How do you adjudicate formularies? [HMRE - Learned magicians]

Learned magicians cannot cast "spontaneous" charms. But they can cast charms they do not know, from existing collections. These texts, called formularies, contain "hundreds or thousands of charms". To decide whether a particular charm can be found within a formulary we read:

For each formulary, the storyguide should set a target level for one or more Technique and Form combinations, and set a target Ease Factor from 3 to 9. If the player succeeds on a simple die roll against the Ease Factor, the desired spell is contained within the formulary, unless the storyguide determines otherwise. [HMRE p.85]

This is a bit vague, for three reasons. First of all, we are not really told to which formularies, if any, a Learned magician may have access to; this information is not even provided for sample characters (our troupe assumes one formulary per tradition, available to all characters "in good standing"). Second, we are not given a sense of how the ease factor should be adjusted (our troupe assumes each tradition has a favourite form and technique: the ease factor is 3 for charms matching both, 9 for those matching neither, and 6 for all others). Third, we are not really given a sense of how often or why the storyguide should "determine otherwise" (our troupe assumes it never happens unless a) it is the result of some botch or other "bad luck" situation or b) the fact that a particular charm is missing from the formulary of a given PC or NPC is the initial driver of a particular situation, e.g. a Story stemming from a Story Flaw).

How do you play it?

One formulary per tradition doesn't really make sense, as Learned Magicians are just one tradition. One formulary per lineage works (copied from master to apprentice, and possibly traded if you make friends with another LM lineage).

Then just make a 3x3 grid and determine numbers randomly.

With "Tradition" I mean something like the Cunning Folk, or the Mathematici of Bologna, or some sect of Mythic Alchemists, or the Norse Galdramen (if I am not mistaken, they have been recast as Learned magicians in 5e). All are different "traditions" using the learned magicians mechanics.

I see. I think the time limitation is enough so that it doesn't need to be further limited, just based on how the formulary would come to be, which I interpret as several lifetimes' worth of collected LM lab texts.

Two questions remain though:

  1. how do you determine "randomly" the Ease Factors for the various TeFo combinations? Just roll a simple die until you get something between 3 and 9?
  2. when do you allow the storyguide to override the roll?
  1. Yeah, basically.

  2. SG judgment I guess. There hasn't been any overruling in our saga.

This sounds good in principle but how many lifetimes are available in practise? The tradition formed around the university in Bologna which was founded in 1088 so by 1220 there has been at most 132 years for the Mathematici to form and then for it to spread and start developing traditions and write down their discoveries and developments. I think the potential for multiple lifetimes worth of accumulated work is probably something of an overstatement.

Maybe not accumulated lifetimes, then, maybe just each LM's own spell collection. LM Longevity is pretty good so the originators may still be alive.

An LM spending a season inventing spells gets Lab Total x5 spell levels, and their guidelines are relatively low, so the stockpile of spells can build up pretty quickly.

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I assumed formularies were like lab texts and/or casting tablets in regards to what they hold; you can inherent them from your teacher or you go looking for the efforts of a lost master to find out how to perform certain pieces of magic.

In regards to the Ease Factor, I never considered doing it randomly, rather I just thought they would scale at the magnitude of the effect.

Only if they have a lab text. Otherwise (the way I read it) they get LabTotal x 2.5 charm levels. That's because LM multiply their lab total by 5, but otherwise use the same rules as Hermetic magi. Thus, a "basic" lab total of 30 becomes a lab total of 150 for charm research purposes, which means that researching up to 75 levels of charms accumulates at least 75 points of progress per season... thus getting done in a single season.

I would agree with ezzelino. Consider these quotes, too:

The learned magicians create and use Laboratory texts in the same basic manner as Hermetic Laboratory Texts

Learned magicians learn charms from a teacher and invent them as their Hermetic counterparts do

when creating new charms, whether from a Lab Text or from scratch, a learned magician may multiply his Lab Total by five.