The question of tractatus

One thing which has bothered me for a long time is the lack of tractatus in most games.
Consider: anyone with at least a 5 in an art can write a tractatus. It is based entirely on attributes, no abilities, so even an apprentice who has a 5 in an art can write a tractatus of equal quality to a mage 100 years out of gauntlet. For young magi needing vis it is an obvious source, and there have been apprentices for 500+years to be writing them. On top of that they can be copied by anyone with a scribe ability in one season- copying tractatus could be a common activity of apprentice scribes that would bring in extra vis (so long as they have a score of 1 in magic theory) By these models the limits of availability of tractatus would depend primarily on how much vellum there was to write them on and copy them to. Given hermetic craft magic capabilities I would expect this limit to be far higher than a real world magical economy.
And yet in designing covenants summae always seem to outnumber tractatus.

In my experience, new covenants start off with a lot of summa, like the Roots and one or two really good books, but they accumulate many more tractatus once play begins (especially once I start giving them out as rewards).

The only real flaw I see in the setting you describe is that, yes, a young magus can write a tractatus, but that book is probably not high enough quality for anyone to want to buy it. If the book can only be sold for a single pawn of vis, the magus is almost certainly better of “farming” vis from the local aura.

A tractatus can be sold for 1p of vis per copy (assuming a lower quality, and again this doesn't depend on the age of the magus* So you could hire a scribe for 2-3 MP per year who then spends 2 seasons a year copying the tractatus for a 2p/year income. with a higher quality (2p) tractaus this become 4p/yr for the same financial investment, until of course you saturate the market with copies of that particular tractatus.

Beginning Covenants tend to favor Summa because they are better for beginners. Their cost (in BP) is more efficient for lower skilled readers. They are extremely dense for the use possible from them for lower skilled readers. These combined means that they are much more likely to be found in Spring Covenants. However once you move out of the initial Spring then Summae of any use to most of the Magi become extremely expensive and rare. You want decent ones for initial study in an Art/Ability, but you really only need one (maybe two) in each. Everything else should be Tractatus.

This means libraries should realisticly consist of one or two Summa and a bunch of Tractatus on each subject it covers. More than one decent Summa on a subject is a waste of space (and BP if building at the start). While it is possible to end up with more Summae then this if a Covenant manages to find/trade/write a better one than its current selection, the lesser one should end up traded away if possible. The C&C might make trading it impossible, so the lesser one might end up just being kept or given to departing newly gauntleted Magi.

A common trend in every game I have played in is that everyone will write almost exclusively Tractatus except for one or two Summa in the areas they are most skilled in. This applies to both Magi and Mundanes. If our current game my Magi has written 38 books (writing is an accepted task for seasons of service), of which only 1 is a Summa. That Summa is a special case, since it is the only Summa on its subject in the world (specifically the mystery lore our Covenant uses for initiating mysteries we are developing). My Magi is the odd one since he wrote a Summa, while every other Magi has written nothing but Tractatus.

Even the description of the contents of the Great Library favors Tractatus over Summa. While they have "well over a hundred" Summae combined from all the Arts and Arcane Abilities, they have multiple dozen Tractatus on each Art and Arcane Ability. That would be the better part of a thousand Tractatus on Arts and Arcane Abilities. Add to this all the Spell Mastery Tractatus.

3 Likes

The other side of this issue of course is what are the limits for acquiring tractatus- even assuming we put the limits on a per subject basis, they would presumably get harder to find as you have used a larger percentage of the "pool" of available tractatus, and how far the search will really go (sure in theory it is all of mythic europe with the redcap network, but if you are looking in Iberia just how much importance is that request going to be given in the Rhine? and those with poor redcap service have less accessibility...) Because in theory there could be over a thousand tractatus on any given topic which magi are prone to write tractatus about (so probably not social skills, except teaching)

Except that some if not most magi aren’t interested in writing, and some magi are ver bad writers, and probably a lot of works had been lost or plagiarize another works or are nonsensical, and that there had been just around 8000 magi through the history of the order. I would expect around 50 useful, existing and accesible tractati on average about each the Arts, maybe more about Magic Theory and definetively less about uncommo or obscure topics.

1 Like

Part of the limit for acquiring tractatus is the actual Covenants activities.

  • Covenants who rarely travel are limited to what they can gain to only what is available through the Redcap network, which will be mostly limited to active sellers of books within their Tribunal and some from neighboring Tribunals.

  • Covenants who travel to other Covenants and attend the Tribunal can gain books from other Covenants who are not active book sellers. They can ask other Covenants if they have any books they are willing to sell, rather then relying on correspondence of "Books for Sale!". They can also possibly copy books held by other Covenants for a price during visits.

  • Covenants who travel far and wide gain the benefits of the above across multiple Tribunal. Normally for this the Covenant needs to be at a location on the edge of multiple Tribunal, have access to the Mercere Portal network, or some other means of rapid travel (such as ships, their own portals, et cetera). This gives them direct access across several Tribunals and indirect access to many more.

  • Covenants actively engaged in the book trade have even larger access within the limits of their trade area. People who have a book to trade or sell will often check with the active traders first since they often have easier means of engaging with over books. If your Covenant has received my list of books for sale every year for the last decade along with contact information, asking if I would be willing to buy/sell on consignment your book is an easy leap to make. Heck I might actually include books/book types I am actively seeking to buy in my list.

Age/Power of the Covenants does not directly play into which of these they use. You will find young and old Covenants on both ends of the scale. It really comes down to how much effort the Covenant as a whole and the individual Magi make to the effort. Are they willing to spend the resources and time to be more widely connected? Is the Arch Magi happy as long as there is a book trader who gets him the newest "Maggy Potter" tractatus when it is written? Do they have the space and skilled scripes needed to actually produce enough books to engage in more than speculative book sales/trading? Not to mention the large requirement of materials above and beyond what their Magi need for normal use. Unless they only produce books to order, can they handle the resource outlay required to produce extra books that are ready to sell/trade?

1 Like

Forgot to add that Covenants that have multiple skilled writers are much more likely to be further up the scale. If the Magi of your Covenant are producing many good quality tractatus then you have a much larger selection you can sell that the C&C not only does not restrict, but actively protects.

Blame Covenants/this forum, for creating unrealistically high expectations for who write books and what books might be worth anything.

But yes, as others have mentioned:
Starting covenants favour Summae - as do older covenants that have been designed by a single person (ie. those in Through the Aegis - because that person would like to remain sane.
Tractatii tend to accumulate during play, be they written by PC magi or NPCs.

This at least, has been my experience, from several sagas.
If this has not been your experience and it bothers you, perhaps it's something you should do something about?

4 Likes

Naming them is always the most difficult part of writing Tractatii. I am sure my experience of a generic naming system for most of the Tractatus produced in game is not alone. Some shorthand like "T# on Ability/Art (Q #), by Bla" used until inspiration strikes. It is always easier for ones describing a breakthrough since you have a starting point, compared to general ones which could be named nearly anything.


EDIT: Something I have found helpful is using things related to an Ability Specialty, a type of Spell Mastery for Magic Theory, and how the Art/Ability can be used for a focus of the character.

Do you have reasons for those numbers, or just a desire to establish that as the limit of the number of tractatus? Incidentally I would expect there have been more than 8000 magi, and if a typical magi who is writing tractatus wind up with a 20 in each art, that would be 4 tractaus per magus who is writing.

In terms of what bothers me it is exactly that this is the pattern- everything is determined by what the covenant builder's want at the beginning and on what is easy later on- so they write scores of tractatus after starting with a few summae. if this pattern held for covenant after covenant through centuries there should be hundreds or thousands of tractatus to a couple score of summae. So where do those tractatus go? I realize that the economic modeling of AM makes a mockery of calling it such, but still those tractatus shouldn't disappear into thin air. Perhaps the cost in creating a covenant should be lower- 1 BP per tractatus which has SQ of a simple die+4.

Base it off of the cost of Vis for Arts and Arcane Abilities, since those are only produced by the Order. Figure a premium for "trading/buying" before play that knocks it down to 2.5p per BP, buying at the standard cost of 1p for normal and 2p for good.

You could use the same thing for tractatus on mundane (General/Academic) Abilities, but based on the BP price of silver. A book cost 1£, while with a preplay buying/trading premium 1 BP gives you 5£.

Makes sense to me. You could just stock Vis/Silver and buy after play begins, so allowing it before play frees up some game time.

Actually, I think 8000 magi total is overestimating it a bit.

Assumptions:
There are about 1200 magi in the Order of Hermes in the year 1220
The order has existed for about 450 years
The average mage lives for about 100 years after his Gauntlet
The number of members has stayed more or less constant through the years (not really true - we know the OoH was much smaller in the early years.)

Based on those assumptions the total number of magi over the years would be around 450/100*1200 = 5400 magi.
This is of course a rough estimate, so give or take a thousand magi.

2 Likes

That’s pretty much it. I just used a way shorter life expectancy, specially for the early couple of centuries.

The Order grew faster than that. You have to remember a small incident that happened called the Schism War which killed off a fairly large chunk of the Order. The population fairly rapidly bloomed after the founding of the Order, then took minor hits and rebounded from later incidents. The Schism War is just the largest and most recent.

Your numbers would be accurate if the Order was stable throughout its history without any large drops and spikes in population other than the initial growth.

EDIT: As a side note, those incidents could be the reason for a reduction in the number of older books.

1 Like

Sub Rosa #14 p.24ff has a good elaboration by Mark Shirley, an expert in animal population dynamics, about the number and ages of magi in the OoH over the centuries.

Personally I consider the population of 1200 mages for the entire order ridiculously low, despite being canon. The population of Europe at the time was in the millions (I looked up and posted numbers in another thread- I think it came to one mage per 10,000 or 100,000 people). It feels a bit like Harry Potter math to me (where J.K. Rowling admitted to just making up the numbers with idea of what the implications to the world at large would be)

1 Like

It comes out to about 1 Magus per 100k people. The 1:10k people is the rate of The Gift. Mark Shirley's numbers in Sub Rosa #14 made the mistake of ignoring the stated cannon rate of The Gift and set it at roughly 1:50k (1:49k if I remember right, Serfs Parma).

EDIT: Ack, population was a little over 60m in 1220. That would mean 1 Magus per 50k.

The fact is the numbers are all over the place- if you go with the canon rate then there are more mages of the order in Ireland than the population should have Gifted people. Also if you are doing Gifted and the Order as percentage of population then obviously numbers did fluctuate. However the other issue is that you simply cannot maintain any sort of continent wide organization with numbers that low.

1 Like