Order of Virtue Application in Advancement

Perhaps you need a general rule for order of operations when gaining XP? Restating it several times with slightly different wording and more specific examples is both confusing and a waste of page count. (I would, off the top of my head, put affinities last. But I have not considered the matter deeply.)


There is already a general order of operation for xp calculations, and it is described in the core rules.

First you calculate the Source Quality. Here virtues and flaws that affect Source Quality (like Book Learner, or Study Bonus) comes into play.

Then, from the final Source Quality you derive the Advancement Total. Virtues and flaws that affect the Advancement Total (like Affinities or Poor Student) are applied at this stage.

Then, once you have calculated the final Advancement Total, it is converted into an equal amount of xp for the ability/art in question.

The latest proposal from David Chart does not follow this general rule, since the xp assigned to the secondary arts does get multiplied by Affinity despite not being an Advancement Total.


Nice catch.
Hum... It would seem the sentence to be changed is this one: "Whenever you gain experience from a source dedicated to one of these Arts, you gain half the Source Quality in experience points in each of the other three Arts."

So, maybe something like
"Whenever you gain experience from a source dedicated to one of these Arts, you gain Source Qualities in the other three arts equal to half the Source Quality of the primary one."

The thing to clarify is, whether

a) Learning from a source should trigger it (thus potentially before it is modified by Book Learner or others) or

b) whether gaining advancement should trigger it (definitely including book learner etc.)

And whether the result is

i) a source quality (potentially open to modification via Book Learner etc.) Or

ii) a seperate advancement total, only modified by Affinity or similar.

iii) a sum of XP, modified by neither Book Learner it should create a source quality (thus allowing neither Book Learner nor Affinity at this step.

The resulting difference is, among others, whether V&F to modify Source Quality apply before or after the division.

I think I'll create a visualisation later.

One of the problems is that the rules in the core ArM5 book isn't as clear as most people seem to think.

On page163 under Advancement, it says:

Whenever a character spends a season in study, she gains a number of experience points equal to her Advancement Total in the subject studied.

ADVANCEMENT TOTAL: Source Quality + Bonus from Virtues – Penalty from Flaws

Then further sections explain tell us how to calculate the Source Quality for books, teaching, training, etc. No virtue or flaw is specifically (by name) mentioned in these, although some do mention "bonuses for Virtues" in the text (but never in the formulas).

The fact is, actual calculation in Advancement appears to be done in several steps:

  • Source Quality, which takes into account only the V&F of the person who is the source or creates it for all anyone who uses it, such as Good Teacher or Incomprehensible.
  • Adjusted Source Quality, which takes into account the Virtues (but strangely not Flaws) of the individual studying from a specific type of source, such as Book Learner, Free Study, or several others.
  • Advancement Total, which takes into account the V&F which affect advancement of a specific area of knowledge (such as Affinity and Deficient), as well as Flaws that affect study from a specific type of source (such as Poor Student or Loose Magic).

I think the reason an (implicit) Adjusted Source Quality step was introduced to clarify the order in which virtues apply when calculating the Advancement Total. I believe it should be made explicit, and that those Flaws which affect study from a specific type of source ((such as Poor Student or Loose Magic) should be moved to this step.

Then, virtues such as Affinity or Deficient should be clarify that they are used when calculating the Advancement Total. This would have the following effect:

Term Formula Virtues and Flaws modifying this formula
Source Quality As per the source type (ArM5 pp.163-166) Good Teacher, Incomprehensible
Adjusted Source Quality Source Quality + Bonus from Virtues - Penalty from Flaws Apt Student, Book Learner, Free Study, Independent Study, Study Bonus, Poor Student, Unimaginative Learner
Advancement Total Adjusted Source Quality + Bonus from Virtues - Penalty from Flaws Affinity with (Ability), Affinity with (Art), Linguist Deficient (Form), Deficient (Technique)

I may have missed a few V&F, but they should fit into the table. I have included Unimaginative Learner in there, even though the current wording of the flaw has it modify the die roll directly, which is not the usual pattern.

(BTW, I noticed that Loose Magic is still using Study Total and hasn't been errata'd to Advancement Total.)

Edit: Remove the Deficient flaws from the table, since they don't impact xp gain.


Ah, so you're differenciating the creation of the SQ from the absorption (Adjusted SQ). Valid point to ensure order of operations.

Yes, and I believe not making the explicit distinction is part of the difficulty when trying to clarify the interaction of Elemental Magic with other virtues.

Elemental Magic currently uses Source Quality as an input, so it becomes unclear whether that is before virtues are applied to SQ or after, and which V&F are applicable.

Elemental Magic also generates xp for the secondary elemental Arts, but it isn't clear if that is a SQ or an Advancement Total, so again we need to clarify which V&F apply to these xp.

Having a clear step-by-step process in which we know which V&F apply, makes describing the effects of Elemental Magic much easier.

xp aren't a SQ or an Advancement Total, so as written there is no way it can be either.

That is correct, XPs are not a SQ or an Advancement Total. However, the only virtues that currently seem to grant experience points directly are Elemental Magic (which is being discussed here), Secondary Insight (which is being discussed in another topic), Learn [Ability] from Mistakes (flat 5 xp on a Botch or fail by one point), and Flawless Magic (which double the number of XP which are put into spell mastery).

I raised the point about Source Quality and Advacement Total because David Chart's last post about Elemental Magic proposes that Affinity in a secondary elemental Form would increase the number of xp in that secondary elemental Form. Making it a special case where Affinity would impact experience points instead of an Advancement Total.

It creates a new special case, which adds complexity instead of clarifying and simplifying the system. Whereas my proposal establish a clear(er) general rule, sufficiently flexible to cover the whole range of current interaction between virtues, and hooks up the virtues' descriptions to the general rule. IMHO, it removes the need for convoluted examples in each the description of each virtue or flaw.

This is not just about Elemental Magic anymore, and nothing to do with character creation, so I've split the thread off.

Arthur makes a good point, although I am not convinced that clarifying the basic order would remove the need for examples. Most people will need some time, and help, to understand what the rules say in these sorts of detailed cases.

Looking at what he and others have written, we can split things as follows.

Source Quality: This is how good the source is. It is affected by Virtues and Flaws possessed by the teacher/author, and by the environment.

Advancement Total: This is created by adding some of the student's Virtues and Flaws to the Source Quality.

Experience Points: This is generated from the Advancement Total by applying some Virtues and Flaws (Affinity and Deficiency, primarily) to the Advancement Total.

Flawless Magic should probably affect the Advancement Total. Elemental Magic can be revised to provide an Advancement Total in each of the other Arts. Secondary Insight can continue to grant experience points. Learn [Ability] from Mistakes should probably also grant experience points.

The problem is that this would really require substantial rewriting for clarity in Long-Term Events, which is probably more than can be done in errata. That aside, what do people think of the idea?

Back in the first printing of the core rule book for ArM5, Flawless Magic did double the Study Advancement Total. This was later errataed and changed for the second printing to its current wording.

I think the current rules about Source Quality, Advancement Total, and Experience Points are fine as they are. Sure, rules can always be made easier to understand, but as it is there is no real unclarity or actual problems with these rules.

I do not think Elemental Magic should be revised to introduce an Advancement Total for the secondary arts just so affinities can apply. That is just making things more complicated for insufficiently good reasons.

Overall I believe the old saying of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here.
I believe it is not a good idea to issue errata for various minor things that
a) Aren't actually wrong
b) While not perfect, isn't actually a problem.

Fiddling around with errata, trying to fix every minor wrinkle in the rules is likely to introduce worse problems than it fixes.

Elemental Magic was errataed because it was too weak for a Major virtue.
But the current version of it doesn't really need to be changed any more. It may not be perfect, but it is mostly good enough. (Some extra clarification on if virtues and flaws that affect Source Quality should be applied or not before calculating the xp for the secondary arts, would be useful. But that is all that is needed.)

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I am strongly in favour of clarifying errata. I'm also generally fine with power level errata too, although probably not the extent of 4e D&D.

And should probably apply more broadly than a skill. Because it takes a lot of botches to catch up on Puissant and Affinity.

that being said, on the topic, I'm open to the idea.

They would also need a clarification as to how these virtues affect character creation, because right now Elemental Magic seem to have no benefit, since it uses Source Quality as an input.


Yes, that would also be necessary.


I would not alter the order of things. Things were written based on the current order of operations. If you screw around with order of operations after everything has been written, you could easily end up with loops you really, really don't want by accident. Definitely keep bonus experience at the end, as altering that is what is most likely to create such loops.

If you want an obvious example of how screwing around with the order of operations can get really messed up, look at Metacreator. They changed the order of operations and now it cannot handle things like Affinity properly at all. For example, just try to use it with Binding.

Yes, I'd mentioned before that Flawless Magic should be written like Affinity rather that multiplying experience,

There are actually a ton more ways to generate experience points directly. In addition to what Arthur mentioned, there are a pile of Virtues and Flaws that do so, especially in RoP:tI. There are also things like Twilight and Correspondence.

I'll try.

In character creation multiply any experience spent in an elemental form by 2.5. No elemental skill can have more than double the XP of any other elemental skill at character creation.

You don't need to create an example, however.
For example a magi spends 22 XP on Aquam. Multiplied by 2.5 it is 55 XP to have a skill of 10. The magi must then spend at least 11 XP each on Terram, Ignem, and Auram. 11 * 2.5 is 28 XP to have a score of 7 in each. The magi could spend more XP on Terram, Ignem and Auram, however, couldn't go over 55 XP on one of those 3 forms.

If the example was used, it's getting wordy. As Elemental Magic does not suck anymore, and the other forms should be close to the primary, would it be worth removing

"In addition, if a spell with one of these Forms as its primary Form has another element as a requisite, you use the primary Form to calculate totals, even if the requisite is lower."

It weakens the guy who is using EM as a means to drive one form up. For the true elementalist, the form scores will be close enough, losing that is no big deal.

I am pretty sure that that was because it didn't appear to cover adventure experience. Which it should. Now, with the new, improved vocabulary, it should be OK.

That does rather assume that the order of things is clear, which seems not to be the case. I agree with the principle, but the application is tricky.

Are you sure Correspondence is a thing in ArM5? I know it has been at some point, but I think that was in ArM4. I can't find any rules for it. (I have all of the ArM5 line in a single PDF file that I can search, and searching for "correspondence" doesn't turn it up.)

I reckon that he means Covenants p.90 Correspondences, in particular adding xp per season for exchanges of letters with sodales.