Question about books in game in your sagas

I have some questions about books, or to be more exact how you handle them in the game.

Do the players ever read "non-magic", aka mundane, books?

How do your players go about acquiring new books, do they keep to one thing or do they do several different things in order to get their hands on books?

Do the players use scribes to copy books, no matter the type, or do they copy them themselves?

Looking for some general information for an adventure I'm working on. And to make it as broadly useful as I can and not focus solely on my own meta-surrounding books. =)


My players certainly read academic books. Artes Liberales and Philosophiae especially, Theology (etc) for the steadfast Abrahamics (though rarely for non-Holy Magi), Order of Hermes Lore and Code of Hermes for the legalistic/politician ones.

Other than magical and academic abilities, it's quite rare to find an intersection of "skills magi care about learning" and "skills whose experts are literate enough to write about them." Magi rarely have enough reason to care about Canon or Common Law to spend the resources and time brushing up on them, due to their enforced isolation from wider society and political structures. Those who'd care to learn Medicine can usually do better and easier with magic. And while there are certainly Flambeau magi who'd want weapon and leadership skill books, and Jerbitons who'd want artsy skill books, and Verditius magi who'd want craft skill books, they rarely have anybody to write those things except older magi of their Houses. (This is somewhat a concern for the Hermetic legalists, too, but they're exactly the types to write everything down anyway, and there's multiple Houses/subcultures focused on that.)

In most cases, they'll commission copying to scribes, unless it's something magic-y, in which case it's often offloaded to an apprentice.


Yes, they do.
But I am also quite restrictive to which mundane books are available outside of Academic topics. Craft books are very rare, I considered - but I did not do any historical research - that finding a skilled craftsman, literate enough, with a decent Communication and the resources and will to spend several seasons to write a book on his expertise, then published unlikely.
So contrary to Academic topics where it is common to find Summae and Tractati, other non-academic topics are - if ever - rarely available in books.
Mages and Companions needs to rely on direct teaching from a master, or at least a skilled craftsman, with all the issues that the Gift can bring with it.


There are examples of real medieval books on mundane subjects like crafting, some even coming from antiquity roman or greek authors such as Apicius, one of the most famous roman cook, who wrote De re culinaria or De re coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking ) still famous in medieval times.

the Mappae clavicula contains 300 chemical recipes for dyes, pigments, ...
Compositiones ad tingenda musica contains metal working recipes but also for leatherworking, glassworking...

I found this really interesting page on the subject :

In my games it is not often players asks for mundane subject books, but when they do they ask the local monastries : most of the time they can get a copy of the book on the subject for a couple silver pounds donation.


Thank you for sharing your answers. I expected a preference for magical books, if nothing else simply due to the focus of the game. =) But it cements my choice for the adventure I am tinkering on. Hopefully, I will be able to share that one here shortly.

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I will take a look at the links and books you named, thank you for sharing.

There is also the Schedula diversarum artium, a collection of various arts and crafts in three volumes. I have made my "own" version focused on inks and pigments. Maybe you will find it of use for you. I have shared it here in the past but it was a few years back I think.


In my games craft books are more common than in historical content but largely traded between House Jerbiton (artists use the same crafts) and Verditius.

Also Redcaps write travel journals and books on area lore, but these are also rarely found outside the house, in part because of lack of interest but also because those outside the order who would have interest tend to be mercantile competition.
A great many books (for example, workshop manuals in cooking- aka cookbooks) may be found in vulgar languages as well instead of Latin.


If you jump over to the Atlas main site, on the Ars Magica page there is an Index that list all of the "Books" in their published works by Ability. Pretty much almost all of them are real books and many of them would be common (as far as books go) during the time. Granted there are a few rare ones (mostly for the out there topics), but pretty much anything found in A&A will be.

The library of our Covenant has all of the common ones, plus a bunch more real books on in that document. Then we have produced a ton of our own. For the mundane, they mostly cover skills used by our Covenfolk. We have a school system for children 6 to 12, which has resulted in our Covenfolk being mostly literate and fairly skilled.

Of course the Magi also use mundane books, though not generally the same ones as the Covenfolk. Mostly they are interested in the usual (Al & P), though a fair amount goes to varies Lores (area, realm, organization), Medicine, or the odd Ability they want to increase.

Looking out our library doc, we have 93x Mundane Summa and 265x Mundane Tractatus, which is actually more than our Art collection (87x Summa and 225x Tractatus). Compare that to 31x Arcane Summa and 168x Arcane Tractatus.


Yes, but not very often.

And they use all means to get them, although, I have yet to see a magus taking time to copy a book. The two main sagas I play take very different approaches.

  • One, set in Sweden, has low availability.
    • They stole (!) one book from the Cathedral See in Uppsala.
    • They traded some in-kind with a remote covenant with whom they established contact on the Gathering of Twelve years.
    • They can copy from the mother covenant (as a chapterhouse) for a relatively modest fee.
  • One set in Hibernia saga, has better availability
    • the main source for books has been in kind trade within the Order
    • A few books were bought for vis or in kind from some hedge wizards
    • The redcap network can provide many Hermetic titles.
    • We have played the Midsummer Fair in the Greater Alps twice (15 years apart in game), where they bought books for both silver and vis. They paid a ridiculous amount of vis for a rather vain and worn tractatus on faerie lore at the auction, but it was allegedly an original manuscript from Quendalon's time. They also bought mundane books for silver.
  • We have not traded with mundane contacts yet.

But really, you have to choose if you want books to be easy or hard to get. Personally, I prefer low availability, but do not necessarily share the preference with the troupe. If you want to have low availability, a typical potential trade partner may have maybe five or six titles available. A monastery, might have the Bible, and five tractatus Q8 on, say church lore, gardening, medicine, artes liberales, and theology. Furthermore, it may take a story to establish the friendly relations necessary to get a trade. If you want high availability, the typical monastery may have a librarian who can point you to a network of other monasteries with a wide range of titles.


In my saga, we do all the time as people want to learn Area Lores without all the travel, so we are forever trying to get copies of Chronicles or Annals or other records of what happened in an area over time. We also had a companion who wanted to be acknowledged for their learning, so they wrote books about animal handling, crafts and etiquette.


Histories would also be useful for area lore, when you can find them. Maps probably qualify as tractatus.