Ok then. How about "small Animal effects"? All Animal effects below a certain level? Surely, that is not unbalancing even for an assassin. (Incidentally, given that you can take "Damage" as a major focus, I don't think effects of first magnitude would be mechanically unbalancing, but that's beyond the point now).
The question is whether all effects above level X, or all effects below level Y, in a given Form would be appropriate as a major focus. Note that's the clear mechanical description (clear once you plug in a sufficiently high X or a sufficiently low Y). The fluff would be something like "Ignem Cantrips" and "Ignem Archmagery" to satisfy the "need for theme".
Legendary creatures does not mean powerful creatures, but creatures from the legends, one might argue.
To be honest, I wouldn't allow it in my game: It is the nature of Ars Magica that most supernatural beings are based on legends (this isn't D&D fortunately. There are very few non-legendary monsters simply invented by the game authors like the D&D beholder).
Of course, ditching a canon virtue requires a daring step: You have to admit that authors of game supplements may make decisions that are not always perfect. This happens rarely, but it does.
So asking the question: What did the game authors want? is simply asking the wrong question. Your question should always be: What does this do to my game?
Games do serve different purposes. Mine usually are group-told tales. But they might be anything from a political statement (not all Muslim magi are the enemy) to therapeutic compensation of personal deficiencies (I'm short and fat and bad at sports but want to play a tall, good-looking muscular machine of a man). So there are games in which your virtue is perfectly legit (e.g. games of feeling power). They aren't useful for my kind of games though.
So I won't be able to convince you that Might or Legendary cratures are poor virtues for your game. They might be great if you enjoy slicing through dragons like butter. I'm not even trying to convince you.
The only people who need to be convinced of anything are those sitting at a table together (or whatever virtual table surrogate you are using): Those must be able to share a vision, or at least be able to accomodate to each others visions.
I appreciate your answer. But I think I may not have been sufficiently clear. It seems to me your point is "you can't allow X as a focus, because otherwise you won't be able to have X as "bosses" in your saga".
If that was your point, I disagree with it, though I still thank you for making it clear. If it was not, well, I'd like to understand what it was
I mentioned above that referring to level seems wrong to me, because the level of a spell is a game mechanic. Do characters actually know the level of spells, or is it just on our SG & players' side? Why is Pilum of Fire named Pilum of Fire instead of "CrIg 20 Attack Spell"?
Of course these definitions work mechanically and fulfil the requisites asked in the corebook. They just need the flavour which will help me as SG to develop themes that player is interested in playing. So you want to play a Flambeau which a focus in CrIg spells of level 20 and below? I'd just ask for a cool name for that focus and try to put the limit strictly below 20 so he needs to devise an Almost Pilum of Fire CrIg19 spell
(By the way my troupe gently ignores that "Damage" is listed on the corebook as a possible focus).
I have both used the damage focus and allowed it for a character in my next saga. It works as an ingame concept which the character can be built around.
My criteria for foci is that it is something explainable in game rather than just as a rules artefact and it works for me and my players as something a characters magic can be built around. For instance of pagan priest magi I am allowing the major magical focus Magic of (Ares/Aphrodite/Artemis) which covers the magic the player can justify as being covered by his patron. Fairly broad but something I feel fits into the world and is something.
In my opinion characters do have an appreciation of the level or at least magnitude of spells, as it is both a mechanical game construct and a key part of Hermetic magic as within Hermetic magic it is possible to measure and compare the complexity of spells. I don't think I would allow a magical focus which was linked to the magnitude of the spell but none of my players have tried to sell the idea to me yet and I cannot rule out being convinced by some interesting arguement and concept.
From an aesthetic point of view - say no, as the dictionary definition of "focus" that applies here is "the centre of concentration" - what about mighty magics centres attentions on an area of magic? Any focus that isn't clearly focused isn't a focus (forgive the repetition).
From a game balance point of view - best to say no unless your entire troupe thinks it will be fun.
From a ruining other people's fun point of view - if this leads to one magus being wheeled out as the deus ex machina every time there's a big problem to solve, this could be saga-ruining. Avoid unless the entire troupe is convinced.
From an in-game magical theory point of view - what is it the character has managed to study that affects everything so big? Studying trees to the point of obsession so a Herbam magus is highly focused is straightforward, as is an Ignem magus studying flames far more than the cold or darkness uses of their art. Only if you have really good background reasons (their parens was an archmage who solely used their apprentice for the lab boost when designing massive rituals) could such a focu make sense.
Oh, magi certainly have, in character, the notion of magnitude.
For rituals, it's the number of pawns of vis needed to power them.
For non-ritual effects, you can still tie it to the number of pawns necessary to enchant a similar effect in a device, or to how it interacts with an Aegis of a given magnitude etc.
Uhm, the fact it's ... big stuff? Suppose you decide that "magics above 10th magnitude (i.e. level 55+)" is not unbalancing as a major focus. What's the "theme"? Well, it's everything so vast and intricate that it just outstrips what's possible by formulaic and spontaneous magics due to its sheer scale. I am stumped for a good name right now, but to me it seems a pretty clear "focus".
I'm a bit surprised how everyone assumes this will be game breaking per se. In our troupe the discussion immediately went to the issue of "how high should the level be" for it to be balanced. Because it seemed clear to us, that there is some threshold above which it's weak even for a minor focus ... so the only issue is just how low to set the threshold.
Our initial idea was someone descended/reincarnated etc. from some truly puissant magical being -- a dragon, a titan etc. So, big magic comes easy. Small stuff feels like tying knots in your nose's hair.
Let me stress one crucial thing. There are two types of "mighty stuff" I asked whether you would consider, and under what parameters, balanced as a focus.
Effects above (or below!) a certain level -- or may effects in a given Form above a certain level. E.g. Ignem Archmagery (Ignem level 35+).
Effects targeting stuff above a certain "size" -- or maybe effects in a given Form targeting stuff above a certain "size". Here "size" depends on the Form, e.g. for Vim it would be "magnitude".
I received a lot of feedback about 1.
But 2. was mostly ignored -- though some folks like Ouroboros actually addressed it! A lot of the objections against 1. seem to fall for 2. For example, would you allow a focus that benefits any Vim magic targeting "the greater supernatural", i.e. stuff above magnitude X (treating as magnitude of a mystical creature the Might of its magnitude, as magnitude of an Aura/Regio its level etc.)? And if so, at what threshold would you set X for a major and minor focus?
Note that something that allows you to more easily dispel ... uhm (let's say X=14) only level 75+ rituals, disenchant only the mightiest talismans, and summon only Kosmokrator-class beings might sound game-breaking, but it's like having a fight armed only with a nuclear bomb: occasionally it yields an easy win, but mostly it's useless unless you go through a lot of effort to exploit it!
If the primary division is magnitude I would still say no- Large animals? No, Large mammals, okay, large reptiles, sure. Same goes for vim, and possibly double for vim- powerful Faerie magic might be okay as a major if it was restrained to the vim form, but I wouldn't even allow major magic under vim because muto vim would blow that out of the water to cover everything- I would also consider faerie as a major to be mutually exclusive with faerie magic unless there were further limitations...
I wouldn't allow any size/magnitude restriction as a focus. Not even in a single Form. It's just not thematic for me, it's game-mechanicy. Affecting Fenicil Rituals, which happen to all be high-level - that I can maybe approve as a Major Focus. Affecting Giants, which essentially coincides with large Co - sure. But not sheer magnitude or size.
That said - it's your game. You seem to like the idea. In terms of sheer balance, I would agree that given a sufficiently-large magnitude/size the virtue would be considered balanced-enough. Perhaps level 75 or higher spells, Co/An creatures of Size +9 or higher, or creatures of Might 75 or higher.That would limit the virtue's application to the end-game, where most spells are within the character's focus (if he has any) anyway.
Actually, it's not so much that my troupe and I "like" the idea, as that a major focus in "large beasts" or "small beasts" (and its Vim homologue, "the greater supernatural" and "the lesser supernatural") does not strike us unthematic, given the the ArM5 RAW examples:
Legendary Beasts (Minor)
Wooden Wands (Minor)
Valetudo: Subordinates, Work, and Health (Minor)
Damage: Any Art, as long as the effect does damage directly, either by inflicting a wound or doing a certain amount of damage which can be soaked (Major)
So, I must say that the arguments I've seen have not significantly convinced me in that regard. But the main issue I came to the forum for was that of where to set a balanced threshold, if you assume thematically it's ok (and there are no other major loopholes, that I was wondering if anyone would spot in my place). One might be tempted to say:
The issue is that such a major focus should certainly avoid being "too broad", but also "too narrow". "Gigantic beasts" (size 9+ Animal) seems a bit on the narrow side for a major focus, for which anything "less than a half a form" is fair and anything less than a fifth explicitly too narrow. Here's a way to avoid that common temptation of some SG to call "balanced" that which they considered "clearly sufficiently underpowered to the never have any impact on my games":
Suppose you, as a SG, had agreed with a player to the following:
You choose two consecutive sizes. E.g. 0 & +1. Anything smaller (in this case -1 or less) counts a small beast. Anything larger (in this case +2 or more) as a large beast.
The player can choose for his magus a major focus in either small or large beasts, his choice.
Clearly, you can always choose the threshold sizes so that both his choices constitute less than half the Animal form. How do you choose that threshold so as to maintain balance? This is something that my troupe is still very much unsure of.
Now, repeat the same exercise with Vim major focus "the greater supernatural" ... and the Vim major focus "the lesser supernatural". The focus benefits all Vim magics targeting creatures, effects, items, auras etc. that are respectively "mystically bigger" and "mystically smaller" than a certain band of, say, two magnitudes. What's balanced as "the greater supernatural" and "the lesser supernatural"?
Yeah, as I believe I said above I would not have approved Damage (but would, as it's in the RAW). Nor Legendary Beasts, and not Swords or Wooden Wands if taken to mean that these apply to anything enchanted into them.
That said, to reply to your main question,
Given the (RAW) criteria you cited, I would say that less than half but more than a fifth of a Form would correspond to roughly as follows:
For Animal Size, I'd look to horses. Assuming these serve as a good measure of half the targets, as they are quite common as targets. So I would reckon anything of Size +3 or higher as Big Animals. For small animals, I'd actually suggest going much lower than 2 size categories down as there are lots of Size +1 or 0 creatures. I would at least go to -3 (cat), below the far-too-common dogs and sheep. Perhaps lower. Thematically, -8 (rats) seems to me a minimum to be a Small Animal (rats are rather big!), but you wanted a more mechanical cut.
For "The Greater Supernatural", I would suggest using the one-fifth guideline, as inflation during the saga will increase what it contains. Going off the CrAn in the Spell Index, there are about 25 spells so one fifth is 5 spells and the top 5 spells are all of level 50 or above so I would consider that a minimum for spell levels. For creatures, it depends on the saga very much but using the later ArM5 line standards, which effectively cap Might at 50 except in other Realms, I'd suggest Might 40 or even 35. For auras, this is perhaps level 7.
For "The Lesser Supernatural", the lowest 5 spells are level 20, but there are many lower-level spells in other Art combos; I'd suggest level 15 at the least. For creatures, Might 10 at most. For auras, aura 2 at most.
Thanks, this is exactly the type of answer I was looking for!
Incidentally, how would you stretch your "classes" so that they are each closer (but still less than) half a Form? Let's say about as large as you can be very confident that it's still less than half, the way "men" and "women" are each a major focus for Corpus. Or at least one third of a form: so "that which is neither big or small" could be a major focus itself?
Let me add one consideration (that may be obvious, but just in case). When I say "split evenly" I don't refer to the "quantity encountered". Clearly, there are many more insect-sized animals than animals of size +1 or more, even in terms of sheer "weight". Instead I mean splitting equally in terms, if you wish, of "utility" to the magus. So, when I say split Animal in three -- "small", "large", and "in-between" beasts -- I mean split the sizes so that if you had three players, each playing a magus with one (unique) such focus, the split would not feel unfair to any of them.
Part of the problem for where the ballance point stands is that it is very game dependant. If everyone is freshly gauntleted then you have an effective limit of 10 on each art, so 30 could be balanced. If the game covers an entire magical career or later career, then you are looking at an unofficial cap of 50 to an art but a more realistic unofficial cap of 40, so 120 might well be the ballance point. What you are going to be doing with level 120 spells I'm not sure...
This is true for most Virtues and Flaws.
Puissant vs. Affinity.
Book Learner vs. Independent Study.
Tough vs. Venus Blessing.
You should just go with your saga, or maybe the most "vanilla" saga you can imagine.
Actually, I feel this thread has drifted enough from its original question that I am making another , hopefully more ... focused and just "better" thanks to the discussions above!
The fact you are stumped for a name suggests it's not a great focus from an atmosphere/aesthetics point of view. "I'm a pyromancer" - gives you an idea of the mage. "I specialise in nature magics". "I'm an illusionist" - all atmospheric. If you can hang a good name on it, people will respond to it better.
This is by far the best naming attempt I've seen of such a focus, but I'm not convinced "Rituals" wouldnt be too close to a focus in a R/D/T.
Why not a focus in "Formulaic Spells", then? Or even "Formulaic spells at a distance?"
This also gives this weird vibe, which doesn't exists with other foci: At some point, harder spells just become easier.
To get back to a purely magnitude-based focus, this makes a mage who would find easier to cast a lvl 55 aegis than a lvl 50 one. The same spell suddenly becomes easier.
Although I think you could adjust such a thing so that it wasn't too wide, to me, this doesn't say "theme" or focus". To get back to a previous exemple, "Beasts of Legend" (which, to me, "feels" like a focus) doesn't have this disconnect