Parma Civile, an idea for a major breakthrough

After reading about the potential breakthroughs in the True Lineages sourcebook I was pondering how the Gift makes everyone uncomfortable, except for magi who have their Parma Magica (PM) to provide a pseudo-shield from the negative social effects from the Gift of others. In RAW Magi using Parma Magica (basically all hermetic wizards) do not suffer that effect because of a special side effect of PM, and it seems to me to be an interesting area to investigate for why. I came to the idea that perhaps there is a way for a wizard to re-fold their PM in the same way as the other folds so that it suppresses their magical nature.

During the forum discussion the idea was not taken well. Strongly stated views spoke to the effect of devaluing the Gentle Gift Major virtue, and of the fact that the social penalty is a keystone concept in the setting. Removing it, or even suppressing that in-game (meaning a focus on in-story to be specific) effect seems very distasteful to many members of the community. I respect that view. The game is only as valuable and powerful as the stories that we tell, and the view that a particular game’s paradigms would be too greatly altered is inarguable.

That said, I still think the idea has merit in the setting too. So instead of offering a finished solution to the concept, I’ll offer my impressions and recommend anyone who is interested to also read the through the one page of forum feedback. The basic idea holds that Parma has a benefit to Magi for tolerating the Gift. If it is applied in an Ars Magica game the you’ll need to consider the flow on effects.

The Parma Civile fold modifies Parma Magica so that it suppresses the negative social effects of the Gift (typically the -3 reaction modifier). When used in this manner it provides no additional protection, and the Magi’s MR is effectively only based upon their arts.

Further the use of the fold applies a significant penalty to all non-personal spell casting, as the Magi must work through their own Parma Magica. All non-personal spell casting Casting Totals suffer a -5 penalty.

Like the other Parma Magica Folds in the HoH:TL source book (p31), this is a major breakthrough, and requires two minutes to perform.

Some considerations:

  • The effort in discovery is large. As a major breakthrough it might take a wizard ten years or so of work to create this fold, after which time they can perform it. Ten years work to gain the equivalent of a major virtue is far less generous than the initiation rites of some of the secret societies.
  • If this fold is already available, the Gentle Gift may need to be lowered to a +1 virtue, not a +3.
  • Some folks just won’t like it, in which case don’t use it. It is no more game breaking than many other virtues and powers, and there is no accounting for opinion.
  • When I initially wrote it the fold still allowed some level of MR. Based upon acknowledging the fact that a Gentle Gift magi are seriously devalued by this, I think a zero Parma score is a better result, including the casting penalty. This leave the Gentle Gifted wizard with a significant advantage in social interaction, as they retain both their Parma Magica and the ability to interact, but also do not suffer the casting penalty.