Summa development

So I wanted to ask my fellow forum participants their opinion of the greatest a summa can be on a specific Art. This is not for a covenant library or anything myself or those of my game would possess, but I created the idea just as back ground flavor for a simple tractatus that we have in our library that was written by the same author.

The following is what I wrote to describe the summa:

[i]It exists as a testament to the life of Jonah Phlen -Cloud Leaper- ex Bjornaer, and is the culmination of nearly two centuries of theory and experimentation into the philosophiea of optics, the physics of the senses, and the Hermetic Art of Imagonem. Few magi ever approach the level of skill and knowledge that Archmagus Jonah attained in the realm of species. And this summa is the magnum opus of the wizard as well as being the greatest work on Imagonem to ever have been produced.

Not only is the book exemplary in detail and gnosis of Imagonem, it is also believed to be the most massive and heaviest summa to ever have been created by a magus. It is said that the pages are made of thinly sliced and iridescent quartz, and that the text is written in metals of iron, gold, silver, and copper, made liquid by magics and written by the exacting hand of the obsessed Bjornaer. The entire collection of pages are bound with great iron rings and encased in a massive geode of basalt rock.

It is known that within the pages of the summa, exist eighteen panels of colored stoned images, framed by bead-work of lead, silver, and gold. Each image is a thin as the pages around it and yet are illuminated grand images of events that mark the greatest moments of learning for Jonah, through out his two-hundred and fourteen years of living. Though works of beauty and craftmanship, the purpose of the panels surpasses their lustrous appearance. The panels are individually enchanted with vis of Imagonem, and contain spells that create grand encompassing illusions that fully immerses the reader in a scene of the arch-wizard casting one of his unique and brilliantly crafted spell for which he was renowned. It is said that each of the eighteen panels can be used as a lab instruction in the recreating of each spell the panels represents.

A Hermetic work without equal, Senses Beyond the Walls of God resides in a room created and designed by Jonah's filia. The homogeneous Bjornaer covenant of Muur van Air, of the Greater Alps Tribunal, protects and cares for this great work of one of the most erudite members. They welcome inquiries and correspondences about the summa, and even allow magi to visit and study the summa for multiple seasons; however there is no to their refusal to allow any magus to make a copy of the work or for the book to ever be removed from the room specially created for it.

This last idiosyncrasy chafes the Bonisagus of Durenmar, who have maneuvered and schemed to possess this astounding Hermetic work within the halls of their own library, for the last forty years. Defended by the other residents of the Greater Alps Tribunal, the Bjornaer of Muur van Air have defied the magi of Durenmar and for a brief period even refused to allow any magi from the Tribunal of the Rhine, to view or study the summa. This last decision was defended thrice in Certamen between Durenmar magi and the Bjornaer magi, eventually becoming a case held at a Grand Tribunal and ruled on overwhelmingly in favor of the Greater Alps right to control the fate of the book.

The benefit gain from study of this great work is legendary. Even magi with decades of study in the Art of Imagonem and the philosophiea of optics, have gained immense insight from just a single season in ruminating over Jonah's work and the spells depicted within the summa are fundamental magics learned within the Order at large. If a mage were to be given access to this book it is reasonable to assume that no matter their skill in the Art of Imagonem, they will always find gnosis to be gained within the quartz pages.[/i]

Now what would you make the Quality and Level of that summa in Imagonem?


The Exceptional Book Major External Boon (Cov p20) puts the limit on "the finest summa ever written" at 35 BP. That would make it a level 20 quality 15 summa which takes 14 seasons to read through. He might have taken time to make a companion level 14 quality 21 that'd be used 5 seasons to save 2 seasons overall. (e.g. read q21 5 seasons + read q15 7 seasons to reach lvl20)

In all honesty, it sounds like the book concerns high-complexity magic, but isn't necessarily written by an expert didacticus. I'd make it a high-level, low-quality book, perhaps as skewed as Q 5 L25.

You cannot go above level 20 using Build Points, which kinda means no book writer got above 40 in an Art.

That book would still be interesting: getting Quality below 6 means book damage, negative Communication or the Incomprehensible Flaw. Pretty sad story for someone who got 50 in an Art. :laughing:

In my experience, most of the seriously specialist scientists are Incomprehensible for 95% of the people not on their level. It takes a leap of genius to communicate with them. Mind you, a fair few of them are enthusiastic about teaching - they are just terrible at dealing with the less gifted.

To me, a big part of the reason this seems true is that all the incentives in academic science support groundbreaking research rather than communication skills. Promising scientist X gives a terrible talk, but it doesn't matter if their research is great, so there isn't any incentive for X to become a better lecturer.

Anyway, I think Hermetic magic is orders of magnitude less specialized than modern science, so I don't apply the same thinking to summae.

Perhaps we should have guidelines for how difficult it is to write Quality x books? It would make Communication, profession: scribe, Good Teacher etc more interesting :slight_smile:

I'm not convinced modern science is less specialised by the way - education was a very exclusive thing in the Dark Ages. The vast majority of the population couldn't even read, and those that could generally had next to no general education. Chances are that more than half of the grogs can't name the capital of their country - and grogs are the ones with actual smart contacts!

That is a insane application of book making!

Reminds me of the powergaming post where someone suggesting munchkining the covenant instead of characters to create insane uber powerful apprentices. :smiling_imp:

I ask because I noticed they did give the 41 -level option thought they said it had never been done in the history of the order... I think I shall limit the book somewhere around 35 -level.

Still enjoying the conversation of course.

PS. Can't believe I reproduced the misspelling of "Imaginem" that another player put on the sheet. :laughing:

By "specialized" I mean among scientists, not among the population at large. For example, how far away from Professor X's subfield of study does the topic of a book (or a lecture if you prefer) have to get before the book no longer makes much sense to Prof. X? These days, you don't have to go very far away - certainly there are books in my own field that I can barely follow. That's what I mean by specialized. In my mind (and according to the ArM5 studying rules), any Hermetic magus is capable of understanding any book written about Hermetic magic. So that's less specialized, notwithstanding the fact that less than 0.01% of Mythic Europeans are Hermetic magi. (I also feel that medieval science is less specialized, partially due to the very fact that there are way fewer medieval scientists than modern scientists, and partially because there was a large emphasis on working in the paradigms of the classic masters like Aristotle.)

You do have a good point there. The Unified Theory of Magic that Bonisagus gobbled up probably helps a lot, whereas modern scientists come from a wide variety of backgrounds when it comes to the references they are used to.

If you want to differentiate levels of expertise, do not allow the reading of tractatus until you are at level 10 of an Art or level 3-4 of an Ability. Tractatus are specialized researrch, so you need some grounding to understand what the hell is that guy writing about. If you want to be less radical, just reduce the tractatus quality to half if you do not have the basic expetise.


Yeah, that's more like the 4th edition book rules ... more realistic in this sense, but more complicated ... always the tradeoff.

I have tried to figure out how to implement this.... the best I got was to just put in the description of the book, "Cannot study this book without _____ level of knowledge"

Have you done yourself or seen any other method of using this feature?

And I apologize gerg... I have no reference for 4th Edition. I played 1st or 2nd a long time ago, then ignored Ars for a decade or so :laughing: but I came back a year or so after 5th Edition and I enjoy this immensely.

We actually went the other way and removed Summae from our game. Only tractatus for us. Summa are just compilations of tractatus IMS.

If you wanted to implement a "tractatus only after Summa" thing I would make it dependent on the reader. Needing level 10 to read all tractatus, as mentioned, for example. otherwiser it becomes a royal pain to track all the books and options. At least for us :slight_smile:

For a different book-rules system, I always liked Eric Pommer's Study Rules. The idea is that each book has a Comprehension Level, as well as a Study Level. The Study Level is the usual ArM summa level, as per ArM5 rules. The Comprehension Level is the level required to learn from the text without penalty. If your level in the Art/Ability is below the Comprehension Level, the Quality is quickly reduced (say, by 5 points per level difference) so that books with a high Comprehension Level are useless to you.

That's all the kind of books there are - there are no different types of books. No "summe" or "tractatus" - just books, each having a Comprehension Level, a Study Level, and a Quality.

Books are written by their "extent", so that it takes one Season (say) to write one Level-difference. Thus, you'd often write a "tractatus" that has a Study Level X (as high as you can make it) and Comprehension Level (X-1), as that would take a Season. Writing to the same Study Level but with a lower Comprehension Level will take yet-another Season, and so on - which is a LOT of time, so books generally have a 1-2 levels of difference between the Comprehension and Study Level, and in no case more than 5. This encourages the creation of "tractatus", while allowing for great works providing long usability.

I think something like that is an elegant way to differentiate levels of expertise while keeping things simple.



Thank you for linking those study rules. It looks well-balanced and simple enough to use. I'll admit that part of the charm is the disappearance of Summae :slight_smile:

This doesn't strike me as something that should be treated, mechanically, as just being a single book.

It's 18 lab texts, at least one summa, and a number of tractatus; because tractatus accomplish the "anyone can get some insight" bit.

If I needed to stat something like that up I'd probably have it as an L22Q15 summa* on imaginem, four Q15 tractatae on imaginem and four Q15 tractatae on philosophae, along with the 18 lab texts.
Oh, and one Q15 tractatus on Craft- Glassware: Because there are going to be diagrams of some sort.
*[Slightly higher than the highest you can get normally: Because the normal highest is a copy of one of the finest books. This is the original, and is enchanted; a copy would not measure up.]

I chose Q15 because it's convenient to work with, being a multiple of 5 and all.

My version would require approximately 4-5 years of work (depending on the level of the included lab texts, the authors language skills, and the included enchantments) to make. Which fits with it being an absolutely astonishing work.