RoP:M Magical Beings and Advancement

There has been some consternation in this forum concerning the new advancement rules for magical beings introduced in Realms of Power: Magic. In particular, there has been concern about familiars and the new restrictions on learning abilities. One remedy that has been suggested is to give familiars the minor quality Improved Abilities. I decided to take a look at this suggestion.

Improved Abilities gives the recipient 50 experience points to put toward abilities he can learn. During play, a familiar can use the Transformation mechanic to gain new qualities, including Improved Abilities. To gain this quality outright, without inferiorities, requires 10 experience points. These experience points can be gained by adventure, practice, vis study, or teaching.

Practice gains a familiar 5 experience points a season, but he needs to spend half his Might in vis to retain it. This means that he needs two seasons and vis equal to his Might to gain 50 experience points in abilities.

If the same familiar were to spend one season studying vis, he would require vis equal to his Might, and gain stress die + aura in experience (as well as risk botches). It's unclear why anyone not pressed for time would take this risk for a minor quality.

Now, let's try something really interesting:

A Tale of Two Familiars

Able and Baker are two familiars residing in the same Covenant. They each have the virtues Good Teacher and Apt Student, Com +2, and the Improved Abilities quality. They've both used their 50 experience points to buy Teaching 4 with a specialization in Improved Abilities.

In the Spring Season, Able teaches Baker Improved Abilities. Baker uses vis to buy down his Might. Baker gains 5 (Teaching plus specialization) + 2 (Com) + 6 (only student) + 5 (Good Teacher) + 5 (Apt Student) = 23 experience. That is enough to buy Improved Abilities twice.

In the Summer Season, Baker returns the favor, and teaches Able.

After two seasons, both Able and Baker have spent vis equal to half their Might, and gained 100 experience points in any abilities they can learn.

There are some caveats. First of all, all Transformations must be approved by the troupe. Second, buying qualities with experience points is closed, as opposed to buying abilities with experience, which is open-ended. So, it's unclear whether Baker could buy Improved Abilities twice over, or if he would only be able to buy it once and then loose the remaining 13 experience points. He could have a Might of up to 13, and just not spend any vis.

It's also unclear what "Abilities or Arts that the character can learn" means. Are those abilities common to the area? Abilities taught in the Covenant? All abilities except restricted ones (House Lores, etc.)? Also, no level limits are given, so after one year, Able and Baker could both have an ability at level 8, after two years, level 13. Make this ability Magic Theory, and you have two very useful lab assistants (who could no doubt teach their masters a thing or two). If they use any of their experience to increase their Teaching scores, then the experience point total just increases.

In conclusion, I, for one, welcome the new rules, as does my Familiar, Mr. Know-It-All.

(If I've somehow missed or misunderstood some part of the new rules, please let me know.)

No, you understand properly, and this demonstrates why I've houseruled the costs for Transformation to five times normal, painful though it is for magical being advancement.

Otherwise, for all the flavor and fluff about them having a hard time advancing, picking up a low Magic Might actually makes you advance faster than anyone else with a minimal amount of vis consumption, and you get to live and continue advancing forever.

Yes, I know there are 'balancing factors'. I know having a low might makes you vulnerable, and magi with might may not be protected by the code, and such. But it still makes the game all kinds of weird that the weakest spirits should probably have nigh-infinite ability, while the stronger spirits follow the more reasonable totals given to their 'age' group.

In short, while a good idea, the current magical being advancement rules are some of the most awkward and poorly-planned rules in the game.

Do these "slow advancement" rules apply only to creatures with Magic might (I don't know, perhaps "magic" is about being close to perfection and once you are near perfect there's little room to improve) or to any creature with Might, even if from the other three realms (Divine, like Nephilim characters with Strong Angelic Blood from RoP:D; Infernal, like Devil Child characters from RoP:I; and Faerie)?

These advancement rules seem to just be the 'generic' Magic Might rules. Daimons, Legendary Artists, Living Ghosts, and Alchemical Immortals all have their own advancement rules. There is some implication that non-self-aware ghosts shouldn't advance at all, since they constantly revert to stasis.

There are no rules for advancing demons, and no limits are placed on Devil Children (who shouldn't need limits; they die of old age way before pretty much anyone else in the game), or Goetic Sorcerers that have Ablated Might. There are also no rules for advancing Angels, but perhaps they're really not supposed to advance. I think (though memory may be failing me here) that Nephilim get a small experience penalty based on their age.

There is some implication, in places, that the Faerie Realm relies on human interaction as a source of creativity and change, so they probably have a way to gain experience in dealing with people, but end up otherwise static on their own, or something. We'll have to wait for the relevant Realms of Power, for that. The mystery of Becoming has no penalty on experience but makes it difficult to learn new skills rather than improve old ones.

Thematically, the point of all these rules is that immortal beings would learn too much if you just went by the 15-30 experience/year guidelines. Even just practicing one season of the year would, after a millenium (and some things have been around since before then by FAR) generate 4000 experience points.

That's exactly what it is. The closer to perfection you are, the more magical you are. But the closer you are to being that perfect whatever, the more difficult it is for you to be anything else.

Angels basically always know what they need to know. Abilities would be set by Divine Fiat. It's not like they are suitable as PCs anyway. Nephilim do get 1/10th of their age as a penalty once they have one point of Decrepitude, though they'll always get at least one xp.

I'd say they get experience from getting mortals involved in their affairs and making them complete symbolic tasks, which would be why fairy tales are always full of not only obstacles and guardians, but helpful strangers, animals and oh-so-convenient ways of overcoming opposition: everyone involved (faerie and hero alike) gains experience.

Hmm - I think for most magical entities, the quality improved abilities would be against its nature - it is not in its nature to learn that quickly...
It is kinda like being initiated into the mystery of education.

The improved abilities quality, along with the educated virtue, strong parens virtue etc, are stuff you either start play with, or don't.

I don't know... if you're going to become the perfect hunter, it would make sense that you get a bunch of XP in Hunt, no? Even after creation. Just because you take Improved Abilities doesn't mean you have carte blanche to spend them.

As for progression speed, adding 50xp at a time brings you the following ability scores: 0, 4, 5 (almost 6), 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 12, 13...

Puissant ability would make sense, affinity for hunt would make sense. Converting 10xp to 50xp doesn't in my mind make too much sense...

But then, maybe I'm just being silly...

If you want to be strict about how it is used, you might say that a given instance of Improved Abilities is uniquely associated with the way the XP was spent (e.g. 50xp on Hunt, or 25xp on Craft Wood and 25xp on Craft Iron). It does make some sense in that you are striving towards a specific archetype. Through Practice, you'll get again 50xp in Hunt, etc.

If you want to spend them differently, you have to acquire a different quality, which means you can't do it through simple Practice - you need either an adventure (and for the SG to allow you to spend the XP towards that specific Quality) or find a source.

The Improved Abilities you take at character creation might or might not be counted as a specific distribution (depending on how much bookkeeping you care about).

That was kind of my point. It's a poorly considered rule. I like the idea of magical beings which are resistent to change, but the rules for magical being advancement are just too broken. I just got the book, but I'm inclined to ignore the transformation rules. I'll probably keep the character creation rules, since there are precious few other guidelines on familiar creation. I'll just keep the advancement rules as before: familiars learn like everyone else, without having to overcome their Might. They won't be able to gain new qualities or inferiorities - except through story events, like virtues and flaws. Familiars can gain powers through bond empowerment, anyway.

I do like the idea of magical beings as companions or grogs. Perhaps I'll allow some increase in powers through a mechanic similar to how magi learn mysteries. I'll have to think about it.