Roots and Branches

So, I'm setting up a library for the group's covenant, and I wanted to ask if there are some standard texts that should be in every new covenant.
I read something about Roots of the Arts in the Covenants book, but there are no mention about level and quality. Same goes with the Branches of the Arts. And why are there no more than 9 Roots and 8 Branches?

The library is 200 Build Points. Anyone have any suggestions on what should be in it? There are seven magi, and no house is represented twice.


Perhaps confer with your players what thy'd like and what they'd prefer to avoid. You don't want too high level summaes in the Arts of player specialists, because then their "thing" would be quickly undermined by inflation. We had that accident in my first saga, where a hard working Creo specialist saw every other magus run up into the early teens in Creo, by reading a high level book, hard fought over. It did not help, that a clever player though to Gloss the poor text, raising the Quality. Instead let the specialists write their own book, so the covenant benefits from their expertise, and they have something to show off. once they all produce a few books, the library will be expanded and personalized.

On the other hand, if we're talking an established covenant, make sure most if not all arts are represented into the 5-6. In that way, magi wanting an apprentice need not worry about the minimum demands in Art scores. perhaps not all 15 Arts, make them fight a little for it.

Making a lot of the books as Tractati gives even the specialists something to read.

Make most books average and realistic Qualities. Make a few books in low levels and high Quality, ala "Creo for dummies". Make any high level books poor in quality, perhaps even damaged, so they'll have to take goof care of them, or restore them. The old system in 4th ed Wizard's Grimoire Revised Edition, had good rules for improving Physical Quality by binding, colours, illumination etc. and lowering it by poor script, misguiding or exaggerated pictures etc. And rules for damaging books and what would happen if they weren't restored. This sort IMHO makes for more interesting library than just "level and source quality". I've adapted most if not all of this for 5th ed, but haven't playtested it yet.

The text every new conventus need is their deed of foundation. :smiley:

Maybe a basic book about the hermetic law and tribunal procedures. This could be a gift of the tribunal.

Well, what I'm curious about is if there are any rules anywhere for "real" books, with levels and qualities. Like the book lists in The Divine, for example. I don't want to just list Summa: Ignem (Quality 8, Level 5) for example. :stuck_out_tongue:

The Roots of the Arts are common to new covenants, right? But what kind of level and qualities would these have?


Well, we ruled roots to be Level 6, Quality 21, and this is the reason why not all arts have a root.
We use the rule that you cannot incease the quality of a book by more than your communication+6 by writing a lower level as you actually could. This means authors of any root were "Good Teachers" (virtue!) adding three to the quality of all books, and had a communication of at least 3. This would result in a level 6 summa of quality 21, if the autor had a score of 30 in the art!
By the way, we do not use the rules of im proving magical books as written in Covenants but a set of rules similar to those of 4th edition resulting in a maximum bonus of three if supreme velum was used, an excellent illuminator was working on it and only the best bookbinder and writer worked on the project.

The most basic books, the Roots of the Arts if you will, should be able to take most people to their maximum level in the minimum amount of time. The appropriate levels should be 5 (since this is minimum for training an Apprentice). I can't remember if 5th edition also state, that no more than 3 levels can be gained in any single season's worth of study. In that case, make it level 6, to waste as little time as possible due to caps on gain. on the other hand, you might have a few left over exp at char creation, and put them in some Art. Then you really don't care if the books are targeted on whole multiples of 3!
If there is a gain limit of 3 levels, and the books are meant to take a magus from 0 to 6 in 2 seasons, you can backtrack. To get from 3-6, you need 4+5+6 exp = 15. In 4th ed there was also Int+Concentration added in. In 5th, there is nothing else IIRC (my books have all been hijacked by a player in my upcoming sags!). Taking into account any incompetent magus reading it - I believe Weak Reader is -2 exp??? - it should have a Quality of 17. For a master, who can deliberately write at lower target level for extra quality, this should be no effort at all. Hence these books should be widely available - perhaps even in several variations - and cheap.

Also, besides Arts, books should include Abilities like Hermetic Law (5th ed name?), Magic lore and organization Lore (Order of Hermes).

Perhaps the ArM books - especially Covenants, in the Library chapter - should have included sample books for quick library creation.
But once the mechanics are in place, finding title- and author names have always come easy to out group. We tend to include small puns or inside jokes, like the book on Finesse (perhaps someone does not think this can be learned from a book, but never the less!) was called "Manoeuvres" and was written by "Picardus" as a reference to Star Trek TNG and Captains Picard's (in)famous "Picard Manoeuvre". In cases of severe lack of serious inspiration, books by authors like Jesterus and Prankerus have also appeared, sadly.

We started with a reasonably large library of low to medium quality/level summa, with our best book a lvl 10, quality 10 summae on corpus.

We've since expanded of course and recently acquired one of the "standard texts" a quality 12, level 14 perdo summae. I introduced this when i was the SG as pretty much the top perdo book available. The covenant that owned it would have considered it a good asset as they could have sold copies under the cow and calf rule for considerable sums of vis/trades. We expect the owning covenant to come looking for it eventually.

Other books that should be in a standard, well prepared covenant (ours was a bit unorthodox) is a copy of "De Magica Theorica" (hideous latin?). Bonisagus' tome on magic theory. We figured it would be a high quality, but fairly low level summae, maybe Quality 13, level 6. This plays to the idea that bonisagus probably didn't have magic theory that high. After all, his great work was the parma magica, made before hermetic magic theory and magic theory itself. Magi since have benefitted from well written books and centuries of refinement of the original idea. As a standard text it thus has a excellent quality, since Bonisagus was renowned as an excellent teacher (i'd assume very good communication and certainly the excellent teacher virtue).

We also have some hermetic lore tractatus (minutes from various tribunal meetings), and a bunch of mundane books like Optica, Physica, the bible, De Arithmetica and such like.

A nice touch is to have a number of books from a prolific writer. We made our library in 4th ed when libri quaestionum were in, with a series of techniques libris along the lines of

Theosiphus talks to the Apprenti, vol 1 - Creo
Theosiphus talks to the Apprenti, vol 3 - Muto
Theosiphus talks with the Journeyman, vol 3 - Muto
Theosiphus asks politely of the masters, Vol 5 - Rego

This gave us motivation to try and complete the three sets for a) aesthetic reasons and b) to sell as sets.

Well I wrote that bit, so here's my response to that idea:

The levels of value for books give quite explict Level+Quality combinations. You are supposed to add a title and history.

The alternative is that, like the older books in the line, you have about 500 words of absolutely wasted text where one of the authors describes a magus from his home campaign, and notes that he wrote a book on Terram with scores X and Y. Seriously, the chapter of books in the original Grimorie, did no one else think "I'd have liked fewer of these, and more dragons."

Writing up sample books is pure padding. To get them, you would have lost an equivalent number of covenant boons - which weren't padding, but which were the bits of my writing for that book that had easy "give" - the bits that could be simply excised to give me the desired space for other, larger bits of work.

So, the reason you didn't get sample books is so that you could get 6 or more of the miscellaneous covenant boons and flaws.

In game, it is because either

  • the combination of virtues and the fixation on an Art required to produce such a work are incredibly rare.
  • some such books do exist, but have not been accorded broad social acceptance as a Root or Branch for various historical or political reasons. For example they were written by Diedne magi and have been supressed.
  • some have been lost when covenants fell, destroying peerless works, that perhaps may be recovered by adventurers of sufficent skill.

Out of character, there are three reasons:

  • the Order is not a perfect institution, so it doesn't provide everything you want.
  • New ones are a treasure, that you can adventure for. New classes of treasure (material story rewards) were a form of coolness that Ars needed, IMO.
  • -Your- character needs to have the option of writing one of these things, because its an axiom of my writing that "If there is something cool to do, player characters should be allowed to do it." That's also why the arts are not defined. If you want to be famous as the Flambeau who wrote the Root of Ignem, I'm not about to tell you that Apromor found it in Flambeau's sock drawer after the Founder died. The material is -for- you. The game's history is -about- you.

From my view, with Covenants rules, it seems that a good "best" book in a particular Art would have a Level somewhere in the 16-22 range and Qualities ranging between 12 and 18. Good primers run Level 6-8 with maxed out Qualities -- though Level 10-11 books should be relatively common with acceptably high Qualities.

Something to keep in mind, and hinted at in earlier posts: If you have too many excellent or high level texts in your library, your magi will not get out or do anything important until much later in thier careers.

(Hmmm, study a Quality 16 Level 15 summa or go vis hunting/bargain with the local fae for collection rights/go to Tribunal/whatever -- how tough a call is that?)

My advice: make the library a source of stories and you will be greatly rewarded.

One thing that has worked VERY well in a saga I play in is to make the library skewed and seriously deficient in a number of key Arts and Abilities. It forced a few magi -- and one I would have never guessed, but should have -- to go out looking for good texts (political and "resource" stories), build good relationships with other covenants (good repeating story hooks there), and travel to retrieve the texts in question (battled a horde of low Might demons on that one). Oh, and make enchantments that let you get the summa back in decent condition!

(some background reasoning follows...)

Now, given that, our covenant has at least a modest Level summa in every Art and a number of really good ones (one is a Level 22 Muto text on loan) plus some really good ones in "scholarly Abilities". We're still weak-ish on tractatus but those will continue to fill in as we continue our development.

As for general guidelines, it all depends on how many "publishing" magi there have been in your vision (and your troupe's vision) of the Order.

My personal view is that no more than 20% made it thier mission to write any summa -- call it 400 in the life of the Order to date -- and of those MAYBE 40 had/have enough talent in the topic AND the writing ability to make it worthwhile. I know, that's pessimistic, but I've chosen to view the idea as indicative of most magi wanting to be very good at magic and not make OTHERS very good at magic. So 15 Arts, maybe 10 broadly important mystical/academic Abilities and suddenly you have just maybe 3 or 4 GOOD summae on, say, Ignem and 1 just-good-enough summa (L15Q12) in Herbam (written by Magister Neville of Loch Leagan who also wrote a damn fine summa on Parma!) with a just a few L6Q10 Ability summae (Parma, Magic Theory, and possibly Penetration OR Finesse being the likely candidates).

Now, again in my view, the Order is filthy with tractatus and lab texts and the trade in both is brisk since (a) a tractatus takes only a season to write and an older magus can write a lot of lab texts and (b) there are so few summae.

A more collegial and scholarly Order would, in my view, produce more and higher quality summae, probably the same tractatus and lab texts, and somewhat less pwerful older magi since they are spending more time writing and less time accruing power.

For example, Maga Rowan of Merinita has a skill of 44 in Imaginem (990 XP). She has an affinity in that so lets assume that after appplication of the +50% modifier, she was able to put 15 XP a year into that -- she's also Driven -- so that takes 66 years. Let's tack on 10 years of time where for whatever reason (Twilight, Mystery initiation, politics, etc.) she was not able to work in her Art. To get all the bonuses to Quality (i.e. "make it the best text on the topic in the Order") she and her scribe and bookbinder and apprentice will probably have to spend at least a year or more probably two writing and constructing and maybe even enchanting the text. The text itself wouldn't be ready until 78 years post-Gauntlet. Best case is that she's 98 years old and probably older.

True, you could REALLY skew her to where she completes such a wonderous text sooner, but then you would have to somehow convince me that she's OK with having a poor spell selection and/or most of her other Arts below 7 or non-publishing mystical Abiliites around 3 or less. (although, in my model, she also has 300 levels in spells and enchantments)

All this is to say that a Level 22 Quality "wow" summa is a very rare bird indeed. It would be very hard for me to believe that there are more than 8 Level 20+ Art summae at any good-to-great Quality level extant in the Order. And a Level 8 summa in Penetration better have been written by an Archmagus Hoplite Queasitor Imagonnascrewyouupis! :smiley:

An excellent call, Timothy. I'm glad that you and David made that editorial choice!

I only really started playing somewhat after 5th edition came out and, honestly, I would have had a rough time balancing interesting hooks and boons (and lab V&F), then coming up with book ideas. Would AN example of a book been good (like RoP:Divine)? Yep. But to trade away the other stuff would have a tougher thing for me.

Timothy Ferguson:

I agree completely, and I find the Covenants book a great piece of work. I was merely refering to the fact, that while I and my gaming group have no beef in whipping up a few titles (as well as defining a tribunal full of covenants and magi), some people might prefer not to do this themselves.
There is no way I would have missed out on some Boons/Hooks in the book! In fact, I'd like to see more! While scratch-designing the covenant for my upcoming saga, I found it easier to add Hooks than Boons. Hooks are so much fun! I ended up with 20 points of Hooks while only 8 points og Boons, but then I started upgrading all the weak spots, where I had cut corners and taken discount solutions.
All in all, the covenant creation system seems very good, and I can't wait to start playing.

While designing Libraries, I always keep in mind, that not all Magi write about their Arts at all. And not all are very good at it. So I always end up with over-kill-high-Quality books for noobs, and horribly low Qual books in the high levels. Those librarian types would IMHO not focus asmuch on their Arts, and hence write at low levels, but produce fine books. And the magic specialists might not have the skill, time or interest to write very well.

Since my new saga is set 30 years after apprenticeship, in an established covenant, most Magi would be over the first hurdles. But realistically, the Library should include Primers/Roots on most Arts. After all, this is what they read as apprentices (if they were form that very covenant), and this is what the new generation will start out with. I believe I'll design (somewhat) after the PCs specialities, making these Arts - and some other significant ones for the specialities of an urban covenant - heavier on Tractati. That way even the more seasoned will have something to read still, without everyone else catching up. But designing the library to get people out of it, or to work to expand and improve it, is IMHO a must.

@Verticus: I have a different view on these things: besides the fact that I think the 5th edition OoH (with the merchant Mercere, the new features of the Parma, the need to read books because Vis learning is no longer useful in most cases, the new Penetration system wich lets magi endure far longer than on older generations, the new warping system with the same benefits as with penetration: it let magi grow older and they doesnt have to fear an instant death like in 4th edition, the house Tremere as a book-police described in Covenants and so on) is far more collegiall and friendly I think that nealy every magus will have one or perhaps two extreme high arts or abilitys in his late age. I bet in the history ogf the order there were douzends of Flambeau magi with Ignem and douzends with Perdo scores over 30, or perhaps hundreths of Verditius with Pilosophiae 10+ or Bonisagus with Magic Theory 10+ and so on.
I think of these books an art 40 guy writes as a legacy of this mage, the final work it will make im immortal over generations of magi. So an archmagi who decides to write such a legacy (and that is common I think) would also use his recources to initiate the good teacher Virtue or push his Com to +5 via CrMe rituals.
With this thoughts I can see douzends of summae with a level+quality of ~35 one or two with ~40 and countless with ~30.
And remember that every mundane scribe with Magic Theory 1 can copy those books with only 1-3 lower levels of quality!
And I also think (I made explanations to them in earlier threads) there should also douzends of heremtic Tractati for every single art with Quality ~15, and not only one or two.

Have to say I'm with you on that assessment Lucius, but then when it comes to fantasy role play, I'm a power junkie.

Besides, there has to be some means for magi of the other Houses to pump up their Arts and abilities sufficiently so as to keep the Tremere "rule the Order, then the world" militant nutcases in their place.

And I think the power searching magus is not only a munchkin archetype, it is also a ingame Ars Magica archetype of many, many real magi. :wink:

Of course. What's the point to holing up studying arts, else?

This is something I liked about the jerbiton, btw. The whole "Ok, I could become a total lab rat in order to gain more power, but what's the point? Better live a fullfilling life".
This seems like basic common sense, however, what is the typic Ars Magus? A scholar and student of the arts, not an hedonist.

I can see how you come to that conclusion. We differ but your point does carry some weight with me.

Given that my experience is almost exclusively 5th Edition (one half of one college semester in 2nd ed.) my thinking is not informed by those previous editions. I just took the 30 points per year assumption laid out in the character generation section and went from there. Kick in that Warping will kick most non-CrCo specialists/non-Alchemists into Final Twilight by the 140yr point -- with a fair number of exceptions, of course -- it seemed reasonable. Not saying your assumptions are wrong. Just saying they are different.

As for the attitudes of all these fictional mages, well, I guess it's all how you set it up and very interesting how you and I read the same books but come up with very different viewpoints. It's one of the things that makes it fun. One person' view of Tytalus might be all about self improvement by challenge. His (or her) pal thinks they are all trying to be The Tyrant.

Anyhow, you bring out a vaild point for the original poster: He must decide early on how rare good books are early on. You are of the "moderately common" school and make an excellent case for it. Me, I like them rare because I'm comfortable with my assumptions. You can go either way, but to build a believable library for a given covenant, you have to make some background setting assumptions that apply Order-wide to inform that design.