Starting player not taking formulaic spells?

Hey all,

I'm getting a new player that wants to make a very spont. focused character. Among other things he is taking Unstructured Caster. He has requested that he not have to take formulaic spells, and instead be able to use the 120 spell levels from apprenticeship as experience. Does anyone have thoughts on this? Could that make him to powerful? If he has to take spells he will never use them, so it does seem a bit silly? I could give him items with some fraction of that number of spell levels instead? Alternatively, he could use those spells levels as time to bond with a familiar? I'm not sure what the effects of my different options on my game would be.

If he hasn't formulaic spells, fine. But IMO, he will not get extra XP. A spont magus is a choice. If he doesn't want formulaic fine for him. Now he can take responsabilities.

if you're really really nice, give them to him as devices. But no, no extra XPs.

Besides, overly spontaneous magi have a small stigmata in some sagas - legacy of the Diedne and all that.

One option is to create the character using Extremely Complex Character Generation, page 33. That would allow him to avoid learning formulaic spells.

It does take inordinate amounts of time, of course.

I don't see where it would unbalance things to let him take XP's, but a spell level is worth a lot less than one XP. An experienced teacher with a good lab could easily teach 60 or 70 spells levels in a single season, meaning the 120 spell levels for a starting magus represent, basically, two seasons of teaching. If we're a little generous and figure the parens could impart 15 XP's a year by Teaching (Com 0 and Teaching 5 with a specialization in Apprentices would manage that--and don't forget a Lab Specializion in Teaching could help as well), it would be fair to substitute 30 XP's for the 120 spell levels.


Offer him a flaw for those 120 missing points, with a bonus of 2 low ritual. There's quite a few lvl20-25 rituals that may be of interest to him.

Well, he has Unstructured Caster, so he can't cast rituals. However, the flaw idea is interesting. Weak Parens takes out a quarter of your xp and spell levels, so 2 flaws could take out all of your spell levels. Does that sound reasonable to people?

He made the argument that they should be 1 to 1, because they are equivalent in the after apprenticeship character creation section. I didn't buy that but couldn't put my finger on why. Is it that there are opportunity costs to find lab texts, or that that should include spells you invent, which is harder, or what?

At any rate, I think I will go with 2 minor flaws.

In terms of training time, the 30 spell levels are worth about 1/8 what the 60 XP's you lose are worth--which implies that losing all your spell levels is worth maybe 1/2 a point of Virtues. You can be generous if you like and round up, and from a mechanical standpoint it would work, but from a roleplaying standpoint, I don't think it's appropriate, because this is not a matter of the parens' not teaching the apprentice, or not teaching the apprentice well, but rather of teaching the apprentice something else.

The reason it's 1 to 1 after Gauntlet is that a magus has to invent spells for himself then, rather than having them taught, and having them taught is MUCH faster. For example, if your new magus has a Lab Total of 40 (and that's a very high Lab Total for a newly gauntleted magus), it would take him 1 season to invent a level 20 spell, 3 seasons for a level 30, and he couldn't learn a level 40 at all. If his parens with a Lab Total of 60 taught him, he could learn the level 20 in 1/3 season (3 times his invention rate), the level 30 in half a season (six time his invention rate), and the level 40 spell in 2/3 of a season. In short, using the post-Gauntlet trade-off between XP's and spell levels as a basis of comparison for teaching apprentices is apples and oranges.

Giving the player two points of Virtues for this is giving him four times what it's worth (aside from the point I made above about its not reflecting a different focus in teaching by his parens). Offer him 30 XP's (1 XP for every 4 spell levels), and if he's foregoing the spells for the purpose of good roleplaying, he'll probably be happy with that. If he protests vigorously, he's probably a munchkin. :stuck_out_tongue:


Interesting idea...
I would let him trade away...

But remind him...
Every spont spell (of any real level) uses a fatigue...
He will have :laughing: penetration.
IE: Assume he starts with a 10/10 for his favorite combination. Divide by two or five. 10 or 4 for the spell level. You could add a couple of levels for the roll and aura, but this looks a little :cry: . Of course he could fight using weapons, but then the experience is going into abilities, not arts, not really helping the problem. If he ever gets into a situation where he knows a fight is coming, he could do some prep spells, but would have burned his fatigue before the fight started...

In any kind of fight (barring items or ?) that requires spells, he is going to die. He will run out of fatigue, and be unable to continue. His enemy will then stroll over and 'bonk' him in the head...

"What concept did you want to try next?"

Our Diedne doesn't have many learned spells, but he does have some... He has to.

Spont spells are great snacks, but formulaic spells are your meat and potatoes..

I would go back to the discussion and persuade your player to invest in a number of small utility spells and/or one or two moderate signature spells.

The reason for this is that sponting everything is going to get tiresome, both for the character and for the players. If the character has a number of small utility spells, as might have been taught by his parens, along the lines of checking an aura, or manipulating an object from across the room, etc. then there's really no reason to keep rolling/working out the spontaneous versions.

Taking these spells doesn't take away from the spontaneous-focus of the character; I think it supports it. He can invest in the mastery abilities to make them quicker to cast, etc. Which again makes them more useful in critical situations.

And because the spontaneous magic is likely to be low level and low penetration, he might want a couple of spells with a little extra punch; how do you fling the advancing knight away from you if he's protected by a relic. In a divine aura. Sometimes you just need a little penetration to get through magic resistance.

But if he really digs his heals in and wants absolutely no formulaic magic, then let him use the xp on other things.

I think it's a very reasonable concept, but it's harder in the playing than it is in the designing. You don't get any similar spell bonuses for anything. You miss out on the mastery options. And you're forever at the bottom of the pack when it comes to affecting anything with Might.

The version of the House we use in our saga obviously has a strong spontaneous focus. But that's historic. Those who joined the Order with Diedne were pretty much spontaneous only, but I also see them as very ritualistic and able to work together. Not that we've every used them yet, but I have given them some rituals that use the same mechanic as the Guernicus/Fenicil rituals.

I think that's in keeping with the reports of great druidic rituals described during the early Roman occupation of Britain.

Trading spell levels to XP on an equal basis may be a bit too easy, but let him have 60, 80 or maybe 90. But include in that the restriction that the character CANT learn formulaic spells at all. Its very unlikely to kill the system even if you let him have all those 120XP. Just dont allow him to spend it outside of magical skills, and make sure he doesnt spend his other XP differently if he gets these.

The idea about the familiar is a good one as well.

You could even let him combine Unstructured Caster with Rigid Magic. That would mean a character that cant cast ANY formulaic OR ritual spells at all.

Virtues he might want would be Life-Linked Spont. Magic., Diedne Magic, Cyclic Magic, Special Circumstances...

No, thats Rigid Magic. UC means he can only cast Formulaic as Rituals.

Giving it on a 1/1 basis wont destroy the game, but it IS excessively "nice". Give him half, 2/3 or 3/4.
And its because its far easier to learn Spell Levels than it is to get XP.

The combination i suggested, Rigid Magic + Unstructured Caster are two MAJOR Flaws which together makes a magi only capable of spontaneous spells.
I hope you´re not going to slam those 2 flaws on to the character beyond the +-10?
The character is already limited by not being allowed to use formulaic.

Eh? Utility spells that the character can ONLY cast as rituals? What IS the point of that?!?
Unstructured Caster was the basis...

Very hard indeed! Which is why i dont think its at all unreasonable to allow trading the spell levels if not equally then at least at a 2 for 1 levels to XP ratio. And even if trading levels for XP equally, its still going to be a very difficult character so i dont think thats going to be a problem either.

One thing you might consider is opening up the question to all your players so that you can decide as a group. This is particularly useful if you're concerned that the other players will feel slighted because you've given too much to this one player. If the other players like the concept, then they will probably be willing to compromise and even offer suggestions in order to make the game more fun.

This approach always worked well in our groups. It really helped us get away from the "GM vs players" way of thinking, and allowed us to embrace the troupe-style play that makes Ars so much fun.

Yes! I am not the only one who stopped reading halfway through the description. :mrgreen:

I think it depends on the character how crippling it is not to be able to cast formulaic spells.
I am currently drawing up a Verditius knight, good at making items and at spontaneous magic. I don't really see what he needs spells for anyway.

Unstructured Caster says (at least in my copy of the core):
"You have never quite mastered the intricacies of spell casting, and are unable to perform formulaic magic without extreme effort. You cast all formulaic spells as though they were ritual spells (including the need for vis), and you may not learn ritual spells at all. You cast spontaneous spells normally." Emphasis mine.

Now, while it doesn't actually say you can't cast ritual spells, I think that is just so as not to confuse people with the fact that normally formulaic spells are are cast as rituals when you have this virtue. I don't see a reasonable interpretation other than that any spell which would normally be a ritual is unavailable to a magi with this flaw. Now it is true that Rigid Magic prevents you from using vis while casting, so you also can't perform rituals if you have that virtue, including those that were formally formulaic spells if you also take Unstructured Caster.

The argument that this doesn't fit under flaws is a decent one, so maybe I'll go with an additional 30 xp after all. In general though, I think I'll probably just bring it up with the group. Still any additional thought would be great, since I will probably point them all at this thread.

Sounds fine to me.

Make sure that the player is aware that not having any formualic spells can be a bit limiting, particularly when it comes to Penetration or casting in awkward auras.

Perhaps, ask whether he intends the character to research formulaic spells later during play, or forever forswear the use of formualic magic. Either is OK, but if he intends to invent formulaic spells later I would expect to have an in-character explanation of why he hasn't invented any previously (absence of access to a lab, for example).

Hehe, maybe i should have phrased that just a LITTLE differently... :laughing:

Unstructured caster doesnt prevent casting of ritual spells, only learning them. So, casting tablets are fine.
I was unclear, my bad.

Yup, thats why i suggested combining the two, as that gives a character that can only cast spontaneously.

Taking it up with the group is probably the best option. And i think you can easily give at least 60XP instead of the 120 spell levels.
The character will certainly NEED those XP!

However, when this Flaw was written, Casting Tablet rules weren't known. So I'd interpret this as 'not able to cast' since learning was the only way to be able to cast rituals. I read it as being unable to both learn or cast rituals.

Not a chance. If it was, why is Rigid Magic ALSO a Major Flaw if UC has the same effect as well as ALSO limiting Formulaic casting?

And rarely are books written without any foresight.