When Magi are Forsaken

First post here. Haven't played yet, but have been doing some white-room character design in preparation. The Realms of Power books made me wonder...

Realms of Power: the Infernal page 103 says that a curse with the duration "Forsaken" lasts until the the character seeks repentance. In Mythic Europe, this would probably happen by going to a confessional. For a Hermetic magus this poses a significant problem. A confessor who hears the magus' story will probably request that the character humble themselves and stop doing magic, and for how many player characters behave, this is a completely justified reaction. For the players themselves, however, this effectively means retiring the character (unless they want to play out decades of quiet monastic life). Now here's the rub; I don't believe there is a way to weasel out of this.

Magi of lineages such as Bonisagus or Tremere could argue that their magic is secular and thus not the same summoning that the Bible forbids. Their power comes from nature itself, they say, and not some pagan entity. The issue with this is twofold; arguing with God is the height of hubris, and the confessor is unlikely to care. If they say no, it MEANS no.

Someone like a mage Tytalus might just lie and continue doing magic anyways, but God is... fairly likely to notice. Then again, this is the House that takes in lepers, so these magi are likely to declare sour grapes and insist their curse is some sort of challenge.

Some of the mystery cults like Bjornaer and Criamon have already twisted themselves into Gordian knots adjusting their beliefs into a Christian heterodoxy. Bjornaer magi consider their Heartbeast to be the "spirit" third of the Holy Trinity next to their body and soul, while Criamon theories are all over the place but usually place God as the creator and Jesus as the prophet. Again, a confessor who hears one of these explanations would probably dismiss it as a lousy excuse at best and heresy at worst.

The few magi likely to pass a confession are either Holy Magi or a magus willing to restart at a significantly weakened square one with Holy Magic. The question at this point is wether God allows this to count as giving up magic, which would depend on the Game Masters' decision.

Personally I would consider a magus retiring to seek forgiveness for something which isn't even their fault... to be an interesting story and a valid conclusion to a character arc, one I would allow to happen to my character. Other players might not be so patient, and would prefer to get back to playing the game without their character being permanently bushwhacked. So I ask the members of the Arts Magica forum; as a Game Master, how would you let your players break a Forsaken curse? Is this grounds to retire a character, a reason to spend a season or two on a quest for forgiveness, a detail you'd deal with off screen so the game can continue, some fourth thing? All answers welcome.

A few examples of this and it will become common practice for magi to select their confessors with great caution, doing plenty of research first to ensure that the priest in question looks at magic in a way that he magi find palatable. For instance using magic to sin is obviously a sin but doing magic by itself is not a sin. Much like any other sort of power (owning a sword isn't a problem; using one on someone probably is, being pretty isn't a failing; using your looks to manipulate others is).

It strikes me that most of the order is going to want to go to confession at least occasionally because they're worried about the state of their soul, they were brought up christian, and they have at least moderately convincing empirical evidence that the divine exists. So if it hurts our suspension of disbelief that they don't go to confession and we want to continue to play our game, then it follows that we should adjust the attitudes of our priests in order that our setting does not explode.

You could make a game about magi hiding their sinful nature from the church, it could be fun. You can run a game where they don't hide anything, that could be fun too (and the later set up is the game I generally choose).

In my games the majority of the magi PCs don't hide who they are, know the local priest, and show up to mass at least occasionally. Getting forgiven is therefore not a big issue. My setting in my games is different than what you're thinking.

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To understand what is going on here, you might compare a magus with a landed knight.

Both will often sin, and many sins are part of their role in Mythic Europe. Both have enough of an elevated position - sodalis in the Order of Hermes, or vassal in a feudal system - to pick a confessor, and not be saddled with the priest of the next parish. Picking a confessor usually requires sponsoring a chapel - or even a church - on the land of their manor or covenant, finding a priest to officiate there, and getting the bishop to accept him. Magi don't want to have that priest report details of their research to the bishop, and knights don't wish the priest to interfer with the weapon practice at the manor, while a bishop in general accepts, that someone constructing a chapel can propose its priest (see TC p.46ff Petitioning the Church). Note, that the bishop has the right to visit that chapel, or to have it visited on his behalf (see TC p.44f Visitations).

Also note, that canon 21 of the Fourth Council of the Lateran requires every Catholic adult to confess at least once a year, and that most magi are considered literate and intellectuals by the people of Mythic Europe: so they are supposed to be in the forefront of the implementation of this canon. Hence magi are necessarily interested in the discussion, whether magic by itself is a sin (start from ArM5 p.202 box Magic and Sin), as much as knights are interested in whether tournaments, battles and killing in general are sins.

Putting all this together, the covenant's confessor (see Grogs p.100ff) is an important figure in a covenant in Christian Mythic Europe, worthy to be a custos or even a companion in a saga. If the covenant doesn't have one, it invites demons, and either needs to hide from Church and society or expect trouble. The background of the confessor - e. g. outlaw, scholar, mystic, politician - can also influence the style and feel of a saga considerably. There are many figures from literature - like Friar Tuck, Don Abbondio of the Promessi Sposi, and Father Pirrone of the Gattopardo - who can even serve as templates.


So if an infernalist uses duration forsaken on a Muslim or Jew... since we are being repeatedly reassured that the rules to Ars Magica are not based in Catholicism...looking at the text it states the duration is "as long as the character remains tainted by the infernal", not "until confession" and indicates repentance is sufficient, not necessarily confession.
Interestingly, since Pagans are (according to the rules) not tainted by the infernal (and do not register to the infernal as being needed to be corrupted, Pagans would be safe from the duration forsaken...

Indeed. But even for a Christian, repentance is sufficient. This is the true "weakness" of the Infernal, despite all its apparent power: no matter how terribly you have sinned, and how many times you've sold your soul to the devil, a moment of repentance before your last breath breaks any "spiritual" hold of the infernal on you. The Infernal will try to convince you that's not possible, so you won't even try, though...

Yes, and no. Pagans are not inherently corrupted just for being pagans. But a pagan, who, say, regularly commits murder in cold blood for selfish purposes will be tainted.

This is true for Christians, Jews and Muslims - but all these religions have their customary forms of reconciliation with God, which are summarized for ArM5 use under Grogs p.101 box The Practice of Confession.
Few medieval people will trust in the truthfulness of their repentance without external confirmation anyway: see cp. XV of the Memoirs of Joinville for an example of crusaders, who for lack of a priest, and in accordance with the church law of the time, hear each others' confessions in captivity.

Of course, pagans are not infernally tainted just because they are pagans. But their deeds can taint them still - so effects with D: Forsaken can affect them too.


So if a pagan is targeted with duration forsaken, what is the result? Can they not shake the spell because they don't follow the True Path (tm), even if they repent their "sin"? If sinning is defined (as some have argued) as intentionally defying the rules of the divine for the tradition as you understand it then when has a pagan, who does not follow a "divine" path sin? Or does offering penance to the pagan god they have offended count?

Let's see the definitions first:

So, unless the target, pagan or not, was already tainted with the power of the Infernal before being targeted, all that is to be repented is having received the effect - and if that effect then disappears the repentance was true.

There is no confession needed. But Christian will still seek confession, because that is their way to confirm their reconciliation with God. Jews and Muslims in ArM5 will follow their own ways of repentance, as described in Grogs p.101.

If a pagan needs help with getting rid of the effect, and can't without help repent having received it, there may be his priests, wise women or others to counsel him.

But if a pagan is otherwise tainted with the power of the Infernal, there is for him no cut and dried way - like confession and penance for a Christian - to lose that taint.


A mundane deacon who was roped into consecrating a chapel in a Hermetic covenant, and seems like the only sane person in a crowd of loony wizards and shield-grogs and talking cats... you know, that seems like a fun Companion character to play. And the mad scramble to convince a clergyman to set up shop in a Spring covenant in the first place could be interesting. Thanks for the ideas!

It's the bishop who dedicates a medieval Catholic church or chapel - so things can become even more funny, if that chapel lies smack in a covenant unable to curb its weirdness for a day. And that bishop also has the duty and right of (TC p.44f) Visitation: to - roughly once a year - check in person on that chapel or church.
Some magi might rather build one some distance away, like the chapels from TtA Jardin (p.60) and Longmist (p.118): having to walk fifteen minutes from lab to confessional might help them gather their thoughts as well. But the chapel of ArM4 Triamore - still an excellent example covenant - is indeed situated in the main building of the covenant between pantries and strong room.

Quite so. Marcus of Paris the Redcap (from TLatL p.86 Intelligence Services) might be willing to help and provide an adventuresome student of theology from Paris University - perhaps even one just ordained as (ArM5 p.47) Priest there, whom the local bishop might approve of.