A problem with Covenent Books

Hi, I'm generally a forum lurker, but this bugged me a bit and I wanted to see what other people think. According to my math no Magus coming out of apprenticeship should have a score of less than 5 in at least 7-8 of their arts and 10+ in at least 2. This all comes down to the rules in Covenants on books.

Let me preface why I think the rules for what is considered a serviceable book and what is a "sound summae" is ridiculous. A "sound" summae is a book with a quality of 28-level. That means your average Com+0 would have to have a skill of 44 in an art to write a book worth having. So a person who focuses their whole life on one art could maybe write a bottom level sound summae. Even a legendary writer Com +5 Good Teacher needs a 28 skill to write a sound summae. So to write a passable book you need slightly less quality 26-level. But that still leaves our average Magus needing a 40 and our legendary writer a 24. So still a lifetime of work for an average Magus to write a passable Summae. Anything below that is called a vain book and is usually cheap to obtain and probably plentiful in the orders libraries. So if a mid level vein book is say quality 20-level, that means you have a plentiful number of books that can take you from 0 to 5 in every art in one season. That is 15 seasons, or one season a year of apprenticeship with cheap easily obtained books. Now figure the average Magus uses his lab 2 seasons a year, has to teach him one, and one "free season" if I was a Magus you could bet your behind I would be making my apprentice read those damn books. Who wouldn't. So you would end up coming out of apprenticeship. Not including the other experience gained from exposure and teaching. A Magus out the door should be far more experienced and powerful if this is what is considered a bad summae. And God forbid you have 1-2 Sound books or even Good books in your collection. My point is, I think that Covenants overplays what is a good book. I thing the quality-level ratio is far to high to justify the training available in the Order given it has been around a few hundred years and has time to accumulate more than it's share of mid level "vain" books to circulate. Mid you an average Magus would need an art at 28 to write a quality 15 level 5 summea. But I am curious to hear what you guys think.

I'm not quite clear on why, if your magus has a Com 0 and no virtues which make his qualities higher, another magus should care what he wants to write, if he has access to similar writing from NPC magi from previous generations.

Yes, if your magus, like generations of magi before him, focuses on one art, and has no particular skill as a writer, then he produces a sound summae. That's true: indeed it basically defines a sound summae. If my Flambeau magus with Com 0 and none of the Virtues or lab enhancements which impact his writing writes a book, why should it be brilliant in a way not previously seen from the works of the NPCs who came before him and were similarly focused on a single art? If his work is not merely sound but great, then what happens when someone with all of the features of your magus, but also Strong Writer and Legendary Communication writes a book? If the average magus creates a summa higher than sound, then the amazing magus breaks the system.

As to why the libraries consider anything less than sound vain: well, its because, as you've demonstrated, anyone who focuses their life on a single art can create a sound summae. Why would you collect stuff by people who have done less (for example, magi of middle age, or those who don't communicate well)? Is there something prideful and weird about writing a summae (a summary of a field) when you basically know about half as much as your elders? I mean, does a magus in his sixties have any real business writing a summae anyway?

There are ways around this, if you want you magus's summae writing to matter, despite not creating a magus who has exceptional talents as a writer. For example you can say that Magic Theory progresses, and so the Quality of a work falls by 1 every decade after composition, with the exception of certain books (Authorities) like Bonisagus's "The Art of Magic". That forces libraries to keep collecting new works, and it means that sometimes there won't be a definitive work in an Art. Now this idea (progress) is entirely unmedieval (medieval actually would go the other way, books have higher Qualities by being classical Just Because the world was better then).

In modern libraries, books cycle in part because knowledge progresses, but also because readers change. This is why people think Dickens is slow and plodding now, while in the 1890s they thought he was snappy and had big cliffhangers. You could posit similar cultural changes in the Order which make your magus more able to study from books written by his contemporaries, so although the Quality of the books doesn't fall, you gain bonuses based on the Personality traits you share with the author. Again, this is modern librarianship, not medieval (where truth descends as an act of grace like rain), but it does get you out of the medieval mindset, which is encapsulated in the rules, that what you write is probably about as worthwhile as what the guy doing your job before you wrote, unless you are someone special.

If you'd humor me a bit more, what about Tractatus? With a sound book being a 11 quality, that means you have to be an orator that could move nations, +5 com, or a great speaker +2 com with good teacher just to write something relevant. It seems that Bonsagus would benefit more from recruiting great speakers than inventors if they want to spread knowledge and just seizing peoples magical inventions and works instead. Mechanically the trade off is that if you have one stat high the others will suffer. Great writers do not make great magi, because you are trading intelligence for communication and virtue points for good teacher and improved characteristics instead of magical virtues. It seems counter intuitive. I understand there is wiggle room between what is vain and what is sound leaving rooms for decent books, but it seems a bit extreme, especial when other means of learning arts are either practicing or finding a teacher, which most other magi are reluctant to waste their time with, or burning precious vis. A book that can take you from knowing nothing to being able to teach an apprentice yourself I would consider a decent book for a summea, not sound, but decent. A tractatus written by someone with even a +1 communication should be a decent book, not sound but decent, seeing that the order invests in intelligence and not writers the standard should be a little lower for what is considered a decent book. I understand the era plays a lot into this, but shouldn't someone who has a 30 skill be able to write a decent tracatatus without communication hammering him down. That means the vast majority of the order including in house Bonsagius will never have a decent book to contribute, which is the opposite of what the house wants. This may be me getting caught up in modern thinking, but the shear numbers game means a sound Tractatus might get written once every 100 years or so when a legendary orator or teacher happens to enter the Order.

You're forgetting some important bonuses to the book writing process. Skilled scribe, bookbinder and illuminator, and resonances for another +2 bonus. All bonuses together give a +5 bonus to writing quality. So, including the +3 everyone gets, it's achievable to write a Q8 tractatus. Add to that things like Good Teacher, and for one virtue point, you're able to write Q11.

See also my thread (I started it) about the average quality of tractatus, which also discussed how many could actually exist.

Also, if you're reading from the Covenants book, you should be aware that the quality section has been corrected through errata.

Edit: changed some wording for clarity.

The magus is already giving up one quarter of their time to train an apprentice. Making them work the other three seasons a year probably makes this a wash. Here's a discussion from a few years back on what sort of work an apprentice can do for you:
I don't think that is advantageous to the order as a whole to have apprentices with strong scores in the arts rather than have apprentices that accomplish work for their mentors. I think it far more likely that the goals of the mentors are more laudable than the goals of the children adolescents and young adults that typify apprentices, considering that, in addition to their youthful predilections, they also have less experience and less understanding of their world.

In character words from a grumpy old magus "The life of a magus is filled with work for oneself instead of for others. To push this selfish behavior back into apprenticeship isn't a noble goal.

I'm hadn't considered resonance, but that is a good point. that with one point of resonance you are technically out of the vain category but still far from sound. I guess that makes it a little more reasonable. Thanks for pointing that out. So tractatus work out better, but summea still feel over the top. Again I think a level 5 quality 15 summea is a decent primer due to it taking you from 0 to 5 which is what you need to train an apprentice, I would call a level 6 quality 21 summea a sound primer. I think that's my problem, is that something that teaches you effectively is considered worthless by the Order even though it is cheaper than training and vis use and less time consuming than working in the lab.

Good point, but keeping your lab operating costs more money. Plus you could have your apprentice act as your servant when your not in the lab. Cooking, cleaning, organizing, ect. But still, if they have some free time, why wouldn't you through a good primer at them while your busy?

I wouldn't say tractatus work out better. Summae have problems all their own, or create problems all their own. Summae of high level and sound qualities (10-12) are ridiculously cheap. Take L20Q10 costs 30 bps, equivalent to 3 Q10 tractatus. To the magus of a score of 18 or less, the summa is a better deal. They are too cheap.

I don't see apprentices as having a season of free time ever. If you are not in the lab, then your apprentice should be copying lab notes, fixing arcane connections, possibly extracting vis, coping casting tablets, and occasionally doing tasks for you so you don't have to (adventures)

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I tend to agree with this. I think PC magi have a tendency to take apprentices before they are sufficiently ready. Getting Arts to 5 isn't being ready, it's a base requirement, nothing more. Being ready means having projects lined up for the next 15 years which requires the services of an apprentice to aid you for ~45 seasons. It means having a teaching score sufficient to pass on your desired virtues, too. It also means having a high enough lab total in your favored Arts to teach enough spells in the time allotted, see below.

Let's look at how much the "standard" apprentice should be learning, keeping in mind what that magus looks like based on the character creation rules. The standard apprentice will have 45 seasons of exposure for 90 xp. The standard apprentice will be taught, one on one for 15 seasons, but some of those seasons will be spent teaching spells. The target XP is 240 for Arts and Abilities and 120 for spells, so we'll split those up. What does the standard magus as a master look like? Probably has a SQ of about 12[1]. 240 (base apprentice xp) -90 (exposure xp)=150. 150 XP/12 SQ is 12.5 seasons. Leaving 2.5 seasons for other things. Since dealing with fractions is a pain, let's say it's 13 seasons, leaving two seasons to teach spells, which is probably sufficient, if you start from the premise that the master will teach from his highest lab total, and 60 is not all that hard to achieve.[2] The model is pretty close to what works out for the "average" magus. Skilled Parens adds 60 more XP, which suggests a +4 in SQ, and another 30 spell levels, which suggests a LT of ~75 in favored Arts, based on the above model.

[1] Teaching SQ for standard master =Com+Teaching+3+bonus. Assume com 1, teaching two that is 1+2+3+6=12.
[2 ]Lab Total for standard master= Te+Fo+Int+Mt+Aura. Assume Int 2, MT 5, aura 5 for a total of 12, means the TeFo should be ~48. That might sound a bit on the high side, but I think a master should be in the mid to low 20s for their favored arts by the time they take an apprentice. That's typically going to happen around 30 years PG. It's certainly not an unreasonable assumption, IMO. And this is where the PC magi tend to fall short, having favored Arts in the high teens, means needing to spend more seasons for teaching, and then they try and rely on books to fill the gaps.