Things that are rubbish

Salve Sodalis

Inspired by the thread concerning the general uselessness of automatons, I'm starting this thread to discuss other mystery virtues that are, for one reason or another unexpectedly naff, overly expensive, vastly impractical or just rubbish.

This can be for any reason and I'm interested not only in fluff/background reasons but actual practical reasons for gameplay purposes.

I'll start with two of my favourites.

Philosophic Alchemy - minor
Now while the major version of this is awesome, the lesser version is far, far less so. Why? Because it requires a year of lab work. Now my sagas might be different from standard but we almost never have an entire year of labwork seasons, making this virtue nearly unusable. One could imagine that in a labwork focused chronicle this would really come into its own.

Hall of Heroes, Living Ghost, Greater Potion - All of these grant immortality, each with various quirks. While I really like all of them, the effect of turning a magus into an unchanging, immortal being really cripples any hope of advancement except through exceedingly powerful magic, effectively reducing character progression down to a crawl (and a slow crawl at that). While I like the ideas as presented, I also would never use any of them in game due to this inability to advance.

Anyone got any others?

For me the later are just a great way to exit the game with a BANG! You effectively turn yourself into a NPC. Since you need massive invstment and lab totals to achieve most of that stuff, it means that you are basically exchanging final twilight for another version of it, one that is legendary. But it is still the final step in your career, so you get up in your chair, everybody cheers for you and you get a beer, a pencil and a blank character sheet to start working on your next character.

So no, I do not think the fact that you can still evolve but slowly is a problem.

I have not read Alchemy in a while, buit remember being quite sad about how it worked, since an alchemist is something that is really cool and has lñots of story potential, and I thought that this would never be used IMS. :frowning:

Oh yes. Let's list the authors' hard work we think is "just rubbish."

I'm sure that will be immensely constructive.


Can I call this thread rubbish?

It's entirely possible for some sagas to have characters that have access to labs for a year or even more without any interruption. On the same token, Original Research can take advantage of consecutive seasons of research... Is OR rubbish, because of this? Or is it a bit of rubbish because it rewards sticking in the lab? :smiley: This becomes a role playing possibility, just as much as a "story" would. Keep in mind, in your criticism of Philosophic alchemy you've also described where it would work, and work well. And you preempt all of your criticism with the possibility that your saga might be different, and thus can't take advantage of it. Umm, it's quite apparent that choice is your troupe's and not a function of the rules. Indeed all of the Mysteries should be carefully assessed to see how they meet up with the goals of the saga. It isn't presumed that all of the Mysteries are available in all of the sagas.

And if a magus pursues immortality, it's an effective exit from the game. The choice is to continue to live and grow, and eventually die or pass into Final Twilight or to live forever never really progressing beyond where you are (quickly). I'll have to say, if you're immortal, do you really need to advance quickly? :smiley: Effectively, the immortal character is an NPC...his involvement in the saga is more muted...

I really think that the thread's title was an unfortunate choice. As Leonis_Bjornaer points out, it sounds really (and needlessly) disparaging towards the authors. Had the title been something like "Underpowered/Problematic Mystery Virtues" I think it would have captured better the idea behind the OP -- which is a worthwhile topic.

Minor Philosophic Alchemy is ok, I guess. In my saga magi often do stay in the lab for a year at a time.

I really like the Immortality Virtues. Sure, they seriously hamper your "normal" advancement, but (particularly using RoP:M) they simply open up different avenues of advancement that were closed before, from the possibility of having a cult, to that of raising characteristics to inhuman levels, to all sorts of activities that you avoided before because they caused warping. The only one I dislike is Living Ghost, because -- hmm, I guess that being undead is not quite the same as being immortal, but I guess it's a matter of taste.

Personally, I dislike Nature Lore. What I dislike is that it's presented as a generalization of Forest Lore from Guardians of the Forest, but at a careful analysis it's very different. First of all Forest Lore does not require an initiation or a Virtue; Nature Lore does. What kind of "generalization" is one that does not manage to encompass the basic case?

Perhaps more importantly, Forest Lore is about the Hercynian Forests. That's because the Hercynian Forests are the frayed remnants of this titanically powerful, primeval spirit, and Forest Lore is knowledge/communion/etc. involving that spirit -- or more precisely its components. If you learn Forest Lore e.g. in the Pomeranian Forest, it works best in Pomerania, but at a penalty also in the Black Forest or any other fragment of the original Forest. But it won't work in the forest of Sherwood, because that's something else entirely!

Nature Lore really cheapens it all, by saying "yeah, choose a landscape, say, Shrubs, and you get all these cool powerz when you are in Shrubs; it works best on your home turf, but any stretch of Shrubs will work". I really don't like that; it feels ... cheap, I can't find better words. In some way, it almost feels as if making it a Virtue was a (not very successful) attempt to compensate that cheapness.

Not my intent at all. I'm more interested in the rules/application aspect of some of the mystery virtues and seeing which ones are cool but impractical (like minor philosophic alchemy), cool but unlikely to be used (like the immortality ones) or interesting but in need of house ruling (like automatons).

I'm not after trashing anyone, nor am i interested in hearing "XyZ sucks!", I want to hear why people think that certain mystery virtues might not be as useful as they appear.

Xavi - Yeah, totally agree on that, a very good way to leave a game with a magus close to his end via age or twilight. Retire gracefully and maybe even pop up every now and then as an npc. Not too much use for a player character that you still wish to play.

Alchemy is very cool, and very useful too, but the minor version of the philosophic alchemy virtue does have that campaign dependant problem.

You are oversensitive.
And I'm gonna rip on Vulgar Alchemy. It seems like something any magus should be able to do. But looking at how difficult it is to stabilize new F&E bonuses, it seems like extreme effort for little results.

I can see your point, but I'm not quite sure that is the intention. Mechanically (and I guess from a player perspective), it does look a bit like you can just choose any convenient, arbitrary "landscape". But, from an in-play, in-character perspective the landscape has to actually have a viable supernatural presence that the character can communicate with, i.e. something like (but not necessarially) a genius loci. So, in character, a maga can't just decide that she wants to commune with Shrubs or Herb Gardens, or rather if she does she needs to locate the supernatural spirit of the Herb Garden, which may not be a thing that actually exists.

Bascially, the rules don't stop you from making a dumb choice of landscape, but its not really the rules fault if you do.

+1. I would have thought this to be much easier. Not everybody would do it, but a few tractatus would be in circulation every year with a new F&E bonus. or that is what I was expecting until I read the rules for them. Weird the list of F&E is so long given the difficulties put to it.


This has my vote as well. By all means require some labwork to discover and exploit new affinities, but to make it need a Virtue? That effectively states that it's not a part of basic Hermetic magic and that's just, well, daft given the plethora of S&M qualities known.

My own is the existence of Ceremonial Casting as a spell Mastery option. Formulaic spells can be varied by voice, gesture, aura, target, use of Talisman and any number of other virtues, more or less on the fly, but for some reason they cannot be made a tiny bit more reliable by taking advantage of natural and magical factors which are known by every Hermetic magus and are in fact required for a subset (Ritual) of Formulaic spells? Sod that. It's not even a matter for game balance: Sure, a magus who's fond of Natural Magic as seen in Art and Academe can get a moderate to large bonus to his formulaic spells, but at the cost of massive casting time increases. It's one of the worst ways to increase penetration, completely useless in combat and making it require a Mastery is thematically inappropriate in my mind; I bin it as an House Rule by default.

Editted to clarify last line

I would say it is the rules' fault -- more precisely, it's the fault of the description of Nature Lore given in HoH:MC.
Nothing in the description of Nature Lore says that the landscape needs to have a viable supernatural presence. Instead it just says: pick an aspect of nature, like forests or animals, and there you go, you have a supernatural connection with that aspect of nature anywhere in the world -- the maga Merinita was interested in forests, so lots of magi have Forest lore. It really says that, cheap as it may sound! It goes on by saying that it's the same as Forest Lore in GotF, but while the two resemble each other at a very superficial reading, they are profoundly different.

No, you're undersensitive.

As you can see, several posts in this thread manage to be critical without being rude. So I'm with Ben: "rubbish" is just the wrong word to use.

Hmm, perhaps, you are right. It does seem to suggest that the character can just go out and just pick something random.

However, in practice, in-play, it is ultimately, you the player (or other troupe members) who picks the "landscape" for Nature Lore. So, the problem of ending up with a dumb Nature Lore seems quite easily solved by merely not picking something which seems dumb to you in the context of your saga. I don't think that the rules need to save you from this problem.

We meet again old chum.

Actually, I am much more oversensitive myself. I just have a hunble and forgiving nature and try to subdue my passions lest they consume me. As one who suffers from the affliction of oversensitivity, I see it and empathize and try to encourage others to chin up and smile.

OK, so I definately could have picked a better title for this thread. :blush:

On the other hand, I hadn't looked at vulgar alchemy in depth before, interesting to note how hard it is, I too thought it'd be easier. I particularly like the idea from Xavi of a small group of magi with vulgar alchemy who regularly circulate new S&M bonus tractatus at tribunal. I can see it almost like a particularly complex newsletter.

Anyone got any experience with hermetic theurgy? I like the daimon summoning part but I don't think i've really understood the advantage of the spell-spirit bit, aside from having them cast in unfriendly auras for you.

Regarding Living Ghost and Greater Potion...

I haven't played either in-game since they take considerable time within campaign and right troupe and our games rarely last beyond 30 years in-game playing half year in a week of real time. Nevertheless I cannot help, but feel that people neglect character advancement that is not tied to experience gain. I'd expect immortal characters to take more active role in slowly changing world according to their own peculiar ideals once they've become more or less immortal.

I think that good example would be creating items that promote their preferred virtues in life (like compassion or ambition) within outside world or by influencing institutions more to their liking. After all they've in a way said by becoming unchanging immortal that they are in some way already what they want to be so now it is their time to express themselves on the world outside.

Also it is easy enough to craft items as form of advancement and they are much more expressive what magus wants in a way than gaining few more experience points in Magic theory or Ignem. Did you craft during previous season 3 Crosses to be hidden in churchess that grant bonuses to recovery from wounds and illness to those who pray within their voice range? Did you protect a fletchling organisation that aims to protect and promote trading over Baltic Sea area from Vikings? Did you finally do original research regarding how distilling vis from auras and casting ritual spells affects auras over span of decades by making detailed measurements of auras over that time?

It would be interesting to play magus who turns immortal because then - if not earlier - there's the question of what you will do once you truly need nothing - you need no sleep, food or drink. You can walk under the sea to see what it is truly like there. It is easily within your reach to swim in lava if it catches your fancy. What will you do now? Will you help other people to live as they would or will you craft a scheme after scheme to just play. Will compassion finally catch your heart when you see those who toil on the field and do you understand why those who pray try to promote will of God and talk about charity and love?

What's meaning of life?

You can still do so, by editing your first post!
If you do, adding a note that says you've changed the title helps latecomers avoid confusion when reading the thread.

You can still do so by editing your first post!
If you do, you may want to add an edit note so that latecomers to the thread do not get confused.

If there's consensus about Vulgar Alchemy being, ahem, hard to get value out of, I'll put in a shameless plug for Project: Redcap. It's a wiki, so you can edit the Vulgar Alchemy page and add an "opinion and commentary" section explaining what the problem is and suggest ways to deal with it.

I have a character who has Hermetic Theurgy, and has barely used it.

Spell spirits... I see a single nice trick with them, but the only character I have who uses them, is still purely conceptual.
He's also very weak with spontaneous magic, so he'll need a lot of spirits of (Form).