Unstructured Caster

Has anyone played a character with this flaw? It seems truly heinous.

It is harsher than other Hermetic Flaws. In our saga we split it into two Major Flaws:
No Ritual Magic -- you may not cast Rituals at all.
Ritualist Magic -- you cast all Formulaic spells as if Rituals (but No Ritual Magic does not preclude casting them).
Ritualist Magic seems the harsher of the two, but it's not that bad if you focus on magic items.

I don't think it is too bad. You just have to think your way around it. It certainly is heinous for a conventional magus; so don't make one.

One effect is that you can't cast ritual spells, which is not really a big problem. Just freeload and let your sodales worry about the rituals. It doesn't affect you, it affects your sodales.

The other effect is that your Formulaic magic is time-consuming and vis expensive. There, you have basically three options:
If you can "solve" the vis cost problem by being vis rich (lots of personal or covenant vis), then you just need to concentrate on Formulaic magic that is not time-critical. So, largely proactive magic with Sun duration or longer that you cast "on the morning of the big fight", or "on the day that the bishop visits" or whatever.
Alternatively, you just concentrate the character in what he is good at. Which is Spontaneous magic. If you are not "wasting" time inventing Formulaic and ritual spells, you will have more Art studying time. So, you will have on average higher Art Scores than your sodales. Spread the XP around, and you can quite quickly be a fairly flexible generalist with a reasonable shot at Spontaneously casting most 2nd or 3rd magnitude effect (depending on the ambient aura). You will suck at Penetration, but there is plenty to do with either Aimed spells or targets with no Magic Resistance. As an aside, if the character sucks at Formulaic spells, I think that you have a good case to ask the storyguide whether you can move the bulk of 120 Spell levels gained during apprenticeship into general (i.e. Arts) XP instead.
Finally, if you do want to cast Formulaic spells, and you are vis poor, then you will never be short of a story opportunity. The character will always be keen on a vis hunt.

Like always, it is about playing to the character's strengths (or telling stories about the character's problems!).

Sure. I was just looking for advice for someone who's played a character with such a flaw successfully.

Yes and yes(but wasnt me). Ever since i added the Greater V/F, this was changed to a Greater Flaw and has been used once or twice i think. It is seriously devastating yes, either need to be superior with Spontaneous, which is extremely hard with RAW(LLSM is the best bet) or go with items. I disagree with RL about handling it by being Vis rich.
Get used to any combat using nothing but Sponts, combining high finesse and attacks that doesn´t need penetration tends to be preferable.

It can be a realistic Flaw to use for some Verditius though. Not good, but not quite as bad as for many others.

Kinda funny to see how Ezzelino has done essentially the exact same thing except in the shape of 2 Major rather than a single Greater Flaw, both being the same point value.
I think i might change my version to use Ezz version instead, makes for more flexibility.

So, of the options I gave above, I played a character using the second option. He invented no Formulaic spells. Just concentrated on Arts. In play he cast lots of spontaneous magic, and invented a few items for handy things that need Penetration (like DEO). So, because I never cast a Formulaic spell it wasn't very heinous at all.

I gave him Poor Formulaic Magic, and Loose Magic too, as Flaws.

The problem I see is mainly with a relatively new magus, one who just passed his gauntlet. The rules require that he spend 120 XP on spells during his apprenticeship. Picking those spells is extremely problematic. And 120 XP is a significant chunk of XP, that is nearily useless to the gauntleted magus.

Let me ask a followup question. Of his initial spells, how often were those spells actually used?

Yeah, I can see the flaw being preferable to others for a couple of kinds of characters:

  1. Bjornaer with Life-Linked Spontaneous

  2. Diedne, as a whole

  3. A Verditius who concentrates on items

As these characters have very little need for formulaic spells at all, the damage is mitigated. Now consider the cost of the other flaws.... yeah. Not so bad.

Of course, this is one of those flaws that has another flaw which is only a gentler version. In fact, there are two.

Major Flaw : Rigid Caster, where you cannot expend vis in spellcasting (and therefore cannot participate in ritual magic);

Major Flaw : Unreal Magic (HoH: Mystery Cults; Merinita Virtues and Flaws), your D: Momentary Ritual Creo spells do not take - you cannot create permanent things or effect permanent change with your magic (except for perdo, of course).

Some things in the game are just poorly balanced; cost of only having two points-options for Flaws and Virtues.

I'm toying with a Bonisagus and pursuing the theoretical research model to the limit. Unstructured Caster has some appeal to such a character. I'm struggling with him being viable post gauntlet unless I do the Diedne[1] Magic or some sort of magical focus, which seem to be crutches of sorts.

The Verditius has some appeal. I've never made a Verditius for play. If I went this route, I might even be more masochistic and throw Rigid Magic on top of Unstructured Caster, meaning he can't cast any formulaic spells and can only do spontaneous magic and work magic into items.

I'm not sure how much fun either of these would be to play, and that's what I'm most focused on...

[1] I really dislike the Diedne Magic "virtue" It adds an automatic story flaw that doesn't count against flaw limits, meaning characters have to really work to get to 10 flaw points. It's not impossible, but Diedne magic and Unstructured caster together aren't really offsetting...

Yeah that really hurts. That combination is more like 9 points of Flaws offset by 3 points of Virtues, a Virtue that by itself is still much less effective most of the time than LLSM anyway.

The "advantage" is that even normally, a Verditius is limited through his need for casting tools, so further limiting his Formulaic casting ability isn´t quite so harsh.

Personally though, i probably wont ever pick RAW version "Unstructured Caster" even with a concept character.
Well, exception might be one that completely rejects everything beyond Sponts(or even any casting at all).

I don't think I can make a viable RAW Unstructured Caster that isn't a Verditius. It just doesn't make sense.
This violates one of my central rules: that characters should be good at something, at least one thing. And PG, he's most definitely weaker than any other character, since he'll have trouble with almost any spell, so therefore isn't good at anything. Maybe research, but even a Bonisagus needs to get out of the lab now and again...

Now look what you made me do!

Characteristics: Int +5, Per 0, Pre 0, Com +1, Str 0, Sta 0, Dex 0, Qik 0
Size: 0
Age: 23 (23), Height: 168 cm, Weight: 72 kg, Gender: Female
Decrepitude: 0
Warping Score: 0 (0)
Confidence: 1 (3)
Virtues and Flaws: The Gift, Affinity with Magic Theory, Puissant Magic Theory, Inventive Genius (Invent Lab Totals: +3), Great Intelligence × 2, Book Learner (Book Quality: +3), Free Study (Studying from Raw Vis: +3), Study Bonus (Study: +2), Magical Memory, Cautious Sorcerer (Bonus: Three fewer botch dice casting spells or in lab), Hermetic Magus, Verditius Magic* [Preparation Abilities: Philosophiae/*Craft], Difficult Spontaneous Magic, Rigid Magic, Unstructured Caster, Weak Spontaneous Magic
Dodge: Init: +0, Attack --, Defense +0, Damage --
Fist: Init: +0, Attack +0, Defense +0, Damage +0
Kick: Init: -1, Attack +0, Defense -1, Damage +3
Soak: 0
Fatigue levels: OK, 0, -1, -3, -5, Unconscious
Wound Penalties: -1 (1-5), -3 (6-10), -5 (11-15), Incapacitated (16-20), Dead (21+)
Abilities: German 5, Latin 4, Artes Liberales 1, Philosophiae 2, Magic Theory 5+2, Parma Magica 1, Verditius Cult Lore 2, Awareness 2, Provençal 3, Bargain 1, Jewelworking 3 [Category: Laboratories]
Arts: Cr 10, In 0, Mu 0, Pe 0, Re 0, An 0, Aq 0, Au 0, Co 0, He 0, Ig 0, Im 0, Me 0, Te 0, Vi 10
Encumbrance: 0 (0)

Spells Known:
Bridge of Wood (CrHe 20) +10
The Far-Speaking Voice (CrMe 20) +10
Gentle Touch of the Purified Body (CrCo 20) +13
Locus of the Literatus (CrIm 20) +13
Pains of the Perpetual Worry (CrMe 20) +10
Pilum of Fire (CrIg 20) +10

Spells and Arts assigned more or less at random.
This character cannot cast spells, be they formulaic or ritual - all her magic comes in devices.

An alternate version could be made with high Communication and Great Teacher, in order to write awesome books and generally share around knowledge within the Order. This version would likely substitute Craft: Jewelery and Philosophiae for Teaching 3, and might will be of another house (Bonisagus? Jerbiton?)

Thanks to the magic of MetaCreator I've been through several variations. And then each variation gets a tweak.
I've not gotten to a point where I think the challenges of playing the character are interesting to me.

Such a character could be a great Certamen duelist; maybe an "almost failed apprentice" originally trained by the Tremere but later abandoned because magically crippled by some lab accident (HoH:TL tell us Tremere don't want cripples). Appropriate Virtues would include Minor Magical Focus in Certamen and Harenarius (from HoH:TL, the Tremere section).

If the character's specialties for dueling include Creo and Corpus, the crippled mage could also be a pretty decent Longevity specialist. Not as good as someone with a Minor Focus in Longevity, but from my experience anyone who specializes in Creo and Corpus can still get sufficient lab totals.

Finally, the character could have Subtle Opening of the Arts (from HMRE), meaning that Hermetic Arts do not count against learning other Magical Supernatural Abilities. If you cannot cast spells, suddenly being able to learn another tradition of magic becomes far more worthwhile.

I don't think Certamen is all that fun, it's a die rolling exercise. Creo Corpus as primary Arts, and then selecting two others as secondary arts, in case the choice gets vetoed, would make a viable character, being good at Longevity Rituals isn't a bad thing.

As far as other Supernatural abilities, that's certainly a possibility, but I think Unstructured is pretty difficult to play, and one has to work really hard to select an appropriate House more than most concepts I've worked on.

I have to disagree.

First, there's a lot of Order of Hermes Lore, Folk Ken and Guile involved in choosing the right Arts and the right opponent(s) -- as well as the right stakes.

Second, during the fight there's quite a bit of flexibility involved if you can choose between different styles (the Harenarius Virtue is particularly useful for this), and possibly vis use.

It's perfectly valid, I think, to vary this rule. Make a case to your troupe that your character isn't learning many spells in apprenticeship and therefore you can shuffle some of that spell XP back into Arts/Abilities. It makes sense for a character who sucks at Formulaic magic to spend less XP in it. I created a Unstructured Caster character like this; shuffled the 120 XP back into Arts.

If you did want some spells, then think about whether they are spells that you are going to cast.
If they are spells that you are going to cast, then my advice is to select ones that you don't want to cast very often, have long durations, are high magnitude, that don't need to Penetrate, and you won't want to cast in a hurry. These are probably going to be utility spells with Sun or Moon duration that solve some specific, but uncommon, problem. Things like radically changing your appearance for a day, breathing underwater for a day, etc.
If they are not spells that you are going to cast, then select ones which are valuable --- so that you can sell/trade the Lab Texts, or at least give them to your sodales.

You may also want to learn formulaic spells similar to effects you want to enchant into items, as this will give you a bonus to your lab total.

Arguably, all that is true, but it is nothing more than a die rolling exercise. SG's can certainly decide to provide bonuses based on very detailed descriptions of the phantasms involved (but that's not really RAW), but beyond that, once certamen has begun, there's not much beyond picking the attacking art, the defending art and making the die rolls, repeat until finished. Then this character attempting to engage a Tremere is certainly ill-advised, they have an overwhelming advantage to certamen with their focus. While it isn't impossible to win against a Tremere in certamen, they have a very wicked advantage, that normally far exceeds the randomness of the die rolls.
Yes, tactics can come into play in the lead up to the contest, but beyond that, the actual process of certamen, to me, is much less engaging than combat is generally.

Just ran into another roadblock. When considering Richard Love's suggestion:

This would be tolerable, if it weren't for the blasted Long Term Fatigue one accrues casting Ritual spells, even when the roll exceeds the spell level. The more I look at this flaw, the more heinous it becomes.
So, let's start with some story the proposed magus is on, and he knows he's going to need the benefit of a particular 7th magnitude spell that he happens to know. What the spell is doesn't really matter, the point is that he takes nearly two hours to cast it and in the process consumes 7 pawns of vis. All of his grogs and companions are annoyed with him, or he woke up early to do the formulaic casting, but we'll handwave the effects of waking up 2 hours early. We'll assume that his CT-Spell Level is 0 or higher, so he has tired himself out a bit, and is at Winded for the rest of the day, until he sleeps (which, in the case of a Sun duration spell is ludicrous). Later on, he needs to cast a spell, and he has to expend fatigue to get it off, so he becomes Winded, and has to rest for 10 minutes. Later on, he gets into a combat situation and has to cast 3 spells, dropping him to dazed, and he requires nearly 2 hours of rest afterwards to recover, but he can't, because he used his arts to allow them to disengage in combat and now they're running for their lives.

Most magi have some flexibility around their specialties. I'm finding it very difficult to design one such that he is viable immediately post gauntlet[1]. I'm convinced that a character designed like this would be an interesting NPC concept, but for a player it is extremely difficult to do. This might be an interesting flaw to inflict upon a character as a result of Warping, too. Of course, only if the player was interested in playing that out. Such a magus would be well advanced in years, and have quite of bit of learning under his belt.

[1] This is a personal idiosyncrasy of mine. Any character I design has to be viable post gauntlet. Viability, to me, means being able to stand up independent of a covenant, if necessary, having some sort of offensive spell capability (at least one spell) that can easily be cast. I have no doubt I could make him viable adding a decade or two onto his age.

It is a pain, but this is why you are mostly casting Spontaneous spells. This is why I suggest you shuffle as many of the apprenticeship 120 XP spell levels onto Arts as your troupe will allow.

Also, if your formulaic spell is Moon duration, you just cast the spell the day before its effect is really needed. And then get a good night's sleep before you go out to cause mayhem.

An Unstructured Caster has no trouble using Spontaneous magic offensively, or making and using offensive enchanted items.

I think this also conflates the idea of a character who is "viable" in-character, and a character who is viable as part of a story. The point of the character generation system is to make characters who are viable protagonists in a story. And an important component of most stories is the covenant. So a character who relies on his sodales for some functions is actually extremely viable as a story character, in a conventional ArM5 story. He has strong reasons to want to be part of a covenant and strong reasons to be personally concerned about threats to the covenant and his sodales.

Unstructured Caster is clearly the wrong Flaw if you want a magus character who is good at Formulaic magic, no arguments there. However, there are plenty of viable magus characters who are not good at Formulaic magic.