I think that the magic resistance scores of creatures in the setting are too low, and should be increased. Do you agree? I know some of you do, but I want to see whether this agreement is widespread - hence, the poll.
I also think that the MR of magi is too low, but that's another matter, and that MR is too HIGH for hedge magi, but that's yet another matter, and that MR for Faith/mundanes is too low but this is yet another matter, and ... But that's not what this poll is about
I picked "say again", as I am finding that MR is probably a little too black and white - rather than high or low. I'd prefer to add flavour so that creatures have different MR for different types of effects and different arts.
Likewise for Magi, the arts of the magus really should provide a better protection than they do. I know adding complexity will slow down the mechanical resolution of casting, but I see issues with both high and low MR.
I don't think the problem is with magic resistance, but with all the very easy ways of boosting penetration, specially for items. I personally like to cap item penetration by the creator's penetration skill (modified by any sympathetic and arcane connections he has access to and use during creation). That makes it just as hard (and story-driven since you need to get the connections) to get a decent penetration from an item as for spell casting.
With that modification I find the magic resistance well balanced. Specialized magi in their specialization will blow away rather powerful enemies.
Now, might-stripper spells is another can of worms that I thankfully doesn't have to deal with (yet). It might give me other problems, but I still don't feel that the problem is with the MR, just (possibly) with a few of the tools made to conquer it.
I think the way resistance and might is done is problematic
a might of 10 or 15 can easily make a creature immune to most supernatural abilities and non-hermetic magic.
I realized long ago that Sense Holiness/unholiness is basically useless for detecting any demon of might 10 or higher.
The reason: You have to penetrate might and still reach your target level. If target is 9, might 10 means you need a 19 on an ability roll. This is not easy to do. Might 15 means 24 is needed. If target number is 12, then you are talking 22 and 27 needed.
This is overwhelming. This goes for most supernatural abilities. You aren't likely to use entrancement or enchanting music for much of anything against hermetic mage. (hard against newly gauntleted with no mentem (that is roll of 14 for the least effects). Add any mentem (say 6 xp for a score of 3) and parma of 2 and you are now trying to roll a 22 for the least effects.
That said, hermetic magics and certain accelerated abilities (where there is two accelerated abilities involved) can often get much better penetration and get through magic resistances that just sneer at everything else. Might 20 which is huge against supernatural abilities type powers is usually easily overcome by mages in their specialty and mages can use raw vis to boost their totals as well as penetration ability and penetration mastery on spells.
Sorry. At least it's possible to change your choice on the poll...
More flavor is an interesting idea, although it adds complexity as you say. I'm not sure that the Forms don't add enough to a magus' MR, however - they are often on par or even stronger than the Parma's contribution. And they also create a more varied MR, as you prefer. Now it might be that magi's MR is too low; I believe this is so. But that's not a problem with the contribution of the Forms per se.
Granted. But the problem is that they appear to be stronger than even middling (Might 25-35) local powers (such as faerie lords or forest spirits) at gauntlet, and after a few decades to be even stronger than the greatest (Might 75-100) denziens of the Realms! That seems excessive to me. I prefer my magi to be cowed by local supernatural powers at gauntlet, and to be able to take on the greatest supernatural powers in the setting in a direct fight only at archmagus power levels if at all.
I agree that the excessive penetration of magic items sucks, although your solution is rather extreme as it essentially means all magic items have no penetration unless specifically designed against a particular opponent; I'm not sure I'm willing to throw away all item penetration just yet.
However - magic items aside, should specialists really blow away rather powerful enemies? I tend to think that starting magi should not be able to defeat local powers in a straight fight, so that instead they would have to deal with them and respect them. It makes for better stories IMO, and leaves plenty of weaker not-that-powerful enemies that they can valiantly vanquish.
Furthermore, defeating rather powerful enemies should be left to Masters, and defeating truly powerful ones to Archmagi. In these terms, I fear that ArM5 RAW leads to PCs effectively starting as Masters, and reaching Archmagus power-levels in a few decades. Their power after a century or so far exceeds anything in the setting. This is simply too much power, and too much penetration, for me. I prefer to increase MR (or, for that matter, lower power levels - but that's another discussion).
Setting magic items aside - boosting penetration is certainly a problem, but even without it there is a problem. Let me run some numbers by you.
Let's take the Flambeau template from the core book, but replace Life Boost with another Puissant Art to ease calculations. We have two Arts at 12+3 and a Magical Focus. Let's say the die + Stamina + aura comes out 10. Let's add +2 from words and gestures, +2+1 from the penetration ability, +1 from spell mastery (multicasting; reduce some other Ability to get the XP for this). This sums up to a bare penetration total (i.e. penetration with a zero-level spell) of 61. So he has a penetration of 41 with his Pilum of Fire and 26 with his Ball of Abysmal Flame. This is enough to quickly dispatch local powers, with Might 25 or less, and to valiantly fight-off even greater opponents, of Might 40 - without boosting. This seems a bit excessive to me - a journeyman should be quickly dispatching magical footsoldiers (Might 5-10), valiantly fighting off weak local powers (Might 25) at best, and getting his ass kicked by significant players (Might 40).
Now add on a few decades of magical growth. Let's say in this time he gets the equivalent of studying 10 fine tractatus in each of of his two favorite Arts, for +100 XP before Affinity, i.e. +150 XP with his Affinity. This brings us to scores of 20+3 in both Arts. Let's also increase Penetration to 3+1, and spell mastery to 3 (multicasting, fast-casting, penetration). Now our Master-level specialist has 148 in his bare penetration total, so has a penetration of 120 with his PoF and 113 with his BoAF (!). This is enough to wipe the floor with any Might score in the setting. Essentially any being not directly protected by God through direct intervention will succumb to a barrage of four BoAF in a single round - this is the power of a Master of the Order of Hermes! Well, I think that's excessive.
And that was without boosting. Without even a measly talisman attunement.
Ah. Well, I'm referring here to characters with supernatural abilities, which is what I take most "hedge wizards" to be (those belonging to true different magical traditions are too varied to talk about meaningfully, but I tend to think of them as much rarer in the setting, and that many of them follow similar mechanics). Then the character basically rolls (die + Characteristic + Ability), subtracts an Ease Factor, and is left with very, very little for penetration - as he adds only one ability instead of two art; and he furthermore doesn't have the various ways Hermetic magi have of boosting their roll (well, except arcane and sympathetic connections). Now, many supernatural abilities don't need to penetrate, but generally speaking hedgies will have very low penetration IMO.
I find there are three primary ways to boost Hermetic penetration: wizard's communion, raw vis, and arcane and sympathetic connections. All can add tremendously, if they can be applied. You can also add various smaller bonuses, such as through talisman attunement, or initiating into mysteries such as cyclic magic or life-linked magic or potent magic or so on. Magical focus adds too much too, and that you can add another one through Cthonic Magic is just mean.
Wizard's Communion is essentially the cheapest, as all it requires is one season of study to be able to boost all spells by a lot. Using it has tactical complications (including putting all your eggs - ehm, that is, magi - in one basket), but still.
Raw vis costs a lot, but the vis limit is ridiculously high. It allows for absurdly high bonuses, that dwarf other contributions. The limit should be cut to one quarter to be on part with other contributions IMO.
Arcane and sympathetic connections are cool, although here too I think excessive and that they should be cut in half or otherwise limited.
All in all, I think ArM5 is poorly balanced in many ways (Magical Focus, I'm looking at you!), so I find that correcting all of it gets mired in too many house rules... but the relation between available MR and penetration in the setting is one glaring point that could have used more consideration in development.
You've miscalculated here, the bonus is
23 * 2 for arts
23 for focus
3 for spell mastery
3 for penetration specialization in spell mastery
10 for the die roll stamina and aura
for a total of 88, giving penetrations of 68 and 53. Still high enough to penetrate the might of any creature (with the exception of the RoP divine archangels, and some of the stuff in GotF) so it's still a concern but 60 points lower than what you said.
If penetration 60 is not dramatic to you, you play in a different setting than we do. And we just finished the most outrageously overpowered saga we have played so far. In it, the mages were able to deal with the Might x4 dragons that we use (might 200-350 range) fairly easily once they put their minds to it, so guess. They never considered it (the awe inspiring descriptions we used for him, and the few stats shown worked here), but they could have enslaved the God of the isle of Man (Manaranann) easily if they had wanted to.
penetration is too easy and out of sync with non hermetic powers AND might scores. Might scores are somewhat boosted from previous editions (and that makes hedgies even worse than before here) but they are no way on the same league as hermetic Magi.
The only real challenge to hermetic magi are other hermetic magi, and that is only because hermetics live in the Far West: the one that shots first wins the fight since Parma is not on par with penetration abilities either. Parma is great to protect you from hedgies and magical creatures, but against hermetics it fails miserably. So it is "first one to hit the rival, wins". But that is another discussion.
The authors wanted the game this way. David and Timothy said in another topic the goal of the game is to get huge power and to find out what to do with this power. Killing dragons right out of apprenticeship? OK!
I think the way to go is to rethink the entire power level - book qualities - unbalanced virtues - spell boosting - magic resistance scores - parma magica - item penetration - hedge magic thing. This whole set of rules needs to be tweaked and rebalanced to work together well. It's one big mess, one thing not fitting another. There is no way Art scores cap at 40, for example, and this has ramifications for book qualities and levels, which feeds back on art levels... it's a big mess. I think that's what ArM6 will be for
More to the point, however - I think the solution is to go piecemeal. Set MR against Hermetic magic by multiplying Might by 4 (for example). Set it against supernatural abilities by, I don't know - dividing Might scores by 2. It makes life more complicated, but also keeps the setting as making more sense, which is more important IMO.
My next game will be like this, I think, just to see how it goes. But if that was their intention, they gave very poor indication of it in the setting. There is no real treatment of how NPC magi imprisoned the titans, fed all of France, or eternally obliviated Hell....
I suspect that while the authors intended a high power level, what they created was an absurd power level that is disconnected from the setting and its (fictional) history, and I personally find it a big problem. But sure - if you want your PCs to go to Olympus, kill Zeus, and take his stuff, all at level 10 - errg, I mean 30 years post gauntlet - then this ruleset will work like a charm.
The other thing to consider is how you got your hands on 10 different quality 10 tractii in both your specialty arts vs examples quoted. To get that quality of tractii, you need to put in a lot of effort in special materials (not likely for tractii), great teacher virtue or very high communication (4). None of these should be common that there should be such a huge supply of books for specialty arts.
I admit that I think magical focus is broken and is a virtue that I would see vanish forever.
If you removed focus and limited tractii availability to a more reasonable level, suddenly scores aren't nearly as bad. Still magic resistance to face off against hermetics cripples most hedgies.
Problem is that availability of books varies from troupe to troupe or even saga to saga, as does the definition of reasonable quality tractatii.
I personally find the suggestions in Covenants overly generous, even with the -3 for not using fancy decorations, but that's just me.
As Tellus said, that is very much saga-dependent. But I don't think the equivalent of 10 fine tractatus should be that much of a problem to come by. Or in other words - I think that it's perfectly reasonable to expect a PC to gain 100 XP in an Art (before Ability) over the course of a few decades, perhaps by spending 10 seasons reading 10 quality 10 tractatus.
I agree that neither Great Teacher nor high Communication should be common - but we don't need "common", we just need "enough". It's enough to have something like 3 good teachers (by virtue or sheer communication score) that had an interest in Creo (and, separately, in Ingem) in the history of the Order for that many or more to plausibly be in circulation. Some tractatus may have very high qualities, perhaps combining high communication, Good Teacher, good craftmanship, a gloss, and resonant materials... while others will have a somewhat lower quality, so that on average it would be as if he read 10 at quality 10.
And there is no need to rely solely on tractatus. Indeed, I'd be surprised if our combat monkey didn't spend some time reading summae. I'd be surprised if he didn't obtain access to at least a Branch in Ignem (level 20, quality... I don't know, 11? [3+3 craftmanship+1 gloss+1 resonant materials+3 communication)), that he would read for several seasons. So the number of works needed is reduced further. And of course he could also spend some time learning from raw vis, or significanto.
In short, gaining +100 XP in two Arts over 30 years does not seem like a stretch to me, although I grant that this is saga dependent.
You'd have to lower access to summa, raw vis, and significanto (if used) also, but yes - you can cripple progress enough so that gaining those +100 XP should take more time. But this would mean that the PC was denied spending 20 seasons (5 years in total) learning from fine (Quality 10) sources, or slightly more from lower sources, over a period of, say, 30 years. This is not entirely unreasonable, but I think that it isn't very plausible for a regular saga. PCs would get, IMO, their hands on high-quality sources, and not many of them are required to gain 100 XP. YMMV, and apparently does.