Specializing in Three Arts?

Virtues and experience-wise, what's the best way to do it? You've got a Focus for it, but there's one Technique and two Forms you need high to make the concept work. Let's say, oh, you're a Hermetic (as opposed to Supernatural Virtue-based) shapeshifter, using MuCo(An) to become (and buff yourself as) animals. Or you're a necromancer who doesn't want to limit himself to just flesh bodies or just spirits. How would you guys recommend doing this, bearing in mind the limits on two each of Puissance and Affinity for Arts?

Also, as an only very slightly-related question, what would be the balance implications of cutting the two Art limit on those Virtues? I'm not seeing one, so at this point I'm more assuming it's just a thematic way to encourage beginners playing Hermetic magi to specialize...

As for the limit, I don't think it's too big a deal. You end up running into the 10-point limit around the same time anyway. This is even more true when you consider Skilled Parens > Puissant Art if you have an Affinity for that Art until you get to 31 or 28+3 and actually even a little beyond (because you also get spell levels). Plus Skilled Parens gives you more flexibility. So you're already around 6 points (2x Puissant, 2x Affinity, Skilled Parens, Gild Training) before you even look at one more Puissant, for example. Were you thinking of putting any of those points into anything else like Cautious Sorcerer, Minor Magical Focus, etc.?

Good things to do... Focus very heavily on the singleton part of the triple. So MuCo(An) would lead to really focusing on Muto. Then the other two scores don't have to be as high so the double-cost of having two Arts there doesn't impact you as much. Consider putting refined Items of Virtue into your Talisman to get some extra Puissant Forms. Consider putting points of Virtues into things like Book Learner instead of Affinity. Book Learner is like half an Affinity for everything you mostly learn out of books. Therefore 2x Book learner is nearly as good as having Affinity tons of stuff if the books are available, the downside being you don't get those points at creation. So if you're splitting your points more, consider broader Virtues like Book Learner over Affinity.

A/P the Technique. Accept that the Forms are going to either be lower or take more XP; that happens.

I think the restriction makes more sense as a strictly metagame restriction. A/P Technique, A/P Form, Magical Focus is already the "magus chargen for dummies" V/F selection (which is why I rarely do it anymore). If it's a Minor Focus, then you have five more Virtues; if it's a Major Focus, you have three and your Major Hermetic Virtue is spoken for. Any more Affinities and Puissances would make the other available options much less appealing.

Book Learner and Free Study. Book Learner is at least a 25% buff on all book XP (that's assuming Q12 books on average, which might be high, which means Book Learner only gets better), and Free Study is probably more, if you assume Magic Aura3 and a stress die roll of 6 (33% bonus XP). Focus on three arts; you won't get the 50% affinity bonuses, but these two virtues cover a LOT of your learning options, and you will learn your non-focus area stuff faster as well, allowing you more free time for your focus areas.

Basically, getting +25-33% on almost all your learning opportunities is probably better than 50% in 2 of your Arts.

It takes too long to gather vis for Free Study to be worth it.

Book Learner is much better: after 23 seasons of reading you've gained an extra 69 xp, about the same as Affinity with (Art) saves you getting to score 20.

Also, consider Study Bonus if only for the story potential.

If I'm going for story potential, I might prefer Independent Study (which I don't myself restrict to magi Marinitae, despite the whole "benefiting from stories" thing being fae-like), but I do think the general xp-boosters are great ideas in general, and Study Bonus is rather flavorful.

I have never considered Independent Study a Merinita-only Virtue, just one that happens to be particularly common among Merinitiae.

Its usefulness depends on the troupe's style and the storyguide, though. There's only so many adventures happening in each stretch of downtime. Also, some troupes have most or all of the magi going on every magus-related adventure, while others don't. Regardless, I recommend it to every holy character (especially monists because of the synergy, but it works well with any saint or holy magus), and my Tytalus concept has it because, y'know, striving against adversity for XP.

If your character is more of a lab rat, though...

I agree with Ramidiel and Akriloth, I don't see Independent Study restricted. I like it a lot, even though I don't normally like passive, booster virtues. But when you get additional story exp for going out of your lab and scriptorium you don't need to worry (as much) with getting left behind on the power curve compared to your Book Learner sodales who stay back and pound summae. I also like the bonus for Practice, sure it's not a great way of increasing an ability, but sometimes it's the only way if books or teachers are scarce - and it's great if you like Spell Mastery. Which I do.

As for the original question about 3 Arts, how about instead going down the avenue of Adept Student + Good Teacher? If you are a valuable teacher (and author) you can demand teaching from others in return, which is boosted by being an Adept Student. Or Good Teacher + Book Learner to skip the need to sink exp into Teaching, but write good books and trade them for new books, which you read for added exp.

I ignore the limit. It´s a recommendation, not a hard limit, and some characters needs to go outside the norm to work.

AFAIK, there are generally no implications. We never actually enforced those "limits", and we never ran into any troubles when anyone went outside them.

The only thing you have to make sure of, whenever going outside common norms is that everyone who´s going to act as SG knows and approves(or at least is ok with it).

There probably are issues with some combinations, but even intentional attempts at exploiting munchkinism still usually led to characters that fit in and didn´t become too "outstanding" compared to the rest any more than you can do while staying inside the recommended limits.

Sure, like all the rules are recommendation. If it's an explicit rule, it's a hard limit, troupes can always decide to supersede the rules, though. If a character needs to go outside the norm to make something work, then something is wrong, unless everyone at the table has the same opportunity to do something that is forbidden by the rules.

My take on it, the longer I play, is that the limit for Affinity and Puissant exists not to prevent an overpowered character, but to make one who is more complex. Taking 6 of 10 virtues for Affinity and Puissant, even taking the rule limit of 4 is just kinda of meh to me now. To be fair, I've made characters with the 4 virtues in a combo before, but I try and avoid it now, because they aren't as interesting to me.

Unlike Ramidel, I don't consider taking a magical focus to be "magus chargen for dummies." Some things are only possible (especially if starting straight out of gauntlet) with a magical focus. I consider a magical focus as an excuse to specialize (overspecialize?) and I often find characters with it to try and solve all of their problems using their focus. I'm a big fan of specialization, and the only character I've ever made who was a generalist later caused me all kinds of problems, because I didn't like that everyone else could literally do everything he could do, but better. The only virtue I really consider to be a "magus chargen for dummies" is Book Learner; with almost no exceptions magi read to improve their Arts, and many abilities related to the Art. I don't think I've ever made a character with Book Learner.

For a necromancer and a Hermetic shape changer, it makes sense to take a magical focus to resolve the issue you describe, otherwise you end up employing the house rule that it's fine to take more than three affinities with Arts and three Puissant Arts. For the cost of 3-5 virtue points (depends upon focus being major or minor) you can take the Affinity and Puissant Technique, and then spend XP on the Forms to have them in roughly the same range.

But none of this really matters if the saga is configured such that the character you design can quickly get up to speed in that third Art because of the covenant's available texts. The impact of an affinity can be very minor, if high level summa or a vast library of tracts on your preferred Arts exist. Sure, you might gain a season or two when studying a high level summa, over someone without an affinity in the Art, and that can be really useful, but it isn't game altering. And then taking Book Learner is also useful when working in your specialty area and outside of it.

Edited to add:
Also, given the implications of Apprentices and how Hermetic Virtues are passed down I have begun following an unwritten rule for myself of only spending 6 virtue points on Hermetic Virtues (7 if Skilled Parens is in the mix).

Yeah, probably. It sort of depends on how much vis your saga can provide.

In my experience, it tends to be ignored on principle regardless of vis supply because it's the only mainstream type of study that has a non-negligible chance of throwing you into Twilight. But maybe magi in my sagas are unusually cautious.

With Laboratory Safety and a Gold Cord Score from a familiar, studying vis can be pretty safe. The lab safety doesn't even say it can't lower botch dice to zero (serf's parma, haven't checked errata), but even if it can't, a 1% chance of a single botch isn't exactly dangerous. Hopefully the next edition will make the idea more tempting (1 per 10 rather than 1 per 5 would be nice).

It's questionable as to whether these actually apply to studying from vis. I would call these as reasonable interpretations, but they are by no means explicit based on what's going on.

Studying vis isn't the same as working magic with the possibility of making magical errors.
In addition, studying from vis is not a lab activity, so the Safety score may not apply.

Yes, some suggested limits makes no sense at all. Others can be a useful gauge to use as a normative.

Except it´s not forbidden by the rules.


So it´s better to not allow people to create the character they WANT TO PLAY? Dreadfully poor excuse for just saying "no".
Just out of interest, just exactly how do you determine how a character is more or less complex?

Except that it is.

So taking Affinity and Puissant more than twice for Arts is forbidden by the rules, explicitly so within the definition of Affinity and Puissant. However, you might be confused by A/P Ability which doesn't have any restrictions on the number of times it may be taken.

Thatt happens all the time. SGs limit the characters that can play in sagas for all kinds of reasons, even lesser ones than that. I wouldn't allow someone to come into my game with a Blatantly Gifted necromancer because the person recruiting them into the covenant was a Gently Gifted Jerbiton who had a lot of dealings with the Church and local nobility. They had to come up with a different concept. That's not even a rule in the game. But ultimately it was what made sense to the story.

Alright, let's go back to the fact that the rules simply don't allow you to take affinity or puissant more than twice for Arts.
I'm generally a fan of specialization, but taking A/P three times isn't the best use of specialization, and as I indicated above, it's cheaper in Virtue points to take Magical Focus, even a major one.

My comments about what is more or less complex are probably indefensible, as they are entirely subjective, but my understanding that the limitation on how many times one can take A/P is not. Character creation is about making hard choices, everyone has to deal with the limits of the system, if one person doesn't have to do so, then all character should be allowed to do so. Since that's a discussion fraught with potential conflict at the table, it's best to let the limits on A/P stand...

Vis is "raw magical power" (Ars5 pg80), so a botch while studying vis is almost by definition a 'magical error'. And the Lab Safety rules call out studying from vis (Covenants pg111), even though it's not a lab activity. The intent here seems to be that lab Safety covers vis study if it's done in the lab. There's plenty of good evidence to suggest you can dial down the vis study risks with these methods, and really, vis study is expensive and generally less reliable than book study.

And I can see magi studying from vis on a consumption basis - if a covenant gets 30 pawns of vis a year, once you've got a useful reserve of vis, you might as well use the stuff. Book trades can be tedious affairs (and magi can just be plain disinclined), and vis study can produce large numbers from time to time.

I had missed the Safety applying to study from vis, and forgot to indicate serf's Parma. For some reason I was thinking it didn't apply.

Even with the Golden Cord and Lab Safety applying, this still needs, say for a magus with a score of 30+ some significant investment in Safety and/or Golden Cord. While trading for books for may be tedious in your saga, it's definitely a YSMV thing. IF one takes the number of books that may be available using Arthur's work elsewhere on the forum (posting on my phone, or I'd search for the link) then trading for books is much more efficient use of vis, while not requiring investments in the Golden Cord and/or lab safety at the expense of other things. Finally, you can never remove all risk, as neither the Gold Cord or Lab Safety characteristic remove the last botch die.

Maintaining just the one botch die may be suboptimal, too, since you never have the possibility of Twilight (ignoring Twilight Prone) which might be the saving grace of a (double or more) botch. In an aura of 5, and playing the averages, you're going to get a Q11 average xp gain over the course of all the seasons of vis study, which is exactly the same as the quality of a sound tractatus. For the magus with a score of 20 in an Art, , he can spend 2 pawns on a Q10 or so tractatus, or spend twice as much for the chance to learn more, but he has even odds of earning less, or having some disaster... Then there's the whole botching with vis in one's lab...

Going off tangent, I've been thinking about removing the botch chance from studying from vis altogether. Covenants likens vis study to Significatio, which would not have any vis study penalty. In my years of playing 5th Edition, I've only studied from vis once, and only because that character had no score, a pawn of vis, and access to an Aura of 9th magnitude.

True, but when you're at 30+, you've probably exhausted the ready supply of books in your area. You've read dozens of tractatus by that point. OTOH, studying from vis in the middle zone might be more attractive. Getting your arts to 10-15 via summae isn't hard, but the vis costs for study are still low enough that even a half-decent lab Safety (which isn't hard to improve) removes most of the risks. Then you've got tractatus for later.


Keep in mind that Twilight is in ADDITION to the effects of a double botch. I'd want to avoid double botching in all cases if I can get it down to a single botch, which is probably inconvenient but not potentially lethal/destructive.

To get from 20 to 30 requires 255 xp, which is approximately 26 Q10 Tractatus, they could cost 52 pawns of vis. On average, in an aura of 5, it would cost 2 seasons *4pawns per season +11 seasons *5 pawns per season+ 10seasons *6pawns per season for a total of 8+55+60 or 123 pawns. This exhausts (pretty much) all of the Q10 tractatus, but there are all of the others available. Based on Arthur's estimate, which I feel is high, but it's something to work with, there are still all of the tractatus of different qualities. Note, I just took all of the Q10 tractatus and devided by 15 which assumes that all of the Forms are evenly represented.

To get from 30 to 40 requires 354 xp, which is approximately 36 Q10 Tractatus. I'll let you work out the math on the pawns of vis. Chances are there are much better things to do with the vast amount of vis that's necessary to get to 40... And this is even before including the risks.

A botch or a double botch is still going to ruin your day/lab/whatever. A double botch gives you a chance at Twilight and salvaging something from your season, a good effect. If you're young and warping score is low, Twilight's a good thing more often than not. It's the only way to make lemons out of lemonade, and it's only possible with a double botch or greater.