Something to love about the lab rules

The laboratory rules in covenants are far from ideal, I'm at all interested in having a discussion about their failings (Ok I may be lying to myself about that, Warping is problematic, the upkeep costs have issues with verisimilitude, and it's too easy to rack up huge bonuses with enchanted devices - now I'm not at all interested in such a discussion - sorry for my weakness). But something that is amazing about them is that they lead to the accumulation of cool, non-violence focused, not so useful that they eliminate stories, items within the game.

Of the four sagas I've run (so far) with fifth edition we haven't really explored it too much, but stuff like a plate of stone that creates any statue of a human body in desired orientation for the Annulus Connectiens threads, the box that creates any given body part for Adelbert, or the Flame of Consummate Obedience in the Ranulf thread. Doing this stuff here has allowed me to see that these are the sort of things that covenants should have always been stuffed with. The Lab rules give us a reason for them to exist, a justification for the sort of wonderous enchantments that make stories richer but don't give the characters the power to cut through plots without engaging them.

It''s a dozen years late but, Timothy, Mark, good job guys, bravo.

When I did "A lab a day for November" last year, one easy way to make a lab distinctive was to add equipment. Fire extinguishers are an easy PeIg invention which gives your Flambeau something to make other than weapons of doom. Items to make your glassware flexible - should that make upkeep cheaper or just increase safety?

(Agree about the flaws. Warping can be entertaining, but it also means any "high fantasy" concept of a lab under extreme conditions becomes too annoying to use. Upkeep gets very silly, but if your magi are using every wealth creating trick from earlier on in Covenants this may not be a problem for them, while the entire economy of Europe being subverted to provide lab equipment in a few places may strain verisimilitude. There are a couple of threads where people have proposed fixes or simplifications. Overall, I quite like them as they add flavour, but in the face-to-face sagas I've played they have only been abused once, by a Verditius.)

When I first started to play with the 5th ed rules I also had Covenants. It was a saga with magi 30 years post Gauntlet, and I was converting my old 4th ed maga for it, and was designing a lab similar to what she had in the old saga.

I really like the way that both the covenant and also the labs can become characterized by various traits and stats, making them distinct from others and allowing development over time, just like the player characters.

In some sagas I work heavily with labs, in others not so much. It depends on the magus I'm playing. I usually spend time early on to get a slightly better than average lab without too high Upkeep. It's a good way to give a small boost to lab totals. And then I rarely do much more.

I know there are some issues where certain things inflate. In the Annulus Connectens thread Janus made so many devices that some of the Art bonus was ridiculous. Also, the way Aesthetics affect Reputation can be problematic - because Aesthetics is easy to raise to high levels. Unless you are strict about needing the knowledge of your fancy lab to spread. Anyway, I think Covenants works ok, unless you want to break it. In which case, it can break. Big surprise, anything can be misused.

Hear here! I love the lab customization rules in Covenants, as well as the ability to design items that make the covenant as a whole better. Random things we've made in the two 5th ed sagas I run--either to improve lab totals, improve characteristics, remove upkeep, or to make our covenfolk's lives easier:

-A CrIg magical fireplace that provides Magical Heat and Magical Lighting. (A bit boring)
-A CrCo Healing Blankey, and yes that's how we spell it.
-A CrVi chamber that, when something is placed in it, inflicts warping upon it (Vim specialization)
-A CrAn horeshoe that provides a bonus to recovery rolls for animals, target structure. Due to a side effect, any animal currently making recovery rolls will make the sound of a different animal. We currently have a horse with a broken leg that quacks.
-The Mirror of Opposition. A ReMe magic item that, when spoken to, will provide a counter-argument. Not so much out of stubbornness, as considering the other side of an issue. Increases both Safety and a specialization in Experimentation--provides you with both ideas you haven't considered, and warns you of pitfalls you're overlooking.
-A MuIm spell with duration: Fire to slowly change its hues, giving covenfolk something pleasant to look at as they go about their day. (Could have been accomplished with an item, but I do love playing a Merinita).
-CrIg torches that make enhanced light without actually being fire. (We live in the Black Forest).
-A CrMe (or was it ReMe) Armchair of pleasant rest. Target room. Anyone in the room will have a healthy, fulfilling night's sleep. Duration is Momentary, so that they can wake in an emergency. Rotates between the barracks and servants' quarters so as to avoid Warping.
-A ReIg effect on Rotating candles. Every so often, each candle's flame jumps to another. Increases and Ig specialty.
-A CrAq (had juuuuuust enough to spont it instead of inventing a spell) to help purify water over time. I used the analogy of a bonus to recovery rolls for Corpus or Animal on this one, though it could easily have been a lesser device or spell. Only works on water that had been polluted, after the source has been removed. Gradually increases covenant living conditions over time. (Essentially, there'd been what used to be a very pleasant lake that improved the humors when bathed in (living conditions +1 bonus). It had been infested by a boglin from GotF, which dragged it to -1 instead. They killed the boglin, which meant the water had a chance to get better. The spell hastned the pace as it slowly went from -1 to 0 and then to +1 again, its normal state. This spell wouldn't have worked on a regular swap; that would've needed a Ritual or an item).

I'll post more of the things we invented as they come to me.

(Me): That is a good idea, I'd really want one of those!
(Mirror): No, you wouldn't!

I would love to see the calculations for each of these! (And possibly steal some of them... :wink: )

That's a nice selection! Agreed, I'd like to see the numbers on the less 'boring' ones. Some basic options from my selections (probably obvious, but mentioning them anyway)

  • ReTe: horseless wagon, because mages spook horses. Very simple to make, but every covenant should have one if they don't live on an island.
  • CrIg: A flat piece of stone that functions as a stove, heating metal objects placed atop of it. Goes with the MuIm pots that allow the cook to enhance the food to her desired tastes.
  • The same tavern has a rug which PeAq dries travellers who enter the door and step on the rug.
  • Stick of Getting: ReVi, transfers vis from one sight-range target to the caster's shoes. Merinita. Don't ask.
  • InIg to detect fires in the library, tied to PeIg to fix it.

I'm very flattered! It's genuinely good to be getting back to Ars Magica.

My understanding of the laboratory rules is that you can enchant an item to improve your lab. If it duplicates the effect of a virtue, whee--don't worry too much about levels, just get the bonuses. If not, every 10 levels can give you +1 in a specialization like Creo, Experimentation, or Spells; every 20 levels can give a +1 in a characteristic like Safety, General Quality, etc.

Here are some of the items in more detail. Quite a few of these are from memory--one 5th ed saga is ongoing, with relatively new gamers, so I'm slightly forgiving on formulae. The other was 8 years ago, and I'm going largely from memory. I ask your patience if my numbers are a bit off as I'm re-creating them now.

Mirror of Opposition: This laboratory item is enchanted to take a contrarion position when engaged in debate. Its purpose is both to provide insights and ideas the user might not have thought of at the current moment, and also to provide cautionary advice against too much enthusiasm. This item gives a +1 bonus to a specialization in Experimentation, and a +1 to Safety.
ReMe 10, +2 Voice, +1 Conc, +10 Unlimited Uses per day, +5 item maintains concentration.
This is a Rego Mentem effect, as it temporarily pushes the user's mind to a contrary position--it's an opinion he could hold, it is simply not one he holds at this moment in time. It is still his mind coming up with the idea. The mirror appearing to speak is a cosmetic effect and requires no requisite.

Healing Blankey: This item's main claim to fame is its amusing name--yes, we call it "blankey". It's a CrCo effect with concentration that the item maintains. It gives a bonus to recovery rolls, of as high a total as possible to still be enchanted as a lesser device. (My Verditius specialized in Corpus and had a very high magic theory, so I think I managed a +9). It does not give bonuses to lab, but instead it can be used by covenfolk, indirectly contributing to the magi's leadership score.

Horseshoe of Healing: Similar to the blanket above, this is a CrAn item with a target of Structure. A roll on the experimentation table had an amusing result: Any animal injured and benefitting from the recovery roll gives a different animal's vocalization while it is recovering. For example, we have a horse with a broken leg that quacks until its leg is healed. As above, this is more to help the covenfolk than give a specific bonus.

Eldritch Chamber: This glass-caged device is designed to inflict Warping. When an item (or creature) is placed into it and the device is engaged, the device inflicts two warping points upon the subject. This gives a +2 bonus in a specialization in Vim. CrVi 10, +1 touch, +5 levels 24 uses per day, final level 20. We had to keep yelling at each other not to call it 'The Microwave.'

A simple MuIm spell to change a fire's hue over time. My merinita can spont it. It's designed for the grogs to enjoy their environment a bit more. Again, the only bonus is an indirect one to our Leadership score. Only after I did this spell, did I realize my character had essentially invented the screen saver.

A CrAq spell to hasten a lake's 'recovery' rolls. +1 Touch, +3 Moon, +1 size, and as high a recovery bonus as the roll gave me. Under most circumstances, I would assume this would need a Momentary Ritual instead, but I was able to justify this as giving the water a bonus to its 'recovery' roll. It had been a healing spring that improved the humors twenty years ago, giving a +1 to Living Conditions. However, in the interim, a boglin (GotF) had infested it, turning it into a fetid swamp. The Living conditions was instead a -1. Once the boglin was slain, the pollution source was removed. In my judgment, the lake would slowly start recovering and improve the Living Conditions to a 0 and then a +1. My spont'ed spell simply improved the recovery 'roll,' similar to a CrCo or CrAq non-ritual healing spell.

Armchair of Pleasant Rest: CrMe, Base 4, +1 touch, +3 Room. I'm going on memory on this one, so I could be off on both the base and whether or not this should be Rego. Apologies. regardless, this enchants a room so that anyone sleeping in it has restful, healthy sleep. The duration is only Momentary, so this sleep is not supernaturally maintained. Instead, it just 'nudges' them towards a good night. I could probably justify this being a +1 to Health, but instead decided it would simply be a gift to the covenfolk, a behind-the-scenes improvement to our Leadersihp score, as several other items were. (I wasn't overly sure of the ruling, so I figured I should be stricter with the requirements if it was going to give a numeric bonus).

I also stole Conscentina's ex Bonisagus's pretzel maker from Magi of Hermes. I want one of those in real life! My Merinita (minor focus in Ice) may make something similar. You guessed it, Mythic Europe's first smoothie and snow-cone maker!

Those are some of the more fun ones I can remember. If you have feedback on more appropriate levels, do please let me know. I'm going on an 8-year-old memory. (Even at the time, I remember thinking "Well, by golly, this needs to be level 30 for a +1 to Characteristics and +1 to a specialization--how do I get it there?")

...oh dear god, I think I actually seriously convinced myself to have my Merinita invent that snow-cone maker.