Revaluing the text economy

Hi,

In another thread, Marko revisited a change he made to the cost of texts in the order back in 2014, in which he introduced the concept of the "quarter pawn" of vis, and priced Hermetic books in that new currency. (Search forums for "quarter pawn" for conversations about that.) This was an intriguing innovation that I noticed only now. Unfortunately, it is bound to the book valuations described in the core rules for covenant creation, which I don't think convey anything close to the actual value of texts.

Here, I combine his idea with an earlier post (posts?) of my own (searchable), in which I suggested that texts rather than vis or even Parma are the foundation of the Order. I try to refine both ideas and get closer to an economy for the Order. I don't intend to compare the value of different Arts, either for vis or texts. I don't think the books get this right either: Animal and Herbam vis are likely the most abundant in the wild, with something like Mentem rather hard to get hold of and Corpus probably more useful to more magi than, say, Aquam. For this conversation, generic (or Vim) vis aligned to the Magic Realm is assumed. I also expect that the prevalence and value of vis can vary across Tribunals and sagas, so I will talk about Fractional Pawns rather than Quarter Pawns. I personally think that Marko nailed it with qp, but that's a postscript to this conversation. So fp it is.

Finally, I stay with the core rules as much as possible. I won't refer to the vis extraction rules in RoP:M or the detailed book rules and correspondence in Covenants, except to note that the former are great if you want to make sure that a sane magus will only extract vis in his own covenant in extreme circumstances (and that if the other magi in the covenant do not agree, he is committing a crime against the Code), and that the latter add complexity and extra optimization. We can disagree and talk more about those rules in another thread.

Now, on with the show.

Both vis and tractati are interesting in that pretty much every magus can use them, and their function is relatively generic. Either can therefore serve well as a universal medium of exchange for the Order. A pawn of vis is easier to consider as currency, like an ounce of gold. But tractati are less tractable because they come in various denominations. A tractatus is not quite the real unit of currency here, but the xp it provides. More specifically, the extra xp it provides.

A magus can gain 2xp from Exposure during a season in which he does something quite valuable. He can extract vis, he can train an apprentice, he can invent Formulaic spells, enchant an item, intrigue against his fellow Tytali, deal with some Faeries or Hedgies (and take their stuff), search for a Familiar, initiate a virtue or do something else. A tractatus that doesn't provide at least as much value as that other activity (minus 2xp!) is worthless to most magi.

For example, a magus is likely to have a lab total of at least 50 in his specialty 10 years past Gauntlet, if not earlier. He is likely to muster 30 in wide applications not utterly alien to that specialty. That's a lot of spell levels, especially if lab texts are available.

He can also Practice. This won't work for Arts, but any Arcane Ability (Finesse and Parma are rather useful) or Spell Mastery or Concentration or MT, all of which are useful. Mundane texts cost mere silver, and a magus can read AL, Phil, Latin, possibly some Realm Lores.

Here's another thing a magus can do if he has an apprentice but doesn't want to spend precious vis on Art books: His very ordinary apprentice has Com 0 and no virtues. But he can be taught an Art to level 5 as part of his 15 seasons of training, and then be tasked with writing a Tractatus about that Art during one of his 45 seasons of service. That tractatus is q6, which is pretty crummy. I will go so far as to say that it has no vis value. Fortunately, it can be copied using mundane means, so it has some value, and can be treated like any other mundane book, with a value in silver rather than vis. The cost to the master is insignificant: He has to train his apprentice in Arts anyway, and apprentices often have wasted seasons. An Order where the cost of tractati is not reasonable might be flooded with these things. Com +1 is also very common, so a similar argument can be made for the value of a q7 tractatus. An archmagus desperate for books about the Art he has leveled up to 40 can get 3 or 4 tractati in that Art out of an apprentice. Or Magic Theory. Not Parma, unless you stretch the custom (like Tytali who don't believe in rules, or Bjornaer who insist their apprentices are peers after Got12Y, etc), but those books will not enter general circulation.

We can come back around and ask whether the value of those other exposure activities is worth at least 4 or 5 xp (we subtract 2xp from both exposure and the tractatus) as a sanity check, and because the apprentice tracati serve as an example rather than the sole foundation. I think they do, other than obligations and penalties. Invent 25-50 levels of formulaic spells? Read a good book about Astrology? Attend Tribunal? Kill a diabolist? Make some vis of your own? 4-5xp as a minimum seems reasonable.

I feel less comfortable suggesting that q8 tractatus has no vis value. In a sense, only special people can create these, since Com +2 is three Characteristic Points, which is a virtue. If the value of a tractatus lies in the extra xp you get, we have the following:

Q FP
8 1
9 2
10 3
11 4
12 5
13 6
14 7

We cannot do better than 14 which maxes Com and virtues.

Does this make any sense? Let's try a few. I can buy one q13 or two q10. In two seasons, I get either 15xp+something or 20xp. That seems fair. What about 7Q8 vs 1Q14? In 7 seasons, I get either 56xp or 26xp+6somethings. That's kind of reasonable too. A Good Reader might prefer more, lower quality books, but lab rats might prefer the higher quality tractati.

Covenant building can be done in this way too, though fp and covenant bp are not that compatible.

What about summae? Level+Quality does not measure utility, whether in build points or fp. But we have a framework to assess their value.

These are less valuable than tractati. The magi who are most likely to be able to have spare vis to pay for these are the ones who will get the least use out of them, because they likely already have Arts above 0. Worse, a magus is not likely to ever need more than one summa in an Art, maybe two. If I write an L6Q21 Creo summa and you write one too, we split the market, which is already relatively small because magi who have read yesterday's L5Q15 summa or who were taught by their parens really won't be interested. Tractati combine better with Book Learner, there's never wastage, and any magus can benefit. Summae do combine with tractati, but tractati also combine with tractati. Summae can have much higher quality, but the above rules can account for this. Writing a summa probably attracts attention and provides a great reputation, but is less valuable, xp for xp.

So we value them similarly: A summa has value based on the extra xp it provides beyond 7 per season, and then scaled down by some factor. I'll go with 3. For example, L20Q10 summa provides 210xp over 21 seasons. Using the numbers for tractati, we get a base value of 63fp. Then we divide by 3 and round up, for a value of 21fp. Is that summa worth 7 q10 tractati? Does that make more sense than the canonical covenant creation rules?

A summa for an ability is assessed similarly, but where an L5Q15 Art summa provides one season and is worth 3fp (8fp/3), an L5Q15 Parma summa provides 5 seasons and is worth 14fp.

This does not work for summae that probably don't belong in the game (though the canonical system doesn't either), either because the level or quality is too high. For example, L10q55 would cost 16fp, which seems crazy good; L10q11 costs 7fp, which seems reasonable. L20q21 costs 47fp, which seems ok.

Better scaling for summa would involve a bit more math, since as L approaches infinity, the value of a summa equals that of tractati.

But level 20 summae barely belong in the game.

Anyway,

Ken

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Fascinating analysis. I don't have much to say other than that considering these ideas seems very important.

In fact, I'm struck by the idea of running a campaign with no such things as Summae, and just using Tracti. Larger historical books would just be considered multiple tracti.

Hi,

I've previously recommended getting rid of summa.

I've alternatively recommended having authorities write summas that have infinite level but very low quality. That represents the idea that the authorities might have gotten all of the essentials right and their works totally represent their field, but they are hard to use. So, as in the real world, the Koran (no, RoP:D notwithstanding, this is not a work of great lucidity from which actual Islamic Theology can readily be understood), the Talmud (RoP:D notwithstanding, it is not a bunch of tractati but a massive, sprawling mess better represented as a summa) and other, similar books encompass everything but are opaque and difficult to comprehend (such as LinfiniteQ5). Bonisagus has a similar summa about Hermetic Magic Theory.

Anyway,

Ken

You're thinking of the Authories from the 4th editions Wizard's Grimoire Revised Edition.

I think advancement can be far too fast for Hermetic Wizards with Summa regarding the OoH not busting apart Mythic Europe.

texts make for a poor currency because 1) they are too perishable, 2) they are too easily reproduced, and 3) they are too easily faked. Not to say they can't form a basis for an economy, just that they are a poor way of doing so.

Hi,

The idea of 'authority' is also found in AM5, though it is presented differently from AM4. We can leave the word behind. I'm basically saying that some important topics in the medieval world come with a text or a set of texts that can be considered primary, but that are hard to use on their own, resulting in an ever expanding body of commentators of various kinds.

I don't think that a summa on Magic Theory by Bonisagus called, say, "Ars Magica," which has infinite level and q5 is going to bust anything apart. It nicely captures the idea that Bonisagus presented a complete theory and the rest of us are struggling to catch up to his genius, requiring lesser luminaries to explain him, yet they themselves still have much to learn from the Master. In a similar way, it captures the conceit that although the Bible (or Koran or Torah or Bahir (or Zohar, which exists in ME in 1220 but is only published 50 years later :slight_smile: ) or whatever) holds all the secrets of the universe, you are really best off reading the commentators (LinfQ5!) But maybe you mean something else and I just misunderstand?

Anyway,

Ken

I get what you're thinking of, and have no real disagreements.

Hi,

I might note that modern day currency suffers all of these deficits, and yet....

Anyway,

Ken

Interesting post Ken, always enjoy reading your rules breakdowns/suggestions...though I kinda struggled with some of the workings here :slight_smile:

I will say, my own house rules use vastly different book/library mechanics than core, the base XP you can also earn from a library is 5XP, which correlates with your concept of Authorities, so I like that as concept, and I support the notion that 5XP per season is very reasonable and shouldn't break the game (my rules provide 5/10/15XP based on library vs your ability/art, no more, no less).

One thing I will say, the more I play with the advancement mechanics, the less I like the virtues like Book Learner / Independent Study etc, as they have bizarre impacts on the wider advancement economy of the order, as like you said, a book learner actually prefers more, poorer, quality books, than fewer, higher qualities ones, which just seems wrong from a narrative standpoint.

Kal

Hi,

Glad you enjoyed it. If there's something specific about which I was insufficiently clear, please let me know!

Can you say more about this?

BTW, just giving everyone a flat 10xp for a season of book learning also won't break anything, and it's what I usually recommend for sagas that don't want to think much about libraries.

Hmm. I hope I didn't imply that this consequence is bizarre, because it makes sense to me. Someone who is really great at ferreting information from books is not going to get much extra benefit from a book that is already perfectly clear! On the other hand, authors with great ideas and terrible writing skills abound, and someone who is better at reading might be able to discern more of the author's intent.

Of course, a Book Learner would prefer lots of great books over lots of mediocre books!

My biggest problem with Independent Study is that it's a suckful virtue. :slight_smile:/234235230389 Otherwise, the only issue I have with BL, IS, etc, is that they aren't interesting. Affinity with Creo? It tells me something about what the character does. Strong Faerie Blood? One of my very favorite virtues, because it tells me a whole lot about the character. Book Learner? The character wants to read books even more than all the other magi who want to read books. And this isn't a very big issue at all; I find the virtue harmless, and in many sagas not even that good because you need to use it for 30 seasons before you've almost caught up with Good Parens.

Anyway,

Ken

Regarding my Library rules, to give context, covenant creation is largely based on Traits now (new x5 advancement, max rank 10 in each). Originally inspired by the library rules published in Peripheral Code 1, I've further simplified/streamlined them - a covenant's library is now wholly represented by a single Trait.

For Arts, if your Art is less than half (Library x5), you earn 15XP each season studying, else if your Art is simply lower than (Library x5), you earn 10XP. While if your Art is equal or greater than (Library x5), you only earn 5XP.

All Abilities use the same principle, but just compare the Library Trait directly, without the x5.

Prior iterations had each subject (Art, Ability) having its own trait, but the covenant itself felt too similar to a Magus or Companion, trying to advance the same things. I then moved onto Library Traits for each group, so Arts, Academic Abilities, Arcane Abilities, Spell Mastery Abilities; but writing out the rules felt like a load of repetition for little gain.

Future iterations will hopefully have something to add themes for Libraries (ie Perdo collection, or Spell Mastery focus), but I'm not sure how I want to implement that yet - I wouldn't want to raise the ceiling any higher (Rank 10 Library could provide 10XP a season all the way up an Art of 50...), but I don't think I want to increase the XP rewards either...another aspect of the narrative I would like to express would be the difference between Outer and Inner libraries (public/private sections).

I will also say Ken, I have one of your threads bookmarked for alt rules and use quiet a few of those, so again, this might lack context (ie, I remove Finesse, Parma, Penetration & Magic Theory as abilities entirely, and use your rules regarding fatigue costs changes based on the Form of the spell).

for anyone interested, the cliff notes of this are linked - still very work in progress :slight_smile:

Core changes
Covenant Traits

Kal

Hi,

I like it.

Though I think the 5xp is low because if you did something in the lab, you'd get 2 of those xp plus something else. Maybe it's your way of saying, "Really, do something else this season!"

I think you might be surprised that this still works. When AM5 came out, I was not at all pleased with David's library changes. Then I did some math. If I have a library that lets me advance infinitely at 10xp/season, that Art 50 will require 128 seasons (30 years) of doing nothing else! Of course, an Affinity brings that down to 85. That's still a lot of time.

Glad you're getting some mileage out of these variants. How have they worked out so far?

Anyway,

Ken

Modern day currency exists by legal fiat, not by a naturally occurring economic system.

Hi,

What does "naturally occurring economic system" even mean, beyond "it's natural if I say it is?"

Anyway,

Ken

I love this kind of stuff, but I don't understand why magi would bother writing all these tractati to fill that market. Writers are going to spend one season of their lives writing a tractatus that they are going to solve for what, their Com stat minus 1 fp?

Or could selling prices, for once, be higher, with Mercere or some hermetic librarian buying that at loss to then make a bunch of copies and get their profit?

It seems that in order for all the business to work then writers should be encouraged somehow, but I can't think the prize for that.

a naturally occurring economic system is one which occurs without direction as a result of people engaging in trade, usually beginning with barter until a common system of value is worked out with a medium of exchange.
It is the boundary between a government minting gold coins to indicate the weight of gold within them to facilitate trade and printing money on paper with "this note is legal tender for all debts public and private" and using the force of law to establish that it will be used as a medium of exchange and to prohibit others from copying said currency.

Like P-gems or Stones of Jordan.

Hi,

I agree we should look at this closer. Suppose we have a reasonably good writer, who can write a tractatus q10. He spends one season to write a tractatus. Now, every copy will net him 3fp. If at least ten copies of his book sell - and why shouldn't they since, as you point out, this seems like a really good deal - that's at least 30fp. Using Marko's numbers, 4fp = 1 pawn, that's at least 7.5 pawns. That's not shabby at all. Of course, someone who writes really good books will spend 1 season writing a q14 tractatus, sell 10 copies or more, and get 17.5 pawns for it. That's kind of awesome.

So I think the prices work out.

In addition to this, we also have to consider tractati that cost the magus nothing! If I have an apprentice who writes well, I can set him to writing tractati every bit as well as an archmagus, although he can write fewer of these. I then keep the tractati and sell these. Any grad student should understand how this works! :slight_smile:/2

Finally, someone who writes excellent books will get a reputation for that. As a valuable member of the Order, he will be well-regarded, protected, treasured and deferred to. Antagonize this guy and you antagonize the archmagi who subscribe to his YouTube channel. "I hear you're going to be 35 soon. I happen to know that Elizabeth - yes, that Elizabeth - is happy to book you next spring. She really liked your last book about Corpus and looks forward to the next."

Anyway,

Ken

1 Like

Hi,

Well, great. In other words, it is natural because you say it is.

Anyway,

Ken

no, it is natural because it arises organically, as opposed to being forced by government action. It is a pretty simple distinction to follow. Natural currencies follow from commodities that generally, but not always, follow certain properties- 1 being a relatively inflexible supply (gold cannot be grown or consumed, for example), being valued, and having little to no utilitarian value. There have been exceptions to this- Babylon used barley as currency next to silver, but this also required a government bureaucracy for managing grain warehouses. Egypt began with a barter system where rings became thicker over time to hold more value in metal and became coins. There is an island culture where the base currency are massive carved stones which obviously can be reproduced, but not easily (this one also violates the typical property of being easily portable). If you are going to create an economy whole cloth it might be a good idea to have some background in how actual economies work, instead of simply being snarky to anyone who tries to offer constructive criticism.

The American economy is artificial or unnatural because without the government to enforce the value of our currency it would have none, or have such high volatility as to be worthless as a currency- similar to bitcoin.