Using Vis in the Lab vs Assistants' MT

A recent discussion had me wondering. How does having lab assistants impact your vis usage limit?

My basic assumption would be that it doesn't -- the maximum number of pawns that can be used in a season is based on the Magic Theory of the primary magus.


What if one of the helper has a higher MT score? Perhaps that score could be used instead...
What if we said that the assistants contribute to the limit? That would make them even more valuable...

If assistants were to contribute to the limit (not necessarily on the same level as the primary magus), then what would it affect?

  • It would make preparing some of those high-value items for enchantment much more accessible as a collaborative effort. So a Flambeau might be able to enchant that prized ruby with some help from another magus. Preparing a whole ship for enchantment would also become possible without having to bother with the Hermetic Architecture virtue initiation.
  • It would make it possible to prepare longevity rituals for much older magi, as well as for those with the Difficult Longevity Ritual flaw.

What else is capped by the seasonal vis usage limit?

Just a thought...

After re-reading the bit on lab assistants, it seems quite clear to me the assistant only increases the Lab Total for the project, and nothing more (unless I'm missing something). I don't seem to find anything in there to support the vis limit using the assistant's MT, however higher it might be. So it seems to me like House Rule territory. Just my two cents.

On an unrelated note, I just noticed the assistant doesn't actually need to have had her Arts opened or be an Hermetic maga or apprentice at all. All that's requiered is that she has The Gift and a Magic Theory score of at least 1. Odd, I never noticed that.

Indeed, this is certainly House Rule territory. Just wondering what the effects would be.

Arthur was asking about the implications of a house rule allowing more vis to be opened with a combined magic theory total of the leader and assistants.

With the exception of Failed Apprentice, no longer having the Gift and still being add their full Int+Magic Theory to lab totals. But the possibility you suggest is one that's also in the code, about keeping a Gifted assistant and not claiming them as an apprentice.

Back to Arthur's point. I think doing this as a simple House Rule would be bad, in that in invalidates, to some extent, magi with high Magic Theory scores, and also certain Mystery virtues and flaws. It's probably a worthy Hermetic Research idea, as a Hermetic Breakthrough. I also wouldn't simply add all of the Magic Theory scores together to derive a final Magic Theory for the lab project for preparing an item for enchantment, and would instead add up all of the Magic Theory experience and arrive at a Magic Theory score based on the experience total. For example, to magi have MT scores of 6, with XP totals of 108 and 138. I wouldn't allow them to have an MT score of 12 for lab purposes, and would give them an effective score of 9 (which is 225-275 XP). I know it doesn't work this way for traditional lab totals, but I think one needs to tread cautiously about how much vis one can handle in a season...

No, that's a common misreading. Nowhere does is say the Gift is required. The Gift is a sufficient but not necessary condition, but "sufficient" and "necessary" get conflated quite frequently. There are other examples of those without the Gift who can be assistants: Familiars, Failed Apprentices, and faeries via Becoming. So it seems likely some sort of a link to the Gift is necessary, but not the Gift itself.

On the original point: lab assistants can be tremendously powerful as is. I wouldn't dare do that extra bit. We already have a tendency to rule the maximum number of assistants on a pyramid scale using Leadership, less one for familiars. I.e.
Leadership 0 -> Familiar only
Leadership 1 -> 1 assistant
Leadership 2 -> 1 assistant + Familiar
Leadership 3 -> 2 assistants
Leadership 5 -> 2 assistants + Familiar
Leadership 6 -> 3 assistants

Sorry, totally missed that. I don't seem to be on my brightest day today. :blush:

I won't make absolute statements, particularly considering how I seem to be a bit obtuse today, but I just re-read the section on page 103 of the rulebook, and it indeed seems to me that The Gift is required:

Now, I may be mis-reading something, or missing some subtlety here, but I just can't find a way to interpret that as The Gift not being a necessary condition. Could you help me here, please?

The Gift is required, with the exceptions that callen outlined. To provide a bonus in the lab, one must have the Gift, or be an exception as noted in their particular instance (Becoming can still do Hermetic Magic, Familiars are explicitly listed to be able to add Magic Theory +Int to the magus's lab totals, and Failed Apprentice is also explicit). AFAIK, callen mentions all of the exceptions to the Gifted rule and uses a bit of reasoning to say that they all had a connection to the Gift.

I think the one thing that most people can agree upon is that one can't simply teach Magic Theory to any old covenfolk and get them to assist in the lab, and Covenants kind of makes this explicit with a different virtue for a servant, and for an Assistant (although Covenant's uses the same Gifted assistant designation).

Written more clearly as an if-then statement, ignoring the Magic Theory part:

Statement: If someone has the Gift, then that person can assist in the lab.
Converse: If someone can assist in the lab, then that person has the Gift.

Statements do not imply their converses. Here is an example people find easier:

Statement: If it is a dog, then it is an animal.
Converse: If it is an animal, then it is a dog.

Would we read all dogs being animals to imply all animals are dogs? No. So we should not make the same mistake here.

You cannot teach magic theory to any old covenfolk and have them help in the lab (well, actually you can, but under different rules...), but you can teach magic theory and Latin to any old grog and have them copy Tracti.

In covenants there are rules for non-gifted lab assistants (aside from failed apprentices and familiars), they add int/2 (rounding up) to safety, +1 to mentem lab totals, and +1 to aesthetics. Unless you are working with mentem magic they add nothing to the lab total. (this is listed as the free virtue "servant")

Note that a person just hanging around in the lab presents -1 safety, and +1 to either corpus or mentem...

I think I get now what you mean, but let me check just to make sure.

In order to make use of the rule on page 103 of the rulebook and provide the bonus of Int+MT to the Lab Total, you have to have The Gift and also a score of one or more in MT. But that doesn't mean you can't help in the lab in other ways, using rules found elsewhere, with no need for The Gift. But to help in the way described in that section, you need both MT and The Gift. Is this what you mean?

I'm asking because I took your earlier post to mean that The Gift was not necessary for helping as described in page 103, that you only needed MT or The Gift (instead of MT and The Gift). And that's what I didn't understand where came from, using the "or" instead of the "and".

No, that's not what I wrote earlier. Magic Theory is a necessary condition, but it is not a sufficient condition, at least as far we we can tell from everything written. There seem to be two conditions, both of which must be satisfied (so connected by "and"):

  • Magic Theory > 0
  • Some unknown statement that allows for having the Gift, being a Familiar, being a Failed Apprentice, or being a faerie via Becoming

The place Jonathan and I disagree is essentially in semantics, most likely because of our backgrounds. With a background in science I find a rule that fits one situation (which is only slight more than half the possible assistants we tend to see) and requires many and possibly more unknown exceptions not to be a good rule. So I don't consider the rule to be having the Gift and there being exceptions. I consider the rule being closely attuned (have it, used to have it, bound to it) to the Gift and there not being exceptions, knowing I have only come to this rule inductively, fitting it to the data we have. But in the end we have classified the same things as allowed or disallowed, which is why I say it's essentially about semantics.

One difference is that there are a number of supernatural virtues which could be argued as being "attached" to magic which might allow someone to be able to work as an assistant which have not been specified (YSMV) and there exists the possibility of someone becoming attuned to magic through warping to where they can help as an assistant instead of as a servant.

There is also a rather disturbing possibility of infernal magic being used to grant someone a temporary false gift, using that to initiate, then they become a failed apprentice when the false gift fades away... the person involved would not themselves need to be of any infernal bent either...

I'm not sure what you're saying. "One difference" between what?

What are these virtues that are attuned to the Gift?

Callen's inductive reasoning is without fault, and while I like the idea of one rule to bind all possibilities, it's not always practicable. As a term of Art, attuned to the Gift is also unknown, so while it's not terribly likely that the list of exceptions to those who can assist in the lab will grow so large as to be unwieldy, it may not be useful. If we adopt the approach that there has to be some nexus to the Gift, it needs to be well defined, so we don't have exceptions to that rule...

These would be on a saga by aga basis, but the most obvious would be touched by magic, or craft magic- especially as a lab assistant to a verditious. Hermetic inclination in (form) would also be a likely one. Magical virtues which require initiation into hedge magic would be the next "tier" as I would see it- someone who has been brewing potions as a unGifted witch and learns magic theory should be able to have enough practical experience to assist in the lab.

Thanks, that cleared it up. I now understand what you meant, and of course agree with it. Thanks again for your patience explaining it to me. :slight_smile:

A closely related, though not identical, question I have to the OP is about the application of other Virtues/Flaws to Vis used. What about assistants' other Virtues/Flaws that affect Vis use in the lab? For example, does it matter if an assistant has Waster of Vis? Or, if an assistant has Imbued with the Spirit of (Form), can that assistant use the Virtue to reduce the Vis costs?

I would not think so as an asistant

Those are good questions.

My guess would be that, if the assistant's MT were to affect the amount of vis useable in a season by the primary magus, then the assistant virtues should also affect the amount the assistant adds to it.

There are many possibilities for such a House Rule. Let's take one possibility as an example. Say the House Rule states that, for every 3 full points in MT that the assistant has, this adds 1 to the vis use limit for the primary magus. Waster of Vis might mean that for the assistant to add anything to the primary magus' vis limit, he'll need a MT score of 6. That would allow 2 pawns to be used (1 effective, 1 wasted). The flaw would only affect the vis the assistant adds to the limit, not the whole amount. In the same way, an assistant with Imbued with the Spirit of (Form) would only be able to use the virtue for the amount by which he increases the primary magus' limit. So if he has a MT of 3, he only adds 1 to the limit but that can be from a Long-Term Fatigue Level instead of from actual vis. If he had a MT of 6, he could provide 2 pawns to the limit, but his contribution to the Lab Total would be reduced by the effects of the Long-Term Fatigue Levels incurred (he'd be Weary for the whole season).

BTW, I'm not saying that a House Rule like that is desirable. I was just wondering what the impacts would be, both mecanically and on the setting, should it be implemented. It might also be something that a Breakthrough could provide, should a magus decide to research collaborative magic.