The Order of the Small

Hi there. We are currently playing in one of the highest powered sagas we have ever done. Battling dragons and going to duel Davnalleus when the sun rises are common events for us. This along with taking fleets and diverting them to the next country with a pair of spells, or moving a few inconvenient mountains. We are vis rich (around 20 pawns/year per magus right now and have used that wealth to become one of the powerhouses in the Order. The saga has already departed from the premises we had about we facing the last major crisis in 1235 (manx civil war) since we are so powerful and rich that we simply bought the English out of the equation before they invaded our playground. Currently we are finishing the last story arc of becoming a tribunal on our own right.

As you can see, small apprentice-level stories :mrgreen: we even have created a secondary covenant for when we want to run “small” stories with magi only 10-20 years out of apprenticeship.

Now we want a respite. One of the common things we have encountered is that the worst thing in ME to achieve suspension of disbelief is the Order of Hermes. The other presented traditions in the books have A LOT more character and good grounding in history than the OoH. We find the Order to be too powerful not to have a huge impact on ME despite all the clauses in the Code of Hermes against interference. They are too big not to be noticed and taken into MASSIVE account. At least in our opinion. YSMV :slight_smile:

As a consequence we are going to remove the hermetic magi from Europe, but keep the order of hermes. Basically the order of Hermes will be formed by a few of the traditions published so far 8and compiled by yours truly in this list: .

The idea about the order is based on several premise changes

  1. Bonnie was a Wards expert. He created the Parma Magica. That was his chief achievement. It is an amalgamation of all the personal warding rituals against the supernatural of his magical tradition.

  2. The Parma Magica is a virtue that grants Parma 1. it can only be acquired via Initiation. Swearing the Code of Hermes is part of such Initiation ritual, granting a bonus (something like +6) to the initiation total. As such, it is very important.

  3. The Order is composed of what so far has been presented as Hedge traditions in the RAW. Well, they are not hedgies buyt full Order members now :slight_smile: Not all hedgies are members of the Order, though, but the ones that aren’t tend to keep a low profile, since the Parma gives a definitive edge to the order guys.

  4. COMMUNION & COVENANTS: the second big thing to be derived from old mercurian rituals is Wizard’s Communion. This is a first magnitude spell. No spell = no participation I communion. The communion is the reason of why covenants exist: several magi can cobntribuite to casting of effects.
    a. The maximum number of participants is equal to Pre + Leadership of the main caster.
    b. The main caster casts as normal. It can add ritualistic bonuses (phil + artes liberals for roman traditions, for example).
    c. Each extra participant adds his main magic characteristic (generally intelligence) + lowest art or favoured ability to the casting total. If they belong to the same tradition as the main caster they contribute characteristic + HIGHEST art/fav ability.

This boosts casting total and allows people to cast big stuff. It also allows to achieve decent penetration, something that the lower casting totals of the hedge traditions tend to lack. The explanation about this is that everybody knows about magic energies, and even if they do not fully understand what the main caster is doing they can provide “fuel” to the casting ritual by channelling magical energy to the growing magical mass. Their lowest magical ability is their lowest understanding of the Arcane world and so it is the maximum they can contribute. Covenants tend to exist because of this: you want people to collaborate with you. You prefer people from your tradition, but other traditions can help you as well.

  1. AEGIS OF THE HEARTH: The second big thing that the Bonnies did bring to the Order was the Aegis ritual. Notatus, the filius of Bonnie created this. It works as described, even if given the power level of the Order it tends to be lower in level than the level 30-50 rituals generally seen in current RAW covenants.

  2. There are no formal houses. Most traditions are disparate and only locally available. A few adventurous magi that travel around and specially the tradition of itinerant redcaps keep the order together.

  3. LIBRARIES: libraries are much more fragmented. Few traditions have huge stocks of books on magic. The best libraries tend to be in single-tradition covenants, and only for those that are literate or have a form of recording knowledge. The book cycle of current RAW does not exist. There is trade, but not at that level. The books exchanged tend to be on Lores, more than Arts. And they go for a hefty price, since most covenants do not want rivals gaining a lot of knowledge if they can avoid it. Books on Parma exist, but they never detail the Parma Initiation… or do they?

Apart from that, not big changes. The non interference clauses tend to be read literally, since quite a few traditions earn their living working for mundanes or faeries. Dealing with demons tends to still be frowned upon big time. However, the help to mundanes can only be restricted to minor enchantments and improved items in the area of War. No firebreathing magus going around roasting enemies of their lord allowed thank you, nor an Abrams tank rumbling through northern Italy or a city wall collapsing "just because". Extra cutting swords allowed only in limited amounts.

And here we are, with much smaller traditions and more centered in small scale adventures. Do you think the changes work? As you can easily see not all traditions have the same power level, but that is not a problem in itself. Anything I may be overlooking with this alternative approach?



Ah, this is an idea I very much like but never really had a chance to play out. You have some good thoughts on it there. I would add only that since the traditions are unbalanced you may want to consider some of them (or their unGifted members) to be Companion-level characters.

Going to be a very different game for sure, on first view i think it looks pretty good and viable.

The communion variant looks quite interesting really. Might want to make it slightly easier to get Vis since you probably will do more communion rituals and few or no magi will be able to just get Vis from using CrVi...

I would just point out that something like the OP's "hedge communion" already exists -- it's the Ceremony ability (which, with slightly different variations, exists for all four realms). I've found it much more powerful than "standard" Wizard's Communion. I think the OP's variant is extremely powerful too.

Let me give an example with the OP's proposed stats, and fairly low-powered hedge wizards:
Leader with Leadership 5 (+1 Magical stuff), Presence +1 -> 7 helpers.
Each helper adds +3 (magical statistic) + 5 (lowest magical ability) = +8 -> +56 casting bonus!

Upping the numbers a little we get something scary:
Leader with Leadership 7 (+1 Magical stuff), Presence +2 -> 10 helpers
Each helper adds +3 magical statistic; half add +5 (lowest magical ability - different tradition), the other half add 10 (highest magical ability - same tradition) -> +105 casting bonus!

Well, when you burp chlorine gas and fart lightning, yeah, that'll happen!

This explains a lot about some of the posts you've made here, X.

Have fun sto'min' da cass-uhl :smiley:

Hi there,

Take in mind that a lot of the traditions have some accelerated abilities, and some normal advancement abilities as their favored arts. A level of 2-3 is much more normal for the lowest (non accelerated) magical ability than a 5. At least for starters. It can be a 5 for sure, but that requires some experience. Assuming a +3 for the magical ability also stretches my belief of what is "normal" but that is a YSMV issue :slight_smile:

Still, the bonus might be too high, that is true. Will take a closer look at Ceremony. Maybe putting a cap to the maximum bonus to doubling the casting total that the main caster can achieve by himself might be adequate. Still, managing a +56 might be what you are after if your elementalist plans to set the whole sherwood forest on fire in a massive ritual. :slight_smile:


This is a cool idea (for any sort of saga, really).

I wholeheartedly agree.

I too like some of the ideas here, especially the Parma as a mystery virtue, that sounds excellent and exactly what it should be.

I quite like the idea of thinning the ranks, although when you look at how many magi are supposed to exist, across europe, its really not many. Certain houses, and i'm thinking of the Tremere, really don't function well in your scenario, whereas others, such as the mystery houses work even better.

I like the idea that houses are less groups of mages than mages that share common descent. This way, house loyalty, prestige and renown go out the window, the only thing 2 members of the same house might share is that their masters, masters, masters had the same master. What does that make them (to quote Dark Helmet), "Nothing!"

It also means that the house mystery's might be known to only one or two magi at most. It wouldn't be a case of "i'm a reasonably experienced magi, time to learn more about my heritage". It would be much more about the crazy yet powerful hermit, reluctant to share his secrets unless he finds a worthy student.

I am tinkering with the idea that the first 3 or 4 dudes in the line of bonie were AMAZING dudes. Inventive genius, integration of magics et al... The bonies were using their clause in the code to create a line of strong researchers. And everybody was benefiting.

And the 2 bonies active at the moment died in a crazy lab accident (obliterating most of durenmar as well) and the line disappeared. the only surviving member of the line (Conciata) had also entered final twilight a few years ago.

So the Order has the mysteries and advantages that the early order created, but further discoveries have not progressed far. this is why we still have so many diverse traditions. it also saves me from having to design a line of Magic ward dudes that are experts to manipulate the realms from scratch :wink: There are casting tablets for Aegis rituals of several levels, but nobody really understands what they are casting anymore. It seems like a Boundary parma, but it is not exactly the same.... Nobody can put their finger on the exact differences, though.


I agree, the Order is not really consistent with the medieval setting.

For my next saga I'm toying with the idea of changing the way the experience scale for for arts to have it identical to the skills. It would lead to the average magus being much less powerful. The Order level of power would thus be much more in line with those of other political entities, and magi would have to rely on their sodales and covenfolk.

May I add a fourth vote "for" ?

We tryed that particular idea (Parma as the "main Hermetic Mystery") in our campaign (now 1 year old) and it works really fine.

Your more general idea could (and will?) make for an interesting campaign, Xavi, I'm sure.
Personnaly, I would prefer the other way around: rewrite those non-hermetic traditions into the hermetic rules. I think the Te+Fo rules are strong and should be used more than they are now. But if one have players able to have fun with many systems of (complex) rules, then there is no problem left with this idea.

Could you please elaborate on what improvements it brings to the game?

That would be my approach too. From the perspective of game playing, having a single set of magic rules is a big advantage and the Hermetic Magic system is better than anything else published for AM.

You'd have to find a way to restrict the power level. This could involve the much-discussed "Arts as Abilities" system, or something less drastic like doubled XP costs for Arts. It certainly should include Xavi's idea of smaller libraries of learning material. As partial compensation, I'd give all Magi the ability to use bonuses from magical materials as in the Potent Magic virtue. That alone would add a lot of flavor as Magi scramble for mandrake roots and wolfsbane. Xavi's specific ideas on Parma, Aegis, and Ceremony all look like solid contributions too.

Then I'd work on redesigning the traditions and the Order. How radical this redesign would be would depend on how much work I was willing to put in. Certainly I'd start by making the Order much smaller both in raw numbers and in geographic spread. This could involve a whole lot of work though.

Well, we have been playing in this "batch" of Ars since 2005. Current saga developing since 2009. It is likely to end in fall, so 2 full real world years of (almost) weekly play. We like the setting, we like the system (more or less) et al, but we are a little fed up with hermetics. We even considered ding a magicless game with only companions with a few virtues at most (mythic herbalism, shapeshift and Hex being almost powergamer abilities in that approach). IN the end we decided to go for "magic lithe". We do not want the hermetic system for a while. We want hedgies. And if the system they use is broken so be it. We are not searching an equilibrium here. :slight_smile:

In general the idea is "The Prince of the Forest is Might 20". We ended up hating how we had to multiply the power of magical creatures by 4 or so for them to be a challenge and nobody rising their parma above level 4 (so we can cover grogs) because it was basically a useless ability anyway except for the removal of social penalties among the Gifted. YSMV :slight_smile: So, if the Prince is level 20, we should have REAL BIG problems simply removing him from the equation.

After (re)reading Ceremony, this is how we are gonna use it. Thanks ezzelino. Only Gifted characters can contribute, unless they are from your tradition as well, in which case UnGifted members can contribute.


I can understand that, something different can always be a good idea after a long campaign.

I also hear you on the Might and Parma point. It's way too easy for Hermetics to penetrate Magic Resistance in the RAW. The core rules already suggest this and the supplements make it worse by adding so many virtues and variants that boost casting total, while giving nothing to defensive scores. I wish I knew a quick fix. Maybe Parma should be 10 per level instead of 5 and we should just double the Might of everything.

That does work. Beware though that a parma specialist can truly become exceptionally hard to penetrate.
While low level magi fights can sometimes become a "oh dear noone can penetrate the others parma" situations.
Overall though, it´s a "perfectly fine" houserule to use.

More. My version is that spell needs to penetrate, spell level damage is reduced by target might(if you reach at least half its might with the spell, you do 1 point of damage, multicasting still just cause 1 damage total this way), and then you first hit Might pool, and only once its empty do you start knocking out might, while a might creature can sacrifice a point of might to replenish part of the Might pool and isnt killed from loosing all might...
Essentially, a different but similar upgrade to Xavi´s "multiply by 4" while allowing Might scores to stay unchanged.
A Might 20 creature requires an absolute minimum of a 10 might damage spell with 21 penetration to do just 1 point of damage. And a 60 might damage spell with 21 penetration to get a single hit "kill".

Arts and Abilities on the same scale, BAD. Doubling or tripling the cost of Arts though, that works.

In fact we are gonna run a few old school adventures 8star wars good vs bad and hack n slash dungeon crawls) with our light homebrew system before embarking in anything serious :slight_smile: But yeah, "normal" Ars (with all saga variance that there is) is not an option right now.


A few years ago, I was aguing against the current many rules for alternative magics (including "hermetic secrets"). As you seem to think, it's better to have one general framework for rules. But when I presented that point, I was opposed by the (correct but irrelevant to the point at stake) fact that those secrets added flavor and adventure opportunities. There you have your main answer.

There is 3 major reasons: fine-tuning the power level; adventures/society opportunities; usefull, fun and game-balanced powers with the Parma.

Parma Magica is the Major Secret of the OoH. It's also closely tied to the "power level" of a character (or magic resistance, more generally).
We have an initiation script that give magic resistance 5 for the Parma (See Xavi's 1st post). Then a few other scripts (5) that add to that number (we give +2/each, but it's easy (easier!) to adjust, YMMV as always). In our campaign, RAW Parma was overpowered (remember always: YMMV).

After gaining a Parma of 15 (this score is the MR), the other scripts needs to be sought for. That's one important way how the OoH control power levels. Also, one important way how the Elder "control" the young. It gives a reasonnable, "down to earth" and game-usable way to build the ties that MAKES the OoH (among others). As a mage advance in it's understanding of this Ultimate Hermetic Secret, the scripts are (or "can be", YMMV) harder to get.

After getting Parma 15, there are many different scripts. You can have a script that give +1 parma, and you can extend to twice the usual number Parma. Another gives +2 and allow you to cast it twice faster. +1 Parma and use Vis to boost MR. Etc, etc. You can see there is plenty to Original Research here. Also, plenty of Scripts produced by older researcher willing to sell them (In our campaign).

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I don't think I would mind having low level magi unable to penetrate each other's Parma. It kind of fits with the old idea of the Order coming together because Parma made Magi feel safe together. A bigger problem, which I hadn't considered when I threw the idea out there, is that Parma is already very good against non-Hermetic effects. Double it and nothing will be able to touch Magi.

Probably it's just better to slow advancement in the Arts.