Having a look at some interesting items of quality. Would you awesome forum-goers say that a bonus to Strength through an appropriate Item of Quality would add to damage rolls (Due to increased Strength), or just to rolls involving lifting things or otherwise being strong?
What item, and what quality? Where are you looking at? If we are talking wonderous items, then it would work the same as a spell and give a boost to actual strength. If merely excellent quality it only gives a bonus where the item is actually used. For Verditious Items of Quality it applies "when the tool is used in an appropriate manner"
I am looking at (for instance) a belt, which can give a bonus to strength, or a human skull which can give a bonus to controlling spirits. Would the first add to damage, would the second add to spellcasting?
Technically, a belt gives a bonus to affecting strength, so I have no idea how that would work for an Item of Quality... Really, I feel the system only makes sense if you restrict Items of Quality to tools and such. The quality bonuses for a sword, an axe, or a spade make total sense, but ignoring all the other points, Items of Quality only work when being used for their "intended purpose." What is the intended purpose of a skull? Or a cat's eye? It doesn't make sense for those kinds of items to give a bonus to anything when made into Items of Quality.
Due to the odd physics of Ars Magica, I would say the second. Mind, that's just because of the odd physics. If it were "Actual world" physics I would say yes. Items of Quality are nice, but they take a season to make, and should not be nerfed. Remember, the actual mystery mentions clothes as a possible Item of Quality, so certainly a belt like a woodsman would wear would qualify, and nothing in the Mystery says you have to be doing that job, once it's been "crafted".
Clothing is given as an example of a "tool" that a courtier would use, not simply something that can be made. Essentially a tool for those who must dress to impress. Unless you are talking about a weight lifting belt the benefit and the item's usage just don't seem to match up...
I think as a rough guideline I'd sat that an item of quality doesn't give a user a power, but enhances the activity that the user is using the item of quality for. This does work best when we think of these items as tools. Clothing is a tool in certain social situations. A belt or strap is a tool to keep things together of keep something attached to something else. A belt, like a broach, could also be significant in social situations. I'd let an a belt of quality help on rolls to keep something bound or attached - although I'm not off the top of my head remembering a situation when I've asked a player to roll to see if an item stays in a wagon, for example - I'd also let a belt of quality aid first impression rolls, intimidation rolls (I'm thinking of a belt like the WWE championship belt, not the belt I'm wearing), or Charm rolls.
Technically, Items of Quality only add their bonus when the skill is rolled. Thus damage, by RAW, is not affected (nor is soak). I think this is open to interpretation by many storytellers, so YSMV. AM5 seems to be strongly moving away from actually rolling skills, such as crafting totals or aesthetic totals in C&G, so sagas that use the expanded ruleset may need to negotiate this anyways. Generally, if it's a one time activity, you roll the skill, but if you are using an extended period of time (like a season) it is not rolled. Unfortunately, all the rules clarifications use seasons.
An IoQ only works if the item is one needed to fulfill the activity/role. So a courtier obviously needs suitable clothing, but it seems a big reach to me that a swordsman needs a belt. So the bonuses for the sword and maybe even the scabbard are reasonable, but the belt... eh. The belt has the bonus, of course, but it does nothing until the belt is used, and in this situation it is not.
I might allow a strength bonus in a belt to allow a swordsman to wield a heavier sword... with a Str bonus of +3 that means someone with STR: -3 could wield a long sword (they would still have -3 to damage however)
With regard to spellcasting, the Potent Magic virtue allows for the creation of spells that can make use of item casting bonuses. You don't need the virtue to learn these spells from lab texts; only to invent the spell.
The skull could also apply the bonus if it were invested as a talisman. However, I can't see an IoQ (Verditius-style) adding anything to spellcasting as spellcasting does not typically require such tools.
You might be able to eek a benefit if the magus in question had a necessary condition relating to the use of a tool, but that feels like stretching to me.
As for bonuses; as everyone else says an IoQ relates to rolls made in using the item appropriately. An IoQ cloak would add to rolls against deprivation relating to being cold or wet, for example - because you typically use a cloak to stop yourself being cold and wet. A girdle providing a strength bonus is a push; wearing a girdle certainly can help with lifting, but I'd only apply the bonus in such conditions as where a girdle would logically help. Lifting a heavy object? Possibly. Strength bonus to damage? No.
So rather than being a flat '+1 strength', it'd be more likely to be '+1 strength when used in these specific circumstances.'
A flat-out bonus to a characteristic is a pretty big deal; I'd have said out of scope for an IoQ, given the magnitude of the hermetic magic required to pull off such a stunt.
I'm pretty liberal when it comes to the definition of "using". Our canon example is a king "using" a scepter (let's ignore the fact that there isn't a shape/form bonus for Scepters), which is a symbolic use since he does not actually wield it in any way. Thus, I would allow a belt to apply if it is part of a uniform, holds the scabbard, or holds up an armor piece. This rewards a creative player, which I am always in favor of. Game balance, of course, is the province of the storyteller.
On another note, Items of Quality SHOULD be fairly rare. They are only produced by Verditius, and only make 3 pawns income per season, so anyone except journeymen Verditius should ALWAYS have more important things to do than waste time making a measly three pawns. Decreased supply can easily make up for increased (or perceived increase) in power, or just increase the price of the item.
I would point out the "three pawns" only applies when selling to "Civilians". You can sell them to other Magi, whatever the market will bear, no problem. And that's probably going to be way higher then three pawns, because Items of Quality don't count as magic as far as Parmi, or indeed, any Magic Resistance is concerned. I don't believe there's any other effect like that known by the Order.....
Houses of Hermes: Myatery Cults stays the opposite. Prices of Enchantments are set by the Primus, the standardized price is twice the cost of making the item plus the actual Vis used to make it, or three times the Vis cost. Prices to mundanes are in silver, not Vis and are also set by the Primus 15 pounds x number of pawns of Vis used. If an item doesn't have a Vis cost, then one can charge double the amount one could extract in the same time period to make the device. I think Items of quality are close enough to not costing Vis, or costing so little that pricing them on the extraction total is probably a better measure for determining pricing.
They cost one vis to make hence 3 to sell. Setting the sale price equal to extraction is a far better price; otherwise no one but journeymen would ever make them. And they are VERY useful to the Order.
They may be useful to the Order, but I honestly don't see a Verditius selling these for only three pawns. Such a price means that Items of Quality are a waste of the Verditius magus' time when compared to anything else he could make and sell.
I guess this conversation sends me on two tangents.
Guilds and Price Fixing
We generally think of medieval commerce as a huge used car lot, with all prices set to whatever can be haggled and quality firmly set at caveat emptor. Old school gaming only reinforces this tendency. Countervailing concerns led toward rules that set prices, both to limit discounts and profiteering, and that set quality control. The actual market was never fully free or fully controlled, but from what I have (possibly mis-)read, commodity items tended to have prices fixed by custom or even law.
C&G discusses how artisans with better skill prefer to produce better items slower rather than more items faster. Hermetic Magic does not work this way at all; a magus with a higher lab total can produce better items faster. IoQ does work this way, mostly: It takes a season for someone who can do it, you get what you expect to get, but a magus with greater skill cannot spend more seasons to improve things.
I guess I'm groping toward a conversation about a consistent economy.
I disagree with the assertion that Hermetic magic doesn't work that way. Better things take longer for magi, too. I mean, sure, a character with a Lab Total of 50 can produce better things at a quicker rate than, say, somebody with Lab Total 25, but that's a very large gap; in any case, a magus making any enchantment with a level over half their Lab Total will require longer than the normal season for it. To extend the analogy, if magi were skilled artisans, they'd prefer a strong enchantment that takes two or three seasons to complete to weaker ones that they can produce multiple of per season.
(Whether that's efficient or not in the grand scheme of things depends on the magus, their resources, and the current situation, of course.)
The key thing here is that market control (guilds) control competition, but they don't control customer demand.
Magic items are unusual in that often the customer wants a very specific quality of item. If they want a penetration-0 wand of pilum of fire, they're not going to pay more for a penetration +10 version because they specifically want it to be pen-0. The seller could certainly offer the +10 version, but it's up to the customer if they're even interested.
This is true regardless of the market; you can't sell something there's no demand for. If the king specifically wants everyone to wear cheap shoes, then the high quality cobbler is either going to have to make cheap shoes, convince the king to change his mind, make expensive shoes illegally or starve.