All hail the powerful Summa

BL is great when you are reading either tractatuseses or low-quality summae.

Oh, sure - that was my implied discovery: if you're using maxed-out books that are completely optimized for getting the most out of the XP chart, then Book Learner only helps a bit - the extra seasonal XP usually isn't enough to give any additional benefit before you max out the book, and move onto the next tome.

HOWEVER - if you're NOT using min-maxed summae, then it starts saving a few extra seasons - which is definitely worth it. And yeah, for Tractus (which don't have an ability cap), they're definitely worth it.

The very annoying thing when you have BL and a great summa, is the tendency to have a big dilmma in the last season: Finish the summa and gain very few xp but maximize xp/book, or leave some of the summa xp on the table to maximize xp/season?

Still, how often are all the books great?

We have some tractati, and more are available to borrow, but you generally need to either hire a hermetic teacher, study vis, or go out there and do something crazy, if you want to go fast in terms of hermetic advancement.

High level summae exist, but a mundane scribe simply can't copy a high level summa on an art without completely ruining it. So if you want a copy, you're going to have to go and get it, and you may have to do some favours along the way.

To copy texts accurately you need some amount of skill in whatever the text covers. In many cases this can be covered by exposure experience from the season of copying, but if you're not a hermetic magus you can't gain any XP in the arts, so you're not going to do well copying books on them.

The RAW allows you to copy books on arts just by having magic theory. I don't like that, so it's not in my house rules.

I think a good house rule to is to make the point cost or time cost of buying or writing summa vs a tractus respectively consistent.

So if 1 point buys a 10Q tractus, then 1 point buys you a level 4 Q10 summa. Copying Summa and tracti should be done on an XP basis, not a level basis.

Except not all xps are equal.

A tractatus that provides 10xp is quite a bit more valuable than a summa that provides 10xp, because the latter can only supply the first 10xp.

And quality matters too.

And again, noting that some summae (ie, the Roots) can be purchased day 1 "for a nominal fee" - whatever that is. AS such, Build points spent on low-level/High-quality summae aren't as useful as those spent on high level/low quality ones.

Another way I've thought about keeping the power level of ars magica down and more manageable, is (1) to say that Tracti or Summae require vis to "seal" the magical knowledge of them, and (2) must always be copied (and obviously written) by someone with the gift. Whether or not this fits the flavor of everyone's ars magica games is up for debate, but for me, it's made some things in my head more manageable.

I think that this demands that you have more vis running around your game which is the opposite of what I want to see in my game.

I'm really pleased with the solution of making the level cap for summas much lower so that you can't get summas higher than level 9 or so. This seems to resolve all of the summa problems (aside from Timothy's "that's not the way that knowledge works" issue) and it's amazingly simple.

Yet we've got lots of other potential solutions being floated so I'm guessing that the simple option doesn't please everyone who has a problem with summas. What am I missing about the "make them lower level" option that makes it problematic?

Ah, but that means that the vis in the game would be sunk into writing books, and writing books would be rare because only worthwhile authors would be writing books. It also changes the dynamic of "why doesn't everyone in the order have amazing books since copying them is so easy?"

It also gives yet another reason for getting an apprentice.

Well, (1), as you mentioned, it isn't necessarily realistic, even it's good game balance and (2), low power levels are boring to people like me. I've been playing low powered games with slow advancement for 20 years. Sometimes it's nice to play a higher power faster advancement game.

It also depends on you're trying to "fix" the OoH to fit into mythic europe. If you want to keep history as is, then yes, the OoH needs slower advancement and to be less powerful. My personal feeling is to move the game much farther back in time, and keep the power level high, and then let the players ruin "History".


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IMO, there is nothing broken about the rules for tractatus or summae and there is nothing to fix.

Individually, I agree that they seem to work fine. The issue that some people are having, I think, is that a library the size that the core rulebook suggest covenants actually have is a hassle to write up for little return on investment.

The cost of summae, in build points isn't at all reasonable when compared to tractatus. Players will generally select summae over tractatus for this reason. The pricing of books by Vis is inconsistent. Marko even has a house rule that addresses the price of books that is much more reasonable than what is suggested as guidelines for prices. The primary problem is that Branches are supposed to be these great books, and one is canonically defined as having a bp cost of 30. Players will generally build all of the books on Arts that they can at that price. Summae are a bit too cheap for the xp they provide over the long term.

To the point you made in your opening post, I don't think anybody in my sagas would consider L20Q10 to be vain, though that's a very YSMV-type issue.

Personally, I don't care if good books circulate the Order quite regularly. I do find it... Annoying, to say the least, that five more points of Quality on one book is a Major Boon and a huge political tool. The Order of Hermes is supposed to be quite literally one of the biggest scholastic powers in Europe. I'm more annoyed that there aren't more awesome summae on non-Arts, personally... Like, I feel as if such a knowledge-focused group as the Order of Hermes should be totally ashamed of themselves if they find themselves to be at all lacking in subjects like the Realm and (prominent) Organization Lores.

The main limiter on great books in my saga is the lack of authors who aren't vain. Being a really high-end author in the OoH requires quite a large number of specific personality traits and/or characteristics as well as a huge amount of skill in the subject, such that a group as relatively small as the Order really just doesn't have enough people to toss around too many books of the greatest stature. Especially since the Order literally culturally supports not copying down the best books.

I should mention I blatantly ignore the price guidelines in the books when it comes to the trading of vis for books or the right to copy books, as I recognize any given value is going to be extremely case-by-case, so much so that even a baseline is almost meaningless. So perhaps I'm not the best person to gather opinions from.

Granted, this is entirely a "YSMV" issue. But I still don't see what the issue is. First off, the SG should design the initial covenant library, not the players. And compared to my economics rules, the relative value is still the same (cost = level + quality).
As for other issues mentioned, I figure only the very best books get copied and circulated. So after 400+ years of the Order, there is no reason any decent covenant sould not have at least a L10/Q10 summa in every art.
In my long experience of running the same saga for almost 20 years (on and off), none of this has ever been a problem for me or my fellow players.
I can see why you might want to adjust things for a low powered saga. But inconsideration of the game as applies to the majority, there is nothing about books that is "broken" or in need of a fix.

I have to second this. High-quality summae are rare because high-level Art specialists with high Communication and Good Teacher are rare, because most such Art specialists have better things to do with their time (like study their preferred Art further), because those who do sell copies of their books want a pile of vis for them and want to discourage copying for that reason, and because House Bonisagus' obligation to share knowledge is one of the most laughed-at phrases in the Code. The first in particular is going to be the sticking point: +5 Communication or +2/GT are not very common among magi, and those magi who have these traits aren't all going to want to make a project of studying a single Art up to 40 just so they can write a L20 Summa (820 XP is not trivial, and most of that will involve either studying from large amounts of vis or burying oneself in vain tractati for years on end). Now add the fact that Houses Bonisagus and Tremere both firmly support (and enforce through control of Durenmar and through dominance in certamen) copyright and restrictions on the sale of the finest summae.

Summae are powerful, but the Order is not organized enough to ensure that magi get the books they need to climb to the pinnacle of the Arts. (And, of course, magi don't get decades of uninterrupted study time.)

That reason is easy: because covenants don't reliably have "decent" libraries (also, L10/Q10 summae are either damaged books or horribly vain).

L10 summae sound about right for me as reasonably common yet valuable books within the Order. I think Q10 is inflated however.

As per the corebook, Quality = 6 + Com. I don't see the Order overflowing with great communicators who are also noted scholars of the arts. Getting Q10 would be pretty rare in my view.

In reality, there's no information in the published material that details the distribution of Com attributes or Good Teacher virtues among the population of magi. If you want to make great communicators common, then go for it. I like things better with lower quality books and NPC magi who feel more average in their social skills.

Not working from just the core book, Covenants adds resonant materials, and breaks the +6 into three professionals and a +3 constant bonus. Great communication or even good communication isn't necessary for L10Q10 books. High Art scores can do a lot of the work.

Writing a summa with a Q10 is not hard. L10Q10 can be written by someone with an Art score of 20, all three skilled professionals 3+ Com 3 (or Good Teacher and Com 0[sup]1[/sup])+ 1 point of resonance. Someone with an Art score of 22 can do it without a resonant material. Someone with an Art score of 30, and a 0 com, not a Good Teacher, but with skilled professionals and 1 point of resonant materials can produce a L10Q12 book just by lowering the level; give him Com -2, and he's still writing L10Q10. No, this level and quality of book isn't hard to buy into.

There may not be information in published materials, but you can still make some decisions about the Order. Are magi more intelligent than good communicators? I think Int 3 is probably much more common than Com 3.

With respect to Tractatus and a Quality of around 11 (whatever around might mean) is considered sound, while a score of 6 is considered vain. Let's say vain is 5-8, and sound is 9-11. Let's assume that resources are not a problem, so resonant materials +1 and all skilled professionals are available, so tractatus scores start at 7 (3 std +4 for pros and materials). To get to 11 one needs Com 4 or Com 1 + Good Teacher. To get to 9, you need a Com 2, and 10 is Com 3 or Good Teacher. How many magi have lived that have these characteristics and virtues? Good question. But a covenant that is known for producing books starts producing all of their books from at least a score of 7. And if your Order allows Characteristic boosting rituals, you open up the realm of +5 Com, and can do without a combination of some of the skilled professionals and/or resonant materials.

[sup]1[/sup] Good Teacher costs only 1 virtue point, while Com 3 costs 6 of the 7 points of Characteristics available. High Com is more of a sacrifice, Good Teacher is a better bang for the buck in spending resources during character creation. Good Teacher is even better when used in face to face teaching, since it adds +5 there.

More importantly, some of the best books are going to be copied all over. While there aren't a lot of Great Hermetic Writers who produce standard texts of instruction, they do exist.

For a summa to be considered "sound," its Quality should be at least 28-Level (so an Art 40 with Communication +2), and anything that's 25-Level or below is going to be considered a vain summa (that is, written by an inferior writer and not considered the state of the art) (source: Covenants 93). The Branches are 35-Level; something like L20Q15; these books are the magnum opi of the Order's greatest writers (and unfortunately, the Order considers these to be Works of Art that are not to be casually copied or passed around, because Durenmar has been descending into Winter for over a century). I figure the minimum one would need for a Root would be L10Q21; these are the standard primers of instruction in the nine Arts that have them, and canonically you can have one delivered for a token payment to the Redcaps.