Breaking Summae

Summae are an ultimate path to power in Ars Magica. As I've said elsewhere, a L20Q10 summa (easily bought with 30 build points at covenant creation) and a L15Q15 summa (just as easily bought) can be a path to Archmagus-hood in several easy steps. In all ways, summae are cheaper, both with respect to build points and with respect to recommended vis cost in covenants, when compared to tractatus. Heck, I've caught myself planning out advancement to read summae first, and tractatus later, because tractatus take away from what the summae can teach me (it's not experience point efficient).

Summae have bothered me (and, as I recall, some others here on the forum) for a time, and quite frankly so did teaching, especially as outlined in Art and Academe. In Art and Academe, there is a virtue called Baccalaureus. It provides 90 xp, which it describes as being learned over three years of a baccalaureus program at a University. I think, but I haven't researched, that the academic year was similar to our current university schedule, with semesters, and summer breaks (Art & Academe calls this the Great Vacation). It may be stretched over a 9 month period, but those 9 months probably aren't fully packed with instruction, at least not the way Ars Magica handles learning, it's probably 2 seasons of learning and a "free" season" over the length of the other two where students carouse or do other things, improving non-academic skills. The Great Vacation season is probably a season of work. So my assumptions are 30 xp per year from the baccalaureus come from two seasons of instruction, or 15 xp per season.

How easy is it to get to a Teaching SQ15? Well, 3 is standard for everyone, which leaves 12. I think we can safely say that there aren't bonuses here for class size of 1 or 2 students, so those are excluded, and what is left is that a teacher (probably a recent Master in Artibus) needs to have a Com+Teaching+Virtue total of 12, on average. Even if every teacher in a school had the Good Teacher virtue, you still have to have a Com+Teaching of 7, just to get to SQ 15, and provide enough experience points that the virtue suggests. Couple that with what I saw as a problem of summae, I came up with a solution. One that I believes solves the problem with summae and one that solves the problem with the apparent SQ problem related to the baccalaureus, and to some extent the Magister in Artibus and Doctor virtues.

The following comes from a HR that is mostly done, but still needs some tweaks. The example is of a summa on an Art, but the quality for all summae is changed.

This does drastically reduce the power of summae, but it also works well in a world awash in tractatus. One change that's been proposed is that the SQ bonus to learning individually be applied to studying with vis, which I like, too. It still needs some tweaking. I've also modified tractatus so that like modern scientific research papers, one has to have a minimum understanding of science and/or the field before reading and receiving the full XP available from the tractatus.

I recognize these changes aren't for everyone, but for those who like the idea of improving teaching a bit, and letting summae work as a resource for knowledge until the level is reached, I think it's extremely useful. It means convincing a magus of advanced power to take the time to teach you, presumably from his book. The advancement will be greater than the book alone under RAW, but the costs in seasons is certainly going to be higher... Studying from a summa can now be a story device.

As you say, it is a matter of taste. And it depends on what other house rules are in place. Combined with the changed tractatus, you've made books far less valuable and encouraged learning from raw vis and, of xorse, teaching. I don't think that's a bad thing, although I am not so keen on the emphasis on book-based teaching.

I would suggest the small quality bonus of the summa when studied alone be added to Practice xp gain. That should still leave the magus preferring teaching or raw vis, while keeping xp gain high enough to be comparable with other pursuits.

Tractatus have a slight penalty. Take Art + Magic Theory, and for every point it is less than ten, subtract that from the SQ of the tractatus. Art 3 + MT 3=6, 10-6=4, so a tractatus in that Art is reduced by 4. Players can review the tractatus later to recoup the missing xp. For ability tractatus the measure is the ability score itself, and a score of 3 is necessary to have no penalty, So someone unfamiliar with the ability trying to learn from a Q10 tractatus would get 7 xp, and could come back later as they improve to acquire the XP, should they so desire.

You can't practice Arts according to RAW, and I wouldn't HR that. That's what learning from Vis is for. And since the analogue to that is practice with an ability, practice with a textbook at hand is probably just as reasonable.

I haven't made all books much less valuable, tractatus are still just as valuable, and actually become the primary method of book learning.

I know personally when I was in school I learned more from the books than the teachers, and before the invention of the printing press teaching was done largely without books. The fact is that a medieval education and a modern education are not equivalent.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was only the teacher who had the book, in the middle ages. He was still using it to teach. The purpose isn't to equate medieval and modern educational systems, so much as it is to make sense of how one gets 30 xp in the course of two semesters? Perhaps you could argue three semesters, which I don't believe is reasonable, but it's a possibility. That would be 10 xp per season, and only 7 xp needs to come from a teaching+com+Good Teacher. Again, it's not an impossible total, but it does suggest that Good Teacher is important in the equation, and that almost every teacher at a University is a Good Teacher, has a high communication score or is a master teacher...

Why would you assume the teacher taught from a book? Certainly none of my lecturers ever used a book, unless it was to look for what page they needed the rest of us to reference. Historically pre printing press most instruction was done without books. The entire rule looks to me like a solution to a non existent problem. You think books are too powerful (along with ring duration, and rules for high skills above age 30) so instead of rekludging the entire system maybe look for a more subtle solution. Employ the requirement for binding, scribing and illustrating to bring the quality down, for example.

Beause that's how I recall middle ages education working from prior reading. It's been a while since I read it, and I could be remembering incorrectly, but I thought it was the teacher reading from the text, a specific text for the course, not a subject matter book, and then commenting on the reading that he'd done. I don't recall the source for that. I'm sure someone more learned about medieval instruction can comment on the methods used.

Well, isn't this equating modern learning to medieval learning? And regardless, if they were preparing their lessons to align to a textbook, they would probably have copious notes guiding them through their lecture. I had very few professors capable of speaking contemporaneously on a subject for 50 minutes and making it align to the text for their course without the help of notes. The one that I recall doing this well is a certified genius with an eidetic memory.

I'm pretty sure that's not true, as there are ample stories of stationers and book sellers being present around universities before the advent of the printing press. If teaching was being done without books, then these businesses wouldn't setup near a university.

I have no idea what you're trying to get at here. Employing skilled professionals brings the quality up. Since the costs to magi are negligible, it's simply fait accompli to include them in all totals for quality.

If you ever played Ars 4th edition, there was no "teaching" skill - there was lectatio (teaching a group from a book) and disputatio (one-on-one teaching using the Socratic method) as separate skills. It was a level of medieval simulationism too far for the Ars 5th core rules, so now we have "Teaching" to cover both.

You can simply remove Summae from the game and consider them to be just a bunch of tractatus put together. or limit them to teach you to level 3 (ability) or 7-10 (Art) and from that point onwards you must use tractatus. No biggie if you want to go that route. We removed them from the game IMS and it worked just fine.


I'd forgotten about lectio! Of course, I never actually played 4th edition, since I took 20 years off of Ars Magica from 3rd to 5th edition.
<goes to read Lectio in the 4th Edition rules>
Ok, so I'm totally stealing parts of 4th Edition rules to put them back into 5th. Ha ha! At least I didn't say include the student's intelligence in the totals... :smiley: I'm of course going to ignore the different teacher same text, or same teacher different text rules. Wow that's complicated. :smiley:

I was wondering when you would stop by the thread. :smiley:

I don't want to remove them from the game. I want them to be a tool for teaching. If you want to spend time reading through them you can, just don't get a lot of experience from it. Or use it as an aid in understanding the study from vis.


I don't think that summae are broken. I do think some things are a little broken:

  1. The covenant generation rules for point values do not reflect either value or prevalence. Summae cost very few points for what they do, but that's only the most noticeable issue.

  2. The rules for teaching create all sorts of interesting and unexpected optimization opportunities.

Eliminating summae can help, but so can changing the point value or covenant generation system.

The issues with teaching can be dealt with by treating each teacher as both a summa and a bunch of tractati: A student cannot benefit from a teacher beyond those limits, with seasons of teaching and seasons of reading the teacher's books both counting against those limits. A teacher cannot learn from one of his students unless that student achieves a minor breakthrough in the subject.

FWIW, I am a big fan of the AM2/AM3 library rules. Since the study of Arts and most subjects is almost never a secret, it makes sense that after a certain point, only a collection of books that is strictly better will help. The exceptions can be dealt with (ie, we have found a long-lost record from Aristotle, Bonisagus or The Doctor...)

Tangentially.... If my own experience of medieval scholasticism is at all representative (and I think it is: the "modern" study of Talmud seems to fit the mold neatly, though with a few innovations of its own (chavrutha)), the notion that an important text has a limit simply doesn't hold. There is never a point where studying the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, Aristotle or any of the greats ceases to provide insight or revelation.



That sounds good in theory, but man that's a lot of bookkeeping. I'm not in favor of a huge amount of bookkeeping to try and retain the information of who taught what to whom and when from which book.

Oh yeah! That's part of why I'm such a great fan of the old library rules. No need to track who has read what books, or maintain large lists of books.

Easy enough to create a similar rule for the modern xp-based development paradigm:

For each Art and Ability, a covenant has sufficient books and communication with the Order to support a set amount of xp per season.

But of course, you don't have stories to acquire the big book? Or at least I don't remember that from 3rd edition. I need to find a 3rd edition book that isn't ridiculously priced. I remember being blah about 3rd edition libraries for some reason...

In the modern world, given we have cheap printing, the lecturer would have asked you to purchase his book, and to personally buy a list of readings.

Textbooks being required, monopolisitc, and regularly churned is a source of income.

Back in the day, lecturers taught from books. Indeed, the whole point of a lecture hall is to have a person standing at a lectern and talking to a group of people who, as he speaks, make copies of the text, inculcated with his thoughts, on paper as he talks. That's what "lecture" means by the way, it means "to read" which is why mid-level academics in some of the older British universities are called Readers.

Compare for effect the Arabic style of madrasas, where the lecturer sat in a chair (which is where Western "chair in X" appointments are said to come from) and his students gathered around him to hear him talk, but not to make notes. No hall necessarily. No desks.

That "the lecture is dead" is an interesting idea I first read about in the 1990s. I'm doing my bit to kill it this month at work, where we are supporting a fiction writers' MOOC. I don't think Ars has anything that's MOOC-like yet, although at some point I expect the Genius of the Cave of Twisting Shadows is going to demonstrate that it's a lot less geographically bound than people like to think.

Say that the student have 2 seasons of instruction, but if the students gather up and starts discussing in clubs/gangs/cliques they could get the benefit of a Correspondance-type of Book from Covenants (page 90), which gives them a single XP on the topic that the students discuss among themselves and these xp can trickle in even if there is no education. The 3rd season, the student works at the University or aids a professor in research or copy letters et.c. and thereby gets an exposure of 2 xp + the additional correspondance bonus. The last season, the student is on vaccationa nd maybe gets +1 from correspondance with either professor or fellow students.

[Year 1]
Season 1: Study with Teacher: 12 Xp, Corespondance with other students: 1 Xp = Total: 13 Xp
Season 2: Study with Teacher: 12 Xp, Corespondance with other students: 1 Xp = Total: 13 Xp
Season 3: Work on Campus: 2 Xp, Corespondance with other students: 1 Xp = Total: 3 Xp
Season 4: Vaccation, Corespondance with other students: 1 Xp = Total: 1 Xp

Total: 30 xp
Teacher's Quality: (Communication+Teaching+Virtue): 9 and an additional +3 for the standard Teaching Bonus

Think about that, Com+Teaching+Virtue=9 almost necessitates Good Teacher, Com 2 and Teaching 2, and this is the minimum requirement to teach at the school. Every teacher basically can teach with a SQ of 12.
Or Com 5 Teaching 4
Or Good Teacher and teaching 4

Member of the Suhar, Com +2, Great Teacher, Teaching 7 (magi gain Magic Theory XP through exposure in their season of service, Sahir's tend to gain teaching XP), great teacher = SQ of 17. Some will also have Puissant teaching. For teachers who do not belong to a mystical tradition that puts a huge emphasis on teaching. SQ 10 seems more realistic (+2 com, +5 teaching, +3 bonus).

Cosidering that an apprentice craftsman does have at least 3 in his chosen craft and a jorneyman have at least 5 (according to page 42 of City of Guild), I would say that it is approx the same for teachers. So say that a Journeyman Teacher has 5-6 in teaching ad a really good professor 6-8.

Some professors can speciallize in the field they are teaching. For example Teaching (Artes Liberales) or Teaching (Latin/Languages) which gives the teacher an additional +1 to his teaching quality.