School for Magi

Ye Olde and Perennial Topic, but a little different, and I don't recall seeing this version before.*

Rather than a school of magic, for apprentices, a school for Gauntleted Magi, journeymen and masters, paying tuition to respected elders and experts in their field. In modern terms, post-secondary / vocational / higher / collegiate and university level education.

The Instructors are obliged to a season of teaching; the students to pay some kind of tuition (negotiable, but options should be vis or service). Much like university, if you miss the Master's season of lecture on Subject, you are out of luck. Instructors may be available for tutoring - Arts training must be one-on-one, of course.

Classes would be in non-Arts subjects: Magic Theory, Higher Magic Theory, Code of Hermes, historical subjects, various lores, and so on.

(Now watch someone come along and remind me that Colligium Exemplus has been around for ten years in print and I forgot about them.)

*Well, I vaguely recall it being mentioned. Maybe I did it.

I always kind of saw Durenmar as being a gathering place for those interested in either teaching or learning. Not officially as a school, but as a place where one could go seeking materials or instructors on whatever you were might be interested in ... or if you have the chops to go and offer to sell time etc.

Durenmar is certainly a place to go for library services.


Curious how you'd get the economics to work. For many topics, it's probably cheaper just to buy a book. Especially topics about which non-magi might write books.

A Hermetic University for Initiating Virtues is a different matter entirely. Can't easily learn that from a book or adventure. (Potential Script Foundation: Time, tuition, graded on a curve (minimum class size of 5; 20% of class fail, rounded up), ...)



Teachers can teach to twice the level they can write summas to. So for these upper levels you have to compare the prices to those of tractatus. A focused teacher would probably have something like Teaching 6 (magi), Com +5 (use rituals - it's worth it), Lab +3, and maybe (probably?) Good Teacher. If that one teacher is teaching half a dozen magi, the Source Quality is 18 without Good Teacher or 23 with Good Teacher. That's a ballpark of 2 seasons with sound tractatus.

Let's say the teacher earns 10 pawns per season, anything extra going to the covenant (or short coming from it) if there aren't exactly 5 students enrolled in the class, with the covenant charging 2 pawns for the season for that class. That's solid income for the teacher, almost guaranteed to be better than they could get extracting vis.

So, let's compare the cost. With two tractatus, you pay a fraction of a pawn each (cost split among covenant members) so maybe a pawn total, and you have to spend two seasons. Trivially, it might seem that 1 pawn is less than 2, so you're right. But include time. For the lecture method you pay 2 pawns one season and extract vis the other season for a net gain of a small number of pawns. For the tractatus method to be cheaper, someone would have to be paying you to read the tractatus instead of charging you, mostly because of the enormous amount of time saved.

The same is true for things non-magic can write about, and in that case the school might well have non-magi teachers who don't need to be paid as much. That's the route I would tend to go if setting up the school myself: get a bunch of non-magi, train them up, and have them teach. Outside of the Arts, what can't these non-magi potentially teach? Charge only 1 pawn per student, pay the teachers handsomely in silver, and pocket the enormous difference.

No guarantee on the specific numbers, but the numbers don't have to work for everyone, just for enough to keep the school in business.

Also keep in mind that for anything besides arts, the teachers do not need to be magi (though unaffected by the Gift is likely a common virtue since they cannot use PM)
finding someone with high levels in the skill to do the teaching could be tricky, but if you take a mundane teacher with unaffected and set them in front of high level books and tractatus long enough they would be able to do the job. Plus they can write more tractatus, probably with high SQ themselves. So after the teachers have taught everything they know the students can go on to read loads of tractatus to get even better at the ability...


I do tend to forget the lab bonuses from Covenants. Once here, we can inflate the total further, using the services of a Verditius and/or awesome craftsman.

But then we also have to use the RoP:M Aura Lottery rules for vis extraction.

Using your assumption of neutral xp value, a covenant of 5 can extract vis for a season and spend 10 pawns to study for a season, gaining a surplus of vis and a fun Aura Lottery. Or they can spend 2 seasons reading sound tractatuses, which are effectively free since they are not about Arts and can therefore often be bought with mere silver. (Or if they must be bought with vis, can be resold, and remain effectively free. Or they can be kept for the next generation or for gifts.)

This does work, although I suspect many magi would rather read in the comfort and safety of their own covenant, even though the university does have an advantage. Better than I expected, having forgotten about AM supplements.

(It works even better in sagas where books about Parma are forbidden: Where else can you learn? But that's not canon.)

However, those same NPC teachers could invest fewer xps in Teaching, and instead write Q17 tractati, which never leave their covenant. (Com 5, +6, Good Teacher, twinked book). Then, for no further investment of time, with no intrusion into their labs, with no restrictions regarding Arts, they could have people pay to read and accumulate a grand library across the centuries.

Training up mundanes, including rituals to get Com +5, is very expensive and they don't last long without a LR, which adds further expense. Still, a university could scour ME for natural teachers to train up as children. (Find people with high Com, Good Teacher, Puissant Teaching, etc.) Would the Order be able to keep the classes sufficiently full?

Of course, once we're twinking Teachers, why not go further? Get some school spirits, the ghosts of teachers past or other Mighty Things that have Teaching and something worthwhile to teach. Then get a Learned Magician to load them up with whatever other virtues you want them to have. Penetration might be an issue but they won't Warp. (Or, the LM can turn a teacher into a Magical Being for a season and load him up with virtues; no Warping Points! He can do this to himself too.) Dubious? Maybe. But so are the lab and book rules from Covenants.





I'd not only forgotten the Covenants lab bonus for teaching but until now I never realized that it can be obtained without even having a Magus spend his own time refining the laboratory, under the rules that flunkies can add features to a Refinement 0 lab.

There's seemingly no section of Covenants that doesn't significantly raise the power level of a saga that uses that book compared to a saga that doesn't.

I agree that it might work ... i.e. work for enough students to make it worth-while for the teacher ... but I find it hard to believe.

You need to class of about five ... who are

  1. interested in the same highly specialised topic
  2. at the same time
  3. in the same place
  4. and who actually know that the class is on offer
  5. and are able to pay the cost.
    There are a lot ifs and not that many candidates to study.

Of course, it will work when a mundane teacher is possible, but that's not really different from a mundane school, is it? Would magi be willing to pay vis instead of silver, just to get a teacher who is unaffected by the Gift? Maybe, but in large enough numbers?
In theory a mundane teacher can teach magic theory, but is a mundane teacher ever likely to reach high enough scores to attract enough magi as students?

It may work for the arts, but only in extreme cases where a student is willing to pay an arm and a leg for one-on-one tuition. That would have to one awesome teacher or an illiterate student.

I can see a case for Parma Magica. I would guess that a covenant who announces wide and far that in a given season an awesome teacher will teach Parma Magica for a season could get a large number of students. But would they be able to run classes so often that it deserves being called a school? A similar case might exist within mystery cults.

Somewhere, the ghost of a Criamon is sitting in the Cave of Twisting Shadows saying "I have waited three centuries for this business model to become viable!"


I like the Hooks and Boons section. Each of these is good for at least a story, maybe a saga. I don't like the H&B system, or the covenant build system in general, but Covenants is not at fault here.

I also like the list of income sources. Although many of the sources don't correspond to the incomes listed per tier, and 1000 pounds per year really isn't legendary at all, etc, they are useful, um, sources of inspiration, at least for certain kinds of saga, usually low-powered or maybe weird. "Our covenant is a luxurious Parisian bordello" is a saga in a box, right there!



There's lots of material that I like in Covenants.

I like the flavor of the lab personalization rules.

I like the concept of incorporating resonant materials into books to make them special.

I like the idea of encouraging magi to maintain written correspondence with each other.

But I dislike the way all of these and other features of the book steadily increase the power of magi and the rate of their improvement. Very reluctantly, I've come to the conclusion that I'm happier on balance not using the rules in Covenants at all and trying to make labs and texts according to the core book instead.


The issues I have with the lab personalization rules are:

  • The seasons to power ratio is linear, where pretty much everything else is seasons-squared to power, and this can be increased very high.

  • Rather than list ideas for labs, and suggest ways to inspire the chapter tells me what each customization does, regardless of magus. Sometimes the dictats make sense, but not always. So my Oscar the Grouch magus who ought to thrive in his Lab of Trash, or Agathon the Agoraphobic who ought to thrive in his tiny, shut-in lab... well, they now either take penalties or go against character. Oh, and I don't see why setting my lab amidst idyllic countryside suddenly makes it bigger. (And what about Allanon the Allergy-ridden? Um.)

  • The customizations favor some specializations over others bigly. I see no good reason for this.

I don't like the correspondence rules because they increase Exposure xp by 50%. Just saying. It doesn't break the game, but it does provide a greater advantage to lab inventors than Art readers. Is this really intended?

I only have one issue with resonant materials and the like, but it's fundamental: What is the saga about? The more rules we have about resonant materials, bookbinding and so on, the more a saga becomes about these things, especially if that's how to get good books. In the same way, were a supplement to feature ways of vastly increasing the xps gained from epic adventure, or dealing with personal goals, we would see more sagas shift toward that.

The entire issue of books, correspondence and library can pretty much be boiled down to:

Books are essential to academic pursuits, but talking and writing about ideas with other scholars is even more important. Many texts in Mythic Europe are about other texts: Letters, commentaries, glosses, summaries... Like any academic institution, your covenant is a community of scholars that communicates amongst themselves and with other scholars. Your covenant certainly features a library, which serves not only as a repository of information but as a focus around which scholars gather and exchange ideas. The amount of xp a magus can expect to gain in an Art or Ability that can be studied depends both on the available texts and on new ideas about these texts that arise during academic discourse.

Poor: For some reason, your covenant has poor communication with other magi and insufficient resources to buy or scribe books. Why? A season of study grants 7xp.
Typical: You have decent communication and a decent library. 10xp
Good: You are well-connected with other magi and academics, perhaps because of diplomacy, location or a great library. 12xp
Legendary: Your covenant rivals Durenmar as a locus of discourse and study. 14xp

And... that's correspondence, library, etc, all tied together. Stories can improve or threaten a covenant's situation. Redcap feels insulted. Faerie bookworms. Religious zealots sneaking in to burn bad books. Jealous rival covenant. SG declares that The Book of X is the new hotness... and somehow you don't have it! Fewer xps until you get it, or until the fad passes.

A discussion about real medieval books is great and not easily replicated by handwaving such as mine, but isn't making for great game rules. I suspect the author avoids them in actual games.



It may depend on how accessible the school is to magi, and how far in advance a class is announced.

Redcap-circulated Catalog

"1224 Schola Magica Winter Class Schedule (Current as of Spring 1222):

Master Quintus Faunus of Merinita; Intermediate Faerie Defense - Beyond the Iron Cross [Faerie Lore]

Mistress Ollae of Bonisagus: Creative Potions, Lotions, Ointments, and Emollients; A Refresher on the Classic Topical [Magic Theory]

Master Lex Fidicen, Quaesitor; Mundane Interference in the Rhine; Interference, Assistance, and Passive Involvement [Code of Hermes: Rhine]

Master Sicarius of Tremere: Fist and Knife - Practical personal defense and emergency survival in battle.

All classes subject to enrollment tuition of 5 pawns forma, 4 pawns tenta.* No more than six students in any class. Underenrollment cancellations will be announced one season in advance."

This gives over a year to arrange things. A school might publish a catalog several years in advance.

(Those classes sound like the Order equivalent of my Alma Mater's catalog one-line summaries.)

If a mage is being taught, that mage can extend the PM to the teacher. With a sole exception (the retired Redcap at Fengheld) I doubt any mage would accept teaching from a non-Gifted magic theory teacher. I can believe they would accept teaching on Artes Liberales or Philosophiae.

*the terms never really caught on, did they?

How the rules affect the game balance depends very much on how the rules are used and what the troupe expects to get. Correspondence, for instance, is great to encourage a PC to stay in touch with some magus met during a story. The bonus xp is only a minor reward. It will not be earned every season, only when the correspondence is aligned with the magus' «research and reading». I find it fair and constructive. If, however, correspondences start to be seen as a birthright, with at most a die roll required to get all the correspondents you may want, then it is just power boost, which ArM frankly has no need for.

Ken's point is excellent, but concerns the Core book and not Covenants. In the real world, we rarely learn by studying one book at a time, as ArM assumes, and if we do it is usually not very efficient. We combine experiments, books, conversation etc. It would be great if the library was worth more, and individual books worth less. Many of the rules in Covenants are patches aiming to improve this situation, but it takes more than mere patches to fix.

Lab improvements is similar. If we assume that every improvement is available, and only a question of counting seasons, then it is a cheap power boost. If OTOH you take a critical look at the improvement: How do you get the materials? How do you physically fit it into the lab? Do you need to rebuild? then improvements will become less frequent, and more story driven and story driving. There are a couple of cheap ones to be had in the beginning, but as the improvements become more exotic, they taje exceptional effort. Refinement must be increased, and then Magic theory must be increasing, growing only in the order of the squareroot. Of course, potentially there are magic items which can give a bonus taking up no space, but once you have made the few obvious ones, the players should have to be increasingly creative and explain what is made and how it is used. I don't see a problem with this. If the saga is about a lab rat, let's tell the details about his lab hole. There is a limit to the player's creativity, and if there isn't let's reward it.

Thus, the covenant rules is not really the problem. The problem is when the players insist on telling the story of labs and libraries, when they really want to tell stories of adventure and politics.

If you assume that Mercere portals are abundant and easy to access, and rank and file magi can travel from the Levant to Normandy to take classes in a week, yes, I agree. It is probably possible, and the question becomes size and frequency of classes. If, OTOH, students have to travel by mundane means, then the class would take the better part of three seasons for most of the potential attendees. One season to get there, one season to study, and one season to return.

Thus one needs to house rule the availability of portals first, then we can judge the feasibility of a winter school.

And yes, the winter school concept, seems much more plausible than a school in the usual regular and permanent sense.


It isn't minor if you're doing Exposure. That's a 50% boost.

Especially if you expect to be in a saga where decent books are rare, you are encouraged to invent lots of stuff in the lab at the expense of other downtime activities. I'm not sure this was an intended side effect.

No book handy, but that's not what I remember the rules saying. I can have correspondence going on in pretty much anything vaguely relevant. And even reading the rules as you do, I don't have to have the same correspondence every season. And even if I do, since a magus performs Parma Magica every day, that's something he's doing every season. And even if that doesn't count, a magus who spends lots of time in the lab always has a reason to boost Magic Theory. So that's Te+Fo+MT every season, for full benefit.

Why even a die roll?

I make so many excellent points, I'm not sure which one you refer to! :slight_smile:/2 Most of my comments just before were about Covenants, not Core.

The overall book rules and covenant build rules are indeed about the main rules. But I mostly discussed correspondence, lab customization and the new book rules.

I could comment further on the core rules regarding libraries, which I believe I've done here before:

Books as represented in AM5 are utterly divorced from books as they are and were. The silliness becomes obvious once you look at how real books are represented. Books that never become obsolete because they are continually studied are represented as summae or even tractati. Books that are nearly incomprehensible without commentary are given high scores. Books that are tiny are represented as having years' worth of reading.

It's playable, though, at the cost of being even less realistic than AM1..3 libraries, which are themselves based on "The Name of the Rose is the current hotness, so it's all about libraries." Of course, it's not. And, in a way, TNotR is all about this: That library held knowledge prisoner, and had become a repository of ignorance. In real Europe, texts served as a focus for discussion, and for generating correspondence (of which there was quite a lot) about the texts. Much of the value of going to university was being around real scholars, not just around the books, which, after all, are available for a mere pound per.

From this perspective, being in the Order is not simply about sharing a suffciently common vocabulary that you can read the same books, but of being part of a well-connected community that can bounce ideas off of each other. The basic texts might serve as the basis of discussion, but that's just a point of departure. Where canonically there is little value in writing a summa that isn't as good as other summae, from this perspective your book is useful because it gives other magi something to talk about. The Redcap network becomes essential to move all the verbiage around. Rather than hoard books, magi prefer to disseminate them widely, improving their reputation and widening their net of influence and correspondence.

There are lots of cheap improvements, and most of the rest involve mere money.

One can take a critical look of this kind at anything, thereby denying any character anything, whether it's a lab improvement or a greatsword.

But that already happened. MT 5 is very straightforward, and now I have room for lot of linear improvement. Someone who really cares about his lab, though, will have even higher MT... but no longer have diminishing returns.

But that alway happens. By that reasoning, it's fine to handwave anything and ignore the rules. Which... in a sense is actually quite true!

Still, that's what it is. And once we're there, might as well have a better chapter that reflects that perspective.

Players always come up with something. Always.

Hmm. My excellent point (maybe not so excellent after all?) is the exact opposite: The problem is when rules focus on the wrong things. Players are almost never the problem.

It's like blaming a man for having feet when the shoes don't quite fit.



Who cares about a single season in a career over a century? In some seasons, there is no gain because the magus is doing something not relevant, and other seasons it is 10% because the magus was studying for a base 10xp. In the long run, it is ok.

Indeed, the lab rat can get 1xp Magic Theory most seasons. And yes, he can many correspondences, and gain different abilities/arts each season, but he needs to maintain good relations with his correspondents. Inevitably, he will need to spend time to keep correspondents, losing some in spite of best efforts, and spend time to gain new ones. ArM is a roleplaying game. All rules depends on a fair amount of story alignment and interpretation. If you try to use them for a tactical game, then of course the rules are bad.

And of course, almost every gamer will drift towards playing the tactical game from time to time, and need an effort to pull themselves back into storytelling.

Not necessarily a die roll, I said «at most». My point is that saying «this season I start a correspondence on Magic Theory with magus Communicos of Bonisagus in Iberia», is as reasonable as saying «this season I go to Sicily and find a gifted child to claim as my apprentice next season». Neither is automatic. For the latter there is a sourcebook suggesting a die roll if one does not have time to play the story, but the story is preferred. It should be the same for correspondences. While the rules do not say that I am right, they also do not say that I am wrong. I just opt for the interpretation which serves the story.

:slight_smile: this quote is what I was thinking of:

I think this is an excellent idea, but as I think you also said, it takes a bit more work to make it rules of publishable quality.

Indeed. And on this point, I think Covenants is more helpful than harmful, even though it can only provide poor patches on inherently foundations. ArM3 was not much better. It was more abstracted, but it still referred to individual books as the source of learning.

Are there? Most take size. Either you need to rebuild to expand, and lose safety, or you need refinement which is capped by magic theory. There are a couple of free ones, but most of them are double-edged, sacrificing health and safety. The cost increases with the improvement, although not necessarily in the same currency.

You could, but denying was not the point. Improvements, correspondences, book trades, etc. are big deals. They should not be denied, but they should require the utmost attention to get them right. There is a cost in involved, not only in vis and seasons of outright work, but in terms of taking the time to maintain good relations with the redcap, to travel and visit other covenants, sitting down to write a long and well-received letter, reading replies, explaining to the builder exactly how the lab needs to be expanded to fit in the new feature, and overseeing mundane work, scolding grogs as required, etc. A player magus can do anything and get anything, but not everything.

MT5 is twice refinement, and room for two extra virtues. That's four seasons of work. Good return, but not cheap. One more virtue is 30xp to increase MT, then one season on refinement, and one season for the virtue. That's probably five seasons. And yes, we may want to increase MT anyway, but it does not come quickly and does not come cheaply. Of course, when you allow grogs to be trained in MT to do the work, then the cost drops, but it is still slowed down by the increase in MT.

And they should, and they should be allowed to. But how many such improvements are they able to come up with, without duplicating effects?

But, I agree, that Covenants should have written more about how the mechanics relate to stories, and how physical constraints and common sense should limit what the magi can actually do in practice, especially in the Lab chapter.

Of course, this depends a lot on whether you play a Spring covenant struggling to secure sufficient mundane income, or a well-established Summer or Autumn covenant with an abundance of grogs, silver, and craftsmen. In the latter case, the magi are given a lot more spare time to fine tune their lab and library, and they should get to power more quickly. In a struggling Spring covenant, it is actually very hard to benefit from more than a few improvements.

No, it is like blaming the man for buying hiking boots to use for ballroom dancing.

Picking up a roleplaying game to play a tactical one always was a bad idea. Ars Magica has rules that focus on just about everything. The intention is that the players choose their focus. If the players don't, it is their fault. Either they need to pick a less flexible game than ArM, or they need to learn to choose.

"Winter" just for an example. I was not restricting to only a season, although certainly summer may be a less popular season for academics.

Portals are not the only form of rapid travel, of course. If a mage can fly on a magic carpet from Iberia to the Rhine in a matter of days, or sail in a magically propelled ship from Rome to Hibernia in a week, then...

Some magi can do that. The magi who have their own means of travel will not make up numbers though. Is there a market for public magical transport in your saga?