AM4 had a Hermetic invention called "optimization," in which a spell could be re-invented at a lower level. It appeared in the Wizard's Grimoire Revised, and the text there suggested that it was rare, because once a magus has already invented a spell, there's not much personal value in re-inventing it, even though the new version would be easier to cast and thus have better Penetration. Magi are notoriously self-centered, and few magi will go through a lot of time and effort making spells more efficient and easier for others.
AM5 doesn't have optimization. But a Jerbiton NPC in "Sanctuary of Ice" is described as specializing in this process, using rhyme and meter to make spells easier to learn and master. In my Saga, that maga has an apprentice, and I'd like to give that apprentice something which mechanically represents her master's methods.
Does anyone have an idea how I might represent Optimization using AM5 rules? I could give the NPC maga a Hermetic Breakthrough and re-introduce optimization, but I presume the rules were left out of 5th edition because they were an exploit that caused game balance issues. So, without putting optimization back in the game, what could I do instead which would be mechanically different, but which would still capture the desired narrative of, "I have come up with spell incantations which make a given spell easier to learn, memorize, perform and master, and these incantations can be used by anyone who chooses to learn the spell in this way."
I thought about Potent Magic, which would give a bonus on casting rolls while leaving the spell level the same, but Potent Magic needs material focuses (which this maga does not need) and only applies in a narrow field (like a Magical Focus) which is also not appropriate. Should I just give the master maga Good Teacher or something, resulting in the apprentice getting more points to spend on Arts and so have higher totals?
How about Method Caster? Every spell is "optimized" when learned, and gets a +3 bonus, so long as the method is defined and it is cast the same way every time. If the caster might want to take advantage of loud voice and bold gestures, that needs to be the designated method for that spell. (Edit, everything in red was added after original post) Method Caster is also a virtue that I had envisioned (before Apprentices came out) being taught when the apprentice is learning spells, being passed from master to apprentice. The instructions for casting the spell might very well be within the master's lab text for the spell, but inventing spells are an individual process, and so the methods that work for the master may not work for anyone else. Instead, what is taught is the intangible nature of how to understand the rhyme and meter of a spell so purely and if you can do it the same way every time, you do it better than someone else could, with everything else being equal.
One possible wrinkle with method casting is mastery. If a spell becomes mastered, does employing Quiet and Still casting count against the method? In my opinion, no. The caster has mastered the spell suggests it has been added to the method for casting. And there are a fair amount of experience points involved in the mastery process. This spell would then have multiple methods for casting.
One thing you could do is allow discoveries that lead to breakthrough points to have some non-Hermetic effect. So if you are trying to integrate Flawless Magic, or whatever, anytime you get breakthrough points for a spell that results in the spell having the benefits of Flawless Magic (or whatever). Really they already do that with flawless magic, they probably should too for original research.
In terms of virtues for the student Method Caster, or Flawless Caster would give the needed effect. ALL of his spells are optimized.
In the end, Optimized sounds like a Minor virtue or a Mastery Ability for a spell, but as a Major Virtue it sounds closest to Flexible Formulaic magic IMO. In 4th one of the main things that it did was give you the same power at a lower level. An optimized Ball of Abysmal Flame was lower in level, but still hurt the same. An Optimized CrCo, could heal damage at less cost in vis (this was when healing spells had two durations, one with Sun and one with Permanent, if you used Vis you'd get the Permanent version).
As a Mastery ability I think this might work. So, you get Mastery the normal way and get the reduced Botch dice and always cast with a Stress roll, then you select Optimized, and you can take this multiple times (you'd need to for the full benefit). When you take Optimized, instead of getting a +1 on your casting total, the spell's level goes down by 1. You can't have both; it'd be twice as powerful then. So you'd get the benefit of having an easier spell to cast and if taken enough times you could even drop it enough to save Vis on a Ritual. It would take a high level of Mastery to get significant savings, but as I recall, optimizing required huge lab totals, so the effort is about even. And considering that you can stufy a book on Mastery to raise your Mastery, but still choose whatever Mastery special ability you'd like.
How does that sound? Maybe to get the Optimize Mastery Ability it would need a Minor Breakthrough in the first place?
I played a lot of 4th ed, and I remember Optimization. I liked the idea, but never used it. IIRC the text said that Pilum of Fire was already optimized and widely distributed in the Order, which explained why is was slightly better that it ought to be. I know Guidelines weren't as tight as in 5th ed, but my eccentric brain seems to remember the 4th ed PoF dealt a dam of +25 - distance to target. And by being Range: Near, which in 4th ed was 15 paces it reached further than most other combat spells. Although at reduced damage.
Since Penetration in 4th ed was simply Casting Total+Penetration Ability the level of spell was irrelevant. So why work with reducing the level of a spell? Well, it would be easier to invent, learn from text (which is how 4th ed did this), and cast from text (ditto) as well as knowing it formulaically. In short you were less likely to blow a Fatigue level since it was easier to get within 10 levels of a lower level spell. And as opposed to 5th ed you could actually Penetrate with a difficult spell costing Fatigue to cast, this is unlikely in 5th ed.
So, Optimizing in 5th ed? This should be covered by Spell Mastery! Sure, you're not inventing an easier version, to share with the Order. Instead you show great mastery with the spell at the level it is -and need to be - within Hermetic limits. And this experience can be shared. Sadly little published material deal with spreading Spell Mastery. Some magi in these books may very well master spells, but I don't think even a single book on Mastery is mentioned anywhere. Which may result in Troupes forgetting this. This is sad, because Mastery is awesome!
Mastering a spell grants you many options, some of which affect Penetration indirectly or indirectly. Mastery adds directly to Casting Total by itself, and then there is Penetration Mastery with a benefit dependent on Penetration Multipliers. But Quiet and Still Casting can also apply, for those times you need to be discreet in casting, and avoid up to -15 this way.
Another option for an "optimized" spell is to experiment until you get a version of the spell that is unusually powerful for it's level. It's a fairly low probability of happening, so it can be a while until a magus gets one.
Yep. I assume that the more popular spells already have optimized/altered versions of them floating around. I can imagine that Pillum of Flame has been experimented on a LOT, for example. The Bonisagus probably get a lot of altered/experimented versions of that effect.
For simplicity (ie, if I don't want to bother with making an experiment up), I assume that a PC can know a few of the common spells that already have a Spell Mastery 'built in' as an experimental effect: they either got it that way from their paren, or they read it from a text, or whatever.
You have a 2% chance per experiment of a minor side benefit, 2% for a major side benefit, and 2% for the spell getting a straight up boost. (The last one only happens if you have a risk mod of +2 or more.) However, if you break out the rules for performing original research and aim for those areas you can hunt for those bonuses, possibly upping the rate too 6% for a minor side benefit, 6% for a major side benefit, and 4% for a straight up boost. Depending on how nice the lucky magi are those spells may have proliferated.
Yeah, that feels about right. My current characters has.... 30 or so invented spells (he's a ReVi lab rat), and I think I've got 1 straight-up bonus, a couple of flat-out failures, and 1 "major weird side effect" (lvl 50 ReVi Circle of Protection vs. the divine that calls the attention of a lvl 51 Angel...who may show up to ask you what you're doing.)
That being said, he's also got 4 Breakthrough effects to his name (not full integrations, just 15 points of Integrated insights), so those kinda LOOK like experimental side effects...