Sound Summae unrealistic?

Okay, so I'm looking at Covenants and it says "Most Summae traded within the Order are written by specialists in an art, but with no particular skill in teaching." The it outlines that the lowest a sound book score can be is 28-quality.

Now I took this to mean experts but with low or no communication and defiantly not any virtues. Well I put this to the test with Philippus Niger, Protector of Durenmar, who is the oldest and considered most powerful of the Apromar School of Flambeau. So he is one of the best, if not the best Perdo wielder in the Order. He is 125 years old and has an 8 warping score, so he is approaching twilight. He also has a com of +1, which seems to fall right in line with the "No particular skill in teaching" thing.

He can't even get past 24. Without resonance, his work is considered vain. With both resonance, he hits 26, clarification 27.... So one of the best, if not the best, Perdo wielders can't write a Sound book? It seems to fly in the face of "no particular skill in teaching" being able to put out a book of 28-31. He would need a com+virtue total of +5 or gain 8 more levels in Predo placing him at a skill of 43 (211 exp and only because he has affinity), which flies in the face of not being a good teacher. He has about 40 years left, so he would have to take 10 of those and just sink them into Predo. That seems a bit over the top to me.

This also means to me it is near impossible for a magus, without affinity, who focuses on 1 art for most of his life to ever write a book that is worth reading without an insane com + virtue. Again, it seems a bit much.

Am I missing something here?

1 Like

The referenced text, from Covenants, page 94:

Most of the summae traded within the Order are written by specialists in an Art, but with no particular skill in teaching. These summae have qualities somewhere between (31 – level) and (28 – level).

You seem to have misread that. A sound summa doesn't have a "28-quality" or a source quality of 28. A sound summa has a source quality of (28 - level). So a sound level 7 summa will have a source quality of (28 - 7) = 21. Quite the thing for getting younger magi to the minimum in an art needed to open the arts of an apprentice, from 0 to 6 in a single season with some room for readers possessing the "book learner" virtue. Likewise, a sound level 15 summa will have a source quality of approximately (28 - 15) = 13, and be a worthy addition to any library.

I interpreted 'no particular skill in teaching' as meaning 'doesn't have Good Teacher virtue'. I think as the game is designed, and then translated into Mythic Europe, a sound book being Quality + Level of 28 makes sense on the surface. The sort of people who would write books are either 1) people who like communicating ideas (and have good communication) or 2) people who thing they're the best in a thing and want recognition, where you get Vain summae from. [OR 3) Everyone in a covenant looking to abuse library rules]

Right now Phillipus Niger would write a Perdo summa of L17 Q 7, which is admittedly a bit below the sound summa level, but pretty close. But he also obviously isn't the kind of magus who cares about writing books.

In Covenants Quality + Level = 24 is vain. It's not worth reading or having in your library. I think maybe moving the "vain" benchmark down would fix this. But as per the rules it seems insane to me that one of the best in the order can't write a book that the order would see as worth having. Maybe by changing vain books to 21-22 total score, but leaving sound as 28 would leave a more acceptable window for a "good" book?

Teaching quality is directly linked to communication. So IMO someone with a low, no, or slightly negative Com would fall into the "no particular skill at teaching" group. Virtues IMO fall under talent.

A writer of a sound summa under the above standard either has excellent skills writing books (high Com and/or Good Teacher) or a high level understanding of the Art or Ability written about (can reduce the level to increase quality and still have a book worth reading). The cap on increasing quality by reducing level means that a magus with a truly appalling capacity for writing (negative Com, Incomprehensible) will still end up with a terrible book no matter how skilled he is with the source material, but generally a true expert can write a sound work even if lacking in communication skills.

My point is, if the on of the best in the order can only write a vain book, doesn't that mean the benchmark for vain is too high? If you have a Com of -1 you need a 46 in an art to write a Sound book. 44 for Com 0, 42 for Com +1. That means you have to sink nearly 900-1000 in exp into those arts. So about 30-40 years of studying nothing but one art? If you break that up, and say someone is obsessed and spends 1/3 of their life devoted to one art you would need to study that one art for nearly 90-100 years after apprenticeship to the exclusion on nearly everything else. More than half your magical life, just to have a shot at writing a book worth reading? I don't see this as "expertise" in a field, it looks more like single minded obsession.

With that kind of experience needed to write a sound book I'd expect in the ~500 years of the order maybe 4-5 books worth reading have been written by people with "no particular skill". With how few member are in the order, how few of those would actually want to write or have a drastically good communication, and those that survived to learn enough to write a sound book I would say their might be 25 in the entire order. Maybe double that if you include those with affinity who bother to write a book. Than maybe another 50 or so that fall between 25-27, so "good", I guess, books. Most hermetic libraries including Durenmar, should be pretty devoid of sound summae or even "good" ones. There would be Arts that possibly don't even have a single Summae worth reading.

I think that you are not taking into account the +3 added by covenants with resonance. If you do, Phillipus is 1 point in Perdo short of writing a Summa of the desired quality: level 17, quality 10 (that would be 18, 10 with 36 in Perdo)

I feel it would be rare for a book to have all 3 points and still be traded, much less have all 3 point. It's a lot of work to get the second point of resonance and a lot of cost and resources to clarify. If you can't really trade the book, it's not really a sound book on it's own. I would agree that 1 point of resonance would be common, and economical enough for having a sound book be in circulation. Additional, clarified and second point resonance books cannot be circulated and copied easily. If the raw book is not high enough, plus maybe 1 point of resonance, then it wouldn't be a sound book, because of the shear additional expense and manpower required for resonance and it's lack of ability to be replicated and circulated would be prohibitive. I always saw resonance as something you do as an aside, to make an already good book better. I was under the impression the idea of a sound book is that it can be traded and copied throughout the order as is. You also shouldn't have to work for 1/3 your lifetime as a magus on a single art to be an expert. I always felt expert was around 30 in an art, maybe 35. At that point you can cast just about every spell in a field.

IMO if you have a 0 Communication and a 30 skill in an Art, which translates to a 13 score in an Ability, and you cannot write a book that is above vain, not sound but still good enough to not be vain, I feel the ceiling for vain books is far to high. Unless you don't consider a person with an ability of 13 an expert :wink: If a mortal spent half their lifetime single mindedly devoted to a subject that could have a score of 13 by 60 years of age, if they lived that long.

As an aside: I do not like how writing a book is not based on your teaching or scribe abilities. The way the rules are laid out, whether you can write a good book in your lifetime is basically tied to your essential nature (Attributes and Virtues).

Not everyone that is an expert in a topic is able to explain that expertise. I have had several teachers with a good understanding of the topic and a horrible way of translating it into entertaining classes. And, especially in the more scientific part of academia, there are people with horrible grammar and no skill to translate their knowledge to written form (although perhaps they make even attractive figures).

That is represented by communication ability (and, in their case, good teacher merit). I think that +3 communication is as "no particular skill in teaching" as the +0, but the ones written by the magus with +0 probably won't cut it to being sound summae.

The thing is that when you get a sound book, because the writer is mildly talented or specially high in the Art or whatever, that one is preferably copied. And the quality is retained, so once a specialist coincidentally has good communication and writes something, that is what is copied. You don't need a lot of vain books, only the sound ones.

You cannot suppose that "no particular skill" means mediocre communication. Sound books are the good ones, even if the writer is not a talented teacher.

I interpret to be a talented one, communication 4 or 5 and good teacher, that is, two or more virtues invested.

Because you only need a magus to have those stats in any generation to write that exceptional book that, after that, will be copied once and again.

Also, if I am a 100 or more years old magus looking to bring my legacy to the world, I contract the increase of my communication up to +3 (at least) by magic before I write anything. You don't need any special talent for that and I suppose that you have vast resources to trade for that ant that age.

35 is good in Perdo, but I wouldn't see that as one of the best in the order, I would expect the best to be at 50 or above. If you consider that a sound tractatus is quality 11, which implies an expectation of a writing bonus of +5, which means to get 28-level with quality 11 would mean a writing level of 17 and thus an ability of 34 before someone who is essentially a professional author within the order would even consider writing a summae on the topic. Someone with a serious devotion to an art with presumably an affinity in the art and averaging 20xp per year after gauntlet in that art could get a score of 50 in 64 years of study- at which point they would need a base writing ability of 3 which would be a com-3, so yes, I think it fits.

Outside of the error in maximum Quality boost (You cannot add 8 by lowering levels if your base Quality is 3, as the final Quality is capped at double the base Quality.), I agree with what silveroak wrote. What silveroak wrote still shows a magus with Com 0 and a score of 50 can make a Level-19, Quality-12 summa (beyond that 28 total), and Com 0 is no particular skill in writing. If I can make an at-gauntlet magus with two scores around 20 or a single score in the mid-high 20s without nearly using up all my available points, getting to 50 for a specialist shouldn't be so hard. An old magus with an Affinity might get there with just one vain tractatus per year.

A level 22 quality 6 summae is still 28-level quality. I didn't say anything about boosting the quality above double. Quality 11 for a tractatus, which cannot be boosted, was simply to define the abilities of a professional writer.

Oh, sorry, you're right. I see what happened. Yes, you used the mathematical formula properly. It turns out those formulas are incontrovertibly wrong.

Why? If we only use the formulas for summas presented mathematically, we get books with negative real value trading for more vis than books with substantial real value. I can't believe this hasn't been caught before. I'll give some examples that illustrate why the formulas break down:

Arts summa L8, Q17: This is a pretty good book on an Art for a beginner. Even if you're a little ways along (up to just inside Art 6), this is a great book for a season. It's not worth much (about 4 pawns), as it qualifies as vain.

Arts summa L30, Q1: This is a terrible book. You would get twice as much experience in an Art in the season spent reading this book by doing lab work instead, and then you'd get a spell or similar out of it, too. This book actually hurts you substantially, so it has a real negative value. And yet it qualifies as being on the upper end of sound and trades for lots more vis (about 30 pawns) than the prior summa example.

Yes, I've gone to extremes with these two, though I didn't present Quality 0, which is even worse than Quality 1. But they do show the formulas are truly incorrect.

Now, that may be what was meant by phrases like "with no particular skill." I already showed Quality 1 hurts you substantially. So does Quality 2, since you can get that much plus the benefits of the season in the lab. You have to get well above Quality 2 for the opportunity cost alone to make sense, and then there is the cost to get the summa as well which requires more Quality. Maybe that phrase was meant to say you better have at least enough Communication to manage beating out what magi don't find worth their time (revealed by vain tractatus having Qualities around 6). But they didn't actually write any minima, nor did they quantify such statements about skill. That lack of minima to make piecewise functions is what makes the functions incorrect.

The easiest fix would be to assume that is what is meant by "with no particular skill" and set a minimum Quality, which should be higher than "around six," so probably a minimum of 8 or so, maybe a touch higher.

The factthat formulae are broken without common sense is pretty pervasive in Ars magica. Quality 3 (com-3) would be very nearly useless unless somone had flaws that made it the only reasonable way to advance (and it's better than 2, and with secondary insight or book learner you get a bit more out of it- in short it would be moderately useful to some magi), but nearly any magus who isn't severely crippled in their writing ability (com -3 and incomprehensible) can manage a summae of at least quality 6, which is in the vain levels for a tractatus, but for a really high level book would still have a fair, not necessarily good, value for usage. Throw in a +2 resonance to bring it up to 8 and it is actually a decent book at level 22.

Came across a very similar question on rpg.stackexchange

Was looking up rules around book creation and acquisition for covenant libraries and came upon this question and answer on

I'll summarize the answer to "what kind of maga might be writing sound summa?"

The answerer, Tyrrell, begins with sorting out a reasonable age at which the maga would write the text.

So 130 years past gauntlet , let’s see what sort of an art score that gives us...

They then use some reasonable heuristics to sort out an approximation of much study, adventure, and exposure exp would have been accumulated, and end with sorting out the score.

A final total of 749 xp in the art. This gives us an art score of 38 which is going to be adequate to write the books that you’re looking at.

In short, sound summa are getting written by late career magi with no particular build for it other than choosing an art to specialize in.

It doesn't even have to be 130 years past gauntlet.

While most magi can live well past what the book assumes as normal maximum, it doesn't have to be that way in order to get your art to level 40. Simply having the exp for level 30 will put you exactly to level 37 after an affinity with said art & then is a simple matter of a puissant art to get to level 40.

And that doesn't even consider the possibility to have the other two virtues (book learner & study bonus) that could raise the overall book quality levels that you study from by a total of 5.

It does seem a lot more manageable (& believable) now, eh?

Sure, manageable and all. But do note that Puissant Art doesn't apply.

I agree that this calculation is plausible, but it has some consequences. The number of magi who are that specialised is low, and spreading them across 15 arts, there should be very few sound summæ per art, since writing just one high-level summa takes years, and who would bother to write more than one?

Probably the masters want to write down their full knowledge, which probably leads to low quality/high level, maybe L22/Q8. I have no doubt that you can find sound books in that range, but how many high quality summæ can you find? Who will care to write the L15/Q15 books for intermediate learners or L10/Q20 for beginners? It is quite likely that in some arts, L10/Q15 and L15/Q10 will be worth having, because the alternative is L23/Q7.

I believe OP must be right in that vain books are underrated in [Cov]. Even though sound books are traded in large quantities, I do not believe they cover every need.

In previous editions, the best books had been written by magi with good twilight effects making them better authors. Definitely 3ed. Not sure if I have seen a similar phrasing with the 4/5ed book mechanics.

Let's see...

Assuming a Com 0, no relevant Virtues, and 120 years post-Gauntlet (Art = 40) and no resonance.

Thus, a magus who is 20 years out of apprenticeship could have a highest Art of 15, while a magus 120 years out of apprenticeship might have a highest Art of 40. -- ArM, p. 32

Will give a basic Level 20, Quality 6 Summae, 2 short of the Sound category.

When a summa is started, the level of the finished book is determined. The level may be chosen freely by the author, up to half of her score in the appropriate Art or Ability. The quality of the summa is equal to the author’s Communication + 6 -- ArM, p.165

With the addition of Resonance and Clarification, a magus can easily reach the Sound category (28 - Level). I really don't see a problem...

1 Like