else who can take her is too busy with either their own apprentices or other stuff.

Make sure you have some Creo or Corpus vis and have someone who can cast the ritual spell that can avert the crisis. I just saw a 36 year old magus buy the farm due to a series of unfortunate die rolls.

We are very Vis poor: about 1-2 pawns per magus a year, so this might not be feasible

I'm trying to break out of my normal role-playing style which is over cautious to the max, so I didn't feel like it was appropriate to rush to a LR instantly, especially as there was this house pressure (OOC: all my idea) for her not to be a "broken branch" of the family tree.

Anyway with a bronze cord + living conditions modifier that is even, you can't roll a 13.


No, but you can roll a 22+, which is what happened. And then he botched the Crisis for a minor illness.

You're not likely to die in your 30s, especially if you have a positive stamina and no wounds during the winter aging roll, unlike the poor fellow above. I'd say that first time you get a Crisis, before you start your LR, you put in a kindly request to the house to have the vis on hand to loan AND provide the House's Corpus specialist with an AC to someplace near the covenant so that you can be saved. Or something.

If your Magus is open-minded and not adverse to some "interesting" experiment, why not trying to find a partner from another realm ? As it was mentionned many times, by RAW, there is no rule regarding the birth of a Gifted children. But I am sure that a nice dryad or a female djinni could significantly increase the chance of Gifted offsprings.

... the step family might have a word to say about the child's future though (and plenty of story hooks).

The facts and the perception may vary. It may be that the Gift is endowed/triggered/inherited in various ways in different Gifted.

The House is descended from Mercere, though, and The Gift runs in this family. This is not the only case of inherited Gift; the/a Jerbiton example in Magi of Hermes is from a family where the Gift descends upon the seven son of a seventh son. Other magical bloodlines could have other presentations. I doubt House Merecere knows what the trigger for their bloodline is, although I suspect that one of (7*7) 49 descendants will present the Gift. That's probably much higher than the general population.

Remember, it's a stress die, not a simple die that you roll for aging. That means that even with the best LR in the world, a +5 Bronze thread, and great living conditions, you can still run into trouble if you roll enough "1"s on the stress die.

Ah, we run old-fashioned troupe style, and have since early 3rd Edition. There's a consensus issue to be dealt with: I have to make a convincing case.

I have no idea if odds of the Gift are actually improved by more than one Gifted parent; it may be that the odds are decreased, but it seems likely magi would think it is improved.

Just saw an article this morning about a 91 year old woman and her 126 descendants, plus 6 unborn, in the US. 11 children, 56 grand, 59 great.

That's always struck me as being one of the inconsistencies in the way they describe the Gift. On the one hand, they say it isn't hereditary in any way. But on the other, it shows up in House Mercere much more frequently than in the general population. That tells me that there must be some heredity involved, at least sometimes.

It is inconsistent, but little matter. In other families it may run to only women, or only men, or only twins (with twins more likely). Many Gifts may have nothing to do with family, and more to do with exposure to Magic aura, or astrological conjunction, or being bitten by a magical spider.

Not necessarily. They're a randy bunch. And they have vast resources to ensure that offspring are well cared for, a lot of Redcaps are probably of the Founder's line. Some subscribe to the view that all Redcaps are of the Founder's line and any who aren't get tagged with Illegitimate Lineage, but I don't. Not every one of them wants to be a Redcap, or even work for the House, and Mercere himself took in others (the text doesn't mention if they are of his lineage) to train as a Redcap.

So, I think you have a group that has a high propensity to procreate, probably sprinkling their seed far and wide, especially a randy male Redcap who can seduce maidens, and you get a lot of possible offspring. Let's just hope that they all keep little black books.

Doesn't quite jibe with...

Obviously, if you're operating with the goal of establishing troupe consensus, we can't really help you. We might find all your arguments reasonable, rational and rigorous, but your troupe might not. Can't tell you how many times I've operated from a similar approach only to find someone who doesn't like it. And if someone doesn't like it, you don't have consensus.

Part of House Mercere's reasonably reliable incidence of gifted offspring might be traced to the CrVi25 spell Mercury's Blessing (given the way the spell is written, it's not a guarantee but it does improve the chances). Mercere magi wishing to have an apprentice would likely learn this ritual and start applying it to his descendents until one of them pops out a Gifted baby (5 pawns per attempt; 3 if you're a Mercurian is non-trivial).

If you're a Mercere Maga in a vis poor saga (heck, even a vis rich saga!), try making a political appeal to the Cult of Heroes or the prima of House Mercere. Breeding maga are very scarce in House Mercere, so if you're willing to carry children, let them pony up the vis - heck, they can even arrange for a suitable man to do the deed. It's a year long ritual, so if properly timed it could cover two conceptions. Just be sure to have very good CrCo birth aids handy for the easiest deliveries/swiftest recoveries possible.

I've played two Merceres to date. The first was a product of systematic, enforced breeding (starting in his apprenticeship) and he ended up largely abandoning all the (essentially) unloved wives and children to the House Mercere support network. I can see that happening a lot when having offspring is viewed as a duty, or worse, a chore, and the father has the Gift. He basically moved to a new tribunal (start of saga) to start life over. The second is far better adjusted, having found a woman with Unaffected by the Gift and managed a successful courtship (yes, rich and powerful men are attractive to women if the Gift isn't creeping them out). He's happily married and has 4 surviving children (one died stillborn) and has just taken his Longevity Ritual.

Magical Merceres have a host of very nice advantages, being a True Lineage. Leverage your House support - interest free vis loans, trading vis at par, preferential sales of magical items, take advantage of all of it. A Mercere Magi should NEVER have to stoop to distilling vis - have the House arrange to cough up a clear laboratory text for whatever item they might want, and you can make 3-5 pawns a season without having to degrade your covenant's aura. I'm certain the Mercere have banked up a large library of lab text for enchanted devices, as many of them will be fairly common to many Redcaps (by the same token, if you do invent new stuff, submit clear texts of them back to the house to support the system). You'll never be as impressive as a Verditus, but you might just end up richer.

I kind of assued that there's something the Mercere have going that acts as an epigenetic trigger. "Mercury's Blessing" works, of course, but my point is that there's a lot of environmental modifiers out there in Mythic Europe and as redcaps they move through them a lot.

We talked about this recently didn't we...

Something along the lines of the Redcaps tracing out Mythic Europe wide rituals or Mystery Initiation pathways (literally, ie roads)?


Yes, it's a related idea. Basicalyl why are these guys so busy wandering the roads? David showed back in HtM that you could do the job cheaper, better and safer with teleportation. Clearly there's some point in having a heap of people walk the roads, and ven that the Mercere were Terram magicians back in the day, and Romans loved roads, there may be some big Thing they are doing. It might be as banal as a binding spell to keep the Order together, but it might be something else. Something Ordeal related, or something Really Big Ritual related like keeping the Titans under a net of roads.

Personally my current favorite is that if they stop, the Dominion shrinks back to Rome. The Dominion is centered on Rome, and on the Pontifex Maximus (literally, the High Lord of Te Bridge Builders) who has the golden mile marker from the Agora. What the Mercere get out of doing it is anyone's guess (a place to keep their stuff free of faeries and people like Flambeau is my guess).

Why a Maga would choose a Mage over a mundane to sire her child:

The Maga may be assumed to retain rights and primary influence over any Gifted child issued, as she is clearly equal under the Code. This is not to say the father's rights will be ignored, only that hers will also not be ignored.

Magi are not put off by the Gift, so long as the Parma holds. A Maga may well be able to inspire the mortal man to action through various charms, but the day after could be problematic.

A mundane father may well take offense at his child being raised by the Maga, be offended by her as a mother, due to the Gift, and take action. If he is powerful, this might even constitute criminal interference. A similar problem exists with faerie sires.

Having two magical parents may not increase the likelihood of the Gift, but it is unlikely to decrease it.

Many Magas may consider mating with a mundane vulgar, although a double standard may be in effect - Mages may well not consider mating with a mundane woman vulgar.

(Of course, there are magical humans who are not magi, which is something to consider.)

Boot on the ground is a practical way for the Order to gather information and maintain working relations with the mundane world. The messenger-herald role is convenient, but Mercere is also the merchant house of the Order, and a source of mercenaries.

Alternately, or additionally, having Redcaps do their work keeps the spirit of Hermes in the world. They are the lifeblood of magic everywhere classical Greek-Roman civilization reigned. There's magic in other places, but that is maintained by other gods/spirits. The do not need the Gift for this; they are the body of the organization; the Magi are represent the priests, each in a role of Hermes.

Extending that, if any House falls, the aspect of Hermes they embody also fails in the world.