Early books for a Spring Covenant


I'm working with my players to build their first Covenant. It occurs to me that 300BP is not a whole lot for books. I would like to give them a Level 15, Quality 15 summa in multiple Arts since that falls into the 'sound' category. Is it generally better to give slightly used/damaged summae when building the Covenant and get more through the story. They are in Normandy and I plan on using the Tribunal and Tourney of 1221 as a starting scenario, so certainly can get more from there. Is there a recommended spread of Art/Ability summae for a group of aspiring Magi?


Disclaimer: I'm fairly new to the game system chronologically, but I've done something of a deep-dive since finding it.

300BP is indeed, not a whole lot for books, especially if you're hoping to speed advancement along. There are some sample spreads in AR5, p.72 in the example covenant builds - at 300BP you're looking somewhere between low and medium. Increasing the size and quality of the library is likely one of the priorities for a new covenant, and many covenants do have a minimum season of covenant service per year that PCs might want to spend expanding the library.

Most-everyone likes their PCs advancing faster rather than slower, so I personally like to go with a smaller, but higher BP per book library. I'd aim for around 200BP in Art Summae across 7 books, with a 3/4 spread in techniques/forms, with no single book under 26BP, no initial overlaps, and the vast majority of them at quality 15+, barring 31BP books whose art levels prohibit that quality level, with maybe one or two higher level, lower-quality summae. Also worth noting the especial utility of the Level 6, Quality 21 Form Summae - in a single season, a mage can go from 0xp to level 6 in the skill, getting him the +2 defensive form bonus and ensuring he can open an apprentice to that Form without deficiency.

Example Spread, Arts:

1 Level 18, Quality 13 Summae (Form) -31
2 Level 16, Quality 15 Summae (1 Technique, 1 Form or Technique ) -31 2
1 Level 14, Quality 12 Art Summae (Form) - 26
1 Level 11, Quality 16 Art Summae (Technique) - 27
2 Level 6, Quality 21 Art Summae (2x Forms) - 27

For Abilities, the only true 'must have' IMO right off the ground is Magical Theory, and it'll be useful to nearly everyone in the covenant, barring the one Bonisagus Lab Rat who's starting with too high of an ability score to benefit from it anyway.

Level 6, Quality 15 Magical Theory Summae - 33BP

The remaining 67 BP I typically use across 7-8 Tracati, but you can cut this down by 3-4 and add in another Level 5, Quality 20 (35BP) ability Summae that fits the theme of the game or covenant. Order of Hermes Lore, Fairie Lore, or Penetration are popular choices here and are also useful across a wide variety of campaigns. Arcane/Lore skills should be prioritized generally - a covenant that isn't fighting for its life should be able to have a fairly successful early expedition to acquire a variety of more mundanely accessible ability-related tracti and summae for the library.

Note that you may consider purchasing the true fundamentals of the Arts separately, outside of your BP: see Covenants, pg. 93:

The general consensus is that the rules allow for L5/Q15 to be fairly easily produced - a starting PC magi that specialized in a single TeFo, for example, could technically write one of these (assuming a high Com and Strong Teacher). A L6/Q21 is also technically doable, although that is likely reserved for Archmagi authors, rather than beginning characters.

Personally, I like to have the Roots be L6/Q21 for the 9 official, with various lesser qualities for the remaining 6 (L5/Q15 to L6/Q20, for example). The actual Arts are for up to you to decide, of course - but the likely versions are all of the Techniques (5), plus Vim, Corpus, Ignem, and Mentem.

Such books, while apparently easily available through mail order in-game, nonetheless seem to cost almost as much as the really nice books that you're talking about, above. With that in mind, I would recommend that you use your BP to buy your "special" books - ie, those that can't be delivered in a season - and instead just have the Roots either lying around for free, or else have it be a minor plot point to get a full set "...for a very small consideration." - whatever that means. As a GM, I rule that to mean "you can buy them with gold", as opposed to vis. It's the rare scenario in which economies of scale actually start kicking in, IMO - or at the least, where most covenants really do have copies that they aren't using, and are happy to loan them out to let them be copied by whoever wants to use them.

EDIT - and as the previous poster implied: unless you're for some reason at war, magi should be able to have a very nice mundane library in a season or two. Book stores are a thing in the late middle ages, and Magi are the 1 percenters of their society: getting their hands on a copy of Metaphycs or City of God or Nicomancean Ethics is not a big deal.

As it is a spring covenant having a story set around finding new books or letting them find new books along their journeys is a nice and organic way to have the players evolve. Also having the players be "responsible" for getting the new books will give them a sens of achievement and accomplishment as that would be a possible early goal they would have. Also they tend to be/get more invested in thing they do rather then things they just simply start with.

Another nice thing you could consider is using Realias, they work like Tractatus but the number of times you can study it depends on the collections quality (the quality is determined by the number of objects in the collection). They are also a good source for plot hooks. FYI Realias are a collection of things, usually of mundane origin, that can be studied for one or several purposes. I and Imreai did a post a day of ideas for them in November, https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/november-realia-a-realia-collection-a-day-for-november/11534/1, if you need ideas. =)

Don't spend the BP on mundane books. Have some silver (or Vis to trade to the Redcaps for silver) on hand and send out someone to commission or buy a bunch of commons texts. That will get the characters what they need for Artes Liberales, Philosophiae, and maybe a few other things.

Yeah, it's dramatically inefficient to spend bp on books instead of on specialists, vis stocks, and vis sources. Vis stocks in particular are really intensely great value for your points, and vis can easily be used to purchase books the characters want more or less as they need them.

If you want to gift a bunch of books to accelerate progress, just make discovering a cache of books an early adventure.

If you give a starting covenant a L15 summa, make sure it is not in an Art than obe of the characters considers his or her speciality. You risk underminining the magus concept. Even if eh can study it for a season or two, all other magi can easily study up to his level as well.
I've always considered the Roots as good books for a starting covenant, preferably in Arts there the majority of the magi are lacking.

When I built my first covenant, I made the mistake of giving a very strong book for two arts, and a few years later, most of the magi were specialists in those tow arts. I think for young magi, and newer players, it's better to give the roots so they can advance to competence in other fields while still having their specialties - and then they can trade favors/adventures to get books in their specialties.

A very good point brought up by Christian, not to make one player feel "less special" then the others by letting them be able to be just as good as that character in a relatively short amount of time.

Why not just discuss which arts to have with the players? You can take bring them arguments about pro and contra for each art due to their specialties and desires.

That's also the benefit of using the build points to grant large vis stocks, not only will the players be better able to buy books their characters are interested in with the vis, the magi themselves in character will have more agency over the books in their library.

I agree, of the two I would prefer the vis source over books. BUT, personally I think both things are things that makes excellent starting adventures. Especially if the players are new to Ars.

The Vis over Books is strictly from a optimization point of view.

I would add two things from my own opinion on the matter:

  • it feels artificial to not have books and only vis
  • the advantage of vis over book depend on the price of books. Since prices of books suffer from an imperfect definition (either it is too cheap to buy, and nobody will take the time to write one which will not reimburse the time taken, either it is too expensive to buy, and magi are not willing to buy them and rather pay teachers or study in vis) it depends on your saga.