Vis Economics of the Order

I've been number crunching way too much, but I've to the conclusion that the Vis economy generally portrayed in the books doesn't work. I'll try and explain...

First, some assumptions about the Order and Vis

  1. The Order is 1000 magi strong.

  2. Each site (covenant or chapter house) is made up of 5 magi, giving us 200 sites requiring a single Aegis of the Hearth ritual - this assumption is very vague and is based off this being a TTRPG...aka 5 players

  3. The average Aegis of the Hearth ritual is Lvl30 - again, another vague assumption...

  4. Therefore, each year, the Order spends 1200vis on Aegis of the Hearth rituals

  5. Vis produced from sources/finds is evenly distributed between all Arts.

So, those are my assumptions. Now some scenarios.

Moderate Vis
Ref: ArM Core pg 218

10 pawns of vis per magus per year.

This generates 10,000 pawns per year across the Order. Providing, on average 666 pawns of vis per Art
This only just manages to cover the cost of the Orders requirements for its Aegis rituals, if all available Rego and Vim vis are used. But then leaves a surplus of 8,800 vis in other Arts, a truly excessive amount. The stockpiles of other types of Vis become irrelevant. Vim is most certainly the most valuable form of Vis, as without it, magi cannot create any enchanted devices, and it must be generated via Magi performing Vis extraction, a time consuming process.

Low Vis
Ref: ArM Core pg 218

5 pawns of vis per magus per year.

This generates 5,000 pawns per year across the Order. Providing, on average 333 pawns of vis per Art
This fails to cover the cost of the Orders requirements for its Aegis rituals. Then leaves a surplus of 3,800 vis in other Arts, still a truly excessive amount and we still suffer the same issues as the previous paragraph.

My own rate

10 pawns of vis per site per year

This generates 2,000 pawns per year across the Order. Providing on average 130vis per Art.
This completely fails to cover the cost of the Aegis rituals. But it then only leaves a surplus of 800 vis, something far more manageable (but still alot). I get this yearly rate by having vis sources as wealth boons, at 1/10th of their equivalent silver value.

Without utilising the High vis suggestion on page 218 of core, the Order's vis economy doesn't really function in regards to what types of vis are available for the basic functions of the Order. And even using the Low vis suggestion, the amount of vis within the Order overall is excessive and largely useless. Changing vis source assumptions to be based upon per covenant, instead of per magus, allows the total vis in the order to be more sensible, but then completely cripples its ability to perform basic functions (Aegis, enchantments)...

At my own table, I manage this by making vis universal instead of divided by Art. It nukes hermetic alchemy into the floor and changes the role of House Mercere somewhat, but I find the overall effect more immersive, and less hassle to track various types of vis.

Anyway, those are some random Sunday morning thoughts, interested if others have considered the wider Order's vis economy and what conclusions they came to :slight_smile:


Try to take into consideration ArM5 p.94 Vis Extraction, and the ways labs can be built and specialized for this (see Covenants p.113ff Laboratory Virtues and Flaws). So it is: the less Vim Vis found, the more Vis extraction labs built and used in favorable places.

But in cases of extreme Vis shortage - both Vim Vis and Magic Auras extremely rare - the Order will also cut down on Rituals in general, and the Aegides in particular.


As One Shot says, vis extraction is going to be a thing - yes it's a pain and a waste of time (and potentially risks damaging the aura if you're using the Realms of Power: Magic rules), but a lot of covenants have magi owing seasons of service this can be used for.

I think you're underestimating the average size of a covenant - in the covenants in the various tribunal books, you only get a few covenants with fewer than four magi, and some of them have over twenty magi. It seems to vary a bit by tribunal - Normandy has a several small covenants, whereas Provencal has some huge ones. PC covenants probably shouldn't be taken as typical in this regard (and even in those cases, some will be junior members of a larger covenant rather than out on their own).

Rego and Vim aren't the only types of vis that there will be high demand for - Creo and Corpus in particular are useful for longevity rituals and healing. That said, I would imagine that yes, some types of vis are more sought after than others. The less popular ones probably get used more for purposes where the art of the vis doesn't matter, such as feeding to magical animals.

It's probably not true that vis source distribution is even, but exactly what types are more common is going to be very subjective. I'd personally lean towards corpus being relatively common (particularly from Personal Vis sources), Animal having a relatively high supply from going out and killing stuff, and Imaginem and Mentem being harder to collect and therefore rarer.

I also wonder about level 30 being the standard Aegis- with penetration requirements that would mean a casting level of 60 ReVi. It may not be exceptionally difficult, but I doubt that every covenant would be able to muster this. Dropping the average aegis to 20 means a Europe-wide demand for only 800 Re or Vim vis per year. Also vis levels for a campaign may not be throughout the order. If you are playing a low vis campaign in Normandy there may be vis being imported from Novgorod where vis levels are higher.

The variability across the Order is difficult to account when doing this sort of thought experiment, but thats when we just have to work with averages :frowning: House Mercere provides us the means to re-distribute vis wealth from rich to poor areas.

Regarding Aegis Level; Forgot about penetration, but as a ritual also must be at least lvl20, do we go with an average of lvl20, and ignore the (probably) few covenants that utilise a higher Aegis ??

200 Covenants in Europe is high, I agree and I initially worked with a lower number, but then I considered the large covenants of some tribunals which have multiple sites - no reason to assume that those magi wouldn't want the same protection, hence I decided to scale it back up to 200.

The value of Vim vis - requiring magi to spend time on Vis Extraction makes Vim vis even more valuable than other Forms. Spending a few hours, or even a few days to collect a vis source is trivial. Spending an entire season 'collecting' Vim vis is not. Therefore it is inherently more valuable. Spending X number of seasons customising your lab for Vis Extraction is not trivial either. Adding specialisation for Rego or Vim is at least more flexible and useful, but still.

I also didn't include it in my assumptions, but in all of the published example covenants, how often do we still a Vim vis source - almost never. So in all likelihood, Vim vis is a rarer form of vis source, increasing it value even further.

I guess it also comes down to how paranoid magi are in your saga - are they comfortable not having an Aegis...

Of the 5 covenants in "Through the Aegis", one has two vis sources (4 and 8 pawns), one has one (8 pawns), and one has a source giving various Forms which may include 1-10 vim (x1-3) (so less than 2 pawns a year on average). So it's not that rare. Most of the covenants in tribunal books don't go into that much detail on the sources of the individual covenants, but there are sometimes descriptions of vis sources across the countryside. I can't be bothered to go through all of those doing a frequency analysis, but it's true I don't remember a lot of vim.

I'd just chime in to reiterate that not all vis types are equally common (Animal and Herbam vis are probably more common than Intellego vis, for example); but perhaps more importantly, vis availability is not independent of needs. A magus/covenant consistently in need of a few types of vis is more likely to hunt down, and thus obtain, vis of that type: e.g. if for some reason Ignem vis were all the rage, you'd see a lot of covenants founded on volcanoes or torrid deserts, conjuring/hunting/bargaining with supernatural creatures associated with fire (Pukis comes to mind), and so on.

I do think that an average of 1 pawn/magus/year spent on your aegis (very slightly less than the 30/5/5=1.2 in the example) is a reasonable ballpark. Small covenants might spend a bit more (particularly since you can't drop below 4 pawns, barring exceptional circumstances) and large covenants less (I think there are significantly more covenants with a dozen members than covenants with an Aegis above 10th magnitude).

Yes, I think the numbers seem reasonable. Which means the book's numbers are too high. Well, perhaps we can rescale them -

  • The Order requires about 1200 pawns per year for its Aegis, i.e a bit above 1 pawn per magus.
  • Magic Item Creation, including Familiar bonds and Talismans, should also require a lot of raw vis. I can imagine it taking up another 1 to 2 pawns per year per magus.
  • Longevity also requires some, let's say 1 pawn per magus per year.
  • Healing spells I think should be rather rare; not every magus sees combat like PCs. So, perhaps, 0.5 pawns per magus per year?

So a "vis poor" Order has just about as much as it needs to take care of these basics, with a little left over. Which sounds more like a moderate level of raw vis. Official "Moderate vis" brings in a surplus of about 5 pawns per magus per year, which, yes, can really stack up. Even with extravagant and costly projects, I fail to see how the Order can use more than 7 pawns per magus per year.

So, I'd suggest the following raw vis levels (in pawns per magus per year):

Poor vis - 3. Enough to have the Aegis, Longevity, and Healing, but with little left for magic items, other Ritual spells, or so on.

Moderate vis - 5. Enough to provide for all the basic needs, with enough surplus to make other uses of magic (other Ritual spells, learning from vis, etc.) acceptable.

Rich vis - 7. Enough to support extravagant projects, for a setting with many more minor magic items, high-MT magic item craftsmen with numerous extravagant creations, societies and perhaps even Houses that learn primarily through raw vis (Bjornaer?), high-throughput theurgical cults, and so on.

This should include vis finds as well as permanent vis sources, so actual vis source supply should be even less.

And it should be made clear that vis supply is generally not equal across the Arts. I'd suggest that generally there should be a lot more Vim, to make up the far greater need for Vim vis of the Order, and that in a typical saga more material vis such as Terram or Ignem is more available than more abstract vis such as Muto or Mentem.

There was a nice house rule about vis economics on the Light of Andorra web, Hermetic Economics Theory:

As for this thread assumptions, that 'theory' states that half vis sources are of Vim. It's one of the most useful arts and also one of the easiest ones to get through extraction, and both things pretty much balance making it as valuable as any other form. About its inherent value because extracting required a whole season, it's already been pointed that many covenants require seasons of work from magi, and extracting vis is one of the most useful tasks to put upon a magus. Also, if you have a nice tweaked lab for vis extraction, which can be rather cheap and helpful (getting a Great Feature / Major Focus combo can just grant you a +7 to vis extraction, and you can have a couple of these), your lab total can be so high that you can have that magus doing other administrative tasks suffering a lab distraction and still make him get an useful ammount of Vim for your yearly Aegis expenditure.

Ok, I know: not half of the vis sources in Covenants or anywhere else are of Vim, but I think that's pretty much a requirement for things to run smoothly. After all these sources shouldn't be hard to design. Think that many magical spirits have the Presence power, which makes the areas where they exist generate vis, that due to the spirits' alignments can often be just Vim vis.

The Mercere book is pretty clear that Vim is both relatively common, very much used, and probably mainly extracted.

It is also clear that Technique vis is uncommon, and the next time I run a game, I will probably drop Technique vis and just use form since that makes more sense given the other materials in the game.

Over all Vis is poorly handled, with the game line making both a big deal about it, providing lots of it, and making it completely unclear how different vis realms are handled across the Order and other traditions. (This is my biggest gripe in the game I think).

Also, note that large % of the vis your calculating should/could be other realm. Fairy and Infernal vis must make it through and traded, especially if your ratcheting down the world wide vis totals. Sure Merinita are fine with the fairy, but it can and should be bothersome to other magi, and is vis is really low, then you will find magi interested in using infernal vis if nothing else is available.

Also, some users consume much much more vis. The Mercarian Cult, for example, should use a ton of it (Provence and Roman tribunals), likewise corpus vis is probably hard to find (at least for the squeamish) and in high demand. House Teremre is known to stockpile this and other vis... for emergencies. Verditius probably use a ton more than others, but other pay them. the Redcaps have about 200 to 300 redcaps (unGifted) and each get at least 1 level of improvement for stuff a year (so add a magnitude every 5) so thats about 40 pawns/year, + 10 pawns for the cost for new items, at a minimum, maybe double that depending on what they are ordering ~100 pawns a year?. (... well that is actually a lot less than I was expecting!)

There's a huge difference between the amount of vis in published material and what you actually see in people's sagas. Looking at the play-by-post sagas here and the ones linked to on Project Redcap, it's clear that players love to get as many of their build points into vis as they can persuade their SG is wise. Also, discovering new vis sources as the saga progresses or characters deliberately hunting vis can lead to vis inflation for a player character covenant.

The vis economy in turn leads into every other aspect of hermetic trade - the price of books, how much it costs to buy a longevity ritual, availability of magic items to buy. Without a vis-rich economy, a whole lot of projects from Hermetic Projects and Transforming Mythic Europe become impractical.

We're also neglecting the other side of the vis economy - how many magi have the virtues that reduce vis costs? Mercurian magi may use a lot of vis as they are ritual specialists, but those rituals only cost half as much so they can cast rituals for other magi for less than those magi could cast it, while still making a profit. How many holy magi and leper magi put their energy or life-blood into vis-intensive processes? How many people use Hermetic Alchemy to extract vis? How many use Celestial magic to reduce the need for Vim Vis for enchantments?

I've never seen anyone use Extractor of (Form) Vis from RoP:M - being able to extract one form as easily as you can extract Vim isn't seen as valuable enough to be worth a minor virtue.

People do seem very keen on Imbued with the Spirit of (Form) but never seem to explain how their character got this and the emotional reaction of creatures associated with that Form never seems to come up.

Merinita seem to come out quite well - Faerie merinita will happily use Magic or Faerie vis, and Wilderness merinita have access to their Nature Lore (which at level 6 allows you to find vis in your favourite terrain, although how much and how often is unspecified), and can get Wilding which can fuel rituals but not much else.

I would go the other way. You've made certain assumptions, and you have shown these do not generate the Vis economy described. That sounds like a proof by counterexample, a proof that your assumptions are incorrect. Now, maybe there is no way to really get it to work right, but maybe there is and you have revealed that it must not be as you assumed.

Where would I seriously question your assumptions? Mostly here:

My impression from the books is that there tend to be fewer covenants or chapter houses per Tribunal than this, meaning there are more magi per site and fewer Aegis of the Hearth rituals required. Even just changing that number from 5 to 8 makes a rather large difference in the amount of Vis being spent on these rituals.

First, as others mentioned, Technique vis is supposedly less common. So it really shouldn't be so evenly distributed. Second, should the Forms really be so balanced? Even just looking at magical sources, I wouldn't expect such balance. Partly, consider where you have to be if you have a Study Requirement and an Art score above 5 or 10. Take Auram, for example. It seems hard to figure out where you'd get something so especially associated with air that you could regularly extract it. Compare that to Animal or Herbam, where you could come up with all sorts of ideas in any magical forest. Even Aquam and Terram should be easier that Auram since they're associated with more tangible physical objects. Ignem? I would expect it in volcanoes and maybe super hot or super cold spots, which I would think would rule out most of Mythic Europe, though certainly not all of it. But how about Vim? That's immediately associated with every magical environment, not just those associated with other Forms. Consider how easy it is to study Vim up into the 20s with Study Requirement. It wouldn't surprise me if half the sources provide Vim. And then, on top of this, magi can extract Vim Vis to add to what the sources themselves provide. What happens if your ratio Technique: non-Vim Form: Vim is something like 1: 2: 20 (so nearly half of the Vis from sources is Vim)? I'm not saying that in particular is a good ratio, but maybe something leaning more this direction will result in the right Vis economy. Fiddle with the ratio a bit to figure out what seems to make everything work.

If you dont use the Tribunal books, the OP's (Kal's) assumption is expected, but I agree, most covenants should have more Magi. Even the starting covenants are normally considered small, attracking other Magi and Apprentices as time goes one.

In addition, if you DO use the Tribunal books, you end up seeing Covenants with wildly divergent cultures. this one is a castle, this one is a Castle and a Manor, and also this forest, this one is is actually a Political affiliation (looking at YOU Against the Dark!), this one is actually a whole slew of single magi or small groups of magi living all over God Green Earth.

If for example, I was a Magi of stature, but living in one of those far flung and non-centralized Covenants, I sure as heck would want my own Aegis... even if it is just my small house in the woods.

In the end it probably balances... more bigger covenants, but also sites that are protected that are not what we might consider a normal covenant. Whats to stop (other than being Code Abiding) a magi from very very quietly using a moderate Aegis around an ally's home. Or using it to exclude a demon from an infernal aura, or ... make up a scenario here. The books give us one view into how an Aegis is used (Protecting Covenants), but it is SOOO versatile! Sure it costs a good deal of Vis... but this goes back to the question of : how much Vis is there?

Consider it v. Personal Vis Source. Unless you really invest in your CrVi(Fo) lab total, you're probably not getting lab totals significantly above 50. Meanwhile, 4 or 5 pawns/year from Personal Vis Source isn't so uncommon. So your gain from Extractor of (Form) Vis over Personal Vis Source is maybe 1 or 2 pawns/year in return for spending a whole season. Is your season really worth only 1 or 2 pawns? Or, another way to look at it: Let's say you get 4 for Personal Vis Source and 5 from CrVi, then over 5 years you get the same amount from Personal Vis Source and 1 season in the lab as you get from Extractor of (Form) Vis and 5 seasons in the lab, though some will be Vim Vis in the case of Personal Vis Source. In such a situation, we see that Personal Vis Source effectively saves you 4 seasons out of every 20 seasons, or 20% of your time, relative to Extractor of (Form) Vis. To me that says Extractor of (Form) Vis is very weak compared to Personal Vis Source. Meanwhile, I can say I've seen lots of PCs with Personal Vis Source while never having seen anyone take Extractor of (Form) Vis.

Not to mention the comparison of Extractor of (Form) Vis vs. Hermetic Alchemy (TMRE p. 39).

I would like to counter the notion that Technique vis is rarer than any other type of vis at the source level. The Redcaps seem to value it at twice the value of form vis, which is to be expected if the distribution of vis was even across all arts.

(If example is needed, ponder the situation that you have 50 mages, one of each TeFo specialisation. These mages only desire their specific Te and Fo vis for personal projects. That would mean each Form vis is in demand by 5 mages and each Technique vis is in demand by 10 mages.)

But maybe the Redcaps are simply generous? Imo the redcap prices are just guidelines and vis distribution is saga specific.

I dont see aegis or longevity being a "reason" for there being more vim sources available. Something being useful does not necessarily make it more plentiful. Apparently extracting vis is a laboratory activity that is done from time to time, if vim vis was readily available I don't see why magi would waste their time on extracting it.

I don't follow this at all. If abundance is not an issue at all, then value would only come down to utility. In terms of utility, how valuable is Technique Vis compared to Form Vis? They are of exactly equal value as far as accomplishing a task. Similarly, as you can use Technique or Form Vis, having both is handy sometimes to split the burden with lower Arts. So where is the extra value for Technique Vis? It's that it can be used for twice as many purposes as Form Vis (10 of 50 TeFo combinations instead of 5 of 50). You can think of it another, equivalent, way instead. How valuable to the user is 1 Technique Vis compared to 2 different Form Vis. You get equal versatility out of them. But in the second case you still have a pawn remaining after you used the first, the second one being half as versatile but still being as effective. So the 1 Technique Vis is only worth slightly more than 1 Form Vis.

Let's look at a real-world equivalent to such versatility. Credit cards are more versatile than cash. Are people willing to pay more for that flexibility? Yes, that's how credit cards work, whether it's the vendor or the seller (rarer, but certainly seen), someone gives up a cut to the credit company. But is that cut on the order of 50% of the sale? No, not even close.

If Technique Vis were equally common with Form Vis, we should see it valued slightly more than Form Vis, but not nearly double the value of Form Vis. If you could actually use 1 Technique Vis in place of 2 Form Vis, then it would be closer to double, even slightly more so. But that's not the case. 5% more? 10% more? Probably somewhere in that ballpark.

If you don't believe me, try this out. Make them equally abundant to a PC covenant, but let the players choose their income on that 2:1 ratio. Unless you run really short on some useful Form (like Corpus for longevity and healing) and people need to fill in the gap, they'll basically all choose Form Vis if they've done any calculation. Why? Because what I said above is true. Technique Vis is only very slightly more valuable to the consumer, but nowhere near the 2:1 ratio.

So, noting that equal distribution should place the value of Technique Vis only slightly higher than the value of Form Vis, why is Technique Vis valued so much? It's clearly not on the demand side. That leaves the supply side. If there is significantly less Technique Vis, then the supply-demand balance will shift the value. So that the Redcaps value it at twice the value of Form Vis indicates Form Vis is far more plentiful than Technique Vis. I don't know how much more plentiful would sustain this 2:1 value, just that Technique Vis must be much rarer.

I'd guess that the comparative cheapness of Vim vis comes from an assumed setting where an overall vis scarcity leads to extraction providing a sizable amount of total vis stocks. Under other game assumptions the relative prices should probably be adjusted.

I think he is saying that since there are half as many Techniques as Forms (or twice as many forms as techniques!). Each technique is used twce as often as the Forms, so it should be twice as expensive. A valid argument give the price matches up.

I still dislike Technique Vis. It doesn't jive well with the presentations of the other Magic systems, and that almost all Magical Beings have Form Vis... the exceptions seem to only have been made when the author wanted something strange, or remembered there was suppose to be Technique Vis.

1 Like

Agreeing so hard that I'm starting to think about houseruling Technique vis out.

1 Like