What if the Schism War targeted someone else?

So, I wanted to discuss the potential of an AU for Ars Magica in which a different house provoked the Schism War, so that House Diedne survived to the game period.

I composed a few possibilities for what the presence of House Diedne might do to the development of hermetic magic and proposed a few of the other houses to be the victim of the Schism War (and how this impacted general hermetic magic and culture).

House Diedne

The survival of House Diedne led to the development of more flexible magical techniques- both due to the presence of a house who specialized in spontaneous and flexible magic and also because of the lack of a political prohibition into such areas of research.

As such, all Hermetic Magi have the Flexible Formulaic Magic virtue as a standard part of Hermetic Magic.

Additionally, the presence of more specialists in Aquam and Aurum magic led to the eventual partial integration of the Elementalist virtue. Hermetic Magi may, when opening the arts of an apprentice, grant them the Affinity virtue for one of the four elemental arts.

However, the magic of the house that fell during the schism war suffered from political repression and the extinction of many of their magical practices.

Some possible candidates:

House Verditius

House Verditius was long a proud house with many secrets. After rumors of them practicing rituals that could damage or even destroy the Gift reached a peak, a story began to spread of a young magus who, after offending a powerful Verditius maga, had his gift utterly sundered by a powerful magic item she wielded. Distrust and envy turned to panic rapidly as a magi, whose name and house are lost to history, presented such a sword as evidence of the house’s wrong-doings.

Struck deep by the fear of the loss of their magical power, the other houses mobilized quickly and turned on the Verditius. Magic rumbled across the Mediterranean Sea as they laid siege to the final sanctuary of the cursed house- Mount Etna.

Eventually, the remnants of the house were scattered or destroyed- dragged from the smithies, tools broken and lives ended.

The hermetic order still has a strong cultural prohibition against creating more magical items that are strictly necessary. Those that are created are expected to be clearly reported to the local tribunal. Those with unusual talent in artifice are often accused or brought to trial for being secret Verditius wizards.

Hermetic magic in this timeline suffers from poor magic item creation, from the loss of so much knowledge and the cultural backlash that followed. Notably:

  • The Linked Trigger and Concentration item modification effects are not available.
  • Charged items are noticeably worse- a charge is gained for every ten levels, or fraction thereof, of a magus’s lab total.
  • Finally, when making instilled items all hermetic magi act as if they had the Waster of Vis flaw.

Characters with the Verditius Magic Major Virtue ignore these limitations for magic item creation in addition to gaining the benefits of both the Verditius Magic minor virtue and the Verditius Elder Runes minor mystery virtue. It also conveys the Dark Secret flaw, in that the character is secretly a descendant of house Verditius.

House Bjornaer

House Bjornaer, always a house with strange and pagan seeming ways, began to experience problems when other magi began to accuse them of stealing and devouring gifted children in dark and diabolic rituals for their own personal power. Rather than responding to these accusations, the house simply became more and more insular and distant. Eventually, an investigation led to the discovery of one of their sacred cultic sites. It’s unclear what was found there, but the response from house Bjornaer was absolute, brutal and a complete violation of the code.

Seizing on this, the other houses began to agitate and push until open warfare broke out. While the initial conflict was explosive, the war soon began to become a long and drawn out struggle. Bjornaer Magi disappeared into the wilderness- taking refuge in the seas, skies and forests. It became increasingly difficult to even find them, and they would emerge explosively from unexpected places- often in vast and terrifying monstrous forms.

The Order of Hermes never really won the Schism War- they simply reached a point where the Bjornaer attacks became rarer and rarer as their numbers dwindled.

Because of the incredibly prolonged war the Order suffered, their magic has become more focused on survival and defense. Theoretical research flagged, in the following notable ways:

  • This version of the Order lacks the innovations that allow Vim to affect Realms other than Magic.
  • Circle magic was never properly integrated from the tradition of the Columbae- it exists within the order as a minor Hermetic virtue.
  • Additionally, the continual unexpected death of magi left many apprentices without proper tutelage- many hermetic wizards suffer from Hermetic flaws such as Deficient (Form).

Shapeshifting into animal forms is considered, legally, a forfeiture of one’s hermetic rights- much like entering another Magi’s sanctum. The threat of beast-wizards has driven the Order to paranoia. Displaying one’s familiar with incredible openness is very common in the culture of the order, as this is seen as one of the few definitive ways to identify someone as being of the proper Order.

Characters with the Bjornaer Magic Major Virtue have the Heartbeast Minor Virtue and one of the three Inner Mysteries of the House (HoH:M pg 30-33). Capable of turning into beasts of legend, terrifying chimeras and elemental monsters- the Bjornaers have become few but fearsome. Unlike what Hermetic Magi fear, few Bjornaers try to infiltrate the order. They live in isolation or work alongside traditions of Folk Witches that they have adopted and mold into a facsimile of their fallen House. Bjornaer Magic gain the Enemies (The Hermetic Order) Major Flaw.

There are non-hermetic Bjornaer characters. These are typically Folk Witches who exchange their Shapeshifter ability for the Heartbeast Ability. Some Bjornaer magi have taken their connection to their new covens even further, setting themselves up as the bestial queens or gods of these witches and granting them other mystery initiations adapted from Bjornaer magic.

At least one has taught her flock the coveted secrets of the Parma Magic and hopes to one day lead them against the Order in terrible vengeance.


Mine will be a bit less specific on mechanics than yours, but I feel very inspired by what you've written! Here are my takes on a couple more:

House Jerbiton - This one would be pretty easy under appropriately tumultuous circumstances. House Jerbiton are already defined by love of and association with mundane society. In a broad social experiment, House Jerbiton uses the precedent established by House Mercere introducing unGifted into the Order with the founding of the Redcaps, as well as the difficulty of finding adequate numbers of Gently Gifted apprentices, to push for introducing unGifted members of their own, selling off apprenticeships to noble families as a source of education and influence within magical society in exchange for them serving as diplomatic envoys between the Order and the rest of Mythic Europe. The barriers of the non-interference clause rapidly break down, resulting in the Order of Hermes being called upon by nobles to involve itself in their disputes as allies, and when the Order at large refuses, wide-scale retaliation ensues. House Jerbiton itself, close with the various mundane factions, continues to argue for positive and involved relationships with the rest of the world, souring its view within the Order at the same time. Eventually tensions reach a breaking point and the Schism begins, with House Jerbiton being severed and hunted down, even as its members attempt to call on favors to hide within the Order or among noble society, but eventually most are eliminated.

The Order's losses from this are largely social - the Order of Hermes, by scorning mundane society directly and killing those of its members the nobility actually liked, the Order is seen as barbaric and impossible to interact peacefully with. Additionally, creative expression and interest in interacting with anybody but magi come to be seen as suspicious signs within the Order. Incidence of the Gentle Gift nigh-vanishes, as specifically looking for somebody who interacts with everyone else as well as their fellow magi is seen as a risk to loyalty, and the Finesse ability is weakened to be incompatible with Rego crafting spells, and Muto Imaginem or Rego Mentem spells made to subtly improve your social presence are treated with great suspicion by the Quaesitores, equivalent to how Venatores are treated for having spells useful to actual diabolists. If using the rules from Covenants, increased penalties should be applied for acquiring and earning the trust of covenfolk, and Hooks for strained relations with mundane neighbors should be near-universal for all but the most isolated covenants.

As for Jerbiton survivors, they've turned to more magically distinct strategies to keep their culture and priorities alive, in and maybe even outside the Order. In this version, with increased integration with mundane institutions, they also managed to Integrate some magical elements necessary for their social and artistic goals. Jerbiton descendents get the Jerbiton Magic Major Virtue, which includes two elements - a Hermetic version of the Learned Magician Virtue's effects for lessening the penalty of non-Magic Auras on their work; and an integration of the Maestro rules giving them new RDT that help them weave effects into art, particularly mind-affecting effects that affect everyone who consumes the art. While the Order does worry about Jerbiton remaining within the Order, their even greater concern is that Jerbiton remain on the outside as court wizards, masquerading as Augustans while feeding Hermetic secrets and power to those the Order most wishes to keep them from.

House Flambeau - In the Order of Hermes, your ability to get away with instigating against other powers in the setting, such as hunting Faeries and demons, depends largely on how much damage they're capable of doing back to the Order in retaliation. Some years after Bonisagus disappeared in search of Viea, members of House Flambeau took off in pursuit, discovering the Amazons, whose enhanced sorcery had taken root among the Gifted populace. After a secretive House meeting, the Primus and his envoy appeared before the Amazonian Queen with a straightforward demand - that she order all her sorceresses join the Order of Hermes, or said sorceresses will be hunted down. The Primus believed that their superior magical power would be sufficiently threatening to force the mundane Amazonians into compliance, and that, as a nation with neither Divine religion carrying threat of God nor any allies outside themselves, they could do little for meaningful backlash. Little did they expect the martial fury and pride of the culture they had stumbled into. The Queen responded to the Primus' demands with a declaration of war by the nation against the Order of Hermes itself. The battle was incredibly bloody, though not terribly long - several covenants were devastated and their magi massacred, not having anticipated the means of the Amazonian assault, but once the Order's ducks were in a row, they retaliated with enough force to crush the Amazonian strike force, and, as promised, House Flambeau swept through their ranks, finding and delivering Join or Die demands to the remaining sorceresses. Many were purged, while others joined the Order, and the Amazonian nation as a whole withdrew to lick its considerable wounds. However, what had seemed like a brief time of troubles was only the beginning of the worst. The bloodbath led to an increased sentiment among the wider Order that maybe Join or Die-ing their way through communities of magic users might not be the best play, even as the bloodied Flambeaus retained a festering ill will towards those who had embarrassed and harmed them, and even as some magi worked hard to properly integrate the Amazonians into a Hermetic sub-tradition, many more began to wield Hermetic law and prejudice to bully the converts and their apprentices, raising tensions. By the time things reached another breaking point, several Bonisagus magi had used their apprentice-snatching rights to take Amazon apprentices to double-Open their Arts, so as to speed the creation of a new sub-tradition. This was to be their undoing, as the angry and paranoid Flambeau magi, convinced that the Amazonian recruits were amassing resources and knowledge for another strike against the Order from within, decided to finish what they'd started by declaring mass Wizard's War against all Amazonians and their descendents within the Order, as well as against the Bonisagus magi who had taken such apprentices. The carnage was unyielding, and sparked massive outrage across the rest of the Order, who saw this at a blatant betrayal of the Order's purpose and organization as well as a crime against its members, and at the next Grand Tribunal it was ruled that House Flambeau was to collectively be Marched, expelling them from the Order of Hermes.

This results in a simmering down of the aggressive tendencies of the Order of Hermes and harsh regulations being implemented with regards to Wizard's War within the Code. The destructive magics passed down from Flambeau himself are left in a state of incompleteness within Hermetic Theory, but are compensated for somewhat by the secrets gained from the Amazonians, resulting in the Lesser Limit of Destruction. Because of it, spells that are designed to physically damage and destroy things (such as CrIg fireballs, CrAu lightning bolts, much of PeCo, etc) all give the target a Resistance roll (see Rival Magic p. 26) to avoid the effect, on top of any Magic Resistance the target may have.

There are two sub-traditions created by these events within the Order, one secret and one not. Flambeau Magic restores and builds upon the destruction capabilities of Hermetic Magic (haven't decided on an execution for this), while there would also be a more openly allowed Minor Virtue equivalent to Atlantean Magic from RoP:M, but for Amazonian RDTs and unusual effects hailing from remnants of their brief period surviving in the Order.

... Okay, that's all I've got so far! Might come back for more later!


I'd actually argue for a full east-west split between the order. Really, I'd just rewrite the whole history of the houses at that point. I'd say the Order's bigger problem should be Greek vs Latin vs Barbarian houses. Add a geographical dimension rather than just ideological one.

Quoting myself... The history of the Order is a Lie.

The Pre-history of the Order is a lie

What if the Diedne won the Schism War?


Trying to not fall into thread necromancy your whole post there and all the responses to it ignores that many of the original apprentices of the founders, including the True Lineages, were not children who spent 15 years in apprenticeship but the invitation of a group of already trained magicians of some other tradition invited by the Founders or their direct apprentices and introduced to hermetic magic and the Parma Magica on a much shorter time scale. This did not only happen with the Societes and Mystery Cult houses. The Tremere chapter talks about inducting members of a cult of Aita, Trianoma herself, etc. and I believe this would allow much faster growth than seems possible if this is ignored.


I actually quoted @Gilarius, using that argument as a springboard. Personally, after reading the history of the roman empire from beginning (300 BC) to end (1453 AD) - my personal beef with Ars Magica is that that cultural divide should be Greek vs Latin traditions as the primary cultural split within the order, not "Latin" vs "German" houses.