Errata-ing Unstructured Caster

There seems to be a broad consensus that Unstructured Caster is exceedingly crippling even for a Hermetic Major Flaw. It effectvely takes away the ability to cast Rituals and that to cast Formulaic spells (being able to cast Pilum of Fire as a Ritual is not very different from not being able to cast it at all, game-wise). By comparison, it takes two Hermetic Flaws (one Major, one Minor) to remove the ability to cast (only) Spontaneous magic.

Since there has been some discussion to "errata" some underpowered Hermetic Virtues (Elementalist, Secondary Insight) so as to make them more worthwhile taking, I would propose doing the same for Unstructured caster. I think a very simple, aesthetically appealing adjustment to rebalance it is to say that it renoves the ability to cast Rituals, but leaves formulaic magic otherwise unaffected.

Do you think that Unstructured Caster:

  • should be left as it is
  • should be "toned down" (only) prohibiting Ritual magic
  • should be "toned down" in some other way (please explain)

0 voters

(One major + one minor to remove all casting of Spontaneous magic)

We already have Rigid Magic which disallows rituals (as a side-effect of not allowing use of vis with spell casting)
Better would be to change Unstructured Caster so all Formulaic spells must be cast as rituals, while Ritual spells can still be cast as normal. That way it isn't quite as crippling


Hmm, good point. It then seems to me that Rigid Magic and Unstructured Caster should both be re-written -- as it stands they overlap significantly, so they seem somewhat too harsh if taken as a pair, but far too harsh in isolation.

I would say the following should be three Hermetic Flaws:
Unstructured Caster(Major) = no Rituals
Rigid Magic (Minor) = no boosting of Spontaneous or Formulaic spells with vis (Rituals unaffected)
Ritualist (Major) = all Formulaic and Spontaneous magic must be cast ceremonially -- taking time as a Ritual, but not vis.

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Most people don't use vis to boost their spells anyway (doesn't improve your spells enough to be worth it), so just disallowing that should be no more than a Minor Flaw.

Formulaic spells can normally not be cast ceremonially unless you have the right Spell Mastery Ability (which is typically only available to those involved with one of the Mercurian organisations), so for many magi, a requirement to cast formulaic spells ceremonially is equivalent to not allowing casting of formulaic spells at all

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Actually, in my sagas boosting spells - both Formulaics for Penetration and Spontaneous for "capabiity" is rare but crucial. But fair enough.

I was too concise -- I meant that in this case a magus can cast Formulaics ceremonially, and only ceremonially. Compare this with the Minor Flaw Slow Caster.

No Rituals is a minor flaw IMHO. Yes, every group needs an Aegis caster and a Healing caster, but an individual magic is not crippled by no rituals. Ritual casting is not a frequent event.

Vis Boosting I have never seen in game, and I am convinced that it is only a minor flaw. I trust you that it has its crucial uses, but so many magi do well without it.

Ritualist. Ceremonially only takes time and not vis Is that intentional? If it is, it feels a little more like two minors than one major, but yes, this is the one of the three which is too harsh for one minor.

A major Hermetic Flaw should not be crippling across the board. Making a restricted but significant area of magic unavailable qualifies, I think. Without Rituals, the Aegis and every other "partially Hermetic" magic becomes unavailable. All healing, but also all permanent creation/improvement becomes unavailable. All D:Year and all T:Bound spells become unavailable. All other "really impressive" spells become unavailable. I do not think that is minor: it is definitely on par with a Major Deficiency, or Restriction.

Sure, Rituals are cast infrequently, but their impact is major. After all, magi go into Twilight infrequently (even Twilight prone ones), but Twilight Prone is a Major Flaw.

Again, it might be infrequent - but it can be the difference in life-or-death situations. Still, as I said, I can see this being Minor. I would like it more as a Minor if it said something like: you can only use vis in ceremonial spellcasting (it also kind of makes sense).

Yes, it is intentional. As I said, it is significantly worse than Slow Caster. Having Formulaic spells take time and vis means for all practical purposes not having Formulaic spells at all, and I think that is worth more than a single Major Flaw (even leaving out Spontaneous Magic).

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and no rituals isn't crippling at all. Rituals take planning, and hence may well be deferred to the covenants ritual specialist. A large number, probably a majority, of magi will not learn a ritual for the first thirty years after gauntlet.

Twilight prone is a very different case. Any magus¹ can expect to see a botch, and hence a twilight if prone, within a decade or two. Only magi who specialise in Healing, Stat Boost, Creo Craft magic, or Rego Vim are likely to learn a ritual within the same time frame. That gives a majority of magi who can take no rituals as a free flaw in the time frame of most sagas.

¹ with the exception of one with weak spontaneous and flawless magic

Adding these two as minor flaws feel like a good house rule to me, but I do not really see a rewrite which is simple enough for an errata. I agree that the existing major flaw is harsh, and I would only take it in combination with Diedne magic, but within that scope, of a true specialist in spontaneous magic, it is acceptable.

That's like saying that Major Magic Deficiency in Perdo [EDITed from an incorrect Ignem] is not crippling at all, since learning Perdo requires seasons, so all Ignem spells can be left to the covenant's Perdo specialist!

The major flaw is deficient technique. What do you mean by an major magic deficiency in ignem?

Even if there is a major magic deficiency in ignem, it is different. Everybody may want to create light spontaneously in the field. It is a fairly common spontaneous spell. Only the healing specialist is likely to want to cast a ritual in the field. This particular specialist would be crippled by no rituals. Everybody else has time to find a ritualist when they need one.

Thus, no rituals bars you from a rather narrow range of spells, which few magi learn. A major deficiency in Ignem makes you almost useless Ignem, one out of ten forms, but it is still only a minor flaw.

Actually I really like, and find well-balanced, a proposal @Ovarwa once made in this sense: make Diedne Magic a Major Flaw, that combines a) the current benefits of Diedne Magic and b) the inability to cast formulaic or ritual magic (roughly equal to the current Unstructured Caster).

This makes a Major Flaw what you consider a balanced Major Flaw + Virtue combination.

That could work if the dark secret comes into play. If it does not, Diedne magic is a power house, truly worth its three virtue points.

Diedne magic is a difficult one. The drawback has to be narrated to balance it, and if the saga is packed with other events, it is easily forgotten.

Actually being completely useless in one Form is "two and a half" minor Flaws, so very close to a Major Flaw.

True. And no rituals may be harsh compared to incompatible aquam with any art. The probability that the magus will want to spont' an aquam spell is low. For most forms, this is not the case though. Ignem for light, aquam and terram to break into houses, vim to search for vis, corpus and animal to investigate a corpse, imaginem for invisibility, Mentem for sleep. Most of the arts have low-level spells with field applications that everybody is likely to want, and most may learn to cast spontaneously. This is not the case for rituals. Rituals only have high-level applications, that take a dedicated magus.

I agree, though, that there are more rarely used arts, like aquam and possibly auram, where a total inability seems comparable to no rituals.

I think it should be left as is. It's a crippling hermetic major flaw, sure, but most hermetic major flaws are crippling in one way or another. Have I taken it before? No. Would I take it on most characters? No. Would I take it on a character with Diedne magic or life-linked spontaneous magic? Possibly. Is it worst than Short-ranged Magic, Rigid Magic, Painful Magic or Magic Addiction, to name but a few? All of those are pretty harsh, to be honest, as are many other major hermetic flaws. I haven't dared take those flaws on a character of mine yet either.

Like most things, it depends on your play style.

I have tried short-ranged magic, and it works really well for a rusticani fletcher making charged item arrows. There are lots to do, even if there are some very ordinary things that do not work.

I have tried painful magic, and it was indeed painful when he ended up sole magus in a combat intensive story. I was hoping to roleplay the dilemmas - do I really want to cast this spell - but there was no dilemma, only despair. It was not so much of an issue in the next story, which was more of the kind of story he was designed for, a Jerbiton.

Magic Addiction can be controlled if you invest in concentration. Furthermore, it lets you do all you want, and then more which is the problem. I have seen it in play many times. It causes some destruction, but does not really limit the magus much.

Rigid magic may be a limitation in the long game, but few magi bring it up early in a saga. It limits certain long-term directions of development, but does not put a character out of action in the field.

Of the lot, I think it is clear that painful magic is the harshest. It puts the character out of action in many stories, until he can compensate with magic devices. Short-ranged magic also has that potential, and it takes extra-ordinary compensating measures to keep a magus active in stories. Rigid magic is very unlikely to do that, and so is magic addiction. Unstructured caster is easily put out of action unless he is a Diedne.

We've seen Twilight Prone in play and it was brutal.