Original Research - too easy?

Hi guys,
I was pre-genning a character as per the Advanced Aging rules to create a back story for a future character/scenario. The magus, Imperius, is a bonisagus who wanted to create a way to have a lab without a covenant. In Durenmar he found a description of a mental construct lab - which was ideal. The problem for him was that places with a good magical aura are fairly rare and someone always builds a covenant there.

He decided to invent a spell which would create a magical aura centered on a person, so that they could have a mental construct lab and use it anywhere.
I decided that this was a major breakthrough, a Cr(Re)Vi Ritual, so he spent time gaining the right number of build points. I rolled for every season and apart from his lab blowing up a few times, he gained the 45 points in about 61 seasons (15 years).

Should I have made such a thing Hermetic? What he ended up with has some major problems in it. It's not something that most magi would want to do. Though it would suit any loner lab-rat perfectly...

Imperius Regionne Cr (Re) Vi General spell
R: Personal, D: Momentary, T: Individual, Ritual
Create a magical aura centered around the targeted person. The base level is 15 for a level 1 aura centered on yourself. The aura increases in strength with each 2 magnitudes. The target incurs warping as with CrVi Guidelines. If the Rego Requisite is used, additional magnitudes may be added to reduce the effect of the aura on those around you – the aura acts as a continual magical spell which will give warping to people and items inside it.
Lvl 15 +1 aura
Lvl 20 +1 Aura with full border
Lvl 25 +2 aura
Lvl 30 +2 aura with +1 border
Lvl 35 +3 aura, +2 aura with full border
Lvl 40 + 3 aura with +2 border
Lvl 45 +4 aura, +3 aura with +1 border
Lvl 50 +4 aura with +3 border, +3 aura with full border
Lvl 55 +5 aura, +4 aura with +2 border
Lvl 60 +5 aura with +4 border, +4 aura with +1 border
Lvl 65 +6 aura, +5 aura with +3 border, +4 aura with full border
Lvl 70 +6 aura with +4 border, +5 aura with +1 border
Lvl 75 +7 aura, +6 aura with +3 border, +5 aura with +1 border
Lvl 80 +7 aura with +6 aura, +6 aura with +2 border, +5 aura with no border
Lvl 85 +8 aura, +7 aura with +5 aura, +6 aura with +1 border
Lvl 90 +8 aura, +7 aura with +4 aura, +6 aura with no border
Lvl 95 +9 aura, +6 aura with full border
Lvl 110 +7 aura with full border
Lvl 125 +8 aura with full border
Lvl 140 +9 aura with full border

So as you can see, you can get someone to give you a high aura, but it would send you into twilight. And unless you add in plenty of Rego magnitudes you will give EVERYTHING near you warping points. Not many magi would want to share a covenant with someone like this.

The other minor problem of the effect is that only personal range spells get the full aura - everything else is happening in the lower aura outside your body.
Creating a magical aura is not as simple as with most other spells, there is no clearly defined point where the aura disappears. The majority of the aura will be concentrated within the target of the spell, but there will be some leakage around the borders. The aura will drop in magnitudes as you progress further from the centre of the aura. A general guide is, the aura drops by 1 magnitude per multiple of aura strength.
So a lvl 5 aura be 4 for (5 * 1 ) = 5 feet
The level will drop to 3 for a further (5 * (2) ) = 10 feet
The level will drop to 2 for a further (5 * (3) ) = 15 feet
The level will drop to 1 for a further (5 * (4) ) = 20 feet

Of course, extra magnitudes may be added to control the rego effect – each extra rego magnitude raises or lowers the multiplier by 1. Each rego magnitude increases the finesse ease factor by 3. With (aura – 1) magnitudes of control, and a successful finesse roll, it is possible to have an aura which terminates at it’s boundaries, or floods an entire area.

Not really going to comment on the spell other than I'd think it would be a ritual and probably a Hermetic breakthrough effect. Isn't instantiation of an aura bumping against one of the lesser limits? The effect is certainly possible, since there are two 5e canon references: The Mages Stones of Verditius in the Rhine Tribunal book and the Criamon path that lets one create a personal regio to retreat from the world in.

However, to answer your topic... yes, original research is too easy...or at least too reliable. The numbers might be right but there's not enough uncertainty about eventual success. And its not really that great for story generation either. The rules for Hermetic Integration in Ancient Magic are better at both of those aspects.

The invention sounds good. I'd keep it as a Major discovery, not Hermetic. Although in general I recommend upping the number of required Breakthroguh Points beyond the recommended guidelines (or slowing down their accumulation through Original Research).


You might also want to check TMRE, in the Hermetic Architecture section - the GL there are supposedly unique to that Mystery, but they also serve to set a scale for boosting (and hence creating) magic auras... they follow the style of the CrCo GL (ArM5 p.130) to increase characteristics:
each GL offers a +1 increase per casting, with a maximum level it can increase to (for a higher maximum, use a higher GL, either repeating the casting, or preceding it with casting the lower level spells).

TMRE also attempts to suggest that altering an Aura in this way if difficult and not the sort of thing to do with a simple spell for temporary effect - even a temporary increase should be a ritual effect, and small...

Too reliable? Yes, the character will get the virtue/discover/whathaveyou that they negotiated with the storyguide beforehand if they eventually succeed. That's necessary, however, because sacrificing 30 years to get something that you didn't want sucks, however realistic it might be. That's why it's vitally important to negotiate the details of the research beforehand. Given the massive warping and additional virtues and flaws a magus might pick up along the way, not to mention side effects from experimentation and botches, there are ample opportunities to renegotiate based on story events, but still, the player needs to know that the character isn't just wasting time or there's no enjoyment to be had.

The rules for Integration are better (though I feel that the roll to gain Insight should be dependent upon the source and the target - some things should be easier to understand than others by their nature and some far harder) but even there the player, though not the character, knows what they will eventually learn.

If I were to raise a major problem with original research, it's that it limits what can be done to gain breakthroughs. Stealing liberally from integration, it'd be nice for a magus trying to research something to do with fertility to be able to take a colony of mice into his lab and over a decade, warp the hell out of them with CrVi and MuAn and the like and gain insight thereby.

Well, if you agree that the rules apply only to player characters then that analysis has some validity. But large numbers of people post from the point of view that all the Bonisagi in the Order are doing stuff according to them.

However, I disagree that the PCs should be successful just because they are PCs and "Losing sucks". The objective of the rules should be a mechanism that is fun and interesting regardless of whether the PC succeeds in the end or not.

I mostly agree on all points -

  • In terms of simulation, the rules for OR would create lots of Minor and Major and quite a few Hermetic discoveries over the years, mainly achieved by young magi, and will make older Bonisagus magi (of the OR variety) extremely rare as Warping will decrease their lifespan. In other words - incorporating the OR rules into the saga from the simulationist viewpoint requires substantial pre-thought.
  • In terms of having fun, I agree with Fhtagn that not coming to invent something is rarely fun, but this doesn't imply all the minor details need to be finalized with your SG; rather, some sort of understanding should be established. I do think the OR rules do not produce "fun" except for very specific players of ArM, however, and do think the Integration rules work better for creating fun for many more players and for the party as a whole.

This is true. To be honest, I do tend to see PCs as slightly nuttier and more willing to take risks than other magi. Given the dangers of OR, I can see it far more likely that a lineage of Bonisagi will slowly whittle away at research, accumulating breakthrough points until their results are realised. That way there'd be lineages with a few new ranges and non-Hermetic spells, which (depending on how you choose to break or fix the rules for learning virutes) would make an excellent core for a Mystery Cult or a lineage-wide plot to raise a specific member to prominence and steal the seat of the Primus.

I agree that not everything should be completely predefined, but certainly the bulk of it should be. The cutoff point would, though, be very saga specific.

My magus is planned to go into final twilight as he performs his new spell on his former apprentice. The resulting explosion will destroy most of his lab-notes and send the junior magus into twilight as well. The saga starts when he awakens...

Alas poor Imperius, I knew him well...

I've never actually tried to use OR in a saga, and I can definitely see the problem with even one or two bonisagus magi doing OR. Of course, who knows what is buried in the Library of Durenmar? Who knows how many magi have completed a project, or nearly completed it and then died before they could properly organize their notes?

I think that most "hermetic" virtues must have come from OR of some type, so that if a saga is set pre-1220 some of them should be unavailable as they haven't been discovered.

Looking at the rules for Original Research, I agree that they are too easy. Gradualist Bonisagi assigning their Apprentices to do relatively "safe" Level 10 spells (which will never induce Twilight unless there is a major botch during experimentation--and the Original Research chart modifier might save them from that) could, over the course of a few decades, accumulate plenty of Breakthrough Stabilisation Points to achieve almost any Breakthrough desired.

The Original Research rules mean that I include all of the extant, established, pre-5th Ed. Ranges and Durations. Why? Because they're the easiest to discover (Minor Breakthroughs), there are Bonisagi ("Dabblers") who are known to specialise in that line of research, and because many of them are so exceptionally useful that they would have been researched long ago. Permanent Duration is the most outstanding example, however, the Near and Far Range (which can be used silently, and without a visual lock) are also extremely useful.

For 5th Ed., I treat Permanent Duration as an option on all Formulaic and Ritual spells. Duration is equivalent to Year, but it requires Magnitude Vis for Formulaic spells, and double Magnitude for Ritual spells. This is exactly what it was in previous editions, but in 5th Ed. it makes the Permanent Rituals much more expensive in the short run, if far more cost effective within just three years.

There is another category of Original Researcher whom I've posited: the Enigmatic Radical. These are Magi who either belong to House Criamon or who have studied the Enigma (which is available to non-Criamon with a year of study, or may be purchased with Minor Virtue during character creation, as per the rules in "Mystery Cults"). They begin their research in extreme youth, almost right out of Apprenticeship, and aim straight for the prize.

Enigmatic Radical (Character concept)
Requires: The Enigma, Great Intelligence (x2)
Useful: Minor or Major Magical Focus; Inventive Genius; Charmed Life (which requires either Mythic Blood or the Legacy Flaw); Affinity with Magic Theory; Cautious Sorcerer
Natural Flaws: Driven, Addicted to Chance, Overconfident, Ambitious
Study Path: 2 Arts at 10+, Magic Theory at 6+ (4+ if Bonisagus due to Puissant Magic Theory), Enigmatic Wisdom 5+

Enigmatic Radicals push their research to the limits. Taking advantage of the principle that Stabilisation Points equal effect magnitude, they experiment most often with Charged Items, working to create the most powerful effects possible (an exception to this are those working to break the Limit of Aging, who often find work devising Longevity Rituals). With Minor Magical Focus, experimental bonuses, Int, a decent Aura, and Magic Theory, a starting Radical can easily develop Level 45+ effects. When Form and Effect Bonuses are added it, it is 50+.

A single Breakthrough Stabilisation will yield 10+ points. Enigmatic Radicals accept the strong chance that they will endure Twilight, embracing it in order to gain deeper insight into Magic. Since they are starting Magi with very low Warping Scores, high Int and strong Enigmatic Wisdom, they will almost always comprehend the Twilight, and because they have very low Warping Scores they run a far reduced risk of entering Final Twilight. The risk is real, but the rewards are potentially VERY great.

In an "average" Enigmatic Radical's young career, a research insight will be gained every four to six seasons, with another season for Stabilisation and another, if successful, to record it for others to use should a later catastrophe befall the researcher.

Enigmatic Radicals will thus usually achieve a Minor Breakthrough within a mere six years, Major in nine, and could conceivably make an Hermetic Breakthrough within twelve years of beginning research. Within two regional Tribunal cycles, an Enigmatic Radical can go from passing Gauntlet to achieving feats worthy of an Archmage. Their Warping accumulation will be that of an "average" Magus over the course of 15-30 years. As long as they survive, it is a small price to pay for the fruits of energetic genius.

Even if Breakthrough Points required are increased by 50%, Enigmatic Radicals should be able to achieve their goals within twenty years, however, far fewer will be able to make Hermetic Breakthroughs without succumbing to Twilight. Those who follow them will be able to complete their work, revolutionising the Order.

maybe I've read it wrong but dont you have to roll for a discovery in two consecutive seasons to get a breakthrough?
Which gives you 1% chance of a breakthrough...seems sufficiently difficult to me

Salvete, Sodales!

Agnar wrote:

Well, actually you read it wrong.

In the first place your chance for a discovery is by far greater than 10 percent, because you can use your risk modifier to modify the result on the discovery chart, so with a risk modifier of 3 it is somewhere between 30 and 40% I guess (I did the math quite some month ago and don't have the rules here to redo them, but you will find most essentials in older posts).
Risk factor three is no real danger for a research lab, which usually has a safety factor that just leaves the one minimum botch dice.
The stabilisation experiment just mustn't end with a complete failure or disaster, but needn't result in a discovery itself either. I thing the propability was somerwhere above 40%.
4th ed. rules to the contrary made OR a horrible gamble.

So, yes, or is far too easy now, at least if you prefer a saga style, where your PC mages are about an equal footing wih any NPC mage their age.

Alexios ex Miscellanea

P.S.: Here is a link to the last time I started this discussion, and if I remember correctly, Yair had already beaten me by some mont:

I'll weigh in here as my Verditius has just been through his first two seasons of original research.

I have to say, I was pretty lucky with the first season and, with my modifier of 2, I managed a discovery. And in the second season I managed a side effect so, with no failure or disaster, I consolidated my research and gained 4 points towards my goal.

So on the face of it, things appear pretty easy if I can get a result on my first attempt, but then you have to consider that I'm really digging my magus in for over five years solid of lab work (assuming no problems) where he won't progress in other areas. That will be much longer when applied across a saga where research is interrupted by stories and the like. And of course, being a Verditius, there'll be seasons spent enchanting devices.

So in my experience, I'm expecting research (I'm also twinning it with Ancient Magic integration) to be the major arc for my character across this saga. It needs to be a long and arduous process (which I think it is) but it also needs to have some glimmer of hope in it (which I think it does) otherwise no player would see it as a viable arc for their character.

I think the balance is just right.