A talisman has a capacity equal to "the sum of the magus' highest technique and form".
To me the fact that this is phrased as a sum rather than by use of the word "total" means that the author was thinking that there isn't any particular reason to think of the technique and form as acting together. The ramification of the wording is that puissant adds to totals and thus doesn't increase talisman capacity.
I'm fine with this puissant to me means that a character performs in an area with skill beyond their experience, talisman capacity isn't performing in the area of the puissance.
Does anyone have any counter arguments? (based on game play, based on theme, based on the text?)
Compared to stong parens or an affinity, puissant is not really a strong option, so additional rules to devalue it are not needed (there is the fact that it can't be used for book writing anyway).
Affininity for an Art score of n saves: 1/6n(n+1)xp = (n^2+n)/6
Puissant saves: (n+1)+(n+2)+(n+3)xp = 3n+6xp
strong parens saves: 60xp (right from the start, which gives you additional spell choices + 30 levels of spells)
So strong parens is better than puissant Art unless the art is greater than 18+3.
At that level the affinity is more useful than puissant.
My impression of this is that the intent is to apply Puissant to the Art at all times when not using experience points. Avoiding the experience point thing is essential to make it add afterward and is essential to avoid the infinite teaching loop allowing two magi with Puissant Xx to become arbitrarily good at Xx. As such I believe the intent is for it to apply to Talismans, too.
I agree that, by strict reading of both by the RAW and according to how Puissant Arts are described/defined, that it would not add. Puissant means "more powerful", not "larger" - the end effect is larger, but the actual value is not, and the math of a talisman is based off of the value, not the effect.
However, I also agree that this hard interpretation just doesn't feel completely right, and that tossing a Player a bone is rarely going to break a saga. Of all the battles a SG might choose, of all the bad news they might give their Players, this probably is one time to give them a break.
(Also, I would not put it past an author (without knowing which specific author we have here) to either be sloppy in their use of technical terms, or to use the common literary rule of not repeating the same word over and over, and instead using a synonym when the same concept was intended.)
Not in a strict reading of the rules, no. Which was a key part of the question that started this thread.
Refer to OP, at top...
Strictly speaking, "a total" is a specific in-game term - and if an author chooses to use a different term, then they are intentionally not referring to that other term and any rules that rely on using that term. Strictly speaking.
Cuchulainshound, your strict reading is prior to errata. Please refer to the errata I quoted above. "Whenever you use it" does not include the word "total." Totals frequently occur when using the Art. Still, a correct strict reading does not require the word "total" to be used.