Experimentation & extra botch dice due to magical aura

It's not the best, it's the safest. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If you are throwing magic around in ways you do not understand, having less ambient magic around would, intuitively, be safer. If you aren't experimenting to increase your Lab Total, it might well be best to do it in an area with no aura, and a good Safety score for your lab. You'll be outside the Aegis, though…

Definitely a house rule. While "magic auras" is sometimes loosely used to mean "supernatural auras", it is never used to mean "supernatural auras, excluding Magic".

I think this can be left up to troupes. I would be inclined to say "yes", because this is just saying that you do get botch dice from Magic auras.

I will go with my proposal. I don't see a good enough reason to change the RAW, but it does need clarifying.

Thanks, everyone.

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That's why I said, it's what a modern scientist would certainly do.
But in my view, mythically, it makes more sense for a wizard to seek mystical insight while at a mystically relevant location, rather than in a place with no magic at all. The current mechanics do not support this.


But the mechanics do support that. Being in a Magic aura gives you a higher lab total, hence better chances of reaching your goal. And if it also increases the risks, well anyone using the experimentation rules is obviously not all that worried about the potential risks, or they wouldn't experiment in the first place.
So to re-iterate what David said - a mundane spot would not be the best place to experiment, merely the safest place, which is a different thing.

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I personally like the fact that the safest and the best approaches are different and not compatible. It gives real options, not just the stacking of identical bonus, so each inventor and inventor's lab don't look the same.

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No. If you look at the mechanics of Original Research, you'll see that trading each +1 to Lab Total for a botch die is almost never worth it, even if you just look at the expected time to complete your project.

This is circular logic. It's like saying that "Oh, obviously it's not a problem if a battlesword in ArM5 mechanics is inferior to a stick as a weapon, because clearly if you are using a battlesword you are not worried about combat potential or you would not be using a battlesword at all.

I would agree wholeheartedly were there a reasonable balance. Imagine if the casting rules said: "When you cast a spell you have the option to go all out. You can choose to go all out before making any casting roll. If you go all out flip a coin - heads, you get a +1 bonus to your casting total, tails the spell botches". That fails to provide "real options".

Let me ask: how often do your magi engage in experimental research, unless they are custom built for it, possibly because of Personality Flaws? A game has good mechanics if each is viable "often enough" (in other words, if it's a "real option"). If there's a mechanic that never gets used except by a) newbie players who do not know better or b) jaded old players who want to show off playing a Flambeau who's a Non-combatant with Unstructured Caster, Weak Enchanter, Difficult and Weak Spontaneous Magic, then that's a bad mechanic. It's bad because it steepens the learning curve, without rewarding the players with richer gameplay; it's also bad because it possibly induces novice players to make otherwise avoidable mistakes. I contend that, in this sense, Experimentation is a bad mechanic in ArM5, because the expected costs are excessive compared to the expected gains; it wasn't in ArM3, even though it's almost unchanged, because the rest of the mechanical framework was different. Anything that makes Experimentation more worthwhile improves it.

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The rules for experimentation weren't written with Original Research in mind - they can't have been since the OR rules came later. I haven't been talking about OR, but the experimentation rules in general.

So what you are really complaining about isn't the Experimentation rules, but that the OR rules use a mechanic (experimentation) that you don't think works well for it.

Sorry, but you are not making any sense at all. Your example quote is complete nonsense and not at all like what I was saying.

Doing experimentation gives you a bonus to your Lab Total in exchange for increased risk.
Experimenting in a magical aura (as opposed to no aura) gives you another bonus to your Lab Total in exchange for even greater risk.
If you consider increased risk a big problem, you shouldn't be doing experimentation in the first place.

That's what I was saying, just in a bit more detail, and there is no circular logic involved.

Fair enough, though I was talking about Original Research in the post you objected to. But nevermind, let's focus on plain corebook, the "completely average" magus, and the "completely average" Covenant in a +3 Magic Aura. This means 3 additional botch dice if you experiment (beyond the initial one) even if you take no additional risk.

Now, you are getting about a 1-in-6 chance that your season is completely wasted, or worse (botch, complete failure, side effect with major or fatal flaw), and a 3-out-of-4 chance of getting a +1-to+10 bonus to your lab (much of which is likely wasted unless you are working on a project requiring many seasons). This alone should make most magi avoid it on the basis that it slows you down unless a) it's better to have a chance of being faster than usual even if most likely you'll be slower and incur horrible consequences or b) you are working on a project for which your Lab total yields only very, very few points of advancement per season (in which case, it's still not worth it, see below).

If the season is completely wasted, there's about a 1-in-3 chance that the entire project is destroyed (slightly more than 1 in 20 - so it's absolutely not worth experimenting on long projects, e.g. ones taking more than half a dozen seasons, if you have access to some decent tractatus to improve your Arts), and if it happens, there's about a 50/50 chance that the entire lab is destroyed, other possessions of the magus are lost, he gets killed, the entire covenant is endangered etc.

Now, arguably, if the season is not wasted, you are in expectation gaining maybe an extra 1xp (well, technically less but...), and there's maybe a 1-in-10 chance of your effect being somewhat improved. But frankly, the risks of a catastrophic outcome are sufficiently high that no sane person I know in the real world would take them, unless in an otherwise life-or-death situation.


I'm going to make an awfully simple point. Most magi are going to have a lab. Most magi will want that lab in a high magic aura, if they can help it. All things being equal, it's almost always going to be a better option to spend 2 seasons improving the safety, if you're scared, than it is spending 2 seasons building a new lab in a mundane aura because you're afraid, and it's likely labs in aura 0s aren't available just in case someone's too lazy to improve their lab, yet too afraid of blowing up.

Why waste 2 seasons for safety when you can gain +4 bonus and not experiment?

Also, setting up a lab just to experiment in a no aura takes 1 season... but you can only experiment.



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.