Experimentation & extra botch dice due to magical aura


With 2 seasons you can implement a greater Feature/Focus that grant you +7

... had to re-read the convenant and the +4 becomes +7.

Seems much better than investing in safety to experiment & get maybe a simple die bonus + addl risk factor if you dont get bad results on the experimental table & still get a chance to blow yourself and the entire convenant up!

Without Magic aura botches, experimentating is a risky business. With Magic aura botches, it becomes a story element to say xyz blew themselves off and we need to send a rescue team. No sane magi would experiment.


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Maybe because you already installed a Greater Feature/Focus, and it's still not enough for your Lab Total?

Yes, when you experiment, you risk your lab being blown, that's why you invest in Safety. Also, experimentation can grant you a new spell that's just a little beyond your reach to research in time for the big event that's been foreshadowed. Or in time to get it to the Bonisagus Folio. or for an enchantment you've been wanting to do.

Not every Magi will experiment, I have a Bjornaer who deliberately set up his lab such that he cannot experiment in it. But that's him. He's careless when he casts spells, but he's against experimenting in his lab, go figure.
But some Magi will experiment once in a while. And some Magi will be happy to experiment most times. Each choice is fine.

Also keep in mind, even if your experiment failed, when you try it again, you gain your MT score twice to your Lab Total. You've learned something from your failure.

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I feel like a lot of people have really pushed in one direction. Experimentation is not only for original research. It's also for getting a higher lab total. This is why ErikT mentioned experimentation in general.

So what if you're doing it for a higher lab total? Walking out of a level-5 Aura to a non-Aura in those cases is taking a -5 penalty (or -8 if you have Inventive Genius) to try to gain it back. That roughly balances the die roll while making things riskier (didn't have to experiment to just get the Aura bonus). If you throw in more risk, you're adding more botch dice, which is what you were theoretically trying to avoid by going to the non-Aura. That doesn't seem worth the effort, especially since you can boost Safety and get a specialty in experimentation that applies to any experimental project in your higher Aura. So I'm pretty sure anyone experimenting to get a higher lab total will just stick to the higher Aura.

And then, if they've already got that lab (Safety, good Aura, experimentation specialty), is there a reason they would want to make a second lab in the non-Aura? So the whole non-Aura argument feels to me like we're exclusively looking at magi who wouldn't normally experiment and are only doing original research. And even then, those magi will have to consider which place will be protected as their sanctum, their home and main lab or the place they're doing their original research. That to me makes it seem like there are tradeoffs and different people could well go different directions, probably resulting in more magi doing their original research in an Aura.

In addition to the Safety of the lab, some things will also reduce the number of botch dice, such as a familiar's gold cord.

Only applies if the result of your experimentation is flawed. This means that if you didn't meet the required labtotal, roll No benefit + something else, Complete failiure or ofcourse disaster, you do not get to count MT twice should you try again.

They could also have spent the time to setup a lab with less/no safety in a null aura, spending that extra time on Arts or Lab specialisations. Inventive genius applies as much in a null aura experiementation then it does in a non null aura. I really don't see why you would want to ruin a lab with wasted safety in a good aura setting. Use that extra time/space/ressource to increase the general quality or a specialty... unless the experimentation subject is something within the aura. If you are really serious about experimentation, seek a safe null aura spot and setup your experimentating lab there. Jerbiton's probably have a few to rent/let out if it is just for a one time thing.

True and it just adds to the case of not wasting time/ressources in safety in a lab.


You're right. No -8. But my calculation was for -5 for just the Aura, so the analysis is fine.

I think you misunderstand how Safety is determined. Let's say I want a good lab to experiment in. What is my target? Experimentation. So I build that up, and I get notably more with some Refinement. Refinement plus a Gold Cord very quickly gives you plenty of Safety without ever having to put time into Safety. So your suggestion for this experimentalist is to spend extra seasons building the no-aura lab for no benefit, right?

I think he understands upgrading safety as a bad upgrade, in comparison to upgrading your lab total, GQ, etc. Which is usually true. So he's trying to find ways to avoid upgrading safety, yet experiment. I can understand the reasoning, but I think it's missing the point most of the time. There are valid reasons to build more than one lab... saving seasons on upgrading safety isn't a good one.

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Right. No reason except to have a chance to survive & get the same benefits as the high Aura location.

This experimentalist needs to survive to his golden cord age with his costly refined lab and secured location in a risky high aura environment. He'll get there eventually if he survives 20-40 years to get there.

Prior to that, he has the choice of (A being setting up a lab in an idyllic Magical Aura 7 or B in a null Aura)

A) Getting +7 in two seasons in lab specialisation toward say spells in a null Aura location
B) Spending two seasons to get lab safety up to gap about -5 safety (Damaged (-1) or Wreked (-2)(from previous magi lab disaster), Abyss (-2), aFire (-3), Chaotic (-2), Cursed (-X), Gremlins (-3), etc.

High magic aura have high magic aura's for a reason which should often come with a corresponding safety concerns but I think most folks avoid to add up these. System does not attribute properly safety concerns in my humble opinion. Folks seem to think they only need to offset the Aura botches & ignore the innate safety concerns that come with Supernatural Aura's.

So this young magi tries to establish himself in this aura 7 location but quickly realises he needs to spend a year or two on safety just to avoid rolling to see if you directly have a disaster (while you have negative safety) & he gets 7 extra botch dices which makes it crazy!. If he wants to experiment, as he should being a young magus with many projects and no arts, he has 7 extra botch dices from the aura making it very likely that his lab will suffer another Wrecking experience for the next experimentation magi to deal with.

Seems like a no brainer that this young magi needs to experiment in the null Aura location... or die.

It probably fits into the seasons of Alliances where young magi just cannot settle in High aura locations leaving those Alliances turn to Winter. There are probably a few Mythic locations where you have great Aura's with under control safety concerns but I see most locations as having one or the other.


I'm confused. Option A is "idyllic Magical Aura" in a "null Aura location"? That's contradictory. And I'm not sure why all these things showed up for "B in a null Aura." Did you change your labeling in the middle?

Now, for comparison. First, I don't think Aura +7 is very average. I don't think I've ever played with an Aura that high. Is that really fairly average in your games, or are you choosing something rather extreme to be representative of typical? This is why I was working off an Aura of 5. 5 may be a little over average, but it seems to be pretty popular.

So, with an Aura of 5 v. an Aura of 0, what could we do? 2 seasons setting up our labs leaves us with something useful in either case. Now we'll also note that we could do something like take Inferior Equipment along with Spacious in the Aura 5 lab during those same 2 seasons. Let's say we do that. Our 5-Aura lab is at +2 botch dice due to Aura and Safety +3, and has +4 to all work due to Aura and General Quality -1.

You proposed 2 more seasons of work as acceptable for our young mage, so I'll use your suggested 2 seasons:

  • No aura: Major Focus/Feature for experimentation (since that's the goal).
  • +5 Aura: Refinement +1, Superior Tools, Minor Focus/Feature for experimentation.

Let's compare these two labs that are both done fairly early in the career, looking at the particulars:

  • No Aura: Aura 0, General Quality -2, Experimentation +7
  • +5 Aura: Aura 5, General Quality -2, Experimentation +3, Safety +5

So after your two suggested seasons my more typical-aura lab has the same botch dice as yours but gets me +1 more toward experimentation.

Now let's look related bits as well. If we started with labs at the covenant, this process takes fewer seasons for mine. With one more season I can upgrade to Major Feature/Focus, upgrading faster than the other lab can be done. When I get a Gold Cord, I have things I can sacrifice to give up excess Safety in return for the things I want. So it's likely I can hit this superior point faster, and I can improve faster from it as well.

(Now, personally, I'd actually have other people setting most things up, and I really prefer multiple small labs. But most people don't seem to do things these ways, so I didn't bother delving into that.)

Yes. Sorry about that. Thanks for sorting it out

I agree that a lot of troupes design Aura's at level 5 to avoid dealing with warping of the covenfolk and the environment itself. Also true that level 5 Aura's should be more common then level 7. I just opted for 7 to match the easy +7 in lab specialisation that you get in two seasons but level 5 is fine. Even at level 5, you seem to omit all environmental hazards that affect safety. This is a whole balance of covenant that is being ignored in your assesment. I think it would be fair to expect 2/3rds of the aura rating impacting safety negatively with various flaws for an addl. -3 to safety to your example.

Adjusting for the risk factor of the supernatural aura, safety is now Zero which is fine and does not cause immediate alarm.

Assuming our young mage has enough magic theory & ressources this works fine except safety is merely +2.

Not 100% acurate. The lab focus does grant a -2 to all activities except the activity in focus so the null aura lab provides +7 toward experimentation. Can also for one season get another +1 with refinement which requires magic theory 4 and might take some time to get MT 5+ for further refinement. The Aura lab grants +8 but carries 3 extra botch dices if experimentating. As the gold cord kicks in, you get to increase the risk for free in the null aura lab.

You'll also note that your main lab now is specialised in Experimentation with time wasted on safety. Two things you'll never get back. Your lab can only have two Specialisations so you probably want the 2nd one to be familiar as you do not want to experiment on that activity. So no extra on all the rest (Spells, objects, Longivity, etc.).

Situation becomes increasingly untenable as the aura is stronger. Even just at 6 you need more safety and it gets harder to get it. At 7 you might just as well forget it... until you are a mature magi & by then, you have better things to do then experimentation to have an extra die to lab total.

I think we can agree that in a low aura setting (1-5) you can manage experimentation if the setting does not have too much inherent safety hazards. Above that, it becomes increasingly taxing and probably warrants having a lab in a lower/null aura for experimentation needs.


What??? I can pretty much guarantee that's nothing close to typical. Personally, I've seen a lot more Superior Construction than all those put together. I've also left out the season-free servant I could have added for another +1ish to Safety. How many of these scenarios that give Safety -3 to start are at all typical? (Remember, this isn't just the covenant, but the lab itself. For example, the covenant may be a thoroughfare, but that doesn't mean the lab is, and the lab itself must be for this Flaw.)

No, no. You've misread something. You have +7 to the specialization and -2 to General Quality for a net +5. You don't get to sometimes ignore General Quality:

General Quality adds to all Lab Totals. This bonus (or penalty, if the General Quality is negative) applies in addition to any other Lab Total adjustments (such as from Specializations).

Lesser Focus nets +1 to your specialization at the expense of -1 to everything else.
Greater Focus nets +2 to your specialization at the expense of -2 to everything else.

You know 3 is the standard, right? 5 is high-ish, but a fairly common high-ish - not really a low-aura setting. And I mentioned both grabbing a Servant and that Safety -3 is highly atypical. As it's not until 6 or maybe 7 (all Aura or some negative Safety thing) that we cannot handle this so quickly; up to there we can manage this without much trouble. It's really only in the extremes you're looking at (Yes, 6ish for an average Aura and Safety -3 Flaws are both extreme.) where we run into real problems.

That's why I put my comment at the end. I usually use multiple, small labs with a dedicated servant or two. It avoids so many of these issues and it means much of the upgrading of labs takes no magus-seasons.

I remember locating a reply from the author a long time ago but I can't locate it...

"Greater Focus: An existing Greater Feature is the overwhelming focus of the lab, enhancing the Feature, but making activities that do not involve its use more difficult."

I see the argument stating that a net +2 instead of a +4 in the specialization is not making it more difficult. Still, it makes it much worse then the +3 that the greater Feature gives without any drawbacks. Was the intent for the flaw to grant an addl +2 at the cost of -2 for everything? Seems overly costly



It's a Flaw!!! You also get +3 unoccupied Size for it. That's huge!

I wonder... I only played games where the Aura's were always 5+ when PC's had the choice to find a site... How many of us chose to set the main PC convenant in a 0-3 magical aura? 7 might be on the high range of all aura's but my perception is that for a campaign, PC end up closer to that than 3.

And I agree, overwhelmingly, we all lean toward forgetting to add safety hazards when designing the convenant. A bit because the campaign start usually does not use the convenant rules. Partly because the implementation of them would put the work so far of the PC's in jeopardy and the troupe decides not to apply the -3 safety hazard for the disruptive spirits (Gremlins) or the bottomless pit (-2 safety) or being underwater (-2). There are many listed in the convenant book but I don't think many get to be used yet I think it is a core element of the book to balance high aura settings that if used properly would see us settling more often in lower auras... I think this aspect should be located in the core rule book & then convenant can come to the rescue with lab safety :slight_smile:


I think our current Aura is 3 - we had a choice of 3 sites, one was only aura 2, IIRC.

For what it's worth, auras over 5 are supposed to be unusual choices for covenant sites, because such high auras are hazardous. They Warp the covenfolk, and implicitly have other potential effects. If the rules mean that experimentation is too dangerous in those auras, then that is a desirable side effect, not a problem.


My lab in play is +18 Safety and only +2 of that comes from enchantments to improve Safety (I recreated existing items, otherwise wouldn't have done it). Unless you are trying not to, safety will generally end up being high for any lab in which you use the rules in Covenants for.

As for Aura, our Covenant has the Magi located on the Magic Aura 5 level, even though there was one level with a Magic Aura 6 (and now there is an even deeper one). The top level of a Regio if you are very magically active tends to be unstable and dangerous. If its Aura goes up or even worse if a split happens all kinds of bad stuff can occur. Warping everyone on it enough to send Magi into twilight, along with all the contends being scatter shot across two levels, were our biggest deterrents as Magi.

The fact that it would have warped our covenfolk and had activities happening around the anchors of the Aura also contributed. Later after the split and the Aura 6 level being stable it just wasn't worth the effort to try to move the Magi there. That level is tiny in size (the Aura 3, 4, and 5 have been expanded by Hermetic Architecture) and so we use it to house plants and animals of Virtue to free up space on the lower levels.

Nice story but lets look at the lab examples of the convenant book p.123.

Lab safety values

-1, 0, -7, 0, 0, +1, 0, -2, -3

So.... a lab @ +18 safety would take us well beyond the presented normal of the rule book. Is it indicative of a rule problem, some kind of exploit that PC's should just avoid or the typical in the wild lab safety value?

Almost feels like labs should be designed as antagonists, wild beasts that need to be tamed & that none should be designed with a positive safety unless it serves a story hook. Atleast, it seems to be how convenant presents them...


The whole lab including enchanted items has been posted on the forums for almost three years now. The single biggest contributor is Refinement (adds +7 Safety in my lab). If you have appropriate craftsmen as part of the Covenant then you can get Superior Tools and Superior Equipment without the increased Upkeep, which also adds +2 Safety. If the building the lab is in is created by magic you can get Superior Construction which is another +1 Safety. Servant is a cheap way to get a bonus to Safety.

The examples are good for showing a broad range of options but all but one have +0 or +1 Refinement, several have a LOT of Size which is detrimental to Safety, and things like Decaying/Damp/Lightless which would rarely be taken in play are very common.

-1: Decaying and no improvements. Not a Lab most Magi would ever use.
0: Decaying, Lightless, little improvement. A "scary" lab, for the beginning Perdo specialist who wants that. Working in it would be difficult.
-7: A ruin abandoned for a long time. Damp, Decaying, Uneven Floor, Unstable, Vulnerable, Wreaked, etc. Not something you will see as a Magi's lab in play.
0: Visitor labs with drawbacks. Cramped is -2 Safety and not something you will often find in personal labs.
0: Disorganized, which is the opposite of what you will often find (Highly Organized). With a little work this would be a fine lab for a Herbam specialist though.
+1: Size +6 (!!!) and only Refinement +3 for an Archmagus lab?! It is designed specifically to get high Aesthetics (+15) rather than being a working lab.
0: This is a field lab, rather than one at a Covenant. Good example of setting up something at a site to study it though.
-2: Another lab that could be described as a field lab. It is just setup in a cave with no improvements. It has Health -8 which is like living in a garbage dump. It will cut 40 years off a Magi's lifespan.
-3: Poor quality everything, infested with webs, low ceiling and uneven floor, bad heating and lighting. For almost any task this lab is worse than a default all 0 lab.

Almost all the examples seem to go for flavor, picking really out there combinations and lots of flaws. Half are ether decaying messes or a rough field lab. All but the Archmagi's have little to no Refinement. None are a good example of what you will generally see in play.