Realia: Examples & Oddity

First, yes, I'm aware of the erratum.

Inspired by some recent threads and interested due to a current saga, I was wondering if anyone had interesting examples of realia. I'm not thinking so much of descriptions of individual pieces, but rather descriptions of the group of pieces. Post away! Thanks!

I also came across an interesting, maybe intentional, oddity in the rules. What happens when you split a collection into two (or more) smaller collections? I would think the combined collection would be better since you could make better comparisons. However, in general the greater collection is better for expedience but worse overall. Since realia aren't likely to be so useful until they get to the level of tractatus that are so cheap they'll be practically given away, I'm starting at Realia 5 (16 pieces).

Realia 5 vs 2x Realia 4: 5x5=25 experience over five seasons vs. 2x(4x4)=32 experience over eight seasons
Realia 6 vs 2x Realia 5: 6x6=36 experience over six seasons vs. 2x(5x5)=50 experience over ten seasons
Realia 7 vs 2x Realia 6: 7x7=49 experience over seven seasons vs. 2x(6x6)=72 experience over twelve seasons
Realia 8 vs 2x Realia 7: 8x8=64 experience over eight seasons vs. 2x(7x7)=98 experience over fourteen seasons
Realia 9 vs 2x Realia 8: 9x9=81 experience over nine seasons vs. 2x(8x8)=128 experience over sixteen seasons
Realia 10 vs 2x Realia 9: 10x10=100 experience over ten seasons vs. 2x(9x9)=162 experience over eighteen seasons
Realia 11 vs 2x Realia 10: 11x11=121 experience over eleven seasons vs. 2x(10x10)=200 experience over twenty seasons
Realia 12 vs 2x Realia 11: 12x12=144 experience over twelve seasons vs. 2x(11x11)=242 experience over twenty-two seasons

The best way to generally evaluate the value of breaking up a set of realia is to examine the difference:

Realia 5 vs 2x Realia 4: splitting gives 7 experience with an extra 3 seasons of investment
Realia 6 vs 2x Realia 5: splitting gives 14 experience with an extra 4 seasons of investment
Realia 7 vs 2x Realia 6: splitting gives 23 experience with an extra 5 seasons of investment
Realia 8 vs 2x Realia 7: splitting gives 34 experience with an extra 6 seasons of investment
Realia 9 vs 2x Realia 8: splitting gives 47 experience with an extra 7 seasons of investment
Realia 10 vs 2x Realia 9: splitting gives 62 experience with an extra 8 seasons of investment
Realia 11 vs 2x Realia 10: splitting gives 79 experience with an extra 9 seasons of investment
Realia 12 vs 2x Realia 11: splitting gives 98 experience with an extra 10 seasons of investment

As you can see, at the lower end it's not worth splitting up the set. For example, you wouldn't want to spend 3 seasons getting 7 experience in an Art. You might as well spend those three season in the lab, get 6 experience in that Art, and also get some spells out of the process. But at the upper end the trend starts to go the other way. The extra seasons from splitting a level 12 realia are like having plentiful quality 10 tractatus, and even splitting a level 11 realia essentially provides plentiful quality 9 tractatus. We could even look at splitting the level 12 realia twice or three times.

Realia 12 vs 4x Realia 10: 12x12=144 experience over twelve seasons vs. 4x(10x10)=400 experience over forty seasons
Realia 12 vs 4x Realia 10: splitting gives 256 experience with an extra 28 seasons of investment

In the first twelve seasons you'd fall behind by 24 experience. However, you'd have twenty-eight remaining seasons with a quality 10 source. If you really want to be an expert in an Art and have spent time building a significant collection (we are talking about 2048 pieces for the level 12 realia), I would expect you would want to divide it into at least four separate realia, maybe even eight for a collection you could just keep studying for many years:

Realia 12 vs 8x Realia 9: 12x12=144 experience over twelve seasons vs. 8x(9x9)=648 experience over seventy-two seasons
Realia 12 vs 8x Realia 9: splitting gives 504 experience with an extra 60 seasons of investment

If you have an affinity, splitting to hit an odd level such as this works out even better:

Realia 12 vs 8x Realia 9: 18x12=216 experience over twelve seasons vs. 8x(14x9)=1008 experience over seventy-two seasons
Realia 12 vs 8x Realia 9: splitting gives 792 experience with an extra 60 seasons of investment

Where the balance lies will depend on your intentions. If you want to be a true master of one Art, split it a lot, but not so much that you'll never come close to finishing using it. If you just want to study for a seasons or two (probably using someone else's realia), you don't want it split at all. That does pose a bit of a conundrum for the owner I suppose, and a conundrum like this isn't a bad one to have. I could also see this implying that several experts in a subject might be interested in sharing pieces between them. For example, four archmagi, one with a level 11 plus a little, on with a level 10 plus a little, one with a level 9 plus a little, and another with something smaller might combine their resources to make four level 10's or eight level 9's that they then share between them. Those four could get to very, very high levels within their specialty Art. I could see four such magi scouring the world for the best samples as a non-mystery group.


IMS realia count as summae or tractatus as you experience with different things in a topic first hand. We have ther following "library" examples:

  1. Collection of high quality swords and axes. Each sword or axe is balanced differently, so as to encourage a certain type of maneuver. Practicing with them all against a dummy counts as a Summae in Single Weapon. Summae Max level 4.

  2. A massive cliff breeding ground for seagulls and other aquatic animals. Using peering into the Animal Mind allows you to develop Area Lore: North Sea or Area Lore: Irish Sea. Summae. Max level 4.

  3. A collection of dung from a thousand animals collected in a quite smelly room. They are enchanted to keep them fresh and with their puissant odor intact. Allows you to delve in the interesting feeding patterns of the diverse animals. Animal tractatus. The beta SG that introduced it just found that the chosen room was by the side of his lab since he had no specified a concrete point in the covenant.


Is Puissant Odor a Virtue or a Flaw? :wink:

There's one obvious flaw with this:

number of items to make quality X realia is 2 to the power (X-1), so it takes 32 pieces for a level 6, 64 for level 7, 128 for level 8, 256 for level 9, 512 for level 10, 1024 for level 11....

You are going to have a hard time gathering this many pieces. There are only so many perfect quality specimens to be had, and each will require careful examination to make sure it's worth studying, and it will need preservation and storage. There may also be a material cost in acquiring the specimens (buying animal corpses will cost a bit, buying gemstones could get extortionately expensive, and arranging for pieces of corpses for a corpus or physical necromancer collection will be tricky).

OK, so there are no hard & fast rules on how quickly you can gather specimens. Maybe your agents will be able to slowly build your collection over the decades, but it will take a long time to accumulate. Say, for example, your SG wants to hand-wave and say each season you go out collecting you get a simple die of specimens - 5-6 seasons would get you a level 6, 10-12 a level 7, but with the doubling for each extra level it will take a long time to build the high-level collections you've probably already traded for tractati or vis to study from anyway, and had enough adventures you've learnt a few things. Realia are an interesting possibility, but there's a reason the written book predominates in the Order of Hermes.

Also, as it says on page 102 of Covenants "realia rarely rise above quality 6", suggesting that in RAW your storyguide should make going beyond 32 specimens in a particular field a challenge.

Fair enough, especially your point that the book suggests an upper limit of Quality 6 for Realia. But the OP's main point is: whatever your Realia's size is, you're better off (xp-wise in the long run) to divide it in half, keep each half in a separate room, and treat them as two completely separate collections.

Except that it takes longer to gain the XP from two small collections than one big collection. As the OP points out, it really depends on how valuable your time is. If you can afford to muck about studying from the divided set of realia and you don't have other resources to study from (like books) then this could be a good strategy. On the other hand, if you have other stuff you can profitably be doing or studying from, then you probably just want to get the largest XP total per season from the realia.

Even in the realia 12 example, you only get 98 extra XP for 10 seasons of extra commitment. That's about 10 XP a season, which is pretty good. But it's not fantastic for two and a half years worth of work.

That's why I expect to see it more among the few old elite in a given Art than elsewhere. Also, however, this seems like a great sort of find or inheritance from former magi. If you have a lineage of experts in the same Art going on for a while that gives you many more years over which to build the collection as we're now talking about potentially a few centuries.

Of course, that statement is a little suspect. I'm not sure if it's supposed be 6 or 7. Is the reasoning based on the 64 pieces? If so it ought to be 7. I suppose the erratum just changes 64 to 32. However, I do suspect that with magic involved there is a good chance the pieces could be accumulated more quickly that might be expected. For example, you might have a Rego Terram expert who teleports around and senses gems. Such a magus could move around quickly and scan large areas well. Even if the gem hasn't been cut yet, this expert could probably have the magic to cut it perfectly. The expert could also probably steal gems from a distance (ReTe), too. It probably wouldn't be unreasonable for such an expert to collect over a hundred in a dedicated season.

Yup, given the level isn't too low.

But that is fantastic if you already have a score of around 30 in that Art, having exhausted the most readily available tractatus. As I said, I see this being useful for the top experts in an area. That's the same amount of experience you would typically expect from vis, that would be 6 or more pawns of vis each time and would involve the risk of twilight.

Also, check the extra split of the level 12 for the equivalent of 28 seasons at roughly quality 9 beyond the equivalent to 12 at 12.


Mmm, you get the CHANCE to KEEP studying for an additional 10 seasons just by dropping the initial 12 seasons by 1XP? I would call that BIG WIN.
Maintaining 10 or 11 XP per season is great if you play by RAW. Sure, a lot of the time you CAN maintain that, but this certainly would make it easier in the long run.

No, when you already have a high Art Score this trick is the least valuable, because you are reaching the point of diminishing returns.

Sure, if you have 30 in an Art you can use this trick to spend 10 seasons to gain 98 XP and raise your Art Score to 33. But what's the benefit in that? You will be able to cast a Fatiguing spontaneous spell that is 1.5 levels higher? Yay.

There is probably something much more profitable that an arch-magus (which is what you are if you have 30 in an Art) could be doing with 10 seasons. If a magus has 30 in an Art let 's say he can conservatively generate a Lab Total involving that Art of 60. So, in 10 Seasons he can invent five magnitude eight (level 40) formulaic spells (and can have 20 XP exposure somewhere). This seems more like you are actually achieving something worthwhile with the 10 seasons.

I don't find this argument compelling. By this logic, there would be no point in getting from 29 to 30 either ... or 28 to 29.... Soon someone's saying, "Sure, if you have 20 in an Art you can use this nice summa to spend 2 seasons to gain 22 XP and raise your Art Score to 21. But what's the benefit in that? You can invent a new level 30 spell...."

It's the pyramid scale thing. The higher your Art Score the less valuable a fixed amount of XP is, and the higher your Art Score the more actual things you can do instead of merely studying.

All I know is that, as a player, I am massively underwhelmed by my character getting the opportunity to sit around studying for 10 seasons for very little movement in Art Score. I'd rather my character was actually off acheiving his goals.

Richard, I think you missed the point. I was talking about someone wanting to be at the top in an Art. I'm not saying that is the most efficient thing. But you're essentially saying that character shouldn't want to be at the top in the Art, there are other things the character should want to do instead. The point is: what should you do if you do want to be at the top in an Art? I wouldn't tell a player wanting to be the best in an Art is the wrong way to play.

And on a related note, those points can be really fabulous, depending on what you do. I had one character focused on one Technique and one Form to the exclusion of nearly everything else. It worked out so well that the SG decided the character was way too powerful compared to the others. Part of the key was a magical focus. So 2 points in each of 2 Arts at 30 provided 6 points of lab total. There really are times when such a focus is all-important to a character and are not bad choices as a player.


In an attempt to push this thread more in the direction I want, thanks Xavi! It looks like you all do a lot of house-ruling with realia, but regardless there are some fun things there:

Anyone else have some cool suggestions? Personally, some things I can see pretty well, like for Herbam. I get really stuck with things like Perdo or Ignem, though. And, of course, those are some of the biggies for my character.


A couple of quick, perhaps outside-the-box suggestions:

  • Perdo - poisons and toxins (natural and manmade)
  • Ignem - prisms and light-reflecting gemstones

What struck me is that an Herbam realia could be split into a Creo realia and a Perdo realia. Bits of frozen mammouth could be part of 3 realia: Perdo, Ignem and Animal.

It's only a bit out of period, but something based on a camera obscura, with different lenses/colored filters/prisms, would be great for Ignem. If you fudge and decide that the right lenses can turn sunlight into heat, it acts as both light- and heat-based - and becomes quite a dangerous little toy to play with. (It could also work for Imagonem.)

For Perdo, a collection of rotting corpses and plants is a natural. Something like a corpse farm. Maybe with acids and inorganics as well.

Thanks for the ideas. I'm really starting to lean towards the multiple Art approach some have mentioned. For example, I like the prisms and lenses idea for Ignem, but for many cases I could see just as good an argument for Imaginem (as mentioned). (No need to fudge. Lenses were already used for starting fires before 1200.) I could see allowing a level 6 realia of prisms and lenses to be used a total of 6 times, each time either for 6 experience towards Ignem or for 6 experience towards Imaginem, for example. I hadn't realized the single-Art approach was creating such a block in my mind.

Although I suppose you could still have single-Art realia based on how the collection is assembled for study. For example, focusing examination of a corpse on how the person or animal died could be Perdo, while focusing the examination of the corpse on the anatomy could be Corpus or Animal.

I really do like the idea of a collection of venoms, poisons, and acids for Perdo. Nice.


And that ties in to the Covenants/Lab virtue of "specimens" - in this case, either living animals (to apply the various poisons/acids/unpleasantness to), or "slaves".

Add a realia for Animal Handling (or a small Folk Ken?) :smiling_imp:

Intellego - a selection of telescopes and lenses.
Perdo - a collection of corpses, each preserved at a different state of decay.
Muto - a collection of flasks storing chemicals that have been changed from their natural state by a process.
Corpus - tissue samples.
Imaginem - a selection of gems/prisms that each bend light in varied ways.
Vim - samples of natural vis (i.e. in it's original form when harvested) from different sources.
Ignem - the remains of unusual items that have been destroyed by flame (i.e. the ashes of an oak from the centre of a fae forest that was burned to the ground after being struck by lightning, the sample of the ashes of the library of Voluntas after it was burnt to the ground, the ashes of the altar cloth from the Cathedral in Canterbury).
Animal - samples of faecal matter from every known animal in the Isles.
Herbam - a garden with each plant growing in a reproduction of it's natural environment.
Creo - a collection of preserved foetus at varying stages of development.
Mentem - a selection of items, each of which has been imprinted with the memories (or mental flavor) of noted artists, craftsmen and luminaries.

And I've run out of coffee so I'm all out of creative inspiration now.

Nothing for Aquam, Auram, Terram, or Rego? Granted I have a hard time putting my mind on anything which would be Auram or Rego . . . there isn't too much you can do to study air by material possessions I think. Rego, I simply can't consider a set of objects which would contain enough objects to make up a Realia set.

For Terram: A collection of various ores, minerals, or otherwise interesting stones collected from a broad selection of geographic area. It should be noted there is a simply staggering number of minerals, gemstones, jewels, metals, and stone types if you include all these into the same sort of collection. This is further expanded upon if you assume samples taken from regios, or within auras, are separate entities.

For Aquam: Water collected from various places and kept sealed within flasks in order to be studied. Optimally, there would be specimens of water drawn from within magical auras, regios, or as part of a vis source.

Alternative for Terram: Soil samples collected from various fields, forests, swamps, et cetera.

Alternative Intellego: A collection of measurement objects which all are calibrated as precisely as can be done by the creators, and devoted to broad methods of measurement. It could be worthwhile to pursue devices which are not just precisely calibrated but perfectly calibrated.

Alternative Animal: Bones, complete skeletons, fur/scales, feathers, parts from various animals to study and learn how they contribute to the form of an animal.