Roots of the arts (stats)

The price and availability of the so-called roots of the arts came up in another thread. Now I wonder, what should be the typical stats for the roots be?

It was suggested that the roots are equivalent to vain summæ in build point terms; maybe L5/Q15 or L6/Q21, but this would not really make them outstanding. Many magi can write primers at this level, so no book would stand out as the one root.

If we level them with sound books, they could be L9/Q22 for instance, worth approximately two season of study. Or would this mean they are no longer primers?

If they are truly as outstanding as the branches, they should probably be L7/Q28, so that the typical apprentice can get from 0 to 7 in a single season. However, now the book is out of range for a starting covenant, contradicting the wide availability that the roots are supposed to have.

Obviously, we could be talking books with L6/Q25. The quality is awesome, and magi may well admire the book, but the extra quality is not useful for the reader.

In the end, I cannot come up with any design which is consistent with all the constraints in Covenants.

Has anyone spec'ed up the roots for their sagas? What did you arrive at?

Assuming basic rules: quality of a book is 6+Com+Good Teacher, you can create Q14 books.

For such a superlative writer to make a 5/15 book, requires a 12 in the Art, a 6/21 book, needs a 26 in the art and for a 7/28, author needs to have a 42. I'd say he'd rather spend his time making a 20/15 book, rather than a 7/28. Again, this assumes a Com 5, character with Good Teacher. To write a excellent book in the field, you almost certainly have an Affinity in the Art.

Assuming Com of 0, no Good Teacher, then you need someone with a 28 in the Art for a 5/15, and 42 for a 6/21. I'd say that a 6/21 book is probably available at a Summer or Autumn covenant, and a 5/15 is at a Spring or Winter covenant, if it's in a subject area that the covenant collects.

I was referring to the roots as described here:

We are not talking about the random books that can be found in a given covenant, but the best book in the field that the order has seen in centuries.

To answer this question, you need to define what constitutes a basic primer? You definitely need a 5/15 minimum. A 6/21 is also good. These are not hard numbers to reach with Com 5 + Good teacher in your specialized art. The fact that there are only nine in the Order probably means it requires MORE that just that. Possibilities?

  1. the political or rhetoric to be the best 6/21 or 5/15. If there are seven 5/15 Corpus books, none of them can be the best.
  2. non-mechanical reasons, such as being the Corpus book that first defines some now-accepted topic. A new 5/15 won't be considered as definitive.
  3. similarly, if my roots have a large number of Commentaries, it's just going to be better than a new book. Arguably, a 5/15 book with 12 commentaries may be better than a 6/21 in the long run.
  4. if a magi has the Poor Student flaw, a 5/15 doesn't do enough for him. He needs a 5/18 or 6/24. That may be the final telling point.

That actually doesn't work - the maximum bonus you can achieve by reducing the level is equal to the base quality (page 165), so with Com 0 and no Good Teacher the highest quality you can achieve is 12.

That also means to write a Q21 book, you need a base quality of at least 11, i.e. Com 5 or Com 2 + Good Teacher, in addition to a 32 in the Art (or slide the scale to Com 5 + GT and 26 in the Art). That's doable, but it's not trivial.

I tend to prefer a L/Q of 6/15 or 7/22 - for a Build Point or two more they let people with the appropriate Virtues get some benefit from them or allows a person with up to a score of 3 in the Art to still get the full XP from a seasons reading. Those with Flaws may find they get two ok seasons out of them as well.

That's not what the Roots are. You're thinking of them like the Branches:

The Roots are just considered the standard way to get to at least a score of 5, so they should get you to 5 or more in one season. A level 22, quality 13 summa or a level 20, quality 14 summa would be far superior to a level 5, quality 15 summa, but the first two wouldn't get most readers to a score of 5 in a season and so wouldn't be as suited toward this purpose.

You could have a 5/15 summa that's been around so long everyone knows it and has been using it and many have written commentaries on it. So access to it is easy and it's a great way to get your Art to 5 in one season.

I'm not saying the Roots have to be 5/15, just that the push toward them being phenomenal books is ill-founded.

1 Like

That's indeed the catch, though note that resonant materials can add that +1 Quality you might need. In our games these are indeed the most common source of 6/21 summae (which would be, unmodified, 6/20 summae, written by magi with Com +4, or Com +1 and Good Teacher, and an Art score of 32). In our games, roots are no worse than this; those that are no better have managed to keep the root spot either for historical reasons (the Vim root by Bonisagus...); or because, you know, there are not that many magi specializing in Aquam; or in most cases simply because (see below) it's pretty hard to squeeze more than 1-2 extra xp in a primer, so availabilty of the root and availability of commentaries can play a larger role.

Slightly better than an "unmodified" 6/20, but not much better, are a 6/21, and a 7/20. Under most circumstances they will really yield the same result: a "round" score of 6 after one season of study -- the former without need of resonant materials, the latter possibly helping a character who already has a few xp under his belt to avoid wasting them and get straight to 7 (it also helps magi with appropriate Virtues). At 7/21 and up, you'll start seeing a few extra xps trickling in, and you might probably see a few roots at 7/22, 8/22 (the extra Level being in most cases a bit of a waste, because once you get those 22 xp, it's only 14xp to get to a score of 8, but if your Art is high and your Com only goes so far...); the best (again, see below) would be 9/22, capable of taking the reader to a score of 9 in two seasons if given resonant materials boosting them to 9/23.

Note that if you "reverse engineer" the numbers from the corebook, a starting covenant can place in its library without any Boons or Hooks books written by magi with an Art score up to 40, and with a Com(+Good Teacher bonus) up to +5. This means a Summa (unmodified by resonant materials etc.) up to Quality 22, with a Level up to 31-Quality: so 9/22, 10/21, 11/20 etc. In this sense think that a few of the roots are actually 9/22 (unmodified); and that Summae with "unmodified" Qualities of 23+ should be rare enough that they could well be non-existent in a "default" saga, and if they do exist, they should be important parts of it (in particular, they should be automatically important if written by PCs). They same goes for Tractatus with "unmodified" Qualities of 13+; most or all of those few Tractatus that sport Quality 13 and of the very few that sport Quality 14 should be the result of resonant materials, being commentaries, part of florilegia etc.

Sorry, I meant to write «best book for the purpose». For the student who need a root, the branches are not better books. Both are the best, each for its own purpose.

And I think it makes sense for the archmagus who just wrote a potential new branch at 23/12, to take a season or two to write an 12/23 for his students.

Good point. It is really about reputation and not quality :slight_smile:

A point which I did not see before, and seems to have been overlooked, is that being cheap and available, the roots are probably copied quickly. There might be only 2-3 careful copies with the original (say) 6/24 stats in the Order. The copy you can buy from the Redcap has been copied quickly once or twice, or maybe even three times ending up at 6/21.

1 Like

For the same reason, I'd lean towards them being capable of achieving the necessary qualities without relying on even the basic level of resonances - acquiring pearls and eelskin for every copy of your Aquam root is going to be a nuisance and an expense.

This is obviously very saga-dependent, but from my experience magi can easily muster such an abundance of mundane resources that it's very, very rare for them to give up a morsel of magical power because of they lack silver, mundane servants etc.


Magical texts copied imperfectly, because of sloppiness, haste etc.? Maybe if the text was only made accessible once, by a faerie queen, to a young apprentice distracted by her beauty. Maybe if some supernatural doom burdens the author, so that some "accident" befalls each copy of his work ever made. But in "ordinary circumstances"? Inconceivable.

Pearls and eelskin, for 1xp (to each and every new member of the covenant)? A bargain! Throw in topaz and aquamarine, coral and turtleshell, turquoises, emeralds and opals, and it's still a bargain. Now, the skin of a selkie, the comb of a mermaid queen and the horn of a sea unicorn? Ok, that starts to be iffy.

I think the saga may define how much quality goes into a Root.

Personally, I define a Root as something that can be purchased with silver, rather than vis. As such, (compared to other magical texts), the average copy is complete junk. Yes, it's a 6/21, but it's a 6/21 with no strong bindings, or illustrations, or illuminations, or any sort of resonant materials. In terms of book game mechanics, they are passed-around copies of Ex Libris, flap-bound, Juvenalia - written on paper (rather than vellum), that have been glossed by previous users. Quite possibly some copies were put together out of someone's study notes, and then bound up and given to the next apprentice.

(Yes, Magi like magic books - but recently-gauntleted magi are in many ways graduate students, and in reading through A&A, college students don't act all that differently back then than they do now.)

This is what I did in my own game: ... f-the-Arts

1 Like

I actually really like the idea that they've been so mass-produced they're much lower quality than then original, and are still amazing books. It has, in my opinion, the best feel of all of the ideas. That said, I still like my thoughts, and I'm definitely going to assume a lot of people are going to write Commentaries on the Roots, because they know everyone has read them.

Good write-up. Thank you.

We can add a little more flavour if the character do not know in advance that the roots they can by from the neighbour covenant of XXX is actually a point lower quality than what they can get from YYY, especially if the poorer copy is 6/20 :slight_smile:

Saga-dependant of course, but the S&M bonus "+3 knowledge" for beech(wood) from GotF could cover (pardon the pun) just about any book when it comes the +1 bonus for resonance.

Playing in Thebes, I start wondering. Have the roots (and the branches for that matter) ever been translated to Greek?

And if they have been, how easily and cheaply are they available in Thebes, with their own peculiar currency etc.?

Didyma from TtA lists at least one 5/15 Root in Greek.

I wouldn't imagine that they're that much more relatively expensive - seeing as the requirements of "find someone who knows both Latin and Greek well enough to translate" would be fairly high, even amongst newly-gauntleted magi, to say nothing of non-Gifted scribes who could do it. (EDIT - OK, I know that mundane scribners can copy magical texts, as long as they know a bit of Magic Theory - can they translate them as well? I don't recall. I THINK they can, but I don't have the books in front of me.)

But even if it did require the Gift to translate: if that's the case, then having them be more expensive then regular is a STRONG incentive for an enterprising PC to spend 50 XP on latin, spend a few seasons translating, and then put the books up for sale. Which is fine if that's what you want for your saga, of course.

I don't think RAW is clear. The only mention I have seen of translation is in Art and Academe. I agree with you that the most reasonable interpretation is that they can. Translation without loss of quality requires a score of 6 in both languages BTW.

Even if the price is high, there may not be enough buyers. There are not that many covenants in Thebes. It is quite plausible that they are so hard to get that price does not make sense. It is also quite plausible that arches have considered it so important that they have arranged for the translations to made a long time ago, making them generally available. in this case, the price is still a big question, because vis is not legal tender in the tribunal. Are we talking a token apiece? A token for the full set of nine? A token for four technique roots and another token for five forms? Thebes is like Mars. Nothing which is simple and straight-forward in the West seem to apply in the East.