Sound Summae unrealistic?

Right, puissant Art doesn't apply to study totals, in that case, having a level 28 Art & book learner plus affinity Art will suffice. Some impromptu math here: Considering 50 seasons of study from a general Q source of 8 equals 550 exp (with book learner) further modified to 825 exp (with affinity) makes that a level 40 Art.

Of course, a prodigy child like that won't start from zero exp either, probably having at least 75 exp in said Art already from gauntlet, he/she just needs about 44 seasons worth of study to reach a level 40 Art.

There are two parts to this- there will be those who have a concentration in an art, there will also be some professional book writers, who will be more generalized with lower art scores but higher base SQ. And well cared for books last for centuries, so an author who lived centuries ago and published a handful of books has probably been copied several times (especially if it was before calf and cow)
A big part of the question on how many books are available will come down to a) how long has calf and cow been around and b)how well is it enforced. Part b is more complicated that it might seem at first- someone copies a book and sells it without the original author knowing, Tremere never gets involved. Someone acquires a book from a wizard war and never takes the oath of calf and cow, so they feel they can copy freely- there are a number of ways around the calf and cow oath depending on how the SG/troupe want the situation to play out.

1 Like

Prevalence of Calf & Cow sales

The prevalence of the number and which books are sold under this condition are left to the determination of the troupe.

Many Hermetic books are sold under a condition called the Cow and Calf Oath.

Does not prevent copying

It is an agreement that the purchaser of a book will not sell, or freely give, copies of that book without the seller’s permission.

The oath dictates what cannot be done with copies without the seller's permission, not that copies cannot be made.

Price of copying

It's more likely that high quality volumes will be copied than lower quality due to the cost of making faithful copies. So even if the there was a preponderance of original lower quality original works, there still may be a prevalence of higher quality works.

I have this image of a pair of bonisagus making wish lists of what books each of them would want, then one declares wizard war and they each leave the stack of related books in a relatively unguarded location for each other to "steal".


I can see this as a clever way to get out of the cow and calf oath. Personally I would not feel bound by the cow and calf oath for a book that I had won in legitimate wizards war.

Regarding pricing its also worth considering that many cow and calf oaths may have never been sworn if the work is older than the idea of the cow and calf oath or expired if the party that held the control over the work no longer exists, i.e. the owner of the work died or if it was a covenant then the covenant ceased existing.

For older works of this type I would assume that whoever held a copy of the work is free to do with it as they please, which in turn means that there are potentially multiple sources of a work available so they each have to match each others prices in order to not lose out on potential income.

In all the sources I have seen, Cow and Calf is described as an oath, or an agreement, not as a law. That is, it applies to the buyer/receiver who swore the oath or made the agreement.
If it is going to apply to anyone who might later find the book in an abandoned library or loot it in a wizard's war, it has to be written into the Peripheral Code. I thought Hibernia might have done that, but searching for «calf» Iar did not find anything in the book. Has anyone seen any reference to tribunal rulings on cow and calf?

What I find challenging is the old covenant. Typically the players take over a Winter covenant. In the library there are a lot of books a century or two old, but all the covenant members who were there at the time are long gone. Who know if the covenant has sworn the cow and calf and to whom?

Obviously, it is the narrative which matters, and at the end of the day we need an interpretation which is restrictive enough to make some tomes rare and worth going out of one's way (into a story) to get, and still permissive enough to allow a trading community encouraging magi to meet each other.

1 Like

the enforcement of cow and calf is a bit of a kludge as well- it is enforced by Tremere magus because apparently Tremere felt this was food for the order for reasons which run completely counter to their house philosophy, and enforce it through certamen. There is no indication of a reporting system to call in the Tremere certamen experts when someone is illegally copying a book, nor any indication of a method for investigation as to who is actually doing the illegal copying or whether that person swore an oath. It is basically an attempt to bring modern copyright law into the middle ages and it frankly makes no sense at all, and is based on a single ruling which runs against all other standard law for the area in a remote and largely disregarded part of Europe, a ruling which was also based on cows being rented (for milk production), not sold.


That makes sense, but in that case, it is a serious flaw in ArM. On two accounts. Both referring to a Hibernian ruling as if it is universal, and also the anachronism of jury rigging a moden copyright mindset into the medieval mindset.


The whole order of hermes is way more modern than the setting, so no biggie there. Take in mind that the game was designed by D&D players that had a backpacker's guide to southern France, found that the Albigensian crusade was cool and wanted to play their mages there. Stuff like historical accuracy was not a thing to be taken into account.


Keep in mind that the game changed a lot after 2ed in 1989. From 3ed onwards there have been many supplements and game designers trying to correct anachronisms which players are likely to take with them from rank and file fantasy.

Was cow and calf even around in 3ed? I am pretty sure not.

1 Like

and a lot of people trying to correct other flaws in the game design, and still more people trying to correct those corrections...

I never encountered cow and calf in 3rd edition.
If it is something that you want as part of the game then that is fine, but I don't see a way to make it work outside of the Theban tribunal. Books can be sold across tribunal borders, without it being in the code nobody is going to investigate...

Nope. 3rd edition was the one with the Realm of Reason terror and Infernal encroachment all around. Cow and calf was not around. I thi nk it is a 5th edition thing, not being present in 4th edition either.

I remember the Realm of Reason, and it was hardly incompatible with Cow and Calf :slight_smile:

But Cow and Calf does make more sense with the modern book rules which came in 4ed.

Strange. I find remarkably few references to Cow and Calf. Only one page in Cov and one hit, under a particular covenant, in Hibernia. There should be more, at least the precise ruling from Hibernia.

1 Like

The realm of reason was incompatible with the setting as a whole since it made no sense (ah, the irony) in a world where magic and the supernatural is real.

It was not irony. In spite of all the problems RoR may have had, none of these problems would be related to any Cow and Calf.

Personally, I don't think the RoR was that bad. Weird, I agree, but still playable. It turned Reason into a supernatural power, which does not really contradict the rest of the supernatural world, but it contradicts itself very much.

Playable, but I certainly do not miss it.

Cow and Calf is just a means for powerful covenants (those with lots of high quality books) to maintain power. The authors of quality books probably want to sell their books, but it's a far bigger ego (and reputation) boost to have your books spread as far and wide as possible, and they're in a position to make the highest possible quality copies, given they have made the book in the first place.

So ironically, cow and calf might be applied a lot more often when the author is actually dead and his covenant controls access to their book(s). The only people swearing Cow and Calf would be the impoverished starting covenants, as it puts more control in the hands of the older covenants that allowed them copying rights. The new covenants get books cheaply, but cannot engage in copy exchanges with other covenants without permission.


this seems like a reasonable interpretation and a fun plot point.

1 Like

the realm of reason was misnamed, it should have been the realm of skepticism. Beyond that it was an attempt to tie ars magica into the world of darkness, which was itself a bad idea, because the idea that the supernatural was getting weaker over time meant you couldn't possibly pay balance vampires against 20th century technology and 13th century wizards and maintain the underling premise.

"Cow and calf" comes about from arguments about book copying. The life of St Columba provides a source for sixth-century monks arguing about copyright. Columba copied a psalter, and wanted to take it away. Finnian argued the copy belonged to him, the book's owner. This argument spilled over into warfare, and the king got involved and declared "To every cow belongs its calf; to every book its copy."

See: here and here for versions of the story.

(As an aside, there's no argument that a calf belongs to the cow - if you want to borrow or rent a cow for milking purposes, the cow only produces milk if it's had a calf, so you have to keep breeding your milk cows. However, if everyone you rented or loaned a milk-cow to kept any female calves born, they would soon have enough cows they wouldn't need yours. Therefore it was commonly agreed that if you borrow someone's female animals, any babies they have belong to the original owner unless you've already made a deal to purchase any offspring)


however, the king did not rule that the copy could not be sold and itself copied by a new owner, any more than a grand calf belongs to its grandcow despite being sold.