Using Vis for spontaneous magic

My understanding of the rules is that using vis boosts the casting score which, for spontaneous magic, is then divided to produce a final result. This makes vis not such a great tool for achieving high level effect, or effects depending on penetration, when the magi doesn't otherwise know a formulaic spell. Is this your reading of the rule as well? Do you house rule it away to apply the bonus after the division to keep vis effective for spont?

You seem to be implying +2/pawn is a worthwhile bonus* and not a waste of vis in most situations. But yes, you add and then divide meaning it only adds +1.

/* Yes, there are times it is absolutely necessary but those should be only the direst situations where no other method of improving penetration is possible.

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That is indeed what the rules say.

You can't "keep" vis effective for spontaneous magic, since it is fairly ineffective to start with even for formulaic spells.

It is not supposed to be easy to generate high level effects with spontaneous magic, so no reason to make adding vis more effective than it already is.

Likewise, you normally don't use spontaneous spells if you want a good penetration score, and if you do need penetration you are far better off boosting your penetration bonus than your casting total.


Our house rule is: 1 pawn of vis adds +5 to any casting (or certamen) total, but you can only use 1 pawn/5 levels in each of the two Arts involved. You can't use vis with non-fatiguing spontaneous magic.

This means that:

  1. the "maximum boost" from vis is effectively adding a magus' Arts to the total -- which is the current maximum boost for (fatiguing) spontaneous magic, and half the current boost for formulaic and ritual spells and certamen.
  2. a magus has to spend much less vis to achieve the same results: one fifth of the current expenditure for spontaneous magic and two fifths of that for other uses.

It is an extreme departure from the current rules, but we found it works vasty better: magi end up using vis for spellcasting/certamen much more often, and when they do it it's not nearly as unbalancing in terms of penetration or certamen resolution.


Interesting, Ezzelino. Thanks for sharing.

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I think spontaneous magic is just not suppose to achieve high level effect nor effects depending on penetration, so I don't use-rull having vis being devided by 2.

I have to say, I like the idea of increasing the bonus for a pawn of vis for spell casting while limitating the maximum bonus (I won't go until +5 for a pawn but still)

That's exactly the idea. Before, vis use for spellcasting/certamen was a big problem for us, because it always felt like there were few magical challenges PCs could not face if they were willing to pay the cost -- and the cost was always very, very, very steep, so much that after paying it the PCs felt as if they'd lost even if they'd won.

A little like a house rule I once saw enacted: the PCs could win any combat automatically as long as a magus or companion was crippled in the fight, gaining an appropriate Flaw in the process (e.g. missing eye or disfigured, or even some hermetic flaw due to trauma or a mystical mishap) or losing an appropriate Virtue. Any player could "cripple" one of his characters and narrate the victory.
While this appeared cool on paper -- the players could always keep the story on track, and occasionally they were forced to make choices of great dramatic impact -- in reality it soon emerged it hurt the game immensely. It removed fear of defeat, while at the same time making victories pyrrhic. The storyguide had an immense temptation to to throw "sacrifice-or-lose" challenges to heighten tension at least once per story if not more often, plus he could afford to be less careful in encounter design because there was always a way out. As a result the players just feel abused, thrown helplessly into lose-lose situations.

It was one of the deepest lessons in game design I got: "just say yes, but add an interesting twist" is by no means the same as "make them know you'll say yes and it will cause them grief". I guess it might work in games of "helpless horror" though ...

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Is that a bad thing? Sure, if it happens every time, it is, but that's not what we are talking about, is it?

Your houserule for +5/pv is interesting. It addresses a very profound problem I have with the entire vis economy. Once you start using vis, e.g. if you specialise in certain feats of magic, you need an unsustainable lot of it. Most characters hardly use any, unless the redcaps run an efficient mail order book shop, in which case the players want to use all they have. Your proposal means an opportunity use a little bit of vis and have a real benefit.

If you apply the same +5 to longevity rituals, I would be worried though.

A beginning magus in his speciality, could roughly double his spontaneous spell levels for 4p of vis, achieving fourth or fifth magnitude instead of second or third. How does this affect the incentive to learn formulaic spells in your experience?

But that's the problem. The fact that the opportunity was there, meant that it ended up happening every story. Maybe it was just us but ... I can definitely say that I felt pushed into that sort of pattern myself when I was the beta SG.

No, no, seasonal expenditures are not affected!

It does not affect it, in my experience. I mean, if you know you'll probably need a spell on a regular or semi-regular basis, you still just learn the formulaic -- or commission an enchanted device. 4 pawns to get 4 magnitudes in a spontaneous spell is not a cost you want to keep paying over and over :slight_smile: