While working on an experienced lab rat magus I was wondering whether the rules for original research do not make the process too easy for the background scenario to be realistic.
- A researcher probably has Puissant Magic Theory or an affinity in MT, so he won't have problems in achieving MT 11 and use a risk modifier of 3. Statistically this will lead to a discovery in about 1 of three seasons of research (rolls of 7,8,9, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-1-2, 1-1-3).
- Such a risk modifier sounds dangerous, but with a MT of 11 a researcher has a lab-refinement of 8, resulting in a security 8 lab even without having any virtues improving the security further. Experimentation results in 1 botch die on the experimentation chart, another three come from the risk modifier, so even in a magic aura of 4 there is no botch die left - and neither does the magus need a high aura nor is it difficult to gain further levels of lab security (e.g. an intelligent mundane lab assistent, a familiar with a strong golden cord).
- As you can continue to try to stabilize a discovery until you have succeded and you have about a chance of 2 in 3 for success in each attempt nearly every discovery finally yields breaktrough points.
- The only real problem is the danger of Twilight Points and Twilight. But even if you experiment with moderately high-level (6th magnitude) effects the cost is bearable (on average 1.5 Twilight points per attempt). If you put up your lab in a mundane aura, have a good stamina and are perhaps proficient with the 'Concentration'-ability you won't go into Twilight more than twice. Still in the end of the process you will probably have accumulated 30 to 35 Twilight points. You get much less if you work with low-level effects, but this costs time and the by-products of your research (spells and items) are much more likely to be of little use.
- I assume that a research specialist is quite competent in the arts he uses for his research projects and can (at least with the help of his high quality lab his familiar etc.) finish a 6th magnitude lab project in one season.
- So to achieve the cannon 60 breakthrough points for a hermetic breakthrough he needs 20 seasons (lab-projects without discoveries) + 10 seasons (lab-projects resulting in discoveries) + 15 seasons (stabilization attempts) +5 seasons (for unplanned events, interfering story guides...) = 50 seasons or12 and a half years. And these years are hardly a waste. Beyond the discovery you have gained 90 XP for exposure and have 25-30 usable spells or items (being able to decide how you use your risk modifier after rolling the dice results in very few failed researches).
This is in itself not a problem. It just means that the SG in a fast saga should be prepared for dramatic changes in magic in the course of this saga. If it even is a multi-generation story he (or she) will have to deal with 2nd generation magi much more powerful than their predecessors.
But this is completely incompatible with the history of the Order of Hermes:
- The order has got roughly 1200 members. If an average magus lives for 100 years after his gauntlet, this means that (if the numbers are stable) 1% or 12 magi are gauntleted each year throughout Mythic Europe.
- Magi tend to be intelligent and ambitious; a certain way to prestige among their peers is the discovery of some new aspects of magic; the infrastructure of the order and especially some covenants and houses provides many magi with an oppotunity to live for their art without having to care for more mundane problems (like the source of food or a shelter from rain). Considering all this it sounds reasonable that at least one in hundred magi should combine the skill, the opportunity and the motivation to get into some serious original research over the time of his live â€“ probably this figure is far too low!
- This means that the order gains 16 high level researcher every century. So in the last 4 centuries there should have been about 64 hermetic breakthroughs. I'd halve that figure, because the order was smaller and had to deal with more trouble in the past, and perhaps halve of the remaining breakthroughs have been lost due to political machinations, uncooperative magi, divine and infernal intervention... Still there should be a history of about sixteen hermetic breakthroughs â€“ every single one closer to the Parma than the Aegis in its relevance - left â€“ but in the official version the last Hermetic Breakthrough was the Parma itself.
Well, what to do with this contradiction, here some ideas:
- Prove me wrong: Show me that there is a serious miscalculation in one of my assumptions, perhaps I didn't spot an important rule on OR, and then the whole system crumbles.
- Make OR harder: If you needed considerably more breakthrough points to acchieve breakthroughs (e.g. 75/150/300) less people would try â€“ because it would mean a devoted life of research, a serious ammount of warping and no guarante of success. - There should still have been some breakthroughs as results of multi generation and team researches.
- Rewrite the labortary chapter in conveants or the rule on using the risk modifier in OR: If you use the laboratory rules from conveants it is fairly easy to make your high risk research completely safe, and it is also very simple to gain high boni on your lab totals. My gut feeling is that if I want to tinker with the rules I should do it here, but then there must be something for the lab rats who don't get to slay the dragons and harvest their vis. Alternatively one could just limit the flexibility the researcher has in using the risk modifier.
- Rewrite the history of the order: Bonisagus was still the founder and invented a crude form of magical resistance, but this was much more limited than the modern Parma, and the incorporation of all the Forms and Technics into his rump theory took centuries. Basically the Hermetic Magic of the rules is the state of the art at the moment of the saga, but even halve a century ago it was much weaker. Given such a historical background, most hedge magician traditions are probably still not as affraid of the hermetics as they should be, much would be different in politics.
- Accept the contradiction: (Either it's just like in many other roleplay-systems: PCs live in another universe than NPCs and are so much more likely to acchieve anything â€“ a concept that doesn't seem to fit with AM - or) something has changed recently; suddenly magical breakthroughs occur more frequently, perhaps due to the Magical Theory reaching a treshold, or to changes in the nature of things. But does this affect other magical traditions as well? Other realms? What is behind such a subtle but far reaching change? This could be a good starting point to bring the lab rat into a really highend epic saga.
I have finished my thoughts on this topic for now.
Alexios ex Miscellanea