How to develop new spell masteries ?

I was pondering about original research mechanism and a question dawned to me: how a mage could develop new masteries?

The regular process for original research is:

  • step one, invent while experimenting a spell or effect that would include said invention. If the experimentation results in a Discovery, move to step 2
  • step two: stabilisation, repeat step one, but only a non-negative outcome from the experimentation is needed to validate the progress.
  • repeat step one and two until the mage accrues enough discovery points, get fed up, dies of old age or enter final Twilight.

This works well for new parameters, new guidelines and other improvements, but for a new mastery, how would you fit the "mastery aspect"? Unless a mage has Flawless Magic, he won't master a spell from the get-go. More over, the mage is not trying to invent a new spell or a new effect, but more a new way of casting spell.

So, I am drawing blank on how to approach this type of discovery (beside finding an old scroll that describe such mastery).

For info, those are the two masteries I found interesting to develop:

  • Twin-cast: the mage is able to cast simultaneously two different spells that have both the Twin-cast mastery. Each spell can only be cast once, regardless of Multicasting mastery.

  • Merge: the mage is able to aggregate the power of a multi-cast spell into a single effect - thus the mage must already have the spell mastered with multicasting. Each additional spell increase the efficiency by one step or magnitude, without changing the penetration. The increase of efficiency is assessed by looking at the base guideline and taking more powerful effect while keeping as close as possible to the initial effect: eg: increase of damage for attacking spell, increase of ward level for warding spell, increase of distance for teleporting/moving spell. It is possible that some spells cannot benefit from Merge mastery. A merge spell cannot mimick ritual effect (I am not sure about the need for this one).

Twin-cast is very interesting for combat situation when a mage would need to cast both a defensive and an offensive spell during the same round. It still requires some commitment since at least two spells need to be mastered with Twincast. I was considering if one of the two spells should have a -15 penalty for being cast without voice and gesture (because it looks difficult to me for a mage to do two different castings and gestures within the same round), but it is more a balancing option that I will check later down the road.

Merge could possibly be too powerful. The idea is to give the possibility to turn several weak low-level spell into a single, more effective spell, while keeping the Penetration of low level spell. It is kind of trading off the time to learn new spells with time learning new mastery ability.

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I'd say a magus in general does not need anything to create a new mastery ability. Pile up the xp (gained by practicing the spell, reading about it, using it in a story etc.), and once the mastery score grows by 1, presto! Choose an existing mastery ability, or discuss with the troupe if your cool new idea qualifies.

Only if the new ability would somehow break the limits of magic does Original Research become necessary. I would add such research would typically allow a magus to do expand his magic much more broadly than obtaining a single new mastery.

For what it's worth, (my troupe and) I think that many people turn too often to Original Research where none would be needed. After all, Hermetic Magic is supposed to be the universal theory of magic. Most new guidelines or S&M bonuses should just be available without Original Research (unless they break the limits of magic, or go into completely new directions - e.g. manipulating the Magic Realm, entering dreams). New RDTs are also available without Original Research, albeit at slightly lower efficiency and not for Spontaneous Casting.

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Interesting. I think I'd take the approach that a lot of the work involved in inventing new spell masteries is about inventing the tools you need for the requisite understanding and ability, rather than using the original research mechanics per se. I have played fast and loose with this sort of thing since my players aren't original researchers per se, and the occasional really minor breakthrough doesn't seem worth employing the heavyweight mechanics.

So to take Twin Casting as an example, I'd start with a season of pure Magic Theory contemplation of how it could work. Perhaps the original idea needs to be modified to fit Hermetic Theory. In this case casting two unrelated spells simultaneously sounds hard, not to mention an open invitation to Botch City. Moving seamlessly from one spell to the next sufficiently smoothly that you can get two spells off in one round might be easier. At this point you could justify InVi spells to show exactly what's going on as a spell is cast, spending a season learning a spell mastery (adapting the experimentation rules) particularly Fast Casting, maybe even walking a Criamon labyrinth or doing some weapons training to get more in touch with your body's reactions. I wouldn't worry too much about the exact number of points accrued, just keep going until it's thematically appropriate to stop (or the dice seem bent on deciding one way or the other).

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I would think that since spell mastry is a "mundane" skill rather than a magical guideline it would be developed in the same way mundane innovations are developed. Unfortunately the closest thing we have to that is philosophical research, though there is no generalization into how a smith for example might use those principals to research better steel or a new sword design. I would however start there in that you are developing a new "formula" for spell mastery, so once your new mastery ability is approved by the troop's or SG, depending on your group dynamics, you would need to spend 5xp of your advancement in mastery to develop it.
That also explains why some forms of spell mastery are limited to certain groups, who have not shared their formulas.

Compare to Mutantum Magic, which gives access to some masteries.

So initiating a minor Virtue could be enough to design a new kind of mastery. Beyond that, you're at the same point as a new R/D/T.

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Thanks for all the replies.

I will address some suggestions.

  1. I am not in favor of not requiring research, just accruing XP. At my table, my players will feel deprived of the feeling of achievement if there was not some form of challenge/struggle/research involved. Also, they usually want to keep for a while the benefit of their new unique ability. Trivialising the achievement by only requiring XP means that any NPC could do the same within a few seasons.

  2. I like the observation approach proposed by @Rhodri. Maybe studying how some MuVi interact while being cast on a spell could lead to some insight. I could propose a stress roll on the Experimentation table each season, and give some research points for result like 5-6, 10 and 11. Once enough research point have been accrued (15 or 20, not the full 30 for minor breakthrough), the new mastery ability is understood and the mage can convert the research point into xp for mastery.

  3. I probably minsunderstand your meaning of "mundane" skill @silveroak. Mastery progress like regular skill instead of accelerated ability like Arts, but they are anything but mundane. In fact, they are a form of Meta-magic, so quite far from a mundane skill. Contrary to Finesse that can be learned by anybody, mastery cannot.

  4. Initiating a minor virtue would require either Original Research or finding lost cult, lost lore, lost script. I don't want - neither my players in fact - to use too much the trope of "This was well-known in the past, just dig some graves and you will find it". So back to Original Research.

In the meantime, I had a thought on that, to stay within the existing rules without doing too much houseruling: the mage could research two spells that can only be cast together. So something like two low-level spells, with different effects, but similar TeFo to be invented in parallel during the same season(s), and then follow the usual rules of original research and experimentation.

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We use very low level OR with the relevant spells being some variation on the desired Mastery. We wanted it to be fairly possible but not easy.

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Rhodri's explanation to me sounds like a bunch of potential justifications for generating Insight (there is precedent in Magi of Hermes for gaining Insight from things that are already a part of Hermetic Magic, such as investigating the Bronze Cord), which is a decent way to expedite things if you don't want to use the whole Experimentation system in True Lineages.

As for effects that "somehow incorporates your idea", I think that would depend heavily on your troupe. HoH: TL isn't too strict about this in their example of breaking the Limit of Vis, so I wouldn't worry too much:

The storyguide and the troupe decide that this is essentially a Muto Vis operation, and agree that any experimentation in these Arts, as well as Intellego, may lead to this discovery. (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, pg. 30)

Anyways, for new Spell Mastery abilities I wouldn't assume that "being a spell mastery special ability" is the important part to incorporate. That's more the final form of the Breakthrough's transmission if anything. Instead, I'd make it things related to the fundamental thesis of the breakthrough. If your thesis is "harmonizing two spells so that they can be cast simultaneously", maybe it would be spells with Additional Effects that are almost distinct enough to be separate spells, or Muto Vim spells akin to The Sorcerer's Fork that splits a spell in various ways to try and investigate how the aspects of it clash or harmonize. If it's "add more power to a spell to make it stronger", I'd look at inventing Muto/Creo Vim effects intended to be cast on spells to make them stronger, Group target Muto Vim that combines multiple spells into one, or spells with effects which could conceivably be combined with themselves to produce an effect equivalent to a higher guideline (light creation, certain Muto spells, any effect that deals N fatigue levels/warping points), or spells you think should be able to be stacked (Perdo Corpus inflicting wounds) even if they don't work that way.

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I seem to recall that transmitting a new Spell Mastery is simply writing a Magical Theory tractatus that involves the new mastery ability. Magi who study the tractatus learn how use the new Spell Mastery.

Isn't this one of the ways new minor breakthroughs are transmitted?

So I was assuming that to create the new Spell Mastery is effectively a minor breakthrough in Hermetic Magic Theory.

One merely plays around with casting the same spell, Season after Season, trying to twist it into doing what the new Mastery is supposed to do. Acquiring breakthrough points as you cast it in various different ways in different circumstances (sometimes successfully, sometimes not as you slowly approach the Mastery result, not always by an obvious route). Once you have earned enough breakthrough points, you have developed the Mastery ability, and the practice has given you enough bonus XP to also have learned the Mastery ability for that spell.

Then write a Magic Theory tractatus on the lessons learned.

PS some Mastery abilities might be dependent on circumstances, and progress towards breakthrough may be delayed if the right circumstances aren't available. Of course, it might be possible to learn something by trying to initial ideas on the Mastery in the wrong circumstances and seeing if the casting goes wrong in the expected way.

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A comprehended Twilight experience might be a good way to acquire a new mastery ability.

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This is one of those things I hope is in the new 5e Revised book.

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I agree. But that's very much storyteller fiat, and when you want to develop something new, it can feel kind of weird if you suddenly develop it at the first opportunity.

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The premise of my initial question was that the Mage has an idea of what he would like to research - whether it is possible and how ? So I do not consider SG fiat.
I think I have enough leads to reply to my player. The most important is that I would like to use as much as possible existing mechanisms - Original research and source of inspiration are the most relevant one, leading - eventually - to a known results.

I was drawing blank on Original research as I was focused on spell invention that seemed to me inadequate to develop a new mastery, but the idea of looking for Source of Inspiration by studying certain spells, certain types of casting goes in the right direction.

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Twilight result may be SG fiat, but one could still imagine a magus (particularly a Criamon) seeking it out on purpose as a way to gain insight regarding a new kind of spell mastery.

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I've done a new mastery with a Twilight experience as well. It fits... But I'm still not sure how it might be "taught" or "passed on."

A tractatus on something related, such as Magic Theory or Spell Mastery, would be the easiest and most consistent with the rules.

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Since you are trying to twist the spell into doing a new mastery, assume that you are often casting the spell in a stressed situation.

So there is going to be some botch rolls.
For each Season / breakthrough point, presume the experimenting mage needs to roll the following:
10* 1 botch dice
8 * 2 botch die
6 * 3 botch die
4 * 4 botch die
2 * 5 botch die

Or numbers that your Saga considers appropriate.
This way the development process risks interesting mishaps, Twilight points, and Twilight sessions that may increase/decrease accumulated breakthrough points.

PS good to be a Cautious Sorcerer

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