[Ancient Magic] Integrating Ancient Magic Rules

The preview generously gave us the rules for integrating ancient magic (IAM), which are an interesting variant on the rules for Original Research (OR). What do you think of them?

As I understand them, the OR rules first stage is equivalent to gaining Insight in IAM. The researcher attempts to invent something until he obtains a Discovery, which serves as his Insight. IAM replaces this stage with finding an ancient relic, text, or so on (Story) and a few seasons of research to gain Insight (Time). Experimental risk is replaced with story and time, which I think is rather cool. Instead of gaining a version (or few) of the invented effect you gain some ancient relic or something like that, again cool.

The mechanics of obtaining Insight in IAM have a rather low EF (18, for an Int+Magic Theory+Inventive Genius). It pays to be an inventive genius, to have high Intelligence, and to have reasonably high Magic Theory. An IAM focused character, especially an elder maga, can easily have Int 5 and Inventive Genius, so a Magic Theory of 10 would suffice to obtain Insight in one season on anything but a botch. This requirement is very similar to the Magic Theory of 11 required to maximize chances of Discovery in OR, without being as discrete; I like it. I expect most dedicated researchers to spend one to two seasons, instead of two to three as the inset suggests, to gain Insight (not counting seasons "wasted" on obtaining a source for insight in-game).

The next stage in IAM is experimenting to creating the effect. The effect is determined by the troupe, which would mean the player has less control of it than in OR. I'd wager the IAM effects have far more to do with the sources than with what the player would like them to be. I expect the book to make some interesting suggestions.

Another key difference is that OR added Warping Points at this stage, which are totally absent from the IAM mechanic. The WP were highly problematic as they rewarded low-level research effects and low capabilities; but they also added interesting color in terms of actually warping the researcher with twilight.

IAM isn't crystal clear on this, but I suspect you can continue to attempt to create the invention the Insight leads to even after having to stop for a few seasons, which OR doesn't allow you to do. I think that's cooler. It means there is far less risk, however; IAM is almost certain.

IAM specifically stipulates that you create effects that bend or break the Hermetic limits even before the full breakthrough is made. My reading of OR is that you don't. If think both views are right. When the player designs the effect, in OR, you'd want to limit his options to Hermetic effects. When only one effect is possible, set by the storyguide's choice of insight source more than the player's desires from the virtue, it is more interesting to have tantalizing effects (hinting at being able to do what the magus wants to do, but not quite there).

Since only this stage requires experimentation, and there is no benefit to be gained for risk, experimentation is unlikely to lead to disasters unless the troupe chooses projects that stretch the researcher's Arts and magical capabilities.

Finally there is the issue of Hermetic integration once the breakthrough is made. Frankly, I'm not at all happy with these rules. The IAM rules, utilizing The Mysteries Revised Edition, are more consistent with other ArM rules and work as well as can be imagined, I suppose. I would prefer, however, to simply ignore the possibility of the rules' last option, of teaching a Major or Hermetic breakthrough without initiation. It is far more interesting, IMO, for new aspirants seeking the virtue to progress in the path set out by the original discoverer - either following his footsteps by studying his lab texts, or by following his initiation scripts.

Overall, IAM will lead to the magus uncovering a bunch of relics, ancient texts, and other remnants of the ancient traditions, to progress through a path of pre-scripted (but probably saga-tailored) resultant inventions that circumvent Hermetic limits, and finally of course to a breakthrough. Should the story challenges be overcome, success is all but assured with only investment in time (without significant other losses).

In contrast, OR will leave a trail of variants of small Hermetic effects (modified by the experimentation), some of which never stabilized, with lab texts describing the insights gained and a history of a few laboratory disasters (due to the high risk over many inventions) and with a researcher warped by twilights.

I think both approaches are interesting. In general, however, I think IAM makes for more interesting gameplay. The sole exception is the accretion of Warping during OR, which can be very interesting thematically. I think combining them in a single project may be the most interesting, as the researcher seeks out Insight from the past but risks warping and twilight to speed up the research and fill in the empty pieces.

From Mysteries I also liked the fact that when inventing new scripts, you need to find somebody to try it on as part of the development process (even if it was you). Just like initiates had to put up with partial (and thus unusually harsh) scripts, in Ancient Magic, some of the projects might prove problematic, filling the Covenant with half-baked enchantments and other weirdness (a.k.a "Why are you building a pyramid in the backyard already?")

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you should remember that the Integration rules have to be backwards compatible. Bonisagus integrated Diedne's spontaneous casting ability into the basic magic of the Order. Apprentices don't have to recreate Bonisagus's research to spont spells, they'd be apprentices for an extra 20+ years if they had to. And they don't need to be initiated in anything either. The last option allows for a magus to expand the magic of the Order in general and explains the integration of Mercurian and Diedne magic, as well as other traditions that might eventually be integrated.

True. Not burdened by such considerations for my own games, I can afford to ignore these rules. But I can see why the cannon needs them.

A compromise might be to put integration research between a Major and Hermetic breakthrough. In this way allowing Bonisagus to retain the glory of integrating many traditions into the Order while preserving the singularity of the single Hermetic breakthrough, and making integration harder to encourage players to teach by example rather than by integration. I might also rewrite the history of the Order to let filli of Bonisagus fully integrate the new techniques, perhaps even over several generations (like Verditius casting tools were not available to the early Verditius, so having the ability to spontaneously cast magic delayed by a generation or two won't harm the Order, and will leave room for more honor and achievements for Bonisagus magi lineages). These are all house rules of course, not available to the cannon.