The Book Rules are a mess

I've got Through the Aegis in front of me (just got it today). I'm looking at the Mundane Knowledge section for the Northern Sea. It doesn't look like the texts have the blanket +3 for Mundane texts called for from Covenants.

The core book set text quality as a base of Communications +6. Covenants changed this to Communications +3 +(up to three for book construction) + (up to an addition three for resonance). To compensate for the lack of resonance, mundane tomes (but not Arcane abilities) were increased to Communications +9.

Given that the explanation is in a text box, I think everyone assumed that texts had been changed to Com + construction + resonance (no +3), decided it was an annoying nerf and a record keeping hassle, and just defaulted back to core.

This got me to thinking, if the average Summa has a default quality of Com + 8, the much-maligned text qualities in covenants make sense. Art score 36 + 2 Com = Level 15, Q 13 Summa, at the low end of the sound range. I'm also flipping through Through the Aegis and not seeing any magi with virtues (or flaws) gained in twilight. Looking at third edition, enhanced ability to write about magic is a classic twilight benefit. This would suggest that, at some point early in the edition, it may have been assumed that more magi would have Good Teacher then ended up with it. (Though perhaps not many. The number of situations where magi can pick up seven warping points are somewhat rare).

Have a look at the errata for Covenants p.88 at .


As far as I understand, the book is designed to be useful purely with the core book.
So the authors were told to revert back to core (again, IIUC).

Well, I think the errata helps make the case that the book rules are a mess. Through the Aegis still has a bunch of L 11, Q 11 Summa running around. Under covenants those are pretty far down into the junk range. When one set of assumptions says L 15, Q 15 is reasonable for Summa, and another wants to cap things around L10, Q10, reconciling the power levels generated by those two assumptions gets difficult.

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Abolutely - without the errata, I'd hardly call Ars Magica books 'a mess' though. With the possibl exception of
On the other hand, have you ever played games where the publishers didn't bother keeping an errata document? I'll take the Ars Magica Errata, thank you so very much.

Yes. Which is why I tend to base my assumptions off of what my sagas tell me seems sensible. And L15, Q15 does not.

Really? Because as I recall (noble's parma), anything of Q11 is considered fairly good by Covenants.

Stating that the rules are a mess without saying how they are a mess is really a poor critique. I think there are some issues with the book rules that could be ironed out, to be sure.

Which set of assumptions says that L15Q15 Summae are reasonable? The assumptions from build points? Are you taking that build points cost (which really doesn't speak to the quality of books which exist within a saga) within the context of what the Branches of the Arts are, discussed later in Covenants? In that context, it's pretty clear that an L15Q15 book should be pretty amazing. Within the context of the rules for writing a book, a L15Q15 book has to be written by someone with at least a score of 30 in the Art. All summae start with a Q of 3, if we assume that all of the skilled professionals are involved in its manufacture, then we are at 6. Another assumption is the quality of resonant materials is only +1, to facilitate resale, because adventuring for resonant materials isn't really worth it whenever you want to sell a copy, we're now up to 7. So, to get to Q15 therefore requires Com 5 and the Good Teacher virtue. That's not trivial, even if you presume that Good Teacher was acquired through some initiation or some story event and Com 5 requires a lot of vis whether you start from Come 0 or Com 3...

I am referring specifically to the insert table on page 94 of covenants that states 35-level is one of the great texts, sound summa have a quality between 31-level and 28-level and everything else is considered vain.

The average Level 30, Com +2 specialist will be able to write a Summa of level 15, Q 8 (+2). Not good enough but close.

A level 40, Com +2 specialist will be able to write a Summa of level (20-5=15) and Q (8+5=13) This gives a base quality of 28-level, the minimum given by covenant. Resonant bonuses can take this up to a maximum of 31-level, the high range given in covenants.

While we can debate how long it should take to get to a 20 in an art score (the cutoff for Summa) how long it takes to go above 20 is fairly straightforward.

It takes 255 xp to go from level 20 to level 30 in an art.

It takes 610 xp to from level 20 to level 40 in an art.

A Magus studying from vis in a level 5 aura will generate, on average 10xp a season. I suspect most magi studying from vis will seek magic auras higher than 5 and potentially initiation into virtues to make the process more efficient. In any event, a magus studying from vis will hit level 30 in about 6.5 years of full times study and level 40 in around 16 years. I should note that the vis costs of doing this would verge on the extreme.

While the quality of available tracti is an interesting question, I think it is probably safe to assume an average quality of at least 8. Under this assumption, level 30 will be reached in about 8 years requiring about 32 tracti. This is less than the maximum possible output of 10 writers with com of +2 and the art at level 20. Not impossible.

To reach level 40 would require a little over 19 years and 76 tracti. At this point, the large library rules might become applicable.

Things get interesting if you use the large library rules out of transforming mythic Europe. Assuming a L20, Q13 (base 10 +3) library a magus will raise an art from 20 to 30 in 20 seasons (5 years) and require to use of at least two different large libraries. Level 40 can be reached in 47 seasons, about 12 years, and requires the use of four different large libraries. (So the specialists home library, Duremar, Coeris and one other).

Except that a sound tractus is quality 11, which makes level 30 23 seasons and 2 points, up to 40 is 55 seasons and another 5 points, total of 79 seasons including a season to 'mop up' the leftover points, or just short of 20 years. That assumes they don't have book learner which gives an extra 3 xp per season for 18 seasons and 3 points for level 30 and 43 seasons and 8 points for level 40 for a total of 62 seasons or 15 and a half years.
If the person has both book learner and study bonus then you are dealing with 16 points per season. Level 30 is now 16 seasons, or 4 years, and goes 1 point over. Level 40 is another 38 seasons plus 2 points, one of which is already from leveling up to 30, so another 10 years clears this easily for a total of 14 years.

On the other hand if you are studying from vis- sometimes dice explode. I had one person in my old group who was simply lucky with dice- he studies from vis and he rolled 5 1's and an 8. That is a huge advancement in a season.

sigh Yes. But only according to Covenants, which means it assumes a effective +3 quality compared to the quality resulting from using only the Core book.
The errata explicitly removes the '+3 for non-magical subjects', and if the various rules for resonant materials are not used by the given troupe, that's a +3 bonus not available for Arts tracatatus. Suddently, the sound tractatus is Quality 8.

EDIT: This value (8) also has the advantage of being close to the expected source quality when studying from Vis in a standard Aura (3), and it meshes well with the Post Apprenticeship-Advancement rules found in the corebook, p. 32-33, offering 30 XPs per year, less given lab activity.

256 XPs is pretty good for a single season. And I thought I had good luck with studying from Vis :astonished:

Actually, I think 11 might be an accurate range for a sound tracti. Keep in mind books need to be copied by hand and then transported (while the order has magical transport, it probably also lacks the well established infrastructure that a church or university has). There might be a couple copies of any one book circulating in local distribution, but the books that get asked about and travel around the Order probably are from Com +2 + Great Teacher (Q: 11 at a minimum).

On the other hand there probably are a lot more vain tracti than vain summa floating around. Writing and copy tracti can be, relatively, quick. Com +2 and a seasons gives you a Q: 8 tractus that you can trade copies of for other tracti. Also, sometimes subject matter trumps quality. Solomon & Hermes V. I (Tracti Order of Hermes Lore Q: 8, Tracti Suhar Lore Q: 8) and Solomon & Hermes V. 2 (Traci code of Hermes, Q: 8; Tracti Islamic Law Q: 8) dealing with interactions between the two orders are not "good" books. When you need them, though, you really need them.

11 can be either Com+2 and great teacher, com+5, or com+3 and resonant materials (short of clarification), so it seems to me a good area for sound, which does not mean average, but more of a quality people would actually pay for.

So, without resonant materials (I like games that can be played with just the core rules), you cannot write a book worth reading without investing Virtue points?

Requiring a minor virtue to write books worth reading does not strike me as excessive.

Disagree, but it's never been a major point of contention in a saga either; and it depends on how far toward the maximum potential value the player is aiming too.

Sounds about right to me and it puts "sound" works within the quality spectrum for real world books given in A&A. If the minimum "sound" level is 11, then magi wouldn't even bother with most of the classics of Western Civilization.

I don't know about that. The Institutions rate a quality of 8. If I'm remembering right, that's a hacked-together collection of earlier writers. Aristotle pulls a Q: 12. My personal take. Q: 8 is your average historical monograph, Q: 12 is an author you'd make a point of reading, Q: 14 is Woodward, Schlesinger or McCullough. An unaugmented Q: 15 is Shakespear, Twain (maybe) or Doyle. (Actually, Shakespear having a greater virtue essential trait of great writer (+6) makes an interesting kind of sense.)

I am pretty sure that Tellus was being sarcastic, in responding to silveroak's comment that Q11 is the level that people would be willing to pay for.

This suggests that only PCs are interested in writing books...

I think sound should be a range of Q9-Q11, vain is Q6-8, and the discarded/damaged/super vain books are Q5 or below.
From the discussion of the extended rules of quality we will presume that all books use resonant materials of +1, because +2 and +3 are problematic. We will also presume that each of the skilled professionals are involved. Those are the assumptions in place for the following discussion.
Q6 is nearly trivial: Base 3 + 1 each Skilled professionals +1 resonant material means that someone can write a vain summa even with a Com -1, which if we look at the rules it is below average.

It's important not to combine discussion of books on mundane subjects with books on magical subjects. They don't benefit from resonant materials, and as the errata indicates, they don't get the +3 bonus. Aristotle getting a Q12, means he has a Com+Good Teacher=6. The average person generates a Q6 for mundane books.
And if we are to be pedantic, Essential Writer doesn't apply to book writing, as it only affects rolls, and writing a book doesn't involve a roll.
The rules for books aren't a mess, except from the standpoint that summae are ridiculously cheap when compared to tractatus both in build points and in vis cost from an XP perspective. Players often prioritize learning from summae over tractatus, even when they have to branch off to other Arts.

The Categories of Value insert on page 94 of Covenants is poorly worded and poorly thought out. Putting a level calculation into the discussion of what is vain with respect to summae is not a good idea. For example, I have a character in one of my current sagas who has Com 2 and Good Teacher, his covenant owns a book making business and the professionals have some magic theory to create the books, there is one of each professional, he generates a writing quality of 3+3 Professionals +2 Com +3 Good Teacher=11. He wrote a book on Corpus, he had a score of 20 when he wrote it. He wrote a summa, that had a level of 10, and added a resonant item, for a final Corpus summa of L10Q12. By page 94 rules, This isn't even a vain summa. To be considered vain, it would have to be Level 10, quality 15. A level 10, quality 12 summa is very good, it will take someone from a score of 0 to 10 in exactly 10 seasons of study. It is 20% better than the typical advancement rules post gauntlet of 10 xp per season. The only reason it's considered vain, is because, for some reason, summae's quality is described by a function of Level-Quality, instead of just quality. In that respect, yes, the rules are a bit of a mess.

keep in mind that with summae (unlike tractatus) you can lower the level to gain quality. Which means anyone can write a sound book if they know enough about the subject. (also summae are defined as level+quality being 28-31 for arts. 6 points of that comes from standard bonus, meaning com+virtues+ 1/2 art=22-25. Com plus virtues ranges from -3 to 8, which if you assume an average of 2 means you need the art to be 40-43, and at the high end of gifted writers you would need an art of 28-34. So eventually anyone can write a sound summae.

The other point is that vain books are not ones which cannot be sold- they simply have a less standard market and "do not sit alongside better works", and are defined as level+quality of 25 and below, which means there is also a gap between 25 and 28 that are neither vain nor sound- using the math above an average magus can write at level+quality 26 with an art of 36 and a high end author specialist can write a level+quality 26 with an art of 24.

I would also add that I believe covenants to be one of the best organized, presented, and consistent books in the line, and if you think the rules in this book are a mess then I shudder to think how you manage to play the rest of the system.

Because the rules for text quality are not followed in Through the Aegis, the book giving sample covenants based on the rules in Covenants. Because the two sources disagree, and this disagreement fundamentally alters the interpretation of statistics found in other books, the rules are a mess.

I haven't gotten through the ageis, it may well be "a mess", however conflict between core books is nothing new to Ars Magica...