Ars Magica 2000 (aka Ars Magica "now")

House Rules

Comments should be made to Tabbifli. Suggestions will be considered, but not in any hurried fashion - time is a premium item around here!

Some of these have been taken from the play by email game called "Light in the Looking Glass", which is set in the present time. The premise of the LitLG game is that the Order of Hermes disappeared sometime in the 1500s, and was rediscovered by a Professor in this century.

I'm doing something a little different. The history of the Order is uninterrupted, in that there have been mages throughout the years. However, as the time went on, two things happened: First, the vis sources began to dwindle, both becuase of the increasing power of the Dominion, and becuase of the steady use by the Magi of the time. Second, the number of people with the Gift also dwindled, since mages were less interested in reproducing, and more interested in finding ways to preserve their life. For a very long time, mages became more and more interested in living longer, experimenting with cures for various ills, in the hopes that every sickness conquered would extend their life that much longer, and that they would find the eventual cure for old age. It was left to the young and idealistic to train apprentices, and the number got smaller.

When America was discovered, and opened up, Magi moved to the New World, living in secret in some of the larger cities, where they could be respected as scholars at universities, and continue their experimentation in safety. Several of the Houses nearly died out due to lack of apprentices, others maintained a moderately better than bare existance.

The Dominion's increasing power made it continually more dangerous for Magi to work, and so their experiments were strictly constrained for safety. Some of the more adventerous mages went out into the wild and attempted to form covenants where they would be unaffected by the Church; no one is entirely sure what happened to most of them, although new spells would very rarely be sent from a mage of one House to his Sodali in the cities. The rules of the Order were followed out of both tradition, and out of fear - to break the rules and be discovered would be to risk death, not only at the hands of the zealously religious, but also at the hands of the Magi. Secrecy and privacy were heavily guarded.

During the "hippie days" of the later sixties, and the disenfranchisement of the Flower Children with authority, the Dominion's power began to weaken over the general populace. However, it still gathered in consecerated regions, and in neighborhoods traditionally strong in faith (eg: the Jewish neighborhoods around the temples, strong Catholic-ethnic neighborhoods). As the Flower Power generation grew and rasied the Baby Boomer generation, then the generations beyond that, lip service to the ideals of religion grew, while actual religious feeling waned, leading to a more scattered Dominion than before.

At the same time, a surge in "New Age" beliefs came to the forefront, bringing with it new believers in magic, legends, and the fey. The gift, having had genereations to renew, became more noticable once again, and the Magi - during a specially called Tribunal - decided as a whole to refocus on growing once again, and bringing the Order into the "21st century" before time left them behind once more.

New Age and magical "researchers" postulated the existance of "ley lines" and nodes, pooled by raw magical energy, and able to be sensed by those with specific gifts. House Bonisagus, the largest house to remain in the Order, found that these "ley lines" were in fact magic, pushed into lines by the Dominion. The nodes are Magical Auras, which have always been there, just never studied before. The ley lines, with the shrinking of the Dominion, are now "fuzzing out" again, spreading in slow waves over the land, and providing a low level magical "background" aura, allowing magic to work properly once more. There are still magically "null" areas, however, caused by a severe lack of anything magical in the surrounding area. Ley lines generally have a magic aura of 1 or a fairy aura of 1 or 2. Raw vis is still exteremly rare, coming primarily from the few fairy realms still accessible from the world, or occuring along large lines, or in large node areas.

Additional auras are created, as per LitLG:

[Outside of nodes, as above], most of the world's magic has fallen into "sinks". These are very small pools of magical aura, highly concentrated, usually around a single building or landmark. The auras there are fairly strong (between 3 to 6), but old, sometimes tainted, and volatile. There is hope, however, as it seems when one of these auras is "exercised" (magic is used there regularily over a long period), the magic spreads more evenly, maintaining a strong centre, but stablilizing, spreading, and fading towards the edges.

From LitLG, on Fairy realms:

European faerie realms faded from the world after the sixteenth century, remaining only certain isolated regions- parts of Ireland, bits of Scandinavia, returning briefly at the end of the Victorian age, then slipping away. In the sixties, there was a small resurgance, with European fey joining forces with their counterparts from North American, African, Australian, and Asian cultures. This resurgance has created a weak, but stable network of Faerie realms, encompassing everything from the Sidhe to the Katchinas.

From LitLG, on the Infernal realm:

The Infernal is not as obvious as it once was, though it is hard to say whether it is weak or strong compared to the other Realms. It has very few permanent auras; it creeps about like a black fog, springing up to spread hatred and malice, then slipping away again.

From LitLG, on the Nature of the Gift:

The Gentle Gift works somewhat differently in this game. Since the modern world is not as rife with superstition as Mythic Europe, the negative effects of being a wizard on ones social interactions are lessened. Magi with the Blatant Gift have all the problems of a medieval Magus. Those with standard Gifts are simply considered "weird/interesting/spooky/odd" by those who interact with them, depending on the person. Those with the Gentle Gift seem utterly normal, and any suggestion of magical powers would be received with the expected incredulity.

From LitLG, on Critters:

Needless to say, there are VERY few magical creatures left. {Sidhe comments removed and rewritten below} Beasts of myth and legend are neigh extinct, though ghosts and the restless dead have remained, changing with the times. There are some new creatures of magic, springing occasionally from the pools of stagant power - but these are rarely found. Anonymity is crucial to avoid capture and study by curious scientists.

On the Fey:

Despite the loss of fairy realms, the fey have, through various methods, manged to maintain loose connections with the world of Mortals. The spread of iron has encouraged them to remain mostly Underhill, however, but they still appear occasionally on wild nights. Many of the surviving Legendary Creatures have gone Underhill for safety, arranging pacts with the remaining fairy. Legends of House Merinita speak of pacts made with the Fey, and convenants started Underhill. The slim contact with House Merinita over the years seem to bear these legends out. Attempts to contact the fey are rather likely to be met with difficultly and silence, since they're not longer quite as easy to bribe.

The Nature of Magic (combination of LitLG and House):

The Arts remain predominately unchanged as a whole, due to the strict nature of life up until the latter half of the 1900s. Certain new substances have only recently begun to me manipulated with Hermetic magic, and there's very few formulaic and no ritual spells associated with them. These include plastic, rubber, fiberglass, and other synthetics. At the special Tribunal, the Order also designated the Form Artificiem to represent those materials and substances which fall under no other form. Other new substances that fall more easily into one of the Forms pose little difficulty: concrete, while not technically a stone, is still blatantly Terram, and pressboard is still Herbam.

New forms of energy, not popularly in use at the time of the Tribunal, or even well known, pose a problem: Radiowaves, uv radiation, x-rays. As these have not yet been encompassed by Hermetic theory, where they end up is a matter of what is done by future researchers.

The Nature of Magi (combination of LitLG and House):

Because the Magi have been raised and trained in a very different situation from their medieval predecessors, they have very different beginning skills. All characters begin with these abilities:
Literacy (Native) 5
Drive 1
Mathematics 1

Magi also receive the abilities listed below, by House, as in the AM-4 rulebook, but slightly modified. Companions need to discuss their chosen field of study with the GM to determine if they receive any additional starting skills.

Literacy combines speak and scribe in any of the "modern" languges. An added flaw is "Illiterate". Anyone with this flaw must take Speak language only, and has a modifier of -3 to learn to write any language above 1st level. Modern langugages are those languages which are taught in most schools: German, Spanish, French, Italian, and English. The Nordic languges may also be considered modern (Norweigan, Russia, Swedish, etc). Any of the Oriental languages, Arabic, and Hebrew require a Speak and a Scribe skill, as do any "ancient" languages, such as Greek and Latin. Hieroglyphs, such as those used by the Egyptians, require a special skill, and have to be cleared through the GM..

As with other studies, much of Hermetic History and Lore has been corrupted by constant translation over the years. House Quesitor has scrupulously translated Law over the years, and carefully insures its perpetuation.

Even though the areas of science are broad and vast, they have been compiled into one skill, Science, since this is a game about magicians, not scientists. If a Companion or Magi has a background in a field of study, the specific science can be used instead (ie: a biologist would have "Biology").

Likewise, other modern skills have been made available: Firearm Attack, Computers, Drive, Pilot, etc. It's pretty easy to just come up with them as you need them, keeping in mind, again, that this is a game about magic, and therefore, the other aspects should be kept relatively simple. Use of Firearm skills in combat will be gleaned from the "Vampire" system from White Wolf.

Since the modern world demands that the characters have a rounded education, mages receive about twice their ages in experience to purchase skills, up to age 20. After that, it's 1 point per year. Companions get the same deal, up to age 35, after which point, they're not usually running around looking for "adventure", and are unlikely to be in this situation :)


The descriptions of the Houses as listed are the known situations of the Houses within the Order of Hermes. In the case of House Criamon, the Order doesn't know what it's talking about, and the "real" situation is also indicated.

In all "Starting Abilities", ignore the "speak own" ability as listed in the book, and go with the abilities listed above. For the most part otherwise, I've left it as it is in the AM-4 book, and added in a point or two in a skill. This was done mostly to reflect the standardized learning that is now common in most of the world, which tends to make it easier to assimilate new information and knowledges.

House Bjornaer

Due to their twin habits of staying out of the heavily populated areas and not taking the impotance-causing longevity potions, House Bjornaer was one of the Houses that survived relatively well. It is, in fact, primarily due to House Bjornaer that there is mage talent left in the world.

Starting Abilities:

As per AM-4, except Hermes Lore, which is 1. Choose either "Hunt" or "Survival" at 2.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

As per AM-4.

House Bonisagus

The starting House of the Order, Bonisagus survived mainly through sheer willpower. Many of this House became scholars, and picked up bright, although frequently under-talented, students from the universities where they taught, and stuffed as much Lore and Theory as they could into these open minds. Some of the more politically minded Houses claim that by doing so, Bonisagus diluted their once-proud heritage. Bonisagus claims it did what it had to in order to survive. Following the drive to both learn more about the world, and to find new students for the Order, the followers of Bonisagus became teachers, professors, writers, and lecturers - any profession that would allow them access to the most people, but would still provide them a fair amount of privacy in order to work.

Starting Abilities:

As per AM-4, add Artes Liberales 1.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

None. Hermetic Prestige is an iffy thing for the House at the moment. There will be some who will confer it upon you (those who follow the old ways), but others who will not.

House Criamon

House Criamon has become something of a legend, as those members who were part of it swiftly found themselves put into institutions "for their own good", and were thus unable to take apprentices. The teachings of the Criamon - such that they are - were preserved by House Bonisagus, in its Master Library, located in New York. Every so often, some of the more oddly talented apprentices of that House studied the writings, and "went Criamon", as the saying came to be, but they don't seem to have actually managed to start a House, generally suppressed by Bonisagus in the interests of keeping the Order a secret. In this day and age of increased visability, there are rumours of a group stirring under the name Criamon. If they become large enough, they may once again be recognized as a House.

Starting Abilities:

As per AM-4, except Enigmatic Wisdom 2, Speak Latin 4 - the members of this group spent more time studying the old books than they did their Latin. Somehow, they got an insight - but they failed Latin.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

Twilight Point (-1) - How do you think they GOT that insight?

Real World Story, Criamon:

As the world became a more dangerous place for the Magi, certain of the Criamon broke off, and moved gradually eastwards and southwards, migrating to Tibet and India. There, they joined or founded monastic orders, based on such visions and wisdoms as their Twilight gave them. The Indian Criamon are still active, generally known as the Fakir. The Tibetian Criamon slowly took over the Buddist monastaries, and then other mystical orders. At this time, the Dalai Lama is considered head of the Criamon for the Eastern Order. Both the Eastern and the Southern orders of the Criamon maintain history, but neither feel any particular urge to rejoin the Order of Hermes.

Starting Abilities:

Parma Magica 2, Magic Theory 3, Enigmatic Wisdom 3, Occult Lore 3 (based on area of origin)

Required Virtues/Flaws:

Twilight Point (-1)

House Ex Miscellanea

Never strongly tied to the Order, Ex Miscellanea started drifting away as the Order became more and more strict about its rules and requirements. Those who had been members of the Order still taught their Apprentices the Parma Magica, and instructed the Apprentices in the ways of the Order, but they swore no Oaths, and kept no affiliation. The Order still recognizes House Ex Miscellanea, but that is merely a formality at this point.

Starting Abilities:

Special circumstances

Required Virtues/Flaws:

Special circumstances

(In other words, I want to know what Tradition you're starting from before we can assign the starting stuff)

House Flambeau

Realizing that their flamboyant type of magecraft could bring disaster, the Flambeau began to investigate the fledgling militaristic-monastic orders. One, the Knights Templar, esposed a philosophy that many of House Flambeau found appealing, and the House began slipping into the new Order. Other memembers of the House went into different Orders (Order of St. Michael, predominately), but they all remained in contact with each other, and the Order of Hermes. When the Church's opinion turned against the Knights, they slowly went underground, but continued with what they considered to be their work within the Knights. The Head of Flambeau is also the Head of the Knights. Remarkably, this is one of the Houses that has come to accept non-magical members into its ranks, although they are simply considered Companions within the Knights, and are not given more than cursory understanding of any other abilities within the order.

Starting Abilities:

As per AM-4, add Occult Lore 1

Required Virtues/Flaws:


House Jerbiton

The followers of Jerbiton, fairly secure in their knowledge of and interaction with mundane powers, were able to escape the encroaching Dominion easiest. Sometimes slipping into life as scholars and other quiet, studious professionals, they were able to maintain a facade of normality, while continuing their studies in private. Other times, they became highly visable politicians, taking the risk of being caught using magic, to attempt to do some good. Couching their magic in conceling ritual, they named members of their House as Freemasons, and used both magic and their political abilties to effect change in governements, reaching and manipulating for a time when all Magi would be able to practice in peace. Unsuprisingly, the Freemasons also accept non-magical members into its ranks. These non-magical members learn the rituals of the Freemasons, but are unable to harness and direct the power thus raised. As a result, the head of any Mason Temple is a mage, and the Master Mason is the head of Jerbiton.

Starting Abilities:

As per AM-4. Also, take one at level 1: Politics, Civil Law, or Artes Liberales

Required Virtues/Flaws:


Mercere - No longer a House.

The Mercere went into business for themselves, providing messanger and heraldry services for a wider group of people than just the Magi. Both Church and Lay goverments turned a blind eye to any methods used by the Mercere - as long as the missives were received in good time and in good order, no one wanted to harm the most trustworthy messangers. Eventually, the Mages of the order drifted into other Houses, and House Mercere was offically disbanded as a Magical House. Many of the "rapid delivery" postal services, however, stem from the businesses that Mercere placed.

House Merinita

As the Mundane world gradually became too dangerous to live in, the Merinita gradually stopped living in it. Slipping Underhill to live under the protection of the fey, Merinita provides a duality of service in return for their homes. First, they send out members to live in "the world" for several years; this provides the means in which Underhill is able to stay in contact with the mortal world, and the means in which Merinita were able to remain in contact with the Order. Second, they raise the children that the fey occasionally "steal" from the mortal world. Many of these children are magical, and are taken as apprentices when they are old enough. The rest are brought up safely, and then farmed out into the world. They act as additional eyes and ears for the Merinita and the Fairiefolk, passing along information. It was they who were able to tell the Fairie that the world was becoming safe once more at the time of the "Flower Revolution". The adults who were raised by the Merinita often find themselves as companions to the Magi.

Starting Abilities:

As AM-4, except Magic Theory, 3. Add in: Speak Fairie, 2.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

As AM-4. Also, Faerie Upbringing.

House Quaesitoris

With their natural leanings towards law, many of the Quaesitoris became lawyers, judges, and lawmakers for the mundane world as well as for the Order. In this capacity, the House was able to attempt to defend those members of the Order who were caught and tried for various crimes. As time went on, the members of the House found themselves taking unusual, difficult, or hopeless cases, as their sense of justice became outraged by corrupt or impossible judicial systems. As the law profession began to attract more people, and magic slowly started seeping back into use, the Quaesitoris began once more to reduce their client list to the Magi and those mundanes accepted as assistants to the Order. Those Quaesitoris still in public practice, however, seem to generally aquire at least one hopeless case a year.

Starting Abilities:

As AM-4. Also, Civil/Canon Law 2.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

As AM-4

House Tremere

After a second, brief scandal involving rumours of diabolism and vampirism in the late 1400s, the Tremere gathered its membership in for a stringent housecleaning that lasted slightly over a century in length. When it ended, the Tremere were even more strictly hierarchical than before, and every mage is required to spend at leat one year out of seven in Transylvania. Apprentices must spend at least two of their learning years at Coeris, as well, although those two years may be the same two their Master spends, and Coeris holds the only Apprentice Gauntlet recognized by the House. This stricture is joined by the additional requirement that no mage may take an apprentice without permission of the one who ultimately holds their sigal (their Paren, Paren's Paren, etc, up the chain). If any mage attempts to take an apprentice without this permission, the apprentice may be removed from them, and given to someone the sigal-holder deems appropriate. These two House laws have insured that all Tremere are as fully integrated into their House as possible. On the other hand, it also leads to hidebound thinking, and a rather small house. While the Tremere maintained contact with and membership in the Order of Hermes, it predominately maintained its presence in the Slavic regions around Transylvania. Only within the last century have the Tremere begun sending out members into the world at large once more.

Starting Abilities:

As AM-4 except drop Intrigue, add Romanian, 2. If Romanian is native Language, take 1 other language at this level.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

-1 Follower of Tremere - Other Magi treat you somewhat suspiciously, as Tremere have been squestered away in their House for so long, as well as having such stringent rules. It's only a -1 reputation, however, and can be gotten over within your covenant by personal effort.

House Tytalus

Competition remained the high point of House Tytalus, and they threw themselves into mundane competition as cheerfully as they did into magical. As war-like conflicts died down, contests of physical and mental prowress became more common. Instead of participating directly in these competitions (somebody might get hurt, after all), Tyalus organized them. The internal House competition was who could arrange the "best" in a field - sports match, mental challenge, even the best entertainment for the Lords and Ladies of the day. Scorekeeping became complex, and magic was used - subtly - as enhancements. Most of the finances generated by these amusements were put back into the House, with every member being allowed a specific stipend a year, and any "extra" monies funneled back to other parts of the Order as law funds, experimentation grants, and other supportive means. When Mercere began to dissolve, Tytalus enticed some of its former members into the House, as Scorekeepers. This prevented "cheating" by biased members of the accounting board. The Head of House Tytalus is generally someone who proved excellence in his or her chosen field of competition, but who is sworn to neutrality. Unsuprisingly, much of Hollywood, many of the current sport affiliates, most of the Theatre groups, and several mental tournaments (chess, go, etc) are at least backed by members of house Tytalus.

Starting Abilities:

As AM-4. Add in the appropriate Organizational Knowledge for your character at 2.

Required Virtues/Flaws:


Starting Reputation:

EITHER +1 Competitive. This is also a Reputation within Tytalus, if you're good, otherwise, it's roughly equivilent to "braggart". Within the Order at large, you may be treated a little distantly, as people carefully avoid getting into potential competitions with you.

OR +1 Tytalus Scorekeeper. This is a reputation within both the Order and the House. In the Order, it means that you won't be treated as a potential headache by other Magi. Within the House, however. you may be under constant petition to "check the scores".

House Verditius

Even at the beginning of the 'Silent Time' for mages, Verditius made itself useful. Construction and creation had always been the House's specialty; they simply turned that ability into non-magical forms to support themselves, and continued to practice their magical creations in private. As the knowledge of the world expanded, so too did their ability to affect it; many of the great inventors of the last several centuries were Verditius mages practcing the Art, and finding ways to help the world at large. Electricity is considered one of the greatest boons of the House to Magi and Mundane alike, although some might rank indoor plumbing up there ahead of it. While Bonisagus is attempting to create new ritual and formulaic spells to affect the Form Artificiem, Verditius has the best chance of being able to cast spontaneous magic that affect this Form.

Starting Abilities:

As AM-4. Add: Science, 1.

Required Virtues/Flaws:

As AM-4.

Questions should get mailed to Tabbi