Studying from Vis

Apologies if this has already been discussed, I tried a search but turned up nothing relevant.

I am curious how you all rule on Vis study experience. Since the RAW is somewhat ambiguous on it, I am wondering if you treat the source quality roll as counting for the entire amount of xp the magus earns in a season of study regardless of how many pawns he is using, or do you treat the roll+aura as a the quality for each pawn thus multiplying the total xp for the season by the number of pawns used?

I don't think there's anything ambiguous about the RAW. The roll+aura is the amount of XP received.

Allowing that to be the XP per pawn would quickly lead to ridiculous results. Someone with an arts score of 20, say, could get an average of over 50 xp in one season that way, and could potentially get over 100 xp with a good roll.

In the first three editions, any study was limited by "The Rule of Three" - no more than 3 levels/3 xp could be gained from a single study source. We had a magus in our tabletop game who studied 3 pawns of vis, and came up with a 40 for his roll, multiplied by the three pawns of vis (the most you could study, at the time), and came up with 120 for his total. However, the most he could get was 3 levels out of it. What he got was a short story, instead of the remaining 15 levels...

In 4th edition, this limit was removed, and things went south really quickly from there. Being the old-school player that I am, I kept "The Rule of Three" in place for my 4th edition PBP game, which caused some friction, but kept advancement slower, especially since XP was not a seasonal thing. However, rare was the time I gave out more than 3 xp for a story...

If you are going to go back to multiplying your roll by pawns, I would implement the old "Rule of Three" (or something similar), or else things will really get out of control, quickly. Of course, YMMV.


With a nod to Kryslin, I would do anything but RAW here...
One of the limiting factors on magi is that once advancement reaches a certain point, it gets real difficult to advance. The expense and danger level also limit what magi can attain. The way things are set now, magi can attain a 'more than satisfactory' level of power REAL quick...beyond that I don't know why you would need to much further...

Actually the RAW IS ambiguous. All that the section actually describes is SOURCE quality (i.e. the xp gained) being determined by aura+die roll(stress). It DOES NOT say clearly whether the "source quality" is considered to be all the pawns together or each pawn individually.

The argument about "things getting out of control very quickly" has valid pros and cons to it. The pro side is simply that a good roll (lots of 1s followed by a nice 8,9,10) would indeed provide a cash cow of potential level jumps for a potentially untried young magus. The con side of that argument is that:

  1. This is the reward for taking a huge gamble on possibly inducing a hasty Twilight or possibly blowing up one's entire lab or covenant or who knows what. Given that the number of botch dice is equal to the number of pawns used it seems a bit of a rip off to call it "VIS Source Quality" yet not, conversely, give that quality level to each pawn involved.

  2. As Urien said, once magi reach a certain level (mid teens) there are precious few options for any significant advancement to real levels of enviable ability in the Arts other than Vis study.

If the RAW is read to mean that the die roll+aura is the total source quality for the season of study then even this avenue becomes an exceptionally unattractive risk with little real benefit. It also means that the source quality of a pawn of vis is not really the total of die roll+aura, but rather die roll+aura/#of pawns.

Thats how the section appears to me at any rate. Nevertheless, I do greatly appreciate your personal perspectives on the matter. Gives me food for thought! :slight_smile:

Considering that powerful magi should be well over 20 in one or more Arts as their careers advance, what other way would you provide for magi to advance beyond level 15-20? Certainly at that point one doesnt find books any longer from which to study.

I also don't think that this is at all ambiguous.

Baring some virtue source quality and experience point gain are always the same. Only reference to pervious editions would lead you to believe otherwise.

My preference is for the rules as written. Experience gain certainly seems to be plenty fast to me (it always seemed too fast to me in fourth). In all of the fifth edition games that I've participatred in people have used vis for study. The increased risk and cost was not sufficent to disuade people from the xp that their characters really wanted.

In second, third and fourth editions vis study was significantly better than book study. In my experience this cheapened books, took away one of the primary reasons for the order to be cohesive both politically and culturally and was significantly less stylish (A matter of personal taste to be sure but in my opinion it is a matter of taste closer to "Do you want Turkey gravy on your pepermint bon bon ice cream?" than it is to "Which of these red Bordeux's would you like with your prime rib?").

The rule of three is something that I do not lament the passing of for two reasons.

  1. The game is heard enough to teach as it is adding one more pickly little rule really has bothered some players I've had.
  2. It encouraged every magus to start out with 2 ranks in every art just to avoid experience wasting. This provided increased dullness to my games.

It wasn't reference to previous editions but simply the (still arguably abiguous) wording of the Vis Study section on page 165 of the 5ed, core rules itself.

As mentioned in my post above which you perhaps did not see before posting your response, the calculation is called VIS source quality which it in effect actually is NOT unless the total generated applies to each pawn of vis used (otherwise the "VIS" quality of each pawn is the total divided by X). In that case the proper wording should have been "Study Source Quality" or "Seasonal Source Quality".

Perhaps I'm being too pedantic but I tend to be a purist when it comes to the written text and the meaning inherent to chosen terms and phrases.

There is no option for using 10 pawns when you only need one or vice versa, as such it seems straight forward to me that you only get 1 roll.

I have to agree with those who find no ambiguity in the rulebook. The number of pawns required to study is based on your Art, and when those pawns are consumed you get 1 die roll. Anything more than that is just wishful thinking.

The vis requirement is obviously a balancing factor, intended to make it more expensive for high level magi to study Vis. Or, perhaps we should say, to maintain the approximate cost, since experienced magi will also have access to more vis to spend. Since it is specifically detailed that magi do not need to study vis in their labs, they will inevitably seek out the highest magical aura they can find and bring their vis there. Players who look ahead to that moment will select the Study Bonus and Study Requirement Virtue/Flaw, making their study more profitable.

Remember that it should take a magus 120 years to get a single Art up to the practical maximum of 40! And that would be someone who is intensely specialized. Most magi will never get anywhere near that high; they will study from vis only after all books have been exhausted, and they could easily spend a year raising the Art by even a single point.

I also read it as 1 roll for the whole pack of vis pawns.

Thanks again for all the feedback.

It does seem however that people are reading something into my words that I am not saying...

I never suggested there was any ambiguity in the NUMBER of pawns necessary. The 1 for 5 levels of Art score is perfectly clear. Neither did I suggest more than 1 roll.

My point (again as previously mentioned) is that the section specifically calls it "VIS" Source Quality and NOT "STUDY" Source Quality, which seems to leave some question as to whether one could deem the total generated by the die roll+aura as the Quality for each pawn of Vis rather than for the total batch of however many pawns were used (based on the 1 to 5 principle clearly indicated in the text).

I can appreciate that the general consensus leans toward capped (or slowed) advancement for magi at or beyond a certain level for an Art.

Perhaps its just my own personal preference that magi should be able to become much more powerful long before they are effectively on or near their deathbeds/Final Twilight without having to necessarily have particular virtues such as foci or study bonuses (which not all magi have).

Now this is a slightly different way of reading the text that lends the consensus view more validity over my questionable view. You seem to take it that the Vis is consumed before the die roll rather than the die roll just being an indicator of what the Source Quality of the Vis happens to be.

I understood the process as being a matter of determining what quality the Vis was (which allows for a "per pawn" reading of the text) and then studying it. Much in the same way one already knows what the Source Quality of a given Summa happens to be before one studies it for a season.

Thanks for your clarification. :slight_smile:

Which is why I have been insisting that ALL rules should have an example given. confusion.

I'd say that this is correct. You have a personal preference you are reading into the text. I do actually see your point. I just don't agree. You like having characters ramp up very, very quickly, which is fine, but its not actually how things work in the vanilla rules and the ambiguity you are seeing is not based on ambiguity that is there.

It is called "vis source quality" rather than "study source quality" because study is something you do from books. Well, until Covenants came out and stretched the term a bit by allowing you to study from the observation of phenomena. Training is called "training source quality" and teaching is called "teaching source quality". Why wouldn't learning from vis be called "vis source quality"?

I do see your point, and I think it's valid but that you take it one bridge too far, Urien.

Examples reduce confusion, but also reduce the value of books, because you cut the number of rules to supply them.

That means that if I say, design a new Exceptional Ability and write it up in a pragraph, then if I need a paragraph for an example, then in any book containing this material you have sacrificed a paragraph of something else. In essence, you get half as many new ideas because examples are the most expensive way of explaining things.

On longer pieces, the examples, if brief are less obtrusive. If they are fully stted NPCs, there's a tension between the fact that they are quite useful and the fact that they take enough time to write about 500-2000 woprds, depeding how detailled the construction process is.

There comes a point where authors need to trust the readers to get what thye are talking about.

This is also why I dislike most Story Seeds.

When an author writes "There is a dragon with a pile of treasure on the hill" I see no good reason why he or she should waste space saying:

"Story Seed: Dragon on Hill

There's a dragon on the hill. The mayor tells you to "Kill it and steal its stuff"! If you do, a bell will ring and a prize will pop out!"

OK, so there was an element of parody there, but its the same thing. I, as a reader, ask writers to trust me to read each sentence and think "Contextually, this is from a roleplaying supplement. There is likely a story function here." I hate having them say "IT'S OVER HERE!". It wastes space and patronises me, a lot of the time.

Now some story seeds are good: seeds where I look at them and go "Oh, I would never have thought of doing that!" but if you say "An example with every rule!" you get to the point where weak seeds are included because thinking up non-repetitious story seeds is really very difficult and the author must have them, so quality declines. Similarly, examples.


   I understand and foresaw your response...but let me point out one thing..Almost this entire board has been dedicated to answering questions people have with the rules.  I don't think that I need go through them all, but lets take one of the more obvious ones...

Talisman creation: I think I've seen at least three discussions on this one. The worst part of this one is the order things get done to make a talisman. The RAW are very vague on this, but a simple thing like this would have ended the whole thing...
Stanus of House Jerbitron takes his opened item and spends a season to attune it as his talisman. He spends the next season increasing the capacity of his talisman.
This statement sorts out the whole problem...Unless of course I STILL have the process wrong...
As for trusting people to understand what you wrote...
When you write something, it might be perfectly clear to YOU, but will confuse everyone else. An example will clear that up. People think differently, and can read the same text and come away with completely different ideas as to what they are reading. In Boxers case here, the whole thing could have been avoided with this:
Stanus of House Jerbitron has decided to study Herbam Vis this season. He requires 'X' pawns of Vis because his score is 'Y'. At the end of the season, Stanus gets (Aura plus a stress roll) of experience.
By doing this, you lay it all out on what you really mean.
Sure you reduce the space for rules but do you want this:
AM5- Level:10 Quality: 20
AM5- Level:20 Quality: 5
In the last example you wind up writing a whole bunch of Tractatus expanding and explaining what you wrote.
I would rather you divide up the book (buy a good second book) and provide clear directions than have to spend time searching out rules answers...
or to put it directly...(Myself included here)
(warning: humor)
There are no stupid questions, only stupid people that ask them.

(Leaving aside the fact that he shouldn't have multiplied by the number of pawns -- it's possible to get huge numbers on the roll alone)

It's very harsh to limit a player like that, when they've rolled fabulously well/luckily. A bit of outrageous good fortune deserves some reward!

Many years ago, in an experience-points-and-levels game, characters would occasionally amass enough XPs in one session to increase their level by more than one at a time. To prevent that we introduced the concept of "bank". We ruled that a character could gain immediately from all the XPs needed to go up to the next level break, and half the way to the break beyond that, but no further. And XPs not used would be "banked" and could be withdrawn as further XPs were gained, at the rate of 1 XP from bank for every new XP earned.

A similar system could be employed for magi gaining gazillions of points in a single season of VIS study ... allow an immediate increase in art of a maximum of maybe two or three levels and bank the rest, to be released as the magus further increases his art. I would limit this to increases in the same art, but would allow banked points to be used when further points in the art were gained by any means (not only by further VIS study).

Having a large number of rules is not a good thing.

The simpler a system is - the fewer rules it requires to express it - the more playable it is, and the more the payers can get on with roleplaying rather than rollplaying.

I agree with Urien - in fact I'd go further and say that every rule should have sufficient examples to show its operation and the working of any exceptions or special cases that may apply.

A special "bank" rule seems unnecessary for a comparatively rare event, assuming that one would want to limit advancement anyway. Let them benefit from their good fortune.

On a related matter, why can a mage study Vis anywhere, i.e. without a lab? This seems wrong. I am thinking of giving half experience without a lab. One reason for NOT adopting that is that it would reduce the benefit of the virtue Study Bonus. Perhaps those with this virtue should be immune to the no-lab reduction.

I consider it a plus that the magi can study vis outside the lab, for a simple reason: it gets the magi out of the lab and into more stories. There aren't many things that can get a mage out of his tower, but if his Companions have discovered a high magic aura at the Volcano of Infinite Ash or something, then he has to organize an expedition to go there, and he'll need grogs to set up his camp and protect him from the ash elementals, and other magi will find out about the aura and will also come to the volcano to study ... and pretty soon you have a pretty hot little social scene for magi that does not involve Tribunal.

Destroy that possibility at your peril!

Granted. Probably ought to be a warping experience, though, increasing an art by many steps at a time.

Studying Vis in its element ('scuse me) gives greater insights into its nature, which counterbalance the lack of laboratory advantages. Get those wacko booky bastard mages out of their nice safe covenants and into adventure-space!