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

I don't think learning is a linear experience. You don't learn bits 1 2 3 4 5, then bits 6 7 8 9 10. Moreover, maybe the bit you learned is merely that 5 other bits exist and you can learn them when you need them.

Even if you know all the bits in the tractatus, maybe you never connected them together and saw how the overall picture formed more bits. Most real-world example of tractatus are readable in a week or so, if it takes a whole season it must be because you have to form your own insight into the work. And why should your insights be the same as the next reader?

If you believe a lowbie tractatus can never teach anything to a experienced reader, you are falling into that linear trap. Even a master at Animal might have never studied owls, maybe the bits he hears have little value but it might make other bits click together.

This really depends on the nature of the Hermetic Arts. If they are similar to mathematics, they are certainly a lot more linear than they would be if the similarity is to history. We don't really know the answer here but my interpretation is that the Arts are primarily arcane, meaning that they're made up of hidden secrets. Only a master of these secrets (i.e., someone with high enough level Arts) can pass on the information at an advanced level.

I'm an advocate of levelled tractatuses. It makes it more interesting to have important mystical books out there rather than the generic ones we get from the RAW system. It also gives a reason why we read Aristotle rather than Jean Schmoo, recent graduate from Paris.

For those who absolutely insist that every student's research paper could contain insights equal to Plato or Bonisagus, I propose that studying with unread lower level tractatuses allow Practice experience (normally forbidden for Hermetic Arts) at the usual level of 4XP.

Obviously, the ArM5 book rules are an abstract game mechanic rather than a coherent, accurate, and complete theory of how people learn.

However, in RL I teach engineering at a university. I find that I do learn stuff from reading lab reports and papers written by undergraduate students. Not from their "startling and innovative insights", but from identifying the mistakes that they have made, by figuring out precisely why what they have done is wrong, and figuring out a good way to explain this. Seeing and critiquing somebody elses totally wrong ideas, does help you to refine your own ideas about a subject.

So, experts do learn from neophytes and the neophytes don't need to be right (or an innovative genius) for this to happen (of course, making the rash assumption that a university lecturer is an "expert" in what he teaches).

Oh it's the same thing, linear algebra != calculus != statistics != set theory.

My understanding is that to use affect something you must intimately know the object or quality you are changing. You cannot make an owl if you don't know what are its properties. Most summae are boring enumeration of the different way that Form exists, with the better ones listing more esoteric instances or giving better descriptions.

Yes, I see the Arts as arcane as modern university-level learnings can be. In some way, the lectio and disputatio still survive today, if only for doctoral dissertations. That might not be enough to make it a good approach. My main issue is Arts being so hands-on you'd have to be closer to engineering although the mumbo-jumbo mystical approach is still far from the modern scientific method.

If you look at the early Universities, I believe they were too subordonated to religion to really fit with the facts of practicing Arts. In that way, mages might be closer to mason guilds and other early engineers.

I don't disagree with doctorate having very little to learn from college-level, I just believe that when a tenured professor sets his master-level slave ^W student on a task it's because he will learn something from it.

Good luck learning any statistics but the most rudimentary without a good understanding of calculus. And in any case we're still talking about what's practically introductory mathematics to any professional. No, it's not completely linear but it's much more linear than the liberal arts.

Sure, he'll likely learn something from it. But by Ars rules he'll learn as much as he would from a leader in his field, writing abilities equal. There's only so much detail we can humanly put into the game so we have to err in one direction or another.

To me this sounds like Practice Experience in AM terms.

as other said, you always can learn from neophytes, I would add : when you are 30 do you remember all you learnt when you where 14?
Sometimes, I am taught things I should already know, but that I forgot because I havn't use it for ages, but now it could be useful...
Also it is interesting to see a "naive" point of view
Recently I read books which where not really giving me new information, but really interesting by the way it was explained, so in a way, I didn't learnt much

but don't forget that when beginner learning 15 XP will take you from 0 to 5, but if you are say level 40, you even won't raise from one level...

You have to remember that in ArM5 studying a book is more than just reading it. The magi are not slow readers that take 3 months to read a tractatus.

The magus is reading it (or at least parts) it several times, maybe trying out some stuff from the book, trying to see how what is in the book fits (or does not fit) with his existing understanding, comparing what this author says in comparison to other authors he is familiar with, etc. So studying a tractatus and concluding that the author is wrong is still a learning process for the magus. And, of course, sometimes the tractatus author will be right.

I agree with everything you write. It still sounds like practice experience to me. The magus is learning from the fact that he's spent 3 months thinking about the subject. He hasn't actually learned much if anything from the author of the tractatus, he's just used the text to help focus his mind as he ponders the Art. That certainly isn't the same as finally getting his hands on the Key of Solomon/Grand Grimoire/Book of Shadows/Al-Azif or other fabled text of ancient lore.

Sure sometimes, the tractatus author was wrong, but the content of the tractatus still guided the magus, the magus is thinking about the Art with reference to what the tractatus author said. So it is different to the magus just practising alone. The magus has still learnt something by studying the tractatus. Whether it is more or less XP than he would have got by just practising alone, well depends on the Study Source Quality of the book and the Practise Study Source Quality.

Of course not. But no-one is claiming that it is?

The game mechanic effect might be similar --- you get XP in an Art --- but that doesn't mean that the in-character experience of reading the "Book of Shadows" is the same as reading "My First Book of Experiments with Terram". The game mechanic is just an abstract way for the players to indicate what has happened on the character sheet, which is another abstract way of representing the character.

When a character gets hit in the head with a fire-ball or hit in a head with a sword, the game mechanic effect is the same; the character takes a certain amount of Damage and therefore a Wound if his Soak Score is exceeded. However, just because the game mechanic of getting a fire-ball or a sword strike in the head is the same, we don't suddenly imagine that the rules are saying these are the same thing in-character.

Maybe you need a recap:

You also have to keep track of which tractatus for which spell you have read.

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?

In this case i most certainly did no hairsplitting. If you think the above are not obvious pointers, you likely have a problem.

While I agree it can lead to interesting stories, I have to say I also find it a bit too complex to use. Ok there is only one formula, but more parameters to take into account when writing or reading them.

By the way, a 19-20 book makes almost no sense from a player perspective, and I guess you know that as you often use 5-level intervals in your examples. I think for arts intervals should have at least 5, or better 10, levels to be interesting and not just frustrating, maybe too high or too low for players characters but not too narrow. Considering that, it quickly makes books really long to write, too long to my taste.

Yeah. I probably mixed ArM5 and ArM4. That, however doesn't change the premise of my House Rules. I would like to point out one important aspect:

The house rule doesn't change the multiple ways that a character is able to learn. It just reduces the number of ways to write books.

I agree with Tugdual in:

Of course you do not learn like that. However, for me it's just as logical that you don't have to write like that either, which is my main problem with Summae.

Well, 19-20 is 2-3 seasons of non-experimenting with Vis. In large covenants I think it could easily make sense. In small – maybe not. We most not also forget the importance of making a legacy - to leave something of your knowledge behind.

I understand that this is a matter of preferences. For me it is important to slow it down. I actually made it even slower at first, but desided it would be to unbearable for most players. I guess it's a fine balance between making it easy (as in fast) and fun to make books, and making them more valuable and rare.

//erik. meep meep

Remember you can't "Practice" the Arts at all by RAW, so being able to do so by having a new book to read would still be an advantage.

Sure we're abstracting but we're abstracting the effect wrongly. Think of it this way. For some reason or another you're confined to your home for a few months. You can either read a popularized introductory text on engineering, written by a very engaging writer (as popularized books tend to be), or you can study an advanced tome in your subject, which happens to have been written in Russian and poorly translated. Under AM rules you'd learn way more from the popularized pap than you would from the real science.

It cannot be Practice as it is Arts. You may call "practice" doing the exercise at the end of every chapter, but that is not true in Ars Magica terms.

Good point; although tractatus do exist for things that you can practise --- like, any Ability --- and the same book rules apply.

No, that is what ArM calls "Studying a Tractatus". That is one of the things that a character might be doing when he is "studying"; assuming the book is structured like that. If the book is structured differently he is doing something different.

Having actually read engineering texts that seem to be poorly translated from another language --- it sounds like ArM has it about right.

The popularised pap is better. At least I can understand it, even if I don't agree with it ...

So . . . perhaps tractati should require a season of something risky to write - vis study, experimentation, etc. - to represent the magus coming up with a potentially new way of looking at things.

I do think an expert in the field would find much of the article redundant, however.


But the problem, as I see it, is that the popularised paper on the atom (lvl 0-5) wouldn't do you no good when you trying to build a never before used particle accelerator (lvl 40). For me, a high score in an art is more of a technical skill (as someone already noted, if I remember correctly). For me it's not a knowledge skill.

Also. when a students paper "triggers" something in you, I believe it wouldn't have if you hadn't been on the excact… hmm… [bleeping langue barriers]… let's put it this way: The reason you learn something from someone less experienced is because you have aquired enough much knowledge to make that connection. ie. you don't learn from the student per se… the student is only the catalyst for xp you have aquired from your own studies.

//erik. do I make any sense at all?

OTOH, if you read "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sandstone (But Were Afraid to Ask Your Mater)" from a lvl 10 sandstone expert and you have never touched that material, you will sure learn a lot even if you are past lvl 30. You will have a better understanding on how that rock relates to others, in that sense you could learn even more than a beginner.

That doesn't make sense. If that bit is an xp you have acquired from your own studies, you knew it before the student paper. It's like saying you knew all along there were no rhymes for month. You knew enough words beforehand to guess it, but the rhyme bit? You either knew it, or you didn't.

That´s where your concept fails totally. Because especially arts are neither "technical" nor "knowledge" skills.
They´re called Arts because they are ARTS.

It´s like trying to quantify what level you need to paint a stick figure. Or sing a song. You might do it BETTER at high level, but you can still do it whenever. And even the best of painters will learn something from reading "how to draw 1000 different sorts of stick figures in amusing ways" just as the best ever singer will get something useful from learning 10 new songs.

And even if that wasnt blatant for arts, trying to force knowledge to be so precisely step-by-step, it´s just extremely unrealistic. How is your system supposed to handle Abilities like History or Geography?
Heck, most of the Abilities in the game just screams "wont work" when looking at them based on your plateau book system.

Aside from that, you´re essentially just reinventing the Comprehension level idea(try searching the forum for it, hopefully findable) but removing the part where those below the level gets less XP.

Completely disagree. I learn lots of stuff about history every new year, a huge chunk of it from people that in game terms would have a lower score in Ability "History", and i´ve spent >25 years with a strong interest in that, simply because they happen to know something that i missed or didnt actively pursue, or in an area i never went deeply enough into to find it... Or simply came up with an analysis that was different, or gave a new point of view.

And, i learn just the same way from people who overall know MORE than me as well.

My friend has seriously studied and can use a bunch of programming languages and has professional training in doing so, meanwhile, when i was a kid i learned how to program in Basic 7.0 and while i´m rather chaotic about it i can still come up with decent solutions and code...
Who´s the better of us? And more importantly, how would you decide which would be what level?
However, that´s not the full story. I´m fiendishly clever at improvising in some things, and when programming, if i know what i want to do, i can simply start writing code and just keep writing until i´m done, setting up the structure and adding everything in as i go along. My friend calls that "bloody damned impossible!".
However, i also have been almost completely useless at learning the languages he´s good at, like C and C++ and newer variations, and while he needs to plan his programming ahead of writing it, his code is neat, meaning for example that if someone else needs to debug it, that´s not a problem, while someone trying to do that with my code would pretty much have to read all of it, figure every line out and then the whole.
And who of us writes the faster, smaller or better optimised code is mostly rather random.

So, after that annoyingly roundabout example, we´re back to the pointed question, how do you determine what level books dealing with which parts of the above would be?
A tiny primer on Basic could allow you to write a huge and extremely complex game very quickly, but learning the basics in C would in the long run be faaaar better. A book on how to improvise your code while programming, or one how to structure it well before you start writing, what levels would they be if the game had Ability Computer Programming?

And why, oh WHY would someone with too low OR too high score not be able to learn ANYTHING AT ALL from them? That makes absolutely no sense at all. And it keeps lacking in sense just about no matter what skill or knowledge you change the comparisons to.