Complaint: no libraries in 5th ed Tribunal supplements!

You feel pity for me? Good grief, you have an operatic life. 8P

The idea of a corrupting book is not new, btw. I've sold versions of it to Atlas twice, and I was just copying the idea from Jeff Tidball (?) who flogged it to Lion Rampant back in the day.

We were, I thought, talking about writing Tribunal books. As many times as I've tried suggesting that canon is for authors and the rest of you should ignore it, the community and the owners of Ars Magica insist that, no, actually, canonicity matters. That means that if you establish things, you've established them. There are various dodges, like the unreliable narrator in Covenants, like saying the word "covenant" means different things to what's expected in AtD, but basically all of your colour text is how the world really is. People who buy your book don't want to later by a book by someone else and find a bit which says "Yeah, ignore that bit from Pralix." That's only ever done in the case of mechanical errors (some of which were mine, like the crossbows.). That's just one of the ground rules of playing the game of being an Ars author. It's not negotiable. It doesn't matter how "daring" or "creative" you are if you refuse to produce product to spec, and part of that spec is that colour text is canon.

For authors, canon matters. It's not about lacking "the will to create something new" - it's about having the professionalism to deliver something within the actual constraints of a real project.

It would be great for an SR article, though. You should write it up.

If the book was written by a demon, then you have a demon who breaks one of the fundamental rules of being a demon. Demons are incapable of persistence, because it requires patience, which is a virtue. They can have mortals do things which require patience for them, but can't have patience themselves. So, writing a book is probably beyond them, unless they can mystically birth it in an instant. Also, it means you have a demon who understand Hermetic Theory. This was possible in 3rd edition, where infernally tainted people could become demons. I'm not clear on how possible it is in the current edition. Certain odd demons (the Watchers) supposedly can teach chthonic magic, so...maybe?

You misunderstand my core point, though. This idea was first sold to LR back in 2nd edition "Order of Hermes". Tsagilla spread books that forced personality change through the rest of the Order. Since then, that's been mentioned several times in later works. I've not yet read Faith and Flame (my copy was delayed), but it's in AtD, for example, in that there's a library of them at Ceoris. When I say "If you want to stat them up this way you need to..." I'm not randomly spouting ideas. I'm saying "The reason you do not have stats for the Red Library in Ceoris is because we are not saying how Druidcal magic works. The reason you don't have stats for the Black Library which includes the books circulated during the Tsagillan Corruption is because it takes up huge amounts of space we'd like to use somewhere else."

If the book were indeed written by a demon, why hasn't it been destroyed? This plot hook's not new: it's so old that the layers of response the Order has to just this situation have already been detailed in other books.

I think this proves my larger point. You've just crafted a book, and the obvious stories it provokes are ones which are already in the line.

Issues of chamberpots and nails aside, I abolutly agree with Timothy on this matter.
Even now, I at times feel constrained by canonical declarations about eg. the structure of the Order or the price of books - we playtest a great deal, so try to limit our use of houserules and odd local assumptions.

That said:

There's the Corruption supernatural ability in RoP: Infernal, is there another one?

Sorry if I was unclear. My point is that you'd need to encapsulate the rules for Corruption into the Tribunal book at that point, much as we now have demon primers and faerie primers in the start of many of the scenario books.

As to there being multiple ways of doing it: sure. The main one I can think of is that if reading the book is a mystery initiation, then personality changes can appear as Flaws derived from the script. A faerie in the form of a book can force personality changes on a reader. Basically by reading the book you are inviting possession by the information contained. So, there are two more...

I'm on totally the other side compared to the opinion in the OP. I'm fine with a line or two about a wonderful library or a poor library or whatever. It has really bugged me in the past when libraries were listed and they really didn't fit the setting so well. For example, when trying to make a reasonable library now do you use the points in covenant creation? While that's a useful play balance thing for a PC covenant, it is in drastic disagreement to what should be seen throughout the Order (excepting perhaps the statement about being the part of a library PC's have access to). It's been shown a few times that even with a lot of books being destroyed there should be way more available than could be accounted for by spending points on them. That's true on a few ends. First, there should be more copies of good books than can be afforded, especially summas that are supposed to be relatively readily available. Second, mundane books could be acquired with silver for far, far fewer points than they would cost when using points for a library. Third, the points in a library get used up in a way that really can't handle vain books and all the other not-as-useful stuff. So give me a sentence or two and let me make things fit as best I can instead of giving me lots of stats on books in a library that when combined with other libraries ends up giving a set of books that doesn't fit the actual mechanics of the setting well.

Right. A line or two.

"Academiata has a fine library with extensive tractatuses."

"Denarii has a meager library, lacking Creo, Herbam, and Terram summae entirely."

Description vs Data is a perennial problem for most RPGs.

On the second point - a note. When spending my allotted points for our new covenant, I looked at the cost of books, said "That's very expensive" and spent my points on silver and vis. Books are much cheaper in vis than in points, which probably reflects the opinion of the master granting the book more than a market value.

It sounds then that Library build points should represent the PC's unique contribution to a core library - such as the following:

Library Hooks and Boons:

No Library (-3) : the PC's have no books. Part of the saga's story arc is how to gain access to the core texts. Mundane texts and the Roots are relatively easy to get ahold of, but the more advanced texts will take time and effort. (Ie you'll have to complete a major story arc for a senior covenant, and get the Branches as a reward.)

Standard Library (0) - Full access to the Roots and Branches, as well as the "core" texts for relevant mystic abilities (Hermetic Lore, Magic Theory, etc.) Full supply of the canon of mundane texts.

Restricted Library (-1) - For some reason, be it damage, theft, overdue borrowing, or an eccentric librarian, one part of your core library is missing. (Note: probably need to define general library categories: Arts, Arcane Abilities, Mundane Texts, Tractatus, etc.) This Hook may be taken twice.

Vain Library (-1) - your librarian, for whatever reason, prefers certain authors over others, and resists any attempt to improve the library's resources in that regard.

Specialized Library (1) - your library has a number of tractatus and high-level summae surrounding a specific concept: usually an Art of the senior magi, but may also represent a more esoteric concept, such as Warding or Healing.

Summer Library (3) - TBD

Fall Library (3) - TBD

Winter Library (-1) - TBD

(whoop - and I'm being kicked off my computer. Be back later.

The Branches are not common books you have "access" to in a default covenant, they're treasures of the Order and given only as special gifts.

Not so special. The act of giving the Branches seems to be, if not common (as covenants really aren't founded very often), then at least not unusual. From Covenents, pg. 93.

So, the Branches are things young covenants don't have. In fact, the text suggests that they are the things which DEFINE whether or not a covenant is grown up or not. And I couldn't find it, but I thought there was another line about established covenants granting the Branches after a service, to either suggest that the covenant has grown, or to remind them that they are still a junior partner.

So, I do agree that it is a special the sense that one's 21s birthday is a special day. Yeah, it is - but it's probably going to happen to most folks once. Similarly, most covenents will likely get them, as part of the process of transitioning from Spring to Summer.

So - consider that in that above post, gaining the Branches is the resolution of a major plot hook (from -3 to 0). AS such, that pretty much defines "special gift" - either in the political bribing/borrowing/bribing sense, or some sort of clever theft, or some great service - or at least something along those lines. The reason I chose that as the default was so that you could have 3 levels: bad (-3), average (0), and good (3). In this context, "average" means "established covenant" - which do seem to have the Branches as part of their core library.

I've always been a bit fuzzy on what the link is between the Branches and the "Exceptional Book" boon. On the one hand, the Branches are accepted as being the finest works yet produced, which is consistent with the description of an "Exceptional Book". The Exceptional Book write-up implies the book is rarer than the Branches are implied to be, though, and the (post-errata) stats for the Terram Branch in The Lion and the Lily give it a total build cost of 31 (the maximum under the standard rules) rather than the 35 allowed by the boon.

I suppose it's possible that the Exceptional Book falls into an Art for which there isn't a widely recognised Branch, because not enough people have read it, or something, but that also feels slightly odd to me.

The way I read it is that an Exceptional Book is not a branch, because the text seems to imply it's not widely distributed. It is at least as good, or better, than the existing branch for that Art (even if that branch exists). This creates stories, as the new book has the potential to become a new branch, creating ripples in the status quo.

Release covenant statistics as web enhancements. That way they're available, don't waste precious book space, and are easier to ignore if they don't fit your saga.

Regardless of whether they go in the book, in a fanzine, or on the web, detailed libraries that say something to the character of the covenant and its magi past and present are an enormous amount of work for arguably little value.

I think there has perhaps been a gap identified in the covenant descriptions in that it might have been nice to have considered the library when thinking "why would the players want to seek out these strange magi". Making a note that the library is strong in a certain area, or supports characters with certain study conditions, etc. could be useful. But given the sheer number of covenants that have been covered across numerous Tribunals so far, I'm rather glad I don't have to scour lists of book stats that ultimately differ very little from each other.

I'd rather see, and I think someone hinted they might be working on this at some point, a system where a troupe can generate a library themselves. What I mean is, push in a few variables, like how many covenant build points to spend, how geared towards the arts it is, whether it has a particular focus, how many rare books it has, etc. Out the end of it should be some kind of mechanical description of what you'll find there.

That's something I'd like to see; not the results of running that engine thirty or forty times.

... which is basically how the covenant stats were presented in Blood & Sand. That's what I was alluding to at least.

The short answer is that, if there were, a lot of the other information, that you say you really like, would not be in them.

It is true that it might have been nice to have a sentence about the library as a standard part of the description of each covenant. The reason we don't have that is that, in the ten years since Guardians of the Forests, no-one has said that they wanted it. In the absence of that expressed desire, we've stayed away from making vague references like "a good library, strong in Auram", because we have a standing policy of only defining things if we have to. We've been bitten by things defined in a throwaway comment in an earlier book several times, and a policy of giving the general characteristics of the library of every canonical covenant is exactly the sort of thing that could come back to bite us later.

That returns us to the question of why we can't just provide full game statistics. Mark Lawford and Richard Love have been very good, because the NDA binds them, but I'm allowed to make the call.

The book after Between Sand and Sea is a collection of five fully developed covenants. The libraries are fully described, with statistics, as are all the magi, the most important covenfolk, and the Lab Texts and enchanted devices hanging around. (Mark wrote two of them, Richard wrote one.) Each is set in a different Tribunal for which we have an ArM5 Tribunal book.

This book is going to be longer than most ArM5 books. We don't know exactly how many more pages it will be until layout is done, and that job hasn't started yet, but maybe the same size as The Cradle and the Crescent. So, in order to include the information you're asking for, we'd need to double the size of Tribunal books (obviously, there would be some overlap). That's not practical. In fact, if we look at Faith and Flame, we have 11 covenants, with a total of 96 magi. This is twice as many covenants and about four times as many magi as the covenants book, so for full stats we are probably looking at tripling the size of the Tribunal book, at least, even if we only detail a handful of magi from each covenant. Even if we keep it down to one magus per covenant, with libraries given in full, we are still talking about doubling the size of the book.

The suggestion to put the information online is, as Mark obliquely suggested, not reasonable, because it is a lot of work (twice as much as the book), and we can't ask authors to do that for free. However, if we are giving the material away online, there is no income to pay them with. If you want that amount of material available free, it has to be a fan project, and we're entirely happy with those sorts of fan projects.

The long answer to your question is, then, that if we included full details on covenants, we would have to cut everything else in the Tribunal book, and we are going to publish the resulting book in about six months' time.

Speaking of fan projects, my last vanilla covenant design was: ... inas-rest/ Various people chipped in with ideas and character stats too, so if you need a basic covenant to start a saga in, there you go.

David: good call.
And thank you for making it.

The OP asked why there was not "any" statistic. I think it's interesting that this is read as "full and complete and space consuming" statistics. It could be a line of text, a set of three numbers, even one number or word.

What the OP actually said was:

A line of text would not meet that request.

I acknowledge that call... And then go back to lurking under my NDA. It's warm there.

I always thought of the NDA as cold chains, binding the titans, errg authors, in tartarus/hell.

David said this was for fear of nailing chamberpots down. Which makes sense. If it doesn't serve the game, it shouldn't be part of the standard covenant-description format. And David said he's flexible on this, so if an author writes something cool about the library they'll let it in. I think that's the right balance, although I'm surprised no author ever wrote up library-related hooks in any covenant! (Durenmar excepted, of course.)