Potent Magic: Good, Bad, Too Hard To Use?

I am curious what the consensus is regarding Potent Magic as a Hermetic Virtue. The requirements to specifically design spells for/with it, and then making the casting props necessary for casting those spells at all, just seems to make it so burdensome to use in play that the virtue sees very little action in games.

I was struck by the comparison with Potent Sorcery, an obviously similar concept, and how it simply provided the relevant bonuses whenever powers are used within its theme and appropriate casting tools are used.

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Potent Magic is relatively weak, but it is not a bad virtue.

The base bonus (+3 for a Minor virtue, +6 for Major) you get anytime the spell or lab project falls into the area of your virtue. Clearly weaker than a Magic Focus, but on the other hand you can have Potent Magic for as many areas of magic as you may wish. And you can combine a Magic Focus and Potent Magic in the same field for extra oomph.

It also allows you to create potent spells which ties the spell to a casting item and gives an extra bonus to your casting score. A somewhat niche application, and requires a good score in Magic Theory to provide a significant bonus, but if you have that the bonus can be quite nice.


Even if you never invent or use a single spell using Casting Items, you still get a +3 or +6 to your lab totals and casting score in one of your chosen fields. (Unlike Magical Focus, you can take the virtue multiple times.) That's valuable all by itself.

Editor Note: Ninja! ErikT beat me to the send button by seconds.


It might not be widely used, but I think there's a side benefit that might not be apparent, and can help your Sodales.
The Casting Items might be a bit cumbersome, but if your Magic Theory and your Sodales' Magic Theory is high enough, it could allow them to cast spells that are beyond their ability to otherwise cast reliably.


Those casting items can also be used to add a nice boost to penetration if you need it, seeing as you may well have good Casting Scores already for the spells it covers. Potent Magic plus the casting items should provide +6 at a bare minimum in those cases, +3 for Minor Potent Magic and +3 as a low-end limit to MT. With higher MT this can easily reach +10, even with Minor Potent Magic. That can be a pretty hefty bonus that doesn't rely on having an AC.


It isn't he size of the bonuses that I think keeps most people (seemingly) from using the virtue. It is the seasons devoted to designing the potent spells. The time invested for that just seems to be more than most people are willing to invest into it, compared to say a Magical Focus that automatically scales with the character as they advance. And I tend to view the infrequence of ever seeing it used as an indication that there is something about it that doesn't result in positive play as it were.

I like the idea of casting tools and their sympathetic elements/strengths lending to stronger magic. And/or another way to be better at a given sub-category of magic. And the bonuses seem worthwhile and fine.


It's always seemed to me that Potent Magic made perfect sense for a Tremere. Have each magus who has the virtue invent potent variant of popular spells and make those lab texts available to your House-mates. Gives a nice bonus to penetration that can in part counterbalance the lack of a magical focus.

I've been wanting to play a Tremere magus with Potent Magic for a while. But not many troupe are willing, nor many saga appropriate, to integrate a Tremere magus.


Most magi will invent spells at some point in their career. If they then invent a potent spell instead of a regular spell, no time is lost. And since Potent Spells can be learned by anyone from a Lab Text, magi can even start with them - assuming SG approval.
No more time need to be invested than for a mage without Potent Magic.


This is only true if you only want a single potent version of a given spell. Instead of wanting to be able to cast the spell without a casting tool if you want/need to. And/or to redesign it with more bonuses if you now have a higher Magic Theory. So it seems in practice like it frequently would consume additional seasons for the same spell selection.

I like Tremere. To my view socially in the Order / as Covenant members they should be viewed akin to a Flambeau (though obviously not quite the same). It is just that it can be more work because the troupe must address the broader state and strategy of the House in ways that can be ignored if desired with basically all of the others. Which that depends on how much big picture depth people put into their sagas whether this actually is more work or not.

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Most Magi wouldn't redesign a spell, at least I've never seen it happen. What can happen is that you'd design a similar spell with a change in parameters, because your Lab Total and Casting Total increased enough that you can now research/cast it.
For example, I have a Magi that researched a Touch range PeIg spell to inflict fatigue. I had no score in Perdo at the time, and could only afford a level 5 spell to do in one season. As his Perdo increases, I will make similar spells for Voice or Sight range, and eventually, with Group target.

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If you want many different variants of the same spell it will of course take extra time to invent them all.
But that does not seem like an obvious thing to do, not something that the average magus would do.

I don't think that is really very accurate when it comes to the way Potent Spells are structured/described. It discounts the impact of both requiring the casting tool to use the spell at all, being a fixed item in design/structure and thus requiring a redesign to upgrade, and of the bonus potential also not scaling up with an increase in Magic Theory and also requiring a redesign to upgrade.

I just don't see how those things can be viewed as not resulting in consuming more time in attempting to both make them work without being an impediment and in making use of increasing abilities over time.

Which is why I believe it compares disfavorably to a Magical Focus and/or the design of Potent Sorcery. And hence is selected/used so much less.

Potent Magic allows you to create Potent spells that other Magi can use, capped by your Magic Theory at the time.
It might seem counter-productive to research such spells when your Magic Theory is low, but think of it this way. You can teach your apprentice these Potent +3 spells with the basic minimum they need to have.
Sure, you can research Potent +5-8 spells by the time you have an apprentice, but your apprentice will not be able to even learn them, unless you teach him higher MT.


Potent Magic also may not be too burdensome to a Verditius, depending on what they've defined their casting tools as. If you already need props to cast a formulaic spell, you may as well take a Virtue that lets you get another bonus for using props.


But would magi upgrade their spells when they get better Magic Theory?
Probably not very often in my estimate. It would have to be a large increase to be worth redesigning the spell, and such large upgrades in MT don't happen often.

As for the impact of requiring a casting tool, that would of course depend on the situation and what kind of spell it is. In most cases it would have the same impact as the use of casting tools by Verditius magi typically have - namely none at all.
In some cases the impact could be much larger, but for spells likely to be used when you don't have access to your casting tool, the solution is to simply no invent that spell as a Potent spell.

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To me, the issue with Potent Magic is the layer of limitations that makes each step more narrowly useful than the previous one.

  1. You only apply Potent Magic (and can invent spells) around your "Focus".
  2. You need a high MT, and the spell will use the MT you had when you invented it.
  3. You need casting tools.
  4. If another person wants to learn you spell, it needs to have at least the same MT than the inventor.

I could work with the first 3. But since Potent Spells favor naturally high MT magis, makes the good spells very hard to learn for others (thus, making your contributions to the library not so useful as they could).

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Which means frequently you aren't getting the actual bonus you could have from the virtue.

Which again, compared to something like a Magical Focus, isn't a problem at all since the bonus it provides grows as your Arts grow.

If you want to generally/usually be getting the full bonuses from the virtue that you have access to, you have to redesign spells. The fact that the burden this presents and thus you think would be infrequently done? I of course do not disagree with you there. Would most people be willing to invest this time for another couple of points of bonus? Almost assuredly not. Which is why people don't take this virtue.

That is exactly my point as to why the virtue is less advantageous as a selection, and thus infrequently used compared to other Hermetic Virtues of the same level of virtue point investment.

I suppose this very much depends on the game in question, but would not infrequently be the case re: Verditius. This isn't necessarily a great thing since it is supposed to be the weakness of Verditius as it were, as they certainly get benefits, but often this hindrance is largely handwaved.

In which case even though you have some spell you want to use/design within your focus area for your potent, you don't get the full benefits of the virtue. Which ... makes it a less advantageous choice again.

How much of this would be simplified/streamlined and made of better relative value if there were simply no need to design special spells to make the virtue work and do what it does? It seems like an easy and natural fix to me.

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Missing a potential point or two from your Casting Score doesn't seem like something to worry about.
So no extra time invested because it is just not worth reinventing a spell for a measly point or two extra in bonus.
Does this mean you miss the full bonus? Yes. Is this a problem? Not really.

Besides, the base bonus from Potent Magic is enough to sometimes choose it even if you don't ever create any Potent Spells.
Is it one of the top-ranked virtues? No. Is it useless? Definitely not. Is it worth taking? Can be - depending on everything else.

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The point isn't that it is a big problem. It doesn't have to be. It just has to make it compare disfavorably to other choices for the same investment.

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