Unstructured Caster optimization


Well.... you have to do something you know is wrong. Does that make you evil?

A Jewish magus, for example can get the benefit with every spell he casts, just by casting it, because Hermetic Magic is intrinsically sinful in his religion and he knows it. Does that make him evil or just another man who sins?



There is a level of severity to the sin. Eating a ham sandwich or simply casting spells will not trigger Chthonic Magic benefits. Sacrificing a vergin or invocing the name of Baal-Soggoth, that sort of sim is required. Mortal sin as opposed to Venial sin.


IYS, perhaps, but that's not at all RAW:

"This must be something that the caster knows to be wicked or evil (though not necessarily a mortal sin) and must be performed deliberately."

So "trivial" sins qualify if done knowingly.

BTW, knowingly eating a ham sandwich is a mortal sin in Judaism.



I dunno. I know a lot of Jewish people that eat ham. But then again they are modern Americans, not medevial folk.

But in anycase, if you are Jewish (achronisticlly reformed), and you don't believe that eating ham or casting spells is sinful, then that does not count as "knowingly" committing a sin. I play christian magi that are in denial about their sinful magic all the time :wink:

Still, good point. I was over generalizing. Must return to the source and investigate :smiley:

Just 'cause you make a bloody sacrafice to an old earth god from the Underworld doesn't mean you're evil. :unamused:

Yes it does :smiling_imp:


I'm one of them. :slight_smile:

grin And if it only takes a little sin to activate the best parts of Cthonic Magic, that works fine from an Infernal perspective. "Would you like a wafer thin sin?"



LOL, happens all the time. My friend Mitch, his parents make awesome ribs every 4th of July. My crazy uncle who invented his own religion tried to combine old testament law with Christianity. He used to criticize me constantly, and I told him that if my worst sin was eating a ham sandwhich while on break from work on Saturday, I think I will do just fine. He has given up on religion, but still refuses to eat pork.

And a side of fries! :laughing:


Well, the great thing about Cthonic Magic as written is that its user has to knowingly and deliberately do something wrong. Whether the act is wrong or not doesn't matter, except to the extent that it is wrong to do something that one believes to be wrong.

Your character doesn't think human sacrifice is wrong? Fine! No Art doubling. Your character knows that wearing clothes that are a little too nice is a sign of wrongful pride yet does it anyway? Double your Art, baby, courtesy of, um, um, of Razon, the patron angel/demon of willful sin.

It cuts nicely through the "I'm a good guy but I'm misunderstood" stuff. (Want some Cthonic Magic to go with your Diedne? You have to deliberately and knowingly do stuff you think is wrong.)



Like chop down a tree? :laughing:

IMO, I think that the early Diedne were probably Chthonic, which is why they engaged in human sacrafice. They were ostracized by the other Druids around the time of the founding. Ever wonder why?


Especially an oak! :slight_smile:

Because all the other Druids were long dead, and the Diedne were American West Coast Anachronisms?


Ken (An American West Coast Anachronism Emulator)

Well, yeah, there is that :laughing:

So I'll mark off cthonic magic as a possibility for my pbp character.

IIRC, it is not as hard, but it is still far from a venial sin.

Eating ham is sinful, but it ain't wicked or evil. Deliberately wounding someone or calling on satan's power is.

You must know this to be wicked and Evil.

This ain't "I call upon Hecate's power and this is fine". This is "I call upon this Evil God, and this is very bad".
So, by the raw, no cool misunderstood cthonic magic diedne, you can only have evil cthonic magic diedne. But, still by the raw, you could have cool misunderstood diedne :wink:


That's your opinion! Which is fine and good, if you're thinking like a modern. But if you want to get medieval...

God has some very different ideas.

Cutting off the hand of someone who stole a crust of bread.... not wrong.

Eating food you're not supposed to.... wrong.

I think this virtue was phrased quite well, though perhaps not emphatically enough given a (very natural) tendency for people to want to read something else.

For this virtue, the SG isn't the one who decides what is right or wrong but the player, on behalf of the character: Does the character believe he is doing wrong? Benefit.



Yes, the Chthonic bonus requires the character knowingly and deliberately to do something that is evil/wrong/wicked from the character's perspective. However, it does not have to do something so grevious/desplicable (or complex/cumbersome for that matter) as a human sacrifice. Valid examples include cursing the target or invoking an evil power. Not the magus has to make any explicit, deliberate or knowinglly call to Infernal powers. Form his PoV, the power and the act has to be dark and wicked, but not diabolic.

I am sure that from a pagan magus' POV, invocations to the chthonic powers that predated and opposed the gods (the Titans or the Giants), or gods that are recognized as evil by the rest of the pantheon (eg Loki, Hela) would qualify. But the point is, it does not have to be blood-drenched human sacrifices or explicit satanism to tap the power. Therefore no, you can't be cool misunderstood nice and fluffly chthonic magus, but you can be cool dark and fearsome ruthless antihero badass chthonic magus, without having to go all the way to the gory and desplicable baby-eating diabolist.

And yes, it marks the spell as Infernal, but only if someone uses an InVi spell or power to detect its nature while the spell is active. Somewhat risky, especially if one uses it for long-duration spells or too much, but it's not like an imp shows up with a placard "this spell is Infernal, I tell you, INFERNAL" when the chthonic power is used.

Re: Charmed Life. Good spotting, Greg.

Having reviewed Charmed Life, I have to state that I do not believe its benefits are worth it. Despite its botch-rerolling effects apply to all kinds of botches, Confidence points definitely are a limited resource. The Virtue calls for a rather hefty price tag, 6 vp, including its Mythic Blood prerequisite. On the other hand, Cautious Sorcerer allows dice benefits on magical botches that are almost as good for the measly price of 1 vp and are always available. IMO, unless one is willing to go extreme lengths to eradicate any and all risk of botches, Cautious Sorcerer almost always covers the issue of botch-minimization more than adequately from a cost/benefit ratio.

Quite likely.

Ok, I can see where you are coming from. I remain dubious that 30 years would be the cut-off for the switch in effectiveness between the virtues, IMO its 20 years past Gauntlet at the very most, otherwise it indicates a magus that has been neglecting Arts development rather than it is safe.

Anyway, we all seem to agree that an optimized spont specialist is almost surely going to develop all of Diedne/Cailleach Magic, Chthonic Magic, and LLSM, within a few decades past Gauntlet, and that combo requires some Initiation, either in game or in post-apprenticeship character creation, in order to avoid the limitation on multiple Hermetic Virtues (although as it concerns Chthonic Magic, the limit can be easily circumvented since that Virtue is also a Supernatural one, and many SG could rule that hence it is not subject to the limit, and/or it may be picked as the additional Ex Misc one). Therefore, proper optimization of the concept is always going to require some extra years of post-apprenticeship character development, and some Initiations, unless one absolutely needs the character to be a few months after Gauntlet.

I can concede that for a complete novice character, LLSM would likely yield greater benefits than any other Virtue. I think you may concede that, otherwise, a decent optimization of any character substantially older than that would also require Diedne and Chthonic first, plus some of the other Minors we talked about. Hence, unless again the character absolutely needs to be a pitiful novice underdog, the point of which Hermetic Major came first is a bit moot, a footnote in the character’s background, since all of them would be owned.

At most, the notion of which Virtues were Initiated may cause some differences in which Ordeals were develop during initiations, if any (this is probably relevant mainly for Chthonic, since Diedne and LLSM quite likely use similar Ordeals, given their thematic affinity). If anything, IMO it may be a bit easier to justify having Diedne and Chthonic as beginning virtues, since both are linked to established canon magical traditions and lineages, whereas LLSM does not. On the other hand, a druidic mystery cult almost surely offers both DM and LLSM as Mystery Virtues (and maybe also some of the Virtues we discussed for our optimization package, such as Enduring Constitution). Theoretically, CM, too, because of the “dark pagan” sacrifices angle.

Otherwise, we all seem to agree on the desirability of Faerie Magic + Charm Magic. I acknowledge that, unless the SG restricts its use, Spell Foci would be rather valuable, too, and I hope you may concede that since the character is going to pick Faerie/Merinita Mystery Virtues anyway, he may pick Spell Timing as well, which yields some very valuable extra Durations .

That leaves us with Faerie Magic + Charm Magic + Spell Timing, Spell Foci, LLSM, Diedne Magic, Chthonic Magic package (13 vp). Easily doable with a few years of post-apprenticeship character development, and a few Initiations, or even as a closet druidic tradition Ex Misc turned Merinita character just after of apprenticeship, if the SG relaxes the limit on having multiple Hermetic Majors (an obsolete rule anyway, since you can put Initiations in character creation). If the player does add some extra post-Gauntlet years at character creation, one could add either of both of Cautious Sorcerer and Enduring Constitution, which are cheap (two extra vp, 15 total) which substantially diminish the risk of botches and the penalties of fatigue.

I hope you may concede that after developing such a package in full, MMF (Damage) would be rather valuable in order to diminish the necessity of Fatigue for spont combat magic and enhancing it further. And I can easily concede that a package of Virtues that speed up Arts development would be a valid alternative and very valuable development. About that, however, I would never bother to pick Affinities, since as we said, a spont specialist is going to be somewhat of a generalist. IMO the “genius student” package of Free Study, Book Learner, and Study Bonus yields better long-term study benefits to a generalist spont-caster than a couple Affinities.

That would be IMO the basic package. The other Virtues we discussed, while valuable (either Shapeshifter or Heartbeatst + Theriomorphy, either Unbound Tongue or Quiet Magic + Still Magic, Sorcerous Music, Harnessed magic, Tethered Magic, Anima Magic, Glamour) would be icing on the cake, only to be Initiated after the character has achieved a substantial level of development in one’s Arts and Arcane Abilities.

Building on the model of Ancient Magic, Hedge Magic Revised Edition focuses on the development of several “living” traditions of non-Hermetic magic (just like Am did for several “dead” ones), and again like AM; it includes guidelines for the integration of insights from such traditions to expand Hermetic magic. One of these traditions is the Pictish Geas-throwing, curse slinging Gruagach, who apparently have a talent for flexible magic similar to the one of the Druids. Therefore, one of the results of integrating Gruagach magic into Hermetic Magic is a new Hermetic Major Virtue (and major Breakthrough), Cailleach Magic, which works just like Diedne Magic. Only since it is demonstrably developed from a “legitimate” non-Hermetic source, its inborn social consequences Flaw is changed from Dark Secret to Hedge Wizard. Of course, since its existence in the setting would be the result of integration Hermetic research, it is left for the group to decide upon. But I think that establishing such research already happened in one’s setting, if not for the Order at large, in one’s lineage, is far from unreasonable (or unbalancing).

By the way, HMRE, like AM, holds a truckload of other nifty improvements of Hermetic magic that may be the result of integration research. Among them, perhaps the other new Virtue from Hermetic integration (from the potion-brewing, fetish-wielding Folk Witches) that would be of relevant usefulness and interest to specialist spont-casters is Subtle Opening, a new Minor Virtue (and Minor Breakthrough), which allows to treat Hermetic Arts as Favored Abilities for the purpose of learning Supernatural Abilities. Although it may only be taken at character creation, it allows an Hermetic mage to develop an handful of Supernatural Abilities without need for taking associated Virtues. For the purposes of spont-caster optmization, it makes Shapeshifter possible without need of a Major Virtue (not to mention the benefit of making other Supernatural Abilities like Entrancement, Hex, Persona, Sihr, and Goetic Arts, equally available).

Yes, I agree that Theriomorphy does allow to tap the extra fatigue from an animal form even in human form, and would therefore be rather valuable to a spont-caster. Just like the Mystery of the Chimera (IMO the most valuable version of the Inner Heartbeast) would allow to add even more fatigue levels. Not to mention one could develop Sensory Magic with that package, and additional RDTs are always a rather good thing for a spont-caster. Last but not least, using Heartbeast instead of Shapeshifter allows to spare a couple vp (unless one uses Subtle Opening). My main concern about using the Bjornaer path of development is that the House’s canon extremaely paranoid and narrowminded attitude towards Mysteries: with the exception of Huntress in the Wood, a Bjornaer mage is pretty much expected, and permitted, to develop House Mysteries only, and they keep a very tight control on sharing them with outsiders and defectors (as opposed to say the Merinita and the Criamon, who have a much more relaxed attitude about formal membership, as long as one supports the House’s philosophy). This would make difficult for a mage to acquire Virtues from other mysteries, including the ones of the basic package, that overall are rather more valuable than the Bjornaer ones. The character would need to have developed all of them from background and lineage, or keep his multiple Mystery Cult membership a secret.

Therefore, unless Bjornaer House is HR to be rather less paranoid, or the character is meant to be a Bjornaer anyway (in such a case, the character is advised to be very good at duping his house-mates about his multiple Mystery loyalties), I think that overall it is better not to mess with the Bjornaer, and be content with developing Shapeshifter (with Subtle Opening if at all possible).

Last but not least, about optimization, a personal note, even it is but indirectly related to the issue of spont-casting optimization: I would add Unaging and/or Cautious Sorcerer to pretty much any character I can. They are rather cheap for what they do, i.e. ensuring that barring violent death, a maga with a barely decent Longevity Ritual and/or Familiar, very likely only has to fear Final Twilight as a limit for her stay on Earth (unless one works on her alchemic, ghostly, or Daimonic immortality of course).

Anyway, speaking about immortality, a couple of Virtues that any mage who is serious about Immortality should develop, also allow significant benefits for spont-casting, (Theurgic) Spirit Familiar and Inscription over the Soul. The former allows to tap the familiar’s might to enhance the mage’s casting total substantially (up to Hekate Cord score x5), besides to usual benefits to botching and aging. The latter allows a maga to enchant Shape and Material bonuses directly in one’s spirit or body, which might allow her to keep the benefits of the Spell Foci at all times, while freeing oneself from the dependency on casting tools, depending on how one interprets the rule.

Therefore, I would conclude, an optimization package for a spont-caster specialist would include: Faerie Magic + Charm Magic + Spell Timing, Spell Foci, LLSM, Cailleach Magic (or Diedne Magic if the former is not available in the saga), Chthonic Magic, as the basic format. If the mage’s character creation development allows it or in later in-game development, add Subtle Opening (character creation only, and if it is available in the saga), Unaging, Cautious Sorcerer, Enduring Constitution, Book Learner, Free Study, Study Bonus. If Subtle Opening is available, a mage should surely learn Shapeshifter Supernatural Ability and a +2 Size form (bear is my favorite). Other Supernatural Abilities that may yield substantial benefits to spont-casters are Summoning and Commanding, since a magus that knows them may use Rego and Vim in the relevant rolls, and among other services, he may order a spirit to increase any one of his Characteristics, Abilities, and Arts up to the spirit’s Might score.


You and I are pretty much in complete agreement.

Deliberately wrong, but not necessarily heinous.

Infernally tainted, but not necessarily damned.

A good tightrope virtue.

As SG, I'd not allow a character with this one to rest easy.




If you can initiate or grab it without MB--and there are a few other virtues that should justify it for similar reasons, such as SFB and the various lucky virtues--it's very nice. What better way to spend Confidence?

It's a limited resource, sure, but it replenishes pretty often.

Not almost as good, because CS still leaves botch potential, which matters a lot with LLSM, but also any time you really can't afford to botch. I do like CS though. Cheap for what it does. (But CS really comes into its own combined with Flawless Magic....)

Thirty years, at 30xp/year all devoted to Arts provides 900xp. The canonical 30xp/year is stingy, but allowing that much to go toward Arts is extremely generous. Let's give him a round 1000xp in Arts total, representing his career. More than fair, I think.

As a complete generalist, he has an 11 in every Art. Diedne Magic with fatigue lets him add one extra magnitude to his sponts (11/2=5.5). This is not very impressive. (LLSM provides 3 magnitudes at the cost of exhaustion.)

As a relative specialist, with scores in only 8 Arts, he has 15. One fatigue gives him 1.5 magnitudes. That's a bit nicer; he can still divide by 2 without fatigue. But all spells involving any of the other Arts gain nothing from fatigue.

I'd still give the nod to LLSM, without reservation.

Not even for sponting. Faerie+Charm Magic comes first.

And Gentle Gift may still be the most powerful Major Hermetic Virtue! :slight_smile:/2

Substantially older. Not just 30 years.

...as is true in most sagas I have seen...

I won't concede but will agree. Any virtue that grants more kinds of spells to spont is very good!


Nah. Damage is a pretty boring focus, IMO, even for combat.

I think that a really good focus should have combat and non-combat utility, and, in the hands of a clever player, be used in ways that are interesting and unexpected. (And if it applies to your familiar, even better.)

Does your saga have so much vis floating around that Free Study ever comes into play? Do the other magi really let you take that valuable book out into storms so you can study Auram?


Therefore, one of the results of integrating Gruagach magic into Hermetic Magic is a new Hermetic Major Virtue (and major Breakthrough), Cailleach Magic
Ah, it doesn't exist.

(If it requires a major breakthrough to exist, it doesn't exist.)

That's great for your saga!

Makes sense.

CS, yes, but not Unaging. Maintaining characteristics at 0 is easy with CrCo and CrMe..... if the saga even lasts that long.

I agree it's good, RAW. (I can also imagine many troupes ruling that Stamina rolls mean rolls that only involve Stamina.)



Further exploring the issue of optimization for a spont-caster specialist, I think some discussion is appropriate on the choice of appropriate Flaws that round up the specialization, chosen to fit character concept and planned character development.

In all likelihood this magus is going to pay his spont proficiency with seubstantial limitations with other kinds of magic. Most often, he has either Unstructured Caster or Rigid Magic. They are roughly equal in consequences.

If they are inappropriate for the concept (e.g. the character is planned to go for an immortality method that requires ritual spells), a good equivalent Flaw combo to indicate poor proficiency with structured magic may be Poor Formulaic Magic + Loose Magic + Weak Enchanter or Weak Scholar or Disjointed Magic.

Good addtional or substitute Major Hermetic Flaws for a spont-caster may be Blatant Gift (the character is one with his magic, and it oozes through), Restriction, Weak Magical Resistance, Vulnerable Magic (quirky personal magic), or Magic Addiction (having flexible mastery of magic may easily become addictive).

Having a freeform approach to magic could indicate a problem with impulse control, resulting in Flaws or personality Traits like Fury, Poor Memory, Ambitious, Curse of Venus, Greedy, Proud, Lecherous, Wrathful, Optimistic, Carefree, Overconfident, Reckless, or Short Attention Span. Taken to extreme consequences, it might also mean Lycanthrope.

Such a problem with impulse control could also affect the character's magic, resulting in Flaws like Unpredictable Magic, Weird Magic, or Warped Magic. Other similar Flaws like Careless Sorcerer, Twiight Prone, or Chaotic Magic are also possible but they are discouraged since they would burden a spont specialist too much.

The quirky, exotic, personal nature of the character's magic and his strong ties with the magus' person could also cause Bound Magic, Fettered Magic, and Vulnerable to Folk Tradition. It might also make the mage Incomprehenisible or be branded as an Hedge Wizard.

Previous magical accidents or Initiation Ordeals could also result in Prohibition, Vow, Supernatural Nuisance, Disfigured, Feral Scent, Social Handicap, Lesser or Greater Malediction.

The character's magical specialization could be related to its upbringing in an exotic environment, which may cause Convenant Upbringing, Faerie Upbringing, Pagan, or Depraved.