Scope of Magical Focuses in general

Given the start of our new saga, a lot of character building is going on around these parts. Everyone has played Ars before and there are several book-savvy veterans amongst our group. This leads to the inevitable finetuning in order to make your build as effective as possible. Magical Focuses are thus basically obligatory. But trying to balance the scope of the different focuses has revealed some muddy waters when it comes to these Virtues (one being the Major Magical Focus: Faerie), but I made a separate thread for that for a reason).

Time for an example: One player created a Nightwalker who joined the Order via House Ex Miscellanea and later went on to join House Criamon. He picked up the Mysteries of Inscription on the Soul and Spirit Familiar. The player was looking for a Magical Focus to cover his talisman (himself, or actually his spirit), his familiar (ghost of a family member), and his Phantasticum form. He initially hoped to cover this by a Major Magical Focus: Spirits, but I was reluctant to let his own spirit fall under that for talisman attunement. After some shifting around, we settled on a compromise: a Major Magical Focus in "Own Family (Corpus/Mentem)" as an analogue to "Necromancy (Corpus/Mentem)" - so this would cover the Arts of Corpus and Mentem.

Other characters have equivalent Focuses as well, but in further discussing the options it soon became clear there were quite different opinions on the subject matter. So let's get to the meat of it...

It seems to be accepted as canon that a Magical Focus in a given topic (that is supposed to "be slightly narrower than a single Technique and Form combination, although it may include restricted areas of several such combinations" (ArM5, p.46) is actually a universal Magical Focus in everything when the topic matter becomes the medium for enchantments. The prime example is the Minor Magical Focus in "Wands" that allows the magus to benefit from his Magical Focus on any effect he enchants into a wand, no matter the Technique/Form combination, even though the focus is supposedly narrow. Someone with a Major Magical Focus in Necromancy (that according to the text insert is restricted to the Arts of Corpus and Mentem) could thus have an animated corpse as a talisman and benefit from his Magical Focus on a Pilum of Fire effect cast by an enchantment on it (thus working around the established limit on the Arts). This seems to be extremely powerful to me, and I have to wonder if this was the actual intention.

Core Question #1: Should a Magical Focus cover any type of effect as long as the medium of the enchantment falls under the Magical Focus?

Next (based on the Faerie Focus discussion) we were wondering how narrow the focus of a Magical Focus actually is yet again. Take a magus with a Minor Magical Focus in "Birds of Prey" for example. He obviously gets the benefit of this virtue when healing, detecting, or controlling the respective animals. Assuming the previously established canon he will also benefit from the Magical Focus when binding such an animal as his familiar and enchanting effects into the bond. Now assume he enchanted an invisibility effect for his familiar into the bond and wants to dispel it. Does it fall under his Magical Focus because its an effect created by the bond with the animal? What if another magus cast an ongoing Creo Ignem effect on the familiar - would dispelling the effect from the animal fall under the Magical Focus? What if he were to cast a Pilum of Fire at a bird of prey himself?

Core Question #2: Is the target of an effect relevant when it comes to deciding if an Magical Focus applies, or is only the effect in itself relevant for this consideration?

Finally, a magus with a Minor Magical Focus in "Disease", which is supposedly restricted to Creo/Perdo Corpus/Animal effects that affect diseases, intends to bind a spirit or daimon of disease as a spirit familiar. While there is analogy, it is a spirit and not a disease in itself, and in itself more gravitating towards Vim effects. While Corpus may obviously be substituted as the applicable Art in this case, the base effects for dealing with it are still different from the ones that are intended to target "Diseases".

Core Question #3: How flexible is a Magical Focus as to what effects (or targets as per question #2) it can support as long as there is some thematical connection?

... these questions may aim at the same core problem, but approaching each separately might make for interesting revelations. I'm really eager to hear some opinions.

When I storyguide, I usually require that a focus must apply to the spell, not to the circumstances. For example, if you have a focus in birds of prey, you can design a spell to take advantage of it that affects birds of prey, but not a spell that affects all animals. This works well for spontaneous spells or enchantments, but not usually for formulaic spells that aren't particularly focused. From that perspective, I would say your first answer is yes. A magical focus in wands means you double your lowest art in your lab total whenever you are enchanting a wand. For your second question (and third question), I would say no. That makes it much easier to judge whether or not a spell is applicable to a focus.

Around here we do the contrary than Erik and his troupe: you have a formulaic in (say) cripple animals and a focus in birds. If you are casting on a bird the focus applies, if ytou are casting on a mammal, not.

@Xavi: How about a Pilum of Fire?

By the way, I found the reference for enchanting familiars you have a Magical Focus for.

So make "it seems to be accepted as canon" to "it is canon" - the question if it should apply (balancing-wise) still remains valid though.

It seems to be canon based (IIRC) solely on HoH: MC and has been debated many times.
My current thinking is that it is canon, but probably deserves being houseruled away.


Since I just agreed with Xavi, I'll answer this as well, though Xavi might disagree.
Why should the Form of the spell matter? Focus with Birds + PoF cast at a bird => gain bonus from Focus. Not sure I see the problem.

That said, our troupe generally aren't huge fans of that particular virtue.

I would point out that nowhere in HOH:MC does it state or imply that a magical focus in wooden wands applies to every effect instilled in a wooden wand. It only states that one of the confraternities has a focus in wooden wands.

Enchanters with this focus then have an easier time when enchanting these items with effects that cover the item itself, e.g. ones to call the wand to the hand of the user or to disguise it. Too narrow? Probably, but only because a focus in wooden wands is overly narrow, since wood is a minor magical focus by itself according to the corebook.

Ah, no. I wrote it badly. I meant an ANIMAL spell :slight_smile: The target of the POF is the fire, not the bird. But you can have a beast of outlandish size spell. Focus applies if you cast it on an eagle, but not if you cast it on a wolf.

Actually, we allowed that in our saga -- Magical Focus: Spirits applying to talisman attunement of one's spirit as per Inscription upon the Soul (which is the chapter "Spirit Magic" of TMRE, after all!).

Definitely not in our sagas; and as I said above, it's not a canon rule as far as I can tell it.

Yes, although with some caveats. Let's leave aside that effects instilled into the bond all benefit from a magical focus covering the familiar by explicit Arm5 core rule.
If your focus is birds of prey, casting an invisibility spell on a bird of prey gets you the bonus. Casting a pilum of fire on the same bird does not get you the bonus, since the "object" of your magic is not the bird, but the fire that you are creating. Inventing the invisibility spell in the lab does not get you the bonus. But if you invent the spell in the lab so that it only applies to birds of prey, you do get the bonus.

That ultimately has to be negotiated with the troupe. It's exactly the same question as asking: how broad or narrow should a focus be? It's just a question of game balance. Ultimately, one must first understand how broadly applicable one wants that focus to be, which may be hard to put into exact words (examples are often easier) and only then try to formulate a rigorous definition.

Personally, in this particular case a focus in disease seems something out of which the magus can get only a relatively narrow palette of effects, as narrow or narrower than what he can get with a seemingly ultra-narrow focus "birds of prey" (which can conjure birds of prey; detect them; control them; see through their eyes; bind them as familiars; transform people into birds of prey; transform equipment into "animal products" based on birds of prey, usually making them ineffective etc.). So I'd allow a Minor Magical Focus in "disease" to cover the binding of a disease spirit as a familiar; but I'd also allow such a focus to apply an InCo spell that reveals which diseases, if any, are currently affecting the victim - something that seems to fall outside your scope. I wouldn't allow such a focus to cover "just" a magical animal with powers to cause diseases, though.

Absolutely correct. And our troupe are still hesitant about allowing it, but see no other reading.
Mind you, IIRC there's also a confraternity with a focus in swords - again with no further explanation.


Again, it seems to me that the most natural way to interpret such a focus is that it applies to all effects that involve swords, and that would involve swords regardless of who or what produced the effect. Effects to conjure swords, to parry them, to break them, to make the sharper or lighter or stronger, to turn them into snakes, or to turn snakes into swords, and so on. Narrow? Probably (though not overly so) so I'd be generous with what I allow with such a focus (for example, I'd probably allow Blade of the Virulent Flame to be covered, even though it's technically a spell that creates a fire).

But this is very different from allowing the focus to apply to all effects originating in a sword. The latter seems to me a very distorted reading of the rules. Otherwise, by the same token, a male, red-headed magus with a minor focus in male, read-headed magi would gain a bonus to every spell he casts and every magical effect he creates.

I'm not sure about the meaning of that "Presumably" :slight_smile:

I think the argument that swords applies to all lab work involving a sword assumes that the focus is applied when the effect is invented, not necessarily when it is cast. If a magus invents a formulaic spell designed to affect a red-haired caster, I think he should absolutely apply his focus in "red-haired people" to his lab total, and from then on whenever he casts it he should be able to apply it then, too. But if the spell isn't designed to take advantage of its narrow focus, the focus shouldn't apply when it is cast, either. So a focus is good for a magus who doesn't cast a lot of spells, because the focus applies to the shape and material of his items, but not to the effects they generate (which doesn't typically matter).

For those arguing that a focus in birds of prey should apply to a generic PeAn spell to injure an animal when cast on a bird of prey, consider: does the magus add the focus to his lab total to invent that spell? You know, because it could target a bird of prey? I think not, because then the distinction between Major and Minor is almost meaningless. I feel that magi should be encouraged through this Virtue to invent spells or other lab works that incorporate their focus, rather than how to finesse existing spells to affect the subject of their focus. The latter philosophy means magi should invent spells with as wide a scope as possible, so that they can apply them to anything they encounter. Rather, I feel a magus with a focus in birds of prey who wants to injure an animal should be thinking about how to use birds of prey to injure that animal, and inventing spells to do that. So I interpret the mechanics accordingly.

Verditius magi with a focus in "swords" or "wands" have a strong incentive to make magical swords or wands, which I think is interesting. They are only rarely going to use their focus on spells, and are instead going to make exceptional magical items in their focus. I have a magus who belongs to the confraternity of Roland and it's fun to watch him try to incorporate swords into every enchanted item he makes. Torches for the covenant? They look like glowing swords. Healing devices? Tap the target with the sword, like you are healing them. That magus rarely casts spells, and instead relies on his many enchanted devices, which feels very Verditius to me.

Is there something in RAW that says a focus can't apply at the time of casting? A focus at casting isn't altogether different than a requisite. Instead of a limit, which the requisite normally is, the caster gets a bonus. I don't see why a focus can't apply at casting, if a requisite can apply at casting.

Oddly on topic, Magical Focuses are a Hermetic Virtue, and so can, in theory, be taught without the Arts getting in the way. But what, exactly, is being taught? If a Mage with Magical Focus, Darkness, teaching a peer, what is learned? Magical Focus, Darkness, or Magical Focus (Fill in your blank here)?

Apprentices suggests (Or is it explicitly? I can't search my book right now.) that the exact focus is transferred if taught. The Hermetic Virtues are Major or Minor Magical Focus(Focus).

My point of view in this regard is very similar to that of, and I think comparison requisites vs. casting requisites is very apt. Another apt comparison is that of the Aura bonus: whether you get an aura bonus when inventing a spell is unrelated to whether you get an aura bonus when casting the spell.

In terms of magical foci, I'd say that whenever the focus covers your target, you get the bonus at casting.
But to get the bonus when inventing the spell you have to make a choice if you have a narrow focus (say, birds of prey). Make the scope of the spell narrow (cripple only birds of prey), in which case you get the focus bonus to your lab total for inventing the spell, but you can't cast the spell outside the scope of your focus (it does not work on wolves). Or make the scope broad (cripple any animal) in which case you do not get the focus bonus to your lab total.

I have to disagree with this view.
Most of the magic of Verditius magi comes from items. If you allow a minor magical focus to apply to every item that incorporates it, it means that a Verditius magus will get the focus bonus to pretty much all of his magic; and this holds regardless of how narrow his focus is (e.g. gold stars with an R engraved on them) and regardless of the effect. So I think your interpretation produces two highly undesirable results.

The first is that it breaks game balance. It makes a Major Focus essentially worthless for Verditius magi, because their narrowest minor focus will be as applicable as the broadest major focus. And it makes Verditius magi much more powerful than other magi: with at most a "cosmetic" effort and a Minor Virtue they get to add their lower Art a second time to essentially all their magic. Compare it with the Minor Virtue Special Circumstances, that gives you only a +3 bonus and only in uncommon circumstances.

The second problem I have with your interpretation is that it makes the focus less interesting. Suppose you have a minor focus in swords. Want to conjure lightning bolts? Make a sword that conjures lightning bolts. Want to heal disease? Make a sword that heals disease. Want to turn invisible? Make a sword that turns you invisible. No creativity at all is required; if you want to do X, you just craft a sword that does X.
Compare it with the interpretation that a focus applies only if the effect involves the focus. Suppose you have a minor focus in birds of prey. Want to conjure lightning bolts? Nope, but if you want to physically harm your enemies, then you could make a spell/item that creates birds of prey to attack your enemies. Want to heal disease? You are probably out of luck - hey, it's minor Virtue, not a source of infinite power. Want to turn invisible? Well, you can make a spell that turns you into a bird of prey, which already makes you less noticeable in many contexts, particularly if you conjure a bunch of other birds of prey to confuse your enemy. With this interpretation, it is very challenging to get the bonus if your focus is minor - which is both more interesting, and more balanced (given that a minor focus is a minor Virtue, and it's bonus is pretty large).

Well, spells that incorporate a casting requisite have to be designed that way, don't they? You can't just say that your PeAn spell can affect humans if you add a Corpus requisite on the fly; likewise I feel the spell must be designed to incorporate the magical focus in order to have its lowest Art doubled. I'm not sure how you could design a spell to both incorporate the focus and also affect other targets...

Verditii specialize in items, yes. But Flambeaux specialize in Ignem, and by this logic a minor focus in "creating flames" pretty much applies to all of their magic too! Is that overpowered? :slight_smile:

Really, a minor magical focus in swords only applies to magical items. It isn't going to be applicable to most of his spontaneous spells, and probably none of his formulaic spells. (He could invent some, but as a Verditius he would do better making items instead.) No Ritual effects, most likely. It won't boost his longevity rituals, or his familiar, or any of his other lab work. This is a pretty narrow subset of his magic, it just happens to be the one thing that he does really, really well. :slight_smile:

I disagree! :slight_smile: Lugging around swords all the time is kind of annoying, and vulnerable to the whole "King Theoden says no swords may be brought into his presence" problem. A major focus in "weapons" would be much more versatile, and if I could upgrade to it I would.

Well, you've also got to have scores in the relevant Arts, or there's nothing to double. But yes, when spending a season to craft an item, these Verditii have a pretty awesome bonus, as long as they stick to their focus shape and material.

I think a sword that shoots lightning bolts is pretty interesting, if you're into magic swords. Likewise one that heals disease or turns the wielder invisible. There are tons of stories about magic swords, and every one is different. Think of the names they would have!

But if the Verditius who belongs to the Confraternity of Roland doesn't get to apply his focus to swords he crafts, it's a pretty crappy focus. Not very interesting at all, since all you can really do is Razor's Edge type spells, which frankly suck as magical swords. If you allow Blade of Virulent Flame effects, you can start to do some other interesting things, but then aren't you shading into your problem above, where you can apply the bonus to any spell as long as it comes from a sword?

Wizard!s Leap and any teleport along with Unseen Arm and Porter mention casting requisites. As far as being designed that way, there isn't a rule that discusses it, and it certainly plays no role in developing or inventing the spell.

Mr. Dahl, "Verditii specialize in items, yes. But Flambeaux specialize in Ignem, and by this logic a minor focus in "creating flames" pretty much applies to all of their magic too! Is that overpowered? :slight_smile:". Yes, yes, yes! It was quite annoying to play alongside a Flambeaux with a focus in Destruction, a Bjornaer with a focus in Shapeshifting, and a Guernicus with a focus in Truth, only to hear that making an orb of gold glow like the sun was outside my focus of Gold.

When you read the fluff on the Verditius confraternity of Roland, it seems clear that the goal is to use their minor magical focus in swords to enchant them. After all, the whole purpose of the confraternity is to make magical swords.

One point to remember is that a magical focus only double your score in the lowest of the Arts you are using. As such, its full power is realized when you specialize in one TeFo combination. When you start applying it across the spectrum of possible TeFo, it's suddenly far less powerful. Compare, if you will, to Inventive Genius, which gives a +3 or +6 every time you craft a magical item (which would require 6 in every Art with the minor magical focus, which will set the caster back 315 xp). Consider also that even the most dedicated of Verditius won't create all that many enchanted items during his life.

Sure, saying a minor magical focus in wooden wands will apply to everything you ever enchant may sound incredibly powerful, until you realize that it will only apply to maybe one effect per year for a very dedicated Verditius, and give a small to good if the Verditius develops several Arts (if he specializes in one TeFo, he could have found a minor magical focus to cover the part he was interested in). In theory it would apply to spells that target wooden wands, but let's be realistic, those won't exactly be earth shattering.

Now compare to our good old-fashioned Flambeau with a minor magical focus in creating flame, who will get an incredible bonus to every fiery spell he casts. If your concern is that the virtue is overpowered (and I tend to agree), the main culprit is the focus in creating flame, not the one in swords even if it applies to all enchantment put in swords.