Covenant Development

As I vaguely remember it, they were accounted for in her pre-saga activities, and therefore they didn't come out of build points, but we picked the other books in the library based on knowing that we would have hers as well. Mind you, having to patch those new holes would be an interesting challenge.


Because you're a kind soul and generous to a fault? :unamused: :laughing:

But since you ask, I'll try to present as strong a reason as possible[i] (bald-facedly admitting that I'd really rather not lose either, but especially the Creo Summa)...

(And rather than "quote" anything out of context, I'm just providing links - these will be more familiar and significant to you than me.)[/i]

Okay, specifically looks like there are only two texts in question, only 36 "free" texts against 698 total Library Build Points...

  • Principia Fabricata by Portia Verditii. Creo summa, level 9 quality 15. 0 bp
  • Priscum Fundamentum, by Portia Verditii. Magic Theory Tractatus, Quality 12. 0 bp.

... those are the only ones from Portia, and the only ones listed with "0 bp".

I think it's important to note that these contributions (esp the summa) seem to have been taken into account "when the Library was being planned" - which is a critical phase of Covenant planning both IC and OOC. And a Creo summa is fairly central to any good library (and it already has some lesser holes* in it as it currently stands.)

(The Lib' currently is lacking any Perdo, Animal or Aquam summae.).

Most significantly, the words "donation" and "contribution" are used repeatedly, and I think that's backed up by Arya's statement that "...whatever purchases she's making are on behalf of the covenant rather than herself".

That seems correct on all counts.

I did a Search to try to find specifically where the books originally came from... and it looks like she spent a season (during CharGen). That was, apparently, in response to Arya's question w/ MT's answer below it here. (The change from the original 2 Tractati to a Creo Summa is explained by this, a later "fine tuning" revision Library-planning post, and was roundly applauded.)

Now, I fully admit that doesn't balance a player donating a pile of points and then disappearing, but these aren't "a pile" either, nor close. And it appears that, MT, you implied these were "donations" (your words) to the cause, and that sounds very IC rather than OOC - but I could be taking that out of context.

Looking at Portia as a character. She does have the -3 Flaw "Major Personality Flaw: Proud" - would that cause her to leave the lab notes as a symbol of her (however brief) involvement in the Covenant? Or possibly as a token of payment for her stay here, whether required or no? I don't see any Traits listed, so nothing there that would bear on it one way or the other.

So, myself, I'd have to conclude that Portia donated those texts to the Covenant permanently (rather than putting them there "on loan"), having brought them specifically for that purpose. (No mage writes a book for their own study.) And I also have to doubt if her "Pride" would let her take them back - tho' I am ignorant of the reasons (on- or of-camera) for her leaving.

Beyond that... I got nuthin'. :confused:

Saga-wise, I have no great problem with it - maybe it was mice - altho' I've done the "And we need books" subplot a number of times, so it would be better if it were a subplot to something other than that alone.

It's certainly true that a covenant with a lot of guests would provide a wide audience for her brilliant works.


Apparently, the library was off by 17 points anyway: for some reason I can't remember, it got reduced by 5 points between drafts, and the Parma Magica destruction device got counted under both Library and Magic Items.


OK, on the subject of vis income for the covenant....

Three assumptions here:

  • This is a medium-power saga.
  • Because of the geographical area, the vis income should be higher than normal.
  • Let's figure enough vis for 5 magi. Right now, we have 3 members, and 2 guests--the guests don't officlally receive vis income, but it might be a good idea (gamewise) to find a way for the covenant to dispense vis to guests who are willing to help out, esp. given the current shortage of member magi. Remember, though, that most guests will have a home covenant, and receive income from that covenant; Fray doesn't have one, but I'm not sure about Lenonis.

Pg. 218 of ArM5 suggests that a "Moderate Vis" saga should have a vis income of about 10 pawns per year per magus, which, with five magi, would make 50 pawns; figuring only from the present members, plus "orphan" Fray, would give 40 pawns. A "High Vis" saga, incidentally, would be 20 pawns of vis a year a magus, so 100 or 80 pawns total, which seems like too much, even if the covenant is supposed to be vis-rich.

On pg. 72 of the same book, the example "Medium Covenant" has a total income of 20 pawns a year. That obviously doesn't really jibe with pg. 218, unless the covenant has only 2 magi.

Pg. 72 of Covenants suggests that a high-yield source should about equal the yearly income of a single magus, and for a moderate-power saga, the books lists a high yield as 8. For 5 magi, that would make a total income of 40 pawns a year; for 4 magi, 32 pawns.

I figure since the covenant is supposed to be vis-rich, we should be getting about 50% more vis than normal. Applying that formula to the numbers above, we get a total covenant income between 30 pawns a year and 75 pawns a year. I'd be hesitant to go with the high end, for two reasons. FIrst, whatever target we set, given the nature of the covenant's location, the total income is likely to increase over time past that target--at least, until the magi have found all the sources reasonably close by, or until another covenant takes up residence nearby. Second, as a result of the decisions the troupe made on allocating Build Points, the library is somewhat nicer than might otherwise be expected, and we should expect to make at least a bit of a sacrifice for that benefit.

So what do you guys think?


I think all of these are ~very~ ballpark figures.

Is the vis needed for an Aegis coming out of that? Does the covenant have any vis obligations, and does the Charter require any stores to be built up (maybe Corpus for healing, etc)? (Would we want to tweak ours in that direction, if maybe via a (short or off-camera) story?) The "covenant" can be rich(er) in vis without the magi expecting to be splitting that up in its entirety.

I'm used to lower power re vis, so anywhere in the 5-8/mage/year, plus misc that is found a'venturing, seems workable. (Some covenants allow distribution on an "as needed" basis, such as if a mage is going to be making something for the covenant, or just has a sudden need for a rook for a reasonable purpose.) If a mage needs a half-queen of vis for their personal flying boat, they can go adventuring and find the bulk of it themselves.

If we want to be hesitant to fix a value now (and then be stuck with it), some of the vis can be defined as "requiring an adventure" to harvest, and so is variable in its harvest/season or /year. (And that "adventure" doesn't need to occur on-camera. It's "a duty" that one (or more) characters in some mix (magi and/or companions and/or grogs) have to do every season or every year, but we don't have to play it out every time, or not after the first (when, assumably, we get the process down to a routine).)

Yes, the figures are ballpark, but they're meant, I think, to represent all income. You're right that different covenants have different expenses, but that's a different issue: for example, when a covenant has a vis obligation, it's represented as a Hook, Indebted, not as a reduced income.

You raise a good point about vis found on adventures; it's not explicit in the text, but on pg. 218 of ArM5, I take the meaning that these vis finds should count as part of the total income, and so the income from vis sources should be correspondingly less.


Any more thoughts on a vis income target? I don't want to make this decision myself! I think, though, that I've been making vis sources too small up to this point.


The vis sources we're getting currently do feel very low - 10ish per magus seems reasonable, although obviously we do need to decide how many magi we're assuming. I'd be inclined to increased it to 30 or 40 first, and then see how it plays, before increasing it higher.

ironbound, do you have any thoughts on this issue?


Imho minimum 8 to about 12 maximum pawns, per magus per year is good. That is excluding the vis needed for the annual aegis, but not any other effects or debts. In other Sagas I've also seen a pool of Vis created at the covenant which is expected to be used for improvements and maintenance, as agreed by the magi, and it came out of their "share". In this way the covenant creates a small budget for vis, so that adhoc items, effects, purchases, trade, etc can be measured by need vs their priority.

That allows for enough to trade and save for special projects, and may make vis plentiful enough to perhaps also be used in stories. At present Vis is so rare my magi would never use it unless his life was threatened.

In terms of Vis trade - in previous sagas we left that to Redcap effort as an off-screen activity, and ruled that the redcaps will courier 1:1 swaps between Magi, but redcaps charge 1 pawn of Vis per 5 traded. This was where Harco earned most of it's Vis income. Vim Vis was sometimes an exception given how useful it is, but it was easier to hand-wave than stress the details.

In terms of the guest vs member status for Vis distribution - As a player I'm finding it hard to accept that my character will miss Vis for several years due to the charter's membership requirements. It makes actually doing anything with him take longer. It is not a show stopper, but it is frustrating to watch/read. As a player it sucks.

Suggestion: Rather than making an exception based upon a Magi's "home covenant", instead the current active members (I think that's only two magi?) can call a special meeting amongst themselves, and grant temporary membership to Fray and other new arrivals with some caveats and terms to protect the covenant too. If it works then perhaps alter the charter to make it a standard ruleset, and it can be known that "the covenant encourages visitors and sharing of resources for the growth and strength of the Order"... or some such phrase in roleplay terms.

Such as ?:

  • a new status is created at NC of Probationary Member (perhaps it needs a better latin name)
  • the max number of PBs allowed is at the discretion of the full members.
  • PB membership exists to recognize magi who intent to reside at NC permanently, and facilitate their integration into NC smoothly.
  • PB membership does not alter the normal period required to become a full member
  • may be revoked by majority vote of the current full members
  • PBs are granted all resource rights and voting rights of full members, but their votes are disregarded if a stalemate occurs
  • perhaps all members and PBs need to perform a season of service once per three years, or once per year? The service is an agreed activity?

In this case, the charter specifies leaving half the vis in the "pool".

That sounds like a reasonable rate; I was thinking of 1 pawn per trade, but it probably works out about the same. I would have though Vim vis would be cheaper, though, because it's so easy to make.

Yes, making sure Fray gets vis was at the top of my to-do list. They might do this, or they might just might give Fray vis out of the pool n exchange for helping out. Either way, we can make sure he gets a full share. In-game, the problem with provisional membership is that the members aren't exactly free to amend the charter, because of the nature of the covenant, but they could pass a by-law with an equivalent effect.

The charter doesn't really demand a set amount of work--it's more a matter of doing what needs to be done, even if that means working multiple seasons in one year, becasue the first priority has to be meeting the covenant's obligations.


Well, that chapter of the Rules is not in the context of Covenant design, but in considering how "high/low" powered we/you want the Saga. And afaic, that's ultimately up to the primary SG, and I trust you to throttle that up or down as you see appropriate.

It can't realistically be predicted re Covenant design - if each Mage is receiving X vis/year, and one wants/needs more, they can go hunt that and the Covenant's existing "vis sources" don't lessen if they have notable success. But the success itself can always be governed by the SG.

I understand the two are ultimately related, but in the context of this thread only the Covenant's reliable, independent yearly sources should be considered, to establish a baseline, and any "finds" due to individual effort (or unexpected SG reward) are above and beyond that and up to SG on a case-by-case basis.

Specific number aside, yes, starting lower allows room for easy increase ("You find another source"), while giving away too much can often feel more awkward to correct after the fact.

Yeah, and if that last is the case then that's "too little" imo, regardless of how many is needed to achieve that. Being able to, in extremis, toss a few vis in the air to get the job done is a good thing, but to have a wide selection of every Art that you can flush on whim is (obviously) over the top, at least for me and in this Saga.

This works.

There are also models that rate any 2 Form:1 Technique, or even that have complex and specific exchange rates (findable via a Search) for each Art based on "overall popularity and demand" for that Art.

(It would not be "stress", we'd just post or link to the exchange rate, whatever we decide on, done. Possibly easier here than tabletop, admittedly.)

Agree 100% on all counts.

However, this might be better solved via a vis-rich adventure than a hand-waving of any more "reasonable" arrangement. (And this gets back to Covenant sources vs. SG-determined "high-/low-vis" compaign and adventure determinations.) So while it makes no great sense for the member-magi to share their limited yearly vis w/ "guests", it makes perfect sense that those guests might happen to stumble on approximately the same amount independently by accident.

This works too (both separately and in conjunction w/ the above), and makes far more sense on a number of levels than suddenly granting an outsider full and equal rights.

Easy to make, but needed for a lot of things (aegis, opening items for enchantment). I can see its price going either way.

On getting vis to non-member magi, I have a few thoughts:

  • Up to now, non-members haven't missed much - 3 pawns over two years is basically a pittance (and most magi would get more from distillation than spending a season in covenant service for it). Obviously once the vis supply starts rising, this becomes more of an issue.
  • On a similar note, the covenant is probably unlikely to casually give out gifts when the communal income only equals its aegis requirements (although "non-causal" gifts may still be appropriate, as we do have stocks still). Again, this situation should be changing.
  • I think it's entirely reasonable for the covenant to pay magi for doing things that fall under covenant service, at some pre-agreed rate for pre-agreed tasks. Working out how to use vis sources properly (houserule), investigating enchantments, writing up pre-agreed spells/ copying pre-agreed books (to make sure they're actually vaguely useful), inventing useful spells, etc.

Is there anything other than the vis which is a significant problem for people not having membership rights? You already have automatic rights to a (already set-up) lab and the library, plus reasonable levels of covenfolk support, so I don't think there's much else beyond voting rights that are missing? If that is the case, I'd be inclined to go for the "pay-per-service" model unless people strenuously disagree with me.

For the vis target, I think I'm going to settle on 10 pawns per magus, with a few provisos, though I think that total is low given the geographical location of the covenant. That means a target of 50 right now.

The provisos:

  • The total includes vis for the Aegis, at least in the long run (that is, after the stock of Vim vis has run out.
  • The 10 per magus includes all magi, member and visitor alike, though for visitors from other covenants, the income will come from their own covenants' sources, not from Nova Castra's.
  • Because the total is low, it will probably increase within a reasonable period of time.

For the cats, I'm going to keep the Personal Vis Sources at 4, which works out nicely mathematically (that's one season's worth for the Kitten, two/thirds of a season for the Cat).


Given your stance on the memberships and the setting I am confused as to why a Magus would help the covenant in the years that they are staying before their membership is finally granted. Magi are generally taught through the setting and resource scarcity to be slightly selfish with their time and resources, especially magical resources.

What is the incentive that the founders think will draw Magi to this covenant?

IMHO a guest Magus should be treated totally different from a person who wishes to actually reside there permanently, but the charter makes no differentiation. One is joining, and the other is only passing through.

If that is the case ongoing then please do not disturb Fray until his membership is confirmed, he'll be in the lab.

In practice the difference between having 3x pawns and not having them is not a pittance. The difference of 3 between 10 and 13 is small, between 0 and 3 is very large. Especially if the Magus has projects that require Vis.

As a player when one character gets shares but others do not it feels wrong. This is not a show stopper, but it will alter how I play.

Also note that CH and I are directly impacted by this. Half the players are affected, and to be frank I've been playing for a few years now. I know the practicalities of the pbp style mean game-time will never match real-time but I think there is a reasonable stance to take as a group of players which is more important than a congruent setting.

This is hopefully moot and the situation is changing.

As I indicated, I disagree strongly.

I thought my character was going to N.C. to join them. Not haggle for pay-for-service each season, or be a guest for years. Fray's willingness to assist was based upon that misunderstanding.

Not a show stopper for me as a player. If the consensus decides that it is pay-for-service then I'll play accordingly.

Does this means that the non-member characters acquire 10x pawns per year from an "off screen" covenant? And they are not required to contribute to the needs of the covenant, or the Aegis?

If so, I'm better served being a non-member for as long as possible.

I wrote my background assuming that my last Covenant was not around anymore, and I will fix it to suit now given how important approx 10x pawns of Vis per year is. That is meta-gaming, but I think it is reasonable given how much of this was unknown until this discussion.

Appreciate it Scott, and makes a ton of sense too.

As the Covenant appears to have strong external controllers, perhaps that should be considered in the hooks and such too as a major factor? (edit: I found the Hook (minor) for the obligation, so I suggest either making this major or adding another Hook, or reduce the impact of those limitations).

An external body telling a covenant what it can or cannot do beyond Hermetic Law is new to me.

I think you might be misunderstanding Salutor a bit here--but more about that in a bit. The first important thing to note is that there are no founders--the covenant was set up by the Thebes Tribunal, not by the original members, and the main concern of the Tribunal is to make sure the covenant is able to support visitors. The Tribunal doesn't really care about attracting new members--unless that's what's necessary to keep the covenant ticking along.

More important, though, is the meta-game reason that the covenant is this way: I specifically constructed this particular scenario as a way to deal with the #1 problem that online sagas face, which is that most players leave, usually quite suddenly. Although we made all of the original characters members, the intent has always been to extend membership only to those characters whose players have shown they'll stick arouind for the long term. That's where the three-year requirement comes from.

The idea, however, is not merely to reward players who stick around. The real point is to make sure that having players leave doesn't disrupt the fabric of the story. I don't want to put new characters into roles that are critical to the operation of the covenant, because I don't want to have to deal with the fallout of having to patch things back together when they leave. Not only is this a pain, but if you have enough of it happen, the saga becomes no longer believable. By contrast, if most of the players are visitors, they can come and go willy nilly, without causing any major problems.

As I've mentioned before, that doesn't mean that visitor magi don't have access to resources: they receive whatever vis they'd normally get from their home covenants, and they have access to reasonably decent labs, though, no, they don't have voting rights, and they don't have customized labs.

Fray is a special case, because he doesn't have a home covenant, but we can make allowances for that. It also helps quite a bit that you, as a player, have actually been around for a while now. Since we're trying to do stories about once every two games years, Fray should be a member soon.

I'm pretty sure Salutor's intent here was to say that the vis from the first couple of years was pretty inconsequential, and that therefore we should only worry about what happens going forward.

Keep in mind that the requirement to do work applies just as much to the members--it's just less of a quid pro quo relationship for them.

Yes, that's exactly how it works: the covenant was set up by Thebes Tribunal as a sort of Hermetic country retreat. It's meant to serve visitors.

Fray, though, doesn't have a home covenant, which places him in a difficult spot, at least in terms of vis.

If you really want to change his background, you can, but I think it's so integral to his characterization, that you'd be doing serious violence to the character. It's easier just to make a special arrangement for Fray.

I apologize about the confusion: I thought the original post in the "Looking for Players" thread was pretty clear about the nature of the saga, but I can certainly edit it before we start looking for new players (which is, incidentally, something I intend to do after I have all the loose ends squared away--the biggest of which is now the finances).

The size of the Hook doesn't really matter, because the covenant already has more Hook points than Boon points (that's why there's also no Vis Salary Hook).

There's certainly precedent for satellite covenants and dedicated covenants, though I don't know how much detail exists in canon of either of these arrangements.


The three year membership rule in the charter will also affect CH when his Magus is introduced. There are four people participating at the moment, and only two of them will actually have real control of the covenant in character, and both will be impacted.

As far as the Vis from a home covenant I appreciate the adjustment you're considering for Fray, but overall if a change in one character's back story will allow the rest of the covenant to proceed as planned, then please lets just do that. It will allow the arrangements for CH's magus to be consistent. I do not want to hold any part of the game to ransom. I only made the suggestions because I was asked. :slight_smile:

Fray could be on a pseudo "leave of absence" or some such from Woodenhall, and it would not need to change the events I outlined in his background. Instead the survivors might still live there, but Fray had to leave because of his personal loss. I think it still makes sense from what I know of how people experience grief. In a much later stage it was my intention to return to the west during the search for a familiar, as a way to bring some of his backstory back into the foreground of his life.

Honestly, at this point it'll cause less disruption just to find a way for the covenant to give vis to Fray, than it would to change his backstory.


I'm not a big fan of the "work for vis" model for some magi but not for all - losing a season for what others get for free is a bit of a turd-burger, even if it's logical IS. (Unless the "work" is shorter than a lab distraction, but even then, depending.) IC, it makes perfect sense for the "founders" (i.e. 1st ones thru the door, by whatever name) to enjoy some privileges that late-comers have to "earn", but OOC it can suck, so if we can keep that hazing to a minimum that would be "better" OOC, even if IC it is reasonable.

I'd rather see a "Vis-ex-Machina" solution, if nothing else, so that the characters' vis is equitable even if not, by definition, equal. So there is a "reason" to join IC (vis provided by the Covernant) even if there is none OOC (approx same amount of vis provided by the SG).

At the end of the day (read: Season), it doesn't matter OOC if the magi get their vis from the Covenant Stores/Sources or stumble upon it on an adventure, so long as it (equitably) fills their needs.

That said, Lenonis will want to join for reasons of his own beyond vis, and will be willing to jump thru some hoops to do so.

Some material from the Theban Tribunal seems inspired by some (imo) odd assumptions about how excited the local magi there are about "a larger community", drawing from Greek philosophers and such. (ymmv - see Plato's "Republic" et al.)

Lots of young(er) Covenants have a "sponsor" who provides support with some strings attached. More have a long-standing relationship that does the same without the support - whether by blackmail or ancient favour, the result is the same.