Vitkir/Rune Magician Discussion

Hi all.

What the title says. Anybody play a Vitkir? What are your experiences?

(Inspired by Xavi's A Bonfire of Tradition discussions, I reread the Hedge Magic book, in particular the Vitkir section)

My takeaway: they look very cool, but might not be playable without many clarifications and house rules, beyond the mere facts that they 1)may already be extinct; 2)have officially been named as enemies of the entire Order of Hermes.

•24 Runes is a damned lot to put xp into! Many related effects are scattered across many Runes. Getting to 5 in the 15 Hermetic T+F is time-consuming, even with the Roots. With Vitkir, you need to get to 2 in each Rune so as not to inflict deficiencies on your Apprentice (so 3 xp each). Is Secondary Insight the best quasi-Hermetic Major Virtue available to them, then?
And having low scores in just one rune of each Aett means...

•Lab Total is ridiculously small. How can they research any Scripts beyond relatively low levels? Lab Total is (lowest) Rune + Int + Rune Magic + Aura.
Lowest (Rune) is clarified there the character's lowest score in the associated runes.

So an Elder Vitkir with +3 Int, 9 Rune Magic, 6 Aura creating an Algiz Rune Script, in which he has a score of 30, but also a lowest rune of 5 in Hagalaz (both Algiz and Hagalaz are in Heimdall's Aett) would have a 23 Lab Total?

Perhaps I am reading this wrong.

Further fleshing out
-Do Vitkar Apprentices add to their master's Lab Totals? Is the Gift a requisite for assistants to aid a Vitkar in the Lab?
Would Lab Help = Int + Rune Magic + Puissant Rune(Magic), like with Hermetics?
Worth their weight in gold, then, investing in being able to train an Apprentice immediately at game start looks profitable, if not down right essential.
-Does Vitkar Rune Script creation get any "similar" effect bonus?
-Can Vitkar accumulate Rune script levels per/season of work, rather than have to spend them all in low-level scripts after each Season, so that they can actually create higher-level scripts? Doesn't seem likely from the text.
-Do Vitkir produce Lab Texts?

•The Focus Virtues are weak! While duplicating your applicable Rune Score for casting, they do NOT add to Lab Totals. :-1: :-1: :-1:.

You can get Careless Sorcerer as a Flaw, but not Cautious Sorcerer as a Virtue? :roll_eyes:

You can get Inventive Genius? So a flat +3 to inventing new Rune Scripts; in practice, I'd think all your Rune Scripts will be invented, unless you get a Teacher (unlikely), or find Runic Lab Texts..if they exist. Can Viktir Experiment?

•Nátt-thel is nasty! There's no chance to get a "Good Experience", unlike other Tradition's Warping experiences. Most of the time, there's nothing to do but lose your Gift and Vitkir powers and most/all your ongoing rune effects for increasingly long periods. You aren't getting a 2 minute window in the middle of combat to control your magic, that's for sure!

•You are an Arcane Connection to so many things...with the added insult that all your active runes and effects are actual active Intangible Tunnels that anyone with any Touch powers may use against you. Very dangerous! Looks useful...for the Order of Hermes! A lone Vim specialist could probably track down active Runes and wipe out all Rune wizards in a very large region in just a few Seasons. Also profitable for the Order to research Breakthroughs in Intangible Tunnels and Fixing Arcane Connections in less time.

•No Magical Defenses at all. There's this statement ...These effects are the tradition’s version of inherent magical defenses based on their powers, and every vitki can be expected to know at least one rune script with this sort of effect., which means simply that if a Rune Magician is caught w/o a relevant active defensive Rune, no defenses. Do I have that right?

•Study: Rune Magicians have open all the regular avenues of study as Hermetics, great! In practice, are there any books available in your Sagas? Are Vitki willing to teach others, what with the problems of the Gift and the incredibly vulnerable position of any active Rune script and lack of Magic Resistance? Looks like Vis (dangerous!) + Practice/Adventure and Exposure will be the only Sources available after Apprenticeship. Perhaps there are Runic Significatos around.

•No item making (though one can argue Runes can enhance a mundane item, turning it magic), no familiars, limited Longevity Ritual-type- effects, slow casting in general, no Spontaneous type magic, limited R/D/T choices.

•Warping: unlike other Hedge Traditions, Rune Magicians do not explode/are abducted /go mad/transform when reaching a particular Warping score. So they only need to avoid incidents: instances of accruing 2 or more Warping points at a time, which means mostly magical botches, aura fluctuations, or Enigma's Gift-type effects.
Avoiding botches is simple! Perth Rune at your service! In practice, having a continuous 5th magnitude Perth script that gives you +1 Warping/year in exchange for -5 botch dice on any activity seems amazing, sign me up, warp away!

•Myriad of non-Hermetic effects: aside from botch reduction or amplification from Perth rune, Dagaz bonus to Ability rolls for day-long activities, Jera Rune that provides bonus xp in yearly activities, Othila has tool use botch reduction, Tiwaz has Confidence increases/reductions, there's many visless activities that would be Hermetic Rituals, like Summoning animals, wealth, a freaking meal, water to drink. Awesome. Beware Arcane Connections!
-Are the remnants of a summoned cow/aurochs used for a delicious meal still Arcane Connections to the Vitkar? Even after being...processed?

•They have Vim equivalent effects! Manipulation/detection/Might stripping of vis/auras/beings (including infernal and Divine auras), own runes. Caveat: effects are scattered around many different runes, Penetration will often be poor.

•Long-lasting effects (Years!) with some preparation. Of course, Warping runs high, as does the risk of being hit through your runes/effects.

So, what are your thoughts and experiences with the Vitkir, what did I get wrong or not see? Thanks!

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Ok, 2 things:

  1. you are welcome to join the party in Bonfire if you fancy it.

  2. This is Hagen, the vitkir I created when going through your same mental process back in 2013 (according to the WORD document where I have him saved. he was thought as a vitki NPC that was trying to stay under the radar of the OoH.

Age 23
Conf: 1(3)

Int +3 Str +1
Per +1 Sta +2
Pre 0 Dex +1
Com +1 Qik –2

Inventive Genius (+3 potions, items & spells. +6 if experiment)
Nameless Runes (no penalty for no name)
Secret Runes x2 (no penalty for not description of effect)
Half Taltós
Good characteristics
Well travelled

RESTRICTION (cannot cast if shaved)
Minor Magical deficiency: Cannot use Fehu (F)
Susceptibility to Infernal power (sta roll = aura or become ill; –1 to rolls)
Magical Animal Companion (Bonisagus, a raven of virtue. Might 9)
Weakness (stories about evil monsters)

Animal Handling (horses) 1
Area Lore: Rhine Tribunal (politics) 2
Area Lore: Scandinavia (places of power) 1
Artes Liberales (Logic) 1
Athletics (swim) 1
Awareness (alertness) 1
Bargain (pretend ignorance) 1
Brawl (dodge) 1
Charm (warriors) 1
Chirurgy (first aid) 1
Concentration (scribing runes) 0 (3)
Craft: Runes (disguise) 2
Craft: Woodcarver 1
Norse Theology (Aesir) 1
Org Lore: Order of Hermes (Redcaps) 1
Org Lore: Order of Odin (personalities) 1
Ride (long distances) 1
Rune Magic (Thurisaz) 4
Single Weapon (round shield) 3
Speak Low German (Saxon) 5
Speak Slavonic (Polish) 2
Speak Latin (Church) 2
Speak Old Norse (training) 3
Survival (forest) 1
Rune Lvl XP Rune Lvl XP Rune Lvl XP
A J 5 2 R 15 4
B 15 3 K 15 1 S 15 7
D L 20 7 T
E M Th 20 2
F N U 15 1
G 15 2 Ng W
H O 20 7 Y
I 10 3 P 10 2 Z

IIRC the numbers in bold after the rune is the level I deemed desirable for the rune when he was veteran.

B15 +5 I, Hagen, bind this wound +9 recovery rolls (wounds)
G15 +4 I, Hagen, talk convincingly +3 to Influence rolls (Trust, new relationship, charm, negotiate)
I10 +5 I, Hagen, invoke the touch of Niffleheim Freeze water. Living beings lose 1 fat level
K15 +3 I, Hagen, cure this illness +9 recovery rolls (illness)
L10 +9 I, Hagen, summon the gift of Nerthus Summon 10x10x10m of water
O10 +9 I, Hagen, sharpen my carving knife +2 to rolls with carving knife, including carve runes
P10 +4 I, Hagen, sense the might of nature Sense auras (Legend) and their strength
R10 +6 I, Hagen endure the challenges +2 Stamina rolls (including runes!!!)
S10 +9 I, Hagen, see through the darkness See in the dark
U15 +3 I, Hagen, invoke the strength of the Bull –3 Encumbrance

Casting rolls:
Lab total = 13 + rune (+6 if experiment)
Casting total = 2 + rune + aura
Knife (+2) à stamina (+2) à +4 to casting rolls

Take in mind that if you go overboard with "I, Hagen endure the challenges" and "I, Hagen, sharpen my carving knife" you can go for quite high bonuses to your casting totals.

Curious +2
Secretive +2
Loyal -1
Loyal to Vitki +3

Hagen Erwinson is a Vitki infiltrator in the OoH. He has been sent to infiltrate and learn about the Order of wizards in the Sacred Roman Empire. He does not know much about the Order of Odin yet, because his master wants to keep him ignorant for a while (does it exist at all?) just in case he is captured. So far everything has gone well and his redcap contact accepted his story of him being an offspring of his Master (who had been a Redcap himself).

Is the character the most badass guy you can encounter? No, but he is far from incompetent. A lack of magical defense is the same thing that all hedgies have. Their magical defenses are laughable in all cases.

Like other traditions, the power of the Virki is in prepared encounters, not in improvising. I would assume that their rune scripts are not left around in easy places to find. Buried rune scripts all around. If you compare the powers of a hedge tradition to a hermetic magus the hedge tradition will always lose in a war or random encounter. Not necessarily in a known encounter, but in the previous cases the OoH is the top dog. Always.

Regarding your questions:

  1. Yes, 24 runes are a lot. I assume most will have most runes at level 2 (easy to achieve since you can study more than one rune per season IIRC and they are nomal Arts, so 3 XP per rune gives you that fast: it might actually be faster than hermetics get their Arts at 5 with books). then, most Vitki will concentrate in a few runes, not all of them.

  2. Yes, insight is a perfect virtue for them.

  3. No magic resistance means that enriching things of virtue is perfectly fine. No defenses means that you get full effect form those. expect your opponent vitki to be able to hex you with hawthorn, be inspirational, be intuitive, be able to fly when drunk and other funky stuff of that ilk.

  4. I would assume vitkar apprentices are like hermetic ones, yes. I do not see them as essential, but then I have grown soft in my powergaming and optimization skills in the last years.

5 Rune scripts and similar effects? Sure. You know "I, Hagen, sharpen my carving knife" at level 10 and you want it at level 20? Or want to get it at method II? Sure, get the bonus.

  1. I would allow Vitki to accumulate points in an effect season after season, in the same way that I allow it for hermetics.

  2. I cannot see why vitki cannot produce lab texts. Probably not a common occurrence, but more a cultural thing than a structural one.

  3. Inventive genius is a staple. So is puissant Rune Magic.

  4. Natt-thel is how twilight should be. A "screw you" of big proportions. I even consider it mild compared to what it is supposed to be in the flavor text when they explain Twilight as being a hige improvement. But then it is true that most traditions are treated with a silk glove when it comes to their twilight. Most have even BETTER twilights than the one of the Order of Hermes. This is an adequate one IMO. YMMV.

  5. Hide your scripts man!! :slight_smile:

  6. Magical defenses is not a big thing vs hermetics. Vs other hedgies, well, tread carefully.

  7. Avenues of study. Books, it is for your saga to decide. If the OoO exists, libraries would exist. If not, not many. Virki would teach each other if there was an external treat. If not I see them as isolationists.

  8. Penetration. Runes do not need to penetrate if they improve an item. Ally with a folk witch, give her a +10 dowsing rod and you can find anything in Mythic Europe. use intermediaries if you do not want 2 Gifted characters interacting.

I never ended up using Hagen, but he is a versatile and interesting character that I have lurking around my Ars Magica folder, so no direct experience here.

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Regarding Hagen, I also have listed in the WORD document his first seasons of study and desired iems of virtue to enrich:

Season 1: K15 I, Hagen, cure this illness +9 recovery rolls (illness)
Season 2: A10 I, Hagen, talk with the Spirits of Nature Target can speak
J5 I, Hagen, bless the fields No natural illness (fields)
Season 3: Enrich banded agate (magic sensitivity)
Season 4: Enrich Sapphire (Intuition) or Dripstone (second sight)

Banded Agate (Magic sensitivity 3)
Sapphire (Intuition)
Hazel (dowsing)
Bloodstone (Rapid Convalescence)
Dripstone (Second Sight 3)
Hawthorn (Hex 13 times)

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I'm afraid you caught me away from my books so I can't offer any in-depth commentary, but from my limited experience running vitki as NPC antagonists, I will say the the following:

  1. I think you may be making (Lowest Rune) into a bigger deal than it actually is. Normally, this is only applicable to Type II effects and even there many instances will use the same rune to represent both Effect and Target.
  2. Many rune spells effectively create permanent enchanted devices whose power can be preserved even in natt-thel at the cost of Warping.
  3. As a corollary to the above, Vitki don't usually Warp much since many of their effects are functionally permanent and thus don't need to be recast. Also, the odds of avoiding it altogether are decent and it's pretty harmless at the very lowest Warping Scores as well..
  4. Explicitly the vitki's 'Magical Defences' are supposed to result from casting 'Generic' rune scripts on themselves to, for example, improve Soak or Defence by (Magnitude of Effect).
  5. Check out the rules for learning scripts from a teacher - I suspect that's the more common way for vitki to expand their repertoire of rune scripts than researching effects from scratch.

Regarding books on vitkir magic I would not expect it. The vikings were tight-lipped when it comes to writing things down. Dont expect runic writing to contain anything more complicated than "so-and-so name was here" or "Person 1 and Person 2 raised this stone in memory of Person 3. Person 3 was a swell dude".

In real life runic scripts found on large stones are thought to be manifestations of power, connection to the land and ancestral claims, often in the form memorials over ancestors/relatives. It is possible and not entirely unhistorical to imagine that someone would hide a runic inscription inside a different runic inscription like on a commemorative stone.

Perhaps a vitkir can read a runic script encoding a spell and try to learn the same spell in whatever lab-like manner they use to learn spells?

As for applying the lowest rune I read it to mean that if you have two runes in one script then the lowest score you have in either rune applies, like a requisite on a hermetic spell.

In real life you e, g, find the runic inscription on the lion in front of the main entrance of the Arsenale of Venice. When that lion stood still at Piraeus, a few Norsemen (likely Varangian guards) collecting taxes inscribed that fact onto the lion. When Francesco Morosini looked for monuments to take home to Venice, he choose the lion to stand in for the Lion of San Marco. It then took scholars still over a century to find, classify and roughly read that runic inscription in Venice.
Historic runic inscription are indeed no technical or magical instructions for anything.


Thank you for sharing the anecdote, it cracked me up.

IIRC Hagia Sophia also has a lot of scripts from the Varangian guard that were bored during orthodox services and carved graffiti in the furniture and masonry

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there is also an inscription found quite far north in Greenland made by a group of viking explorers and the actual message is pretty much: "persons 1,2 and 3 were here" and for some reason like most other runestones they found it necessary to specify "we wrote these runes on this rock" as part of the writing. For me the most funny part is that they always state the obvious in "we wrote this inscription on this rock" because it is already pretty obvious even if they had chosen not to write it.

Xavi: a quick note on Hagen - Raidu bonuses to Stamina rolls explicitly exclude rune casting (though it would definitely apply to Nath-tel avoidance). In general, I am not sure if other runes providing bonuses to ability rolls in specific circumstances apply to rune casting rolls. I would be inclined to say no: technically, you are not rolling an ability, you are generating a casting total.

As for using Othila to enchant a carving knife so it gives a bonus to carving runes .. I would ok that, as long as it means Craft:Rune rolls to e.g. hide the script, not rune casting ones.

I read "associated runes" to mean the runes used in the effect, not other runes in the same Aett. E.g. when using Method II, if Effect and Target involve different runes, you use the lowest score.


Thanks Xavi, very grateful for your very detailed responses

Thank you, strongly considering it! :blush:

That's very neat, infiltrating as a Redcap (getting Vitkir Apprenticeshio xp and Redcap xp?), those Mercere are too careless! But Hagen would have had his hands full, with 2 Story Flaws!

Don't remember this one, is this from Against the Dark or True Lineages?

This is assuming a +3 Aura, correct? +3 Int + 4 Rune Magic +3 Inventive Genius +3 Aura?

Knife + 2 is to Craft Runes, but not to casting. The text explicitly says (bolded by me) that Most of these effects give the target a bonus or penalty to die rolls associated with particular circumstances...These bonuses or penalties never affect the casting of other rune spells, and they do not stack — only the largest applicable bonus applies to a given roll

Raido also explicitly mentions The target receives a bonus or penalty equal to the magnitude of this effect on all natural Ability rolls associated with Stamina (but not Soak or casting rune magic).

You could boost your Sta directly to get around this, but those are pretty high level Runes.

Of course, these are things all other Hedgies can do, but vitkar can really use these, as they mostly ignore Warping, as long as they don't get the 2+ Warping points at once. Gruagach turn to trolls at 10, Witches become wounded and lose their powers as well each time they rise in Warping Score (and the Sta roll to end becomes ever more difficult), Elementalists very quickly go totally nuts, and the Learned Magicians/Virgilians die/are taken away forever at 10.

Right, but most hedgies do not specify, and Folk Witches explicitly cannot use such help except from their Familiar, an exception being made during the Sabbat. Finding and training new Apprentices would be more of a badge of Honor or an obligation to Traditions which cannot use aid, and such Apprenticeships would be short, one would imagine. Full of even more mindless drudgery (Clean, cook, service master).

The Vitkar have such a low Lab Total that quickly training an Apprentice adds a very significant bonus.

Yeah, it makes sense to me as well! I've seen Erik Dahl around the Discord server, and am going to reach out to him to see what his thoughts are on some of these questions.

However, if their Lab Total is not as low as I fear it is, this becomes way better than even Hermetics (who have to exceed the level of the effect to accumulate any levels at all). There's also the matter of setting some practical limit, ie, can't create a Rune Script of 20th Magnitude out of the gate by spending 6 straight Seasons just because you can!

Will also reach out to Erik Dahl to see if this ever came up, either in playtesting or in later Sagas.

I don't see them being very generous with each other, either with time or with books, or that organized, except in a case by case. So I also see them as isolationists. Unless they get the Parma! :crown:

I still have to internalize their Methods, not yet completely grokking many aspects of their spellcasting.

Thank you sodales!

Ah, I stand corrected for Raidu. It certainly was there for rune casting. However, I do not see that restriction for Othila, so I would apply it if you are carving runes to cast a spell. If you are painting them with ash to fast cast a rune script, no, but if you are scratching them on a bone? Sure.

In any case Hagen was a concept character that never came to fruition. I was planning to write a series of texts about his adventures as a newly incorporated (false) redcap from the eyes of his magical animal companion (bonisagus the raven) and submit it to Sub Rosa, but that never came to be and the character has been dormant for a number of years.

Thank you, Gremlin44!

Oh, I sincerely hope so!

Don't really follow this logic, how do you mean? It's not the casting and recasting of effects on himself by the vitkir that Warp, it's the multiple continuous effects.

I was more concerned with the higher levels, in that I really do think Vitkir would accumulate a lot of Warping quickly, using useful long-lasting effects.

Those darned Hermetics get everything!

I was thinking of a regular Saga, I just can't see many teachers being available. Even one might require and adventure + Favors. So best for any vitkir to be self-reliant.

Thank you sodales!

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Thanks, ezzelino.

From reading several passages in that section, I had reached a different conclusion, but I'm glad that the consensus seems to be a more lenient and reasonable interpretation than mine.

Actually, it is I who must thank you for bringing this subject up! I had never given much thought to the Viktir. They seem quite a "tricky" tradition, where careful play (and build) can make a very significant difference.

Let me add two things.

First, I do not think apprentices can help Viktir "in the lab" in the same way hermetic apprentices can help their masters. This is not written anywhere, and it does not seem the default for hedge wizards. I think it would have a huge impact for Viktir, for whom the maximum level of scripts that can be researched in a given rune is probably the strongest limit to power.

Second, there's one issue that's nagging at me. Viktir are all Gifted. But they have no means to "defuse" the negative social effects of the Gift. How do they get on as a unified tradition? I mean, arguably the Order of Hermes would not have formed without the Parma. Other hedge traditions have Gifted members, but these are often insulated from each other by a majority of non-Gifted members who serve as the mortar binding the respective traditions together. And I just realized that I have the same issue with the Augustan brotherhood!

There are a number of possibilities that occur to me:

  1. The vitkir faded relatively quickly, so one can conclude that the Gift contributed to their demise. As well as being involved in raids continuously.
  2. The Rune Magicians were held in very high esteem by their fellows As such, mundanes in their vicinity might have feared but also respected them, and Gifted kids would be conditioned from childhood to tolerate other such people, and maybe this cultural pressure would force vitkir to cooperate without massacring first. Maybe for long enough to grow accustomed to each other to some degree?

The Virgilians might look to Gentle Gifted Apprentices preferably, sorting them perhaps with their Divination magic. Otherwise, use letters to communicate with each other. As they are descended from Learned Magicians, perhaps they have UnGifted minions from that Tradition that nonetheless have been Initiated and have some Learned Magician powers, and can interact with other minions. Each Augustan Brother has plenty of temporal influence from his overlord, but maybe they are also always a hair’s breadth away from said lord getting rid of them, permanent-like.

Hi Erik! We have been discussing the Vitkir in the Atlas Forums recently and, since you wrote that section of Hedge Magic, wondered if you could help clear some questions about their mechanics. Perhaps these have been answered elsewhere, or simply never came up during play testing .

Sure, I'll chip in with what I can, for what it's worth. I'll copy it back over here.

Lab Total : what are “associated runes”. Are they those that define the script, or are they referring to runes in the same Aett?

This refers to the runes used in the script. If it involves multiple runes, you use the lowest value.

-Do Vitkar Apprentices add to their master's Lab Totals?
If so, would Lab Help = Int + Rune Magic + Puissant Rune(Magic), like with Hermetics?

While vitkir seem a lot like mages in their developing spells through seasonal activities, they are not generally as scholarly or cooperative as magi. Personally, I wouldn't give them a bonus for having an assistant.

-Does Vitkar Rune Script creation get any "similar" effect bonus?
Do Vitkir produce Lab Texts?

Granting vitkir a bonus of the magnitude of the effect for a similar spell, like magi get, seems appropriate to me. I would imagine to learn a new script from another vitki's work would require studying the actual runes, though, since they don't have anything like the Hermetic laboratory culture.

Thanks for any answers in advance.

Glad to help!


There is a section in rival magic that explains how Vitkir might get along and that involves a lot of ungifted members of other nordic traditions.

I personally imagine that they rarely meet each other and spend most of the time as these sort-of outsiders sort of priestly mystics with a special connection to the gods. That local people are spooked by them but also appreciate that their magical powers are very handy. Maybe they have culture of formal non-violent contests like the sorcerers of Soqotra, like recite rune-poems or taking turns asking questions about lore until one of them fails to answer.