Eidetic memory for mages

Eidetic Memory (Dt. page 323 BWG) allows a character to remember nearly anything he has read or seen. The character that I burned up has this trait (Galen: peasant born, peddler, city lead to neophyte sorcerer, outcast lead to rogue wizard).
Galen is the son of a blacksmith who has to learn to master his magic as he has had several dangerous accidents involving the wheel of magic.
As Galen has this trait and had access to several spell books at the training hall in the city… should he be able to recall those spells? What about the average mage with eidetic memory? Would this trait allow them to change out spells in the field so to speak, without the need of cumbersome spell books? (All of this assumes standard sorcery and the arsenal rules from the magic burner)

It’s your game, or your GM’s game; it’s your (collective) choice. Here’s my interpretation:

By the description in MaBu, this is classic Vancian magic in the Dying Earth sense. It’s not really a problem of memory, exactly. Spells are terrible, bizarre things. Your mind is not big enough to encompass more than your allotment no matter how good your ability to recall them is. You need a book or other place to store them.

Rules-wise, well, this is an optional rule in the first place. It’s pointless to put in a option only to use a trait to circumvent it. If you want to play arsenal-style, do so. If you don’t, don’t do so. The only exception is if you want your mage to be somehow uniquely gifted in his ability to hold a large arsenal of spells… but do you even have that many spells to start with?

I think that’s a neat hack. As Wayfarer says, not everything about a spell is in the writing.
Maybe allow him to make a perception check to grab a spell before he’s noticed and then skip from first reading straight into practicals.
What could go wrong?

The Galen character is for a world in which magic is a force of nature that most do not understand, and many fear. Humans of Gifted Blood are assumed to have some distant immortal ancestry, usually elven. Mages must learn to control their power least it manifests itself unbidden and uncontrolled. Normally mages can only keep a few spells in their head at a time, trying to keep more increases the chance of facing the wheel of magic. (+1 obstacle per added spell to all spell casting which also effects tax and sustaining.) This is why spellcasters write spell books and inscribe scrolls.
Galen is supposed to be extraordinary and as I had purchased this trait for him to show his sharp mind, I thought that it could be used in this way to show how he is different from other mages as well.
We don’t do the whole spells as creepy, living things bit. The immortals have natural magic as it is a part of them. Humans cast or weave spells to convert and control magic and even then they must have the gifted blood to do so (which is why mages suffer a tax). Either that, or they must sacrifice someone who does.
As far as Galen trying to use eidetic memory to recall formulas or spells he may have seen, I’m sure that would require a stated intent and task combined with a circle test to see if that spell was even there when he was. Then he would have a series of linked test to get a legible copy of the spell to even begin first reading, let alone practicals. His main advantage with his eidetic memory and spell casting would be that he wouldn’t need to actually have his spell books with him to change spells. He would still require time and a place to study.

Oh, sure. Lots of fluff. But that’s always irrelevant to gameplay decisions. It doesn’t matter whether spells are living things or formulas, whether the gifted trait is by genetics or infusions of immortal blood or faerie blessings at birth. It’s a trait, mechanically, that lets you cast spells.

  1. Do you want to play with arsenal rules? No.

  2. Do you want to play someone who is special? Yes.

So this isn’t really about the role of the eidetic memory trait in an arsenal magic game. This is about taking the trait to represent being special and using magic with the normal rules while NPCs suffer penalties. That’s fine, but understand that’s what you’re doing. Eidetic memory could just as easily be replaced with Chosen One, meaning your character has a special, unique power, and it could have any flavor to go with any world-building.

Actually, it would be.
Arsenal rules: Yes
Modification to Arsenal rules: Yes (increased obstical for extra spells)
Trait that alters a rule: Yes (Eidetic Memory)
Average NPC represents the norm while PCs are not the norm: Yes
NPC Antagonists also able to use the same traits as PCs: Yes.
The rules of magic would remain the same game to game for our group, regardless of what character I or anyone else would create.
What I am trying to accomplish is a baseline for what I hope will be a game world that will grow and change as various characters experience it, with stories spanning early settlements to boarder disputes with other settlements, encroachment into Dwarven lands, Raiding and Marauding Orc Parties, ect.
I only went into details regarding the Galen character as that was the burn that started the question. Sorry if it was misleading, I was just trying to give relavent data.

 Hmm, apparently I must have failed to get the point across.   Whether or not one character (in this case Galen) benefits from this or not isn't the point.  (Perhaps it was all that "fluff" that got in the way). The question is whether or not the Eidetic Memory trait should be able to break the Arsenal rule in a game where it isn't an option, it is the rule, and has been for quite some time.  If it is allowed to do so it would obliviously do so for anyone who has it. Not just one character (the Galen burn just happened to be the burn that started the question).

And that’s what I’m saying. BW isn’t really a game where you can make edge-case rules decisions in a categorical way. (I largely think most games aren’t like that, even when they think they are.) All rules questions beyond the most concrete mechanical questions are really about the characters being played in the fictional world being created in this particular game. Hypotheticals and counterfactuals don’t count for much. Real stuff happening at the real table is the real issue. There’s also no separation of rules question and fluff question. The rules and the fluff have to be in accord, and you’re setting up both. Neither one can justify the other; they should be intentionally made concordant for better rules and better story.

If there were a die trait that were all about getting around arsenal rules, sure, that would settle the question. Or you could make such a die trait. But turning another trait into that? In the abstract, it’s something worth discussing. Maybe it means that all the best mages have eidetic memories, and that’s expected. Or maybe everyone knows eidetic memory makes for powerful mages, but it’s still a rare talent—rare enough to be the mark of a gifted sorcerer. Maybe the game would be better off having a different trait acting as special spell memory so you don’t get an over-loaded super-trait. Those are all the kinds of things you want to work out when you’re designing a system.

But this isn’t a system design question, really. This is a specific character question. You can’t back up and make it abstract.

If you’ve established that the game uses arsenal rules, then the players and the GM talk out why they’re using the arsenal rules and what would be gained and lost by having Eidetic Memory bend those rules. Is it power-gamer weaseling? That might be okay, if the table is okay with it; it might not be, and dice might be chucked at the proposing player. Is it a way to make a character special, an exception to the normal order of things in this world? Again, that might be a cool kind of special character to play, or the rest of the table might call that lame Special Snowflake Syndrome and reject it utterly. We can’t make those determinations. They have to be made by the people playing the game with you.

The idea is potentially really cool. It’s potentially really toxic. Reach a consensus before play, then declare that to be the way it shall be henceforth. At least for this particular world.

I should point out that even though Eidetic Memory may or may not be useful for the intent you’ve stated here, it’s useful for… pretty much everything else. I can think of a bunch of ways a Wizard can use Eidetic Memory to his advantage without necessarily being a spell dictionary. (That said, what Luke said up there is baller.)

Lots to think about and discuss in group thanks guys!

After some thought, it seems that Eidetic Memory already is just so useful as is that any expanded use of it should be done the same as any other trait increase. Earned through play with trait votes. If a character writes a belief about memorizing their spell book, the Dt can let them try. Even at that, if someone were to try to cast straight from a book rather than from memory impression I could see a cause for added time, increased obstacles, and a DoF roll even if it went off all right (things happen when you take short cuts). Perhaps checking sorcery for each spell that one attemps to recall while resting (as if actually casting it without open dice) to see what you actually remembered (when you went to cast it would be as if you remembered properly with open dice and tax, but you just might successfully conjure up a demon.)