Outsourcing Scribing-Copy

So, one of the fundamental economies in Ars Magica is that you sell time to buy XP (power). Later on with Longevity potions you can also buy time by acquiring Warping (effectively trading gains in Decrepitude for Warping instead).

Now one of the most efficient ways of spending time is studying high quality Summas and Tractacus' - especially for the first 20 odd years. Trouble is acquiring copies of them - which can be done by scribing a copy from a friendly Covenant, but again you are spending time to do so.

Now one of the things that seems to be legal in the rules is that you can outsource your scribing needs to a Grog or NPC scribe (or team of scribes if you can find them) - all they need is good language skills and some basic training in Magic Theory. Now the thing that worries me here is firstly that it seems to be a bit of a whole shortcut around the old "Time for power" economy, as wealth is trivially easy for most Magi to acquire, so its basically getting power for free.

Secondly, would the Order of Hermes, paranoid about protecting its magical secrets from outsiders, ever allow non-Magi scribes to copy their books on the Arts or Magic Theory? What would happen if the scribe comprehended and remembered some of their secrets? Wouldnt they then be security risks going forward, needing to be eliminated?

So, do you allow Magi in your games to outsource their magical scribing and copying?


I think scribes need MT to copy tomes about magic.
Sharing MT with mundanes sounds like a high crime to me.
I'd also outlaw it to make apprentices more valubale, which increases the size of the order.

Using scribes to copy books on philosophy, medicine, Latin, or AL is a good idea though.

Yes and no i would say. Yes you bypass it to a point... But is it really that simple? You need to get your hands on a person that is or can be educated properly, then you need to set up a deal that allows that person to do the copying and then you need to make it happen... All discrete parts of doing that has a higher degree of risk to fail one way or another when you´re not doing it yourself, for example you need to make sure your copyist is recognised in a way that the other covenant accepts, since s/he´s not a magi, they need some way of proving who they are... And if some other magi who doesnt like you wants to play nasty, ooops your copyist just died right AFTER being finished and starting off enroute homewards, leaving you to pay for the copy without getting it... Potential political meltdown.
I would also say that the cost goes up a little if the deal includes a third party, as the other covenant has to accept what is essentially an outsider on their grounds.

Yes, while becing cautious they certainly would simply because its too much of a waste of time not allowing it, but NOT anything on Parma.

Totally yes. That doesn´t mean it´s always easy, cheap or goes along flawlessly however.

Isn't this why you make sure you have ACs to all of your scribes?

To answer the actual question, it's been debate several times, in each of my Ars Magica troupes, usually without coming to a conclusion.
In one, we allow it. In one we don't. In one... there's a gentleman's agreement that it's allowed presuming no-one uses the option...

Servants with MT are way to useful and save to much time, scribing books, setting up labs, potentially even teaching apprentices.

So I think this falls into the, it would be a crime if it wasn't so darn useful, category. Kinda like stealing vis from fairies. Everyone wants to be able to do it so no one is going to convict you of it unless it actually cases a problem.

The simple answer is that if "wealth is trivially easy for most Magi to acquire" (and I'm not saying it isn't), then this limit won't stop the process, only make it more convoluted. Wealth = manpower, and manpower = vis if your players are creative* and determined. So in one sense all this would achieve would be to take a simple solution and replace it with a more complex distraction to the main plot.

(* Hunting magical animals, larger expeditions for vis harvesting, mundane book production for covenant mundane libraries, aiding Spring Covenants w/ construction needs in exchange for vis, etc. etc. etc. - it's the "brute force" method, but it can be done.)

Not by the RAW or The Code, but much depends on your Saga's view of the level of "secrecy" surrounding the Order and the need for such, which in canon is never expressly defined (and intentionally so?).

o If you believe that the Order is secret and any revelation would have dire consequences, then it would be a high crime.
o If you believe that the Order is low-profile and has many potential enemies, then it might be a low crime, or not.
o If you believe that "the wise and learned" are aware of the Order and often accept its presence, then maybe not so much, or not at all.
And of course If, as a SG, you feel that it is indeed unbalancing (and not a crime), then you can simply houserule* that no one without the Gift** can grasp the important nuances of Magical Writings - this would include Arts, but possibly also including any other Hermetic Abilities you feel appropriate.***

(* Actually, the RAW (p 102) imply that only magi can copy lab texts, so this is not a radical stretch.)
(** flawed or not - i.e., no one who cannot cast some "magic" themselves, of some sort.)
(*** Copying a text re Magic Theory requires that skill. Sim w/ Parma - and that knowledge is a high crime.)

Any of these changes apply a very hard brake to the "economics" of Text production. While your magi may seem to be getting larger too fast, "larger" is often only relative, and a truly high-powered mage takes many long, loooong years even without this additional limitation. If, as a SG, you can think of ways to challenge those slightly larger magi (rather than ways to delay that increase in power), then your Players will have more fun and you less headaches. And "fun" is the goal, neh?

Writing a text about Parma should be a high crime :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, there is this redcap society who copy books

It should be, but these texts exist (HoH:S, 14 - for example in the library of Castra Solis)

Yes I know. it's one of the points where canon is auto destructive without realizing.


I like the ideas on limiting scribing through peripheral code or house rules. I think it adds to the flavor of the game. However, it also drags it down to "mundane" stuff, and house rules forbidding copying don't really make sense IMO (yeah, the RAW on needing Magic Theory doesn't make sense either IMO). So I think it is a very much YSMV thing. It does appear that in canon these things are allowed and possible, but that certain places (such as Durenmar) allow only magi to copy.

RAW tells us that the last option is closest to the truth (see "How much do nobles know?", pages 40-41 of Lords of Men). YMMV as usual :slight_smile:

Yair, we are specifically speaking on "writing about parma magica". That, and only that.

( ? - Since when? :confused:

The original poster wasn't, JeanMichelle wasn't, Tellus wasn't, Maine75man wasn't and I sure wasn't... so I'm not sure who you are including in "we"... because "you" are the only to have done so so far afaict.)

gerg - I'll confess that LoM is one of the books I do not have. But diff SG's do take diff views of this despite LoM (or any other current canon), if only as echoes of the accepted zeitgeist from previous editions. The core book is largely silent on the matter.

Never said it was clear and inarguable, just "implied". (Are you implying the rules are never contradictory?...) :wink:

Yair (and others) - I, too, put some limits on Scribing, tho' I've never codified one approach across all my Sagas. Sometimes mundanes can, sometimes they can't, sometimes it's not legal, sometimes... diff limits. Texts on Parma are usually legal but rare and always "top secret" (and often written by incomprehensible Criamon, etc.) and discouraged and monitored closely, and any mage to treat such as less is askin' fer a Guernician smackdown.

JeanMichelle is since he answers my comment. So 2 persons including me, thus we.

Quoting is the Devil's work! :open_mouth:

I have to disagree, to be a high crime doesn't it have to violate the Oath. Just writing such a text really can't be considered a crime by Hermetic Law at least without some peripheral rulings. With the exception of Infernalism you generally need another magi to come to harm to bring a case under the ArM5 incarnation of the Oath and Code. Allowing such a text to fall into the wrong hands could be prosecutable depending on the circumstances.

Though finding such a text in the possession of another Magi and attempting to confiscate or destroy it would be a high crime. Prosecutable under the denial of magic power clause.

Rival Magic does pose a situation where such a book could fall into enemy hands so I wouldn't say cannon doesn't realize the problem. Generally you require a pretty odd confluence of events to make it a serious threat. It's not like many non-hermetics know that Parma exists or that it's something they could learn. If they did know enough about it's existence and how it works then they would probably know it'd be a death sentence for them if they learned it. They also wouldn't be interested in sharing it with their fellow hedgies cause you can't trust those guys. Although once they learned parma that would be a different story.

Don't forget the Cow and Calf Oath : you can't just copy any book, you have to find someone who can actually give you permission to copy it. Even books by Bonisagi (who take an oath to share) are not that easy: you still have to secure access to the copy, preferably without being put on a 10 years waiting list.

As for the main question, I have no problem with mundane scribes (with MT) doing the actual work, but that does not solve the access problem.

You can if you don't tell anybody --- or you forge the permission, I suppose.

Endangering the order.

There is only ONE secret in the Order, ONE thing which does the difference between the Order and the "someone" magician of any other order.

One thing that you stupidly wrote on paper. Paper may be read by any one; spies, enemies, mundanes... Papers are copied without you knowing, papers are memorized without you knowing. If ONE time in the order history, the magi are stolen the parma, and any enemy group figure it out, it's the end. And those are not the enemies missing. Between the infernalists, the "rival" magics, the "Hedge" magic, the Order of Odin, of Suleyman of "i dont know the name of the jewish"... They all want to become calife in place of the calife, you know.

What on earth is the Cow and Calf oath? I dont remember it from the the corebook.