Books, Ego, and Power Levels?

I'm having trouble reconciling "what I would do as a magus" with "what seems to be reality." Specifically I don't see why there are not dozens of Tractatus on every Art circulating among any magi who want to reach high levels in an Art.

The initial idea was a Bonisagus thesis called "The Climbing Body": as one limb propels the other upwards, only to be propelled by it in turn, two magi can teach one another and be taught thereby. If you have ten Tractatus in a topic, and two magi (Alpha and Beta), Alpha can read the ten Tractatus, teach Beta up to her level, then Beta can read the ten Tractatus, and teach Alpha to her level. Additionally, as Alpha and Beta reach [say] level 30, each of them can write six Tractatus, and they can learn/teach/learn/teach that way.

It is plausible that any magus doing this would be publicly known as "still an apprentice" or clever, childish phrases would be applied to the two of them.


Once level 40 [say] is reached in an Art, it takes about one pawn of vis to gain one XP in that Art. Reading one good Tractatus gains 8-10 XP in that Art. Imagine a studious, Book Learner, Bonisagus who has access to the Great Library at Durenmar, with thirty Tractatus [of varying Quality] on, say, Creo. Someone with Book Learner could gain [if the average Quality is 7] 9*30 = 270 XP. Level 50 takes 650 XP to reach : 270 from reading those Tractatus, 210 from your study buddy reading those Tractatus and teaching you, 200 from a Summa with a starting level of 10. That's 680 XP with not a single pawn of Vis used. You have to spend a lot of time teaching your fellow magus and vice versa, possibly half the "study" time.

( And then someone can write a level 25 Summa on Creo. )

Here's the next situation: You round up the resources of your Covenant (five other magi) and get them to each write two Tractatus on Creo. You now have ten Creo Tractatus, all new, none written by you; worse on average than Durenmar's, since these were not volunteers, but that's 60 XP of Tractatus. You now trade with, I don't know, Val-Negra for ten of their Creo Tractatus and Coeris for ten of their Creo Tractatus. You have ANOTHER thirty Tractatus and you can reach level 50 on your own.

... and write ten Tractatus on Creo for trade.

In the last 300 years, why have there not been dozens of Tractatus written and commonly traded on every Art? Any Magus who wants to be an expert in an Art or two should write and trade them.

There probably are lots of Q6ish tracti on everything you want. Its when you want Q11 tracti you have trouble. Not a lot of people have com2-3 and not a lot of people have good teacher. Plus if you include non-core books there are other paths to power/eternal life which don't really include increasing the arts.

My thought (which may not be RAW, but seems plausible): Literature rots - that is, summae and tracti can potentially get out of date, based on Breakthrough integrations that occur between the time they are written and when someone reads them. And because the Arm5 core rulebook represents the state-of-the-art as of 1220, some of the older stuff in Duremar just isn't as interesting (or useful) any more.

Anything written in the past 50 years or so is still good. The Roots and Branches? Probably updated periodically to keep them fresh. Anything else? Not so much.

I've always found the mechanical aspects of tractatus to be a little broken -- it simply doesn't make sense to me that a fresh-out-of-Gauntlet magus with a score of 6 in an Art can write anything useful at all for an archmagus with a score of 40 in that Art.

IMHO and as a House Rule suggestion, I'd say that a tractatus should have a Level equal to the Art score of the magus who wrote it. It is only useful to someone whose Art is at least half the Level and up to one-and-a-half the Level.

So a tractatus written by a magus with an Art score of 6 would be only useful to those whose Arts score is between 3 and 9, while a tractatus written by a magus with a score of 20 is useful to those with an Art score between 10 and 30.

Then you can improve the Quality of a tractatus like much you can for Summae -- lowering the Level by 2 allows you to raise the Quality by 1, up to twice the original Quality. So if the magus with a score of 20 but Com -1 wants to improve the quality of his tractatus from 5 to 10, it becomes only useful to those with an Art score between 5 and 15.

In my opinion, this is a place where the unrealistic economy of covenant's is a problem. The simple reason "in reality" would be that writing a text is time consuming and expensive. Remember, they don't have printing presses or mass produced paper. Each sheet of parchment has to hand made by a skilled profession. Likewise, inks have to made, usually from rare and expensive materials. Finally, a skilled scribe (whose education must be paid for and how must be houses and fed) is needed to copy out the text, page by page, by hand using either natural light (so limited to the hours of daylight) or working by candle (which is an additional expense and fire hazard). The amount of work that goes into producing a finished book is monumental and therefore books are treasures to cherished and protected.

Now, obviously, magic can overcome or ease the process greatly, whether by simply providing magical lighting to outright magically duplicating a full text with a wave of the hand. However, leaving that aside, the presumption of the medieval setting is that books are rare and precious treasures. Unfortunately, covenants are (as defined in the supplement of the same name) outrageously rich. Couple that with the attitude of "well it's just a season of work for some grog with the Failed Apprentice virtue, we wrote up six of them" and books aren't as difficult to produce as they really ought to be.

It's a situation that turns musty libraries full of arcane secrets and powerful lore into used book stores, tossing around tractii of Arts as if they were cheap paperbacks (and yes, I do hate it).

They certainly aren't cheap to write an original, nor are they cheap to copy. But compared a pawn of vis or two, the value of an educated person to copy a book isn't much. Similarly the price of a book compared to a book is obviously pretty even. Paper is only costly when you can't mass produce it with a creo herbem spell.

Let see here:
Manufact the Unwritten Tomes
Creo Herbem 20
R: Touch, D: Instant, T: Group
Creates 1000 blank books of ideal quality for writing.
Base 3 Group+2 Touch +1 Size+2

So a pawn of vis is roughly 250 blank books. Similar spells can be done for ink, and the like. Higher level spells are more efficient. The main cost is thus the price of people copying. If a mundane could make something valued at even one pawn of vis a season, you can bet someone would set up a factory.

So yes, books are expensive. You need experts to make one. Sort of like high quality lab equipment. But... magi have the resource to buy them. The price might be in books or vis or spellcasting. Maybe high quality ones have the Mythic equivalent of DRM. (Oath of Cow and Calf) But not all of them. The higher quality ones will be rarer. But their will be enough people putting out vain tracti, Bongi magi making books, correspondences that can be collected etc.

Except books weren't made out of paper, they were made from parchment. Hides. Animal.
Strangely, I'm not aware of a base for processed animal products...
And the spell probably needs some complexity, which would either increase the level or decrease the number of items...

Don't get me started on the inflated vis economy, the overuse of ritual spells to create resources or the frankly absurd and broken mechanics of "size" related to such spells.

I think the experience mechanics already account for this effect. A quality 10 tractatus will give someone with a score of 0 four levels in an art. The same book will only raise a character from 9 to 10, but for the Magus with a 40 over 4 such books will be needed to get to 41.

No need for complexity, there are already guidelines for processed and treated products. (And animal products for that matter.) They are in the respective boxes. Not on the of effects, but before that
Animal product is 5. +2 magnitude for processed and treated. +1 for touch. +2 for group. That comes to a cost of 30 levels (6 vis) for ten. Which to be fair is a bit more expensive, especially since a level 30 spell is gonna be a bit harder. A capitalist mage could invent a spell a tier higher, for more books per vis, but (s)he probably wouldn't cut prices a ton if it was just one. If more than one does it, again the price of books drops off.

So maybe a book is worth 2 vis.

Perhaps it is a waste or overuse of vis to use it to copy books. Which would only prove my point that a copy of a book is of comparable value to a pawn or two of vis, at most.

The point isn't that books are cheap. The point is that magi are rich enough to buy them or make copies.

Let's look at the guideline...

So, +2 Group would technically make 10 pages of a book of parchment to be used in a book. So, creating books isn't quite as easy as you propose. Apply the +1 Size it would go to 100 pages. Then you have to form them into a book, stitch and bind them together. That's where the complexity comes in...
Don't think it's quite so simple or vis effective as you propose or LuciusT is concerned about...

Except there´s nothing what so ever requiring anyone to NOT use paper for making a book. Or papyrus. Or bark. All those were certainly known and used at least before game era. Parchment was preferred for being a good compromise between durability and cost, not because other options did not exist.

And books NOT made of parchment is actually a very good option for magi, as they can store them in such a way that they will last much longer, even if still not as long as parchment. If the paper is created magically, it means its structure can also be optimised as required, while being of perfect quality.

A potential HR i´ve mentioned before for this is to start as you say, give all tractatus the level of whoever wrote it.
However, rather than making them binary, useful or not, which is very unrealistic, instead provide a scale or multiplier that affects the Quality. Make it as simple or complex as you prefer.
For example, if readers Score is above book Level, then divide Q/2, if reader score is above twice book level then divide Q/3 and so on. That´s a rather simple and easy to keep track of (it´s what i have used when keeping tractatus nerfed ).

A single hide. Not a single page. I'm not sure what animal you are using, but a
Plus I think you are missing this.

Depending on what "standard individual" means when combined with that guideline we either have books equal to the mass of ten pony hides, or books equal to the mass of ten ponies. I just eyeballed that as ten books. Its probably a heck of a lot more.

IS there a reasonable possibility that magi would not be familiar with books made from paper? IF they don't know about it, they can't make it...

IF you creo a T:Ind hide, does it weigh as much as 1 standard individual of the form (the +1 sized pony). So, does it stand to reason that if you go to Group, you can make hides or parchments equal to the mass of 10 +1 sized ponies? I know what the Guideline for group says that, but it can break a lot of things. I don't have a problem with T:Group making a bunch of hides, I do have a problem with T:Group making 10 ponies weight worth of books (or maybe not, medieval books were amazingly heavy).

And, then we can go into discussing that it's making hides, which requires someone working it into parchment and then binding it into a book.
IF you want to jump straight to books, there's the issue of the increasing complexity (which is reasonable, see Conjuring the Mystic Tower) which represents the jump from hides to parchment to a bound book.

To the Interwebs, Mage-Lad!

According to the wiki article on the history of paper (, papermaking was quite common throughout the Islamic world, starting in the 9th century. (The Koran was usually inscribed on vellum, though). The crusades interrupted the papermaking in Damascus, but it was diffused throughout the middle east.

So I would say that it would be a story point for a magi NOT to be at least aware that the technique existed. Paper mills themselves started showing up in Iberia (again, Islamic-controlled) in 1151. The first paper mill showed up in Italy in 1276. So, from the sound of it, paper books themselves would be known (if only "Hey, everything we get from the Levant is written on this stuff"), while the actual creation of paper in Central Europe is just outside period - it would probably be only a bit outside historical accuracy to have magi starting up their own mills.

However - making it out of TREES is another thing entirely - the kind of paper they're talking about is made from recycled material from the textiles industry (rags and whatnot) - wood pulp isn't successfully used until 1843. I suppose this being magi, they can experiment, though...

The tower is "elaborate". Books not so much. Furthermore there are already two magnitudes being added for a more complex form.

So it seems that 6 vis allows for a literal ton of blank books. Which reduces cost to scribes and ink, plus a bit of vis. If need be we can make ink with another spell. Really it is looking like a vis or two is plenty to copy a book.

...Or in reading through the Covenents section again, it specifically talks about paper (pg. 84) - "...but is not durable. University students often use paper to create temporary books of notes. It is not an acceptable alternate to parchment for permanent records, although covenants use it for administrative notes."

It does also note that the quality of paper has been improving, while the price is falling, though.

Bookmaking is incredibly complicated. It is an elaborate process to turn the hides into parchment. And then to bind the book. As KevinSchultz said, to the interwebs.
If you want to make a ton of books or more, that's certainly possible, and I can see how one might get there. So, what's the point of making a ton of books. In a few years, you're going to have a bunch of moldy books, because you can't fill them with content fast enough...
10 books seems to be a reasonable amount, to be filled with content within a relatively short period of time is possible.

To add on (Covenents, pg. 97 - "Binding the Mundane Codex") - To create the most basic book (a flap-book) out of available parchment is ReAn 5 - that binds up to 1,000 prepared bifolds into books. To add in covers and bindings and whatnot takes an Int+Finesse vs. an Ease factor of 12.

EDIT - to create a Hermetic book that can take advantage of Resonances is Re An 20, Int+Finesse of 12, +3 per Resonant bonus. So to get a "real" hermetic book (+3), it would be a difficulty of 21.