The cost of Technique and Form vis

So when you want to exchange vis (not counting the Mercere part), 1 pawn of vis from a technique = 2 pawns from a form.

That seems logical and intuitive as there are only 5 techniques for 10 forms but...

... When you play your mages, do you rely that much on technique vis ?

From what I saw in game, some players tend to just use their technique vis reserve to buy the forms vis they need.

I think this should depend a lot on all sorts of factors, including local availability, the bargaining skills of the magi, the mood of the day, and so on ...

In our most long-running saga, the covenant generally allows the members to train one-for-one with covenant stocks, unless there is a shortage of the particular art, which is very likely to happen for Creo, Corpus, and Vim. In addition to that, we played a session at the Midsummer Fair in the Greater Alps. At that occasion, I let the prices vary according to the scarcity stipulated in the 4ed book. The most expensive art was Creo, at 15p Vim to 4p Creo. The cheapest were Vim, Auram, and Terram at 1:1. The most expensive form was Corpus at 10p Vim to 4p Corpus.

I think the double price for techniques stipulates that technique vis is a lot scarcer, and also that books are scarce enough to make vis studies commonplace. If the availability of each art in vis sources matches the demand, I do not think that relative price is sustainable. If an art is sufficiently scarce, the price makes sense.

For realism, I would have liked to see a lot more variation. I imagine aquam sources being as available as any other form, but with significantly lower demand than any other art. Corpus, I would think, would be scarcer than most forms if you do not want to massacre faeries, and in extremely high demand for healing and longevity. OTOH, for playability, we have to keep it simple, and the Mercere rates do that at least.

As a player I agree with you. Technique vis is twice as useful for enchantment, so if the right form vis is available, the technique vis is saved. However, when doing, say, a ReTe enchantment, I can just as well use the Rego vis I have than calling a redcap to trade it for the same amount of Terram.

There are a lot of factors for relative value of vis, which comes down to 1) supply (which is not canonically specified) demand, and 3) medieval economics models, which tend to cause bizzare economic behavior due to them being based more in theology than actual understanding.

A few things can be conjectured- from utility techniques would be in higher demand than forms, since they could, in theory be used for twice as many spells.
Creo would be in high demand since creo vis can be used for any spell for permenant creation of supplies.
Vim would be in relatively high supply since any magus can create vim with a season of lab activity.
Forms should have a higher supply since magical beings tend to leave form vis when they expire and there are form realms but not technique realms.
Beyond these principles it all comes down to YSMV.
Also keep in mind that medieval economics does not recognize supply and demand but asserts that commodities have an intrinsic value, and this belief is either a) factual in ME or b) likely to be held as true within the order, so drifting prices are likely to be relatively tightly controlled.

Very good points, but auctions are used, canonically for vis in 4ed and at least for apprentices in Thebes in 5ed. Auctions do not make sense if prices are tightly controlled or based on intrinsic value. Once auctions are used, demand and supply can be observed, even if people are free to ignore what they see.

Quite likely the intrinsic value view moderates the price development at auctions, without completely controlling it.

fro what I can find auctions in Mythic Europe are anachronistic- they existed in ancient Rome and Greece but were abolished in the middle ages as an unfair trade practice. At best it would be classed along with redcap vis-usury in the general opinion that vis has no recognized value outside the order, and was thus not subject to laws (and religious opinions) governing commerce.

anachronistic but canon
Looking it up, I see that the auctions at the Hermetic Midsummer Fair are confirmed in 5ed [C&G], although it is the only use of the word «auction» in that book.
Maybe Hermetic Magi are just a wee bit more Roman than medieval on this point.

Certainly possible, especially given longer hermetic lifespans, but it certainly creates some interesting friction points between medieval and Hermetic culture, and potentially between the order and the Church though the separation of vis as a non-ecclesiastically recognized currency certainly helps. The impact of such economic realizations on redcaps however could lead to some truly profound economic advantages, including potentially avoiding charges of excessive profit on trade by establishing an early triangle trade approach where vis is one of the legs.

In general I believe the 2:1 ratio might be discounting the value of Technique Vis if anything. While natural Vis sources might be roughly equal for all the Arts (and thus resulting in the 2:1 ratio), harvesting Vis from beings of Might is arguably the second largest contributor of Vis to the Order supply and all of that is Form Vis. YSMV but if for example half as much Vis is harvested from beings of Might every year as from natural sources (thus 1/3 the main supply of Vis), you are looking at a ratio of 7:2. Places with little harvesting of beings of Might will be closer to the 2:1 ratio, while those which do a lot of it will be pushed further from it.

The varies Items of Virtue tend to be Form Vis, though there are several Trees of Virtue that do produce Technique Vis. While the exact ratio is YSMV, I would guess that it is closer to a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio from Items of Virtue. How common they are and thus how much of the Orders Vis supply they make up is entirely Saga dependent, so they could have anything from almost no effect on the total ratio to skewing it further towards Forms.

While Vim Vis might have the highest production due to the ability to extract it, I do not think the generally available supply of it would be much higher than the other Forms. It is used in the Opening of Invested Devices & Talismans, is one of the Arts that can be used for the Longevity Ritual, and can be used in the casting of the AotH. This is another YSMV, but in general those uses would make the extra production from extraction mostly a wash for the Order as a whole. In areas without a lot of natural Vis sources it would be less valuable locally since there would be a lot of extraction happening, but traded into Redcap network it would be bought in areas with a lot of natural Vis sources since it is required or the cheaper Vis for many important Hermetic activities.

You want to see the Vis prices get really confusing, start adding in the exotic types of Vis which have magical effects, contribute to certain activities at a double ratio, etc.

That's a good argument if studies from vis is the main expenditure, where one specific art is needed. However, enchantments and rituals are important applications too, and there you choose to use technique or form vis, so you'd choose the cheaper option.

I meant 7:2 in terms of supply, not actual trade cost. What I was trying to say is that just from the two largest sources of Vis (natural sites and harvesting beings of Might), there is about 3.5 times as much Form Vis as there is Technique Vis if the ratio is twice as much from natural sites as harvesting. That will change from Saga to Saga depending on how much of the main Vis supply comes from one verse the other.

Extraction of Vim Vis would slant the total supply even more towards Form, though there are of course the natural sinks for it built into the system (Opening Enchantments, LR, AotH) which would eat up much of the extra production from extraction.

Then you have your smaller producers such as the varies items of Virtue, which are slanted more towards Forms than the default 2:1. Some of them like collecting Vis from Realms only results in Form Vis. Combining all of them however should still only account from a small fraction of the Orders total annual Vis in most Sagas.

The 2 Form for 1 Tech trade ratio is good from a simplicity standpoint and the fact that nearly all activities requiring Vis can be done with ether (a Form or a Tech) or specifically require a Form (opening enchantments). Studying a Technique from Vis is the only activity in which a Technique is required.

That you have a choice or require a Form Vis for all other activities would generally keep the difference in trade value from getting out of wack. If they have the chance (meaning don't need to cast something NOW) Magi will want to trade their Tech Vis for Form Vis to use in activities in which ether can be used since they will get effectively double their Vis. Since Tech Vis is effectively twice as expensive to use for most activities, those trying to trade it will keep the cost from going to far from the 2:1 ratio even if the actual supply is rarer.

Huh... I seem to have reversed my feelings on how expensive Tech Vis should be from higher than the normal ratio to around the normal ratio.

Just keep in mind that the law of supply and demand is essentially that prices will adjust until supply equals demand. This may mean that if form vis is too cheap it isn't worth hunting magical creatures for vis, or that more wizards will use form vis because it is so cheap. Medieval Europe tended to impose price restrictions on normal goods so that these mechanisms did not work so well, while the magi exist in a vaguely unspecified hybrid economy of the two, though many of the books do read like they have an imposed price structure which may simply be an artifact of roleplaying books being written with price lists that work like video games and a 'retail economy' that most players of both are accustomed to where you are simply presented with the price at the store and little thought into what is behind it.

I can totally imagine aquam vis (say) developing into a currency unit which is used more often to pay for books and services, like silver, and rarely to fuel magic effects. This is assuming that the regulated prices are quoted in unspecified vis, leading everybody to use the least useful art to pay. Magi might be hunting aquam creatures mainly to pay for books and services.


In general I would agree, excepting that the least valuable form of vis might well vary by tribunal. It is also unlikely to be aquam, terram, ignem, animal, corpus, or herbem no matter where you travel. Mentem is also quite unlikely. Anyplace with moderate weather might see aurum vis as the lowest value, and vim always has the chance to hit this category in that it is almost generic vis. Imagonem is likewise difficult to imagine being a highly valuable form from a utilitarian side (creo ritual for imagonem is essentially worthless).

To offer a counterpoint perspective from a home-based game. In that game, Terram in Transylvania is so plentiful (from the Carpathian mountain sources) that it could be said most covenants export it through the redcap network outside of Tribunals, meanwhile the Theban tribunal has plentiful aquam vis. On the other hand, in a vis rich covenant, nobody wants to waste a lab season creating Vim vis, much like no one wants to fix an arcane connections. This makes vim vis the highest import of that covenant, due to 2 ongoing aegis rituals yearly + enchantments. This has made vim vis a regular source of conversation with other covenants (do you have surpluses for trade?) because I was very much trying to avoid redcap price gouging of 2:1 when I know we import 12 pawns on a bad year.

I suggested aquam because I rarely see PCs using it, and IIRC there are few canon items and the rituals do not appear to be particularly useful. Auram, I imagine, is scarcer because many sources will be difficult to harvest, being in gas phase, and then there are some interesting weather rituals too, which can boost agricultural income. But YSMV. Imaginem has few rituals (if any) but there are the invisibility cloaks, broach of ennobling presence, and sidestep devices which are likely to be very popular, and possibly mass produced as lesser enchantments. Whether that's enough to keep prices down obviously depends on the saga

Vim is likely to be in such high demand that people do indeed waste a season to extract it. For greater enchantments (including talismans), there is no replacement. It is annoying to players but real wizards may realise that it is just life.

Vim is high volume as much as high demand, since it can be extracted anywhere you have an aura, in addition to being available naturally. Many magical birds will also be sources of Aurum Vis, so you don't have to go chasing down windstorms, and there may be natural deposits in solid form after a windstorm in certain areas.

I was hoping to get a miracle solution but the fact is that the vlaue of vis is really based on non documented infos (which type is rare or bountiful and what is the most demanded type).
From there I only see 3 solutions :

  • Trying to have a realistic conversion system (I tried to create one and it involve excel beacause it's too complcated)
  • Keeping the 2:1 technique/form ratio
  • Making all vis equal

I'm still not sure which solution is the best but I think i'm going to try the last one for a bit and see where it goes.

And I think all three have a place.

Within the covenant, it is up to the players, and 1:1 as long as the art is available is likely to be a good and agreeable starting point.

When you need a trade with low effort and low risk, the Mercere prices are good. They are canon, they are simple, and the redcaps can be trusted to deliver in a season or two or three (YSMV).

If the players are looking for a better deal, I think realistic pricing is most importantly random and variable. They may have to travel to a tribunal, or search for a covenant known to have an excess of something. It takes time. Then they have to bargain, and the die roll may decide the rate they get. You don't need a system because it is not supposed to be predictable and repeatable. The Mercere rates should make a worst case bound on the price, since that price is always available due to large volume.

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I often throw into my games "vis of account" (which ironically is period, at least for the Mediterranean areas) where unspecified vis in a ledger format is used for trading things like books and enchanted items, where the type only matters when it is time to settle accounts, and tends to be whatever you have or whatever the mercers have an excess of depending on which side of the balance sheet you are on.


That's pretty much we use as well, when vis is dished out to covenant members. In theory it is used also for trade, in the sense that prices are quoted in arbitrary art, not even distinguishing between form and technique, but then accounts are settled immediately without bookkeeping. This is more for the sake of simplicity than anything else. There is canon precedence for this as well. There is a case of a redcap entering a sanctum to claim a debt (with the owner absent). The redcap takes the most expensive technique vis, instead of form vis which was also available. He was acquitted. The debt was in unspecified vis, and the tribunal did not recognise the technique vis as more valuable thanunspecified vis. I cannot remember the reference, possibly the Mercere chapter.