[House rules] Books (or Reversed detailing pt II)

This is a part of a series of House rules I use, that I'd like to call "Reversed detailing". Here is a link to part I: Laboartories.

As an academic myself, I have had somewhat difficult to cope with the rules for books. For me there is four flaws in the (in other ways good) rules.

  1. There are two seperate rules for text: Summa and tractatus (i.e the rules are not streamlined).
  2. You can't read the same tractatus twice (because of munchkin reasons I presume) which is a somewhat strange way of looking at written knowledge. You also have to keep track of which tractatus for which spell you have read.
  3. In real academic texts, nobody seldom writes a beginners book (score 1-5), and an intermediate (6 to 10) to be able to write the advanced book (of 11 and up). They simply start at advanced from the beginning. Why would't they?
  4. With summas: It's increasingly difficult to learn from books, but not increasingly difficult to write them. In truth, it's almost always the other way around. It takes months for an accomplished academic researcher/writer to make one article that other academics read for ten minutes and then say: "meh, I knew all but the new results from table x." And that is with modern technology.

Now, my house rules are somewhat more difficult to calculate, however one big benefit is that you only need one formula. You are also not keeping track of ink, color, vellum, binding and such. It is all (sort of) calulated into the formula.

Here we go:

  • All books have a Range: between level x and y, where x is the art score you must have to be able to start reading it, and y is the maximum score you can have from it. Examples of levels may be 0-5, 5-10 and 18-19.
  • The complexity (time) to write the book is as much as the number of EXP, the book contains. A book between 0-5 contains 15 exp. a book of 19-20 contains 20 exp.
  • The number of exp a character is able to write (speed) in a season is determined by the skills (Artes Liberales + Profession: Scribe) x2 + possible virtue/flaw bonuses. A skilled academic writes more quickly because Artes Liberales lets him/her find and reuse more good and exact phrases and passages.
  • One can write a maximum of as high a magnitude equal skill level in Artes liberales. A writer needs Artes liberales 4 to write about level 20-24 and so forth. (This also makes Artes Liberales a more useful and relevant skill, which it in my opinion should be).
  • The book's quality is: Artes liberales + Author's Magnitude of current art (alternatively the author's score in the corresponding mundane skill) + Communication + Any other bonuses.

Example: A winter magician with Ignem 35 is about to write an book of Ignem for level 30-35. In order to even bring that teaching to formulate the complex instructions required, he must first have 7 of Artes liberales. When he writes he has Artes liberales 7 and Profession Scribe 4. He writes (7+4) x2= 22 points per season. Writing 30-35 thus requires (31 + 32 + 33 + 34 +35) / 22 = 7,5 ≈ 8 seasons.
''Quality: Artes liberales 7, Ignem 35 (Magnitude 7) Communication + 0 = 14.

Thus: Books of high magnitude is therefore extremely rare, always written by winter magicians and therefore extremely extremely extremely valuable. Maybe even worth starting wars for?

One can not interpret what level an unknown hermetic book is, if the magnitude of the art described in the book is greater than the skill of Magic theory. Which makes a librarian with high MT score most valuable and necessary.

//erik. next up: melee

It is interesting (at the opposite of what I found about your laboratory houserule).

In your exemple, why do you divide by 20 not 22?

In your system, where do the level of knowledge of the writer come into account?

Is it possible, for example, to write a 0 - 40 book?

  1. Thank you

  2. A botched proof-reading. edits

  3. "Author's Magnitude of current art (alternatively the author's score in the corresponding mundane skill)" in the last bullet point.

  4. Of course you can. But it's time consuming like writing encyclopedia britannica. I imagine that house Bonisagus could coordinate a project like that. For example by letting, say 20 magae, writing at the same time (writing different Ranges and then collecting them in hundreds of volumes)

Also. As a rule of thumb, I imagine that every book on arts/skills is one volume per 10-20 exp.

  1. So, it is possible to write a 0 - 40 book with only 5 in the topic?

They´re meant to be different after all so no surprise really. Tractatus is meant to be a short work on a specific and narrow subject within an Art or Ability while Summae is supposed to be a comprehensive coverage of the whole Skill.

Personally i find it highly preferable to keep different rules for different books.

Well, the skill you can gain from reading about a narrow subject only goes so far.

I just about never do that anyway. It´s a tiny "flavour" bonus for a lot of work.

And someone outside of that range gains absolutely nothing?

Mmm, that´s a version of calculating time to write i hadnt seen before. Interesting variant. Although i dont think i would use it as it becomes silly hard to write something really broad, and it makes for a rather odd "plateuing" of subjects, ie. it makes you specify that writing about this or that within this Art i get a level 18-19...
Gets rather strange.

Zero bonus from Language?

That´s an interesting limitation. Perhaps slightly "over the top" but i do agree that it makes AL more useful and that it should be.

My rules for books uses Ability/2 and i think you might prefer the same, gets unbalanced with books on Arts otherwise.
While i use Art Lib. in my houserules as well, i dont let it decide quite so much most of the time.

Mmm, that´s a nice addition.

You realise that 0-40 would be 820 XP? And that´s what decides the write cost...

I expect he meant that things not mentioned stays as with the original rules. Then you would need 80 in an Art first to write that 0-40 book. :wink:

It would appear so, but having an 8 in Artes Liberales isn't without cost. He's the pure academic, research for research sake, with no ability to apply what he writes about. One can read and understand concepts without being able to efficiently apply them in the field.

So using the rules, as I understand them on a character I'm running. It's Ra'am ex Bonisagus from Phoenix: https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/raam-ex-bonisagus/5995/1
Com +3 Creo 15, Auram 11 Artes Liberales 5, Scribe 2 and Good Teacher virtue.
He could write a 20-25 (21+22+23+24+25=115) level summa on any Art (and I presume a 5th level on any Ability?), but let's presume he'd do it on Creo, as it is his strongest Art.To do the range from 20-25 he needs to write 115 xp worth of information. His skills allow him to write (5+2)*2=14 xp per season, it would take him 9 seasons to write the book. The Quality is where the Art or skill in question comes int play, which in this case it would be 5 (AL) +3 (Mag of Cr) +3 (com) +3 (Virtue)=14

I generally like this. As an academic (and perhaps one who teaches, too?) you should know that one often knows more than they actually end up teaching. Being able to write in excess of one's skill isn't really possible, so it should be limited to the ability/Art in question. Or maybe not, the ability/Art score could represent the capability to implement said knowledge in the field under stressful conditions, something that the academic researcher doesn't usually contemplate. I'm going to ruminate on this for a while.

And it means you need an Artes Liberales of 8, too! Which requires an 180 xp expenditure...
But yes, there's some clarity necessary to this. Being able to write in excess of one's Art or ability seems off...

Direwolf: if it's possible, then someone will do it. In fact, I have a NPC who has 13 in AL and 8 in language and profession scribe (as well as bookbinder and illustrator). BUt his arts are at 5. Hence my questions, I was pushing the author to see what can or not be done.

HIs treatment of this subject is interesting.

Based on my understanding on the rules as he's written them, the NPC could write it very quickly. He could write (AL+scribe)*2, (8+8)*2=32 xp per season. His quality is at least 9 (AL 8 +1 for magnitude), plus his com plus any virtues... So, he could crank out a summa of L18Q9 in six seasons. Something's not working for me on this. I'm not against it, but like I said, I think there are some fundamental issues. On the other hand, I like the ability to write to the score of one's Art or ability.

Thank you for a lot of interesting input. Some clarifying.

  1. You can not write/teach a higher score (in neither Art or Ability). If you have 41 in one art, you can write a x-41 book. Not higher. You do not need double the score. That's IMHO just another gatekeeper to not let books be too powerful. In terms of knowledge, and most of all, reproduction of knowledge it's a very strange viewpoint. When I wrote my PhD-thesis I was writing about knowledge exactly the same level as I had in my subject. Or in other words: you don't have to be a professor to write books for PhD-students [translated: You don't have to have a score of 40 to write a score of 20]. The reason that there are few books with a range of 35-40 should not be because it's impossible, but because it takes precious time (for a winter magus) and is extremely difficult if you are not a bonisagus.

Precisely. It's too easy. OR, you already know the concepts, or you know other types of concepts/traditions that are better. A more skilled magus will flicker through the books and say: "nah/meh/tehlolz"

My philosophy when designing the house rule was that A Magus with Ignem 35 would have nothing to learn from ANY form of tractatus of an CrIg 5-spell? Why? Because that was something that the magus could do in his sleep when he was an young apprentice. It's like trying to impress Gordon Ramsey with your own special recepy of boiling eggs.

Yes. Its all good. How long does it take for one person to learn EB? How long does it take to write?
The original rules are (IMHO) a little bit optimistic about how quick you can make orginial text. Also. A 39-40 book is 40 xp. It represents 4-6 seasons of high end research whith huge amounts of Vis. I do not find it strange that it translated in to books, will take about 4 volumes.

[BUT most importantly. Given the philosophy of Reveresed detailing; This "books" can be anything: Maybe its four articles of hypothetical spells and one giant index. Maybe its ten volumes of the travelogue "Dances with Vulcanos". Maybe it is a small elaborate cube with layers upon layers of writing, impossible to open if you have a MT score of less than 7. Summa and Tractates is (imho) an inhibiting way of creating the wonders and marvels of a hermetic library.]

Post Script for GMs
Also. Think of all new intricate (as in fun) problems this causes for players. Imagine your spring covenant stumbles upon the Masterpiece of Mentem by Tremere himself. Say that the score is 45-50. The characters (and players) know the have stumbled upon a priceless collection of books. Problem is, they initially don't know how powerful it is (to low MT scores), and when they know - how will they reach 45 in Mentem? Maybe they will get there in 80 years. Are the books supposed to collect dust for that time? They should be able to profit from it, but how? Who can they trust? Maybe it's just easiest to give it to Coeris and have a huge boon from Tremere. But what if the mages hate house Tremere?
Or give them a starting covenant with superb 15-25 books in all arts and watch them eagerly collect Vis and blowing them selfs up in the lab.

//erik. I'm sure I missed some important questions. Please remind me and I will happily answer.

The whole add-your-magitude-to-the-quality-thingiee is because I figured that it's somewhat (not much) easier for a higher skilled person to know (in hindsight) what is important.

//erik. at least from my own experience as a lecturer.

Couple of problems with this philisophically. One, you can always learn something new, no matter how deep your knowledge of the subject is. Perhaps it attacks a problem in a new and novel way. Say a Perdo tractatus that attempts to show you 10 different ways of mimickingn an effect achievable through other Techniques. A master of Perdo might find that very attractive, if he hadn't written it himself.
Secondly, your Ramsey analogy is flawed. He is almost always impressed with people who can cook simple food well, and this is borne out by Master Chef. IIRC, his standard test to new chefs (not on competition shows) is to test their ability to make scrambled eggs. It's a pretty simple dish, and it can be easily ruined or not cooked to his standards. That establishes a base line for him. Additionally, I've seen contestants on his shows cook things very well and he asks detailed questions about how they prepared something. To think he hasn't learned something from the exchange is unlikely. He may not learn much, but he's added yet another technique to his vast repitoire. This is what I think tractatus represent in game terms.

While one can always learn something new, I don't think it follows that one can always learn something new from any given neophyte, nor that the amount that you learn is independent of how much you already know. Those are the two largest issues I take with the RAW book rules: the notion that someone with Cr1 but great communication can write a tractatus on Cr that every high-end Cr master is going to want to read. They don't want to read it because of the great insights that the neophyte has, but the clarity with which he writes. That detachment of the author's ability from the resulting text strikes me as going too far, and leads pretty directly to many of the book-prevalence arguments that are so popular on this board.

IMS, I mitigate this slightly with a house rule: Tractatii have levels, just like summae. If you are below or equal to that level, you get the full value of it. If you are above it, the quality of the book when you read it is:
Quality * author's score/your score.

Thus, the early elementary texts of even the best authors tend to be of less interest to masters, who prefer the writings of brilliant journeymen or (more average) other masters.

In my experience, both professionally and academically, I've learned from people who know less about a given subject area than I do. I may not learn much, but I do learn something. It may be that they have a different perspective about the subject matter than I do, causing me to re-evaluate something.

Case in point, heated Ars rules discussions: have you ever learned that you're doing something IYS that expressly violates the RAW? Yes, the likliehood of it happening is less over time, but it is still possible.

  1. As ndkid said. Sure you can learn from neophytes. But it's from 1 of 100. That could (or is?) just as well be experience from exposure from hundreds of small encounters.

  2. Learning another way of boiling your egg is not going to make you any better in what ever Creo Food lvl 40 dish you are making.

//erik. I realize learning IS a complex thing. For me the main function of this house rule is to have one formula instead of two, and to make summae closer to how you really would write a larger volumes of textbooks for medieval academics.

Except you DONT write tractatus about spells but about an Art or Ability. IIRC, you´re mixing up with a 4th edition book rule.

If it covers something simple that "you" have never dealt with before, it should benefit you.

Uargh... Step by step books... NOT fun in my opinion. Extremely NOT fun, and not at all realistic in most subjects either.

Of previous houserules similar to this, i like the ideas around Comprehension level much better, where you get MAX XP only in the correct range, but you get some regardless, how many depending on which version you like best...



Yup, made use of that myself. It´s a very nice addition overall.

Well, you can write about Spell Mastery on a given spell.

Myself, after earlier discussion about this have pretty much adopted a similar version.
A level 10 tract, if you have level 11-20 you get half the XP, if you have 21-30 you get 1/3 and so on.

It´s kinda funny, i´ve simply added more variants, each with different formulas rather than try to have one covering all...

Yes but i REALLY dont think that´s what he´s referring to.

He did mention Abilities, it's an ability. You split hairs on his meaning, I split hairs on your meaning. :smiley: