Some Questions RE: Lab Texts

ArM5, p. 102 gives the rules for using Laboratory Texts. However, the first three sentences are contradictory.

Sentence 1 says that a magus's Lab Total must exceed the level of the Laboratory Text's effect.
Sentence 2 says that if a magus's Lab Total is too low, it must be raised to equal the level of the Laboratory Text's effect in order to use the text.
Sentence 3 says that multiple effects can be learned, so long as they add up to less than the magus's Lab Total.

So, does the magus's Lab Total need to exceed the combined level of the effects, or does he only need to equal that level? Has this been errata'd somewhere?

This second part is a minor point of contention between myself and another member of our troupe. The same section states that the learned effect is an almost exact reproduction of the original, and that "no features of a spell may be changed". Later, it's stated that incorporating the learner's sigil is the "main difference" between the two effects.

If a magus learns a spell from a Laboratory Text with the help of his failed apprentice companion, can he tailor that spell so that it does not give his companion Warping Points? Is this spelled out more explicitly one way or the other elsewhere?

What about just dropping sentence 2:

If his Lab Total is less than the level of the effect, he may not use the Laboratory Text until his Lab Total increases to be at least equal to the level.

It is superfluous, and makes no sense with both the preceding and the following sentence.

An erratum would be nice, but never happened.

The rules for warping (ArM5 p168) do say that "Designing an effect for a particular target requires, in Hermetic terms, that a special version of a Formulaic spell be invented."
I'd say that learning a spell from a lab text does not allow you to change it to be designed for some particular target. If the original spell that was written down in the lab text was designed for some particular target, then the spell you learn from it will also be designed for that target.

Spontaneous spells can presumably always be tailored for their target, but since "designed for target" generally only matter for high power effects it is unlikely you can spont a powerful enough spell for this to matter.

I’ve always played it that the the lab total must equal or exceed the effect in the lab text. Don’t really see the point in saying “you need a 41 to learn that level 40 spell with the lab text.”

Generally I’ve seen changing the person the spell is designed to not warp as an allowed change when inventing from a lab text. Other than the change in sigil this is the only allowed change I’ve seen. This is not RAW, just a common rules interpretation I have seen.


Well, this thread exactly matches the conversation among our troupe.

I agree that whether a magus's Lab Total needs to meet or exceed a Laboratory Text's level is almost entirely trivial. Our troupe will probably just vote on it and move on. It would be nice, though, if the rules were clear on the issue.

As for re-tooling a spell, that's a small but non-trivial matter. Personally, I think it clearly violates the spirit of the rules. Fortunately, the rest of the troupe doesn't seem to have particularly strong preferences on this one. Again, it will go up for a vote and we'll move on.

I was hoping that there was some resolution to be had in the published material, but c'est la vie. Thank you to everyone who replied.

It would be weird to have high level effects and rituals designed to be used on people you never met because a lab text got copied so many times it's being recycled to everybody through the redcap network, but that's me. When I read that a labtext can't be varied, I think of spell RDT and spell description, and for items, shape and material. Targets that can be made without warping doesn't seem like a static spell parameter to me, and it is closer to spell sigil or spell mastery which is intrinsically personal. Otherwise there are effects you just wouldn't see passed arround in lab texts.

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I disagree. It’s still useful because Spells use the lower warping for the whoever it’s designed for and the caster. Just so happens that it doesn’t matter for a lot of spells and if it isn’t explicitly stated that person is usually the caster.

If you couldn't vary a formulaic spell using a lab text to change the affected persons - if every use of the text (and any uncorrupted copies) resulted in a spell designed for those people and no others - then it would necessarily be true that identifiable markers were in that text. Markers which would function as either a sympathetic or arcane connection. And no-one would ever again write a lab text and share it while still alive.

Best to treat the list of exempted persons as similar to the sigil, changing every time the spell is learned even when assisted by a lab text.


While the lab text certainly would contain indications that it is tailored for one specific person, it would not necessarily be easy to figure out who that person is, and anyway it would not be tailored for the magus who originally invented the spell and wrote it down - no need to tailor your own spells for you.
And even then it is not obvious that the lab text would serve as an arcane or sympathetic connection to the unknown person it was designed for.

Besides, most spells and items invented are not designed for one particular person - the main exception being longevity rituals who are always unique for each person.

IMO the main exceptions are spells to improve characteristics, constant effect devices, and/or teleportation devices for redcaps. An LR does not work for anyone but the intended person, here we are talking about designing a spell or effect so it warps a particular person less.

EDIT: The spell still works on others it just uses the “Not Designed for or Cast by Subject” column in the warping table.

The spell is re-invented, not copied, when you use a lab text. It provides detailed guidelines, but it is not a straightjacket.

FYI: Our storyguide served as a tie-breaker, opting for the most generous interpretation in both cases.

I'm with Silveroak on this one. Whenever you "learn" a spell from a lab text, you are not learning it in the classic sense. You are re-inventing the spell, using the lab text as a guide to remove much of the guess work from the invention of said spell.

Even if you tried to exactly copy the spell from the lab text, there would be differences based on your sigil. I see the restriction on creating a spell from a lab text as specifically applying to the R/D/T and effect. You spell can actually be different in "descriptive elements" within a reasonable range. The flames of your Pilum of Flame could be a completely different color. The smell of your Chamber of Spring Breezes might be roses rather than an ocean breeze.

My group actually spent a fair amount of time talking about and deciding on how we handle changes to Lab Text, though we were focused on Lab Text for items rather than spells. Specifically we allowed modifying how the item is activated. We decided that the Base Trigger (activation words/actions) could be changed with no modifiers, while changing or adding a Linked Trigger/Effect Use could be done with an increase of the Lab Total needed (+3 to change, +6 to add). We also allow minor changes to Environmental Triggers, meaning that while you could not change Sunrise/Sunset you could tweak how big a fire in the room would need to be to trigger it.

Well, the book specifically states that the main change to the original effect is the new sigil. The question is what's meant by "This is an almost exact reproduction of the original effect. No features of the spell or enchanted item effect may be changed...". How different can one get and still be "almost exact", and what falls under the category of "features"? Obviously, the answers vary according to troupe preference, which is understandable and reasonable.

@dc444 and disagreed on this when it came up in our troupe, and he won the vote. That is to imply, since a vote was actually necessary, that neither side could come up with compelling quotes from RAW.

Neither side in the context and to the satisfaction of your troupe. This does not mean that there there are not references which other jurists do not find compelling- possibly ones that those in your troupe did not find.

Absolutely. At the end of the day we wanted to play, instead of taking our time to search the rules and debate technicalities. Of course I do not imply that there is no compelling statement in RAW, but I am confident that it is non-trivial to identify.

However, it is worth looking at the implications of the interpretations. If one can use a text and tailor it to an individual target, there is great potential for enchanted devices without warping, for instance the seven league boots which are so popular with the redcaps (YSMV). If, with the text from Mercere's library, any magus can make an enchantment tailored to a given redcap, these devices can be made fairly cheaply. There are plenty of relatively young magi who can do it in a season. If, however, the enchantment must be invented from scratch to be tailored, the redcaps either rarely have such items, or quickly get warped. The senior magi able to make them would just be so much more expensive. Thus the question should boil down to how many enchantments and how much warping you want in the saga. (Inventing tailored spells is much less useful.)

If RAW are getting in the way tweak them. RAW in Ars Majica I believe are deliberately vague and many house rules are assumed.

I find it peculiar that say a mage with a relevant "learning total" of 40 can learn a level 40 spell with a lab text in a season, but just changing one thing, lets say reducing the range so it's a level 35 spell, it will take about a year. That one tweak making it 4 times longer seems weird.

A good house rule would be each adjustment of the lab text makes the required learning total be 5 higher.

That is because there are no tweaks involved.
As soon as you want to make any non-trivial changes to the spell, the lab text becomes useless for you, and you can just put it away.
You will have to start from scratch, inventing the desired spell from first principles.

The idea seems to be that as soon as you want to change things there are a lot of other minor and not-so-minor details of the spell that also needs to be adjusted to accomodate the change.

Absolutely. It is called formulaic magic for a reason, and that's the thing about formulæ. They are very rigid.

The proposed house rule would have some strange effects. You would no longer use the similar spell bonus. You would use your lab notes for the similar spell, and reinvent it with a variation. Suddenly you have made it massively easier to expand your repertoir of similar spells.