Correspondences and Bound Correspondences

Covenants adds correspondences to the kinds of books that wizards may study. thinking on them more carefully due to my new PbP game, however, has me asking some questions and I want to get the communities input.

How long to create a bound correspondence?

On P. 90 of covenants, one learns that you must receive one letter per season to claim the XP. In order to create a tractatus of bound correspondences, you need 24 letters from each wizard. According to the same section this represents about two years of correspondence. However, even if each party sent a letter and received a letter in each season, you would only have 8 letters in two years. There are two possibilities:

  1. The book is correct as written. Magi engaged in correspondence send and receive an average of 1 letter per month. One letter per season, while a bare minimum to claim the XP, is never really at issue because most correspondents are expecting one letter per month.

  2. The book is in error. Magi generally exchange letters at some different rate. If you assume that they both send and receive one letter in each season to claim the XP, then 24 letters are exchanged in six years.

How many correspondences?

Another issue is how many correspondences can a person engage in at once. Are magi constantly writing about all the Arts, the Arcane Abilities with all and sundry so that they can always claim an XP bonus? Or do magi carefully select a few pen pals and write only on their favorite subjects or common areas of research? How long does dealing with each letter take? If it is on the subject of his current research, I would be inclined to assume that the letter is read as part of the season's activity. But what about the correspondences on other topics? If you are in the middle of researching PoF does writing back on your usual Aquam correspondence not take some time away? Especially since these are supposed to be scholarly letters, I'm inclined to limit the number of correspondences, or say that each one uses up a certain amount time and too many may cause lab penalties.

What about all these cheap, easy books?

A magus can be involved in more than one correspondence, see supra, even though only one can generate xp. However, there is nothing to say that the non-XP generating letters can't still be bound into a tractatus every few years. This means that magi who write letters are possibly generating an immense amount of tractatus. Since there is no downside to writing letters (under the RAW), there is no reason for every magus not to be a prolific letter writer (some may have a story reason not to write, but the vast majority of the Order does not have such a problem). A magus will rapidly generate many more tactatus though correspondence that he would normally write, or before long will write many more than he normally could given his art and ability scores. If you go with two years worth of letters to a tractatus a magus will write more tractatus in just 16 years than a any canonical Archmage (Art 40) could write in his specialty Art under the rules for writing tractatus. Moreover, he will write that many tractatus in every ability or art for which he can correspond. Assuming a magus has only two correspondents, and it takes 6 years to create a tractatus, he will still create probably 20-30 tractatus in his lifetime from letter writing alone. With more liberal numbers it could easily reach into the hundreds of tractatus. Although most writers will have communication scores such that the quality of the tractatus is 6 or less, this is a huge number of low level tractatus floating around the Order.

My poor, aching back. . .

Finally, this implicates how often redcaps (or other means of communication) are available. Do Redcaps need special enchanted mail pouches to carry the huge number of letters being sent around the Order? :smiley:

Edit- for grammar.

Interesting thoughts.

I would say the book is in error, and rules that it takes one letter per season and two years' worth of correspondence sounds like what the authors were trying to say (so - 8 letters from each wizard).

I would not allow multiple correspondences. As far as I'm concerned, correspondence is a way for me to reward a player for expanding the setting. I'll give the XP if the player gives details on who he is corresponding with, and on what - I expect him to form relations with fellow magi, and invent them whole-cloth, which will allow me to use these relations, NPCs, and their projects, later. This may NOT make too much sense, but I don't care - it's a story-based mechanic, not a simulationist mechanic.

If forced to, I'll suggest that correspondence takes negligible time on your field of research, but would take more than half the Season for another topic so it isn't practical. Adding another correspondence leaves no room for actual research, which means that together two correspondences are not possible - you can't devote more than a whole season to corresponding, with each one takes over half a Season. Correspondence isn't like writing a blog or on a forum; it's more like writing an article jointly with another researcher, working in parallel on different aspects of the same problem and comparing notes and advice.

For correspondence linked to current work during season, specify that each correspondence takes 5,7,10 or 14 days(14 breaks the normal rules slightly but not too badly), setting a limit to how many can be undertaken usefully while still allowing more than one if the magi takes a penalty on the "main" work.

I wouldnt go quite that far.
Lets say instead that it takes one of 7, 10 days, 2 weeks or 3 weeks per correspondence that isnt directly linked to a seasonal work, this would allow 12, 9, 6 or 4XP to be gained through just large amounts of correspondence, which is rather realistic and "gameable" and shouldnt break the rules.
Its just a way of spending time to get more XP per season than exposure would give in return for not getting any work from it.

I would also recommend that each correspondence adds a small cost for writing materials either seasonally or yearly, and possibly a cost for paying messengers to move the writings around as quickly as possible.

Something that could also be added is that anyone "overdoing it", ie. not leaving enough free time per season gets a living conditions penalty.

I don't see the book as in error. I might have worded perhaps one sentence differently to make the various facts fit better but I don't think there's anything inconsistent there.

Here's how I see it working.

I might be in correspondence with a number of magi on as many subjects as I can muster. All that writing will keep me pretty busy, but actually that's just the day-to-day work of being a magus; you communicate with your peers. It doesn't cost you anything to do it. But you're only going to concentrate fully on those correspondences that have something to say on what you're currently working on. That's the 1xp you can gain per season. And during that season you can imagine that your writing rate will increase. You might even have a frenetic week at the moment you make a breakthrough or a leap of understanding and send several letters without reply! Crazy, I know. But out of politeness, you keep the other subjects ticking over, maybe dropping your response rate to one long letter somewhere in the season. It doesn't take you much time but someone else is waiting on you so, you know, it's only polite.

When the letters get collected up, there will typically be two years' worth of correspondence. You'd expect this to be at least 24 letters. That's only six letters per year from each of the two corresponding magi. That's maybe a season of three letters a month and the rest of the seasons were pretty slim at one letter.

As for generating Tractatus, you're right the numbers will stack up pretty quickly. But most letters are not bound into volumes. Although it is likely that magi will have a copyist make copies of their letters before they're sent, there's no guarantee. And in any case, most magi are too busy doing other stuff. That's where PC magi come in. They have as much time as the troupe and storyguide allows. And they're the heroes of the saga, so they get to act however you want them to, including finding time to work as a tractatus factory.

Although there's no given time needed to create a set of bound correspondences, I'd say it's a ten-day distraction to oversee the work to collate the letters and oversee their transcription, and a season of effort if the magus does it himself.

I like the idea of this, and I'm thinking about implementing it.
However, the rules are very open, and I'd like to avoid any abuse. Something that's too easy to assume be done (almost) automatically.
My take is this:

Since you can gain XP, there must me some trade-off (no such thing as a free lunch!)

Time spent corresponding might be short, but I'm thinking about cutting into the 10 days off you can normally take in a season, without penalty. So 5 days?
You only benefit from subjects you are working on yourself. So you and your pen pal need to be using the same Arts this season, in order to correspond andbout it, and have it help. It's just between you and one other, right? So if he isn't doing Herbam right now, you won't get any bonus xp. And even if you are doing Herbam, his Ignem project won't benefit from your letter.

Perhaps one could shift the pen pal system into a correspondance ring instead? So you sending your letter around the place, to more than one other magus. And perhaps have the correspondances be a yearly thing, where each year the correspondance ring agree upon a subject. Letters arrive and are written during the entire time. But the gain comes once, at the end of the year. Gain 0-4 XP, depending on how many of your seasons were spent on the subject at hand, +1 per number of correspondents over 2. This is the easy method, where the correspondents' Com is irelevant. But: Perhaps allow a further +1 if one or more correspondents have Great Teacher.

I think Arts a viable subjects, but 'Magic Theory' seems too broad. One could argue, that magi use this all the time. Being a little more strict, could mean Magic Theory is a viable subject, relevant for each season spent doing labwork (inventions, investigations, lab improvement), as well as reading about it. While subjects of any Art would benefit any season spent doing stody or labwork with this particular art. A single spell could also be a subject, gain bonus in seasons spent inventing it, mastering it, teaching it. Imagine a ring of Flambeau, they'd have 'Ball of Abysmal Flame' pop up as subject quite often.

And last but most important: The Story elements. For me as SG to allow correspondence of any kind, I'd want the player in question to describe what the correspondance was about, and who he corresponds with. I might let him choose subject himself often, but sometimes use the SG powers for pressure from his fellow corresponders (is that even a word?) about another subject. Either for fun or as plot devices. Things like this are perfect for doing as one on one sessions or by mail. And everytime this is done, more things about setting and characters are fleshed out.

And that's why you correspond with a number of magi. At least, that's the game mechanic reason. The in-game reason is that there's more than one interesting person out there with whom you'd want to correspond. And the story reason is so that the Storyguide can interrupt your letters and force you out to find out what's gone wrong... Is the magus okay? Has the Redcap been captured/killed/bribed/replaced/retired etc?

I'm actually all for a small bonus in return for doing something that is fitting with the medieval mindset; educated people wrote letters to each other, so that's what magi do. And here's a set of reasons why you'd want your character to do it too.

Ok, so you're really writing many different letters, to many different magi, about many different subjects each season. And every season you study some subject or work some project, one of these correspondences yield some benefit.
But how much time does it take? How and when will you get interrupted or just don't have time? Because that should happen.
Otherwise there is no reason not to do it. It reality, all seasonal exp gain (in mental matters, I'm not sure corresponding about swordfighting would help...although swordsman's manuals do exist now, but perhaps from a later time than 13th century) is really 1 higher. Unless the SG decides to bug you, and spin a story about a pen pal who suddenly stops writing.

Perhaps this is one of those things, where additional rules don't add a thing per se, just specify that this 'new thing' really was assumed in the basic rules, but now it becomes a further fleshing out of details by mentioning it, or making it an optional rule. Like the Summa Quality, which used to be Com+6 is now in Covenants defined as really being Com+3, with a further +1 for each of fine materials, illumination and good binding. Which is assumed to be the standard.

Regarding time, you could say that of the 24 hours a magus have every day, after the 8 gping to sleep and the 10 to labwork/Art raising etc, you have 6 hours for eating, socialising and corresponding...not a LOT, but enough to write 3-5 good lenthy letters every season I'd say. Thus you could say that you have about 10 correspondents covering various fields of interest, and as marklawford suggests, you only get 1xp for a relevant project, which you are working on - thus you are answering letters about Ignem, then Familiars, then Finesse and Boom, you gain your letter from Correspondia ex Bonisagus about Penetration. Sweet you just gained your 1xp as you read the letter.

Basically, the 1 xp is semi free - as mentioned you should still use time and energi fleshing out the other correspondance magi and what you are writing about, and I think that is more important than being stringent with up to 4xp more every year.

Sure, you have ample time to correspond, with normal lab routines. And I agree completely that fleshing out and characterizing your correspondance sodales is the most important thing.
What I'm looking at is not corresponding. Why would you ever not do that? What would and could you use the time for, if not writing letters. Perhaps I need to look further at the various other Lab Routines in Covenants. Somebody spending time writing has a harder time doing extra lab work.
Either this, or simply saying that corresponding means you have less than 10 days to "waste" before you're penalized for lab work. Or alternatively saying that non-corresponders can waste 12 days, or 15?

And! What happens if you miss your correspondences for some reason? If the redcap fails to deliver, or the (relevant for your current project) sodales fail to write, you will get no benefit in XP. But if you fail to write, due to lab overtime, wasted days, twillight, injuries etc., or your letter gets lost in the mail, what happens? Some other magi would write and complain that you missed a letter (effectively ruining their bonus xp chance), or even stop writing. Perhaps this is almost not worth ruling about, simply making small anecdotes and mini-stories about it?

True as it is, it seems like a 4xp freebie....

...but with the fleshing-out of magi, detailing the correspondance, roleplaying annoyed "you're late with that letter" magi etc - is it not fair enough...It's not like 0-4xp turns the cart over...

(Morning Vries :wink: )

Sure enough. Especially since the 0-4 per year really is 0-1 extra per season, most likely in different Arts/Abilities. It does give the game another dimension, evolving more of out colleagues. Vries would most likely correspond almost solely with other Tremere.

(Morning Crispin - shouldn't you be working off your debt and fine? :stuck_out_tongue:)

If you look back at my post, thats my way of handling it.

Certainly an option.

Which is one reason why i prefer to keep it more generalised and nonspeicific.

And of course, there´s nothing saying that the correspondence has to be external...
It can just as well be between magi in a single covenant. :mrgreen:

Depending on how regularly and diligently your story's Redcap routes are, as well as how remote your covenant is, it seems reasonable that the rate and volume of correspondences could vary considerably from year to year. The average rate still remains roughly 4xp/year, but that could mean 1 in Spring, 2 in Summer, 1 in Autumn, 0 in the Winter (when "normal" folk don't travel). Then consider your covenant's local region and the adjacent regions, which experience floods, wildfires, wars, etc. on a fairly common basis, and you could get a more variable rate: maybe two seasons with no correspondence isn't that unusual, so long as the average over a year (or several) comes out the same.

Then consider not all magi are such good writers, maybe one correspondence yields nothing. Does the mage still continue the pen pal relationship? Was it just a "bad" time for him? Then the occasional outstanding maga might yield a 2xp letter (perhaps not consistently, but sometimes) but only deign to write you less than usual.

I agree the best part of it isn't the "free" xp, it's the story hooks and the developing relationships with other covenants. Perhaps you learn of a covenant's problem that might fall right inside your wheelhouse, or they may even give you some juicy gossip about a sodale you wouldn't otherwise be privy to.

My concern was/is less the extra 1 xp per season, as the creation of vast hordes of tractatus and the unrealistic nature of hundreds of letters per year flowing from a typical covenant. So after much reflection, here is the rule I posted in my PbP game, Falling Leaves (shamless plug...):

New rules of Correspondences

You may over the course of a season engage in a number of correspondences. Each “correspondence” consists of an average of 1 letter per magus per season.

In order to claim the XP bonus you must create the corresponding magus and post a two paragraph description. At any one time you may have no more than your Int score in correspondents that are available to give you a bonus XP. In order to change or add a correspondent, you must meet the corresponding magus. This is automatically done if you attend tribunal, otherwise it requires a communication +artes liberales roll against EF 9 to locate a suitable partner by messenger. Each correspondence concerns only a single Art or Arcane Ability. The requirement to create a “corresponding magus” is waived during character generation but the requirement of finding a suitable one is not.

You may claim the extra correspondence XP only in the Art or ability used in that season. Magic Theory correspondence xp can be claimed when studying MT, or doing labwork. You cannot get an XP for Magic Theory while, for example, reading about vim.

After 5 years of letters, you may compile all of the letters together and create a Bound Correspondence. If, and only if, you later write a tractatus on the same subject of the Bound Correspondence the quality of the tractatus is raised by one. This does not increase the number of tractatus a given mage can write. Nor can a given Bound Correspondence be used to write more than one tractatus, or be used by a magus other than the one who engaged in the correspondence. If the corresponding magus reads the resulting tractatus, he may automatically gloss it without regard for his communication or skills to give the tractatus an additional +1 Quality. As a downside neither magi whose correspondence was used to create the tractatus can gain xp from reading it. Also, if a third magus reads the tractatus created by one partner in a corresponding pair, he cannot later read a tractatus written by the other correspondent if it is based on the substantially similar group of letters from the correspondence.

Every Bound Correspondence stored in the library (whether used to make a tractatus or not) gives the library 1 “xp” in the trait "Library of (Art/Ability)". This trait increases like an Ability and is used as a research modifier for answering questions within the field of the trait. (see Covenants p98).


A reader (zlorfik) noted that this rule gives the glassing magus no incentive to read the book and lose a whole season just to gloss it. I thought it over and I agree. Because the magus is already familiar with the topic and isn't "studying" the book, he can gloss the book very quickly in the same season he does some other work. This counts as a 10 day distraction from the main research (thus there is no penalty as long as it is the only distraction). Glossing a tractatus based on your letters is considered "good form" in the Order and a correspondent who frequently refuses will be viewed as something of a boor and find his pool of correspondents drying up.

But I would say that any player covenant isn't a typical covenant. It is distinctly atypical. Why? Because most "other" covenants are cyphers and are expressions of a limited story role. Your covenant is the smart one. Yours is the one where the magi are doing the unusual.

As far as correspondence goes, most magi will be writing letters. But only a few of them will actually be preparing texts from them.

In the UK, for instance, we're able to switch energy suppliers if we find a better deal. We're constantly advised to do so. But in the main we don't do it. The benefit is obvious, so why not? Because we can't be bothered. Or we think we have better things to do with our time. Or we're happy where we are.

That's human nature for you. If we can get away without doing something, even though there's a small gain in it for us, we simply don't do it.

So the player magi are the ones who are switching energy suppliers and getting the benefit. Sure, there are others out there doing the same thing, but on the whole you don't have books being generated by the bucket load and you don't have magi poring over every line of every letter to scrape off the benefit.

Caelarch, while im not happy about your rules overall, the latter part do give some good ideas...

1st, as noted before i prefer to set a "price" in time needed to be spent on the correspondence, because this allows someone desperate for XP in a subject they otherwise lack study material on can still get a bit more XP than just from exposure on it.
This also means you can sacrifice some effectiveness in the lab or elsewhere for an XP or two extra from this.

And while i do like the idea of being able to make tractatii out of correspondence, i can easily agree that it can get a bit much. Still the quality of a bound correspondence is the sum of the Com of the involved magi, which will likely give a notably lower average XP than regular tractatii. Its also not noted as benefiting from Good Teacher(understandably).

How about...
A bound correspondence can be made from at least 20 seasonal letters from each magi(ie 5 years worth), requires the one assembling it to spend a season doing so and the Quality becomes the two correspondents Com +2, this raises max quality to 12 while minimum quality is far less likely to become negative(and should still never go below 1).

And the ability to instead use fewer letters, lets say 8 from each, selected and bound together with a tractatus adding the Authors Com /5 to quality(ie 1 or 2), or maybe make it more serious, using more letters and adding an extra season for making the Tractatus but also raising the quality gain notably(the Authors Com /2 +1 perhaps? )

Of course none of those who were part of the correspondence will gain anything extra from it.

Having read the particular passage in Covenants again yesterday, i´d say that the RAW supports only getting an xp for something your doing or studying in that season anyway. An additional insight, not something unrelated.

I do like Caelarchs rule a lot, as it solves the bound letters tractatus problems nicely. Under the RAW, the majority of magi would create rather useless tractatus with a very low quality, they now get a small benefit instead. Those few magi with a very high com score though would produce a bunch of free and quite useful tractatus instead and that could lead the road to munchkinism, which should be avoided.

Concerning Direwolfs suggestion that one could spend entire seasons doing nothing else but corresponding or at least sacrifice time to get additional xps on a seasonal basis, i dont like that because correspondence in my eyes is a long term project. And every correspondence needs a partner. "Switching on" a new partner one season to get an additional xp and then not writing him again for the rest of the year because you dont have the time would be rude at the very least.
I do agree that correspondence takes up some of a mages free time, so when a magus is out in the world for a whole season or uses the double overtime lab routine on an important lab project he shouldnt get the xp but he will most probably write again the next season and in the long run this one season not writing should be neglible for keeping the partner and collecting letters to be bound.

Just to clarify:
Say you have a magus with Int +5 and therefor 5 different correspondence partners. It is my understanding that you regularly write to all 5 of them (during your 10 rest days), but you only get a bonus xp if you work on a project that matches one of the 5 correspondence themes.
That does mean that such a magus would never suffer a lack of bound correspondences as he would get 5 of them after every 5 years of writing letters. So basically all of his tractatus will be quality +1.
Im not saying its a bad thing. It would need a mage with very high values in both Com and Int to make this "broken", if that term would even fit, just wanting to expand on the consequences of the rule.
Oh, and changing correspondence partners should be a rare thing, else a magus might acquire a negative reputation for being unreliable...

Making a tractatus out of your correspondence implies that other magi may read it. I'm not sure most magi would want all their correspondences be exposed, even to their covenant mates.

Immryan brings up a good point concerning the Redcaps and their "capacity" which I'd like to address. In the sagas I've played in we've always striven to make the arrival of Redcaps a roleplaying affair, not just a SG statement that: "It's summer, the Redcap comes. Let me know what you're sending. Sam, there's a reply from your former master." Some characters write lots of letters for various purposes, some rarely, some never. But we always try to make the Redcaps a character, usually several, and while we all know their services are technically "free" we also know that from time to time a nice little gift of some sort not only helps them in their duties (thus strengthening the Order) it also helps ensure added consideration.

E.g., someone gave a Redcap a batch of healing potions one year, then for the next couple years after the gift we wound up being higher up the order of which covenants he visited. Well, we kind of neglected him for awhile after that, and he was never rude, and he didn't skip us, but he arrived later and later in the scheduled season, then we fell to the following season. We went from 3 Redcap arrivals a year to two, and instead of spring, summer and fall they came in late summer and late fall only. So we got the hint and someone made a lesser enchanted device, or more potions or something, and voila! Punctual Redcap service returned!

So if you're playing an Order that sends these correspondences flying around Europe constantly maybe the SG might introduce this concept. Covenants that fail to occasionally "help out" the Mercere might find that when a Redcap does arrive her satchel is full, sorry, you'll have to wait until next season. Or perhaps your letters end up sitting at a waystation longer than normal, waiting for transfer to another Redcap also with saddlebags bulging. This could explain why some folks receive their correspondences in lumps interspersed with dry spells and others get regular service.