Ways of the (Land) allows one to "get a +3 bonus to all rolls, including combat, that directly involve that area and its inhabitants; mundane, magical, or faerie. " and to "roll one fewer botch die than normal (which may mean you roll no botch dice) in rolls that pertain to your area of understanding.".
Suppose a magus has Ways of the Forest. If he inhabits a forest, does he get one fewer botch die on his spellcasting rolls? What does it take to qualify as inhabiting a forest -- would spending more the majority of his time there count? And over what timescale - a year? A decade?
It applies when the magic is being cast on an inhabitant, or on something else related to the land such a trees or hills. It's not enough for the magus himself to simple be an inhabitant. IMO at least.
The +3 bonus on social rolls nicely counteracts the negative effects of the Gift though. I would allow the Magus to ignore all of the Gift social penalties when dealing with inhabitants, as a little bonus.
Although if the magus is casting a spell on himself while in town, it should apply to him, just as it would to any other inhabitant of the town.
It's a Major Virtue! It ought to be good. It doesn't provide a single awesome hammer with which to smack everything, but provides a broad benefit. It's weakness is that is often does nothing but never is totally mighty.
I dunno, where does this end up? If a magus puts his lab in (say) his Forest, does that mean his activities, rituals, and studying from vis become botchless? I'm usually bored by botches in such background activities, so I might say yes.
Well, wouldn't that depend upon what kind of structure the lab is built from? A stone building in a forest I agree wouldn't get the bonuses. But what if we're talking about carving a lab out of a rather large tree (such as a sequoia)? Or if you have Ways of the Mountain and your lab is part of the mountain itself such as a cave complex?
I hate botches in general. But he only loses one botch die. The virtue also doesn't affect lab totals. And... it's kind of reasonable. Someone with WotX is especially at home there, in tune with the environment, friendly with supernatural entities of these places. Why shouldn't things be a touch easier for him? A gust of wind is more likely to feel refreshing than scatter important notes. Faeries are more likely to provide a helpful rather than an unhelpful nudge. Allergies? Hah.
A covenant set up as a manor, or that's on a ship, or that is a lone tower in the forest, or that is a fortified fantasy castle in the middle of nowhere ought not qualify as towns.
As for taking "Ways of the Covenant," I think that ought to be saga-dependent. I'd feel queasy about it, since all towns share common environmental aspects, as do forests, but covenants are a bit more abstract. Which is not to say I'd say no. (BTW, maybe one reason that Roman legions always set up an elaborate camp was to support Mercurian wizards and other important people who cultivated (initiated!) Ways of the Fortress...)
But he can lose the last.
This is actually one of the things that made me consider Ways of the (Land) for a magus specializing in Spontaneous magic. If you fatigue yourself, you roll a stress die and may botch. While a gold cord, Cautious Sorcerer etc. all provide ways to reduce botch dice, they all leave that last one, which is the difference between using spontaneous magic freely vs. only when strictly necessary.
I've scoured the books, but there seem to be very few ways to remove that last botch die. The Divine offers a few (from the last circle of the notary art, to some Understanding guidelines), but you have to be pretty invested in the Divine. Charmed Life allows you a reroll, which ameliorates but does not eliminate the problem; it's also a Heroic Virtue, with all the attendant issues. The Threads of Fate supernatural ability from RM also allows one to wiggle one's way around the problem, but again, it only allows you to sort-of-wiggle around the problem, it's thematically very specific, and you have to invest heavily into it. Finally, I've seen a few people on the forum argue that if you cast your spontaneous magic ceremonially, since you can add Artes Liberales and/or Philosophiae to the roll, you should be able to apply the Cautious with Artes Liberales/Philosphiae to reduce botch dice, but at my table this is not considered the correct interpretation of the RAW: "You roll two fewer botch dice than normal whenever you are required to roll botch dice for that Ability" does not apply in this case, because you are rolling botch dice for spellcasting, not for Artes Liberales/Philosphiae, as evinced by the fact that you'd roll those botch dice anyway even if you did not leverage Artes Liberales/Philosphiae by casting ceremonially.
Of course, you can always summon some spirit or other critter to do the spontaneous casting for you, but that's not quite what I was looking for. Or make up a minor virtue "you are very careful with Spontaneous casting; you incur one fewer botch die when doing so, which can mean you roll no botch dice", but I was hoping for an "out-of-the-book" solution (as long as it was not too inelegant). Ways of the Land seemed a nice way to give a character specialized in Spontaneous Casting, in particular with Diedne magic, the ability to use "rolled" spontaneous magic freely, at least in his home terrain; but I have to concur that probably it's not meant to apply to all spellcasting in the area or by its inhabitants (on the other hand, I'd definitely apply to, say, casting an Aegis).
Yes, and that's very good, especially since it also applies to Finesse. But only in the chosen Land. Everywhere else--and the GM will make sure there is some everywhere else--this virtue does absolutely nothing.
It's a Major Virtue! It should be good. Losing the last botch die and getting some other benefits sometimes? Reasonable to me.
There's a better Heroic Virtue for this, something like Mythic Characteristic. You are clearly connected to the great spellcasters of the past, perhaps to a fallen hero of House Diedne! The characteristic is Stamina, and the subset is spellcasting. Yay.
I don't remember this one.
Well your table clearly doesn't know how to play! I won't bother with counterarguments, because your table's decisions are correct at your table. I'm squarely in the camp of letting these apply, fwiw.
But yeah, getting rid of the last botch die is difficult in AM. (Note that Solomonic "arts" are really Accelerated Abilities, so sahirs can just take Cautious with Ability for their favorite ones.)
While we're on the topic of reducing botch die, Vitkir do it better - see the spell on page 7 of the non-hermetic grimoire thread
"I, (the runemaster) steel my spells
Perth General, Method I
This script decreases the amount of botch dice the target rolls for a certain category of botch by the magnitude of this spell. This variant decreases the number of botch dice rolled on a magical botch, to a minimum of zero.
For example, a Level 10 version of this spell would mean the target rolls 2 less botch dice, while a Level 50 version would mean the target rolls 10 less botch dice."
I checked it against HMRE and sure enough, the general guideline is to reduce or increase botch dice by one per magnitude of rune, with a requisite of the appropriate rune for the activity you're influencing. As Perth is used for Magic, a Perth spell with no extra requisite (well, technically a Perth requisite) allows you to do this.
Actually, it's a bit more expensive than that. Normally you need to have the Blood of Heroes virtue to take a Heroic Virtue. Alas, it is not possible to have both Blood of Heroes and The Gift; magi can gain access to Heroic Virtues and Flaws by taking Mythic Blood, a major virtue.
So, you could get Mythic Stamina - but it'll cost you 4 virtue points to do so. Unless you were intending to take Mythic blood already, that's probably a non-starter.