Using Lab Texts for Research

Right now, from what I understand, a lab text can only be used to duplicate the work described in it. If it's about a spell, it makes it easier to learn the spell. If it's about an enchanted item, it helps produce more identical items in the same time.

So basically, if you're powerful enough that lab text is useful for you, but if you're not powerful enough it's useless. And once you've used it, it has no more use for that specific magus, since he now has his own version of it, written over the season it was used.

Could there be more use for lab texts? For example, could they be used for study and reasearch as well?

Let's say that a magus is not yet powerful enough to learn a spell described in a lab text. Would it not make sense that, by studying that lab text and working in his lab, he can gain insights into magic, or possibly invent a similar less powerful spell more easily? It would seem intuitive to think so.

Picture a magus who, as one of his long-term goal, wants to be able to learn and cast Hermes Portal (ReTe 75). Out of apprenticeship that is out of his reach, but nevertheless is has secured a lab text describing the spell. Now and again, he comes back to that lab text, trying to understand the spell. Each time he studies it, it provides small new insights about that specific magic, based on his own improving Arts, but he still cannot use it. He create spells that are more limited in power based on it, but each time they only cover one part of it. After decades of work, he finally is able to learn the spell, but now has a host of similar magics learned throughout those years. (This sounds much more realistic that what we usually do as players: calculate the Lab Total and decide if the magus can learn the spell. Yes? Do it. No? Well, do something else this season, as that lab text is useless now.)

How would you describe something like this under the current rules? Would it be under Pratice for Arts? What about spell invention? A very small bonus to his lab total, replacing the similar spell bonus (let's say half the usual bonus)?

Just random thoughts...

I would buy it as multiple scores;

Lab Text Hermes Portal 75/Tractus Rego 9/Summae Terram level 10, quality 9

This reflects a book with multiple benefits.

Going directly to your example, The Hermese Portal spell is a bad example, since there isn't even another guideline under ReTe that allows for this kind of transport. Further, I have problems with this approach of imparting knowledge of the TeFo. Being able to make use of a lab text presumes that the lab total is at least 1+the level of the spell. It would necessarily discuss items that are beyond the knowledge of someone who's less educated in the TeFo.

Consider organic chemistry. A student working in organic chemistry, without a solid basis in chemistry is just going to be lost, and learn very little from the class because he doesn't have a proper foundation.

I'm a big fan of doing books like this. Gives them more character. Even played around with rules that make combined texts a little cheaper on build points. Also I've tried to come up with parallel system that improves writing and/or copying. Never really settled on a system for the that I love though.

The one we used last was that an author who writes a book with two scores has to devote as much time as he would writing each text plus one season, so they are actually harder to write. In return we said a book with two scores has a quality bonus of +1 not cumulative with clarification. A book with three or more scores has +2, also not cumulative with clarification.

If you clarify a combined text the larger bonus is used. So you would have to get at least a +2 clarification bonus to affect a double tome and a full +3 to improve anything more extensive. This makes books with multiple scores more valuable in general while not raising the upper limits of what is available. Also while there are good reasons to write them they require a more substantial time commitment. Providing an explanation for why every book isn't a combination of three tractati, two summa and a Lab Text.

Never really an issue in my group but the SG should have final say on what and how many topics can go together. Or you could come up with some hard and fast rules.

Serfs Parma can you practice Arts? Otherwise I prefer keeping what qualifies as "Practice" pretty open ended. If it sounds reasonable go for it. I'd rather listen to creative explanation of what a character is doing for a season then just an, "I practice Penetration"

It is not RAW but something I might do is allow variable quality

If your art score is 5 or less, quality is 6
If your art score is 6-8, quality is 8
If your art score is 9+ quality is 7

With all sorts of varients so that quality is based on your understanding of topic. Not enough and you can't get enough out of it. Too much knowledge, it seems simplistic and slow for you.

I could also see things like Tractus, Quality 10, Max 10 so those with over 10 in the art won't benefit from the tractus. It is too simple.

There is, indeed. Ancient Magic p.8 describes the Lab Texts of magi who gained Insight when studying sources of - yes - Ancient Magic. Lab texts with which another researcher can create an effect that results also in breakthrough points for him.


Indeed, the Hermes Portal might be a somewhat extreme example. And the the parallel with scince is a valid one. On the other hand, even if you only have a basic understanding of Polish (the language), reading and studying poetry in Polish will help you improve your Polish skills, even though it does not explicitly cover the basics of grammar, sentence construction and so on.

So let's try something else as examples. I'll put some tentative numbers on what I would have in mind.

First, a general spell. Say the magus has a lab text with Aegis of the Hearth level 50. But his lab total in ReVi is only 36, so he can't learn the spell. Should the lab text be useful to invent Aegis of the Hearth at level 20, for which he doesn't have a lab text? Let's say it gives a +5 bonus to the lab total (half the similar spell bonus). Won't make a huge difference (means he can invent it in 1 season instead of 2), but means that the lab text is useful after all. And AotH is a staple of Magic Theory, so pondering the lab text and studying from it might be a Practice Source with Quality 4 in Magic Theory, Rego and Vim. (It might also be used as a reference text for Original Research in providing magic resistance, but I haven't looked into them in details, so I can't say I would assign a significant bonus or not.)

Second, a more specific spell. Now the magus has a lab text for the spell Incantation of the Body Made Whole (CrCo 40). His lab total is only 30, so he can't use the lab text to learn the spell. studying it, though, gives him insights to help him develop a variant of The Chirurgeon's Healing Touch that heals a Medium Wound (so CrCo 25). A small +4 bonus to his Lab Total is granted by the lab text, meaning he will be able to invent the spell in 2 seasons instead of 3. Also, since the spell is above his CrCo capabilities, he can use the text as a basis to Practice his Creo and Corpus arts with a Quality of 4.

None of these bonuses are earth-shattering, nothing even close to what a lab text usually provide as a bonus, or the kind of learning Quality another method would provide. What it does add, however, is flavour. And libraries that don't have an ON/OFF switch as to what text is or isn't useful.

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Also Serf's Parma, but I seem to remember that no, you can't Pratice Arts. That's always seemed strange to me. Why not allow it, but with a low quality (3 to 6)? The better the conditions (high aura, magical phenomenom or creature, etc.), the better the quality. Less risky than raw vis, but also slower.

No, practice isn't allowed the MRB indicate Studying Vis is the equivalent.

Good point. I'll have to take a look at it when I get home (only in a couple of days, unfortunately).

Honestly, when I read this, I'm thinking what kind of poor covenant is this magus a part of? Is this a pre-planning exercise in the event of poor book choices/purchases for the members or something? We don't have a Corpus expert, nor a corpus book, but we have The Chirurgeon's Healing Touch text to learn from.

I'm not trying to be abstruse, I'm just trying to understand the circumstances. I'm a self-admitted specialized magus bigot. I tend to go for 1 or two specialty techniques and a max of 3 forms, generally, and focus on those, of course, there may be exceptions. I wonder what circumstances leads a character to try and learn the AoH 50 before they're ready. It could be sleep deprivation, but I'm not seeing a good reason, unless books on Arts are extremely rare and valuable.

I understand the urge to limit Tractati with a max level like Summae, but I like them having their own identity. While Summae are like text books; limited mostly by the knowledge of the author and the depth they go into the field. I see Tractati as the equivalent of Scholarly Papers (Essays, Theses, Articles, Dissertations Etc.) on specific subjects within a field of study.

Scholars improve their understanding of their field by reading such focused works even when the individual scholar has advanced far beyond any available textbooks. Leaders in a field keep abreast of all the literature to increase the scope and clarity of their knowledge, even when it is written by people who are far behind them in expertise. A poorly written paper submitted by a peer is conceivably less informative then a well written paper done by a novice.

Yes the further you get in a field the less any individual paper will add to your understanding. This point of diminishing returns is already well modeled, IMO, by the increase in amount of xp it takes to go up each level. I think giving Tractati a level limit or dropping their quality when the reader has greater skill is double dipping into this effect.

Acutally, it is more of the nature of an exercise, as I am doing a season-by-season advancement of a magus. Since that magus has a Focus in portals, and a long-term goal of learning Hermes Portal, it got me thinking. (From this point on, let's forget about the specific spell, as we already established that this might not be the best example.)

As players, we know the numbers. What Lab Total is needed to learn a specific spell? Not there yet? Keep studying, it's no use trying to learn it, so don't bother with the lab text.

Characters don't think like that. If they have a goal or benchmark, they'll try to test themselves against it every so often. And learn from the attempts. In a case like this, in character the magus would try to learn the spell but fail. What would he learn from the attempt? Not much, at first, since he is so far from being able to understand such advanced magic. But, as he gets closer to being able to learn the spell, he might gain something from the attempt. He might be able to develop a lower-version of the spell, with the lab text helping him do that. He might get better at the relevant Arts, because reading the detailed notes of a more advanced magus regarding the spell leads to insights. It's not as good as reading a tractatus or a summa, but not wasted time either.

So this is about thinking of a broader approach to lab texts, and making their usefulness more flexible, although not greatly so. And it does make even a moderate library something that magi would keep going to for more insights, even after they've gone through all the tractatus in a specific Art. Particularly if they don't want to burn huge quantities of vis to improve their Art slowly (and with less risk).

Hope this helps to understand where I'm coming from.

My own research methodology involves me finding numerous texts. If one is too dense, I'll refer to others and then come back to it. So, the Lab Text is too dense for me to understand, and I have to go look at something else to get it to make sense. Granted, the timeframe is vastly accelerated, but I think the principle is the same. If the words on the page aren't making any sense, you're going to go onto something else, put it away and come back to it later. You can't learn anything when the words on the page frustrate your efforts.

I think the Ars system for learning Arts separate from spells works. And if a magus isn't prepared to learn a spell that they know is in their library, they'll put it up and keep plugging away on other projects or improving the TeFo combo to get to it.

While I don't disagree that it's a good approach to learning, it seems very modern to me -- and presupposes a wide availability of texts. Very black and white also.

In real life, I may have to read a text that's a bit too advanced for me. Some parts I will understand fine, while others parts I'm less comfortable with. But even if I don't understand everything from it, I still learn from it. The parts I don't understand, I start digging somewhere else until I get it. Or I just let go of that part and focus on the part that interests me. It can also help me put different things together, providing new understanding.

Now, imagine that you had to wait a year or two before you could get your hands on a bunch of new texts, and you had those "too-advanced" texts sitting there. Would you think: "Well, I don't understand half that stuff so I'll just do something else." Or would you think: "Okay, let's give that one another try, I know there's valuable info in there, if I can just wrap my mind around what the writer meant." (On a side note, the second one fits perfectly with the medieval concept of Authorities -- great books that you can study over and over again, even though you learn just a little bit more each time.)

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