Mystic Tower: too small for a covenant?

Hi there!

In our manx saga we have finally reached an agreement with a hersir, and will be settling in his lands. Or the magi will. The main "covenant" site will be a merchantile house in Peel, but the magi want a more quiet location, so are settling in the field.

The problem is "where do we live?" and "how many people lives with us?"

In previous sagas this had been defaulted and we had fairly large covenants (50-100 persons in the covenant). However, this time we want to keep a low population in the covenant, sicne it will contain only 2 magi and we want to prevent angering the local powers with huge displays of human resources. Thery are used to magic though, so they can accept a mystic tower.

However, looking at the spell (amazingly we have never used it yet) we have seen that it would be extrmeely TINNY as a covenant. Stretching it, we could manage to get 8 floors on it (2 of them underground or at ground level). That sounds very small AND the situation would not be particularly comfortable for the inhabitants, we guess.

A floor of a Mystic tower can be seen in the Sanctum map of the Covenants supplement.

Now, the more or less minimal staff of a covenant as we see it would be something like that:

  • Steward + clerk. The steweard doubles as cellarer (keep the covenant supplied) and general supervisor of the house
  • Cook + 2 skullery maids
  • Housekeeper + 2 maids
  • stableboy
  • Librarian + scribe
  • 6 guards

That is 17 persons + the 2 magi. And we are not taking into account the actual PRODUCTIVE staff. Maybe we are overstretching ther "essential staff" for a covenant but we think this is already low-ish for a typical covenant. A mystic tower looks too small to accomodate so many people.

Do people use mystic towers as their covenant building? If they do, is it the only building or is it part of a larger complex (or a series of towers)? We are slightly at a loss here since this is the first (non urban) covenant we are creating since we started to play ArM.

Cheers,
Xavi

A mystic tower is a bit small, yes, but remember that in period, people sleep and basically live where they work, so your cooks and maid sleep in the kitchen, your scribe sleeps in the scriptorium and so on...you don't need bedrooms.

We have our servants shelved.... in a cupboard. At least when they sleep. Ir beats sleeping the floor and yet still enables us to feel we are not going soft on them :wink:

Right. I think that means that there is enough room for everyone mentioned above. Perhaps,

  • 2 floors for the magi
  • 1 floor for the library, council chamber, and treasury
  • 1 floor for custos and guards
  • 1 floor for servants
  • 1 floor for the kitchen & storage
    overall: 6 floors.

However - consider also the families of the covenfolk. Where are the wives of all those guards? Where are their sons and daughters?

I think it's best to let the mystic tower house the magi and a few elected staff, and to have a few outlying wooden buildings around it. I think the minimum for a decent covenant is 2 mystic towers, a la Nigrasaxa, and generally prefer to have several buildings and/or towers for the covenant.

Wouldn't the wives of the guards get jobs as servants? Same with an children more than 6 years of age...

A mystic tower is a tower for one mage, or a few, not for the entire covenant. It's designed to be defensive, not an abode, and certainly not a community.

Usually, regular "houses" were scattered around it, either at/near its base or nearby in the countryside/fields, where folk would live, even if they did regular work in the tower itself.

Magi live "in" the tower, but grogs etc might be expected to sleep in "one of those huts over there".

Hi,

A tower is a bit cramped, but:

Do you guys even have a stable? After all, the magi cannot ride.

Does a covenant with all of two magi really need a dedicated librarian?

The standard number of guards is two per magus.

A steward and a clerk is probably overkill for the tower site, especially since you have a main covenant site elsewhere, that presumably has its own staff. That is, a capable steward ought to be able to run so small an enterprise without needed a dedicated clerk, especially since he can probably borrow a few hours from the scribe on the rare occasions it is needed. A cook and two scullery maids for so small an enterprise, plus three housekeepers? All of that can be represented by the families of the other covenfolk, who represent an essential part of the medieval workforce.

So, we're down to a scribe, two magi, four guards, and a steward, plus their families. Suddenly, the tower feels a lot roomier, and the staff far more reasonable.

One floor for each magus, one floor for the library, vis stores, meeting room and scriptorium (which, for such a small covenant, can all be tastefully small), one floor for the kitchen and main hall, and a basement for covenant stores.

Now, if these are Jerbiton magi, it's a whole different ballgame!

(And if they're Orthdox Jewish magi, you need three towers. A tower for me, a tower for you, and the tower that we both would rather drop dead than set foot in. Never mind.)

Anyway,

Ken

But many covenants have wagons, or a stable for guests. (But if "no" to both, then a stablehand isn't as needed, no. But I'm guessing he's there for a reason other than a strong local teamsters union.)
8)

It matters not how many magi, but how many books.

I'd hate to have any sort of "watch schedule" with only 4 guards. And if a mage takes their two, that becomes just heinous.

Again, depends how "hands on" this pair want to be. I can see magi who would really never deal with any mundane if they could help it, and if one handles all the face-time and the other all the correspondence (and doubles as a scribe?), so much the better. One household head for 16 personnel (and 2 magi, plus short-termers plus "productive staff") seems perfectly reasonable.

That said, it's not my optimal mix either - I'd want fewer of some and more of others, and I'm sure that would vary for almost every character of every player in every saga.

But the OP seemed to be asking more about the tower than for advice on reducing the staff. :wink:

Hi,

Yes, but more magi tend to accumulate more books. How many books is this covenant going to have, 500? 1000? I have quite a few more than that in my apartment. :slight_smile:

The staffing I propose still leaves room for a few more guards. Though a larger retinue of guards starts to call attention. And there again, simply to have someone sit atop the tower and watch, that's something a younger son can do too.

Again, depends how "hands on" this pair want to be. I can see magi who would really never deal with any mundane if they could help it, and if one handles all the face-time and the other all the correspondence (and doubles as a scribe?), so much the better.
[/quote]
A steward can handle all that.

It's easy to explain how to have a larger staff, but once the participation of family is considered, it's hardly needed. It's also easy to justify incorporating non-essential function into a covenant, but if the point is to have a small footprint, a retinue that starts to rival those of the local lords is bound to call attention to itself.

Anyway,

Ken

Anyway,

Ken

Methinks thou dostn't know how to stretch. :wink:

A stone tower is typically broken up by wooden floors - or can be. That's a heavy beam into holes in the walls (creatively called a "putlog" hole), and some beams thrown over that. Noisy between levels, and dusty for the lower levels, but that's a tower for ya. (A magical stone tower is another matter... maybe solid floors? Why not? Anyway...)

While a lab needs 10' ceilings, other living spaces don't - 7' is adequate, if not perfectly welcoming. With wooden beams and plank floors (or magical stone floors?), you'd only have to lose less than 1'/floor - let's call it 1/. That makes 2 floors for 22 feet (the 10' labs, plus floors), and every other one 8'.

In an 80' tower, that's 22+56= 78 = 9 floors right there, two at lab height and one more "the "greeting room" also at 10'. Then the two cellar floors in the 20' foundation, for 11 floors total.

Now, magi should have a little elbow room - one floor split between them. With labs, that's 3 of our 11 floors, leaving 8.

If 2 magi can split a floor, then 4 specialists can - there are your steward, clerk, librarian and scribe.

If you have a librarian, you've got 1 floor devoted to the library, copying and repairing books, and related stores. That leaves 6.

If 4 specialists can share a floor, 6 grunts can - one floor for housekeeping and cooks, one for guards. That leaves 4.

One for the kitchen and household activities, one just for the stores. That's leaves 2.

One is the entry floor, which doubles as a general work/scramble area and more storage, and one as a "greeting hall" when there are guests or the "public room" when there aren't, which can have a bit more storage.

If you have a stableboy, you've got a stable - if that isn't in the tower, then stableboy sleeps there.

And you've got it.

(And, of course, some of those could be split up - for instance, I'd want ~some~ guards sleeping on the ground floor. And if you aren't using the top of the tower, you really aren't trying.)

Now, this arrangement would be distinctly unimpressive to any visitor, and remarkably sub-standard to any Hermetic guests, and it's not my optimal environment, but it does the job. Cramped, crowded, certainly - but not overly by medieval standards. And the magi will be staying in their labs or rooms or library or the greeting hall, which are all uncrowded, so what do they care?

Any redcap staying for a few days is gonna have to bunk up with someone and leave his horse tied to a tree outside... I can't imagine them making anymore than the mandatory visit and spending his entire tinme moaning about living like peasants.

Hi,

Some comments:

Towers in this period have three or four stories, not 8.

A tower created by Conjuring the Mystic Tower will be conspicuous by its very nature. Where normal towers are obviously built from blocks, this one is a single stone. It's the kind of thing that people notice, a wonder that people might even travel to see.

If the floors are timber, they will need to be constructed separately from the spell, which lacks the proper requisite.

Gracious guest facilities in this period are not the same as in our period, or even that of a few centuries later. Very few people have their own bedrooms. This includes the lord of a castle, who still probably sleeps in the same room as his family, and this might not even be a room, but a curtained off section of the hall. A guard will probably sleep near his post, or in the hall.

The base of a tower tends to be solid (well, filled in). The entire interior is thus not available for use.

Towers are generally not pleasant places to live. This will even be true of a mystically created tower, to the extent that its defensive characteristics are actually used.

Anyway,

Ken

That's not necessarily true. Medieval towns often had quite a number of tall towers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Towers_of_Bologna

And construction was begun on the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which is, I think, 8 stories tall) in the late 12th century. Admittedly, during the early 13th century it was only 3 stories tall, but it was originally planned to be its current height (the Pisans paused for a century or so during construction while they thought about the lean).

The cross-section of many of these medieval towers is actually quite small. Perhaps 200 to 300 square feet --- so only enough room for a cramped laboratory.

So I think that a Mystic Tower would certainly be better than many of its mundane contemporaries, but not outstandingly so.

I think you are correct though, that a Mystic Tower would certainly be noticed, and may attract tourists and other undesirables (such as nobles who have a slightly smaller / less good tower of their own).

Hi,

I thought I wrote "typically have." My error.

Indeed, there are towers that are larger, including the ones you mention, and these have more stories. But these are not typical. They are far taller than 80ft. An 80ft tower is relatively normal, and is likely to have three or four stories.

That too.

I'd say outstandingly so, not because of its size but because it is a single stone! That's unique, and there's nothing subtle about it.

[quote]
Anyway,

Ken

Towers in this period were not conjured by magi. :stuck_out_tongue:

If you want 20 stories, each taking up 4', you can have it. It's "mystic", and the caster is in charge of the design.

Very true. Unless the use of the tower is needed the same week it's conjured, you think that's a big obstacle?

The point was that it's doable. Barely, not something that's going to get in Architectural Digest, but doable.

Hmmm.... on a related note, and looking at the comments you have mnad3e, what would be your "usual staff" for a covenant with 2-3 magi? It seems that some posters do not agree with our (in fact, only mine) description of the usual staff for a covenant. All our covenants till now have been bigger, so that has never been an issue. What would you say would be a good breakdown of the covenant's population?

Given the comments s far, ti is likely that we will be moving to a mystic tower plus a walled area with other buildings.

Cheers,
Xavi

(Edit - This was in response to a followup from the OP that was deleted before this was posted. In it, the OP asked for examples of "your idea of a typical supporting crew for a covenant of 2-3 magi". The below was based on that request...

I swear, it was right up there, above this one, just a second ago!... :stuck_out_tongue: )

Well, you need a few more assumptions or the question is too wide open for interpretation.

Let's say:* 3 magi

  • An "average" covenant - whatever that means to you. The equiv of a generic NPC neighbor, almost a placeholder, no exceptional flavour or surprises - even if it is a PC covenant.
  • Exterior source of income (i.e. the "staff" isn't doing it, it just "comes in" from an undefined and reliable source.)
  • Unsettled but not aggressive mundane environment - no enemies, but no Pax Hermetica either.
  • No exceptional attributes/boons/hooks - no huge library, no vast land to oversee, no exceptional living conditions, no redcaps or peregrinatores to cater to, etc.
  • No desire/plans for additional growth
  • (and the "Covenants" book is optional, since not every player has access to it.) (Even if maybe they should. :laughing: )

There - that should do it. (I think.)

That still leaves a LOT of variability based on Hooks and Boons, but I guess that's part of what you're asking.

I'd go with something like...

:diamonds: 3 magi
:diamonds: 2 live-in Companion characters
:diamonds: 2 skilled craftsman. (I'd always want at least both a carpenter and blacksmith and maybe more, but with only 3 magi I feel that this covenant is smaller than "normal", 2 is already pushing it, and the rest is "by order" in the local village.)*
:diamonds: 1 scribe, just because it's too good an investment. Doubles as library preservationist.*
:diamonds: 1 turb captain (and possibly the 3rd Companion)
:diamonds: 10 grogs
:diamonds: 1 steward, to oversee the mundanes, household and (low-level) mundane relations

:diamonds: 8 servants: 2 cooks, scullery, 3 maids, 2 misc
:diamonds: 6 laborers - gardeners, woodcutters, unskilled assistants, night-soil collectors, etc
:diamonds: 1 teamster - just to haul stuff around. *
= ~30 + companions + magi

  • Now, that said, by the "Covenants" book, it would be cheaper per year with a larger staff that was more self-sufficient, even if it costs more to set up initially and require more facilities. A parchment maker, a chandler, an armourer, a leather worker, a few more teamsters, a half dozen each servants and laborers to support all that, so another 20 or so.

If improving/maximizing the library is important, add a bookbinder and illuminator.

If you're going to have any sort of "watch" at night, you should only count on having about 1/3 - 1/4 of your grogs on (effective) duty at any one time, so if you want more than 3 on duty or any out on missions, that's more grogs. 10 more would be nice. And another half dozen total servants, laborers and teamsters to support them.

If you're going to do any expansion, add a Master Mason and an Architect, possibly a different kind of Woodworker, all with assistants, and more laborers for that duration.

That would push it up closer to around 70 or more. A respectable retinue.

Hi,

But he only has two. Hmm. He now has 2-3. Ok, 3.

Maybe....

Even one is pushing it. Why have the extra people underfoot?

Definitely a scribe! Books are too important.

Definitely.

That's a major retinue. Six plus a turb captain is plenty, and people will still notice.

Yes.

Arg!! That's way too many. This is the staff of an important manor.

Families do the domestic work. A gardener? For a Jerbiton covenant, certainly. Maybe a gamekeeper, and a few troubadors.

That's certainly true. AM, for all its intricate and baroque rules ends up modeling things most peculiarly.

(For example, it takes nearly 7 years to really understand "City of God".... but having done this, there's no point in reading any other summa about Philosophiae..... Might as well burn Aristotle...)

Anyway,

Ken

Hi,

But he only has two. Hmm. He now has 2-3. Ok, 3.

Maybe....

Even one is pushing it. Why have the extra people underfoot?

Definitely a scribe! Books are too important.

Definitely.

That's a major retinue. Six plus a turb captain is plenty, and people will still notice.

Yes.

Arg!! That's way too many. This is the staff of an important manor.

Families do the domestic work. A gardener? For a Jerbiton covenant, certainly. Maybe a gamekeeper, and a few troubadors.

That's certainly true. AM, for all its intricate and baroque rules ends up modeling things most peculiarly.

(For example, it takes nearly 7 years to really understand "City of God".... but having done this, there's no point in reading any other summa about Philosophiae..... Might as well burn Aristotle...)

Anyway,

Ken

(Well, he did - where'd he go? Xavi delete his followup post now?)

A covenant is an important manor, and magi are each a noble unto themselves. In my model, the less they have to do, the more mundane concerns are 110% covered (yes, that's 100% "plus a 10% margin of errour"), the better! "Underfoot" depends entirely on the layout of the Covenant - those magi might never see a mundane if done correctly, besides perhaps the one that cleans their personal chambers and serves their food to them.

You gave a fine and honest critique of my build - but that's not what the OP asked for - so where's yours? 8)