Thou shall not kill & magi

Hi there!

We all know that designing a mage with the capacity to easily Hill a mundane target (be it a man or beast) is easy as hell. Even a lowly level 10 spell (and some level 5 spells as well) can do the trick. A level 20 spell can roast an opponent easily.

I have found that most players design their mages to have such a capacity. There is nothing wrong with that. What I find rather “wrong” is the moral dilemma that this should cause to the character.

Mythic Europe, by its mere design, will have most magi as Christians. A Christian character should be somewhat averse to happily break the commandment of “thou shall not kill”. Players, OTOH, do not seem averse to suck capital sin at all. They kill, and usually do so with glee. Even the few of them that confess such a thing do not really repent their actions. As in most RPGs and gaming groups, gratuitous/easygoing killing violence is quite usual in my troupe & saga. It has always been as such.

However, the magi of the OoH are able to FEEL the presence of the divine around them. Since they KNOW that “God is out there” I think that they might be more averse to happily disregard such a central part of theology with glee than what your regular Ars troupe does.

Maybe the OoH should be a kind of more killing-averse society? Seeing killing as unworthy due to God’s retribution, or fearing the consequences of breaking the commandments. On the other hand, ME is a violent society, based on the law of the stronger dude, and warriors have been around for centuries (and still are at large). Magi are more educated than your average killer, though, and MUCH more aware of the possible consequences of sinning that your regular killer: demons, angels, divine auras… all those are readily visible to magi and widely recorded as existing and affecting human behaviour in the books of the OoH.

So, do you think that magi might be less inclined to killing than that?

I would think that a mage might have killer spells easily, but might be averse to use them on a regular basis. It might add quite some more depth to your average mage hunter, giving him an arsenal of crippling (but not killing) spells. Hoplites as the Final Catchers of ME have more appeal than your average brutish murderer to me :slight_smile: Favour spells like weavers trap of webs et al seem more attractive to combat mages under those premises.



Ouh lala...
You remind me of a CoC game were I tried vainly to make my co-gamers understand that no, our characters (a humanitarian doctor, an history professor, an old shaman-type and one other guy) wouldn't consider it normal to use innocent people as trap-detectors...
Good luck.

As per your point... Magus are maybe a little more conscious of the divine than mundanes, but not much more so. Being more educated, they may also know more than common people that a sincere repentance may save you even at death's doors.

IMO, they're no more adverse to killing than any real-world religious people who kills nethertheless. We've seen, and still see, those.
I'd say they mostly kill in self-defense, though, and don't go on wanton rampages. Note also that sometimes, it may be "right" to kill.

I myself am bothered by the old gamer tendency to make every magus a combat magus in at least some part. The horrors of old AD&D games still haunt their memory I guess. Either that or they all secretly wish they were cool enough for House Flambeau :slight_smile:

However, things never got as "kill crazy" as one might imagine. On the field of battle versus an enemy or rogue wizard, the minions of evil; then yes, there has been killing. Most often though, it was a kill or be killed situation. Life was harsher then. Survival is not something to remose over.

However, having said that, they are much more humanitarian and cautious with life in Ars than, say, in D&D or Vampire or Cthullu or whatever. Wheras in those games, minions and henchmen were generic and expendable, in Ars, grogs are real personal characters with quirks and personalities. Adds a whole different dynamic.

In character design, I have seen most characters IMS that were successful (the sagas, not necessarily the concrete mages) start with the "killer pack": 1-2 offensive spells and several defence spells. After that, wards (and other studff like 7LS or other teleport stuff) were piled up on the character to turn it into the equivalent of a tank.

After that you either saw the development ofthe character to the level of a stealth bomber and then a nuke-armed walking behemoth or the killer abilities were completely left at that level forever, and the character started to develop in other directions, suuall researchy or social.

The process is quite common though. Killer --> protected --> other developments.

In fact it seems sensible enough, since the protected character (to a fair level, that is) was dfeveloped in less than a decade of hermetic study easily. made mundane and low level magical opponents triffling, and that made the characters feel sure enough to start developing other skills.

Curious the ammount of ex-combatants in the ranks of the researchers, investigators and social mages IMS, though.



I think that the focus for magi should be about, how would a real person act? Most people doesn’t even enter a serious fist fight in their lives never even considering harming another human. It is a good thing to go away from the D&D mentality of slaying things and steal their treasures. In this game there is no xp to gained after each kill. Adventure xp is somewhat related to this D&D mentality so that’s why I am reluctant to deal out them in plenty or even at all, sorry players of Ad Fons :slight_smile:.

However I believe that it should be a magus responsibility to teach his apprentice some combat skill, even if it is The invisible sling of Vilano, as mythic Europe is a dangerous place where violence is common. Medieval Europe where after all mostly a martial culture where violence where commonplace in some areas. Perhaps a few mages in peaceful and organised societies never feel that need, just as most common citizens of today never need to learn how to defend themselves.

But for magi who settle in the rural or desolate areas where there is no strong hand who can enforce the law there could be good to learn at least to defend on-self. Especially if the neighbouring and warlike nobleman/chieftain/what ever can’t see the difference of a fully trained and combat capable Flambeau maga and the newly gauntleted Jerbiton magus and thus make a strike towards the covenant just to be sure.

Lastly we must not forget that normal people (if there is such a thing) would feel quite miserable after even when they have been exposed of a violence or the threat of violence. If you don’t believe that speak to someone who have been the victim of some crime.


If your saga contained mostly Flambeau magi, or merely had many Flambeau around, then this makes perfect sense. I saw a similar progression in many of my games, which were strongly influenced by (guess which house?;-))

Their imediate safety and survivability was always an overriding concern, but once that level was reached, almost always they would turn to the more mystical and esoteric applications.

Except one guy, the most dashing and heroic of all my Flambeau players. He mastered using Creo of fireballs and ligtning bolts, then learned how sweet and subtle Perdo can be (he used PeMe to make an enemy comatant forget what was going on for a moment's hesitation, long enough to slit his throat).

So for combat magi and those who hang out with them, this is natural. However, the unintended consequence many years later is that my two best players have characters that include a Merinita Elric wannabe with a giant death-spell sword, and a Bonisagus Animal specialist that likes to summon war dogs when he is in trouble, spits caustic venom (his favorite spell), and creates bizzare monsters in his lab.

It's a competition thing between players, and actually kind of meta game (his character can do this, so I want mine to do that).

And as for D&D mentality, well, I haven't even touched that game since they dropped the "A" (AD&D). I only play ars, and I like to explore the full spectrum form hack & slash to deep and mysterious.

Being exposed to violence makes one more violent. Iberian and Levant magi would probably be more exposed to violence as youths, so probably grow up to be more violent themselves.

Vilolence, committed for a just and righteous purpose, makes one feel proud, not miserable.

Then again, on his deathbead, my grandfather claimed he saw the Japaneese soildiers he had killed in WWII. They were waiting for him. They said everything was okay. He was doing his duty, as were they. He gave them an honorable death, and in heaven all is forgiven. Kind of surprising coming from a man who had a life long history of speaking of them as "dirty Japs" and any number of nasty things. Makes you wonder.

Yes your right, different situations make different men and women. My example even if thankfully not experienced myself was of a friends friend who where mugged and that where not a bloody hit you in the face mugging but merely (?) someone asking him of surrender his valet in a less than pleasant way. That shocked the guy up so he had difficulties travelling with the subway for some time after that. After all as I mentioned earlier the violent background calls for some martial prowess, especially when it is so easily learnt for a magi, and the fact that role-playing games quite common involve some form of combat sooner or later.

So yeah, it does affect different people in different ways. I am also influenced by my warrior grandfather I guess. He loved his $#!+ kicker movies, as we used to call them, and would keep us fascinated wit tales of combat or ancient Greek heroes (I was fed the tale of the 300 like mothers milk).

But, as I point out, he was himself battle scarred. His deep guilt and remorse was kept buried deep within until his death. I mean, he saw some serious heavy action. All his life though, he would just joke and tell tales of glory. He never mentioned his kills, those are in his letters home.

In fact, I kinda wish that they would have taken this angle with the founder Flambeau instead of deleating his violent past. I mean, circumstances pushed F# into a life of violence and must have scarred him. I saw a deeply complex tragic anti-hero, not the savage psycho.

But instead, that concept can be used for an elder arch magus of Flambeau, an old warrior and veteran of many marches. He would be full of regrets and glory, tragedy and triumph, ashamed of some of his deeds and proud of others, and with a delusional mantra that justifies his past (like my grandfather and his anti Japaneese smack talk, I don't for a second believe it was a core value of his, just the result of a 19 year old kid facing off against a Japaneese army trying to kill him).

Wow, I had no idea my personal history affected my gaming style so strongly...

There are two ways to see it: either Player Characters are, or are not, representative of a typical mage in the Order.

Not every Player adopts a completely "realistic" approach to running their character. Not every player RP's to tell a story - some are looking for a vent, some for some ego-rush, some to "blow somethin' up real good" - hey, there are 101 ways to Role Play, and every one is right - just not right for everyone.

But Player pop-psychology aside, there are several rationales to explain it. One is that magi don't tend to go to heaven. If hit by twilight, they go "somewhere else", and so are out of that loop. Another is that some are simply arrogant $h!7$ who don't give a rat, and they'll get what they deserve in the afterlife. That works too. :wink:

Maybe it's time to work the concept of redemption and hell into a story line, ala A Christmas Carol? Ghost of some old associate (or complete stranger), chained by eternity with the weight of their deeds while alive, etc etc. Maybe have a few parallels that are hard to miss. But even then, if the Player isn't there to tell a story of the character, but merely to exercise their ego or act out repressed fantasies unfettered by social norms, that won't slow them down any more than anything else will. :\

Hmmm... a rating for post traumatic stress? Someone who can kill with regularity would have a flaw or military (hoplite) virtue? I'll never forget when 'Call of Cthulhu' introduced 'Sanity' points.

I think if an rpg wanted to encourage other things besides ease-with-the-commoner-fodder and martial orientation :wink: then we might throw xp into our covenants status, "abilities," boons/hooks and consider other things for development.

I'm real interested in continuing to develop communities (i.e. covenants and other collectives) as characters (with xp, etc.) on a much broader rpg'in scale. Imagine further developing the academician, politico, religious leader or the dorf, hamlet, family/bloodline, guild and their "terrain" as indepthly as the sanctum, lab and spell book materials in 'Covenants.' A few of these traits could encourage role-playing to be an even more varied mix from the typical. Pehaps status and reputations should really be given a much heavier-weight for character and covenant development.

Well, that's all I have for snapshot brainstorms. :slight_smile: Alright folks time to start 6th Edition - or a supplementary rpg text.

ooo...OOO! Ad Fons don't dish out standard xp. Damn, I was inspired by the new 'Rambo' movie coming out and I was going turbo perdo ignem!

Well, I don't think it's entirely accurate to say I deleted his violent past: "He had slain as many as a dozen Moorish sorcerers and become one of the most feared wizards in Mythic Europe by the time Trianoma approached him..." (HoH: Societates, p. 7) However, I will concede that Societates does not paint him as, ah, vividly as 3rd Edition did.

That's sort of the impression I was hoping to give... looks like it fell flat.


-Andrew G.

Sorry, double post deleted.

One of the unique things about ArM in my opinion is that PC's don't
have to kill their opponents. The Wound rules are punitive enough that two Medium Wounds (or one Heavy Wound) pretty much destroys a character's fighting ability. Not to mention that magi have access to spells that can neutralize a mundane with minimal contact: Lifting the Dangling Puppet is one of my favorites.

I usually have NPC's flee or surrender when they get badly hurt. It's one thing for your PC to slay an opponent who fights till his last breath, and quite another to dispatch a wounded enemy who falls at his feet groveling for mercy.

I do believe the Middle Ages were a more violent time than our modern age, but I don't think it would be the norm in Mythic Europe to slay prisoners out of hand.

My troupe usually takes a rather enlightened view to moral ethics and such compared to your average grail knight. Still I think that a good old 'blast em' spell is a necessity for any covenant.

We had a close encounter with both a demonic magus and the demon he was warning us for. Both needed some agressive diplomacy. (although a thoroughly mastered demons eternal oblivion proved more valuable against the latter)
That's where those high penetration fire wands come in handy.

This means my magus has quite some killing power. In an encounter with some pirates I used push of the gentle waves however. In this way I escaped the pirates instead of burning their ship down to Davy Jones.

One of our companions: a mercenary captain has killed outright (while trying to subdue). He's also been to the Holy land, where killing is not always a sin :wink: .

In short: I agree with Xavi that killing power is easy to obtain, but IMO most magi use it sparingly. Against mythic creatures however, it is used more often. Our magi have little killing power compared to the warding powers though. And my magus goes for strong wards before developing the killing spells: personal safety before destruction!

In one of our stories we were asked to butcher an entire clan. The difficult part was to find a way to remove the curse and NOT do so.

I have to admit that my mage was designed to be a combat character, he is a knight and an auram specialist but he doesn't go around killing willy nilly, and frankly using magic to kill a mundane would offend his sense of honor. Not to say he would not do it, but it would be the last thing he would do. He fought in the reconquesta and has had his fill and more of blood and death.

If you have characters in your gaming group who solve every problem with a sword (or whatever weapon seems appropriate to the setting) then the fault lies with you as the games master. In general killing everything that moves and letting God sort it out should have consiquences. It is your job as the GM to make those consiquences felt. You should probably also start giving them stories where they can't do that.

I still recall my squire character I played year and years ago being all proud of winning a tournament joust and getting the ransom from the knight until he visited the knights fief and saw what effect having to cough up all that money had had on the serfs.

I passed through the stage of playing role playing games for the opportunity of killing many critters and looting their still twitching corpses a long time ago since frankly it gets boring very quickly. I still recall calculating that we would have had to depopulate angmar of orcs to go up a level and, at that point, we stopped using XP per kill and went to XP per session of play. That change alone will curb bloodlust.

An interesting comment on the whole issue is the game Vampire: Bloodlines. Its a Computer RPG where you get XP only for mission completion and how you do it is dependant on you. So you can butcher everyone, no one, some of them, choose to do one thing or another it all doesn't change the XP you get. The hardest thing to not do I found was to not kill everything that crossed my path. So ingrained is the concept that you need to exterminate, exterminate, exterminate. But once I got over that then things became quite a bit more interesting. Also in Bloodlines you are sent on a mission and told explicitely to not kill anyone.

Combat is supposed to be there in a role playing game to give some dramatic tension if it is all you are doing then you need to consider if you want to change that.

I love when people do PaulM's jump from an example to "your suck as a GM and should be stoned for that" kind of comments :slight_smile:

I think the most dangerous think my players have killed in the last 6 months (playing bi-weekly) is a chicken. It was EXTREMELY dangerous to do so (they might have grown hungry if they hadn't :wink:). Just FYI.

That does NOT break the point that my players have combat-capable characters. The fact that they do not draw the sword does not mean that they do not carry one (or a dozen) around. THAT was the whole point that I was rising in this thread. The fact that the OoH seems more pro-sword than pro-"thou shall not kill" in attitude.

And we like combat BTW. it is one of those things that we abhor in the real world, but that find specially funny because we are well aware that it is a roleplaying tool. Between combat and "kill everything in your path sicbne we are a bunch of morons" there is a BIG differernce. I have never played the DnD style of game except at cons and I found them dull. even in systems like LOTR, that are only designed around kuilling stuff, we have never gone around killing orcs.

Now, since you cannot read properly, maybe you should improve your posting/comprehension skills since they are clearly deficient :stuck_out_tongue: Read this with some ironic tone, please, but I felt mildly insulted by that preposterous comment: I had not been told "you suck" in a long time.

However, even if I did run my saga as a big DnD cvampaign, there would be NO ONE with the right to critique that. To each one his own, and to make such heavy assumptions on the storyguiding style of someone is quite dangerous. At least.



It's been said that the default view of Player Characters is that of a psychopath... they don't believe anyone in the world is real but them.

We come from a tradition where the basic approach to a problem is to kill it (and take it's stuff, as oft' mentioned on Some Other Board). Depending on the skill and interest and background of a player, it can be very hard to over come this. I once had a player who couldn't understand why I said I wanted a game where a magi was trained to wield a mundane weapon was the exception. Of course all characters should have a back up weapon, he thought.

As for the Christian point of view... I played in a game where my character was very devout. In fact, he was so devout he was concerned that Hermetic magic may itself endanger his soul, but he didn't get very far down that path before circumstance compelled him to use magic to take someone's life. Later, when the covenant's council decided that a ship filled mostly with noncombatant must be sunk for the long term safety of the covenant, this character volunteered since he was all ready going to Hell and didn't want to put his covenantmates into that position. (Not that most of them cared, and they were all going to Hell for one reason or another.)

He was not a combat oriented mage, but by the time he was himself killed he had murdered or killed a number of people. The "in for a penny, in for a pound" mentality really fucked him up, too. He was a great character to play.

I would not say you fell flat, because this was not your primary intention. I don't mean to reopen old wounds :slight_smile:

You know how I feel about the revision, but other than that, most of your attention and creativity was focused on the development of the House in the years after the Founder. Once I got over my mental stumbling block, I was really able to get into it. Detailing the House as it stands in 1220 is much more important, and in that you created something much better as far as that is concerned.

You also know I loved F#, and I can be kinda unreasonable about it, but I've learned to deal with it. To me, a major portion of his violent past had to do with his years alongside Delendar, as a student then as an equal. Laberius will never match up in my imagination.

I do agree that hunting over 50 hedge wizards for fun and sport may be too extreme, but he was just one bad mother f....("shut your mouth!", "But I'm talking about Flambeau!", "Oh, well we can dig it!")

He's a complicated man :slight_smile:

Anyway, the concept can still be used and applied to an old Flambeau archmagus. I can imagine an elder Reconquista magus, full of remorse, mentor to a young hot headed Flambeau who is always eager to torch first and ask questions later. The elder would try to correct the sins of his past by moulding the young hot head into a hero.

Forget my confessions of yesterday (I edited them out). But I am curious enough to ask where you are from? I had always thought that the old “America is Violent” adage was merely exaggeration, but maybe I am wrong. Almost every single male I know has been in at least one serious fight. School yard fist fights are serious to a little kid, there is blood and bruises involved. I broke a kids finger once and received my share of bloody noses. Someone tried to carjack a friend of mine and received a broken arm for his efforts. Heck, my own brother and I have gone at it viciously. And don’t even get me started on what my uncles were like back in the 70’s!