Random Sources of Vis, Underhanded Book Acquisition, and other oddities

Based on reading through the threads, there are a few oddities in our game that I was wondering if they are actually rare or just not something talked about much.

The first is Vis sources which use a random die in the amount they produce. In our current game the majority of our Vis sources produce a variable amount of Vis based on dice rolls or environmental conditions.

Some examples:

  • A large crystal formation on the fourth level of our Regio (which we do not occupy) produces [Aura -2 +1D3] crystals worth 1 pawn of Vim Vis per year.
  • We transplanted varies Vis producing trees into our Regio. Most are unawakened Trees of Virtue, though a few awakened ones we convinced to let us move to the Magus Level (Aura 5) of our Regio. Not all was successful transplants. The ones that have more than a single example produce a die size with the number found using the Arts Exp scale. Since we have 6 to 9 examples of many, the die rolled is 1D3. Those are units, some contain 2 pawns.
  • We have infested all of our Covenant with Truffles of Virtue (PoP, Truffle Matron). We settled on 1d3 truffles forming on each level of the Regio per year, with one having to be sacrificed to maintain the effect. And now I just thought that we might want to check all the Orchards around our Regio entrance to see if any have spawned out there.
  • Our largest Vis source at start is 2D10 random items of float sum that wash up on the northern shores of Levant Island roughly a mile east to west of our Covenant. It is actually rolled as 1D10 Tech and 1D10 Form, then you roll that many dice to figure out what they are. So if you rolled a 4 on the Tech die, you would roll 4D10 (halving each, round up) with each die telling you what that pawn of Vis was. 1 Cr, 2 In, 3 Mu, 4 Pe, 5 Re. Same for Form, with no need to half.
  • We captured a group of Fish of Virtue (Carp, 1 pawn Animal each) and transplanted them into large crystal fish pool we built on the Aura 5 level of our Regio. They increase at a rate based on Pips from the D6 RPG for every five. We currently have 27 in the pool and try to maintain 25+. We get 1 pip for every 5 (ignore extra), so currently have 5 pips which equals 1D6+2.

The other 15 pawns per year are not variable. Though there is some chance someone will offer us Vis for a copy of a book rather than exchange. Rare since we offer very favorable trade rates for Tractus of Arts and Hermetic/Arcane Abilities we do not have a copy of. As in we give one of your choice of roughly the same value and one of our choice of a lesser or equal value (You give use a Tractus of quality 10, we give you a Tractus of quality 10 and another one of 10 or less, though we don't keep any below 6).

Moving on to other oddities are some of the ways we go about acquiring books. The Tractus exchange I mentioned came about after years, originally we did not offer nearly as favorable a rate.

  • We have been offering a (long) list of books we have that we are willing to trade distributed through Redcaps, at Tribunals, and other contact we make with fellow Magus. Being located on the Med with a trade fleet that travels all over and sending a representative to most Tribunals we can reach helped.
  • To that end we developed a group of skilled Scribes, Illuminators, and Book Binders that are supported by several Percamenarius and Ink Makers (though Ink is easy to get, given our location). They focus on reproducing Tractus and Lab Text for trade, trained enough Magic Theory to avoid gibberish production.
  • Books on normal and academic (along with a few Arcane) Abilities are all bought with silver, per the prices in A&A. We have bought so many that the groups we source from often make copies for us when they acquire something new they think will be interesting to us. Our merchant ships check on their trade routes, as well as placing any special orders.
  • We have enchanted a 'Mirror of the Book Defined', which is our underhanded way of getting books. Any piece that is enough to make an Arcane Connection to a book is fixed and labeled. The scribes can make a copy of it using the mirror. As an aside, we also have a fixed Arcane Connection for our varies trade ships 'Ships Log'. This lets read the logs and any recent additions to them remotely. Also it is not common knowledge that we have this item, even among our Covenant. Only five of the Magus and two of the Scribes know about it.

A few other semi-oddities, these about our Regio.

  • Our Covenant is located on the first three levels of a tiered Regio with four or more levels. The reason I say 4 or more is because one of our founders specialized in Hermetic Architecture. This was a key point of our original setup and the reason there were two elder Magus played by the primary SG. We wanted that manipulated Regio as a part of the Covenant from the begining. The reason no one is on the highest original level (the 4th) is because with all the effects and things we have done over the years new levels have most likely been created (and possibly destroyed). It was especially unstable for the first 50 or so years of the game. No one wanted to be on the level effected by the creation or destruction of a new level.
  • As a result, the levels of the Regio are fairly large (380x380 paces, 350x350 paces, and 310x310 paces for the occupied levels), with easy gated travel between them and a pinched off entrance with the only way into the Regio though a point in the Walled Garden that is next to the village that has sprung up around our trade consortium. Also no increase in Aura strength enchantments were made by the founder (by consensus, one of us would have to do it). He was working on figuring out how to make flavored aura effects (as found in TM 4th edition) before he died, with us still having his incomplete notes and research.
  • Because the founder was trying to figure out how to manipulate the flavor of an Aura before even getting involved with the grand experiment that was the creation of our Covenant, the levels are focused. By that I mean that the first two levels, outside of the middle, are focused around Herbam and Animal respectfully.
  • The first level has the Turb Barracks & training field, our guest Inn, and a Brewer/Vintner building around the secure entrance. The entire rest of the level is covered by gardens, green houses, and orchards, with a few fields of varies grains and grapes for the brewers and vintners.. They cover some 25 of the 30 acres on this level. The homes of the laborers who work the level are scattered about and blended into the surroundings
  • The second level has the Roman Baths, Medicus, and workshops of our Covenant craftsmen and servants around the gates up and down. The surrounding area is mostly pastures & paddocks, along with (unused) stables, (unused) kennels, and a mews (actually used). While there are plenty of trees and bushes (all fruit or nut bearing), they are more for shade and barriers for the livestock. They cover some 20.3 acres of the 25.3 acres on the level. The same as the first level, the homes of the laborers who work this level are blended into the surroundings.
  • The third level has the Council Hall, the Grand Library, the Vault, and the Temple of Hermes (the most recent addition) around the gate down. Circling around those buildings are the homes of the staff who work there and larger homes of senior staff of the Covenant (Autocrat, Steward, Chamberlin, Redcaps, Librarians, some of the Companions). Nine of the Magus have their sanctum located around the outer edge of the level, spaced widely apart (the two that belonged to the elders are unoccupied). The Mercere Magus has his sanctum in the Temple of Hermes. The area between the homes and sanctums is a wild range of things. Part of that include mix of groves of trees and a large crystal fish pond which are Vis sources. The area nearest my Magus' sanctum is a rose garden, in memory to his mother (his sigil is roses, which she grew and he remembers from his early childhood).

Ok, that massive wall of text is enough for now.


This actually up just the very last session my group played. My wife introduced a vis source like that and commented that it seems strange that vis sources always produce the same amount.

I am the primary numbers-guy in that group and also the one who has the most patience for and interest in rules. As such this is a topic that I had actually considered and the answer I gave to my own group is relevant as an answer to your post too:
In my head most vis sources are somewhat variable and as such could be better simulated with a die roll that with a fixed rate of vis per year. However rolling for vis produced also introduces another level of bothersomeness to bookkeeping as you have to break out the dice and actually roll for each vis source. It is more realistic but if you dont get any extra enjoyment from the added realism in my view it is not worth it. In that sense whether or not you want to roll for vis sources is IMO more a question of what you want to spend your time doing. Not rolling for vis gained is an abstraction that allows the group to focus playtime elsewhere. Whether or not this works for your group is highly individual and not something that has a general answer.

My group plays in the Triamore setting and in a way we already use a randomized system for vis income on vis source: the library. The library is one the primary sources of vis income which earns 8-10 pawns a year. However the pawns earned are actually coming from fees paid by visiting magi for access to the library.

The system I have invented to handle this is to use a series of paper slips with the symbol for each type of vis printed onto them. I add each art once, except vim which is added three times. Then I mix the paper slips like I would a deck of (17) cards, place them face down on the table and then we take turns flipping cards until we have flipped either 4 or 5 slips, each flipped slip gives 2 vis of its type. The reason why Vim is added 3 times is because I estimate that Vim vis is more common in this type of transaction because it can be created in the lab.

As for the other things you bring up I cannot really speak to how common they are.

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Technically you should be rolling dice for the successful collection of most Vis sources. Lots of them require some ability, spell, or special condition.

We commonly don't make those rolls for collection of the highly developed sources of Vis. The dice roll generally covers both fluctuation in amount and how easy it is to collect all of it. So sources with high spreads (the 2D10 for example) are difficult to collect all the Vis and have a high range of possible amount.

We also have a house rule for BP cost, where everything over the minimum to the average cost 4BP per instead of 5BP. That 2D10 source has an average of 11 so would normally cost 55BP. Our house rule reduces that cost to 46BP to take into account the unreliable nature of it. The Vim crystal source averages 6 and would normally cost 30BP. Its small variable nature reduces the cost to 29BP.

In some sense yes. But rolling only makes sense if there is a consequence for failure.

Imagine the following: a magic hazelnut tree that produces three nuts with herbam vis in them every year and a whole host of normal hazelnuts. This tree is located within the magic aura of a covenant that has harvested the tree for years. The magus responsible for harvesting uses an InVi spell with the ability to inspect many different hazelnuts at once to find the vis. The magus has made a formulaic version of the spell and the magus casting score is high enough that the diceroll does not matter except on a botch. The casting is a simple die (no botch) because the magus has all time in the world to go looking for the good nuts. In that case I would argue that a roll is a waste of time because the magus really cannot fail and there is no consequence to trying again.

In general if the roll can be attempted multiple times with no associated cost and failure imposes no other consequences then there is no need to roll, also for collecting from vis sources. Most published vis sources that dont require a roll are like this.

And still I stand by my argument that just handing out a consistent amount of vis is a reasonable abstraction for a group that does not want to bother with rolling more than necessary when advancing the timeline.

Thank you for the feedback. It seems my group just has a general view close to the one your wife expressed, as well as not being bothered by the dice rolling.

I think part of it is that we enjoy the uncertainty of how reliable the amount of a given type of vis we will gain yearly is. It has caused the side effect that we tend to try to maintain a minimum stockpile of our most used types to a greater extent then I have seen in other games I have played in.

On the Vis collection I have simplified it further to cut down bookeeping each mage gets N pawns of vis per year of any type they want. Every previous game (except one which was very vis rich) has at some point bogged down to an hour or so of discussion and arguements about who gets which vis. That is a waste of valuable recreation time so thats gone.

Books , I find it very hard to believe how the sharing of books works in the order, so I am not worrying too much about it. If the covenant library is deficient in an area a player wished to concentrate in then I will create a story about getting access to a better book or just give them it if I can't fit such a story into the saga, I also allow any number of mages to study from the same library source (a book represents multiple books) again it avoids resource allocation arguements. Once or Twice a fortnight allocating resources at work is more than enough of that.

The mirror for copying books is interesting as it looks like a good source of Hermetic court cases or Wizards wars against the covenant as soon as someone discovers it during their regular check for active arcane connections to their library

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This was answered by Mark Shirley back in 2007. While the little slivers are Arcane Connections to the books, the books are not an Arcane Connection to the little slivers. In addition, by RAW there is no way to detect if something has an Arcane Connection to it. How you test if something still has an Arcane Connection before you sell it is you try to cast a detection spell with AC range through it.

Even if you house rule both of the issues, good luck penetrating our AotH without a high penetration setup. In our game no such house rules exist, but if your group uses them then the mirror would be a very bad idea.