Virtues & Flaws -- a point to ponder

This is an question that obviously has no single "correct" answer, but I'd love to see it batted around a bit.

Virtues & Flaws define characters in Ars Magica. The question arises, however, on this point -- when does one acquire said Virtues & Flaws? Some of them are obviously innate (Giant Blood springs to mind) while others are a matter of time & place (one rarely begins life as a Landed Noble, though one may inherit the position with relative ease under the right conditions).

This questions arose over one of the most basic of instances, a new apprentice. Under the Peripheral Code it is a Low Crime to give an apprentice a Deficiency in an Art due to having poor knowledge of the topic (a score of less than 5 on the part of the teacher). Many characters, however, do have such Deficiencies, possibly due to lack of study on the part of the apprentice or possibly due to some internal lack of ability. How could someone in the Order of Hermes tell the difference between one who has a Deficiency due to Case A versus Case B?

Do apprentices recieve Flaws (and Virtues) simply because their parentes have those Flaws (etc.)? Are Flaws (etc.) thus inheritable due to training? Are Flaws (etc.) innate and unchangeable? Are they gained over time? Are they predetermined? Do apprentices start out with a predetermined set of V&Fs? Do other characters? Would this give a leg-up to "second generation characters", in that they could have the maximum number of V&Fs, but then end up having a Skilled Parens and the like on top of this?

How would/do you handle such points?

Like I said, no single "right" answer, but I think this is interesting grist for the mill.

I've thought about this one too. Overgeneralizing - story flaws come from adolensence and apprenticeship (assuming we are starting characters out of apprenticeship). Personality flaws - depends on if you are a fan or nature or nuture - prior to completion of apprenticeship. Social standing - probably the same thing.

The magic virtues and flaws make it interesting -
I think of three "vectors" of magical virtues and flaws:

  1. in the blood: sometime, somewhere in the way back, greatgrand dad dallianced with a swanmay/faeire/goddess/sprite.... and the blood line led to something - mythic blood, giant blood, and possibly a warping of one's ability to use hermetic magic. So the blood changes the aspects of one's gift.

  2. in the tradition: sort of an ex misc or mysteries approach - adopted in a tradition or in a long line of Scottish Storm Witches (or whatevers) - somehow exposure to that lineage or tradition shapes one's gift. Certain traditions carve and warp the gift.- ex misc storm witch has strong affinity with weather but has to whistle. Maybe the Bonisagus weather mages, the Line of Muj, the Line of Maria (the alchemists from 4th Edition mysteries) shape the gift of the adolense and apprentice The "warping" of the gift occurs as one receives training.

  3. training: significant overlap with the tradition, but this time instead of pure tradition (your teacher was in the tradition so the apprentices are in the tradition), the flaws and virtues are deprived from that particular mage's strengths and folibles. Or maybe the lack of resources. Or his particular type of training. So, the gardener magus is really good at creo and herbum and concentrates on these gifts whereas he may be terrible at ignem. Or the magi has special insights into the magic of metal and only bestows those on this students. Or he doesn't use books to instruct and instead uses the environment to learn (study requirement maybe).

Would be tough to try a magus for a low crime for instructing an apprentice where he is a master of illusion and mind control and bestows his secrets and insights making the apprentice ready to further the art in those arts even though would be weak at the elemental forms. Seems that the Bonisagi specialists would be getting tried for low crimes alot.

Our troupe has two rules. All new characters have an undefined window in which they can tweak a character. While this window is open, virtues and flaws can be changed as a player feels out the character or better understands the reprocussions of their choices.

The second rule applies to apprentices that were in play prior to becomeing a magus. The rule is simple, by the time they gauntlet, their virtues and flaws must be set. Prior to gauntleting, the virtues and flaws are not set.

The ramifications of this are dealt with as story material. We have never gone into trains of thought that would bog down the game to much. What is inherited I think because it's 'magic' is arbitary.

Case in point, we have Flambeau and Ex Miscellenea Necromancer, they are very much opposites. During the course of play they discovered that they are in fact brother and sister seperated at a young age. When the Flambeau took an apprentice, no matter how hard she tried, the apprentice turned out very simular to the Necromancer. The Necromancer has yet to take an apprentice, but perhaps his student would turn out 'inheriting' his "Aunts" traits over his Paters.

We thought this 'magical' over the basic the son is like the father sort of inheritance.

In terms of trials this is how I imagine it occurs.

First, the apprentice is in no position to lay a suit against their Pater unless the Pater fails to provide the one season a year. As long as this is done, just about anything is game. My Tytalus regularly throws his apprentice around as 'training'.

After one gauntleted, I imagine an apprentice, now a wizard could lay a claim against their Pater. I suspect three things.

First, the Q's have no interest in such suits and will settle out of court.

Second, the young magus is alienating themself from their Pater, possibly the only 'friend' they have in the Hermetic Community.

Third, the young magus is establishing themselves as a troublemaker.

These things suggest to me that this is why such cases are likely rare. No young wizard wants to take on their Pater in a court of law.

This is pretty sweet. :smiley:

We've had great experiences doing the same - especially since all the characters started and played as apprentices for a year and half (real time) and since none of them really knew the mechanics prior to this.

Then along came 5th edition and in the "translating" the characters to the new edition we had to take into account the "free" virtues bestowed by the respective Houses. As it was most already had chosen fitting virtues which freed up some extra slots for a new virtue - this we handled, the easier because they were still apprentices, by making interesting histories and subplots about them.

I tend to agree that most gauntleted magi propably wouldn't make claims against their Pater (but off course there's always that odd number...), though they might make due sour mumblings and rumblings. But during the apprenticeship there might be issues with other magi getting involved in an apprentices case. We had a couple of sessions deciding upon the apprentice-wise fate of one of the PC - the others playing the senior magi of the covenant (all the PC still being apprentices) convening to discuss the furture after the apprentices current master's untimely death. There's a longer story to the tale, but in this context the essence is that several magi showed real or apparent interest in the proper instruction of the apprentice...

I always "go with what feels right". Most physical flaws are Essential Nature, especially for major characters. Most personality flaws too. Some Hermetic flaws are gained through apprentiship, others are innate. Whatever feels right for the game.

On the issue of deficiencies, I would say that if a magus has enemies they might accuse him of this low crime. I would consider it a major embrassment to be exposed as such a poor teacher for your apprentice. So there are "political points" to be made here.

I don't see any apprentice making such charges against his master, barring extreme circumstances. But should one want to, he could complain to a Quaesitor. The duty to teach properly serves the Order, not the masters, so the Quaesitor will investigate. IMS.

Did any of you read Bishop's Staff in 4th edition, it had a divine variant which could remove physical flaws. You can translate that easily enough across to 5th edition.
Personality flaws while they cannot be easily removed should fade in severity as the result of good roleplaying.
I would also make the argument that you lose blatant gift and other gift related flaws (as well as the quiet gift virtue) if you use the merinita Becoming.

I've never given it much thought in terms of rules mechanics, but I have in the past enjoyed using combinations of virtues and flaws to distinguish various lineages of NPC magi, so as to add a little depth and verisimilitude to the houses, particularly those for which there hasn't been much published background. It sounds much better, when answering a Hermes Lore roll to be able to say, for instance: "You recall that Childeric of Flambeau was trained at Doissetep by the archmagus Clovis, a master of the art of Ignem and formiddable practicioner of Certamen.", than: "Childeric; he's good at Ignem.".

In Stonehenge, for instance, I added to the tribunal's history a distinction and rivalry between nothern and southern Flambeau lineages, the notherners being fire-throwing warriors trained by the Flambeau of Ungulus, and the southerners Perdo-wielding politicians, descended from the sneaky Blackthorn Flambeau. I made up a faction of house ex Miscellanea of Pralix's lineage, who followed a ideosyncratic variant of Tytalus' philosophy, and had access to a selection of unique spells. In my Provencal saga, the Flambeau of the Southern France and Iberia, whatever their magical specialities, favoured Frankish names, drawing on their house's historical ties to Charlemagne.

So, to get back to the point, I'd go with Kallie's tradition/training route.

I concur. I think there is great story and plot potential in both describing flaw and virtues as essential or as a result of tradition/training depending on the specific situation. So I think it would be a pity, in the search of determining the "source" , to close the door on some possibilities (Essense vs. Tradition/Training).

Well, there isn't a general rule that fits eery possible cases, but gnerally apart from the obvious cases that you pèoint out, typically the most ambigous cases arise with Hermetic and Superntural Virtues, and we follow a guideline similar to Kallie:

A virtue may arise

A) from the blood: the mage comes from a line that sometime ago mingled with faeries/demons/Nephilim/giants/dragons/mighty wizards/pagan gods
B) from talent: the mage simply happens to have some talents and weaknesses that make his Gift better fitting for some magical specializations.
C) from magical accidents during the mage's life (pre-, during, post-apprenticeship): bizarre lab accidents, Twilight, being blessed or cursed by a power of the four realms for whatever reason
D) from training: the mage's parens belongs to a tradition or lineage and during apprenticeship molds and twists the apprenticeship's Gift, passing on some Virtues and Flaws. This is generally the case with Ex Misc packages. This also includes the case when the Supernatural Ability is part of the package of four Favored Abilities that some divine/infernal traditions offer.
E) From Mystery Initiation: during or after apprenticeship, the parens initates the character in a mystery. The typical case are mages from mystery Houses, or with a Cabal Legacy. Or the mage itself switches houses and enters a Mystery house, and/or an Esoteric cult, after the Gauntlet.

This guideline is also mostly valid as regards Flaws: of course, Flaws bought during character creation are subject to the Limit of Essential Virtue (for blood and inborn talent, it is obvious, magic can't touch Ordeal Flaws, and Ex Misc flaws can be deemed similar, and magic is subject to the Limit of Twilight for accidents). As it regards Flaws that are gained during play, Mystery ordeals and Twilight Flaws are inviolable, but other cases (e.g. blindness or loss of an arm from battle wound) can generally be corrected by magic.

As it regards the free House Virtues, we generally treat it as a mix of apprentice selection (A+B), or training in one's tradition or Mystery (D+E).

In our games, the Order generally doesn't bother, since as you hint, it is generally quite difficult to prove it was from negligent training instead some of the other sources (e.g. innate deficiency in one's Gift). In the cases where the case would be obvious, i. the parens has blatant lack of proficiency in one's Art, it is a Low Crime, and it can be easily compensated with the parens giving the apprentice fa free favor or service (e.g. researching a longevity ritual or gifting him with an enchanted device).

As above, yes to both. It is quite possible to have lineages of mages with V/F packages. Such parackage, however, may change from generation to generation because of differences in the apprentice's Gift or training.

See above, There'sample justification fro the apprentice to inherit the V/F of the parens, but there might be variations.

Well, theoretically, it is quite possble and logical that "super-characters" might develop this way, where benefits and drawbacks from training get added to the ones that come from heritage and innate talent. For the sake of game balance, obviously any Virtue that comes from (pre-)apprenticeship development should always be balanced by Flaws. If a troupe wants to go that way, there's justification. Or they might rule that a selection effect comes into play, and there's only so much mystical development that the Gift may take during apprenticeship. The only inviolable exception should be Favored Abilities, and Mystery Initations: if a character is allowed some years of post-apprenticeship development, it should always be possible to gain up to four new Supernatural Abilities from a belonging to a Tradition, and to gain several new Mystery Virtues (and quite possibly some Ordeal Flaws) from Initiations. Likewise as it concerns Twilight Virtues & Flaws. This how we mostly adjudicate it, if you want some extra V/Fs, go seek some Mystery after the Gauntlet.

I think this is only a special origin of the deficiencies. And no one will investigate it. :smiley:

Only lack of ability. Lack of study leads means only you dont spend xp's to certain arts, abilities etc.

InVi. The question is why they get the idea to detect the origin of the flaw.

Sure. See Verditius magi. And for virtues see the Flambeau talent with Ignem.
The gift must me a very plastic thing before the apprenticeship to inherit e.g. the house V&F's. The parens give a form to it using his own Gift as a pattern. But be aware, this is only some thinking.

It depends. Give the hope to overcome but it cannot be a real chance even with heroic effort.

Be more flexible. Imagination is far more important than the rules.
For the children e.g. I would take 1-2 V&F's from the parents or relatives (!). This may happen with hermetic V&F's, too. The remain slots can be filled with own abilities.


I agree with the principle, but the Flambeau example may be misleading. Remember that firstly, they get a choice of two talents (Ignem or Perdo) and there's nothing to say that the apprentice must have the same choice as their parens; and secondly, being a Societas, they apparently recruit members with relevant interests as well as training apprentices, so any given Flambeau Magus need not have had a Flambeau parens.

To my mind it only becomes relevant when training an apprentice in play, at which point the appearance of the V&Fs may be a gameplay issue - but in that case, it needs a consistent ruling, which is tricky. Clearly some must happen later in life, some are inherent - but I would try to set a point where the character becomes formally a PC, at which point Vs and Fs must be balanced like any other starting character, and are set in the same way. For an apprentice I will probably set that at their gauntlet, for example. (it's relevant to me as I have a player who will be hoping to apprentice his character's son as soon as possible)