Flexible Formulaic magic

Afternoon all!

I'm looking at Flexible Formulaic magic and trying to think up some crafty uses of it. Obviously it can be exceptionally useful and things that immediately look good are bumping diameter to sun and sun to moon. Very useful. The targets aren't so good because Part lies between Individual and group, but some terram combat spells are part target and this opens up a whole range of options there for mass carnage, or does it? Can you use group as a multiple group of parts? For instance, to cast multiple Hands of Grasping Earth at once?

One obvious advantage that requires some custom spells is to make spells that you would cast on yourself as personal range. Then use FFM to bump it up to touch to cast on others. Saves time in the lab. You could bump some touch combat spells up to voice, or voice to sight but you begin to run into penetration problems by adding levels to combat spells.

Could be very useful with a lot of mentem spells being eye range, you could boost them to voice (much handier) but still use all the mastery books that would be plentiful for the common spells. One nasty one might be to bump momentary duration combat spells to concentration, so a pilum of fire that just keeps on burning the guy you sic it on might work.

Can anyone else think of any other excellent uses of FFM that aren't immediately obvious?

I remember inventing a bunch of spells at T: Part, so that FFM could make them T: Ind or T: Group as needed.

Two uses that are not obviously by the RAW, and that I think every troupe should address before allowing the Virtue are:

  1. To change between Ranges, Targets, or Durations that have the same modifier: e.g. from R:Eye to R:Touch.
  2. To add/remove modifiers for Size within the same Target category (so form T:Ind, to T:Ind +1 Size), perhaps combining that with a change in Target (e.g. from T:Group, to T:Ind, +3 size, which is a one-magnitude increase).

In my view, these uses are technically forbidden by the letter of the rules, but (particularly 1) they might seem compatible with the spirit of the rules, and I've seen many troupes allow them, perhaps in part.

One devilish use of Flexible Formulaic Magic that some (many?) troupes disallow is to give your spell a non-standard Range, Duration, or Target "on the fly". If allowed, although it will sacrifice a bit of "oomph" (since without a specific Virtue non-standard R/D/Ts are typically slightly higher level than the closest standard equivalent) it can provide a lot of flexibility.

It's also a clever way to bypass the limitation of Flexible Formulaic Magic (if enforced) that prevents one from changing between R/D/Ts of the same magnitude: if you want to move from D:Diam to D:Conc, find something "similar" to D:Conc (say, D:Smile, lasts as long as you keep smiling), and boost your D:Diam spell up one magnitude to get to this new Range.

  1. Combine it with sponted MuVi effects (or even a Grand Talisman effect or a ReVi Hermetic Therugy spirit), and design all your spells at Personal Range and Instant Duration - use the MuVi effect to bump them up (when relevant) to Touch and Concentration. This allows you to....

  2. Use Rego Vim enchantments (ie, Tunnels and Maintain the Demanding Spell) to add on what amounts to up to Range: Sight and D: Month to everything you cast. Note that enchantments use the "Rego vim on others" guideline for Maintenance spells, rather than the "Rego Vim on self" guideline - but due to the way Vim spells have large magnitude bonuses, it's actually easier at low levels to cast these spells on someone else's magic. (Also, locating a Tunnel if you don't cast it yourself may be tricky - personally, I rule that if you know exactly where it is created, you can access it without difficulty.)

  3. Combine with Flexible Formulaic, and you can get your spells from lvl 5 to the equivalent of lvl 40, consistently. (MuVi +1 Range and +1 Duration, ReVi +2 Range and +2 Duration, FFM +1 Target) - although the actual casting levels never get greater than (original spell +10), for Maintain the Demanding Spell, I believe.

It's very good against things that are ordinarily 1-3 sizes too big, like a giant, or especially large groups.

If you're in a game where most spells are invented from scratch, choosing a Target of Ind+1 lets you go down to Ind or up to Group.

If you're in a game with lots of texts for canonical spells, mastery for one spell gives you mastery over all of its variants. You cannot add +5 damage to Arc of Fiery Ribbons, but you can extend the Range to Sight, spell as written hitting everything in range.

Choosing between Conc and Diam is always nice. Going from Mom to Conc (or Diam) can be interesting; have fun deciding what a BoAF does over a Diam. (I would think that it just causes its damage every round, but...)

Combining FFM with Virtues that grant utterly new RTDs is probably a good trick. Some of these are usually too situational to be of general use, but it's not a problem for you.

Going from Touch to Self bypasses Parma.

Another trick is to maximize the effect of your Lab Total by learning lots of 5th level spells. By raising one of RTD, these become level 10 spells: You've doubled the effect of your Lab Total! More than doubled, since each 5th level spell can become many 10th levels. Of course, these are not the most useful spells, but some characters really like not having to spont these things. The same idea applies more generally to level 10 spells, though less efficiently. This works best when there are lots of lab texts available, since inventing level 5 spells from scratch is very inefficient.

Another trick is to invent spells that are just out of reach. If you want to invent a level 30 spell from scratch, but need two seasons, if your Lab Total is around 50, just invent the level 25 version and upcast. Essentially, the virtue increased your Lab Total by 10! That's kind of good.

FFM combines nicely with virtues that boost formulaic casting totals.



An alternative I prefer is a large Individual Target, x10 size. But I'm not 100% that this follows the Flexible Formulaic Magic rules properly. (Oh, missed that same suggestion inside Ovary's post.)

I really like Ovarwa's points about increasing effective lab totals.


It's one of the reasons that Hermetic Theurgy, as written, is bad. It looks like you get the benefits of FFM, but changing the context loses a lot of the benefits. You don't get the benefits to Lab Totals, you don't get the benefit of growing into spells that you will eventually upcast most of the time (or downcast in an adverse Aura; instead you are stuck with a boat anchor that never grows with you), you don't get to downcast to Target: Self or even have access to that target in a meaningful way.

FFM is a very good virtue if you are permitted to do both of these:

  • trade for an equivalent level RDT (technically, doing this doesn't raise or lower the level by 5)
  • increase or decrease the size (technically, the target remains Ind or Group or whatever)

But it's not worth taking in a game where the group allows a Mastery that allows any part of this virtue, since FM is already better than FFM before stealing some of FFM's thunder: Take FM instead; the GM wants you to.



Great thoughts all, exactly what I was looking for

This from Ovarwa however is perfect.

Makes a whole bunch of spells very powerful to cast in the middle of combat without dropping your parma and rendering yourself vulnerable. I like the idea of combining it with MuVi magic to even further mess with the parameters.

And I guess this virtue use does indeed depend on Fafnirs two criteria, and also with the availability of mastery texts for canonical spells. If these texts are plentiful, then its exceedingly powerful. If they are very rare, then its not as potent. Somewhat like Flawless magic, although I'd argue even more so, since with flawless magic, the doubled study total makes practicing mastery a viable option.

Flawless Magic is great even if there isn't a single book about mastery:

Every spell you know...

  • loses one botch die, possibly resulting in zero botch dice. There is only one other virtue in the game available to Hermetic Magi that can do this.
  • gains the Mastery Ability of your choice. Subtle for sneaky spells, penetration for spells that must work, etc.
  • all the other benefits of Mastery 1

.. and you don't have to do anything special to make this happen.

And, if you do want more Mastery, you get a net 10xp per season, without needing a library or an Aura or anything else. That's extremely valuable in some sagas.

Unless you try hard, it isn't the most efficient virtue right out of Gauntlet, but it requires little system mastery to work really well. With system mastery or optimization or years out of Gauntlet, it just gets better. The only way to ruin FM is by taking Flaws that ruin your Formulaic Magic.

FFM is lackluster without effort and reasonable system mastery.

Agreed. Then again, Theurgy gives you other advantages (e.g. decent level spontaneous magic that you can't botch), synergizes well with a Spirit Focus, and (last but not least) is a Minor Virtue.

I disagree!

Consider a game with the following mastery ability.
Focus: you can reduce the Range, Duration or Target of your spell to achieve higher penetration. When you select this ability, choose either the Range, Duration or Target of the spell, and one specific way in which it could be lowered so as to reduce the spell magnitude by 1; for example, changing Range from Sight to Voice, or Duration from Moon to Sun. The reduced R/D/T cannot allow results unachievable with original R/D/T (e.g. you cannot reduce R:Touch to R:Self to bypass Parma, or D:Moon to D:Ring since D:Ring could potentially last longer). You may then cast the spell with the reduced R/D/T and gain a +5 Penetration bonus.

I can very well see games and character concepts (say, a Hermetic Shapeshifter) that make FFM a better choice than FM even if the mastery above is allowed. Of course, the easier it is for FM to mimick FFM, the higher the value of the former and the narrower the range of situations in which the latter is a better choice. In general, I think that the large number of masteries introduced after the core book came out, and the even larger number that many troupes allow, have significantly improved the value of FM, which was not bad even "by the core book alone"; but that's another issue.


... that you're probably better off without even with the Spirit Focus; or, at least, maybe do this if you have a MMF with Spirits, but this is a Bad reason to take the focus. The spontaneous magic version isn't very good: You can botch the spell you cast. The spont does not grow with you. You can't spont Self range spells. You must spend an extra round. You need to learn a specific spell not only for every TeFo, but for every specific Te(reqs X)Fo(reqs Y), and the chances are that you can already spont spells of that kind reasonably well if you can learn the associated Theurgic Spell in reasonable time. You will probably have to invent just about every spell of this sort from scratch, unlike normal spells, because mystery cultists tend to be few in number and secretive by nature.

I had really really wanted this to work. But it's a great big pit of Why Bother. There are far better ways to be a spirit master. There are far better ways to be good at spontaneous magic. There are far better ways to twist forumlaic spells.

You are absolutely right:

This subset of FFM that manages to provide something so is not totally worthless, yet gets so close that it is almost never worth taking. Indeed, the Mastery you propose does not steal any of FFM's thunder. I stand corrected.



The way I like to have FFM work is to allow changing one of the parameters: Range, Duration, Target plus size modifier or 'general power' by by up to one magnitude.

So I'd allow change from Touch to Eye or Diam to Conc, even though this is not technically "a change of one magnitude". It seems counterproductive to me to allow greater changes, but not these. But even though it is "free" this is the only change you can make.
Apart from the normal parameters R, D, T I also consider the size modifier of the Target a legal parameter to change. It makes sense, since a change of a Target category often does nothing. E.g. a Perdo Corpus spell won't affect a Giant Blooded human, and bumping up a Target category from Ind to Part does nothing.

As for considering 'general power' as a parameter to change...maybe it's too much? And sometimes it's not easily grasped. I'm thinking allowing a change of one magnitude up or down of the guideline. For some Terram spells this allows you to affect a more difficult (noble?) material. For Perdo Copus you can inflict greater (or smaller) wounds. For Ignem spells you can affect greater fires. For Rego Corpus you can increase the teleportation distance category. But for a lot of spells this thing makes less sense. I know this makes the idea bad, and that MutoVim can easily cover this. But IMHO the whole point of FFM is to avoid bothering with MuVi.

My favourite major hermetic virtue by far is Flawless Magic. Initially I thought the feature of automatically mastery all spells invented was cool. But in time I've grown more fond of the double source quality for studying mastery. A lot of spells my magi emply gain little or no benefit from any mastery, so normally I would not have bothered. But I get mastery 1 for free anyway. But for spells where I want high mastery score and lots of mastery abilities the increase in source quality is unsurpassed. I'm not too concerned about the reduced Botch dice, this is rarely an issue in my groups. People rarely botch, even if rolling a bucketful of dice, or they are constantly botching when only rolling one die.

A "Flexible Casting" mastery would be nice. HMRE has this option for integrating Gruagachan magic IIRC, but I find it problematic in a single detail. If you can change spells up or down equal to mastery score x2, then you need Mastery 3 for this to mean anything, since you most often change spells in multipla of 5 levels, when changing parameters. Sure, you can do the "zero-level change" of e.g. Eye to Touch change etc, however this is neither mentioned as possible nor impossible, so how does one interpret it? Also, at the other end of the scale, a mastery score of 5 allows a change of full 10 levels, normally 2 magnitudes! I prefer changes limited to a single parameter a single magnitude.
My fix would be to simply rule the change to be in par with Unravelling/Rebuttal and call it Masteryx3, and limit to a single magnitude change. Sure, Mastery 1 still blows, but you can do the "zero level change", and already at Mastery 2 you can do the thing. And you don't need higher mastery for this, so there is no inflation.

I'm reasonably certain that, as written, FFM does not allow 'general power' to be changed.

But it could be a good reason to take a Minor Magical Focus in Magic Spirits, perhaps with Theurgic/Spirit Familiar, and ideally with Mercurian Magic!

Most of the points you make are valid (though there are some caveats: e.g. while you could botch it's much easier to avoid botch dice, and while you need an extra round to instruct your spirits, you can in fact summon them in advance with just a minor boost to duration). The key, again, is that Hermetic Theurgy is a Minor Virtue, that gives one many advantages. It's ok if most or all of those are minor, and if many of them are "wasted" on most characters.

Would I have liked Hermetic Theurgy to be a Major Virtue, with major effects? Yes. In fourth edition, I loved it.

But I think that this is getting really off topic (for which I apologize to the original poster)!


So this is me, having utterly failed my saving throw vs AM rules conversations. The recent combo of theurgy plus FFM imposed too great a penalty!

It's thematic, but not all that good: Once you have a focus with spirits, why not just summon the spirits who have the powers you want? Then you only need a good ReVi or a virtue that makes you a good summoner.

Tangentially, the minor focus in magic spirits example reminds me of a rules issue: Technically, Magic Spirits makes a fine minor focus, since all Spirits is canonically major. But Magic Spirits is itself wide enough and close enough to being major itself that I feel a lot more comfortable with a player or NPC taking Spirits as Major. (And I think a focus with ships should have been Minor, not Major.)

There are a few ways to accrue reasonably large spont totals without needing to roll a die or spending fatigue. There are two ways to remove the final botch die from a normal spont. It might be easier like this, but not much easier. And remember: If you're going to learn a reasonable version of a Theurgic spont, the chances are you already good at that TeFo(reqs) combo, and have a selection of Formulaics already at your disposal. This is key: You don't have to do anything weird to make FFM work its magic for you. And even without new Masteries, FM also provides some flexibility. Multicast is sort of like extending to Group, applying mastery to casting total is similar to lowering the magnitude, etc.

And that boost to duration is very expensive: It requires +10 Lab Total to get. You're stuck with it, unless you also have FFM :slight_smile:, so your spell has one less magnitude.

BTW, I forgot to mention: The division by two is particularly nasty here in combination with the spell never growing with you. To gain one magnitude of effect, you need 10 levels of spell and 20 levels of lab total. If you only have 19 levels of lab total, you get nothing, and you cannot even hope for a good die roll or Aura to increase it. I suppose you can increase the duration? :confused:

Really, it's a trap(tm).

It gives many advantages that are worth avoiding. These advantages come at great cost: One Minor Virtue that could have been something decent, and many seasons spent inventing pessimal spells instead of getting good, normal spells from more easily available texts or even just inventing those spells. Because if you don't spend seasons acquiring theurgic spells, the virtue does nothing at all.

It's a trap.

Oh, and you have given the GM permission to make your spell utterly useless whenever he wants: Sorry, it seems someone else already has this spirit on call. Nyah nyah.

Or anyone can take it away by killing it with an ordinary, core rules PeVi (Magical entity Eternal Oblivion), or turning it against you with an ordinary ReVi.


We're still riffing on FFM, contrasting it with other, seemingly similar opportunities.

Overall, FFM is cheaper than Theurgy. It costs 2 more points up front, but then immediately works with every non-Ritual Formulaic spell you have or will ever learn.

It saves you seasons instead of costing you seasons. If you already specialize in a TeFo, which is a good idea as discussed elsewhere, it makes you a true virtuoso with all those spells you already know, and when you have to waste seasons branching out, you get a lot more for it.

Consider a classic Flambeau: He knows all the CrIg spells in the core rules. If he has FFM, he can do a lot more with them (though not quite as much as if he developed spells with FFM in mind.) Fire damage to Sight range? mwahaha. BoAF as clingy napalm (you'll burn as long as he concentrates)! And if he looks you in the Eye, that's +5 Penetration compared to Voice. (Make that Voice range spell work without needing to say a word! The only voice you hear is the target screaming.)

Or consider a Vim specialist: A lot of these spells really benefit from having a flexible duration, and almost require it.

I admit that my preferred rendering of this Virtue would be "When casting a Formulaic spell, you can modify it to use any standard RDT you have access to. The effective level of the spell is based on the modified RDT. The effective level of the spell can be decreased by any amount, based on the selected RDT, but can only exceed the original spell by one magnitude. You cannot choose unique RDT. You cannot change any part of the spell's effect that is based on the spell guideline rather than RDT, even if the effect is within the same guideline as the original spell."

But it's a solid virtue even without that. Not one of the best, but worthy.

(I would never allow non-standard RDT with FFM. Never, ever, ever. Not because it is too powerful, but because it stops the game mid-flow to make room for a conversation about whether the proposed RDT is legitimate without a Breakthrough and then about whether the proposed level is correct. And then, with social engineering by an enterprising or socially dominant player, it will be too powerful. Nothing good comes of this. Ugh.)



As for Theurgy, I really feel guilty about derailing this thread. So I will not respond here, despite quite enjoying the conversation. But I may start a new thread about it!

I dislike this.
First, I think it's overly powerful: it gives access to a really wide range of RDTs.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, it's what I call a delay trap: a mechanic that encourages you to delay acquiring something in the game, because the more you wait, the more you'll end up having once you acquire it. It's a delay trap because it encourages you to acquire spells as late as possible, at level 45, so you can maximize the variety of RDTs you can get out of each (note that, with the proposed mechanic, acquiring a spell with a "higher" RDT is never a disadvantage, because you can always tune it down as much as you wish). Delay traps are fun-killers, in my opinion, and indeed part the design philosophy of ArM5 was to remove them from the game (think of the mechanics behind e.g. spell penetration, or familiars).

But you would allow FFM to change a non-standard RDT into a standard one, right? None of your arguments applies against this.
And by the same token, you would allow FFM to change an RDT into a non-standard one for which a spell has already been successfully learned, right?


I'm ok with not doing it too. :slight_smile:

AM is full of this kind of thing. It's one of the reasons Hermetic Theurgy is so bad. :slight_smile:/2394298

But I do see your point. Letting any change in RDT leaving the spell level +/-5 is plenty good.


No way. The non-standard RDT has been permitted for a single spell, because it is thematic and seems reasonable... for that spell. It's a special case.

The poster child of weird RDT is Treading the Ashen Path. It seems so right for that spell, if only because it's been in AM since the earliest editions. I'd not be happy at all with the PeCo version thereof, Kill Everyone You Pass While Walking through the Busy Crowd.

Want to apply it to any spell? Get GM approval for it as a general purpose guideline, and then either initiate it or get your Breakthrough. Just like anyone else.

And yeah, a Troupe might decide that a particular RDT for some spell is worth more than the rules suggest, but that's a special case.



It does not, and most likely should not. It was merely speculation, because the virtue for some things work like the various Wizard's Boost spells - extension, Reach etc.
As written FFM only allows a change of R/D/T but not size modifier for Targets - which I think is a shame. Being able to increase åpower is a bit of a stretch, and it is easier to not touch it with an 11 foot pole