[House rules] Laboratory (or Reversed detailing pt I)

One of my main issues about the rules is that they sometimes are a little bit… detailed. Now, please misinterpret me correctly here; sometimes the details are a good thing, as for example the spell guidelines. Sometimes, though, in the willingness to be helpful and inspiring for the players, I think they (IMHO) are more complex than they (the rules) need to be.

Therefore have I developed a set of house rules for some of the most "occurring" rules in the games. A common thread/theme in these house rules is what I like to call reversed detailing; instead of letting the rules dictate how to flesh out (in this case) your laboratory by creating long lists of specializations to determine what kind of bonuses to apply, I'll making it the other way around. In this case: a pretty simple rule mechanic that not only resembles character creation (thus making the rules more streamlined), but also is letting the player make alterations (bonuses) on his laboratory and then deside for him/herself exactly what they may be.

All kind of input is welcome.

[And since I'm new here. I'm sorry if someone already has presented this house rule. It's not my intention to steal anyone's idea. I just present what I (imho) believe is a more easy and fun way to play the game]

Here we go

The laboratory is to be viewed as a character of its own. Thus, the laboratory consists of three different variables: Quality (i.e characteristics), specialization (skills) and personality (traits). To change these variables, in game terms, ​​takes time. You don't have to keep track of of money, vis, size or other forms of "upkeep". Instead the time spent by the character is considered being time that the magician uses to make the necessary artifacts, travels, haggling, establishing trade contacts, or acquire goods which are necessary for the laboratory to be improved. It also includes time spent to install the improvements in the laboratory. Once done, the character doesn't need to keep track of yearly expenses. We simply presume that the magus has funds to cover it. We just never "see" the chest full of silver that he stole from a travelling merchant (or whatever).

Once done the player describes the improvement of his laboratory. The SG may also encourage the player to describe how he collected the right materials (or make an adventure of it)

General Quality
General Quality is a generic term for improvements (Qualities) that enhances certain parts of the magus' everyday work in the lab. The maximum General quality a laboratory may have depends on how high the magus' skill in Magic Theory is (thus making bonisagus magi good lab improvers).

Every season a magus uses to raise the quality of his laboratory, the number of Quality Points (s)he may spend increases by one. A laboratory can have a maximum equal number of Quality Points (General Quality) as the magus Magic Theory score. As with characteristics, the player can opt to take negative points in any of the other qualities in order to allocate more Quality Points.
Qualities are purchased with the usual pyramid points. The following Qualities can be improved:

  • Wealth. A measure of how comfortable and nice the laboratory and its immediate surroundings are. A good laboratory is fresh and have an even, warm temperature. A poor laboratory is wet, cold and filled with disgusting smells. Each step gives +1 / -1 bonus on ageing rolls. This also affects the Grogs who often find themselves in the laboratory's proximity.
  • Safety. Removes a botch die for each step.
  • Experiments. Gives +1 when experimenting.
  • Spells. +1 On learning from the labtexts or inventing your own spells
  • Vis. +1 When studying from or extracting vis.
  • Artefacts. +1 when guess what…

Specializations are purchased with pyramid poins just like Qualities above. The difference is that the sum of specializations always has to be zero (0). Improving a technique, you need one (or more) different technique to decrease with the same number of points. Improve a form, and it is one (or more) other forms that must be reduced.
Each season the magus use to specialize the laboratory, he or she accumulates as many points as their Magic Theory score.

For every two steps of a quality or specialization, give the laboratory a trait that describes how this is reflected. The personality of the lab affects it's inhabitants.

Example: A laboratory with some ± 1-improvements have no special traits. An Ignem +2 may have the Personality of Hot +1, which in turn means that it is common that people are more lighly dressed. A safety of -2 can provide a laboratory Personality of +1 jumpy.

//erik. Next up: Writing books

I do think that this is more complicated and lead to laboratories which seem artificial. At least, the canon rules allow good researchers and items inventors to have better labs than other magi.
This rule let everyone have the same lab, except for the MT...

I'm not sure I follow. Why would they be more artificial than, say, a character? Every persons lab can be extremely different from each other. There are 15 different arts and 6 qualities to choose from. And even if you have the exact same lab stats, two players can choose to describe their laboratories completely different (just as characters). An Ignem +1 lab can have a big hearth or five hundred candles or a small ReIg artefact that controls heat. The big difference is that you do not have to read page upon page of improvements, and calculate size, and calculate monetary resources, and upkeep. The only thing you need to remember is: one season to increase a Quality - one season to alter specializations.

More so, this is more in line with the rules for magi. You do not by spells to increase your arts (which you do, in a manner of speaking, with labs). I like streamlined rules. 8)

And yes item inventors can still have better labs than other magi, by simply sacrifice more time to build his lab (and having a higher MT score). A good researcher (say MT 10) can alter a specialization by ±4 (ten pyramid points) in one season.

//erik. cue candidate papers

We follow much simpler lab improvement rules.

+0 lab. Standard
+1 lab. 1 season to improve to this level. 10 pounds of silver. Magic items adding 5 spell magnitudes invested in items.
+2 lab. 2 more seasons to improve to this level. 20 pounds of silver. Magic items adding 10 more spell magnitudes invested in items.
+3 lab. 3 more seasons to improve to this level. 30 pounds of silver. Magic items adding 15 more spell magnitudes invested in items.
total investment: 6 seasons, 60 pounds of silver, 30 spell magnitudes.

Lab specialization. +1 extra in a tech, form or minor focus. Decreases the general quality in the other functions of the lab in 1 step. Same cost and time as with general improvement for +1 +2 +3. Can be done repeatedly (minimum for other areas, +0), so you can have a +2 specialized lab in a certain lab activity and a -2 in the other areas at +1 only. So the maximum lab specialization is +6/+0.

The strength of the lab is in the roleplaying and descriptive focus you put in it, not in the numbers. For number crunching I already have 40 hours of work weekly


Neet. Can you explain

a little bit more. I'm unsure of what it does.

//erik. chips

Wait, if I get +1 Creo, I get -1 all other Techs and Forms? So my CrIg is {+1 + -1 = 0}?

I don't think that's what you mean, could you give details?

I have a +2 general lab. I specialize in Animal. That means that I get +3 in animal and my lab becomes a +1 lab for all other things that do not deal with Animal. Hence I have specialized my lab into the Animal form. I have to invest in specific items and description to do so. The Herbam specialization lab in Durenmar (GotF) is a perfect example of what we would be talking about here.


Lindenius, I really like your rules, and my players are quite interested too. :slight_smile:

The fact is that it avoids browsing through a list of features to find the ideal (optimised) one and thus explicitly liberates the creativity. The only change I would make for my needs is to make qualities increase like abilities, one season working on the lab giving Magic Theory xp to upgrade them.

Xavi, I crunch numbers at work too, but I don't mind counting experience points for lab as it should not occur quite often and as long as the resulting bonus is clearly known to the player (not having to browse multiple sheets to find the bonus for a Creo Ignem spell creation). However I noticed across different threads that you made quite a bunch of simplifications to the rules for your saga. Do you by any chance have a compendium of those available on the Internet? :unamused:

We use quite a few of them. Not all of them are written down, though. Since we are finishing our current saga, I might try to compile what I remember of them (the most usual ones) in brief. Previous versions were posted around the forum a while ago. Yair started the trhead, IIRC


Before I bought covenants I used this simple system:

Every lab has a customization score which is raised as an ability. You get 1xp exposure xp in your lab every season you conduct labwork in it. You can explicitly customize it as a seasonal activity, in which case the ability gains an amount of xp equal to your Magic Theory score. A level 1 Lab is a full scale lab (so it takes a magi with an MT of 3, 2 seasons to setup a lab--but a magi with an MT of 5 only one season). For each level of customization above 1 you can increase a specialization by 1 (similar to spell mastery, which was the inspiration). I can't remember if I allowed specialization in TeFo or just Fo. You could also allow specialization in a lab procedure (spell invention, item creation, longevity rituals, etc.), although I didn't have that in my original writeup. At SG discretion another magi can customize your lab for you (I'd allow it up to your MT)--for instance, an apprentice or a parens. I'd also allow a magi to take over another magi's lab with one season of personalization & exploration retaining the customization score they could beat on an IQ + MT mag roll not exceeding their MT (i.e. roll IQ+MT/3, retain customization up to the least of the original customization score, the new owner's magic theory and the roll total).

Posted in case anyone happens to like it :slight_smile:.

My magus's lab is wet, cold and filled with disgusting smells (and a few symbiothic mushroom-insectoids...), but to me, my character, and the storyguide, that's part of its richess actually. I could also argue that it's both the reflection and source of my laboratory bonuses btw.

Interesting. In what way does the lab's personality affect its inhabitants though ? Affecting their mood ? Their health ? (just curious here).

Mood and traits in the vicinity of the laboratory. For example an aquam +4 lab may have a +2 hydrated personality. => Grogs and apprentices are always thirsty when they are away from the lab.

//erik. bath

Lol, fun choice of nickname.