Mercurian Magic

Does the Mercurian Magic Virtue need a buff?

If it does, does it need a small buff, or a big one?

A small one could be, for example, that magi with the Virtue do not roll botch dice when casting a Ritual spell under relaxed conditions.

A big one could be, for example, that magi with the Virtue get all the benefits of Flawless Magic, for Ritual spells only.

Opinions?

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Mercurian Magic isn't great for everyone. But for those who want it, it works very well. It's not like the old Elemental Magic, where every time it perfectly fit and I wanted to take it I found better ways without it. Mercurian Magic as it stands is one key to saving a ton of vis and reducing botches in Rituals.

So, no, it doesn't need a buff. Giving it a little one can be OK. I wouldn't give it a big one.

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It needs a small buff, in my opinion, but not a big one.

The one I personally use is that mages with the Mercurian Magic virtue can use ceremonial casting for formulaic spells. (As if they had the spellmastery option Ceremonial Casting (HoH:TL p99) but without actually having mastered the spell.)

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I don't find that it needs a buff. We had a CrCo mercurian in a saga I played and it was really a powerful combo, as half price circle range stat boosts were pretty great.

Maybe this was an edge case where the magi in question cast a disproportionate amount of Rituals, but I feel like he got his virtue's worth.

I would like to see it slightly increased in power, mostly to support games where rituals are not that common. On that basis, I like @ErikT suggestion of making ceremonial casting available for formulaic spells, possibly in addition to the suggested negation of botch dice in relaxed conditions.

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I don’t know if it needs a buff but I like @ErikT ‘s idea of allowing them to cast formulaic spells ceremonially without needing to master and take that mastery special ability. It also seems ver in character for the virtue, allowing them to do more if they cast their formulaic magic more like a ritual.

I don’t like the reduction of botch dice to 0 for rituals when “relaxed” (personally I don’t think rituals are ever relaxed). Just halving the vis for the ritual is already a large bonus related to botch dice and is plenty.

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Taking Mercurian magic always felt strange to me for a very specific reason. The bonus is pretty great and definitely major hermetic virtue territory.

But it is already not exceptionally strong compared to other major hermetic virtues, and it comes with an unrewarded major hermetic flaw for "free" included, namely the inability to use spontaneous magic (except from ceremonial casting).

This to me feels like a pretty big cost to taking the virtue. Mostly because of the already great opportunity cost of being unable to take another major hermetic virtue (which is IMO already the primary cost of a major hermetic virtue).

However I think bonuses provided by the virtue are strong enough already and I think trying to buff it by increasing the bonuses would be mistake. I think increasing the bonuses could allow for some incredibly strong characters by making it possible to stack specialization bonuses. I do think that somehow compensating the virtue by counting the implicit flaw would be a better solution.

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It's the one I like.

As Euphemism mentioned, the 15 minute spontaneous is a big cost. It removes the ability to fast cast a defence which can be a matter of life and death, not to mention making you look like a bit of a magic noob, when it takes you 15 minutes to do things the other magi do in seconds.

While the modified benefits are strong, MM is more of a covenant bonus then a bonus for the player. The magi gets the bonus of risking twilight every year to cast the Aegis. Anything to make MM more tempting for a player, instead of something you want an NPC to have, is good.

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Hum...

I kinda agree with Lee about MM being a covenant bonus, as well as with the Spont Nerf being harsh. But I don't like the idea that MM should "copy" FM. It should be its own thing, with its own special perks.

Also, MM has another flaw, too. In order to get its benefit, all involved magi (if using Wizard's Communion) must have it. IIRC (serf's parma).

I'd consider removing that, making it so only the lead magi must have MM. This would make mercurian casters the "big guns" of covenants.
However, this detracts from the whole "search for an AC" thing, replacing it by "burn more vis" casting, so this may not be something that we want.

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Elegant. I like that. I believe it was in another thread I recommended the mastery, which I still like, however, it is a bit of a copy of FM, so I do like the originality of your suggestion.

I agree with @dc444 on this. I think @callen is right that Mercurian is appropriately balanced. When I support @ErikT 's idea of ceremonial formulaics, it is because I like the flavour. It is a buff which I do not see my magi using often in real play, but which they maybe should use just to be more Mercurian even if they do not need the bonus.

Some tangential issues were brought up: both the matter of sagas with little use of rituals and MM being a boon to the covenant more than a personal virtue. TBH I think that these are problems shared with many other virtues and traits. Rituals and enchantments are heavily dependent on vis, and may be useless in low-vis sagas. That disfavours not only Mercurians but also Verditius. All useful abilities are covenant boons, but I think there is a point in Mercurian Magic being a downtime benefit, just like all the lab boons that people take to play the typical lab rats. It is a possible problem that Ars Magica encourages characters that are utterly useless in the field, but MM is but a marginal contribution to that problem. Buffing up a virtue just because there are some sagas where the virtue is not useful is always the wrong way to go: other sagas would just see the power level run out of control.

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I am in favour of adding this sort of flavour bonus.

Allow Mercurian Magi to automatically Master their rituals, but it is the same Mastery for every spell and every Mercurian Mage, and there is no FM bonus learning new Mastery abilities.

  • If the Mastery is Ceremonial Magic, then for Rituals it merely adds +1 to casting total, and removes a botch dice. If you want to make the bonus a little larger, this automatic mastery also applies to Formulaic spells the Mercurian magus also invents.
  • The other thematic Mastery possibility would be Stalwart Casting, though likely for Rituals only.
  • A lesser argument could be made for for something like Imperturbable Casting for the rituals, to help concentrate for hours on end.
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Mercurian Magi are already the go-to guys for casting ritual spells, so I would be careful with making them even better at rituals - it is not like they actually need that.

I am not so fond of giving them automatic Spell Mastery for some spells for two reasons.
One is that Spell Mastery has some very nice benefits apart from the special ability you get, and that might move it from flavour to significant benefit
The other is that if you get Spell Mastey with a specific ability, then that has a small built-in disadvantage in that if the player/character wants some other Mastery ability then that will become harder to get, since it will now require a Mastery score of 2 instead of a score of 1 as would be the case without any automatic mastery.

The problem with Mercurian Magic is that it does boost considerably something (Rituals) that sees very little screen time, and that players tend to happily leave to npcs. Plus, it hampers the type of magic that tends to give most screentime to pcs in stories!

So, while very powerful, it tends to find few takers in my games, though for some reason my munchkin troupe always manages to sneak in a friendly npc who has it. So... I'd leave it as it is, perhaps removing the crippling of Spontaneous Magic. I think that's the change that provides the greater boost in player desirability (which it probably needs) with the least boost in raw power (which it probably does not need).

The best way to boost Mercurian Magic would be to boost the playability of Rituals, but that's another story...

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I suppose. As it happens, in my most long-running saga, half the troupe wanted Mercurian, and I play a rusticanus with their own flaw on spontaneous magic.

But I do not see this as a problem. Mercurian Magic is a very peculiar concept, and if it does not appear in every saga, so what? I would rather try to make a wider range of flavourful major Hermetic virtues for particular concepts, than messing up one which works rarely but very well on those rare occasions.

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I'm widely known for scary use of spontaneous magic. Mercurian Magic doesn't limit my spontaneous magic in a way I generally mind, just with a few character types would it be problematic for me.

I've seen it commonly taken by 1 person in a troupe, unless someone is using Leper Magus or Holy Magic.

No one in my games or ones I've personally heard about have used this virtue because the lack of spontaneous magic is a huge nerf. Perhaps remove that?

If not, it needs a buff. I would agree with flawless magic but only for ritual spells.

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If we just removed the nerf to spontaneous spells, would that make the Virtue overpowered? We were trying to move away from combination Virtue/Flaws in ArM5 anyway, and if this one is unnecessary, that would be good. It could be added as its own Flaw, because it is very Mercurian. (Probably Minor.)

It may well be the case that nothing needs to be done here.

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While dropping the nerf to spontaneous magic would certainly make the virtue more desirable from a mechanical point of view, it would also lose a lot of flavour from the virtue.

Dropping the nerf to sponts would change the virtue from "nice to have " to "must have" for anyone specializing in ritual spells, most of which would have taken the virtue anyway - and everyone else would still ignore it.

Better to do nothing, I think.

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You keep assuming that Rituals are left to NPCs and that this is obvious and trivial. Yet it's something that almost never crops up in our sagas. Please recognize that these things are saga/troupe dependent.

Otherwise, I actually largely agree with you.