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Under what circumstance can an animal use hedge magic? Stop laughing. I'm serious.

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  • Under what circumstance can an animal use hedge magic? Stop laughing. I'm serious.

    I'm mostly working with Sorcerer Revised, as it appears to really just be an update of the 2nd Ed. Sorcerer book, but if there are meaningful rule changes germane to this discussion, please educate me. Having said that, there are broadly two scenarios I envision in which a ST would have to rule on whether animals can be hedge magicians (or psychics for that matter.) I'll start with what I think is the clearer of the two scenarios:

    Scenario No. 1: A hedge magician is turned into an animal, but retains their human intelligence, memories, personality, etc.Sphere magick can undoubtedly do this, and probably some other powers (I know a combo discipline available to vampires on Road of the Beast in DAV that turns people into animals, but I don't recall if they keep their mind; and I think the Red Talons or Black Furies have some gift or other that'll do it as well). It seems to me that a hedge wizard should be able to use her sorcerous paths if she's turned into a cat, to the extent that the magic doesn't require intricate finger movements, or certain vocalizations not producible as a cat--and if the animal has a human vocal apparatus (because Sphere magick and lulz,) the vocalizations part isn't even a limitation anymore. I just don't know what it is about static sorcery that would require a bipedal human shape to be necessary; it's ultimately the same person with the same soul... they juts got their pattern mangled into a tabby. That said, even if the answer re- learned magic is 'NO', I think a pyschic (i.e., with Numina) is more likely to have access to their innate, in-born powers.

    Scenario No. 2: A cat, dog, etc., is "advanced" to human intelligence, and given human speech capabilities per M20: Gods & Monsters p.183. Assuming there's no need for intricate finger movement, and that they're able to draw their pentagrams and light their candles, and whatever else (perhaps using TK purchased for a handful of freebies--or simply with exceeding difficulty), and they can say the magic words... what (if anything) prevents Patches, the labradoodle elevated to Intelligence 4 and given the ability to speak and read language, from using sorcerous paths? As I understand it, you don't need to be born with anything to use the paths, so much as you find a book one day, and tells you how to perform magic by going through the proverbial motions.

    For the purposes of my questions, let's just pretend that the answer wouldn't be an automatic hard 'no' based on theme and tone alone--I'm looking to determine whether my understanding of the underlying metaphysics (as written in the text) is correct--and if not, what I'm missing.


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  • #2
    For psychics, either option is pretty functional. I've used animals with psi powers that weren't even advanced to human intelligence at least as NPCs because it was good for the story. Some paths are going to make more sense then others, but for Scenario 1 it wouldn't really be a problem.

    Scenario 1 does have an issue as Mage generally assumes spending too much time as an animal erodes your humanity. There's ways around it, but it's not easy.

    For hedge magic, it's more complicated. While not a huge separation between editions, Revised makes a bigger deal of hedge magic paths being taught with a paradigm/style in mind. A lot of styles wouldn't be possible for an animal body to perform properly (or at least not without a lot of help/being more than just an animal such as retaining/obtaining human speech). Nobody is designing rituals for enchanting items that work for dogs to perform. A non-human primate with human intellect and training might be able to perform Technocratic hedge paths as they'd focus more on precise manipulation of tools, while not being able to do as well with Chorus inspired paths that would require complex singing as a component.

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    • #3
      [Obligatory laughing and nay-saying]

      Kinda like Heavy Arms was saying, it's a tricky question, but if I were to handle it from a metaphysical perspective, well let's go:

      Scenario 1 is honestly the easiest. They're still a human being despite all appearance and they still presumably have the human Itâ„¢ factor that enabled them to be hedge sorcerers in the first place, they've just got to negotiate their new form against their methodology/paradigm and avoid the degeneracy into an animalistic state like HA said.

      Scenario 2 is where we get into the juicy stuff. Like you said, you can create an animal with the intellectual power to theoretically comprehend the abstractions required for magic, just like you can create a humanoid construct. However, the place where I feel that you hit your snag is in the question of humanity. Now this may sound humano-centric but given that the setting has humans being the modern universal standard that power must be directed through to see work be done in real space, I think it's fair.

      One can take Salem and give him human or superhuman intelligence. You can give him cunning and language and personality. You can give him the capacity for abstraction and memory required to learn magical principles. You can walk him up all the way to the edge, but once you're there, he won't be able to use sorcery as a human can.

      He could pick up spiritual tricks or inherent magic effects perhaps, but not true sorcery for the simple reason that he doesn't have that human It-Factorâ„¢. You can call it 'a soul or an avatar or a shard of The One or even that man was made in His image. The point stands that humans have that thing that enables them to be sorcerers, just as they have that thing that enables them to have the capacity to do everything else.

      For an animal to reach the level of true sorcery as hedge witches understand it, they would essentially need to be endowed with at the very least a human-life style soul or given a treatment equivalent to constructed humans. Once they have become akin to human, regardless of the petty forms of the flesh, they'll have the capacity to do sorcery.

      But this is also just my $.02 and if you wanna roll another way, go for it and a blessing upon your house, live your best lives y'all.

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      • #4
        I'm not sure the "human" aspect is that important in the text.

        In general, hedge magic is described as taking advantages of loopholes still coded into the universe. They can't be performed by accident as they still require intention (hence the hefty WP costs involved in being one), but the metaphysics are more mechanistic than dynamic magic and as long as something has enough training and intention, they should be possible.

        I mean, lets look at the major splats since their non-human aspect is generally described as why they can't become awakened mages:

        Vampires - can't use traditional hedge magic, but can develop blood sorcery to do the same thing.
        Werewolves/Fera - can learn hedge magic (though rarely and mostly the Uktena and Bastet)
        Mages - can't use hedge magic as awakening overrules it.
        Changelings - can't use hedge magic, the changeling way overrules it.
        Wraiths - can't use hedge magic because they're dead.
        KotE - can't use traditional hedge magic, but can develop their ritual magic.
        Demons - can't use hedge magic, possession overrules it.
        Hunters - can't use hedge magic, the Imbuing overrules it.
        Orpheus - either are highly specialized hedge magic users, or can't use it because they draw their power from wraiths depending on interpretation.

        So, what trends to we see:

        First, death is clearly anathema to hedge magic. Undead types regain a connection to it, but have to modify it to accommodate their new condition.

        In the vast majority of cases, they can't learn hedge magic because of the overwhelming metaphysical presence of an other-worldly being. Avatars, changeling souls, demons, the Messengers... they all flood a human with power from beyond the standard material plane that leaves them reliant on those powers instead of being able to learn the tricks of hedge magic.

        The WtA exception is an interesting one because they're the ones "born" that way. They're not a human possessed by an animal spirit, they're creatures that were always part of multiple worlds metaphysically, so their connection to the physical world as part of that means they never completely lose touch with hedge magic.

        So it seems like, despite the books focusing on a human perspective, what cuts beings off from hedge magic is ultimately a disconnect from the material plane, and not how human they are.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Gryffon15 View Post
          For an animal to reach the level of true sorcery as hedge witches understand it, they would essentially need to be endowed with at the very least a human-life style soul or given a treatment equivalent to constructed humans.
          In your construction of things, would it be possible to so endow an animal using Sphere magic (I assume some combination of high Spirit and Prime)? Or is this in the realm of feats like defeating the Curse of Cain (i.e., "u god? no? u fail")?

          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
          Mages - can't use hedge magic as awakening overrules it.
          I feel like the book (Sorcerer Revised anyway) leaves this as sort of an open question--or at least far more open than the hard "NO" of some of the other splats. What they appear to do is make the arguments for why you would or would not allow either ruling. Even then, I think the text somewhat reluctantly concedes that there's really no in-game reason Mages can't use hedge magic since the books are also so very (very) fond of pointing out that for all their vaunted power, Mages are still human. I also like the rationale they give for why it's not that OP--it's not anywhere near as versatile or flexible; it's quite expensive (and XP you spend on paths is XP not being spent on Spheres); and it's expensive from an in-game economy standpoint as well. Again, that's just my reading.


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