House Rule Idea: Labs and Magi

I was hoping for some input on an idea I was kicking around with my tabletop group. A few caveats first: (a) The goal is streamlining the lab customization; I like the basic idea of it, but I feel the sheer number of individual fiddly bits is a negative for my players. (b) i've hacked off the minutiae of the economy rules from Covenants. Instead, I just eyeball and handwave the numbers and tell the players a general idea of how the numbers look. (c) I want the players to have more freedom and unique opportunities to modify their labs as time goes on. That out of the way, here's the concept.
Labs have the normal statistics (GQ, safety, upkeep; ignem, items, vis), though Upkeep is a guideline, since I'm not tracking money exactly.
Labs may have a single built-in structural feature or trait, such as Well-constructed, spacious, underground, et cetera. The effects of this are as below, and may not cost lab size/space.
The amount of virtue and flaw traits a lab can have is based on size and refinement, as normal.
A virtue requires a cost of some kind, whether it be adventure rewards, seasons, or resources of vis. If it is something that doesn't cost seasons of HIS work (logic applies) then the magus must still be available to direct the workers or specialists.
A minor virtue costs 1 size, and can grant a +1 bonus to a single art or lab activity. A minor flaw is the reverse.
A major virtue costs 3 size, and can grant a +1 bonus to a major lab statistic (Safety, Health, GQ, etc).

I feel there's some numbers I'm getting wrong here, but it's just a rough idea for now.

I'd suggest you look at Greater Expansion as a baseline Major Virtue

+2 General Quality
+4 Upkeep
+1 Aesthetics (a mostly pointless trait)
+2 points of Specialisation

Your version of a Major Virtue is vastly weaker....

If I have the chance to develop a lab, I normally aim for Greater Feature & Greater Focus [normally for spells] (2 season work for +0 size) then later try to get enough for Greater Expansion. I'm then pretty much good, and i'll use enchanted items to further customise the lab (more fun)

That is, of course, a fantastic virtue once you have your income under control. While I haven't compared all the virtues, doing the (rough) math on Greater Expansion: +2 GQ (6 pt), +4 Upkeep (-12 pt), +1 Aesthetics (+3 pt), +2 Specialization (2 pt) comes to a total of -1 overall value. That said, the Aesthetics really doesn't do anything, and a well-run, properly mathed covenant can probably handle the upkeep. If you consider the upkeep and aesthetics at at half-value, it comes out to about 3 pts. If you completely ignore the upkeep, it turns into +8, which is obviously overpowered compared to the +3 I had recorded. The lab mods in Covenants are... really... very powerful if you know how to game the numbers.

Little confused, you say

but your original post has

What do you mean by your +3, sorry...

From you comment

It seems you just want to have the narrative descriptions without having the mechanics of lab customisation impacting your saga. Might I suggest you simply ask your players to describe a feature of their labs for each rank of Magic Theory they have - adds character and depth to the covenant without worrying about miscellaneous details?

Eg Dante has Magic Theory 5 and is a Perdo Specialist.

Dantes lab is on the 2nd floor of the Manorhouse and its large balcony (1) overlooks the small graveyard of the Manor (2). Hung up on the walls of the lab are mounted skulls of the many creatures Dante has hunted down (3). A large bronze circle has been inscribed into the centre of the lab's floor (4). The far end of the lab has his enchanted fireplace (5) which keeps the lab comfortable warm all year round.

Related to this:
I really want to allow lab customisation in my game. However, it looks as though lab customisation rules use Upkeep as a way to to prevent everyone from having enormous palaces all the time. Because it uses Upkeep, it means we have to track covenant finances, and tell stories about increasing it.

Is there a way to have lab customisation without requiring us to track income and expenditure? I am literally an accountant as my day job, and even I don't really want to do that.

We pretty much wave our hands at Upkeep. If a magus wants to improve their lab, they have to describe the new look and feel. If it's something we decide is really expensive, we blow a few pawns of Creo or Terram vis and say the magus has created some silver to pay for the expenses.

You and I are staring down the same whale, Alex. What I'm doing in my current game, until I hammer out slightly more complicated house rules I'm happy with, is this:

  • Every lab modification takes a season to install properly, due to rearranging your laboratory
  • Every lab modification must come from an adventure or an experimental breakthrough.
  • Every lab modification grants either +1 to an Art, or +2 to a specific Technique and Form combination.
  • one player asked if they could get a +3 to an Art or +1 general quality if they give their lab warping. I said no, because they haven't found any fixtures impressive enough to give warping to their lab.

I really like this idea. It gets the lab rats out into the field and means that lab modifications become a record of their deeds.

This might also be a good thing to give Aesthetics for, to help build up Reputation.

I know it's been a while, but I've had some discussions with my group at home, and we've settled into a final form of our lab-modification house rule. Even though this post has fallen by the wayside, I figured I'd post up my final version.

This system doesn't use the upkeep mechanic, gets rid of a lot of stacking and fiddly bits, and turns every modification into a bit of an abstract, rather than the virtue/flaws system Covenants uses. It does steal a lot of terms and ideas from their numbers, though. There's a bit of shenanigans ignoring logic as part of fun game balance; I'm running on the concept that a lab must be arranged to channel sympathetic bonuses from lab mods to benefit from them; Having sixteen different dragon hearts preserved in crystal around your lab doesn't help if most of them are stored in a box in the corner, and pulling them all out at once will probably create eddies and flows in the aura that ruins the attempted power boost. I'm keeping lab sizes.

  1. Every lab can have one free mod built into it as part of the construction; Whether this is a sturdy construction from being built of magical stone(+safety), or the lab being a flying tower (+Au). A flying tower built out of sturdy magic stone could theoretically have both, however see the above point about sympathetic lab arrangement.
  2. Beyond the free lab mod, the number of mods that can be active at once is limited by the size of the lab and the skill of the magus (similar to covenants). This total is the magus's (MT - 3) + the size. if this total is negative, the lab will have a deficiency mod. Don't put your lab in a closet, sodales. If you are using a lab you are unfamiliar with, you cannot utilize the resident magus's customizations easily. Every season you work in the lab will let you use one additional native mod of the lab.
  3. Every lab mod must come from an adventure, a magic item crafted for the lab, or an experimental event (Story/special).
  4. Adding or changing a mod to your lab requires a season. If you have access to numerous mods from a series of events and adventures, you can rearrange the mods active in your lab in a single season. Pick your favorite three crystallized dragon hearts.
  5. Now the fun part: every modification grants either +1 to an Art, or +2 to a specific Technique and Form combination. Alternatively, your storyguide might allow it to give +1 to a lab activity (LR, item crafting, familiars) or +1 safety (reduces botch dice in the lab activities)
  6. With storyguide approval, a particularly powerful or potent adventure or breakthrough could give +3 to an art or +1 to all lab activities; this will also give your lab Warping, as per Covenants.