New Minor Virtue: Potent Focus

This is a new Virtue one of our players has come up with. I think it's just a tad too powerful for a Minor Virtue, but not by much, and I'd like to hear your opinion.

Potent Focus, Minor, Hermetic
This Virtue requires that you have a Magical Focus, either Major or Minor. You have an uncanny understanding of the magic of your Focus. Instead of adding your lowest Art twice to a given Lab total or Casting Score, you have the option of subtracting it from the Level of the effect you want to produce. Thus, if your Creo score is 7, and your Ignem score is 5, you can invent Pilum of Fire as a Level 15 (rather than 20) spell. This replaces any bonus the focus would normally give you, so you do not add your lowest Art a second time when casting that Level 15 spell.

Note that if you take advantage of your Potent Focus, your effect is technically using a different effect guideline inaccessible to anyone without the same Potent Focus and a sufficiently high Art score. This means that you may not take advantage of your Potent Focus when using lab texts or studying books on spell mastery created by magi without the Focus, nor can those magi take advantage of your texts about effects that took advantage of the Focus.


This Virtue has undergone major revisions thanks to your feedback. I'll try to keep in this post, below, the latest version:

Sounds like he wants to use this to double the bonus from his focus: If his Ignem and creo were 10, he would be inventing POF as a level 10 spell. If they were 15, as a level 5 spell. Now, arts at 15, spell at 5 + focus = casting total of 45 for a level 5 spell.

Double tap. I would disallow it, specially since for me it has no real "mystic" behind it and just looks like a maths exercise.

Agreed. At low Art Scores it doesn't seem to make (huge) a difference, but at High Art scores, he's inventing (reinventing) spells that are lower level and take even more advantage of the penetration bonus from his focus at casting. Cr 20 Ig 20, invent a 1st level version of Pilum of Fire, and he then has a CS of 60?

IIRC there are some things in mystery cults that basically keep adding multipliers to casting totals and lab totals (we do not use them IMS, so I am unsure about these), so maybe you can go that way. I would be reluctant to allow this as a starting ability for a magus. As the third initiation for a MC it might be OK, though.

The idea was that you either reduce the effect, or increase your total. I see how it could be interpreted that you reduce the effect when inventing the spell, and then add to the total when casting. I have rephrased the Virtue to make it clear this is not allowed.

As far as I can see this Virtue gives you four benefits in the area of your focus.

First, it considerably boosts what you can achieve with your spontaneous magic within your focus, particularly without fatigue: subtracting the lowest Art from the effect rather than adding it to the Casting Score means effectively doubling (with fatigue) or multiplying by five (without fatigue) the bonus.

Second, it can make your lab work a little faster. If no focus is applicable, a magus with a lab total of 30 and a lowest Art of 5 takes two seasons to reaserch a 4th magnitude spell. With a non-potent focus, the same magus has a lab total of 35, and still takes two seasons. With a potent focus, the magus has a lab total of 30, but the spell drops to level 15 and it can be researched in a single season.

Third, it can make your enchantments and rituals a little cheaper in terms of vis (and thus the latter a little less risky in terms of botch dice).

Fourth, it can pull into formulaic area some spells that, exceeding level 50, would have to be rituals.

It seems to me that the big one is the first; but it can be argued that a focus, even a Major one, is fairly narrow, and that it's often overcrowded with formulaic spells (as magi try to squeeze all they can out of their focus), so it does not seem too unbalancing.

Your saga, your call, but as we pointed out the power creep is in the high levels of the Arts, not the low ones. I still would not allow it unless it was a thematic thing. Right not it is just numbers to try to creep up the power to me.

Your example is invalid with the correctly phrased Virtue. In terms of penetration for Formulaic or Ritual spells there is no difference between a standard and potent focus. You either subtract the Art from the effect (which effectively adds that Art to the final Penetration) or as with a standard focus you simply add the Art to the Casting Score (and thus to Penetration). You can't do both.

To use your number, if both Creo and Ignem are 15, and your Stamina, Intelligence, Aura etc. are all 0 (unlikely, but it simplifies stuff), you can either invent a Level 5 Pilum (which no other magus will be able to understand) and cast it with Penetration equal to 15+15-5=25, or invent a standard Level 20 Pilum and cast it with Penetration 15+15+15-20=25.

At Arts of 20 with a focus, one can reliably cast 30th level effects, on a non botching zero. One can also always cast 12th level effects without fatigue
With this virtue, can he cast 30 the level effects at 10th level with +10 penetration, spontaneously. He subtracts 20 from the level of the spell, to make a 10th level spell and his CS is still 40/2 for the spell. Since it's spontaneous should the 20 subtracting the level of the spell also be divided?

It seems complicated and a lot of math to work through at one time. It's also adding much more than can be added for similar virtues like Life Boost or Special Circumstance with a lot of fiddly math bits.

So I have ats at Cr and Ignem at 20.
VANILLA FOCUS: Casting total would be 60, so penetration would be +40 after substracting spell level.
OPTION 1: I invent POF at level 0. penetration +40.
OPTION 2: I cast it reducing the spell level to 0. Penetration +40

Now it makes no sense to me...

First question would be why do you want this to be changed to this description?

I can't really understand what the first and second "this" refer to.

Ultimately, I don't think the math is complex in play. You just subtract your lowest Art from the effect, instead of doing what a normal focus would do. It's no more complicated than a normal focus; you subtract from your target instead of adding to your resources. It may be complex to analyse and "balance", but that's a different story.

When comparing it to life boost or life-linked spontaneous magic, keep in mind that this applies only within the limited scope of a focus - and potent focus requires a focus in the first place, so it's two virtues rather than one. Also, keep in mind that, at least from my experience, it's rarely the case that the two Arts involved are at the same level. So an example with an Art at 30 and one at 15 is far more likely than one with two Arts at 20.

But yes, your example is right.
With two arts at 20 and all other virtues at 0, while fatiguing oneself and rolling a non-botching 0:
A magus without a focus could get a level 20 effect, with penetration 0.
A magus with a focus (1 minor Virtue) could get a level 30 effect, with penetration 0.
A magus with a potent focus (2 minor Virtues) could get a level 30 effect with penetration +10.
Doesn't seem that unbalanced to me?

You're only allowed to have one focus, either major or minor. Since this is a focus that only works with other foci, I think this should be disallowed.

Or does this refer specifically to magical foci, whereas some other foci aren't considered as such?

The proposed virtue isn't another focus, it's something that strengthens the focus in specific ways, but in ways that some agree are bad, or at least not good. :smiley:

For what it's worth, some sagas, including the ones I run, don't treat the Tremere House virtue as a magical focus, and call it Certamen Focus, declaring that it isn't a magical focus, and fails the rules of being narrow, since it applies to any Art chosen, when it is the lower Art in Certamen contests. Other troupes are liberal with Potent magic for Tremere, but that is just alright for me.

Focusses are already, well, focussed. Pushing this already over specialisation could de-balance the game system.

But if you are going to go with it then atleat align it with the major or minir potent magic virtue. Doing so would, instead of reducing the level of the effect when you invent it, you build it with an inherent casting bonus of +3 for the minor or +6 for the major.

For example, you have 15/15 for your arts and the rest @ 0

You have the major focus damage & major Potent magic virtue Damage. You then invent a damage spell of level 5. The penetration total will be 15+15+15+6-5 = 46

The effect is still a level 5 but has an inherent +6 bonus that all magus of the order will henseforth benefit from when they learn from your labtext. This will most probably make you famous for the field of expertise you work in (Damage).

ps. Hate that the CORE book actually used Damage as one of the core examples for a focus!


This is very powerful, but not necessarily inappropriate.

But this is not a minor virtue, for the reasons stated previously. Something like Potent Minor Magical Focus as a Major Hermetic Virtue might be ok: You subtract the lower Art from the effect's level for magics covering the equivalent of a minor focus, and you cannot have another focus, major or minor.

It's still very, very good, maybe too good.

EDIT II - and I REALLY need to read the entire thread before posting.

Nevermind, nothing to see here.

Move along, move along...

It is broken. Say I have a Cero 20 and Ignem 20. How many level 20 = level 0 spells can I invent in a season? How many enchantment levels that cost0 vis?

Marko is right, one needs to put a limit to how low an effect can drop to avoid it getting zero or negative - let's say to no more than half the original. I think I ultimately agree with Ovarwa on its pricing; with the limit on how low the effect can drop, his suggestion of a Major Virtue for the whole package (as opposed to a second minor virtue in addition to that required for the focus) seems about right. I've decided to simplify the entire stuff on "compatibility" with other magi. So, let's rephrase it as:

Hermetic Prodigy, Major, Hermetic

You have an uncanny understanding of a narrow area of magic, no wider than a minor magical focus. For any effect within its scope, you have the option of subtracting your lowest applicable Art from the required level, although this may not lower the level to less than half the original level. Other magi learning spells from you or working from your lab texts do not benefit from this reduction. This Virtue is incompatible with any magical focus, whether major or minor.