Foci in lab work (again)

Hi there,
Since searching for magical foci gives too many results I ask it here.
Does a focus apply to familiars and/or talismans? Do you get the bonus when your familiar has powers or the like which correspond with your your focus. For example: Your focus is salt water and your familiar is a herring, do you get the bonus because the familiar is a saltwaterfish? Because I think so.
And for talismans you apply your highest technique and form, I assume that this is not covered in foci.
I had a discussion about it with my neighbour (Paris) and was wondering how you thought about it.

Hi, RAW let you use your focus when conducting lab work that falls into its description. Like your focus is "predetors" and your familiar is a wolf. In this case the lowest art in the lab total is doubled when building the cords. Any effect you instill into the bonds that targets the wolf does get the bonus as well, IMO.

When instilling an effect that is part of your focus into your talisman you get the bonus as well, like instilling a pilum of fire into it when your focus is "damage".
However, I would not allow the bonus on all enchantments into your talisman when it is made out of iron and your focus is "metal". You would only get the bonus if the effect involves metal. (Including targeting the talisman)

As for the herring,... Well your focus is salt water, not fish, so I would say you do not get the bonus. But other SG may rule otherwise.

By the way we house-ruled that foci only apply to your casting totals and never to any lab total. This way high level spells and effects to research are things only be done by masters or archmages. Although this cuts down the usefulness of foci no player wanted to go without one and all of them have proven their value.

Without getting into whether or not you can Focus in the enchanted item you're working on (the "metal" example above), I'd say that the connection between "salt water" and "herring" is too tenuous to sustain.

Here are some relevant threads:

viewtopic.php?t=2668&start=0 (own mind, etc) (wands as foci, etc)

viewtopic.php?t=1346&start=0 (lab activites are not appropriate, etc)

A focus deals with a defined area of interest. And is often additionally defined by TeFo (tho' not necessarily).

Salt Water is relatively very narrow, but that is very clearly defined as a sub-category of Aquam - any water, so long as its salty. And anything that would be a sub-category of salt water- sea water, the brine in pickle juice (not the pickles themselves), certainly ocean waves or currents, and any fresh water that was salted, and perhaps separating the salt out (sure, why not toss them a gift). Anything that is an example of the category of "salt water". But NOT the fish in it, not the boats that sail on it, not the folk who sail on it or swim in it or the sea-towns that border it - the salt water itself.

Imagine these cheats:
"Focus: Forests" (and every animal, road, and thing in them)
"Focus: Rain" (and everything that rain falls on, and the lightning that comes with rain.)
"Focus: Wood" (and every person who lives in a wood house. Anything that comes out of a wooden chest, not just the chest.)

An "association" is not the same as a "relationship", and certainly not a sub-category. So, sorry, but herrings are just NOT a sub-category of "salt water". That would require a focus of Sea Creatures (major?), or fish (minor?), or something similar.

I'd say that, 99% of the time*, for a focus to affect a familiar, it would have to be a focus specifically of that type of animal, or that category of animal. "Birds" or "hawks", "wolves" or "land animals", whatever. (Smaller than one Form). A herring is not an example of "salt water".
(* And I'm not able to think of an exception, where some "other" category would include a familiar, but maybe.)

(What kind of mage has a "herring" for a familiar?...) :unamused:

As for talismans, that's a bit more subjective. From reading some of the above threads, it might be a tough sell, but I think it would come down to how much Power the SG wanted in their Saga. This would not affect any "lab totals", it only means that a Talisman can be enchanted with more effects - it doesn't increase the amount of vis that can be instilled in a season, nor aid in enchanting those effects, just the maximum that can fit. I'll say "Dealer's Choice" on that one. (I would never allow a herring focus to add to enchanting any spell effects into a herring talisman, just because it's a herring. That's clearly larger than "one Form".)

(Note- if the Player had believed, when choosing this focus, that these relationships were[i] valid, I'd definitely allow them to redefine the focus, or even rebuild the character. "Salt Water" would be useful for waves and for mariner-magi, but if they thought they'd have dominion over fish and everything, it needs to be redefined. "Slightly smaller than one Form...", or the equivalent- 5 TeFo combos. Anything broader is inappropriate.

If the SG allows this, they've already lost control of their game, imo.)[/i]

While I definitely agree with Cuchulainshound, if I was in a Devil's Advocate mood....

I might argue that the medieval paradigm recognizes that fish are not born, they spontaneously appear.

It is known that 'mammals' are born, and thus not "part of" the forest they live in.

However, since fish just spontaneously appear in water, they might very well be "part of" the water in which they live.


Hrmmm, yes, indeed... :unamused:

There are, actually, two "medieval paradigms" - one is how "we" think they thought, tempered by game mechanics for the purposes of Ars, and the other is a far more obscure, fare more academic record of how they actually thought. While at times we, playing a game, have glimpses of the second, trying to fully understand (much less internalize) that as a whole is quite a challenge, if even possible. Then trying to then mesh the vast, obscure academic "RL" model into the existing game mechanics is just a mistake.

For one, neither Corpus nor Mentem nor Creo would be needed to cure diseases, only Perdo Vim, to destroy those nasty evil spirits. And to keep healthy, a RegoAurum ward to keep out the bad vapors. Yeah, those work with the game...

Inclined planes don't give a "mechanical advantage", they actually "make things lighter". Fetal rabbits are actually fish. And drinking mercury can cure a system that is "too stable". (yeah, well, sort of...)

Sigh. I need a good bleeding, clearly... :laughing:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I am aware there is no explicit statement in any of the 5th edition books that real life physics hold true. My interpretation has always been that if the philosophers of the age are in agreement over an issue, and that issue is supported by the game mechanics (or at least, not denied by them), then the medieval 'paradigm' holds true, not the modern one. The planets really do revolve around the earth, there really is a crystalline sphere deliminating the moon, and mice do spontaneously generate in rotting grain. I am not advocating a strong Belief Defines Reality stance; just that the philosophical tradition of Mythic Europe has got things broadly right. Where there is a conflict of thought, then one or all parties are incorrect.

To take an example: under the medieval paradigm there is no impetus (this is explicitly stated in HoH:S). Thus the force with which a projectile is thrown has no effect on the damage it does when it hits; it just goes further. I have therefore removed Strength from the damage of thrown and missile weapons in a House Rule, and included it in the Range increment instead. Any magus who creates a 'pistol' would be sorely disappointed at the glorified pea-shooter which results, which inflicts zero damage thanks to the tiny projectiles. Any philosopher worth his salt knows that to do more damage you need bigger missiles, not faster ones.

They can work, actually. Perdo Vim to cure a disease cannot usually be effective, because the magus cannot sense the demon he is destroying (which is essential for spellcasting). He therefore uses Corpus magic to directly set the humours back to what they were before they were perturbed by the demon. By the way, not all diseases are caused by demons. The final cause (in an Aristotlean sense) is a humoral imbalance, but the efficient cause (again, using Aristotle's terminology) could be a demon, or bad vapours, or poor diet, or strong emotions, and so forth.

With regards to the Rego Auram to remain healthy, I would say that you could duplicate a Laboratory Virtue that increases the Health characteristic, and therefore grant yourself a living conditions modifier (and possibly warping...)

There is a major weakness to my stance -- many features of the world have competing theories. In the rare cases these come up, I pick the most accepted one, or else one I like most. I don't let things bog me down.

As far as fetal rabbits being fish, and your other examples -- if there is a genuine philosophical reason why these are true (not just folk etymology or superstition, but based in solid theory), then in my game they are true. We like this mechanical universe, as our troupe broadly speaking has scientific minds and we like playing with alternate physics. Your sagas (as always) may vary.


Not sure what you're addressing here - no arguement from me. Perhaps I was not clear - I never referred to "modern" RL physics or modern scientific views, but to the "obscure, academic" ones as reconstructed for the time period, as modern academicians understand them to have been. The thrust of my post was comparing such historical "realities" as your example of impetus to a more vague, "game-model understanding" of the MP, that a Medieval History major would have a different understanding of what "the Medieval Paradigm" is than we, given the game rules, understand it to be. In the game, Corpus controls The Body, altho' a medieval philosopher might argue that all things are made of the 4 elements - or whatever. (Maybe a flawed example, but the point is that the game Rules are spun from the medieval, not a slave to it.) Adding factual historical elements to that paradigm requires the sort of gerrymandering of the rules that you went through- more power to you, but it's not for the faint of heart.

While PeVi ~can~ work, it's not the ~sole~ solution, as might be otherwise implied.

I'm afraid they're all "true".

While excavating old monestaries, time and again archaeologists have found what seem like large, sunken areas lined with stone. It was originally believed these were some sort of fish pond, for a supply of fish for Good Friday meals. Close, closer than is appetizing, anyway.

Actually, some genius monk (in Germany???) proposed that, based on their appearance, fetal rabbits were actually "fish", and therefore were not excluded from Good Friday meals. These "ponds" were, in fact, enclosed rabbit warrens*, where rabbits were raised and harvested (the pregnant ones, anyway) for that purpose. Mmmm, fetal rabbit - the other white meat!

(* I want to say they were called "lupinariums", and references to them were found in monastic documents, and academicians hadn't put the two, the reference and the stone enclosure, together at first. However, note that that term also refers to the "workspace" ancient roman lower-class prostitutes, what we might call "cribs" today. So if you google it, be forewarned.)

The bit about inclined planes I read in a medieval physics text. Primary source, in translation.

Drinking mercury- from vaguer memory. Something about mercury being used in medicines because of its alchemical properties of transmutation, being by it's nature the ultimate "mercurial" substance, it would therefore encourage "change" in the system. Something like that.

Don't remember exactly on that last. I need a drink of fresh water, from the lead plumbing.

Speed was important. Otherwise a sling would be less powerful than a hand-suized thrown stone, and it was perfectly known that this was not the case.... Any herdsman can tell you that. The fact that the academic in the Paris University thinks otherwise does not make him correct here :slight_smile: Competing theories :slight_smile: The gun can work in this case, but only as a charged crystal dart item or a sling-like effect. So yes, not exactly impetus, but speed was important if not stopped by something. :slight_smile:

In brioad terms I agree with your theory and find it perctly fine. I have never fully addressed those issues myself, but this sounds sensible. However, the academic stance is not necessarily the correct one in ME. :slight_smile:



True. I wasn't arguing against you, just pointing out that you can (and we do) play a game which is (almost) true to the academic / philosophic paradigm of the day.

Ah, now this is an example where we would not assume that the monks were right. That is just one group using legalese to get around a disliked feature of their Rule. It has no philosophical or academic background.

Then if it came up in game (which is unlikely), that would be acceptable.

I would have no problems with my characters drinking mercury as part of an elixir (perhaps as a component of their longevity ritual). It wouldn't be poisonous to them in that context. However, I wouldn't suggest that my players try it :slight_smile:


Hmm, sorry for "recapturing the thread", but i do not agree with the argumentation of most people here. You say that Animal would apply to the fish, but this does not apply on familiars according to the RAW. In the initial bond part, terram would be applied to burrowing craetures, and herbam for arboreal creatures. In this case Aquam would be perfectly sound for a herring IMHO. In addition a herring lives in salt water, so i was wondering if this applies.

Aquam would be suitable for the initial bond, yes, but the mechanics of when to apply a Magical Focus are different than the mechanics of how to calculate Familiar initial bond amounts.

That's my point. There is a strong difference in TeFo between 'normal' magic and 'familiar' magic. What do you target? Is it the creature, because in such a case Animal would be the only usable Form for Familiars. If it is something different (the magic powers in the creature of something), perhaps a magic focus might apply. As these things are not in the RAW i found it confusing, but the forum-members are apparently unanimous about this.

Oops, sorry, thought that had all been addressed before the Tangent. We can do that, sometimes. :blush:

(Not sure what you're seeing as the diff between "normal" and "familiar" magic. Going to go over it from the start, for anyone else who is reading along - see p.'s 103-106)

When forming the Initial Bond, it's Technique + Form, and those are subjective, based on the animal. While a mage might want it to be their "best" TeFo, that's not always possible, nor proper. Personality and SG/troupe input adds to this, and so a PeIm mage may not be able to find an animal that embodies those Arts, or whatever. (Page 104). For this stage, a focus almost ~has~ to be directly regarding that animal, or something that encompasses that animal. (A generous SG might allow some magical familiar with "X Form" powers to count, if the focus deals with that form, but that's a case by case matter.)

For instance, if a mage has "wolf", or "canines" or "forest animals" as their focus, then a wolf would certainly count. A magical wolf would count, too. But it's harder to come up with an animal for "fire" or "storms" or - some animals are associated with those, but to actually be a subset of that focus... not so much.

Again, your saga may vary. A fire elemental could well be seen as a subset of "fire" - cool (if allowed), but a fire breathing animal is not "fire", any more than a fish is "the ocean" or a book on magic is "magic". A crow is strongly associated with death, storms, flying, the air, and bad omens, but a focus of death, storms, flying, air or of "bad omens" would not, ims, be applicable for the Initial Bond of a crow familiar. Now, if the focus was specifically "creating fire", and the crow was magical, and the crow could breathe fire, then quite possibly, but short of that, not for me. (ysmv)

Once that is done and the bonds have been formed, the animal still has an "Animal" body, but now has a mind of "Mentem" - equal to Int -3. (So, any enchantment that affects the familiars body (unless shapeshifted) is still Animal, any effect on its mind is Mentem). At this point, "empowering" the bond (ie, enchanting the familiar), is based on the TeFo of the effect, and that initial TeFo of the bond only counts for a bonus to Lab Totals (...the maga... gets +5 if either the effect matches either the Technique or Form used to bind the Familiar...) . And at this point, a focus only counts if the Effect or Target is a subset of the focus.*

(* Remember, the word "Target" is not always the thing you're casting the spell on. Creo Ignem targets "fire", even if you use that fire to blow someone up real good. They may be "targeted" by your spell, but they're not the "Target", as used in the spell definition. Awkward choice of terms, I know, but that's what we got.)

So, if the focus was "salt water", and you wanted to allow the familiar to change into pure salt water... fine! But that would be the case for a herring, or a vulture or camel just as well. If you wanted to ward it against damage from salt water, or allow it to walk on salt water, or see thru it, that would all work. [color=red](EDIT: original text corrected)

A focus is applied to the Effect, or the Target. After the Initial Bond, the while effect usually is not the animal itself, the target is changed - giving the animal the power of speech, or the ability to locate the magus, or gaining human hands, or whatever. So, a focus of "wolf" doesn't help to create fire, (where the "Target" is an aspect of Ignem, not the wolf), but it would help you change such an animal to breathe fire, MuAn(Ig).

Does any of that clear up your confusion?

I agree with C-hound.

A focus applies to a narrow, perfectly defined field. If the target deviates from it, it does not apply. If you had a focus in herrings, it would apply to the enchantment of the familiar (I have a focus in wolves, and it will aply in my enchantment of a familiar in the long run) but not for salt water.

If the familiar would be a salt water elemental, sure, :slight_smile: but as it is a fish (not salt water) it does not apply. The media where the fish lives does not apply here. Otherwise I could claim that my ways of the woods should apply to my enchantment of a wolf familiar :slight_smile: (It does not, BTW)

So as a benchmark: if the narrowly defined field does apply literally, it is allowed to use the focus. if not, no way.

Clear as mud?




In my over-enthusiasm, and rewrites, I mispoke (corrected above).

It is not just "hard" to give the familiar the power to cast a spell, it's against the rules as written. ("...Fourth, the powers are limited to effecs which target the maga, the familiar, or both...)

However, my original example was poorly chosen. With a focus of "wolves", the power to breath fire would be a Mu[u]An/u, and the target would, indeed, be the wolf. (A Creo Ignem would not work, nor would the focus apply.)

A focus of "salt water" could, then, help in giving the target the power to... um... breathe a jet of salt water out of its mouth? Maybe? (If that's what you want, I guess it would work.) A focus of forests would not allow it to breathe "Piercing Shaft of Wood" out of its mouth. A focus of "wood"... ugh. Up to you.

In the end, there are many parts of the Rules that are open ended, or subject to interpretation. Talk it over with your Troupe, think about the fallout of your decision, about game balance and where you want the story to go, and make a decision based on that. On these boards, you'll get opinions, you'll get consensus, but ultimately there is no "right" way to have fun. :wink:

I believe the rule of thumb was to interpret minor focuses narrowly and major focuses broadly (beside the fact that they already are broader than minor focuses).