Mastery and Relaxed Rituals

Is every single one of those doing Wizard's Vigil a Mercurian? If not, you still have full vis requirements and so full botch dice. Of course, that just makes things blow up in your face even worse, and it was already bad enough.

I also vote for having no botch dice at all for a mastered ritual spell cast in relaxed circumstances. For the Aegis, but also for the Bountiful Feast and lots of other ritual spells many covenants cast annually.

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Just want to speak up to say I, too, agree that a magus casting a ritual spell they have mastered should not botch. This is how I run it, and my PCs responsible for casting the yearly Aegis master that spell for precisely this reason.

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I'm in agreement with those that think relaxed ritual casting should never botch.

If they did, almost every covenant's end would be an own-goal from Aegis casting. Durenmar's Aegis would be suicidal.

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Just chiming in as a fairly new player.

I would like a fairly low-cost avenue to make sure that rituals do not botch when cast in non-stress situations. I have not played this game as much as others on this forum, but without this, the healing archetype magus (among others) is less fun to play. Too many potential setbacks (eg, warping) that would just frustrate a player like me without a story justification. Most other games would allow a healing spell, in the safety of the covenant, to be cast without any penalty. The high vis cost alone is enough to make healing a special event. (Digression: I do not mind the vis cost -- That fuels stories)

I like one point in spell mastery to avoid the stress die, but my troupe will probably go with whatever David Chart suggests.

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Incidentally, If one rank of Spell Mastery is enough to prevent botches for cast-at-ease rituals, it would ignite once more a question on whether Flawless Magic or Mercurian Magic is better for someone who specializes in Ritual spells. which I find interesting.

Perhaps a rule for repeated rituals- for every time you cast the ritual on the same target or have participated in casting the ritual on the same target it reduces your botch die by one for that casting. So if you are part of the wizard's vigil for the casting every year for 15 years before leading the ceremony it reduces the botch dice by 15.

Our house rule is that no mastered spell incurs botch dice except/unless it is being fast cast, multi-cast, or vis boosted. Doing two incurs double normal possible botch dice, all three is potentially suicidal.

That demonstrates the fact that we have not, AFAIR, discussed Ritual Mastery. I believe, since we use 4th ed. rules, Ritual Mastery would require yet another house rule, so I'll be watching this thread in hope of some sort of consensus.

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I'm on the fence about this.

In my ongoing and long-lasting Rhine saga, we roll for Aegis each year, because we want to track the Aegis' Penetration. We cast the ritual using Wizard's Day of Communion, and we roll for that as well. It brings some excitement - whether or not we succeed or in fact Botch - although this has never happened.
We do load the odds, as the Aegis itself is cast by my maga, who has Flawless Magic so Mastery helps, plus most of the time she's has a Familiar but only Gold Cord of 1.

On the other hand, why isn't Hermetic history riddled with stories of magical mishaps?
Does it give any story-driven dramatic value to the sagas, that you risk disaster every year? Or is this drama better saved for the occasional story, where scheming enemies or coincidental accidents interfere with the casting?

Personally, I think established covenants will have skilled magi, with Mastery, Gold Cord and/or virtues to remedy disaster. Chances of even rolling to Botch aren't that big, and Botch dice can be reduces.
Young covenants run a greater risk due to (plausibly) low skill, but also (statistically) use less vis.
And then I'd run the eventual mishap as a story event, just as those kinds of results when Experimenting.

That appears only very marginally true in published material. Take TtA for example.

If we look at the Oracles of Dydima, the single Autumn covenant in TtA, the maga in charge of casting the Aegis knows two versions of it - level 25 and 40 - but neither is mastered, and she has neither a familiar nor any Virtues reducing botch dice.

In fact, throughout TtA, not a single magus has a single level of Aegis Mastery, and the only book on the topic is a(n incredibly good, Q14) Tractatus in your own Collem Leonis, hidden and forgotten in a storage room.

More to the point, does an Aegis (or a Bountiful Feast) provide enough value to a covenant, that it would make risking disaster every year worthwhile? If the Aegis is so risky (or requires exceptionally dedicated individuals to cast) only a few exceptional covenants should have one.

Magic as an uncontrollable, dangerous force is the staple of some of my favourite rpgs, like WFRP or Blade of the Iron Throne. However, I think a trilemma stands. Any activity (not just magic) in a fantasy setting must avoid at least one of the three following conditions to maintain suspension of disbelief:
a) The activity is routine - performed casually and frequently, rather than just in (dramatic) dire straits.
b) The activity is chancy - it stands a non-vanishing probability of deviating from plan even if all precautions are taken.
c) The activity is dangerous - if it deviates from plan, it stands a good chance of causing disproportionate damage.

"Mundane" combat against capable opponents in ArM5 (and many "realistic" settings) meets b) and c), so in the setting it avoids a). Even capable fighters rarely choose to face other capable fighters in "real", fair fights. The same holds for magic in WFRP: only the mad and the desperate use it with abandon.

Enchantment in ArM5 avoids b). It can blow you up (c) only if you experiment or if Story events conspire, so magi routinely perform it (a) even for rather trivial reasons. The same holds for non-fatiguing spontaneous magic, and for formulaic spells cast in otherwise relaxed conditions.

There are some rpgs where magic meets a) and b): it's unpredictable, but used frequently and casually. Like blind dates for some people! But in that case, it must not have dire consequences if it goes wrong, i.e. it must avoid c). Ars Magica could have such a system - saying for example that each botch introduces a "complication" that must be addressed by player action, but does not otherwise cause permanent or serious damage unless the troupe unanimously (and exceptionally) decides so. In such a scenario, I would have no qualms whatsoever with Rituals always carrying boatloads of botch dice.

But that's not the case by RAW: a single botch means 1 warping point, effectively half a year of life lost for a magus, and a double botch means a good chance of ending in Twilight, gaining multiple warping points and possibly Flaws/scars, and/or being effectively incapacitated for weeks, months, or even years. Thus, since Ritual magic involves c), it must either avoid a) (which means thoroughly changing the setting: most Rituals become exceptional events) or b) (which means making "routine" Rituals botchless for most magi, not just exceptionally talented and/or dedicated ones). Since b) can be avoided by errata-ing a single sentence in the corebook, I think it's the obvious choice.

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Warping and Twilight are unpredictable, yes, but they aren’t dangerous. Botching should generally be related to the spell that botches so “disaster” seems an overstatement when talking about a failed Aegis, as I said above when I disagreed with the use of the term “explosion” which everyone was using. Ars Magica, seems to me, is largely about long term projects and events getting in the way of those and an Aegis botch is a perfect thing to set off certain stories or damaging lab work for that season.

Sorry to say this, but while in the short term, warping isn't dangerous, in the long term, that's what causes final twilight. I've worked out that, for a home campaign, if we didn't apply the interpretation of spell mastery means rituals don't botch, I would roll an average of 15 botch dice per level 50 aegis, of which I cast 2 per year to protect the covenant and it's regio. Now project that over a century, and I'll botch 17 times, giving me and 5 vigil partners 64 warping and 5 times where we'll fail a check to resist twilight. 25 twilights spread over 5 magi gives a very high likelihood one of the 5 is sent in final twilight during the first century. Because of accrued warping, entering twilight becomes more and more dangerous over time, which tells me it's likely the group doesn't survive a second century of aegis casting unless aging or another source of warping gets rid of them first. Casting a high-level aegis is much like a cigarette. Smoke once, it's not a problem. We call smoking a dangerous habit because if you smoke a pack a day for 30 years, you have a fair chance of lung cancer, etc. So it is with the aegis. If spell mastery doesn't make this a relaxed casting, repeated coop rituals is significantly likely to send you in final twilight / pave the road to your final twilight. And because entering twilight on a vigil / communion happens collectively, you could have a covenant of elder magi disappearing over night. Not on a literal explosion - just that a redcap shows up one day after the winter solstice and nobody's home anymore, except a few lonely grogs wondering when the magi are coming back. They might not.

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If you legitimately need two level 50 Aegides you have more to be worried about than “smoking.”

When you live in Transylvania with a lot of dragons arround that have a tendency to be irrationally proud at times (my character is wed to a zmay...), when you've encountered several demon plots involving a scheming succubus noble trying to get into your hermetic vault containing dangerous items captured from infernalists by the head quaesitors, when you know some hermetic powers that be in the Tribunal like to go arround testing if they have enough penetration to cast leap of homecoming through your wards and are likely to bully you if you disagree with them at Tribunal if you're weak... you upgrade your wards because you enjoy sleeping at night, and choosing which dragon to offer a token to is not a luxury you would like to skip on.

Like I said, why are you worried about dying of “smoking”?

Look, what does it matter to you if it's a level 50 or a level 35 aegis, one with 15 botch dice, or one with 10? When one of your friends tells you they have a family member dying of lung cancer, do you tell them smoking was cool, they were close to life expectancy, and would have died of something else anyway? Is the situation better if, instead of 4/5 magi entering final twilight as a predictable result of yearly rituals, only two members of the covenant die from the ritual after we tweak the numbers?

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A strictly literal reading may just as well come to the opposite conclusion. While the situation may be relaxed when the ritual starts, I cannot imagine staying relaxed after an hour of focusing on powerful magic, resulting in long-term fatigue.

This boils down to competing world views. Your argument seems implicitly to assume that vis, whether raw and fluid, is sufficiently predictable to be harnessed by routine procedures. Personally, I like magic to be more or less unpredictable, and particularly the vast power that is unleashed by burning raw vis should be beyond routine control. Mastery already reduces the number of botch dice, representing the fact the master manages to avoid some of the disasters, but the unruly power of a rook of vis is not automatically harnessed just with a mastery score of 1 IMHO.

In practice, I would not necessarily care to roll for Aegis every year in a longer downtime period. It may depend on the willingness to tell the stories resulting from a possible botch. And that is part of the point. Mythic Europe should be a dangerous place, where nothing is completely routine and predictable. As @dc444 points out, there is a variety of possible botch outcomes, and many of them may lead to good stories. They should be cherished.

Risk adverse players still have a multitude of ways to reduce the risk, including finding a cautious sorcerer, Mercurian magic, familiars, and mastery.

Nope. The text says nothing about rituals being stressful or relaxed. It only says that rituals are cast with a stress die.
There is an implication that rituals are inherently stressful, but the text doesn't actually say that.
Hence my wording "strictly literal" - not assuming or infering anything beyond what the text actually says..

We are looking at it from different view points. You are talking about how you think Mythic Europe should work. I am talking about how it appears to work based on the published books.
In the official books there is nothing, except possibly the botch rules themselves, to indicate that an Aegis casting is ever expected to go wrong under nornal circumstances.

As regards the use of vis, I'll note that Formulaic spellcasting in calm circumstances, or non-fatiguing spontaneous spellcasting, have no risk of botching even if you use as much vis as you can.
You can even add in ceremonial casting, which increases the time needed to that of a ritual casting, and there are still no chance of a botch.
So clearly the act of burning lots of raw vis by itself does not create a risk of botches - it just increases the risk of a botch when the risk exists in the first place.

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but you do, just as much as I do. You assume that it is possible to remain calm and relaxed after 1h of ritual casting. I assume that it isn't. RAW does not give any answer. One interpretation is not more or less literal than the other. We are forced to make a choice.

When the rules allow different interpretations, narrative preference is the most important criterion for the choice. Your second reason seems to do exactly that. Do the rules give any basis to talk about routine ritual casting? It is a valid interpretation, and it is aligned with a world where magic is predictable and in the right circumstances low risk. A high-risk world where there is no such thing as routine ritual casting is also consistent with RAW.

That non-ritual spells can be cast with vis on a simple die is arguably reasonable since it is quicker and simpler than ritual spells. The spell is cast before the stress builds up and makes the caster err. It does not make much of a precedent for the ritual case.

Any spell that is cast on a regular basis in non-emergency situations is what I would call a routine casting. Predictability or danger has nothing to do with if it is routine or not.

With ceremonial casting it is neither quicker nor simpler than a ritual spell. Which does make it a pretty good precedent.

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