I'd like to suggest some errata. I'm sure others have their own suggestions, so chime on in.
I really love ArM5, but I think one of its biggest flaws is the lack of attention to clarity and preciseness in the game rules. Too often the rules are simply ambigous, open to interpretation and unclear.
Here are some suggestions/issues:
Laboratory Activities: The section on "Basic Laboratory Activities" should talk about Laboratory Activities (capitalized, to make it clear this is a technical term), not "laboratory tasks".
It seems the last paragraph there means to say "Everything involving a Lab Total is a Laboratory Activity"; if so, make it say that! I don't think this is a good distinction, however, as for example attuning a talisman should be a Laboratory Activity although it doesn't use a Lab Total. I think it is better to refer to requiring a season of work in the laboratory. At any rate, the text should clearly define what a Laboratory Activity IS.
Suggested Errata: insert the sentence "A Laboratory Activity is any activity detailed in this chapter requiring a season of work in a laboratory. Some activities may be spread over several Seasons, accomplished through multiple Laboratory Activities."
Include something to the effect of "This is a Laboratory Activity" in every described action that is supposed to be a Laboratory Activity. Include a disclaimer in those that don't. Redundant, perhaps, but clearer.
Limit on Vis Use: I suggest first to change the title to "Limit on Vis Use" instead of "Vis Use", that's all the section talks about.
The first sentence is outright wrong, unless you meant to say that raw vis should be tallied during adventures and so on to make sure its amount doesn't surpass the limit.
The text should be rewritten to make it crystal clear what the limit applies to and what not.
Suggested Errata: change the parapgraph to "There is a limit to how much raw vis a magus can use in a Laboratory Activity. You cannot succesfully use more pawns of raw vis than twice your Magic Theory in a single season of Laboratory Activity. If an activity requires a certain amount of raw vis, you cannot accomplish it unless it is ecplicitly stated the raw vis can be invested in multiple seasons."
Ring Duration: The description should be clearer. It should be made clear what breaks a Ring (a straw layed across it?), can a ring affect something outside it, can you make a Ring and bury it so that it is never broken, can you place a Ring duration at the first room of a tower that tears it from the earth, and so on.
Help in the Lab and Familiars: By the current rules you need Leadership 3 to have three lab asistnats, and Leadership 0,1, or 2 will lead to 2 lab assistants (familiar plus one more). I suggest altering the last sentence on the relevant paragraph to "A familiar doesn't count towards the limit on the possible number of lab assistants", which would mean a character with Leadership 2 could have three lab assistants (familiar plus two). The advantage is that a magus would now be able to benefit from Leadership 1 (lab assistants), whereas before he needed Leadership 2 (lab assistants). It's nice to have every point count.
Original Research: Please clarify the rules further, especially post-errata where the examples and some of the text don't fit the changed rules.
Twilight: Please either delete the simple die of WP gained in twilight, or change the example to include it.
"There is a limit to how much raw vis a magus can use in a Laboratory Activity. You cannot succesfully use more pawns of raw vis than three times your Magic Theory in a single season of Laboratory Activity. Performing a Longevity Ritual is not subject to this limit. If an activity requires a certain amount of raw vis, you cannot accomplish it unless it is explicitly stated the raw vis can be invested in multiple seasons."
Whatever you want to call it. Errata also typically include minor changes of rules that shown themselves to be faulty when thrown to the larger fan community. And I seem to remember that the MT x3 limit was already proposed by the developer in some discussions.
My experience differs, and anyway the limit totally hamstrings decent longevity rituals. However, in respect of your opinion, I modify my proposal thusly:
"There is a limit to how much raw vis a magus can use in a Laboratory Activity. You cannot successfully use more pawns of raw vis than twice your Magic Theory in a single season of Laboratory Activity. Some troupes may find this limit too restrictive, and optionally it may be raised to three times your Magic Theory per single season. Performing a Longevity Ritual is not subject to this limit. If an activity requires a certain amount of raw vis, you cannot accomplish it unless it is explicitly stated the raw vis can be invested in multiple seasons."
I think this might better accommodate all gaming styles.
You are correct, but then everyone would complain about the ambiguity of the rule...
I might also point out something else....
Verdi can gain a minor Mystery that blows away this rule. (assuming you allow a Verdi to use his bonus' to make an item as part of the LR...I don't see any direct prohibition against this, only against them using Verdi abilities on a Familiar) For instance, my character's 12 MT is pretty good...
Combine this with the Mystery: Elder Runes, and multiply that by his Philosophy, and BOOM: 72 pawns per season. That covers a LR with a lab total of 360.
Personally, I don't sweat the Vis limit. My research maga is just out of Gauntlet and can already spend 18 pawns of Vis on any lab activity that requires it. She also has yet to come even vaguely close to that limit. Mind you, being the noob that I still am, I have yet to run into most of the hurdles of the game.
You have a 9 MT? Or 6 (specialized lab) + Puissant?
Errata: the whole longevity section needs a rewrite to be clearer. "The ritual takes a season" but later takes no significant investment in time. Why is Vim vis mentioned? And yeah, the Magic Theory limit, applicable or not? (And consider the consequences: the durenmar.de statistics I think don't worry about MT, but still have a modal lifespan in the 140s, and median under that, with most magi dying of Twilight or accidents.)
The Blackmail story flaw says you get 50 silver pennies, which as the only monetary amount in the book lacks anything to compare it to (apart from the 80 pounds of gold in Touch of Midas.) It also doesn't seem that high an amount based on what I know of medieval prices, though I'm no expert on blackmail.
If you can afford the lines, it might help to explain where the Quality limits on covenant starting books comes from, since the core rules allow for higher Quality books to be written by PCs.
Could you please explain me how relatively noob characters can afford such outrageous Magic Theory scores ? 9 ? 12 ? Have they points spared to invest in Arts ? I was assuming a 5-6 MT score for novice mages.
Currently I am twenty plus years out of Gauntlet. I have Puissant and Affinity in MT...
Magi in the Covenant all wrote at least one MT tractatus each..I do a LOT of lab work...(thats the character). I could have (in retrospect) changed a few of the Virtues and flaws to make the character "Better", but I wanted a Lab rat that could come up with lab totals that would scare people. so I didn't go crazy trying to balance him TOO much...short term anyway. The net result though is a character that doesn't go out unless it will further his goals (flaw), so he stays in the lab.. a lot.
Oh, I didn't add in the specialization...
MT 13 (in my craft)
It gave us some problems when silver pennies were mentioned in the 4th ed rules as the amount that a Redcap would earn. Pounds of silver were also used in 4th ed to talk of the amount of debt a covenant might have or amount it might earn.
Originally, we looked at some comparative money rules from Pendragon where a Pound was equal to 240 pennies. This value made the silver penny almost worthless. We realized then that the silver penny was more appropriately measured as the shilling or 20 shillings equalls 1 pound.
Pendragon uses the value that a knight earns and uses around 6 pounds a year in goods an upkeep maintenance ( 4 without a wife and family but he loses the wife's value to income which is the 2 pounds in savings ). A value of 50 silver pennies would be roughly 2.5 pounds of silver or equal to the value of money generated and consumed by 2.5 peasent famlies ( that is labour produced and consumed in food, clothes, small crafts like sewing and weaving ).
This valuation works pretty well and you can use it with the great big price list that you can find a Duremar.
You mean the Redcap stipend listed in the 4e virtue? 4 silver pennies per visit does seem small, though note free room and board, legal rights in the Order, enchanted items given.
But mapping a silver penny to a shilling seems way too much in general, to me. 4e gives many other numbers: 2 pounds to support a peasant family for a year; 5 pounds for a prosperous peasant (covenant improvements, I think); 25 pounds for a landed knight's family; but also 400 pennies as the free income of a prosperous peasant, and 2000 for a knight or merchant (various virtues). 2000 pennies is 8.33 pounds, which could make sense as what's left from the 25 pounds after feeding the people and horses and servants and maintaining his arms. 2000 shillings would be 100 pounds.
And web-research of the economics of the time leads me to believe that 1-4 pennies was standard daily wage for a laborer to skilled craftsman, depending on time, penny quality, and whether room and board were provided (in which case a basic laborer might get one penny a week). (And of course people may have been handling bartered food or small change, not actual silver, much of the time; it's a unit of account as much as anything else.) These numbers also all link up with the 80 pounds of gold in 5e Touch of Midas, assuming a historically accurate silver:gold ratio of 10-13:1 (vs the modern 80:1).
Now, the Redcap stipend/visit and the Blackmail amount might make more sense as shillings, depending on other relative incomes, how many visits the Redcap is making (one a season? 2 a month?), who you're blackmailing -- 2.5 pounds would be non-trivial for a knight to pay out.
There were other things as well that we had as numbers like 4e +3 Virtue Wealth was described as 700 silver pennies.
The term penny by the authors was unfortunate because it leads to thinking that this is the lowest of the monetary units.
I run a Redcap character and had to point out that if the penny fee was being paid in the British Penny that I could not afford more than a single night in an inn for all my troubles of traveling from one covenant to the next much less pay for ship passage ( needed for my Redcap that lives in Novgorod and needs to travel from Sweeden to Poland to Russia to cover the tribunal ).
I do agree that the authors were very inconsistent with monetary amounts. The section on covenants in 4e gave several contradictory valuations when we looked at the amounts to try and work out how much our covenant debt worked out to be and how we were going to raise enough money to pay for it.
Fixing Arcane Connections: It takes a season and 1 pawn of raw vis, but no Lab Total. Is it a laboratory activiity? If so, how does it relate to the 'multiple laboratory activities' rule, since it has no Lab Total?
Practice Spells: It says you gain 5 XP in Mastery, by casting the spell repeatedly. What about Ritual spells? Can't they be Mastered? Do you only gain 3 XP, since you can't cast them repeatedly (without a HUGE cost and chance to botch)?
Most ritual spells would be mastered by studing what others have written on the subject. Some might be cast several times over several years (take Aegis of the Heart for example), and this might count as practice after a number of years.
While true, I'm looking for a clarification on whether they can be Practiced to gain the XP just like regular spells. As written, the Practice rules are not clear on this point IMO.
Personally, BTW, I would simply allow them to be practice, assuming "blank runs" where the magus doesn't really cast them, he just goes through the motions. I might require one casting throughout the Season, no more. Casting an unmastered ritual is risk intensive and costly, I don't think slowing down mastery or disallowing Practice seasons entirely is warranted.
Circle Target: What does "at the time of casting" refer to? Does it refer to the ring, so that everything that enters the ring is affected, or to the targets, so that only something that was within the circle at the time of casting is affected?
Until duration: just what does the "primary target" means? The duration ends when it dies, but what is it? (I understand "target", but what's "primary"?)
Bloodline target: the last sentence says the spell can be designed to not induce Warping; supposedly, it can only not induce Warping due to being a powerful mystical effect, like a longevity potion. The text should clarify that.
It's not clear when requisites should be applied, apart from when they're explicitly listed. There's a base for animating a corpse, with no req, and two zombie spells which use that base, only one of which lists a Mentem req. There's a ReHe base for making a plant move with intelligence; no req listed, nor sample spells. MuHe Curse of the Haunted Forest has Perdo as a Req, but looks like it should also have Mentem.
I note that the base level of speaking with different elements varies; this seems likely to be deliberate, but one wonders, and a line somewhere might clear this up. The difficulty for animae roughly tracks this, I think, but not exactly, e.g. the gap between Mutoing a Terram faerie and talking to rock normally is wider than for other elements. (While for Herbam the gap is zero.)
There's no guideline in InMe for detecting a ghost.
Some discussion somewhere of where the various spell guidelines came from would be nice, though I can appreciate this being a low priority for a page-limited rulebook.