Secondary Insight, 2.0

As written, Secondary Insight is extremely weak (it would be balanced for a Minor Virtue, however). It also lacks a little ... character, in my opinion; the Major Hermetic Virtue a magus starts with (if any) should strongly define him. Here's my attempt at a rewrite, followed by a much better result by Ovarwa.

Secondary Insight
Major, Hermetic
Your understanding of Hermetic magic is strongly linked to that of the mundane world. Any Advancement Total yielding xp in an Hermetic Art allows you to also assign the same number of xp, to an Ability of your choice. Conversely, any Advancement Total yielding xp in an Ability allows you to also assign the same number of xp to an Art of your choice. In either case, you cannot gain more than 6 additional xp in any season through your Secondary Insight. The Ability involved cannot be Academic, Arcane, or Supernatural, and the troupe must agree there is a plausible link between Art and Ability: for example, Ignem might be linked to Area Lore for a particular hot and arid region (this limitation is not meant to be punishing, but rather to encourage creativity).

Note that this version of Secondary Insight has a slightly different objective than the original one - instead of a generalist magus, it's made for a generalist character who should combine magic and mundane skills. My goal was to make it 1. powerful, 2. very simple, 3. character-defining, 4. thematic but 5. not really "exploitable" (like my troupe's version of Elementalist!). Given the large set of interacting rules of ArM5, 5. is usually the hardest part, particularly given 1 and 2.

Ultimately, I think that one Ovarwa's proposals trumps mine, hands down! I love his version of:

Secondary Insight
Major, Hermetic
You gain 1 experience point in every Art in any season in which you would otherwise gain no experience in the magical Arts.

Why is Ovarwa's version just phenomenal game design (UHO)?

  1. It's the simplest Virtue.
  2. It's character defining. It really achieves the goal of helping a magus to be either a generalist magus, or a (magically weaker) generalist "adventuring" magus who combines his magical skills with mundane knowledge -- and it does so far more than any other published Major Hermetic Virtue: if you want to go down that path, you must take this.
  3. If you milk it for all it's worth (i.e. you never study the Arts), it's very powerful, but just barely shy of overpowered. Let's say a starting magus, in the spirit of the Virtue, spreads his 120 Art xps evenly, 8 per Art and then never again studies the Arts. 5 years after his gauntlet, all his Art scores are 7. 20 years after gauntlet, they are all 14(3). 120 years after gauntlet, they are all 30(23).

I like it, and I like the caps on which abilities/arts can benefit. It will mostly flow from Arts=> abilities


Yes, that's one of the issues I gave thought to. I am not 100% happy about it, because after a while the mundane world will have little to teach to the magus. At the same time, I had to limit mundane xp flowing into Arts, in that mundane teachers are "cheap" in comparison to high-level Art sources. There are ways to tweak a bit around this issue, but they make the Virtue more complicated, and simplicity was one of my main goals. Thanks for the comment!

1 Like

You should probably have a list of abilities per arts for something like that.

The "related" is really meant more as an encouragement to be creative, than as a significantly limiting constraint. Ignem might pair with Area Lore -- if that area experiences some extremely hot and arid summers, for example. Hmm. Let me try to phrase it better.

One possible loophole happens if folks try to damp all the "free" mundane experience in Philosophiae and Artes Liberales; almost any Art can be argued to be related to them. On the one hand, it makes sense -- those represent a mundane understanding of the world. On the other hand, it can be exploited, and if it's the "best" strategy it really runs against the concept of a Virtue making your magus more "tied" to mundane activities.

One possibility is to just rule out, in addition to arcane and supernatural abilities, academic ones as well. Hmmm.

I think you also have a problem with Affinity and other learning Virtues because of the matching xp. Consider the Mentem magus with Affinity with Mentem and Book Learner reading just an OK Quality-8 tractatus each season. That's 17 experience in Mentem. No big deal on its own, but it could be dumped into pretty much any social Ability as well and essentially without a cap. If you've got Charm at 10, how easy is it to find a Quality-12 source, let alone a Quality-17 source to study it directly?

I have recalibrated Arts and Abilities. So now you need a Mentem score of 20 to boost your Charm from 10. Sure, if you are really optimized for learning Mentem, your social abilities will benefit a lot. Too much? I am not sure, but thanks for pointing that out, it's certainly a very valid concern.

Keep in mind that if your magus, really, really wants to learn Charm to incredible levels, in principle he could just make sure he finds a mundane character super-well-versed in it who'll train him. It's not hard to make a grog with a Charm score of 11, who can teach to a magus for 17xp/season, at character creation. But sure, with SI it's free. I'll have to think about some alternatives :slight_smile:

I would compare this to Hermetic Sorcery, another Major Hermetic Virtue. That one gives half the experience rather than a matching amount. I personally find that one weak, but because of how limited it is in application rather than due to the amount of experience given. Your version here gives twice the amount of experience and into a vastly broader number of places, both due to access to the Abilities as well as because it's bi-directional.

Right, but 1. Hermetic Sorcery is so weak I've never seen any player take it, 2. Hermetic Sorcery has no caps, and 3. it helps with abilities that to some extent make for a good ... sorcerer, so they synergize better with learning the Arts. But yes, cutting down the extra xp to half, rounded up seems a possibility. If that were the case, would you consider Secondary Insight the best Hermetic Major Virtue for an "adventuring" magus deeply involved in mundane affairs?

So you're pointing out that you can stretch the rules to get to the point where when you're intensely focused on studying Charm directly you can just manage to do improve as much as if you don't study it at all? Doesn't that indicate this has left the realm of some bonus experience to this is the way to improve all Abilities?

Look at other comparisons. Let's just take Book Learner with this. Now every Art tractatus I pick up gives me +3 xp in the Art and in an Ability. Pick up any not-so-special Quality-8 tractatus, and that's 11 xp in the Art and 11 xp in an Ability. That's +14 xp from 4 points of Virtues with minimal limitation. It's made Book Learner apply far more broadly as well as duplicating its bonus.

Even at half, I'd probably consider it the best Hermetic Virtue outside of Twilight Mastery.

Think of it this way: Now, instead of having to put half my experience into Abilities, I can just put it all into my Arts. Meanwhile, my Abilities will gain what they would have (half from the experience normally put into the Arts and half from the experience rerouted to the Arts). So I'm roughly doubling the experience I would have put into all my Arts. So that's somewhat like a double-Affinity in every Art.

Yes, I'm exaggerating a little, but only a little. Why only a little? Because this is how it will be played. Take this alongside Book Learner and/or Independent Study and just rake in the xp. It even works for many non-adventurers. Consider a Verditius massively boosting Craft Abilities, for instance.

I think with half the xp it's significantly better. And I think that, while powerful, no it's not unbalanced. A (non-magus!) character who focuses solely on mundane skills can do much better in those. And if you want to study your Arts, there are definitely more efficient combinations. At the same time, that your magus will always be somewhat balanced between Arts and Abilities, without falling too much behind.

That's .. not true. If you want a magus that's balanced between mundane abilities and magical Arts, this Virtue does give you a 50% (not 100%) boost to your total experience. But the issue is that a magus so ... divided is a very inefficient character, so giving him a boost is less of an issue (imagine a Hermetic Virtue that said: your Art xp is doubled, but you MUST spread it all evenly -- would you consider it a great Major Virtue)?

Yeah. Helpful, but not crazy helpful. It's a Major, after all. Still, let me think more about it :slight_smile:

I'm really not so sure about that, even with the shift to half. A "sound" tractatus is Quality 11. Let's go with 8 as I did above so we're enough below "sound" that there will be a plentiful supply between those a little better and a little worse. Here are some examples:

Mundane scholar (lores) v. Affinity w/ Intellego + Book Learner
The magus gains 9 experience in a lore every season spent reading Intellego with essentially no cap. How many mundane scholars could do much better than that in whatever lore they feel like?

Mundane socialite (social Abilities) v. Affinity w/ Mentem + Book Learner
The magus gains 9 experience in a social Ability every season spent reading Mentem with essentially no cap. How many mundane socialites could do much better than that in whatever social Ability they feel like?


You're misreading what I wrote. I'll give you some numbers to make it clearer.

Option 1: 100 experience into Abilities, 100 experience into Arts.
Option 2: 0 experience directly into Abilities, 200 experience directly into Arts, and 0.5*200=100 bonus experience into Abilities.

That would be +100 experience into Arts as a net, which is double what was put into them in the 50-50 split. That would be the same as having a double-Affinity in every Art alongside the 50-50 distribution of experience.

Consider this another way. This magus is now extremely efficient, as most magi need to dump a lot of experience into Abilities, even if not 50%. But this magus can put nearly 100% of experience into Arts, and probably into just a few Arts to take advantage of Affinity doubly over, making this magus likely the best at a Hermetic specialty as well as the best at these related Abilities.

Now, yes, this would be for someone not caring as much about certain Abilities, which is why I said I'm exaggerating but in a way that is close to how it will be exploited. You did ask for how exploitable it is, right? That's what I'm showing you.

I am still not entirely convinced (for example that 100% boost is like saying that, hey, if I put 1 xp in Vim and 200xp in Infernal Lore, taking Hermetic Sorcery will give me a 10000% increase in my Vim xp).

Nonetheless, the points you raise should not be dismissed. Hmm. Let's see.
One big issue is that in some "areas of knowledge" one can generate occasionally really huge xp pools, and "bring them over" with a lot of flexibility of where they go. This is also what initially forced me to cap stuff. Something that would still be good would be to give a largish, but capped bonus.

Say, equal xp, but no more than 6. This would help the magus who does a lot of "xp-inefficient" stuff, like practice, or (most) adventuring. But it would not be abusable by the magus who piles xp-gaining bonuses into one narrow area, and then "mirrors" them. How does it sound?

Seems to me the goal of Secondary Insight was to have a powerful “generalist in the arts” virtue, explicitly stated in the text and failed miserably. In my view, to do that it doesn’t need a change in structure so much as:

  1. an increase in xp
  2. a lack of choice by the player to put all the bonus xp into the same things
  3. some change to balance the technique/form study benefit differential
  4. some benefit to CharGen

Im sure there are tons of ways to make those changes but some I think might work:

  1. I’d probably go with a quarter of the study total, round up (at SQ8 this is 2, 9 it is 3), perhaps add a max to this value
  2. Should probably state something like must be placed in your lowest arts of that type (technique or form) if you have enough “lowest art scores” you may select which lowest art gets the bonus xp.
  3. Get bonus xp in 3 arts either way, when studying a technique you add the bonus xp to your lowest technique and your two lowest forms, when studying a form it’s two techniques and one form. The bonus xp never goes into the art that is being studied even if it was and is your lowest art, in that case put the xp into your next lowest art.
  4. No idea what would work well.
1 Like

In my opinion, the easiest way of fixing Secondary Insight is to change it into a Minor Virtue, while keeping everything else about it just as it is. It would be quite strong as a Minor Virtue, but I do not think it would be overly strong - about equal to Book Learner in usefulness.


Just dropping it to minor is another option but one I wouldn’t be happy about since it doesn’t address two of the issues I mentioned, the technique/form study bonus disparity or the “this is a virtue for generalists” thing.

It also removes an option (a bad option for sure but still…) from the already limited set of Major Hermetic virtues so keeping it as a Major Hermetic seems much preferable to me. Just as I would rather not see Elementalist merely get downgraded but fixed to do what it seems like it’s supposed to do.