How does the tribunal you are located in affect covenant creation?

In another thread about the difference between specialists and grogs in terms of having to pay for either with build points, Silveroak and Racoonmask raised the very interesting point that the covenant creation rules in the core rulebook do not take the tribunal into account. This means that vis stocks/sources cost the same amount of build points in Normandy, Rome and Thebes even though the former two are supposedly poor in vis and the latter is rich. Similarly covenants in Rome and Novgorod pay the same amount of build points for mundane riches and subordinates even though one is densely populated and has a huge population of educated mundanes while the other is sparsely populated and underdeveloped.

It occured to me that this is a good candidate for a community rework of the covenant creation rules in a way that takes the tribunal that the covenant is located in, into account.
In my view this it is best integrate such a new system with the rules for covenants from Covenants.

I will see If I can get the ball rolling with a more detailed suggestion later today/tomorrow.


I would suggest that a couple of other issues be resolved first.

If you start with [Cov] you will quickly see that Cov Creation trade-offs are very different from in-game trade-offs. For instance, 100 BP can buy you either 10 Q10 tractatus or 500p vis. Those 500p vis can buy you 167-250 sound tractatus (Q10 or so) in game, making it 16-25x better value, still going by [Cov] rules, albeit a different chapter.

An inconsistent system is very poor starting point.

The Andorra rules is AFAIK the best attempt available to repair this, by building a new pricelist in quarter pawns of vis which could be used to replace BP in Covenant Creation. ( I don't particularly agree with their relative prices, but the approach is promising.

The Andorra economics appears to assume almost perfectly smooth trade going on across the Order, which would tend to even out prices between tribunals. Vis-short covenants in Rome can sell books to Hibernia via the redcap network, for instance. Working in regional availability and transaction costs into the economics would be an interesting exercise. Thereafter, one could make new rules for covenant creation based on this economics.

1 Like

This is why you need to look at the end result. Vis stocks are the most efficient use of BP by a large margin. You can create hundreds of thousands of pounds of silver, buy books, and other things with vis stocks. A point in vis stocks is only surpassed by the equivalent points in vis sources after 25 games of in game time.

So, if you come to this from an investment banking or AMERICAN EXPRESS attitude of buying stuff afterwards, you are doing it wrong IMO. You should be taking the points of your end result. That, or take hidden resources to represent the incoming valuables. And run stories of acquisition. It is not like you can buy 200 sound tractatus in WALMART. They just aren't available.

if you use your vis to acquire resources, that was just the equivalent of physical BP.

There is no limit at all at how many BP you can have in your covenant. So if you want to have a 100.000 build point covenant, go ahead and do it. Gaming the system here is just cheating yourself.

I have not looked into them in detail, but when making comaprisons take in mind that Andorra is a high powered and high fantasy saga. Nothing bad about that, but just something to take into account when looking into it.


I don't think you need to amend the rules. Page 218 of the core rules mentions about choosing whether to have a low, medium or high vis saga (In the "Resources" box). The covenant creation rules starting on page 71 open with the words "The covenant should be created by the whole troupe, working together."

If the main SG has said this will be a low vis saga, then you would expect them to place hard limits on vis at covenant creation. If you are in a tribunal which is described as poor in vis, then your troupe needs to decide if you're keeping to this part of canon or if you're going to invent a reason why this won't apply. The same happens for specialists - if you are in an area of low population density far away from towns, you should apply restrictions to how many specialists you have or alternatively you have to roleplay why this isn't the case. Maybe you have a very persuasive recruiter for the covenant, or maybe your established covenant recruited specialists a while ago, and you are depending on them to train up replacements - if anything happens to their chosen apprentice, you may need an adventure to find that new glassblower/percamenarius/siege engineer.

If you like creating new complications for things, go ahead and make some more rules. In practice, how often are you going to want to create more than one covenant of the same power level at the same time and want to carefully balance them for power level? I have never played in a game where we didn't create the covenant and then discover in play just how vastly powerful the autumn covenants in our area were.

1 Like

Of course, we can design the covenant without the rules. Cap things which are scarce and whatnot.

However, for a player/SG who has only played sagas which are either short-lived or slow-paced or both (not to mention newbies), it is very hard to predict how a covenant will play in practice. It would find it useful to have rules which help me gauge the power level, both in terms of plausibility and comparison with other covenants and with respect to the desired power level for the game. The BP system provides no such help.

I won't insist that we desperately need better rules, but better rules would help me. The current BP rules is a waste of paper.

Yes, I agree that you cannot just buy 200 sound tractatus tomorrow, but neither would you be able to read them all tomorrow, so it does not really matter. The question is rather if you can buy the books you want to read at the pace you are able to read them in. The rules seem to suggest that that is rather trivial. The end result that you suggest be measured in BP would then only appear decades down the line, but the power level for all practical purposes was the same all the way.

Take another example. You can add 500 tractatus of Q3 for 1500 BP. Your covenant suddenly moves up a tier on the power ladder, but for all practical purpose no value has been added. And such books probably do exist too. (In fact, I think a plausible covenant library should contain a large number of books that no player wants to read and therefor is never paid for.)

Another dilemma where better rules support would be useful, is on the availability of books. It is a recurring source of conflict, because players enter the game with widely different expectations. Even the WALMART assumption effectively is common, by assuming many archmages use rituals to boost Com to write excellent books (maybe there is a cult initiating Good Teacher too) and hordes of mundane scribes can trivially be recruited or maintained by any covenant who wants to. A couple of such assumptions lead to the Andorra rules. I would really have liked to see a ruleset of similar quality designed for a low-power saga. That would have been useful to me, as a substitute for the experience which is not earned in short-lived or slow-paced sagas.

Back to the topic at hand. Yes, differentiating between tribunals is an interesting thought, but will only be of real help if the underlying mechanisms and examples are consitent.


The core fallacy remain- Mythic Europe is medieval Europe with magic sprinkled on top, but that magic would profoundly change the setting in ways that are not accounted for.
So would medieval trade routes apply, where goods are dangerous to transport and could take years to cross the continent, limiting the effectiveness of inter-tribunal trade? Or do Hermes portals allow recaps to slip across the continent in hours, facilitating trade as well as communication within the order and probably without as redcaps make a little side money transporting small packages...
does vis trade with silver at ridiculously low rates like 12 pounds to a pawn, enforced by rules preventing mages from simply creating vast stores of silver that would reshape the local economy that are somehow enforced with trivial effort despite the massive rewards that would be possible, or should a single pawn of vis be worth hundreds to thousands of pounds of silver, so that using it to create silver is cost prohibitive?
These issues are fundamental to a setting, and realistically any answer would be "transforming mythic Europe" into something that we would not recognize as medieval- the system has too many holes in terms of the code, enforcement, economics, and so forth.
However, it is still fun, which is the main requirement, and different people prefer to play it in their own ways, so maybe what is needed is not simply a set of rules, but sets of optional rules that function based on design "switches" to the background.

1 Like

Absolutely. Sometimes examples work better than rules, too.

But I do not agree that 1300 Hermetic wizards necessarily transform Mythic Europe.
Sure, if they want to, they do it. But maybe most of mainly want to get drunk and discuss philosophy? Like any other scholar? Canon certainly has it that Verditius mainly want to show off and live lavishly. Bonisagus just want to break limits, not put their inventions to use. Jerbiton definitely do not want to upset the mundane world, and Merinita spend their time away from everybody else. Criamon are busy within their own minds. There are not that many left to transform ME. There are alternative consistent histories here.


One major problem I have with AM economics regards the inconsistent rules, discussed in this thread and elsewhere.

Another major problem I have is that the canonical values simply don't make sense. Such as:

Technique vis is not really worth double Form vis, and not all Art vis is equally valuable, since some Forms are much easier to come by (eg He or An or Vi vs Im or Me) and some Arts are especially favored (Creo! Corpus! Vim!)

The proposed Redcap fees for trading are ludicrously high. A pawn of vis for a small trade is not a trivial amount.

Covenant BP do not reflect the utility of what is being obtained. (The inconsistencies with other rules is a different issue; I do not refer to "just take vis and an expert negotiator (as a PC, not with BP) and buy everything you need," but to the BP rules on their own merits.)

Labor Points.

The Andorra rules do a nice job for Andorra, a saga which needs just enough of an economy to get by, allowing players to create advanced characters in a sane way. Kudos to MM for these effective rules. I think more general rules for AM economy involve rebuilding economy from the ground up.

As an aside, one of my favorite bits of AM economy is the section in Covenants describing income sources by kind and level. The examples are not on par; some of the Legendaries are worth far more than others, for example, but the section does a fantastic job of evoking a style of covenant. The level of income describes a covenant's resources and place in society; the way it gets its income suggests the kind of stories a saga might expect. (My covenant owns the entire herring trade in the Baltic Sea, and the muggles don't realize this! My covenant is the best whorehouse in Paris! My covenant is a leprosarium, relying on charity and blackmail!)



1 Like

The redcaps alone would transform mythic Europe. Not in the overt and dramatic ways that wizardry has the full potential to accomplish, but relatively small changes can have huge results. the existence of 100 couriers capable of transporting packages from Barcelona to Kiev in 3 months or less would drastically change the face of commerce and politics. those 1300 wizard represent a rough total of 260 locations throughout the continent that have dramatically improved infrastructure simply for the convenience of the wizards involved- and this is if you assume the 1300 number makes sense, which to me it makes no sense that it would be that low, since traits with that low of an incidence within a population have no chance of propagating or of congregating to begin with. Europe is 3.39 million square miles, with an estimated population of up to 100 million people- this puts hermetic mages at 1.3 per hundred thousand. A covenant of 5 mages represents 650000 people that those mages would have come from, which given the mages lifespan of roughly 150 years compared to an average lifespan for the rest of the population of around 50 means the mages would have been about 1 out of every 400 thousand births- which means finding an apprentice means covering 400,000 people in one season? Again the design philosophy is "throw out some numbers and who cares if they work?"

1 Like

Redcaps can do some super-mythic things and probably do transform a few hundred locations, but there is no need to do it to an extent which transforms Europe. An any extent which draws attention to them would be taking a risk.

Your calculation on the number of wizards assume that all Gifted children become magi, which probably is not the case. Maybe one in a hundred is found, which means finding the Gifted child among 4000. Feasible. Especially since the Gift is strange enough to create rumours and reputation, not, maybe, in every case, but in the cases which are actually found by the Order.

You are right in saying that it is hard making Mythic Europe work consistently, but the claim that it be already inconsistent is exaggerated. Some assumptions need to be tweaked, but not, I think, any explicit canon assumptions. Some features of canon must be conservatively interpreted, which is fine. If you take 1300 wizards who have not yet transformed Europe as canon, you just need to fit all the other assumptions around it.

The other issue is that (given the power levels of hermetic magic) in order to not transform mythic Europe in significant if not dramatic ways, all of the mages have to be kept in line. That's not to say you couldn't have the occasional young rogue wizard, but if anybody were able to actually get away with flaunting the code for any significant length of time the changes to Europe- at the level of trade, industry and politics at least, would be profound.
For one thing church doctrine IRL for centuries regarding magic was essentially that it wasn't real- very hard for that to be the case in mythic Europe. If you change that base assumption then would the Church not have been more concerned about the possibility for escalation from the inquisition which sprang from the albasinian crusades? Escalation which did in fact occur in the real world could have been a far more transparent concern in a world with super powerfull mages running around, and the church might well have taken a different tactic.

1 Like

What I totally miss in this thread is the fact, that Ars Magica is not only about "the mages and how they affect the mundane world."

For me (and my Troupe) it's all about "the infinite struggle of the 4 supernatural realms fighting each other and for control of the non-supernatural/mundane world.

The real question (and maybe also the reason) for all the strange aspects of the mythic europe setting is: How do the different realms affect the economy of mythic europe?

What about infernal devils, luring the poor mundanes into sinning with their brand new gold ingots?
What about the value of relics in comparison to "simple" hermetic magic items?
What about enormously hoards (gold, gemstones, vis,..) of faerie dragons?

Again it's mainly a matter of style and troupe-agreement. IMS the other supernatural realms are very prominent and the hermetic world is more on the fringe of the real centers of power..

And also Ars Magica for us is simply better to play as a harsh, unfriendly, grim & gritty, mystic, and/or mysterious, low powered, medevial style setting... then I have no problems with the "strange" economy.


Just two observations about what Ovarwa wrote.

I used to think that Redcap fees for trading were ludicrously high. Then I realized that ... they are not, really :slight_smile: When you buy something in a developed country retail shop, you are typically paying it twice what the shopkeeper paid it. In that light, the 2:1 exchange rate you can get from Redcaps is not that absurd. It also leaves room for stories, in which your covenant tries to undercut the Redcap network :slight_smile:

I agree that Covenant BP costs do not always reflect the relative utility of what is being obtained. Then again, I am not sure one could assign any set of costs that would work in all, or even many, circumstances. That's because the relative utility of a book vs. a rook of vis depends a lot on the magi, the stories etc. I think that Covenant BP costs do serve as a very, very rough guideline of the relative utility, and given that you have quite some latitude in determining how many BP your Covenant has, that's all that's really needed.

1 Like

actually the 2x price thing is really misleading, and quite variable depending on something far less simple than the equation- generally high end items have a lower margin of profit- frequently under 10%, while low end items have a ridiculously high margin in terms of percentage. I know of one case where an over the counter cream which retailed for $5 cost the pharmacist 12 cents. of course the absolute profit was only $4.88, where a higher end item around $550 cost the pharmacist $520- a $30 profit margin in absolute terms but with a far lower ROI before overhead...
The real question, in this context, is what is the value of vis, which is one of those core questions that is saga dependent and never gets addressed but I think should be a fundamental "design switch" that would massively impact how the rest of the game is structured.

I think we should keep in mind that a Covenant is that extra character-location that makes new players roll their eyes when, exhausted after having created a magus and a companion, were thinking that finally they could start having fun. I think the mechanics as they are, specially in the corebook, are designed to get rid of it as soon as possible, and to leave further covenant development and growing to gameplay. So you found Bonisagus' lost summa about Magic Theory? Few players' first thought will be "ok, now I really need to update the covenant sheet" (though I think that kind of players --which I'm included in, of course-- is overwhelmingly abundant here, which biases reasonings to a certain extent).

And regarding the full "...but the Order hadn't change anything in the history as recorded in Wikipedia", I'd always read an "until now" in my head everytime a campaign started. But lately I'm already starting to change things, not just because of magi, but of all the other stuff. So there are three dragons in such a small place as the Isle of Man, and they aren't fully integrated into the island daily life and politics and everything else? Not on my table anymore. If you want to rule Man, first thing in your agenda go talk with a dragon (...and be ready to become a pawn in a political chess game, with a board of the size of the island).

...if they were into mundane trade or politics, which they are not. The casual tale about a rider with a red cap which was attacked by an ogre and waved a stick and then a tree grappled the ogre with his branches would just get lost into the long queue of myths, legends and inventions of the time.

@loke alredy pointed that you are assuming all gifted children to be somehow destined to become hermetic magi. But there are several magical traditions out there which feed on gifted children, and gifted child mortality rate, which must be wildly higher than average: consider the freaked parents, the effects of the Gift over people, that they could act like beacons for all kind of supernatural beings...

To start through estimations, I'd start saying that just 10% gifted children survive childhood, and that less than 10% of these are found or suitable to be trained as hermetic magi (think of all these kids with The Gift and an Int score of -2).

That magi average lifespan of 150 is also quite high. Magi they tend to die so more when they are young and less powerful (I'd guess that most magi, or magi-to-be deaths would actually be during apprenticeship), which is also the time when magi are most frequently unsettled, going around looking for a place where to form a covenant and so on. Think that the average lifespan during the age would probably be around 30 years old, but average lifespan of people over 10 would probably double that, because it wouldn't be dragged down by the huge amount of childbirths gone wrong, little children dying to disease, wolves, war, witches, the occasional Flambeau burning stuff for business or fun and everything else that predates Mythic Europe.

This is quite useful because some time ago I tried to build a population model for magi, and it just didn't work: with so many centuries since the schism war, any parameter I tweaked made Order population either blow up orders of magnitude over 1300 or be extinct by 1220. But now I notice that the trick was that I was using that biased, post-apprenticed, well established magi lifespan estimate. If I have to try to do that model again I'd start by saying that even when older magi can survive over a couple centuries before warping finish them, magi average lifespan is in the 30-50 years range, with accidental deaths highly concentrated in apprentices and recently gauntled magi. And then, for the Order to be stable through time, the ratio Apprentices / Magi must be 1. Which could be reasonable considering magi dying before teaching and apprenticeship, dead apprentices and magi not interested in having apprentices at all. Or otherwise would imply that there is a covert operation running through the centuries designed to keep the Order population stable.


There is some canon reference, possibly not 5ed, saying that this value is undefined.
(Well, it is £2/p during covenant design, but in game it is undefined.) Vis is very rarely traded for silver because magi, even desperately poor, are reluctant to trade magical power for mundane wealth. Magical power is priceless, and can only be exchanged for other magical power.

This is not to say that vis for silver trade never ever happens, but when it happens it is ad hoc and the price is set based on the particular situation of the two parties involved. It happens so rarely, that there is no stable market and therefore no stable price. If you want to buy or sell vis for silver, you may not find a buyer when you need it. Only if you are lucky you do.

I like this view because it forces the narrative to address real values, rather than monetary quantities. I find the smooth-running market, where the players buy what they want when they want it, quite boring. It reduces the game to a tactical buy/sell game.

1 Like


First vis.

I thought about modern retail markups when I considered this, and decided it does not apply for a variety of reasons:

  • This is not the modern environment.

  • Magi canonically get together at Tribunal, and can trade face to face.

  • Easy teleportation is a thing, making it even easier to cut out the middleman. It also means that Mythic Europe (Mythic Medieval Earth, but certainly the Hermetic world) can be considered a common market.

  • Vis isn't quite money, because it is consumed. I therefore tend to think of these transactions as barter. So it looks less to me like paying a fee and more like a bad trade.

  • Many real world transactions are not 'retail.' For example, when I buy shares of stock, my brokerage fee is not 100%. It costs me very little to send a letter or package across the continent. Selling real estate....

  • Redcaps exist because they make more sense in the pre-AM3 magical economy. In AM2, magi could not live very long: Longevity Potions (not yet 'Rituals') cost vis every year, and were not all that effective. Books above level 10 were very good; above level 20 were legendary, requiring a magus with Art40 to write. Adventure xp could not be used to boost Arts, there was no exposure xp: Want to raise an Art? Books, vis lottery and your familiar. Magi were weaker, vis more precious and that level 35 teleportation spell available to only a very few. But even in that environment, I imagine magi paying Redcaps in mundane goods rather than vis: Magi need 3 pawns per year for aging! They need more vis to study favored Arts, because great books aren't a thing!

Relative utility:

That's a thing about economics, that many people with different needs and priorities manage to converge upon exchange values. These fluctuate for a variety of reasons, but if there are a sufficient number of actors in the market, not everyone will have the same priorities, making exchange possible.

The problem with covenant BP goes beyond this. For example, it has been noticed that a q1 book has a build cost, but is worse than useless. That's a trivial, even degenerate example, but it's pretty clear that some uses of points are far better than others, even when other economy rules (like those that let you buy everything with vis) are not brought into play.

I think that some tables describing generic covanants based on covenant season, saga power, prevalence of vis and wealth, etc, which are then modified by Boons and Hooks would serve better. So, for example, we might start with a 'generic' Summer Covenant in a high-powered saga set in the Greater Alps, and then get or lose stuff based on Hooks and Boons. Like a Good, Great or Legendary Hermetic Library. Or vis sources. Did you take lots of vis, planning to buy your way to a Great Library? Fine... but there will be stories attached, because that's how Hooks and Boons work, and because there are reasons why the covenant cannot have already done this. Getting another Boon demands stories, and keeping an extra one not balanced by a new Hook might demand more.

In a sense, I think that's what the covenant design system was always supposed to be: If you do nothing, you have the metaphorical generic covenant in a nice tower on a grassy hill, with reasonable resources, and nothing interesting will ever happen because you're non-interventionist magi, with all your non-extravagant needs met by your manor. But of course, you want more, so you take Boons and Hooks, all of which come with stories. Did you take the Boon: Chekhov's Gun? Then you are asking for a story in which it needs to be fired... or maybe Chekhov wants it back. Vis Stores? You get to roll in the stuff, but you're gonna need it. Etc.

Then there can (and should) be a detailed economy, but a covenant in play will be also be governed by other rules (regarding stories).

I've tangented though.




Uhm, ok :slight_smile: But I would argue that the modern environment is more "trade friendly" than even the Hermetic one. Let's see below.

  • Magi canonically get together at Tribunal, and can trade face to face.

Tribunals happen every seven years. And not all magi attend. Last but not least, if I were a magus, I'd tend to trust the Redcaps more than a random "sodalis".

  • Easy teleportation is a thing, making it even easier to cut out the middleman.

Sort of. Teleportation via portals is a thing, but it's quite expensive. I don't really see the majority of covenants having free access to it. Rego Corpus teleportation is possible, but either you know the spell (and it's not quite that easy for everyone to know), cast if from tablet (good luck) or you get warped from a magic item (and you need access to that in the first place). And even then, Arcane Connection management adds complexity, overhead etc.

It also means that Mythic Europe (Mythic Medieval Earth, but certainly the Hermetic world) can be considered a common market.

Yes, and no. Not a market without middlemen, because it's not just an issue of bartering, but also of trusting your trading partners; as there's no "rule of law" in the modern sense, it's much much trickier.

  • Vis isn't quite money, because it is consumed. I therefore tend to think of these transactions as barter. So it looks less to me like paying a fee and more like a bad trade.

It's not clear to me what you mean. Having the exact goods you want delivered at your doorstep in exchange for the exact goods you want to give away? That "flexibility" is part of the trade. If you look at medieval markups for, say, agricultural produce vs. crafted goods, you'll see pretty high markups on the "final buyer" side.

  • Many real world transactions are not 'retail.' For example, when I buy shares of stock, my brokerage fee is not 100%. It costs me very little to send a letter or package across the continent. Selling real estate....

Agreed. But that's in part because a lot of transactions in the modern age are digital transfers of information; in part because we have a really, really, really good trade network in place that takes advantage, among other things, of the modern global market being very large and thus very liquid. I bet you'd see significantly larger markups if you lived in a world with a little over 1000 people.

  • Redcaps exist because they make more sense in the pre-AM3 magical economy.

ArM5 certainly has many, many "legacy" elements. Kudos to the line editor and authors for keeping them while updating the game. I agree that Redcaps made even more sense in the pre-ArM3 magical economy. But it does not mean that they do not make sense in the ArM5 economy. Basically, magi have better things to do than taking care of logistics. Redcaps have a dominant position in logistics, are pretty good at it, and not nearly as good at the other things magi are good at.

Last but not least, a lesson from the real world, that took me many years to absorb. Things are only occasionally as efficient, or nearly as efficient, as they could be on paper. There are always going to be little feuds, prejudices, accidents, widespread incompetence etc. I mean, why doesn't the Order make a backup of Durenmar's library? It would not cost that much, and would hedge the generations to come against a really, really huge risk. But they don't do it. I think it's sadly realistic.

1 Like

I have come to the same conclusion as you did. That guides for covenant creation are best done not as recommendations for how to modify build-point cost but as examples for what a typical covenant might look like in different areas both geographical and metaphorical (library, vis sources etc.).

As for the considerations on trade there are definitely problems with trade in hermetic terms but perhaps they belong in a different thread.

We're definitely going to sprout infinite threads. While I can see and agree with a lot of the points here, I think it's still worth comparing the expectations of differing Tribunal situations. Even if we aren't going to be building modified build-point tables /because build points are broken/ we can build a generic summer covenant expectation.