Someone had commented elsewhere about a level-40 to level-50 starting spell as being high, and I'd thought really wasn't so hard to get there. But it got me wondering, just what could be accomplished at gauntlet. I'd love to see anything similar (not just with starting spells) anyone else would like to share or improvements anyone can find in what I've posted.

Highest level spell for a character right out of gauntlet, trying to avoid both significant Warping and any aging rolls while still having the points necessary for other things (Latin, Parma Magica, etc.):

Houses: Flambeau or Mercere
Virtues: Affinity with (Form), Affinity with (Technique), Arcane Lore, (Gild) Training, Minor Magical Focus, Puissant (Form), Puissant (Technique), Skilled Parens, Strong Faerie Blood (Faerie God)
Flaws: Covenant Upbringing, Faerie Upbringing
Age 46-50

Int +3
Magic Theory 9
Faerie Sympathy 5
Technique 22+3
Form 22+3
Focus +25
Aura 3

-> 95 with the required Warping Score of 1.

If Faerie Upbringing won't be allowed along with Covenant Upbringing, this could just be done with a Warping Score of 2. Avoiding Faerie Sympathy altogether drops it to 91 (with the Magic Theory specialty). I was trying to push it higher, such as using Infernal Blessing, but I don't think Infernal Blessing can grant those Virtues I was using.

This has revealed a hidden strength of Arcane Lore. While it only provides 50 points (well under Skilled Parens, (Gild) Training, and Baccalaureus), it opens up non-apprenticeship points to be spent on things like Magic Theory, which frees up those points that can be placed anywhere during apprenticeship.

That is quite impressively high. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with it in an actual game, but focussing on it entirely as a character building exercise...

Maybe they were formerly a failed apprentice, whose gift got restored? That would provide a justification for why they were so old and had been learning massive amounts of magic theory prior to their apprenticeship.

I haven't run the numbers. In isolation, one could increase the totals by redistributing xp from Magic Theory to the Arts, but I assume this isn't possible in practice due to the constriction of Magic Theory being able to be taken at any time, but the Arts only in apprenticeship?

Give then a Mentor or Hermetic Patron flaw, and say their benefactor is willing to give them access to his already enhanced lab.

Adept Laboratory Student would give you +6 if you're working from a lab text, but at that level of spell you're probably not (in which case Inventive Genius is more useful, but I think worse than any of your existing choices).

Make them Ex-Misc, and make the Strong Faerie Blood the House virtue. That should free up a couple of extra virtue points.

I agree. But exercises like this let me see things like how Arcane Lore can be a lot better than I'd thought it was, at least for certain purposes.

I spent 338 experience on Arts out of 360 available in Apprenticeship. I still need 5 for Artes Liberales and 5 for Parma Magica at a minimum. The 12 remaining is too few to pick up another level of the Art/Technique.

Is this allowed for a starting character?

Ah, that would help. I don't allow it myself as I like the Virtue to be part of a tradition's training, but that would free up 3 points. 3 points is enough for Potent Magic plus Affinity with Magic Theory and Puissant Magic Theory. Or with Infernal Blessing, those plus one more, which could provide Int +4.

So now we've got...

Houses: ex Miscellanea
Virtues: Affinity with (Form), Affinity with (Technique), Arcane Lore, (Gild) Training, Infernal Blessing x2 (Affinity w/ Magic Theory, Increased Characteristic (Intelligence), Puissant Magic Theory), Minor Magical Focus, Minor Potent Magic, Puissant (Form), Puissant (Technique), Skilled Parens, Strong Faerie Blood (Faerie God)
Flaws: Covenant Upbringing, Faerie Upbringing
Age 46-50

Int +4
Magic Theory 11+2
Faerie Sympathy 5
Potent Magic +3
Technique 22+3
Form 22+3
Focus +25
Aura 3

-> 103 with the required Warping Score of 1.

Not quite sure whether you're referring to the Patron or the virtues. The Patron is definitely borderline, but probably no more so than having both Faerie and Covenant upbringing.

Benefits from virtues like Adept Laboratory Student aren't explicitly included in the spell level limit for spells at gauntlet, but then they're not explicitly included in the standard Lab Total on page 94 either. I suppose there's the argument that the virtue does explicitly say "adds to Lab Totals" and doesn't explicitly say "adds to spell level at gauntlet", but given the formulae are otherwise the same (assuming an Aura of 3), I'd allow it. There's also the question of whether you are trying to create a character with a high spell at character creation, or one with a high lab total to create spells immediately afterwards?

I think I answered that one:

I'm thinking through other optimizations for shortly out of gauntlet. Some are just gross. Give me only a season (better with a few) out of gauntlet, and I can make a magus with ridiculously high magic resistance, high enough that optimization is no longer really of much value since it's so broken.

Are you trying to bind a familiar with a ludicrously high Might with your ludicrously high lab total and then using its Might for resistance, or something else?

Oh, no, nothing so small as that. That could be an interesting optimization. I'll present it later, but it's a broken thing, not an optimization thing. There are a few like this that I consider unfixed loopholes as opposed to optimization. I'm more interested in the combinations that work really well for normal play. For instance, I would never want to start with a level-100 spell. But I might want to start with a level-60 spell, for instance. How can I do that while leaving a lot of room left for other things. Looking above, I can see what Virtues and expenditures would get me there most efficiently.

Alternatively, if you're willing to give them infernal connections anyway, give them Cthonic Magic - that lets them add their lowest Art to the total again (for the low low price of engaging in sin throughout the season).

I'd considered that, but I wasn't sure that could legally be applied in standard character creation, without using detailed character creation. For example, can anyone just take another +1 for saying their parens worked them nocturnally when teaching them some spell? I worry that technically Magical Focus wouldn't apply. However, in that case we have the Mercere example from the core rules who can only get to Cr(Re)Au29 without the Magical Focus (or possibly Cyclic Magic?). I think it's generally accepted that Magical Focus applies.

I don't think if Magical Focus applies there's any reason Cthonic Magic shouldn't.

There are certain things that will always apply to inventing/reinventing certain spells, and there are others that are only conditional. Assuming they apply to the spell, here is a sampling:

Puissant Art, Puissant Magic Theory, Major/Minor Magical Focus

Adept Laboratory Student (using another's lab text), Cyclic Magic (if it covers the season), Inventive Genius (making something new), Chthonic Magic (perform sinful act), various non-standard laboratory routines

I don't see why including a Magical Focus would imply that Chthonic Magic should be included. But I do see why, if Chthonic Magic is included, people could validly argue that Cyclic Magic, Addled, Overtime, etc. should apply, too.

I have only used the simple character creation rules, and am unfamiliar with (Gild) Training or the Faerie God bloodline, but those scores boggle my mind.

To get an Art score of 22 should take 252 points. With Affinity with that Art, takes it down to 168.
Two such Art scores of 22 would be 336 points.
The normal simple starting points for Arts is 120. I am having difficulty understanding how Skilled Parens, Arcane Lore, and presumably (Gild) Training gets you the needed 216 extra Art score points

A normal apprenticeship grants 240 points, and it is recommended that you split them 120 into abilities and 120 into arts. Skilled Parens and Gild Trained each give 60 xp to spend as you wish (in most sagas I've played in, the SG has banned us from taking both but Callen's obviously do), so you could have 360 xp to spend allowing 336 points on Arts. This only leaves 24 for abilities, and the minimum package suggested of Latin 4, Magic Theory 3, Parma Magica 1 takes 85 points. Arcane Lore contributes 50xp which can be spent on Magic Theory and Parma Magica. Covenant upbringing allows you to take Latin and Order of Hermes Lore at character creation, so you could learn these before apprenticeship. Technically Arcane Lore would let you have Magic Theory before apprenticeship, but years spent teaching Gifted people before opening their Arts leaves you open to the risk of someone else claiming them as an apprentice.

The flaws of Covenant Upbringing and Faerie Upbringing suggest the child was raised by faeries but was taken into a covenant at some point where they studied Latin and Magic Theory and then not apprenticed until the age of 30-35. How their parens achieved this without Molesting the Fae, having their twentysomething lab assistant taken as an apprentice by other magi, or taken by a Bonisagus when they realise what a Magic Theory genius they have on their hands is left as an exercise in persuading your troupe that this makes for a better story.

Aha! Without my books I had thought Skilled Parens gave 50 XP.
OK, now I understand the maths. Though I can't imagine such a distorted character being allowed to exist, even if those V&Fs were allowed.
Is it even possible that there exists a Gild that trains you in Hermetic Arts?

The gilds are the political parties (for want of a better word) of the Rhine Tribunal, and only magi are members. It's perfectly valid to spend the XP on Arts (or spells, or Magic Theory or pretty much anything Hermetic that aligns with the gild's goals).

The character was raised in Irencillia, the Domus Magna of House Merinita, a strange Hermetic covenant with faerie dopplegangers of all of the inhabitants. They were taken as an apprentice at an early age; however, tragically their Gift was suppressed, and believed destroyed, so they became a failed apprentice lab assistant with little to do other than to learn Magic Theory to assist other magi in the lab.

Then, one day, their Gift was restored (possibly after they got desperate and asked for demonic help, depending on which version of the character you're going for), and they completed their apprenticeship.

Possibly their Cthonic Magic is a result of their Faerie God blood being from a dark underworld type of Faerie God. Or just demons.

And no, I wouldn't seriously try to play this.

Hmmm. I admit I wouldn't be happy with people using lab routines as a way to boost their starting total. Adept Laboratory Student I'd be fine with, I think - it's not unreasonable for a teacher to sit you down with a lab text rather than teaching you personally, particularly if your specialisation differs from theirs. Inventive Genius and Cyclic Magic I'd be more iffy about - Inventive Genius because if you're having to invent the spell from scratch and require the +3 bonus to get within the limit you're going to be accruing <= 3 points a season towards the spell which will take you forever. Cyclic Magic I'm leaning towards "yes, but only for X% of your spells".

Of course, as is probably your point, that's all getting very down to personal judgement rather than being a clear cut line.

And thus this part of the conversation (underlines mine):

A quick correction: 22*23/2=253, not 252, so you need 169 points for each of them, not that such a small difference matters here as there are some leftover points.

I said I would post this, and I suppose I should before I work on any sort of optimized build for these things. Here is pure brokenness for magic resistance and Soak only a season out of gauntlet:

Virtues: Holy Magic, True Faith (make sure you're in a tradition with Divine Form), (something for the right tradition)

Holy spell to give yourself 1 Warping Point (CrVi 5) Mastery 4 (Quiet Casting x2, Still Casting, Multiple Casting)
The same thing for 2 Warping Points (CrVi 10)

First, cast the CrVi10 spell give yourself 2 Warping Points. Now give yourself 5 Warping Points (from 5 different events in the same round, yay!) per round all day every day for the season. If you only spend 2 hours total per day doing this, you have a Warping Score of 207. That means you have magic resistance of 217 and base Soak of 43 or 44 (depends on how you round) to which you get to add Stamina and the like. Oh, you also have a paltry penetration of 212 with your divine stuff. By the rules, you could do this more than 2 hours in a day and bump those over 600 magic resistance and over 120 Soak.

If you're willing to wait a little longer and want to be able to play instead of spending all your time casting this spell, instead make a talisman with the CrVi5 spell in it. Have it trigger itself so every time it goes off it goes off again. Use ReVi to trigger it the first time. Now you pick up 1 Warping Point per round for the rest of your life. Each day you'll pick up 14,400 Warping Points. In only just over a year you'll break 180 for Soak and 900 for magic resistance.

Hmmm. Whilst that's powerful, they're also going to get a light wound every time they commit a venial sin, and have things go hideously wrong for them when they have to use 3 x warping botch dice on an impious action.