A learned magician doing original research?


currently I try to create stats for Ádham Brathair (TCI, p. 44 - 45, the character is shortly described in Antagonists, p. 11, too).

Ádham is a gifted learned magician "with the lofty aim of developing a unified theory of magic built on sound philosophical principles" (Antagonists, p. 11). In TCI, p. 44 we learn that Ádham experiments with amulets, that mimic the supernatural abilities of the folk witches (namely Second Sight, Dowsing and Cursing). His big goal needs 120 breakthrough points. For now, he collected 15 breakthrough points (see the insert "Hedge magic and original research").

At the same place we can read, that "any literate hedge wizard able to undertake work in a laboratory can use the Original Research rules presented in HoH:TL, but (according to page 16 of HMRE) if the wizard´s tradition has no codified theory of magic, this theory is the only thing open for investigation."

As far as I know, learned magicians don´t have a "codified theory of magic". I can´t see anything like a "learned magicians magic theory". An ability like this isn´t unimportant for a researcher, because it determines the risk modifier he can use in his experiments - the higher the magic theory, the higher the risk modifier - and the better the chance for a discovery.

My question is: If there is nothing like a codified theory of magic for learned magicians, how did Ádham collect 15 breakthrough points?

(and by the way: how do you research a codified theory of magic without the possibility of a risk modifier? Isn´t it nearly impossible?)


He has collected 15 breakthrough points to creating the breakthrough: Unified Magic Theory. Once he has finished this breakthrough, all Irish magic traditions will have the equivalent of Bonisagus' theory to help them research. In game terms, there will be a new Ability that can be taught that adds to all lab totals for Learned Magicians, Hedge Witches, etc. that come from Ireland. The text under "Adhamh's Research" suggests it will also give all the magical defenses, so let everyone have a stack of defence. This is why it will cost 120 breakthrough points and may take more than his lifetime to complete.

One wonders if this Unified Magic Theory of his would be useful to Hermetic Wizards, and if books of Hermetic Magic Theory would be useful to integrating the hedgies.

Yes, that sounds reasonable... but this is not my problem. While Ádham is researching he has nothing like a magical theory (at least I found nothing like that), and this is a nearly insurmountable obstacle. He has to collect 120 points without the possibility to take a risk modifier. So, a learned magician has to roll a 10 on the experimentation stress die to have a discovery. That means, he has to roll a 1 and then a 5. There is a chance of 1% per season to earn some breakthrough points (or a little more, see 12+: "Roll twice more on this chart")... that´s what I call a lofty aim, indeed. Unless I´m very much mistaken, this is the reason why a learned magician is a very bad candidate for such a project (a folk witch for example would be a much better researcher, because folk witches have "folk witch magical theory").

Where is the loop hole, that I don´t see?


Just because he's a bad candidate isn't stopping him, maybe? Also, possibly he's cheating using Amulets to alter the Discovery rolls (experimentation is CLEARLY luck based). :wink:

Nice thinking about using Amulets there. :slight_smile:

@Chiarina, I do not think that you are missing anything. I think it might be just them making a cool story hook without stopping to consider all the actual mechanical implications. IMO discovery rules are quite bad in any case, so them being messed up is not strange.

Well, the traditions that do have Hedge Magic Theory such as the Folk Witch could provide Teaching and Text insight, right? Depending on the SG's interpretation, you could also get insight by studying the lab texts of experiments; my logic there is that experiments tend to push and pull at the limits of Theory, so they'd have things to offer in defining those boundaries. However, that's a houserule. Something shifting away from houserule onto the border of liberal interpretation would be that any Lab Texts made by someone else trying to create their own tradition's Hedge Theory (Elementalist Theory, Learned Magician Thoery, etc.) will provide you with Breakthrough points depending on how far they got. I mean, they aren't necessarily identical breakthroughs, but a chunk of Universal Theory or whatever is literally made from these other Theories, so progress in those other Theories directly correlates with progress in the Universal Theory-majig.

And I agree with the above about Fortunam manipulation of Discovery chance. That's a funny thing to think about. :smiley:

Maybe, but TCI, p. 44 describes how he got his breakthrough points:

For me, this doesn´t sound as a flat share with a helpful Folkwitch. It sounds as he does, what a learned magician does: amulets. For this reason I´m not sure if Folkwitch magical theory would be helpful for Ádham. Remember: His goal is to provide all Irish magic traditions with an equivalent of Bonisagus' theory. Now you´re telling, that he could use Folkwitch magic theory already now, quite simply. What is he researching, again?

Maybe. If so, before I sweep away the research rules, I can try to see how far I can get with them. In any case it was good to know, that I´m not alone with my concerns.

Well, this was surprising for me... it sounds like a joke, but maybe it is a possibility. Tueor Fortunam isn´t possible, because this charms "have no effect on rolls for [...] experimentation [...]." Succurro Fortunam could be a possibility. You only need the Level 1 Guideline: Provide a bonus of +1 to all luck related rolls. (As per Luck Virtue)." The chance for a discovery would be 10% per season instead of 1%. Not as good as hermetic research, but better than nothing.

Thanks for you help.


I think that mechanically he is not engaged in Original Research but Integration Research. IR is way faster and more reliable then OR and all he needs is a sample of Hedge Witch magic and he can try to generate an insight from it. Without his own theory ability the roll to get an insight would be straight intelligence, difficult but not impossible. (also potentially boost-able by amulet) Once he has his insight he creates an effect, as long as he is successful he gets it's magnitude in breakthrough points wither he rolls a discovery or not.

If you´re right, the insert in TCI, p. 44 starts with an erratum:


Wow yup. So he is apparently doing it the Hard Way according to the text. But he is doing a remarkable job considering. First guess it's authorial oversight. They forgot to do the math. If you absolutely had to explain it he is either able to use his Succurro Fortunam as sugested. Or he is just lucky naturally. i.e. has the luck virtue and his "ST" applies it to the ex-results roll. After all If Succurro Fortunam applies so should the straight virtue. Personally I think the luck virtue should apply to the Extraordinary Results Chart in some way.

Note: A very friendly ST might just decide what value of the Luck virtue to apply after the roll is made. "Oh you rolled a 9 we'll just call it a 10. What a seven that's not no benefit that's a no problem add 3. A 1 a 1 and a 2 oh no it's the dreaded 8 which is just begging for a +2 have a discovery instead!. Personally that's why I think Bonisagus was so productive. Luck and a storyteller who really wanted to see the order created.

Also note: Ol Ádham would be much better off trying IR. The rules in HMRE say that a Hedgie without their own MT can use it just like they can use OR. Maybe he hasn't read that book.

I think it is OR, not IR. He is not trying to integrate anything, but to create a unifying theory. There is much more to this than to add a few extra things to an existing corpus. So OR is the way to go IMO, especially as he does not have a MT value to integrate things in, to start with.

The idea about the application of a (believable) luck virtue is brilliant. Very good one there! :slight_smile: He might also get help from his allies in this. Maybe a gruagach has granted him the virtue if he does not have it naturally.


I´ll think about the luck virtue. Maybe it is better than Succurro Fortunam, but I have to admit, I like the opportunity, that Ádham is able to upgrade his chances for discovery by using his magical skills.

One thing I love about this forum is the collected knowledge and the willingness to share. Somewhere it seems to be a solution for all my little problems.


Actually after checking my copy of HMRE I was reminded that Succurro Fortunam can grant general minor virtues anyway. So you could double dip wear a charm that grants a +3 bonus to luck related rolls and get the Luck virtue for an additional +1 to +3 when/as the ST deems appropriate.

Of course as an ST I might not consider the double dipping appropriate. The reason why I prefer the luck virtue is that it is scalable to different situations and not entirely under player control. Some situations seem more prone to luck then others.

Having played a Learned Magician who had his own MT and was a member of the order I know they can be hell on wheels once they get into research. Particularly with integration as you can consider the insight roll to be a MT roll and in theory be manipulated with Tueor Fortunam. Integrating MT from a tradition that already has it is a canonical option and is also far easier to do if you have a lot of access to another tradition. But since Integration research is supposed to run on stories NPC (or PC's) may not always choose it.

I do like the idea of a Unified Theory of Magic that covers all traditions. I'm not quite sure how it would be implemented though and how it would interact with Traditions that already have a theory.

Considering the skyrocket power system of ArM5 virtues for Hermetics with even triple and even quadruple dipping being fairly normal, I do not see why you would need to ban a double dipping for non hermetics


If you do original research, you don´t try to roll as high as possible. You try to roll a 10 (= discovery!).


While that is true, no matter what your modifiers are there is only one di result that will equal 10. That being the case, if you managed to get +9 in the Extraordinary Results roll, the only possible options are (not counting botches of course) limited to a "special or story event", Discovery, and Modified Effect on 0-2, with all other rolls resulting in more rolls. Your chances of making a Discovery have increased, and special or story events may be beneficial to the project as well (though they may not be). This also increases botch risks, but hey, a project like this ought to have a little danger. I mean, it is a pretty hefty bit of work; it's only realistic for major mistakes to crop up along the way.

... And it's not like the ratio of botches to Discoveries will actually increase, it'll all just happen a lot more often. You've been warned, of course.

(Though my only experience with Original Research is HoH:TL. So does the source you're using require a particular roll on the Discovery table? Meh...)

Well when your talking more modest modifiers some are slightly better then others. If you don't yet have a MT score and are doing O.R. you have to roll a 10 the hard way (1,5) barring rerolls that's 1%. If you have a +1 that requires a 9 so it's a 10% chance. If you have a +2 there are 3 ways to get the 8 you need (8;1,4;1,1,2) so 11.1%., Up to +3 and your back to 10% chance (7).

In the realm of ridiculous bonus stacking a +9 bonus is really nice particularly if you also eliminate all botch dice since rerolls only increase the chance of discovery because you can't botch or roll the dreaded 8. Since it is impossible to roll a 1 on a stress die a +7 modifier also has that effect. Just fewer re-rolls. Unfortunately if your not doing O.R. a +9 bonus would be terrible as the universe would likely end in an infinite loop of dice rolls.

It is certainly gratifying to see a discussion on this chap hit two pages. As the author responsible let me throw my tuppence-worth in.

He is determined to make a most extraordinary breakthrough and has spent a great deal of time working towards it. Every season is essentially considered to be in research, with him using Experimental Philosophy and Learned Magician Arts during days of distraction.

The points he accumulates across the saga are most likely not enough to achieve his goals. In that regard, the points that you, as storyguides/troupes, allow him by the time he dies provide an incentive for other characters to carry on his work. That work of course has been secured in the form of laboratory texts so that the breakthrough points may be more easily gained. The other story use is to evidence to other learned magicians that a common theory of magic (for the learned magician tradition) is possible and the efforts of others could be obtained through story.

Someone suggested that the author perhaps hadn't done the maths. Well, that's almost true. The actual rolls/numbers/lab totals/etc. to this point are unimportant. He has accumulated 15 points out of 120 that he needs. It's enough to act as some small incentive to players wanting to explore this territory, enough to suggest that he might hit 30 (maybe a little more) on his own by the time he dies, and enough lab texts for some potentially interesting effects in their own right should a player want to mine them.

For me, the most important is the first consideration. As has been pointed out, original research is a long and arduous process for both player and character with no guarantee that either player or character will achieve their in/out of game goals. Providing a character who has started down that road with a degree of success gives some support to learned magician players who could eventually benefit from a "Learned Magic Theory", which improves their lab totals and opens up opportunities to integrate other traditions.

Research and integration are really interesting additions to the lab work rules but they are daunting, hard work for the player, and require a life's work from the character. My intent (numbers be damned) is to give a little encouragement, a little boost through having lab texts available, so that players who did want to jump in and improve their learned magicians, had someone to turn to. I'm quite sure that if we'd had another twenty or forty pages in the book I'd have added more detail and more hooks into getting his research out there, perhaps maintaining links with Bologna and other learned magician lineages in order to better get his research into the hands of the players, but space is always at a premium.

If the numbers still give you cause for concern, then consider that he may have hit the heady heights of 12.5% completion with the aid of a new Apt Researcher Virtue allowing him to add 1 or 2 to his risk modifier. If nothing else, it could make him a target for Bonisagus magi eager to learn just how he does it.

Hello Mark,

that was very interesting. I think, my problem with Ádham arose, because I thought: OK, he will die before he hits his goal, but at least he should have reached it approximately. Apparently this is no issue for you: >If at the end of his life he collected 30 breakthrough points, then three or four more generations of researchers are needed to reach the goal... so what?< I´ve no problem with this approach.

In my saga Ádham will stay 25 years at the magical court of Baron Geoffrey D´Arquet, because the Baron reimburses all of Ádhams expenses. Three or four seasons he will have to do some things for the Baron (Astrological Inceptions, an Amulet...). The rest of his time he experiments aided by a Succurro Fortunam Luck amulet. After this time, he returns to Ireland and has collected 45 breakthrough points (provided the player characters let him do what he wants to do and he is still alive. I didn´t do the aging rolls as yet). So, my result is not far away from your conception.

Thanks for comment on your ideas for this character (the most difficult I ever tried to create stats for!).