Libraries as Abilities & Arts

Reading the Large Library Rules topic, I notice that a few posters find the current Level-Quality system problematic for various reasons. The reasons resonate with me; I find the single book, level and quality approach somewhat unsatisfying myself. The Large Library rules are an effort to address this.

Optionally, it occurs to me that rather than being focused on the Book, you could build a library of books, where you study a subject from the library by reading from as many books as possible. This seems similar to my academic experience of reading this book this week and that book the next, all supplemented by earlier works and often material from outside the official reading list.

To maintain as much of the current structure, keep quality and level, just pour them all into a Library Art or Ability using the existing pyramid point structure, including the experience point build division between Art and Ability. The resulting subject may be high quality or low level, but the trend is toward the mean, I would think, reflecting disagreements among authors. A skilled librarian may be able to cultivate a superior library through inclusion and exclusion.

So, a library would have scores in the Arts, for example, with Q & L. When Master Aquarius studies, for example, Auram, he generates a study total just the same as before, but from several books; the subject is probably checked out during this time, so Mistress Felina will have to wait for the Auram books to be returned. Possibly there could be study with a penalty for multiple readers drawing from the same subject. Medieval libraries seem unlikely to have multiple copies of the same works, but I suppose a covenant might double up the key works. Possibly multiple readers simply divide up the subject points.

Books are written in just the same say as the rules.

It's still desirable to have Great Works - they have high qualities and levels and boost scores, and all the bells and whistles that mage authors are fond of still contribute to the library scores.

This is very much off the top of my head, and forgive me if I have duplicated the approach of others, which seems likely. There are probably problems with this approach. Thoughts?

Your idea of using a pyramid method seems like it could work pretty well. The nice thing would be that every tractatus could add to the library in any order, which is one of the problems with the previously given method. Dealing with summas would be harder, I would expect. Level seems like it will just be set by the maximum level summa within the library. But summas of lower levels would still contribute to the quality up to that level since they might provide better qualities than the highest-level summa.

I think the biggest problem in maintain the current rules would be something like this. You have a library with a highest-level summa of 10 in some Art. That library has some quality. Now you add a level-6, quality-21 summa on that Art. You would expect an improvement in the quality but not the level. All good so far. Now you add ten more (different) level-6, quality-21 summas. The library should not improve as that's essentially just 10 copies of the original even though they're not. But without recording the first one forever (what we're trying to avoid), how do you avoid improving things this way. And this is the big area for problems I forsee because low-level summas get the highest qualities and are not useful for long.

It's certainly a tricky thing to get working how you want it, but I think the idea has promise.

Working it out example:

So, I have four different books in Art, with arbitrary Qualities 3, 4, 5, and 6, for 18 quality points, which translates to an overall Quality of 5/3, and Levels 9, 12, 15, and 18, for 54 Level points, converting to a level 9... OK. That is a problem!

Less arbitrarily, most of the time my group divides L and Q evenly, so those numbers would probably be Q & L 6, 8, 10 and 12, for overall 36 pts, subject scores of Q8 and L8. The lower score books really drag those scores down. This would be mitigated for qualities through addition of tractati, but levels stay low.

(Yes, the numbers above probably have high qualities. I don't have our library scores at hand for a real world example.)

OK, so it seems the better approach is to have the highest level summa be the Art Level for the library.

Yes, that's why I'd mentioned that.

Hmm... You might consider treating summas towards quality by counting them as some number of tractatus. Maybe (level-5)/2, rounded up (for Arts)? So level-5 and level-6 summas can expect to be studied once, level-7 and level-8 twice, level-9 and level-10 thrice, etc.

Let's take your later L/Q. I'm going to assume the pairings are reversed, so 6/12, 8/10, 10/8, and 12/6. I would then put the level at 12. Meanwhile we would have 1x12+2x10+3x8+4x6=60, giving quality 10 with an extra 5 points. A quality of 10 is a little high, but it seems like it's working in the right direction. My worry is that throwing a dozen quality-5 (make one a 6) tractatus (really nothing special) in with those books would give a total of 91 and a quality of 13. Now the quality is exploding from a large collection of not very special books.

It seems like a subtraction is in order. For example, you use the quality of the books (as explained above) less five, with a minimum of 0. So qualities of 5 or lower are interesting but just don't help. It would take a great many quality-6 books to get anywhere. But double-digit qualities would move things up more quickly. You still have to worry about the pile of level-5, quality-21 summas being put together. But outside that I expect the results would start to look reasonable.

Of course, you could do it totally differently with three numbers: level, quality, utility. The last one would be the number of seasons the library could be used on a topic. The level would be set to the level of the highest summa and would only be used for later calculations. The quality would be determined by the average quality (weighted by utility for some summas). The utility would rise by 1 for each tractatus added and could rise if a summa of higher level is added.

Conceptually, if I understand correctly, a tractatus is a narrow subject work - a monograph of sorts. So, having a large library of these should not be a particular problem. (Just working through the concepts, not arguing with your point.)

Summas are summaries, vast and broadly inclusive works. The best of these are master works, the rest are former authorities and also-rans. There are lots of these lesser works, since many magi are vain and proud beings...

OK, so to study Subject, you check out a summa, a particular work, and this provides your level cap. Your quality study total is the library's quality, which is to say the quality total score of its tractati. Ignore summa quality. You are reading the summa and supplementing with various other works.

EG: Magus Aquarius checks out Summa Summatus, Level 15. The library has a net total quality score from all sources of, using a prior example, 8.

So, you want a library with lots of tractati, to provide higher study qualities, and as high a summa as possible, to give a higher cap.

... That may be interesting, but I'm not sure if it's much of a change or a simpler/better system. It emphasizes summae as authorities, and it encourages, actually requires, a library of tractati. It also means that if Summa Summatus is not available, you can study from Summa Previous, a lower level work. The flow of tracts to and from the library is constant, so you don't need to bother checking those in and out - I assume tratati are shorter works, to be read and returned.

This system may also speed up advancement too much, depending very much on group preferences. Blowing through a library subject would encourage magi to get out and about, but power inflation may be a real problem.

The nicest would be determining the maximum number of experience that could be gained from a library on a topic and determining the average quality used to gain that. Then it works out exactly the same as knowing all the individual books in the long run. It takes a little longer earlier since presumably the highest quality would be read first. It also gets a little messy when things change. But it's close. The problem is incorporating new summas if you only record total experience and average quality.



Consider the best summa available on a topic. Its author had a score twice the level of the summa. He could teach you up to his score, in person, but the best you'll get just from reading his book is half that.

So far so good.

Now, you and your friends read the summa, talk about it, send each other tractati by email, have flame wars that are recorded in other tractati, and so on. It seems pretty reasonable that, in the absence of a breakthrough, you and your group will eventually reach the same level of understanding as the original author as you figure out the things the author understood but couldn't quite convey. Fifty years later, someone who reads the summa and all the conversations about it, can reasonably reach the same point.

To go beyond that point involves a breakthrough of some kind toward new and deeper understanding. In rules terms, I'd consider it minor, since no new capabilities are developed within the topic.

So, you now have a library about a topic, and that library can reasonably have a score twice that of its best summa, but not better. What about other summae? For the sake of simplicity, I'd consider them as tractati when adding them to a library. There might be some new knowledge in the lesser summa, but not enough to really change things. This last bit isn't quite realistic in all cases; if I have a summa about Area Lore (Europe) that concentrates on Ireland and a second such book that concentrates on Greece, the two books will have very different content. On the other hand, any game's skill subsystem starts to break down as distinctions of this kind are drawn; from a system perspective, if something has its own stat it should be considered One Thing for all purposes pertaining to that stat.

What about Quality? That's much tougher. The quality of a library isn't just about the quality of the books it contains. Can you readily find the books? Is someone looking over your shoulder while you read? How is the lighting? Do you have to sit so close that other guy reading aloud with a very nasal voice? Is it too cold? Etc.