Complaint: no libraries in 5th ed Tribunal supplements!

Dearest Ars Magica authors:

I've been playing ArM since its 3rd edition and I still really love it. The 5th edition gives a lot of detail and structure the previous editions lacked of. We have almost all the tribunals detailed, also, which is great. The latest, Faith and Flame, is wonderful and full of ideas, and it's one of the best works I have read. The same to others 5th edition Tribunal books.

BUT there's something REALLY FRUSTRATING: Why, for Hermes' shake, there's not any statistic of the covenants' libraries in the 5th edition tribunal books???

3rd and 4th edition tribunal books had the libraries, the auras, the Aegis, etc, detailed, AND THAT WAS GREAT. It's a very useful reference when our players want to interchange books with another covenant or negotiate studying in it.

So, why cannot we have that information for the 5th ed tribunal books?

I'm afraid the answer could be something like: "Because that way every troupe can personalize the libraries to the level of power of their saga".

If that's the answer, please, please, please understand that it's DEEPLY FRUSTRATING. Tribunal books should be complete reference books. They have always been in previous editions, and I don't understand why in 5th, by far the best edition, we don't have them. They should be books from which the Storyteller takes ALL THE BORING INFORMATION (statistics, I mean) that it's really hard to make from the scratch so that it doesn't hamper the game. Here I talk about libraries, but also applies to magi's statistics (almost absent from the tribunal books either).

When a Tribunal book is published, the authors define a lot of plots, and we, as Storytellers, take them or not, modify them or not. They help us a lot because that way we taste the true flavour of the tribunal. Well, that's great. Couldn't we have the same for the covenants' statistics? Once we had them, we could modify them if we feel them too powerful or too weak. But at least we would have something to work on.

I know a library implies a large list of books that it's hard to elaborate. Because of that, it should be enough to have several guides in the supplements to use each covenant library. The Durenmar library has general rules about how to get information, for example. That kind of orientation would be great.

To give another example, I don't know what books to design for Aedes Mercurii (in the Provenzal tribunal), a very old covenant that should have a big library. I have found myself in front of the players with a book detailing the tribunal but having to improvise the library they have, with my best poker face when they asked to study with them.

I think there's a common error (not only in Ars Magica but in many RPGs) that is to consider that is good not to give information to game masters and players in order to "not restrict their creativity". No, folks, that's not it. If I spend my money in a book I expect to have all the important information inside. I am mature enough to discard what I don't like. But if the author says me: "No, look, I didn't design the spells/monsters/city/NPCs in this book you have just bought because it's better that you create them your own way", then I get really annoyed and think I wasted my money and my time.

Well, that is my complain. Sorry if I sounded hard, because I didn't intended to. I think that the rest of the content of the tribunal books is really, really great. A wonderful work. But the library subject is, indeed, annoying.


I don't know. I get where you're coming from, but detailing a 5e library takes up a LOT of page space, and doing so for every covenant will deprive us of a lot of space in the books that is currently used for things that I think most SGs/players will find more useful. Remember most players will never see the library manifest of other covenants!

I can still see the occasional covenant given a library (one advocated for PCs, or noted for its large library, or so on), even in rough terms as in Durenmar. I agree with you there. That will create a good benchmark and aid SGs in deciding the library of the PC's covenant or other covenants in the tribunal. But I wouldn't want to see every covenant's library fully detailed, and can certainly see most given only a skim description.

Perhaps compromise - list 0 to 3 notable books in the library of each covenant perhaps. I've spent a lot of time doing it in my game but it would have been nice.

Yes. By the time you have listed the Level, Quality, Author, and Title of a book, you are looking at 10-15 words per book, and that is a pretty minimal description. Detailing a library takes a lot of space. The authors have chosen to do other things with that word count.

A&A does have lots of mundane book statistics in it.

Another point to consider - there are huge disparities in play style. One person's fantastic quality library is another person's library for chumps and losers.

I'm currently working up a note sheet on covenants of the Order, starting with Provencal Tribunal, with simple note on various features, and to be honest with some of them you wouldn't know they even have a library except that it's assumed.

If no library is mentioned, and I have no reason to say otherwise, I'm listing it as Average, and I'm assuming that the season of the covenant is a major factor (the library of the average Autumn library is probably impressive to a young mage in a Spring covenant), and I'll figure out how they interact later and what the rough numbers could be.

Result: every library in Provencal Tribunal is Average, except for Tres' Band's library and Ostal des Exiles', which I rate as Poor, and Castra Solis' library, which is noted as "Fine" in the text with focus on military subjects.

This will change when I get to the Rhine, if not before, as there is the Great Library of Durenmar, and I vaguely recall that Fengheld has a good library, but that seems to be the trend - usually not even a nod.

(Our own library I rate as Very Poor - four books, two or three tractatus, three spell texts.)

Well those would be some repetitive Tribunal books.

I do get your point that the stats would make your life easier, though. It would mean that the chapter for Ceoris was the size of a phone directory and filled with individual bits of low value House Tremere lore. 8)

Now, in saying this I'd like to point out that I love libraries. I work in libraries. I spent 20 hours doing voicework to create an audiobook for "Literary Taste: How to form it" which is about setting up a personal library.

The problem, essentially, is this: the story hooks presented by one library are very similar to the story hooks presented by another library, because the way Ars libraries works is not like how actual research libraries work. They are, interestingly and co-incidentally, the way medieval monastic libraries worked. The idea that you browse a single tome for months and it pours wisdom into you is very medieval. The problem with it is that it makes libraries a series of single works, each of which drops XP when you shake it. You need to detail all of them. This is tedious and adds very little the the game after the fifth or seventh iteration. How are the plot hooks for the massively detailled library at Durenmar different to those of the massively detailed library at Valnastium?

Actual researchers, doing actual research never study in this single book way. Libraries are great integrated machines. Think of a library as something akin more to a museum filled with animal or botanical specimens. Research works much the same way in each (which is why, btw, Australian librarians and museum curators are now considered to be the same profession by the Department of Employment here.) Reading a single book to solve a conundrum of magic theory makes about as much sense as staring at a single possum skull to say something definitive about possums.

The current edition wants you to be able to write books, so it gives books individual scores. That's fine...ish, but it makes library creation tedious. Also, because library creation is a purely mechanical process, there's no reason for libraries to be much different to each other, and there are heaps of good reasons why eventually your libraries would turn out like those of Victorian gentlemen who all had exactly the same books, with some minor variation for eccentricity and hobbies.

Why would any other library want to trade with your Spring covenant? Why beyond having chosen it at character creation, do you have anything of interest? I'm not saying you don't. I'm just pointing out that the single-book model of statting out is an enormously complicated way of supporting a handful of plot hooks, in service of a minigame (writing books) which doesn't make much sense for actual characters (that is: there's no real reason for the vast majority of magi to write books, or for the vast majority of magi to care when another magus does.)

It's a good idea for an article, actually...

One more problem: The more detail you add to a Tribunal book, the more restriction you add. Ars Magica generally uses very broad brush strokes for a reason, and that is because nailing down details creates a canon that either has to be used (thus defining the setting and giving troupes less flexibility in how they work with each covenant) or ignored (and parts of a book that are designed to be ignored are a waste of wordcount). A full library is the kind of thing that should be limited to a couple of sample covenants, so that we could see the kind of library that a typical Spring covenant and a somewhat-unusual Summer covenant might have, for example.

I mean, Durenmar is worth a setting book all of its own, but do we really want a canonical list of every book Durenmar has in its library, down to L and Q, particularly when Durenmar's library is designed to be one of the Order's most important plot devices? In particular, we absolutely don't want to canonize the list of Roots and Branches available to the Order, because book-oriented PCs may want to either write a Root or Branch in an Art that doesn't have one, or supersede the existing Roots and Branches.

First of all, thanks for your quick answers :slight_smile:

I must say that I understand your reasons but I'm afraid I don't agree.

Yes, it's true, a detailed library for each covenant would consume a lot of pages, and it's a lot of work. No problem with that.

But the point is that it is not necessary to give such a detail level. It would be enough to give general indications, something similar to the way the old editions books showed it. For example, it could be indicated, for each Art, the level and quality of a single representative summae. Not all the summae, just one per Art, to have an idea. That would be a paragraph, not more space. Now I cannot know if the Caeonobium has a great library or not, or Miniata Sophia, etc (all in Provenzal tribunal, my current saga).

Another way could be using the style offered in the core rulebook, but specifying the Arts. (Follows a quote from the book):
"Eight Art summae (three at level 16, quality 15, five at level 6, quality 21), three Ability summae (one at level 5, quality 20, and two at level 6, quality 15), and seven tractatus on either Arts or Abilities (two quality 11, four quality 10, and one quality 9)"

Just a paragraph. If in this text you indicate what Arts are of which level and quality, we will have a very valuable information. It would give an indication of what arts are interesting to study in that library, and still would give space to the ST to personalize.

The problem right now is that there isn't almost any "technical" data about the covenant, not only the libraries. There's not information about:
-Vis supplies
-Magic Aura (in some cases)
-Season of the covenant (in some cases), useful to have indications about its power level. We could deduce it from the foundation date, it's true, so this point is the less important for me.

Do you see where I'm going? I hope so :slight_smile:

Ok, you are right, don't detail the statistics, but I think it is necessary to have information about subjects that are really important in every saga because every magus want to interact with other covenants to interchange books, vis, study in there...


I don't think it's necessary to give an exhaustive list, but a regular note of Good, Bad, or Weird would be appreciated. I've concluded that there are no particularly remarkable libraries in Provencal Tribunal, but there certainly are a lot of average Autumn libraries. (Gather them together and you probably have a very large collection of multiple copies.)

It is, I think, a good idea for there to be a list of the classic works of the Order, but that's a different subjects.

Make a Libraries of the Order book? Basically expand that one chapter in Covenants with sample libraries in various tribunals, include creatures of all four Realms that would be found in libraries, stat up a typical Bonisagus author and their contribution to the Order's libraries, etc

The Lion and the Lily has a real library, the others each have a multi-use tractatus.

AtD 63 Code of Hermes
AtD 63 Order of Hermes Lore
LaL 23 Ignem
LaL 23 Mastery in Aegis of the Hearth
LaL 53 Infernal Lore
LaL 55 Area Lore: England
LaL 55 Area Lore: Normandy
LaL 55 Area Lore: Normandy
LaL 55 Area Lore: Normandy
LaL 55 Civil and Canon Law
LaL 57 Divine Lore
LaL 64 Artes Liberales
LaL 64 Church Lore
LaL 64 Church Lore
LaL 64 Divine Lore
LaL 106 Theology (Jewish)
LaL 106 Theology (Jewish)
LaL 108 Area Lore: Britain
LaL 108 Area Lore: Britain
LaL 108 Area Lore: Brittany
LaL 108 Charm
LaL 108 Divine Lore
LaL 108 Divine Lore
LaL 108 Divine Lore
LaL 108 Etiquette
LaL 108 Magic Lore
SE 39 Divine Lore
SE 39 Intrigue
SE 39 Leadership
SE 39 Magic Lore

Well, HEIRS OF MERLIN had no game stats at all, let alone library catalogues.

Myself, I'd rather see a consistent and usable library filling system or even just guidelines.

I keep saying this: not being able to figure out who has what is a major obstacle to GMing AM.

I don't think that we need 20 full libraries, but one or two would sure be nice.
In addition to that, mentioning a single, special book here and there would be nice.

The library's most infamous book is the illustrated folio "Knochenschande" (Co L20, Q15), which details sexual practices performed by a cult of witches using the bodies of the dead. It is reputed to be of infernal origin, but the quaesitores were unable to prove its demonic origin, and found no way of legally forbidding the lecture of the book. Despite the book's sinister reputation, there are plenty of magi interested inreading it, so the magi of X can charge 2p of vis per season of access to the book.
For each season of reading roll a stress die. If the result is lower than 6, gain the personality trait "morbid" at +1, or increase it by 1 if your character already possesses it.

Everybody seems to agree on the fact that statistics for covenants:
a) would make life easier
b) would consume space that could be used for other stuff :slight_smile:

The issue is that giving statistics is not a binary thing, with the description either there in full or completely absent. You can certainly lovingly detail for every book its author, title, appearance, history, copies elsewhere in the Order, legal controversies (if any) etc. Similarly, you can spend a lot of effort (and space) for other "resources" of the covenant: vis sources, lab texts, enchanted devices, sources of income, grogs etc. This would take many, many pages. Incidentallly, I think in this regard Timothy Ferguson is totally wrong when he says that things unavoidably get very repetitive from one covenant to the next, and this sort of stuff yields no story ideas -- besides, Ars Magica has several resource minigames, so story ideas are not the be-all and end-all of what you should get from a book. But alternatively, you can give much shorter descriptions, that are still quite useful to gauge the "oomph" of the covenant. Consider the following, which is rather clunky but still informative and yet compact (probably less than a single column, i.e. a third of page, in a sourcebook).

Exemplum is a Covenant in its early summer, founded about a century ago. An old stone keep flanked by two lower edifices - which would be enough to hold about 200 men - hosts its 5 junior magi (1 Guernicus, 2 Flambeau, 2 Jerbiton) with their above average (+1 to +2 general quality) laboratories, their 10 veteran men-at-arms, and some 30 loyal servants and specialists including a blacksmith, a carpenter, a swordmaker and a glassblower. Exemplum derives its income, about 100 mythic pounds/year, from the honey produced by an apiary; the expenses generally exceed the income, however, and Exemplum has run up a large debt with a local usurer (almost 300 pounds, requiring interest payments of about 25 pounds/year). Some of the honey is magical, yielding 3 pawns of Animal, 3 pawns of Creo and 3 pawn of Rego vim every year, which Exemplum supplements with about another dozen pawns of various Arts from numerous contested sources; among them 2 pawns of Intellego Vis that the magi obtain in a contest of riddles with a nearby faerie. Exemplum's library has over a dozen good to excellent Tractatus (Q10-13) on Animal, as well as a fabled Summa (L18 Q14), and lab texts for all Animal spells in Arm5 (plus several more). Some of the previous occupants had some interest in the Arts of Muto, Intellego and Terram, too, so Exemplum has fair Summae (L14, Q13), as well as half a dozen fair (Q9-11) Tractatus and lab texts for about 150 spell levels for each of these Arts. Exemplum has at least a primer (L5, Q15) and one to three fair tractatus in every other Art too, as well as a lab text for the covenant's 5th magnitude Aegis of the Hearth. Sadly, Exemplum's non-Hermetic library is not at the same level, and only holds three mediocre Summas (L3, Q9) on the local region (Area Lore), Medicine, and Philosophiae.

One problem is that it sets a power level to the game. What you consider powerful might be weak in Tugdual's game might be very much average in my game. By leaving it at a simple descriptor, you can adjust the numbers as needed.

In Sub Rosa #9, there is a full accounting of the books listed in all the supplements at that time, as well as a dozen mundane-topic books and twenty hermetic books, all with descriptions, multiple topics, some lab texts, and qualities. It would be really easy to put together sample libraries with it. I used it for the Tribunal session we just had, and I'll use it again for the "Tribunal Library" they may visit later.

The format for these entries is:
Book Title [Number of Books, Language written]
Type of book: Topic (Specialty); Level: X, Quality: X
Covenant Build Points: The number of build points that the book costs to buy during covenant creation.
Possible Locations: A short list of places this book might be found. (mundane books only)
Description: Details on the book and its subject matter.

Here's one of the Hermetic books:

Necronomicon Keltoi
Tractatus: Mentem; Quality: 7
Lab Text: Ring of Warding Against Spirits (Level 20)
Covenant Build Points: 7 (library)
Covenant Build Points: 4 (laboratory texts)
Description: A study of Celtic spiritual beliefs and legends regarding death and the afterlife scribed in a scratched and weathered leatherbound codex, this manuscript is written with a faint black and silver ink in a very petite handwriting. A silver button embossed with knotwork and affixed to the cover allows a leather lace to tie the tome shut. The book is an octavo format, measuring five inches by eight inches. A warning has been hastily scribed on the inside back cover, indicating "she won’t stop until she has it back!"

That's 116 words, or slightly less than a story seed. In that way, you can consider each book described in a format like this to be one less story seed or interesting location in the tribunal book, which can provide a lot more play than a book.

With that said, I could easily see a small book (64-pages) of magic items, texts, possibly low-Might potential familiars, and some story seeds. The article in SR#9 would equate to about 1/8 of the material in such a book.


I +1 the original complaint.

And I add the complaint that I could not simply +1 it somewhere.


...and for that book, you would need then to create a ruleset which allowed player characters to write books which force personality traits on their readers. Remember, PCs can do and be everything, with the exception of certain emanations of the Divine. No fair picking an author that could not conceivably be a PC. 8)

That's doable, but you've made the following things canon:

There is a method of writing books which force personality change.
The quaesitores don't err on the side of caution with potentially demonic books or other artefacts.
None of the militant magi have decided to declare War to destroy a book which is obviously a morally corrupting influence. Ergo they either are not good at noticing things, or are too weak to act when something flagrantly Cthonic is being waved in their faces.
There is or was an active necrophilic cult which knows a lot about Corpus.
It was run by "witches" ergo, women, because when there is weird sex to be done, in Ars it's always the women.
Reading about them gives you Corpus. This is odd: reading about trees doesn't currently give you Herbam. I personally believe it should and that you should be able to, for example, use Animal for horseriding and Terram for blacksmithing, but that's not how the game works.
There are a heap of depraved magi. Like, heaps and heaps.
About half of these depraved magi have the Morbid personality trait, more if most read for more than one season. Some are epically morbid, because studting the book for just two years gives you a score of around 4.
2 pawns of vis gets you access to a 20/15 book.

I feel pity for you, Timothy Ferguson. If you are so trapped in a web of canon, maybe you shouldn't write books about Ars Magica. Writing books is not just about accurate research, but about the will to create something new.

If the book was indeed written by a demon (which can be left open), there's no need for players to be able to be able to do the same.

It's not like it says on the cover. "This book may change your personality. Parental guidance advised." I'm currently reading a book on the Pankhursts. Maybe, I'll become more feminist from reading it. I think players should be told about the book's effects, becaus it's clearly unfair to not tell them, but characters have no storyguide to help them.

That's a story seed or two.

Good point. When writing this (in a hurry), I fell prey to the patriarchy that controls our imaginations. But easily rectified. Not using the stereotypical gender asttribution here enriches the idea.