Books as a Magical Focus: Major or Minor?

Here is a classical question on magical focus. I'm in the process of create a Magus with a focus on books. He is Verditius and a book-binder by trade and it made a lot of sense to give him a magical focus. However, I'm not entirely sure if I should approach it as a Minor or a Major focus. I've prepared virtue sets for both alternatives, so it is not crucial to the rest of the design whether I have the Major Hermetic virtue slot open for something else or not. It is more a question of curiosity as well as neither wanting to limit nor endow my character more than I have to.

On one hand books seems a very narrow field, but on the other hand it does cut across several Forms.

I also have a second related question, as I've seen that the Confraternity of Roland (Verditius) emphasises a Minor Magical Focus on swords as part of their role as superb weaponsmiths. This of course makes me consider if a Magical Focus is in effect when designing enchantments with spells that are not related to the focus (here swords) but invested in an sword. Or for my part, a book.

I'd say minor

It has been debated before on this forum. My opinion (and I believe the consensus) is that the magical focus in X only aids spells and effects that deal with X, not effects that happen to be enchanted into an X but do not otherwise concern it.

So for your example, enchanting an effect into a book that heals the vellum when it is damaged, or an effect that changes the book into a rhinoceros, or an effect that makes the book teleport back to your lab are all appropriate to benefit from the virtue. Enchanting your book to change the readers into African swallows, an effect to teleport readers to your laboratory, or an effect to create mashed turnips are all not appropriate to benefit from the virtue.

I would concur with Erik Tyrell, in that a) the general consensus is that focus in a type of item does not necessarily apply to enchanting that type of item and b) a focus in books should be minor. A quickly aborted saga I played in had a maga, one Biblia of Bonisagus, with such a focus. From that experience, I would strongly advise trying to clearly define with your troupe what "book" precisely means. Does a set of scrolls count? Does a stack of clay tablets count? Does a grog tatooed with the entire contents of a book from, say, the Odissey, count (he is, after all, a "book" himself at that point)?

The swpord focus thing in the verditius chapter raised some dust here and IMS as well. We did not like it and ruled that you can only use the sword (or whatever) focus if the shape or material bonus applies to the enchantment. Not "heal wound" spell in a sword, for example, even if the spell is embedded in its pommel. Hurting stuff at touch range? For sure.


Thank you all three for your swift and enlightening answers!

I've done a bit of archaeology reading a couple of the previous threads on the issue of magical items. You've all three actively contributed to those discussions with some very salient points, yet it's also been equally helpful to read some opposed opinions too; whether intentional devil's advocates or not. Judging on those discussions I would excatly say that there's a consensus and I can easily see how the RAW is vague enough that it can lead to very different interpretations on it.

However, very persuasive argumentation leaves me no choice but to personally adopt the interpretation that a magical focus only applies if it is involved in the specific effect of the invested spell and not merely from being the object that the effect is invested in. I believe Eric, in particular, had some very functional ways of defining that in one or more of those older threads.

I'll also take Ezzelino's point to heart to have a look at a more precise definition of what the focus covers. I might in fact widen it a little bit beyond bound books alone.

A possibility when trying to decide whether a specific effect invested in a sword would fall under a magical focus with swords, would be to look at Shape & Material Bonuses for that item. Same for the dreaded focus in wands, from HoH:MC.

For a sword, the following are listed:

  • +3 block single attack
  • +4 harm human and animal bodies

For a wand (or staff), the following are listed:

  • +2 repel things
  • +3 project bolt or other missile
  • +4 control things at a distance
  • +4 destroy things at a distance

So if the effect falls into one of those categories, discussion can start.

They say great minds think alike. :wink:

I did actually think about the same subject earlier today, as a way to soften up the divide between those the narrow take on how magical foci apply to magical items (which now includes me) and those who prefer the broader take of letting a focus apply more broadly. I think it is an interesting idea, with more flavour than just applying the focus to everything, but also one that requires a lot of discretion from case to case.

On one hand the Form and Material bonuses already apply and thus gives flavour to the creating of magical things, so I'm not really sure if it would add to that flavour or water it down a bit. A question to ponder futher.

By the way, the main argument in favour of the 'narrow' (focus only applies to investing effects when the effect itself, and not the recipient item, corresponds to the focus) approach is of course one of balance, but secondarily I also think it is - to me - a question of wanting character design choices to matter in flavour as much as in numbers.

If the magical focus were to vastly improve all my characters magical items if invested in a book, then there would be very little reason for him to make anything else. At the same time he, as a Verditius, already gets a benefit to all magical items he makes in the form of books due to his main crafting ability being book-binding. In that sense I actually think having the 'narrow' definition adds more flavour to the work my Verditius does in his laboratory; he is quite good at making magical items that affect books (the focus) and quite good at enchanting books themselves (the mundane craft / Verditius mystery) and he is excellent at creating magical imbued books that have invested effects that target books (both the focus and the Verditius mystery). And that opens up for a lot more relevant choices than if all invested books were just immaculate.

P.S.: I have been away from these forums for far too long. It is good to be home! :blush: