All hail the powerful Summa

It's probably this statement in Covenants that I have the most trouble with. L10Q10 books are vain. Are they vain because a good writer with an Art score of 20 decided to write a book for the benefit of his sodales in the covenant? Are they vain because it's really a master of an Art who knows it so well but communicates it so poorly?

Q10 summae certainly aren't vain by the standards of tractatus, and to someone with a score of 0 in an Art a L10Q10 summa is worth ~6 Q10 (sound) tractatus. The price of 1 summa (half the level, according to page 94 of covenants, because it is vain) is 5, while the price of the 6 Q10 tractatus is suggested to be 12 pawns. Again, which is the better deal? And I'd generally kill for L15Q10 books, which are "vain." 12 seasons to get to an Art score of 15 from a score of 0? Sure. Sign me up. Vanity, indeed.

But going back to the formula for a sound summa being 28-Level, so if Level is 10, Quality should be 18, which means that in just about 3 seasons (only 1 xp shy) they can raise an Art from 0 to 10. That's a sound summa, and there should be some of these floating about the Order, right? Hardly ever see anyone design a book like this, though.

Resonant materials are inflationary, like so many other parts of Covenants. Does the game really benefit from making magi advance more quickly than the core rules provide for? IMO, no.

Here we agree, it's up to troupes to make such determinations. I also agree that Intelligence is more common than communications ability among magi, for thematic reasons.

I can't agree that it is somehow "vain" for a scholar with average communications skills (Com 0 = Q6) to write a text. I would consider Q6 to be an average book.

Very true, but again these are inflationary measures that I shun, by choice.

Here I think we differ. To me, characters don't "buy" virtues or "build" their characteristics. Players do, as part of the game. There's no reason a priori to assume that Good Teacher is common among NPCs just because it's a minor virtue for game purposes. There's also no reason to associate the virtue with high Com scores when you could just as easily have a generally poor communicator who's good in the classroom.

Me either, but there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it.

Anyway, the thing with "vain summae" is that the people who are making these determinations are the very respectable people at Durenmar, who have access to multiple resonant and clarified copies of the best summae ever written and who have an institutional love for extremely outdated Bonisagus traditions, and by covenants that are actually engaged in the Hermetic book trade, who make a business of selling copies of sound summae. Thus, a nice L15Q10 summa is going to be disparaged and, if it sells at all, sold at lower price than something that Durenmar considers an acceptable standard.

As for tractati, I think the assumption in the Hermetic book economy is that you're not going to be reading Art tractati before L10 unless you're in a deprived Covenant or something.

And I wasn't counting Heroic Characteristic rituals in my assumption and neither was Covenants. I was assuming competition from the summae written by the masters, the Aristotles and Ciceros of Hermetic magic.

+1 requires spending silver (trivial), +2 requires a story, this is a book that if copied drops two points in quality for resale. +3 requires a massive investment in vis (and time and will likely rarely be used) and can never leave an aura or it crumbles to dust (this would be vanity, IMO).

Well, I'm not the one who defined it. It's defined as part of RAW, for good or ill.

Sure, PCs are designed and built by players. NPCs are designed by built by the SG, but also by players, too, in some troupes. But, I never said Good Teacher is common, did I? And sure, you can have Com -2 + Good Teacher How is this not a design choice by the player or the SG? The larger point, and it dovetails with what others have said, is that eventually you're going to get someone with high com and good teacher. Perhaps they are motivated to learn all they can on an Art from multiple sources (vis, mass quantities of tractatus, teaching from another magus) and then they write the magnum opus on an Art and it's a Branch of the Arts.
Let's take the one canonical Branch of the Arts De Lapii L17Q14 by Jeremias filius Guernicus. He has an Art score of at least 34 when he wrote this tome. To get to Q14, with an Art score of 34, let's add all skilled pros, 2 points of resonant materials for a total of 8, meaning he has to provide 6 points himself, Com 3 and Good Teacher. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is very little difference between vain summae, sound summae, and these Branches of the Arts (which are supposedly the best books written on the Art), and building a covenant with build points makes building books like this remarkably easy and the preferred choice for players.

Me either, but there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it.
Kind of my point, it's not a vain book, not really by any stretch. You have a three point spread between vain and sound, and then another three point spread between sound and a Branch. Doesn't that seem a bit narrow?

Sure, in character they are making decisions on what is vain and what is sound and what is considered a Branch of the arts, but the separation between them is really rather small.

So, all covenants should, as a course of action begin procuring these L10Q10 cheap books for 5 pawns of vis each...

I wasn't counting Heroic characteristics (these are 6, not 5), people can have Great Communication and a score of 5 without the rituals. These individuals are decidedly rare, but covenants was taking them into account when it discussed Q17 tractatus. Granted, with characteristic boosting rituals available, you're going to have a few more who have a score of 5, for the vanity of being able to write Q15 tractatus (without the last two points of resonances).

Let's just consider the trivial +1 level of resonance. Then add in the +1 any magi can get from corresponences (letter writing) with other magi, without any hinderances to other activities. The 8 points a magus using only the core rules would get from reading a basic Q8 book turn to 10, a 25% increase. Even if the base text were Q10, the XP would be 20% higher at 12.

That's what I mean by the inflationary aspect to Covenants, which is a wonderfully flavorful book in almost every other way. For those of us who think magi are already too powerful, skipping these rules additions is a good first step.

And with correspondences, one can get a +50% increase on their exposure experience, wait, no, +100% when they spend only 1xp of Exposure on something, and the other xp goes somewhere else. Or on a Q10 source, it's only a 20% increase.

And the point is that it's inflationary? Ok, so let's say that Correspondence is possible for a magus. Over 30 years, he gets perfect correspondence for every season of study and every season of labwork, say he gets 3 seasons a year of correspondence, that's 90 xp. Divided among several Arts and or Abilities. Even someone who dedicates all the correspondence XP to one Art isn't getting a lot out of it, because the study he is doing or the lab work he is doing must be on that Art. One can say that they are always using Magic Theory when in the Lab, how much of that time is in the lab? Half? Ok 45 xp to Magic Theory, which will raise a 5 to a 6 over the course of 30 years, less if he's reading tractatus. No, correspondence isn't really inflationary. It's a bit of a bookkeeping nightmare, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not inflating Art or ability scores much at all.

Again, here I have a vastly different opinion. IMO, VERY YES. The RAW advancement rules are far to slow for me to be able to run a decent game. But that is just me. Some like lower power, some higher. The core rules are set right in the middle.
So I assert yet again, nothing is broken, nothing needs to be fixed. Things can be modified, down or up, as suits you. But as a baseline, the way things are (for books) is set just right.

Believe it or not, I share your view on advancement speed to a certain degree. But if I were to change things to speed game advancement it would be by giving more XP for game-related action - adventures mostly, ancient lore gained adventuring, things like that. Book XP is not just boring and off-screen, but it affects everyone in the Order and raises overall power levels.

I don't think any particular power level, high, medium, or low is inherently good or bad for players. I do object to a setting where power spirals to a point where the mundane no longer a threat or even particularly important.

I think it depends on what kind of game you want to run, and what sort of world. Gritty and down in the mud? Every scrap of magic is precious and probably involves a fight or quest. Want a game in which you experience the steady rise and fall of covenants and kings and countries? Fast. Epic? Either.

For me, epic games are less about development than about where you start and what you do. Pumping in lots of extras at the beginning really sets the tone. Achilles, Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Chuck Norris, they start off awesome (and Chuck Norris starts off awelots, because some isn't enough) and do cool stuff. Odysseus never levels up, but that's fine. Sometimes the epic is all about leveling up, but usually there are only one or two levelings, and the last one occurs just before the climax. But continual leveling can also be epic. And sometimes that leveling can go downward, as in the Silmarillion, in which Melkor, the Noldor and even the world itself slowly become less.

I do that too. That is an HR though, I hand out on average 10xp for medium scale adventures, and up to as high as 20 for epic adventures. My players are more conservative in running adventures. On average around 7xp. I see those as small scale excursions that do not take up the whole season, so you can get them in the ten-day gap and still have a lab season.

As for mundanes, that is not an issue for me. The game is about magi, not knights and bishops. But as always, YSMV.