Recalibrating Ars Magica: 01 - Power Limits

Let’s recalibrate Fifth Edition!

ArM5 is designed with some rough balance in mind - between virtues, between the power of magi and their place in the setting, and so on. However, I would contend that in practice this balancing act went somewhat awry. So I’m suggesting here to recalibrate some of the rules and numbers. This is not a redesign, only a recalibration to make things somewhat more consistent.

So - here is my suggestion on calibrating, first, what power Art scores magi can reach, and a few derived results. Do tell me why my calibration, too, is off. :smiley:

Chapter 01 - The Foundation is Set by the Limits

I want to start with the expected Art scores, as I think these set the scale for everything else. I will begin with the standard ArM5 progress, slightly modified:

The stop-measure is there to force one to spread his expenditure. In-game, this would usually be because the character has other interests that push him to invest in other Arts, invent spells, go on adventures, master spells, invest items, and so on. The rate of 30 XP per year, in turn, corresponds to roughly Sources of quality 10, with one-quarter of seasons “wasted”.

Low-level summa would have higher qualities, so that at high levels typical qualities should be a bit below the standard to maintain the 10 as “average”. This is a very minor effect, however, over a magus' long career.

We shall also keep the Warping progress of ArM5, again with slight changes:

The accumulation is from 1 pawn per year due to the longevity ritual, plus an average of 1 pawn per year from magical botches and other events. Player magi can deviate significantly from this guideline, but it is assumed NPC magi generally do not - unless the storyguide wishes otherwise. Even at old age, magi will not drop their longevity rituals and will continue to accumulate warping due to other reasons.

Final twilight at Warping 10 is applied to derive an effective maximum on Art scores. Without it, they are unlimited. A Warping Score of 10 requires 275 Warping Points, which is 137.5 years. This leads to the effective age restriction on magi,

Older magi are possible, especially through Mysteries, but should not affect the setting’s power level.

A related issue is Twilight. If a magus can spend decades in Temporary Twilight, that can increase his age. But it should not grant him more XP than a corresponding amount of Warping gained by regular years would have. So our cardinal rule on Twilight is

This means we can effectively ignore Wizard’s Twilight when determining how it affects the limits. Player characters may still gain XP (and Warping!) quicker than the standard 'warping at later life' guideline by undergoing Twilight, but we shall assume that it all balances out for NPCs, so they still just gain 2 WP and 30 XP per year, Twilight included.

We can now determine the highest Art scores in the Order. Without taking Magical Affinity into account, 140 years at 10 XP per year will grant 1400 XP, for an Art score of 52. Magical Affinity is too hard to let go of, but in order to keep things somewhat sane let us limit it to +¼ of the XP; this leads to 1750 XP, or score 58. A score of 60 would be 1830 XP, which is a bit further but not impossible to gain surely.

We can use that as the absolute maximum level the Order has developed so far.

Specific Arts perhaps never had a magus that reached such high scores in them, nor is it likely that the grand masters who penned the highest-level summas also had good communication or the Good Teacher virtue. Nevertheless, good, high-quality summas can probably be found at levels approaching this limit for all Arts.

For a sanity-check, consider a Quality 15 (6 base+5 Com+4 Good Teacher) summa at level 30. This is 465 XP, so can be read in 31 Seasons, supposedly over 31 years “on average”. The magus would still have some 109 years left, which with “standard” quality sources will bring us to 1555 XP which is a score of 55. Adding a ¼ affinity we reach 1943 XP which is still within an Art score of 61. So a maximum Art score of 60 still seems rather reasonable.

All these guidelines are there for NPCs and the setting. PCs can break them. In particular, they might be able and want to gain more than 10 XP per year in certain years or even on average, thus growing faster than the guidelines suggest; and they might be able to avoid gaining Warping points to expected level, and so on. However, these guidelines now allow us the foundation to build the rest of the system in their light.

These numbers look pretty much right to me.

Minor niggle: The highest quality you can get without using the advanced book rules in Covenants is 14. Good Teacher only provides +3, not +4. Not that this makes any significant difference to your numbers, and in fact only serves to reinforce the point you're making.

It might be interesting to consider Constant Effect Warping as the minimum you gain every year, separate from botches and other momentary effects. This would give magi 2 free Warp from botches and encourage risky behavior.

This is a problem. Most xp Virtues give 50 xp, therefore Affinity with (Art) should give 50 xp. RAW requires 100 xp -> 150 xp = score 17 Art. Yours requires 200 xp -> 250 xp = score 22 Art.

If you reduce Art scores by 5 with your other restrictions, hitting score 22 is near impossible and Affinity becomes useless.

Puissant Art also becomes good at Art 15+3 = 16+17+18 = 51 xp saved. If you make Puissant only give +2, you'd need Art 24+2 = 25+26 = 51 xp saved. OIW, useless again.

{And 50 xp generous here: Skilled Parens gives 60+30 xp, which I'd assume you'd reverse to 30 xp and 60 spell levels}

ArM5 p71 - Art Summa Level Limit: 20
Same limit in Covenants.

Great! Now If I can convince the rest of the board, we could move the next chapter - recalibrating the virtues...

Ooops. Yes, right.

An interesting idea. However, it doesn't really affect the recalibration, I think.

Probably a good idea regardless. Encouraging risky behaviour is fun :smiling_imp:

Balancing virtues is the next post. But I'll certainly consider this point when I do. Right now my concern was to reign in the Affinity virtue a little, so that it won't become monstrously effective.

Note that it still pretty much is. A starting character with, say 10 (55 XP) in the Art pre-Affinity will now have Art 11 (69 XP), gaining a measly +1 from the virtue. But a mgaus with Art 52 (1400 XP) gains Art 58 (1750 XP), a boost of +6! This is great, but still somewhat sane. Compare with a +1/2 XP Affinity (as per RAW), that will bring it to Art 64 (2100 XP), for a +12 bonus (!).

Yep. I'm recalibrating :slight_smile: Changing the rules.

Looks good to me.

My two cents: None of the virtues are that overpowered individually. The problem comes when you stack them: Good Teacher + Communication boosting spell + Book Learner + Affinity = wayyyy more power than any one of those otherwise entirely reasonable things would give.

Book Learner should probably be a major virtue. I tend to avoid taking the virtue, because, well, it just feels wrong...

I like that you've chosen a clear point with which you are trying to create agreement. I'm confused about how you move between the simple and intricate methods of advancing magi. Those two methods are in drastic disagreement with each other. For example, via one method four seasons of lab work nets you zero experience while via the other method the same lab work nets you eight experience. I find without dealing with the disagreement between the two methods it is hard, or essentially impossible, to arrive at a final point of agreement.

Minor niggle: I agree about the +3 instead of +4, but I disagree about Quality 14 without Covenants. There is no question that 15 is possible for Bjornaer via the Mystery of the Epitome. The same Quality 15 is possible via RoP:M for anyone. Bjornaer can potentially do even better. (And I'm not counting Astrologically Mutable Good Teacher cheese.)


If I recall correctly, one of the Infernal Methods & Powers combinations allows one to improve Characteristics all the way up to +6. That's also possible for anyone :slight_smile:

I shall write the best suma EVER on this whatever the cost and be remembered through the ages!!! Sounds like a nice sin of pride or driving goal that makes you fall into the infernal hands. Nice one

I agree, in principle, although I'm thinking more of XP-boosting virtues. But the virtues still need to be roughly balanced IMO. But virtues are balanced in the next post...

Yep. But virtues are balanced in the next post...

Well, in my defense I can argue that the rules for in-game advancement (or "highly detailed character generation") will need to be recalibrated in light of how we set up the "detailed", or standard character generation and advancement. However, I agree that ultimately this would prove an impossible task. Ars Magica is too flexible and too simulationist to allow one to robustly calibrate the two advancement systems. It's impossible to reach a point of agreement without significantly altering the system, which is beyond a mere "reclibration".

That said, I think it is possible to reach some rough calibration, based on certain saga assumptions, which I think will be good-enough. We'll see how justified am I in this belief when we get to recalibrating the in-game advancement rules. Which would be the topic for a future post.

Yes, using supplements much is possible. But I'm considering the core rules only for now. We could consider balancing the supplements at a later time, perhaps, although I suspect I'll never get there, and if the difference is between Quality 13 and 15 for a few magi than this is not a power-escalation I would be too worried about.

I have an alternative way of recalibrating for you:

Assume a wizard, that in the late 700s when vis and high magical auras were much easier to find, a magus with no corresponding virtues or flaws, studies from vis 2 seasons of the year, in an aura of 10. Art scores top out around 100 for such a specialist. I've sat down and completely rethought how the order works based on this and some other posts:

1.) The Peripheral Code would have multiple rulings on the protection of the trade of books
2.) In a thread on the Order's population, it was pointing out that the Schism War was a catastrophic event that would have reduced the order to about 30 or 40% of the previous size, and I add, reduced the order's ability to protect magical sites, in fact, probably much was destroyed intentionally too.
3.) The best books are old books, written at a time when vis was much more plentiful
4.) So there is a collection of surviving covenants from before the Schism war now "the autumn and winter covenants" that have the best books in the Order. Everyone since then is trying to get copies of those books, the more powerful of which will likely never be rivaled again.
5.) It makes complete sense for Hermetic Art books to cost vis to make and can only be written by a Magi, some exceptions for failed Apprentices.
6.) Covenants would have reciprocal agreements of mutual study i.e. study from my powerful book, and I get to study from your powerful book
7.) There would be some kind of rating system to measure books by
6.) The "base" books accessible under core rules are the crap magi are ok freely trading or giving away to new covenants
8.) New good quality tracti would be highly valuable