Suppose someone has a Mastery score of 1 in a Ritual (Aegis of the Hearth, to take the most important possibility) and is casting it in a situation that is not otherwise stressful.
Does she have to roll any botch dice if the first roll comes up zero?
The rules are not clear on this point, as evidenced by the fact that I, personally, have interpreted them both ways despite having actually written the blasted things. So, the question is which answer is better, not which is correct according to the rules.
In favour of "yes": There are likely to be at least half a dozen botch dice due here, from all the vis being used, and this seems to make Mastery too useful, and too necessary.
In favour of "no": If the botch dice are required, covenants should spontaneously combust rather more often than canon suggests.
I do have an opinion, but I am not going to say what it is at this point.
My vote would be soundly in favour of "no, once a Ritual is mastered, in an otherwise relaxed situation there are no botch dice". In fact, my real preference would be for Rituals to be treated like Formulaic spells, and cast with a simple die in an otherwise relaxed situation (as it used to be in previous editions) even without Mastery - this would address the issue of Mastery being necessary or too useful.
From a "simulationist" point of view, having Rituals always bring a whole lot of botch dice tends to make setting material hard to believe. Falke of Bjornaer casts every year a Ritual of 12th magnitude to chase winter from the Baltic; even with a fair Mastery score, that would translate into the Botch of the Twelve Years Durenmar, with its super-Aegis, would probably have exploded many times. And so on. Put in another way activities that are often relegated to downtime, like most yearly castings of an Aegis, should not have a high chance to fail with catastrophic consequences: actually playing them out or ignoring them should produce roughly the same results.
From a playability point of view, I think that Rituals are expensive enough that PCs specializing in them (say, healers or theurgists) very rarely get enough spotlight. If you start requiring one to cancel all those botch dice too or constantly end up in Twilight, a healer or a theurgist sees even less spotlight, and playing one becomes mostly an exercise in piling up botch-cancelling edges. I find this detracts from fun.
Finally, I would point out that if a magus has Mastery 1 in a formulaic spell, and then casts it with a few rooks of vis (e.g. to boost penetration) in an otherwise relaxed situation, by the RAW he explicitly rolls no botch dice. So I do not think that "rituals are always stressful because they use a lot of vis" is an argument with intrinsic merit.
I would vote for “Yes, rituals should always be stress.” My reading is that it is not due to the vis that it is stressful in the first place but that it is due to the physical & mental labor of performing the ritual. By this Ceremonial magic should, IMO, also always require a stress die. I will admit that I am biased, I think botching is one of the better parts of the system, particularly with magic and magic should be much more chaotic than it often is and I quite frequently take the Unpredictable Magic flaw for this reason.
I had always assumed that it was a combination of concentrating over the long casting time and applying Vis over the long casting time is what made the Ritual casting stressful, and botch possible.
Since a Ritual spell is designed to use a specific number of pawns of magic-aligned Vis, then those pawns of Vis should not add extra botch dice, as they are part of the spell design.
However, adding extra Vis to increase casting total, or using Vis tainted by another Realm, should add the standard extra botch dice for each non-basic pawn of Vis.
And now I have to justify Mercurian Magic with the above.
Of course, unless you have Flawless Magic, it might be a little costly Vis-wise in practicing the Ritual to get 1 level of Mastery...
Well, by the RAW you can cast a formulaic spell ceremonially (you need the spell Mastery "ceremonial casting" from HoH:TL p.99) while boosting its penetration with two rooks of vis ... and still not roll a single botch die in an otherwise relaxed situation! Technically, the same holds for vis-boosted, ceremonially-cast non-fatiguing Spontaneous magic - no mastery required.
I think it should be no botch dice in that situation.
My reasons are twfold.
The first is that this is what matches a strictly literal reading of the rules. (One place says rituals are always cast with a stress die. Another that mastered spells cast in a relaxed situation can't botch. And the dice section says that there is such a thing as a stress die roll that can't botch)
The second reason is that I do not think that routine casting (e.g. the yearly casting of the Aegis) of a spell that you know really well (i.e. have mastered) should have any significant chance of blowing up spectacularly. Nothing in the "fluff" in the books suggest that such a thing happens often enough to be noticed or is something magi in general are worried about.
I would also come down on the side of "No botch dice if otherwise not stressed", for the narritive reason of putting Aegides in down time and not having covenants die randomly. The SG can always introduce stress if they need tension for a particular reason.
In my fist campaign a player summoned the covenant to watch him cast a stat improving ritual on another player (un mastered) and botched. Much hilarity was had and we all learned not to cast unmasetered rituals. However this eats time and seasons. If the players need to invent a ritual instanta, they might not have time to master it, and so they have to make a choice. These choices are things I would want to see.
I vote no, as in the Bjornaer house-only Saga I played in our SG decided to make us roll for Aegis of the Hearth each winter. I was playing the Rego specialist...who had Twilight Prone. One year, we went without an Aegis for a few days while I recovered from much, much warping and Twilight.
On the flip side, this does give more options rather than fewer. Without this all powerful rituals are likely to be handled by only Mercurian Magi. A Mercurian Magus casting a 12th magnitude ritual has only 7 botch dice to start with rather than 13. Take Cautious Sorcerer (if you intend for high-level rituals) and you're down to something that single level of Mastery plus a Gold Cord can handle with ease.
So if you do this Mastery becomes quite useful. But if you don't do it, Mercurian Magic and/or Cautious Sorcerer become too useful and too necessary. At least if you do this there are alternative paths instead of forcing one or both of those Virtues.
Personally I feel like there should be a way to reduce the botch dice to zero, perhaps with taking extra time or by increasing the people involved, but that it should not be quite so easily removed as with a single level of mastery. It also seems as though texts on aegis mastery should be extremely common.
I vote for "No". This is the way that all the groups I play with have done it back through multiple editions. Any Order wide annually performed effect that has a Botch chance with a lot of dice is going to result in multiple Covenants blowing up every year. Since that is something which has never been described (and if it was happening it would be) then there must be some means to cast the AotH without botch dice.
This right here. In our Saga, the library contains two Summa and a host of Tractatus all on "Spell Mastery: AotH".
While the Aegis is the most "common" Ritual, canonically there are a whole lot of others that get cast and recast every year - from Falke's Appease the Queen of Winter, to multiple Enchantments of the Scrying Pool and Bountiful Feasts. So making yet another adhoc rule for the Aegis would not really solve the issue.
Casting Rituals is expensive as it is, in terms of time and vis; I have heard multiple people scoff at Flaws that hamper casting Rituals by saying "oh, who cares about Rituals, some offscreen specialist casts them". I'd like to see more Ritual castings, not less, because they are so epic. So anything that makes Rituals more accessible is welcome.
Exactly. Rituals are generally a thing a mage does to assist the covenant. If someone wants to be regularly casting rituals, I will thank them for sacrificing multiple virtues to be the specialist or risk a heap of warping, however, it would be better if that wasn't necessary.
Any strong mage should be willing to cast a ritual. The risk of wasted vis and warping means nobody but the specialist is casting rituals. Allowing mastery and relaxed conditions resulting in no botch dice is the option I'd prefer.
This seemingly widely held assumption that a botched Aegis casting results in an explosion seems a serious lack of imagination to me. Something limiting the casting magi’s magic seems much more appropriate.
EDIT: Some other possibilities for a ReVi ward sort of botch
-Aegis works for Moon duration but no-one involved is whitelisted.
-Attracts magical beings for a time creating something similar to supernatural nuisance hook.
-Some sort of “reversal” of the Aegis that makes magic easier but more chaotic for everyone (not exactly Sure on what mechanics to choose for this).
For every pawn of vis used, the maga must roll an extra botch die if the casting roll is stress and comes up a zero. This includes the pawns used to make a Ritual spell possible. Remember that, if the maga can cast the spell under calm conditions, she can use a simple die and thus avoid the possibility of botching.
As it stands, a failed level 50 ritual has 26% of 2+ Warping points. The caster rolls for Twilight every 40 cast.
Here are my thoughts:
Rituals and their pawns count as a single botch dice. This would fizzle every 100 casts, and never risk Twilight.
Maybe you need a permanent prepared space for that, something akin to communal lab with Safety measures.
As expected, mastery can make it stress-free. I'd even give Cautious Sorcerer no-botch rituals.
I'm pretty sure people are just saying it metaphorically. Consider Durenmar. They need something like a 15th magnitude ritual with similar penetration, so there is probably some Wizard's Vigil stuff going on. Let's figure they're not all Mercurian, but the lead caster has a decent Gold Cord, Cautious Sorcerer, and a little mastery for an 8-die reduction. Let's figure you have at least 5 Wizard's Vigil. That leaves you with 13 botch dice. You're looking at about a 3.8% chance of a double-botch. The botches happen more often, but this is what we're looking at more seriously. So every 26-27 years you probably send a pile of these magi into Twilight. And as they're most likely older magi, they're likely to be gone a while.
I am in favor of casting Rituals be a stress die most times, if only to make Mastery count. Sure, not everyone will spend years Mastering a Ritual to avoid the botch die, but even a Gold Cord can lessen the effects, and so can Cautious Sorcerer.
What I propose is a adding a Ritual Caster Mastery:
The maga’s Mastery Score reduces the number of botch dice for casting. This may only be taken for Ritual spells.