Library Research Question

My players inhabit a covenant that has a very well stocked library. No defenses but great books (under the generous 4th Edition Rules). With this great resource, they like to send the scribes to the library to skim the books for a quick answer.

How is this handled under the rules? Must a person spend the time studying the book and gaining the levels of knowledge, then roll to see if the student has an answer? Or does the research for the specific answer require a difficulty check? This is part of a general problem the players have with things that take a season to accomplish.

If it required a person to "Study" from the book, that would take at least 30 days (Study -2 months lost = -2/3 study total), and then the character would have to make a roll on their newly acquired (minimal) knowledge- no thanks.

So I think it's essential that someone (of adequate Literacy) be able simply attempt to "look up" or find some fact in a text or collection of them. How? That is a more subjective question, since it is not addressed BTR.

The easiest method would be to set a Difficulty number, and then make a roll based on the Time the characters have, and the Level of the Text. This could certainly be modified based on RP considerations, such as the relationship of the actual Text, based on the breadth of its coverage. (ie, low-level books are less likely to cover "everything" than high-level.)

A Tractatus would need to be judged case-by-case, as those are written on extremely specific and narrow topics (such as a single spell, or a single example of the greater topic, such as an animal (Realm Lore) or instrument (Music), etc), and most likely either would be of great help or none at all. A Tractatus on Vampires would most likely offer little information on general Necromancy.

Quality does not affect the amount of information a book contains, but it does seem to affect how effectively a reader can absorb/gather/comprehend the information that it contains. So, it would be nice if Quality could be incorporated somehow. However, short of arbitrary rules or SG modifiers to the roll, I'm not sure how I'd approach that issue. Time and re-rolls are another issue that has to be ruled case-by-case by the SG - how much time is spent on the books to gain one roll (an hour, a week), and at what point they are "thoroughly" perused.

So, yes, it certainly can be done, and is in RL, as well as being a classic story bit, and one traditional IC purpose for having a Library (study and prestige being 2 others). But remember, most "Libraries" are nothing like present day- they're more like a small, dedicated bookshelf or two in the family den. A "huge" library might have 100 texts, equal to a couple shelves in your public library, not even one side of one short aisle. Whether the (relatively) few, limited books in your medieval "library" actually cover the topic is up to you, and/or the luck of the dice.

There is a system for doing this in the library chapter of the Covenants book but I don't recall the mechanics for it.

There is a second system for doing it in a later book as well (I think city and guild but I could be wrong).

IIRC the covenant's book system simulated a quick seearch over the course of a day or so that gave you a bonus to your knowlege roll based on the the level of the most in depth summa and the number of additional tractatus you had available.

The later system allowed you to spend time studying and gain experience absurdly quickly but your new level in the applicable knowlege only applied to answereing the specific question that you were researching. It may have been a seasonal activity but I don't trust my memory sufficently to say that with confidence.

yeah, there was an optional non-seasonal method of study proposed somewhere (City & Guild???), that I remember being questionable. Seemed to break the idea of Magi operating on the magical cycle of Seasons, but my memory is likewise fuzzy on this.

I've done a LOT of Library research, and there is a marked difference between quick, short-term "memorization" of raw facts (reciting the captials of all 50 states), and actually learning them and what they imply, and a framework of associated relevant information around them.

Research gives an answer to a question, even a complex one, but in a vacuum. Study gives one the knowledge base to answer that question themselves, and understand the larger implications and connections of that.

For Example:
The Question is "How Best to Kill a Vampire?"

Basic Research might well turn up the fact that "Vampires sleep in the day, and are most vulnerable then." Aha! But personal Knowledge of that Lore might add the understanding that most Vampires have ghouls and other servants that protect them during the day, or that a famous and experienced Vampire Hunter has disappeared locally, which had not been part of the original question.

There's a suggestion for handling this in the first part of Calebais, too. It's a simple Int + Ability check, and then it says:

With rare exceptions, using that rule in 5th ed would improve every summa to 3x Level.

Lvl 5, Q10 = +15
Lvl 4, Q 8 = +12
Lvl 3, Q 6 = _9

Pretty common values, and low at that. And pretty average texts to pretty much guarantee a result of 10++, or a "Hard" (12) success.

Good point C-hound.

Personally, I like the research rules laid out in the supplements. I don't have the books to hand, but the rules worked not ulike your point about learning vs. memorization.

If I recall correctly, one spent a day or two per book they had access to and accumulated TEMPORARY XP towards thier answer equal to the sum of the Qualities of the books "skimmed." The temporary XP was added to the XP the character already had in the appropriate topic and a new level was calculated for answering the question at hand. When the character thinks they have spent enough time, the player roles against the target number assigned (INT + adjusted Ability level) with success indicating a correct specific answer.

At the end of the season or after the roll (I forget which) all the character gets is EXPOSURE XP in the ability and everything otherwise reverts to normal.

Thing is that if this is done for an adventure, the character has the option of applying adventure XP to the Ability at the end, so not all is lost.

I hope I haven't butcherd it too much, but I think it is essentially correct.


No, you'd just add the Quality -- the Level x 3 restriction is a cap, not a bonus. This is designed to prevent studying from books that are basically primers. For example, a book with Level 2 Quality 10 would only add 6 to the character's Int + Ability total, because while it might cover the research subject, it wouldn't go into very much detail.

Well, a 4 in an Ability is essentially a master. It makes sense to me that such a person would be able to confidently answer a Hard question. A character who flips through a book on the subject looking for information won't learn much from the experience, but I think he should always be able to find something applicable to his situation if it's there. Though I'd suggest limiting this by the time involved, as you proposed earlier-- the higher the bonus gained from the book, the longer it takes.

paraphrased from covenants:

A quick look through city and guild, Mystery Cults and Ancient Magic did not find the other set. Anyone know where they are?

It's Ancient Magic, in the Grigori chapter, in a sidebar called "Library Consultation."

That's a relief. I was afraid that I was inadvertently breaking my NDA on a book I playtested.

Well, that "Master" could only write a Level 2 Summa. And since the above Level 4 was written by an author with, at least, an 8 in the skill, I'd think that "Master" is a relative term. :wink: Especially when the Covenant Build Rules state that a Level of 8 (Score 16!!!) is max for an Ability Summa.

But if only adding the Quality, that's still a solid modifier- those listed are weak in comparison to the texts listed by the Covenant Build Rules as possible. A high Score author can bump Quality easily into the 'teens, if they're willing to lower the Summa Level a bit.

The idea of allowing such research to open the door to "adventure XP" is a great concept, imo. If the Player wants their character to go that way, it all works out- if not, then no freebies. Alternately, the generous GM could give that Character 1-4 xp in that skill, not enough for a "1", but enough to allow them to make an educated guess (Lore roll w/ Skill @ +0) in the future. This would be perfect for obscure but relevant Lores, such as "Local X Noble Family Organization Lore", or "Mysterious Nearby Faerie Wood Area Lore". Imo, this is the "perfect" SG bonus gift- something that a Player would be hesitant to actually spend their own points on, but adds to a narrow part of the plot, the one part that the game is focussed on. The Player feels they have gained while the SG has given away little, and that knowledge only helps the story, similar to a beneficial Story Flaw.

Thanks for the suggestions. It makes a lot of sence. I work in an area which requires lots of quick research and to require longer study seemed like too much of a penalty. I also like the idea of awarding some specialized xp for looking up the unique subject. Because the covenant started with most of its build points in the library (ala Name of the Rose), then they should have the benefit of all of those books. Thanks again.