Way of the Town (and Mountains, and so on) question

So, I'm working on a setting for a game in a city--London. (I know, there are lots of challenges for mages in towns, but, those aside...) I was looking at potential virtues and flaws my characters might have in this new edition (haven't played since 3rd) and Way of the (Land) jumped out at me. If one of my PCs has Way of the Town, does that actually mean that he gets +3 to all rolls when he's in the town? Everything? The rule seems somewhat vague.

I have two thoughts.

One is that if that's the way the rule works, and the adventure is mainly in the town, this seems like a too-powerful virtue. Surely this must come up a lot, though, for people in other Land types. If your covenant is in the mountains, and you take Way of the Mountains, and most of your adventures are in the mountains, do you end up getting plus three on most rolls?

My second thought is that maybe you do get the plus three, but only if you can come up with some good RPing way to justify it. I get +3 on this combat roll because I know enough to brace brace myself against a wall when fighting on a slick cobblestone street, or whatever. But if every roll is eligible for a +3 in this way, that's eventually going to get tiresome, no?

Am I completely misinterpreting this virtue? How do other people deal with it? I'd love to have a firmer grasp on this before character creation starts next week!

S. Buckler

I'd argue that it only applies to rolls that have an immediate resolution, and never to totals. Say you took Ways of the Town, and your covenant is a town. It would provide a bonus to interacting with people, combat, making friends, etc. However, it wouldn't give a bonus to any sort of Advancement or Lab Total. It also wouldn't give a benefit to any roll you make at the end of a year or season. For example: Aging rolls, rolls to study from vis, etc. I might allow it for particularly thematic, non-cheesy long-term rolls. (Gasp. "This arrow wound is deep. Take me back to my beloved forest; the fresh air and natural beauty will help me regain my strength.")

No one in my saga has taken it, so I haven't had much time to think over it carefully.


One of my players took Way of the Town for our short game set in Venice - I allowed it on anything during actual play - but not advancement totals.

Im planning on revising the campaign for the new year and one of my house rules will be not to allow Way of the Town - as it is just too good as the character pretty gets it all of the time in any stories with the covenant or local area!

Just for reference, the character was a companion that was basically a trader/smuggler - he could talk anyone (mundane at least) out of anything - Presence 3, Baragin 3, Way of the Town 3 - so he way rolling +9 before the actual die roll - it somewhat undermined the Gentle Gift maga with venus's blessing, as he was just as good at talking to people as her (even better in some cases)...his actual magus was a darkness and cold specialist tremere with the balant gift, so the magus really only was played for stories away from Venice


I'm inclined to agree with Jim. With one exception, that is the way I intend to play it with one of my players who's charcter will initiate Way of the Forest (or Mountain, depending). The exception to this will be casting totals since, I posit, part of this awareness from the virtue also allows a magus to tease a bit more magic power out of the aether. If he spends a season or two on refinement of his laboratory (a glade in the forest), I might let him add the three points to enchantment and spell invention totals.

The primary measures are whether the character gets full value for the choices and whether it contributes to an enjoyable game. I'm sure that you will be able to bring plenty ways to challenge the player nonetheless.

Just my two cents.



Not all totals are rolls, and the virtue applies to all rolls "that directly involve that area and its inhabitants."

Study totals are therefore immediately excluded. But social skills with, say, the Lord Mayor, the dockworkers and the guildmaster's daughter all gain the bonus, as does combat. Casting totals? Just being in the area isn't enough to gain the bonus. ReCo on a beggar, sure. But CrIg on him? Maybe not, though I'd allow it. Bear in mind that the bonus applies to the roll, that is, to the casting score. It makes sense that this virtue counteracts the Gift! Those other city slickers are too bedazzled by this fellow's shallow urbanity to see him for the shady blue state customer he is, but out in the heartland it's a different story. Also bear in mind that the farmer or itinerant merchant visiting town is not an inhabitant, and perhaps not even a priest who was the second son of some baron out in the hinterlands, has only been in town for a year or two, spends as much time as possible away from town, hawking, hunting and having a jolly good time, and who expects to be elevated to some better position soon enough.

Now, if most of the saga is townbound, this is a fabulous virtue. Four basic ways to handle it:

  1. Old school approach: Make the player, er, character pay for taking so efficient a virtue, without taking something that cripples him elsewhere! That'll teach him to forget that the GM has more points to play with than he.
  2. Boilerplate "How to GM" chapter advice: Ban the virtue before play begins, or discuss your problem with the player and let him select a new virtue so the game will be fun for everyone.
  3. Enlightened Passive-Aggression: Allow the character, but since he's boring, don't slant any stories his way. Never forget any rule that you can fairly use to keep this guy in line.
  4. Side with the player: Compliment him on his excellent choice of virtues that so perfectly complements the saga. It makes perfect sense for a magus with this virtue to gravitate toward an urban covenant; he belongs here. Woody Allen is said to avoid ever leaving New York, so why should this magus tromp about the countryside? Craft stories that let this magus really shine. Allow players who want the virtue for themselves to swap other virtues for it, or take flaws, while allowing the townie to modify his character similarly. (Initiation rules provide a good handwave.)

Guess my preference? :wink:



Hmmm one my my sagas is set in Constantinople. Nobody has thought of Ways of the Town, although it shouldn't be too unbalancing, since not that much storywise goes on in town. It would be a good Virtue for my Jerbiton architecht.
In case of magi, it is very important whether you allow the +3 bonus on spellcasting or not, or whether you allow some extra benefit for Study or Lab, because of attuning to the local "vibe", e.g. by investing time to make the right setup etc.

One thing to be careful of though, is to not make sucha Virtue too good, and make most stories benefit greatly from it. This only makes players without it feel cheated, and they might create new characters with it, and this will devaluate it for the original user.
I hate it when other players have their characters leech on my good ideas. Not so much in ArM, but I play a lot of GURPS, and here the skill, advantage and gear choices I devise are often copied. Luckily I can easily get more good ideas...that should be "good" ideas, because it's a hit-and-miss thing...

Ways of the (Saga) does most certainly not add +3 to advancement totals or lab totals. It allows you to add +3 to "all rolls, including combat, that directly involve that area" (emphasis mine). Totals are not rolls, and no, you don't get +3 on your Experimentation lab total rolls, as that is not a "roll" in the classical sense. If you want more XP, take Book Learner, or Apt Student, or whatever Virtue there is that explicitly governs advancement totals.

Yes, it's a very powerful virtue. One of our companions has it, and he is a god in cities. +3 to any roll means he can sweet-talk, bargain, threaten, or charm his way out of any situation. It is a Major Virtue, so the costs are quite high.

Never done Way of the Town but it's an intriguing concept. With Way of the Forest/Mtns/Sea/etc. my troupe and I have tended to side with any situation "...that directly involve that area", but be careful with the rules-lawyering type that says "Any action I perform in a town is directly related to it." This is true on a technicality but IMO not the spirit of the law. You should get the bonus in combat if you are fighting in city/town streets, where you have buildings and such to use tactically. If your fight occurred in the middle of the town common, on grass and dozens of paces from any buildings you can use to advantage, I don't see how the PC could get a +3 to combat rolls merely because she's inside a town wall. Same with Forest, et al.: you would need to be fighting among trees to get the bonus, but in a large open glade with no trees around you, no bushes or other useful terrain obstacles, no dice.

Then there's the "freebies" a good SG should throw in for such a character. For instance, many things shouldn't even require a roll that otherwise might. I don't make characters with Way of the Woods make a Survival roll to get a campfire started in a rainstorm, they know where to find dry wood and how to get it done; without it, PC's may have to make several wet, cold, miserable rolls to get a smoky little fire going, if at all. It's a +4 Virtue (or it was) and so it should be pretty potent.

What a great game. I think this discussion is showing all the ways that we like to tweak the game (and how flexible a system it is).

I agree that the explanatory text for the virtue is clear in that it applies to "rolls" and not "totals". I will still allow it to apply to certain totals if one can Refine the lab for an activity to add a minor virtue for the lab. Why? Because it is fun. Because it doesn't break my game. And because it compels the player in my saga to put a little more flavor in the seasonal work.

YMMV. Just keep it fun.

Best regards,


So one could consider allowing a Herbam magus with Way of the Forest, who has customized his lab to include a Natural Environment of plants and trees his bonus, if the activity is relevant for the plant-aspect. But not allowing the bonus to all things, just because his Lab is essentially a small forest.

I most certainly hope your preference is option 2. I like to roleplay with people, not against them.


No "gotcha!" here, but I am working with just such a player and reminding him that his lab will also have a few "free" flaws, like Exposed and Infested and a couple others that will be issues he will have to deal with. Ken's points, above, have a lot of merit, but I'm mostly interested in making it enjoyable for all players (including me!) and not making everything a hard slog all the time. He's going for the Scary Man From The Forest idea and I have already warned him that there will be times when he will have to go into town, or the mountains, or the desert, but when he is home, he will truly be the master of his domain. He'll be a specialist, he knows it, and neither of us have any problem with that. In this case, an Herbam and Animal expert who is Death in his home forest.

If it is fun for all at the table and the rest of the players are not so insecure with thier (different) ideas that they are too worried about someone else getting the "best" virtue for thier most frequent environment, then why not?



#4 when possible. I have often fallen short of that in actual play, but that's what I aim for.



Am I the only one that would really love to play in one of Ovarwa's games.


If the virtue is relevant for the forest aspect. The player says, "Hey, I've turned this area into a small forest, so I want Way of the Forest to apply." Hopefully, the player is not pointing to an acre or two of trees, but something that can fairly be construed a forest. (Don't mistake a forest for some trees! A forest is more than its trees; a clearing in a forest is still probably part of the forest. Similarly, a few cottages do not make "a small town" for Ways of the Town, a hill is not "a small mountain" for Ways of the Mountain, and a puddle....)

But if the magus has really done a good job of Johnny Appleseeding, then sure, he now has a man-made forest. So the character now gets +3 for horticulture rolls on these plants, casting spells on them, breeding them and so on. He does not get +3 to lab totals, even for Herbam, because the virtue does not affect Lab Totals, just rolls. He also does not get the +3 to rolls on, say, carpentry, because this virtue isn't about Herbam, but about forests. Yes, the wood came from a tree that grew in a forest, but the associated roll is not directly associated with the area or its inhabitants.

Still an awesome virtue, especially for a covenant in a forest.

So what makes a forest? My own gut feeling says that it needs to be large enough so that someone without Area Lore or an appropriate ability can get well and truly lost in it, and feel out of touch with civilization. Without this, it seems to lack an essential quality of "forest." Similarly, if it seems too small to warrant a Genius Locus, it probably isn't a forest.



As a Major Virtue, I'd be happy to let Ways apply to Totals on a case-by-case basis.

The "applies to rolls" bit can be misleading. The best example is the HoH:S spell that gives "+3 to rolls to repair an object", when repairing an object involves no rolling at all and is based on Workshop Totals (according to C&G).

ArM is a game that encourages loose play, generally driven by RAI rather than RAW - I'd be wary of an ST that invokes strict readings of the rules only when it suited them and loose readings where it didn't.

That might be a bit of a cock-up, which unfortunately sometimes happens when you try to apply the rules from more than one supplement together. But, I think that generally the rules are meant to be read fairly rigorously when the words "Total" and "Roll" are used. If something says "Rolls" it means rolls and not "Totals". "Applies to Rolls" is not intended to be misleading or ambigious. It is intended to be precise.


That's all of them! :slight_smile:/4



For several years now I have been not playing in the game Ken doesn't run :smiley: