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Artificing allows a character to create foci, but a character can also buy foci.

The important part of the rules (the actual rules in core page 306):

  1. get formula (buy or create with extended test Arcana + Magic [Astral] (force^2 1 day)
  2. create foci Artificing + Magic vs ObjectResistance + Formula force [formula force] where net hits are force of foci, no edge allowed
  3. resist drain Formula force + 2 * hits rolled against you
  4. finish - cost foci force karma (and you still need to bind them)

Does it make sense to go with all the investment or is it better to just buy a foci?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm answering my own question to help others googling this problem. It took me lot of time to get to my current understanding. And of course i'll be glad if someone would poke holes in my understanding ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Alpedar Oct 7 '18 at 12:51
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With rules in core book its pointless and bit broken.

With small investment its easy to get force 1-2 formula, reasonable to get force 3, and with significant investment to be able to get force 4 and 5.

So creating low level formula is easy and can be profitable if you create force 1 power foci formula and sell it for something around 20% of it value, you will get 18000*.25*.2 = 900 Y for day's work. (IF you can sell it)

But creating foci itself is much harder (lowest OR is 3, so you are facing at least 4 dice, so expect 1 hit against you) that means that you need formula with force of at least 2. Skipping to force 5 formula, you are against 3+5=8 dice expected 8/3 = almost 3 hits and you CAN have at most 5. So you will sometimes create F3 focus, most of time F2. And you need 5*3=15 dice pool which is hard to get (not impossible, but then you are optimising for artificing) at chargen.

And you are facing 5+4 (or 6) drain.

When you add other sourcebooks, it starts to get significantly better.

I did not found anything that would help with creating formula, but core ways of boositing it are enough for "advanced" talismonger. After chargen, its possible to initiate and increase magic, increase arcana and/or specialize and use power focus.

But what makes artificing really strong are bonuses to creating test.

Areas of improvements: dice pool, limit, object resistance, drain

dice pool: (SG 224) extended test artisan+intuition [Mental] (5, 1 Day), extra hits are DP bonus

limit: Hard Targets - Practice Practice Practice (+1 limit to one noncombat skill), Run Faster 226 - Comercial lifestyle + Special Work Area (8000Y+1000Y per month) gives +2 limit to skill test, Forbidden Arcana 188 Refined Reagents increase limit by 5 for skill using magic (250Y)

Object resistance: Forbidden Arcana 188 Radical Reagents (Reduce object resistance by 1 per dram (1250Y, Availabilty 6+8=14)

Drain - reduced by reducing vs dice, FA 32 Archivist (increase point where drain becomes physical)

With just +1 limit, creating weak foci (power 1 or 2) is easy with magic 6, artificing 1 (Formula F1 -> 7[1+1] vs 3+1, create power focus 1 (and with luck 2 ) and get one more dice to future artificing, so even with hit buy you are sure to create F1 focus for 50Y+1K and one day work. Your physical adept team mates will love you, and you can now start selling F1 power foci (if GM allows))

With work area and practice^3, you start to get limited by dice pool, but getting to 3 costs just 10K, and for 7K get specialization for one type and you have Mag6, +1 Power foci, skill 3+2 = DP 12 and limit 4.

Total cost 2K (practice^3), 9000Y (per month), 12K artificing, 7K specialization = 24.5K equivalent Now you create foci up to F3 (sometimes 4, but don't count on it) for 50Y+FK which you would buy for at least 3000YF (Qi focus) which is 1.5K equivalent. (and 18000YF ~ 9K*F for power focus) So work for people, get 1K instead of 2000Y and create foci. If you sell Power focus for at least 12% of its cost you have more Y than if you did not "work for peple" & craft and sell.

And you can create powerfull foci too, use formula F1, add 3 Radical reagents and one Refined and now you have limit 1+1+2+5=9 vs 1 dice (but you need somewhere around 9*3=27 dice). So invest into artisan (lets say intuition 5, artisan 5, don't throw with less than 5 dice to prevent glitches -> somewhere around 15 hits, so DP +10) Now you can create foci with force around 7 (in one day!!!), so you can't use them) (and it will cost (50*F+250+1250*3)Y+FK = 4000Y+50Y*F+FK)

And another way how to boost limit and DP (but I don't know whether legal) is to use team test (except for rituals and melee, there are no detailed rules for team tests, but generic rules for them imply, they can be used when it makes sense).

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"Is it good" is subjective and depends on what your goals are, as well as what resources are available in your setting. But I think that the analysis in your answer is either shortsighted or suitable only for a more lenient campaign setting.

0. Assumption: Foci are desirable

This doesn't properly fit in the list, since a focus is only worthwhile if you can use it to do what you want. It's not hard to imagine a situation where you might need a specific focus, not just a jumble of time/ability calculations against an availability table. So if you need an enchanting focus that will add 4 dice to your enchanting pool, then nothing else will do-- not a focus adding 3 dice, and not one adding 4 to spellcasting.

So I'm assuming that you need more than just "it's technically possible to get this focus, given enough time and no external pressure or problems".

1. Foci are restricted

This is very character- and setting-dependent, but characters without solid credentials (like a real SIN, perhaps a national one) will have a hard time buying restricted items, like foci. The license itself could be expensive, hard-to-get, make you too notice-able to megacorps or antagonists, or be undesirable for other reasons. If you can't or don't want to purchase foci through legitimate channels making them may be your only option.

If you do want to make a legitimate purchase, you can't have a license without an ID. If you have a fake SIN things are even worse-- higher quality SINs are more reliable but much more expensive. Higher-end foci might only be available from a vendor who cares about a valid SIN check, and a rare, restricted item might require a more thorough examination of your SIN, which might in turn require a high quality SIN. Better SINs get expensive quickly, and any SIN check can fail causing it to be burned (losing it along with any licenses associated with it).

Conversely (and your character may or may not care), but when in use foci are not subtle to anyone who can astrally perceive and are tied to your actual identity via your astral signature. A valid-seeming license could potentially save you a lot of headaches, even with a cheaper SIN. Making your foci instead of buying them could help safeguard your investment in each, depending on how much scrutiny you're under when found with a focus versus when trying to buy one.

2. More powerful foci quickly become harder to find, and more expensive

Even if you have an appropriate license (or black market connection), even the most common foci have an availability rating of (Force x 3). So a force-3 spell focus has an availability of 9R, which is already well beyond what you can just assume is available. Searching for what you want at all takes time, and contacts also require investment to be reliably effective. That means you might not be able to find a focus meeting your specifications in a useful time frame, or at all.

And you might well want or need the benefit of a better focus than you can safely buy. Adding 4 dice to spellcasting tests in any situation is a big deal, and might be decisively better in a scenario than adding 3, but availability is 16R(!) at a book-suggested price of 72,000 nuyen. Your GM might make them even more expensive when you purchase them illegitimately, or add other complications in securing something so prized (I probably would). Making a high-quality focus might be easier than buying one.

3. Foci are diverse and may be inconvenient

You're looking for something powerful and low-key for a run next month, and you manage to successfully find almost what you want: a force-4 power focus. But it's bulky and noisy, which make it unsuitable! You're out of luck-- that's 12R, and unless you're really well connected you may not find another option at all before your run. Searching itself takes time. If you can craft your own, you gain options from available formulae or could design your own to suit your exact preferences.

4. Artificing can add value to other investments magic-users may need to make anyways

A magic user will benefit from having a high magic stat, and is therefore likely to have a high magic rating regardless of any other factors. Since that's half of the artificing roll, putting a few points in artificing could be attractive. Additionally, a character using magic may need a magical lodge for some other purpose. That's not an outrageous expense, but a modestly powerful one is still a decent-sized investment for a lot of characters. It wouldn't persuade me at the margins, but if you have to have a lodge anyways it's nice to be able to do more with it.

So if you've already got a high magic rating and a decent-quality lodge, in exchange for taking even one point in artificing you get a way to deal with the other elements in my answer, potentially gain convenient foci you can use, and if a focus comes out weaker than what you wanted you might make some money by selling it.

5. A particular table or campaign setting might make money more valuable than time

Nuyen may be easier or harder to come by, and when it's harder you might need to be more discerning in how you spend it. Some things require you to spend a set amount of money; after paying your living expenses, gear maintenance costs, and other necessary expenses burning most of your purse on a single focus might not be as attractive as other options. Simultaneously, you likely have downtime. The nature of skills and selling goods to vendors means that there are cases where it will be easier to convert your free time into a specific product rather than money.

Successfully crafting an item saves you from paying its purchase price at a cost of your downtime, which you might not be able to otherwise convert into the purchase price of that item (or something equivalently valuable to you). Any nuyen you're currently holding can then be spent on other things, perhaps more vital ones. This won't always be worthwhile, but definitely will be in at least some cases.

6. There are only so many ways to spend your downtime

You can use your downtime for lots of things, but investing it in getting an item or money is likely to either produce something trivial or involve some risk. Making foci is not risk-free, but it might be the most desirable option for a stretch of downtime depending on what other opportunities exist and what skills a player has invested in.

tl;dr

"Good" in this context is only meaningful in relation to specific goals and situations. There are cases where the skill is worthless (like after your character's magic rating drops to 0) and cases where it's very valuable (you want foci but your setting makes them impossible to find and buy). Most cases will fall in between, and while you won't be able to optimize focus production without specializing your whole character around the skill that's true of any specialization. But if you do take artificing, you'll almost certainly be able to get something out of it, situation-optimal or not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the soft aspects. I tend to think about them less than I should. (I don't agree with some of your points, but i find this answer useful anyway) \$\endgroup\$ – Alpedar Oct 7 '18 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Alpedar Are there any particular disagreements I can address, in pursuit of improving the answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Oct 7 '18 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid that it would turn into discussion to much. So I'll try to be brief: \$\endgroup\$ – Alpedar Oct 7 '18 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ ) everything is restricted. And even foci created by it's final user "should" be reported to be registered. 2) availability - team needs some good supplier anyway and fixer contact has charisma 5, negotion 9 and adds his connections rating. So we are looking at 15+ dicepool. So Anything with less than his dicepool will more likely be available than not. So question is, whether its better to go with contact + buy or search yourself (lot of magicians have great charisma for drain so they work as team face and can search for goods themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – Alpedar Oct 7 '18 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Diversity of bound foci is limited because of foci limit. And "larger" foci are not more visible than lower ones (but once detected they are more suspicious/reason to get killed) \$\endgroup\$ – Alpedar Oct 7 '18 at 21:08

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