How much can Spont spells be changed after the dice roll?

I'm a little confused by the wording of the Spontaneous Magic section on pages 81-82 of the rulebook. I haven't seen a discussion of exactly this on the forum but apologies if it has been thrashed out before. The wording says this:

[i]"Before casting the spell, the maga must decide on the effect she is trying to create. If her final total is too low for that effect, the spell fails. The chosen effect may be open ended. For example, the maga may want to create the brightest light she can, with a duration of at least Sun. In this case, the spell will fail if the final level cannot produce any light with that duration, but otherwise greater totals will produce brighter light.

If the maga rolls well, she may choose to increase the range, duration or target of the spell, but may not change the basic effect. She may also choose to cast the spell at a lower level than her casting total, to increase its penetration."[/i]

I'm with it up to the end of the first paragraph. You want to create a light to last for Sun duration. As bright as possible, please, but it'll fail if it can't create any light at all.

But we then find that, if you roll really well, you can increase the duration, etc. but not change the basic effect.

If someone can point out what I am missing, I would be very much obliged!

Your not missing anything 'I want the brightest light I can get at concentration!' vs 'I want a torch light at touch/concentration duration'
In the first scenario, rolling a 1,1,1,0 would be funny :stuck_out_tongue:
In the second you roll the same and voila your torchlight now got an amazing amount of penetration, or you change it to sun duration, ontop of your grogs helmet instead of in your hand :stuck_out_tongue:
...the iffy bit for me is the 'or'; "the range, duration OR target of the spell" "She may also choose (And/or in conjuction with the second paragraph?) to increase penetration".

I have never liked that presentation of the rule, and though Spont magic is where it is "at" for powerful magi, most starting characters have such limited capability that it does not come up in any but the more intense longer games. I always understood it to mean you selected a basic fundamental goal (based on the hermetic rules) and a minimum target/range/duration. This sets the Pass/Failure point, anything above this is success and can increase the T/R/D of the spell.

why you would select a pass/fail point any higher than absolutely necessarily I don't know (other than Magic Addition maybe?).

I've tended to run it as follows:

  1. You choose your minimum parameters: Base, Range, Target, Duration, target, etc.
  2. You choose one place to put any extra power: power, Range, Duration, penetration, etc.

So I haven't let them be changed based on decisions after the roll. I have the decision be made before the roll and then the roll indicates how well it was pulled off. This also avoids the ultra-low start and altering everything afterward approach mentioned above.

That sounds reasonable. I was going to go with "one fixed parameter, the rest variable" but was also thinking that was probably a bit too flexible. Your outline above feels thematically appropriate.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

In this case lets say I am firing off my Spont Pilum during a wizard war (So I know that bastard Tremere has the Parma), so I need to get as much Penetration as possible, but also I want to make the fire burn as hot as possible. I could not have both vary, I need to choose the power level or the Penetration (along with the other parameters).

I ask this since Penetration is almost always allowed to vary.

The reason I don't do this is it doesn't follow the open-ended part of the rule as easily. Penetration is what's left once you hit the cap, and there isn't a cap if you cast it with no cap. I'm not saying what I do fits canon perfectly, but it does work fairly simply and avoid abuse. I'll have to study it more to see if it specifically disagrees with canon. Otherwise everything is a Range of at least Touch/Eye, a Target of at least Individual, and a Duration of at least Momentary with the barest of fire damage. I'll put anything else into increasing any of those as well as penetration.

A thought has occurred: How would you use this system/interpretation with a character who had the Chaotic Magic flaw? Would it be the case that, for this character, all parameters of the spell (including Penetration) must be decided in advance of rolling the dice?

Rolling really well means more power and better control over that power. The player is describing their magical effect, it gives more flexibility to the description.

Rolling well then making the light be out of control bright would be moronic, no offense. The player is being punished twice. Rolling well and being completely wasted on something like penetration, when penetration isn't needed as in a light, is again punishing the player for rolling well.

Considering a botch is magic uncontrolled, not simply "couldn't cast", which can cause warping and twilight as though too much was tapped. Making the spell go out of control when rolling well is what the chaotic magic flaw is for, but out of control as in "wild teenage party while parents out of town", not Chernobyl reactor cooling system failure.