Why Are Higher Breakthroughs Considered So Hard?

Minor, Major, and Hermetic Breakthroughs require 30, 45, and 60 points respectively. So why does the book imply that it'd be pretty realistic to get more than two Minor Breakthroughs if magi weren't more interested in higher goals. Just two and that's 60 points... As much as a Hermetic Breakthrough. And again, more would be realistic if magi weren't so ambitious. Yet it's only realistic for a person to make one Major Breakthrough in their life (half as many points as three Minors, which is not only possible but realistic according to HoH:TL), and only in a long-running fast-paced saga? And only one Hermetic Breakthrough has ever been achieved? I mean, two Minor Breakthroughs take the same number of points, and those are pretty normal things, apparently!

So... What gives?

I think that one should consider the breakthrough rules more narrativist/gamist than simulationist. In other words, major and (even more so) hermetic breakthroughs appear "relatively easy" to achieve because otherwise no player would ever attempt to have his character go for them. This does not mean they are as easy for NPCs :slight_smile:

It's a good question and I didn't have anything to do with those rules or the thresholds so I can't pass comment on the levels directly. However, how many breakthroughs have we seen in our sagas? I don't know how many magi our collective sagas work out to across the forum, but out of that number, how many magi worked towards and achieved breakthroughs? And what were they?

Of two long-running fifth edition sagas, we had no breakthroughs (across about eight player magi). I am unlikely to see any breakthroughs in my current saga.

And given that (as far as I'm concerned) the breakthrough rules are there to help the players to do something cool, I'm unlikely to arbitrarily introduce an NPC-driven breakthrough unless it's part of a larger storyline. Why would I spend time and energy I don't have trying to churn through some kind of simulationist process based on false accounting just to satisfy the likely incorrect notion that I'm making the saga more realistic? The players are the stars of the show so it only really matters to be what they're up to.

I had a character that was integrating Heronic magic into his Verditius ways. I just about managed to do that as the saga ended, and that was with a bit of integration and a bit of research. If I recall correctly, the integration was more reliable. Original research was more hit/miss. As a player, let alone as a character, I'm taking a risk with time and resources every time I try to engage in a research project. So I need, as a player, an idea the troupe thinks is cool and the willingness to exchange guaranteed advancement for the chance of gaining points towards research.

If the numbers were higher, and I wasn't in a position to control the speed of advancement, I'm not sure I would have stuck with it. I'm glad I did, but would have liked to have done it with more life left in the saga so that I could have made use of the breakthrough in play.

So for me, the numbers are fine. The process is difficult enough that in a given saga, going on my experience along, you can expect 1/3 of a breakthrough. You need the idea, the drive, and a little bit of luck.

I'm going to say seeking/stabilizing an experiment mecanically takes 10 seasons as a rough easy number. {I think it's actually closer to 12 seasons per experiment, but that's close enough.}

If all your experiments are magnitude 1, it will take 600 seasons to complete, 150 years, no warping.
If all your experiments are magnitude 5, it will take 120 seasons to complete, 30 years, 24 Warping points.

Now, 30-40 years full time on a project starts to be a lifetime achievement, whereas 15-20 years can be a side job. You don't have time for 2 side jobs. That's the only point I can bring here.

Two things. First, how many people are monomaniac enough to spend thirty years on nothing? Remember that "In Game", they have no idea if they are on the right track, or if what they are doing is even possible. Quite a different thing then talking with your ST, getting your idea vetted......

Second, there are lots of "little breakthroughs" in the process. How many projects end because the mage got what he wanted, or close enough? "Whoops, didn't get a Breakthrough on Medicine, just found Penicillin. Good enough, let's go stop the Plague!". Heck, isn't that the point of the "Seekers", to find as many of this unfinished lines of research, with the hope they can find enough pieces to "put the puzzle together"?

As has been mentioned previously: this is why integration - 2 seasons: 1 to create the Insight, and one to stabilize it (assuming you have the arts for it), no warping - seems like SUCH better value for money. Even if you throw in an extra season for failed Insight rolls or a required extra season for stabilization, that's still much better deal. And in-game, you likely know what Insight you're shooting for, at least in general. Although to be fair, you have to go out and find sources of Insight, and you don't get to decide what you want to study - which may be enough to keep a good number of magi from doing it. But still - that's an 80% reduction in time...

Indeedie - when I was going through the process of laying out possible Insight discoveries for integrating the no-penetration-required Intelligo Vim effect, one of the likely insights was re-creating that lvl 45 InVi "See Magic" ability. Which if fine, but that pretty much gives the magus exactly what they would have used the ability for, without having to actually create the full Integration.

Saxonous, how long have people been working on cold fusion? :wink:

(Seriously, there ARE people that monomaniacal in the scientific community, and House Bonisagus IS a scientific community. Right down to the backstabbing each other for grants and budget.)

Ah, BlackLiger, how many of those people are self funding :wink:? Alas, the Order does not live off government grants and trust funds..... Second, note that it's been less then thirty years, and most do not take it seriously, because of the endless failures. Third, the topic was not "Why are Higher Breakthroughs impossible?", yes? No one is saying that Higher Breakthroughs don't happen, just that they are "hard"......

Hey, Bonisagus and the Founders must have had it even easier than these rules, because they were cobbling together a synthetic magic system from unrelated disciplines, and yet they managed to create more or less the Hermetic Arts we've got now in a single Hermetic generation. :smiling_imp:

I'll echo that breakthroughs are intended to be possible because PCs may want to invent them. Among NPCs, breakthroughs are mostly reserved for extremely devoted magi Bonisagi who want to fix the flaws in Bonisagus' theory. Many magi get discouraged, or find out that they were going down the wrong path and their breakthrough was impossible, or simply don't make the breakthrough before they go into Twilight. Partly, of course, because these magi aren't central to the plot. Having plot on your side allows your PC to do stuff that'll make them a celebrity or a corpse in short order. And it still means decades of research.

Also, remember that you don't know how difficult a breakthrough will be until you make it, and the suggested difficulty of a breakthrough is a ballpark rather than iron law. Some Hermetic Breakthroughs are more insane than others.

Of course, Ars Magica is one of those games where telling stories about the players' reactions to other peoples' deeds is considered an acceptable practice as long as that other person doesn't take center-stage in the stories. "Hey, everyone! That guy made a couple Breakthroughs and now he can cast Boundary and Year spells non-Ritually but he's not sharing the Breakthroughs with anyone!" "The hell? Let's sneak in and steal it!" "Nah, let's just declare War and kill him for it!" "Seems excessive. Maybe we could offer a trade?" "Ew, but I like all my stuff!" "Yeah, if I was going to surrender my hard-working seasons for those Breakthroughs I'd just remake them myself! READY THE MESSENGERS!" "Sigh..."

See? A lot of drama, because players are as a general rule exceptionally greedy, playing a group of people who are as a rule exceptionally greedy.

Not a story to happen often, but it works for a lot of troupes.