Original Research

So hum... this is actually the first time I've had a player take interest in Original Research, and I'm not sure how to go with it. I do understand the rules, that's fine (if a bit too easy perhaps) but I'd like some help figuring out how what he wants to do would break Hermetic Magic. Here are the ideas he's been toying with:

A- Breaking the limit of Arcane Connections, which I've explained to him would require some other way to determine that he is afecting the target he wants to, teleport to the place he wants to and so on. I remember something about Ptolemaic magic being able to do that, but it does sound earth-shattering to me.

B- Developing a way to "create" temporary arcane connections with sympathetic connections (i.e. a pile of rocks to affect a mountain, a doll with someone's name written in it to affect that someone). Perhaps something along the lines of Leadworker but that could potentially be used for anything... Again, very strong changes.

C- Devising some method of Spontaneous casting that allows for the full roll to be considered for determining the end level of the spell, with the caveat that a number of botch dice are rolled equal to the end spell's magnitude, regardless of an initial "0". This to me seems the least broken OR, and to be honest more dangerous than useful for anyone but the extremely bold and/or insane.

Bottomline he wants either something which plays with how Arcane Connections work or, if he can, some way to create more "real" illusions with Imaginem. Option C came up as an attempt to create OR which resembles how Paradox works in WoD - which I'm not a fan of.

Any thoughts on how each of these would break the game, and perhaps any other ideas I can toss him?


Personally, I like c) the least: it does not break any hermetic limits, it just gives more raw power to the magus, a little like saying "now parma advances as an Art rather than as an ability". It's quite a bit of power, too, since it doubles your casting total without adding nearly as many botch dice as using enough raw vis to achieve the same effect would. The Hermetic Virtues Life Linked Spontaneous Magic, or Diedne Magic, are probably more balanced alternatives that might be worth researching (or being initiated into etc.) instead, if this is what the player wants.

Breaking the limit of arcane connections is a big thing, but it's more flavourful and - in my opinion - not that unbalancing if correctly "tuned". Ancient Magic has no less than three different suggested avenues for that: Ptolemaic Coordinates (you cite it, so you probably have access to the book), Defixio Magic and Caanite Necromancy. Each has some twist to it that makes it not so unbalancing, and suggestions about how many breakthrough points are needed - and about how it would change the Hermetic landscape. Also, there is already an Inner Mystery of House Merinita (Symbolic magic, described in Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults) that allows you to bypass the limit of Arcane connections through a ritual.

The trick here, is why do you care if it "breaks the game"? Original Research is a big, big goal for a wizard. Endgame big. If you don't like the end product, stretch it out so that it finishes the game. You set the "Breakthrough points" after all, and you don't have to tell him how many he needs. Each "little breakthrough" gives him something Non-Hermetic he can do, so he's not completely gimp compared to his peers. Make the Journey fun enough, and he won't care that he didn't get to spend much time at the goal.....

For smaller, "in game" goals, Hedge magic is full of possible Original Research ideas that won't break the bank.

Isn't that how it works already? After you roll and know the excess, you can increase R/D/T or keep it low for extra Penetration. Or did you only mean changing the basic effect?

If you are going to do something like this, I think that you to decide (as a troupe), firstly whether or not the character is going to succeed in his research during the saga. If the research takes a very long time, relative to the length of the saga, or if the research is impossible (the character does not need to be right), then he may not finish within the saga. In which case, you just need to worry about how trying to do the research creates stories, and what the actual result is meant to be is less relevant.

If the research is going to be complete within the time-frame of the saga, then you have to decide how much of a game-changer it is going to be. If a breakthrough is so revolutionary and powerful that it changes the way Mythic Europe and the Order of Hermes looks, then (I think) that really needs to be the central feature of your saga. Which is fine, but it really needs to be something that the other players are on-board with. It can get a bit weird if the saga is "meant" to be about, say, the covenant's war with some local faeries, and at the same time one of the magi invent a new Form and found a new House based around it.

For my money, if the magus is going to break the Limit of Arcane Connections within the timeframe of the saga, and you don't want to radically change the Order, then make the breakthrough limited to a particular sort of target. Obviously, tie the limitation to something cool and funky about the character or the covenant or the saga or whatever seems appropriate. Some options might be:

  • using something else as if they were Arcane Connections (for example, images in mirrors, nativity horoscopes).

  • using the fact that targets are within some particular geographic area as if it was an Arcane Connection, (the magus can affect others with the Black Forest, as if he had an Arcane Connection to them, or he can affect others within the city of London as if he had an Arcane Connection to them, etc)

  • the magus can affect particular sorts of targets as if he had an Arcane Connection to them (say, the dead --- see Canaanite Necromancy --- or faeries, or magic creatures of Aquam, or whatever).

  • allow the magus to affect others as if he had an Arcane Connection to them only at particular times (during their birth, on a full-moon, on Halloween, etc).

  • allow the magus to use only particular sorts of magic as if he had Arcane Connections to the target (say, magic senses, teleportation, mentem, etc).

Integrating the Magic of Virgil , Rival magic (page 74)
Sortes Virgilianae , Suggested Breakthrough Points: 45

Too much text to type.
but you end up with Mystery Virtue Hermetic Divination (page 58 , TMRE)

Defixio Magic , page 45 (AM)
New Range: Unlimited
Sympathetic Connections that provide at least a +02 Bonus.
An Arcane Connection is not required.

Paradox is OWoD.
Do you mean the player wants to introduce disbelief of mundanes causing magic to be harder to cast?
Does he wants a Magical Backlash Table or equivalent?

Will your player feel he has been cheated if he does not get the breakthrough he wants?
Not all research results in immediate success after all.

Well it takes your Casting Total and does not divide it by 2, but you HAVE to roll botch dice even if you didn't roll a 0 in the original roll. If you do roll a 0 in the original roll you add the extra botch dice as usual... I think it's rather dangerous really.

I care because we're doing a very fast paced game up to the point where the magi are about 100 years old (about 1 game session every 10 years, though not all 40 seasons are study worth). That means he has a good chance of finishing his breakthrough before or right after he's turned 100, when the game will actually slow down and "start".

I meant not dividing it by 2.

Pretty much one of the biggest concerns I have, since the central feature of the saga is supposed to be High End Hermetic Politics.

Thanks for the suggestion on restricting what targets it may affect without ACs, I'll suggest it to the player!

One of the few books I haven't got yet, unfortunately :frowning:

Ancient Magic is one of the books I have to re-read very carefully, yes. Thanks for the suggestion.

Not too sure to be honest, I've never really played OWoD or NWoD even though I did read MtA way back when. I think he wants the "extra botch dice even if you don't botch" to be some sort of action and reaction kind of think - if he tries to affect reality too hard too fast reality might kick him back.

Oh, so the only advantage of Formulaic is saving you from that botch roll.

Something stronger than Major Magical Focus with a penalty 10 times worse than Careless Sorcerer. I hope that player won't have Cautious Sorcerer and Weird Magic, freely sponting any level 15 spells with a weird effect every 10 tries would make a perfect Gros Bill.

I think a breakthrough to rediscover Diedne Magic would be another good candidate, with interesting political effects.

You can double the lower Art Score with a Magical Focus (Major or Minor) , it stacks with Diedne Magic and Chthonic Magic.
Potentially you have the lower Art Score x03 (Major Focus & CM) or x04 (Minor Focus , DM & CM).
Verditius Elder Runes (Minor House Mystery) , page 127 (HoH: MC)
allows the magus to add a Technique and a Form Rune when enchanting items ,
that doubles the score of each Art.
This also stacks with a Magical Focus , either Minor or Major and Chthonic Magic.
Higher Art Score x02 plus Lower Art Score x03 (or x04).

The player could research all these things to possibly combine them with Spontaneous Magic.
If you make it a Breakthrough , then it will/should have none of the drawbacks that certain virtues contain.
Allowing them all to stack would give Higher Art Score x02 plus Lower Art Score x05.

The Breakthrough can be used as a "big stick/carrot/temptation/fear" in those politics as well.
Should make for a "nice" complication... :smiling_imp:

I wouldn't allow the Arcane Connection breakthrough, unless he detailed some means of targeting that is equally unambigious. For instance, knowing someones birthday allows a Sympathetic Connection, but not an Arcane connection, because there are many people who have the same birthday. So no targeting someone based on knowing his birthday, it doesn't properly define who or who is not targeted by the spell.

I would not allow the Spont magic variant. Maybe I am reading some of my bad experiences with oWoD, but there were some players who would develop these 600 year old vampires and then play them in the most suicidal/ risk taking way imaginable. They didn't mind the risk, because as soon as their previous 600 year old vampire died, they introduced another 600 year old vampire. I always figured that if someone played someone who is hundreds of years old, they should have to behave like someone who would survive hundreds of years. In this case, that would mean either almost never using this neat nifty power that he spent all this effort developing, or that after living pretty carefully for 80 years as a magus, that he switched to wildly reckless behavior. It is not like he doesn't have a pretty high warping score just from the longevity ritual.

If he wants a research project to make illusions more real, why not allow him to research something along the lines of glamor magic from the Metrina? It wouldn't have to be tied to that house anymore, and would be pretty powerful, but not inconsistant with what came before. Plus, he would have all the political reprecussions of having a house be somewhat grumpy about having someone outside their house have an ability they thought was a house monopoly.

A) I think that using coordinates could work as a breakthrough to break the limit of Arcane Connections, as long as the magus is able to precisely give the distance, direction and elevation to the target (or the precise coordinates, if he also knows his own), and for the same +4 magnitude. In Mystic Europe, with no GPS and no precise map, it is very difficult in and of itself. For starter, there is no compass yet, so how do you even express a fine direction ? You can't just say: I want to blast the space where Mr Bad likes to sit, you have to say : I want to blast the space that is 12,345 paces from me, precisely 458,956 / 1,000,000 of a full circle to the right of the center of the sun where it currently lays, and 245 paces lower in altitude than I am...

Remember, no GPS, no precise maps, no compass... for any kind of distance, you will have to use more magic just to get the distances right... wait, to do that you need line of sight or an arcane connection ! Casting just one spell is going to be a truly major project (like setting a line of marking posts, each in line of sight of the next, and precisely measuring (possibly with magic) the distances and directions from one to the other, then working out the composite distance...), so hardly game-breaking.

It is useful if you just want to cast on the other side of a wall, however... or are willing to take some risks in teleporting.

B) That one is a very strong change. Maybe if you specified that the connection must once have been an arcane connection, albeit long expired ? Making sure no one gets an arcane connection to them is one of the first lines of defense of magi.

C) As other have mentioned, that is more powerful than a Major Virtue, albeit with very strong drawbacks, which would make it a game-breaker, I think. Particularly since the drawback could be mitigated with other Virtues or Breakthrough.

More "real" illusions with Imaginem : in theory, he could use Ignem (Light and Shadows, or Heat and Cold) and Terram (solidity) requisites to add "real" components to his illusions. Think of the illusion of a person couple with an Unseen Porter and a little Perdo Ignem to make a shadow. Of course, since they add to the spell, they add magnitudes as well (in my example we are talking CrIm with Pe, Re, Ig and Te requisites). Maybe you could steer him toward a Breakthough giving him something akin to Elemental Magic, allowing him to create illusions that also affect light/shadow (Ignem), or are somewhat solid (Terram) while ignoring the requisites, or at least the Form requisites ?

I think A and B are similar but B is more flavorful. Depending on the ease, we certainly know that B is acceptable since it already exists. It hasn't been fully incorporated into Hermetic Magic (requiring Mysteries), but it is in canon. I forget in how many places. If I remember correctly there are two: Symbolic Magic (HoH:MC - Merinita Mysteries) and something in TMRE (perhaps astrological?). There might be more or fewer, but Symbolic Magic is certainly one. I would look in HoH:MC and TMRE for ideas.

I don't like C for reasons other have already mentioned.


Thanks for the ideas everyone!