Tinkering with new book writing rules

Hi everyone!

I find the current book writing rules very restrictive. Basically you are either born to write books or you are not (Attributes + Virtues). You cannot learn to be a good author through skills.

So here is the base formula I've come up with:

Communication + Virtue + (Teaching + Language)/2 + ( Bookbinding + Scribe + Illumination)/5

This would mean if you had a 0 communication you could learn teach and language up to 5 and write a decent quality 7-8 book. But a person with no teaching skill a com of 5 and good teacher could write a basic book with a quality of 10-11 + 1-3 for scribe, bookbinding, illumination. it would set the final quality higher for people who put great deal of effort into learning teaching and language, but it would allow people to learn to be good writers rather than having to be born a good writer.

Note: Divisions are rounded up. So if you have bookbinder 4, illumination 4 and scribe 4, you get a +3. This also means if you have a Language 5, you have a +3. For a total base of 6, which is exactly where the base book starts :smiley:

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I would consider using the craft: poetry ability from arts and academe instead of teaching for writing, and maybe the bonus for craft quality from city and guild.

Is your goal to just make it more realistic? More accessible? More complex and realist? Your current setup just basically says you can increase book-writing by adding half your teaching score. (since half of language 5 is 3, plus bonuses from skilled crafters is 6, or the normal quality value.)

As an idea, using basic simple rules instead of full covenant:
Base book quality is 6 + Com + Virtue
You can spend a season editing your book to add a bonus equal to your Teaching or Language magnitude(1/5). Your crafters can do the same for their appropriate crafts. Each applicable once.

Apparently I'm very chatty today - something about being stuck at home dealing with car insurance.

I've also spent some time looking at the rules for writing books, and I personally dislike the Summae/tractati setup that the current library system uses. If I'm a skilled mage with a 20 in Ignem, the best way to raise skill is to scavenge up tractati. In fact, if I take a Com+1 apprentice, and teach him a little ignem, he can write down a tractatus or two, which can net me 14xp. Okay, it's a bit tricky. but everyone with even non-negative communication should be writing as many tractati as they can. it's just best.
It gets even MORE silly with Magic Theory. Teaching every smart grog Magic Theory 3 and having them write books is a MUST for covenants. Most of the time when talking to people about covenant-building ideas, experienced players will start to discuss how they can gear their covenant towards infinite-scribe-librarium as quickly as possible. Spend vis to replace most covenfolk jobs with inanimate objects; teach everyone to read and write; make as many scribes as possible; have everyone write books; profit.
The idea I was kicking around (and never spent time running math on) was getting rid of the summae/tractati split. Every book has a level and a quality, and every book is readable once. Level = Writer's level. Quality = normal Q. Multi-volume opuses that take years to study instead become tractati collections, possibly with a few bonuses for covering breadth. This concept seriously reduces the library xp a mage can get, but it also means you no longer want to turn every grog into a book-source.

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I'm going for slightly more realistic and more accessible. I think it's sort of silly that book writing is tied to you essential nature. Every other craft, skill, or labor in the game you can learn to do better, but not book writing. My system makes the base the same. But someone can gain quality by becoming a better teacher and having a better command over the language. People who are just talented probably won't bother with the time investment. But an ageing magus who wants to leave a legacy could invest the time to write a good book, even with a bad communication.

If you teach someone, you can increase your quality by upping your teaching, even if you have a bad communication. If you have a bad Dex you can be a better blacksmith by learning craft skills. But books? No, your born a bad writer, no hope for you. Seems silly.

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I absolutely agree. Magi would scour the land for orators or well spoken grogs and make them learn skills they want just to write tractati. Plus if you teach them Magic Theory they can work horse for you to copy texts and lab notes. I see the birth of the first Hermetic Sweat Shop :smiley:

I think using 'every other craft skill or labor' is not a great example, because every other craft skill or labor (excepting teaching) is not giving other people experience. it's a bit of a power-creep issue, IMO. If I spend 2-3 seasons getting my teaching up to 4, I now get a +2 to every book I write. it also lets me write a tractatus on teaching, which makes the rest of my covenant get better book writing - not just the 3 other magi, but all 4+ companions and any 20-120+ covenfolk we can convince to write a book. While it does let the aged archmagus write his final opus, it also creates a reason for every covenant to write EVEN MORE books.
If you like the current rules supporting a covenant pushing every covenfolk to learn magic theory and write tractati on it, (and now adding teaching to it as well) then your rules certainly cover that. Unless you make it so that those rules don't apply to tractati.

Again, I may want to suggest requiring additional seasons to add extra bonuses beyond baseline, as someone 'refines' their book or edits it for clarity and ease of understanding, which still lets someone do an end-of-life opus... feels good to have someone working on their last bit (or maybe a required adventure to test and clarify some obscure theory of theirs in the book) .. spend 1-2 years going into editing and testing things...having some of their former apprentices read sections to reply with comprehension.

by now it should be clear that my problem with the library rules aren't summae, but tractati. :wink: But if you are looking for something more realistic that lets people work for better books suited to a Master of an Art, instead look into letting them spend extra seasons and time to get those bonuses. Just giving the bonuses by default may feel realistic, but also leads to a lot of side-effects. In modern society, just look at how much work writing a thesis for masters degrees or PhDs take.

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The fact is that tractatus pale in comparison to artwork from art and academe- admittedly artwork can only be used to learn craft abilities, but then there is no limit (beyond costs) to how many pieces of artwork an artist can produce, and the quality of the source increases with the artists ability. Any covenant using craftsmen to reduce costs (for example glassblowers to lower lab costs and allow for larger labs) should also be sponsoring their grogs as artists, since future craftspeople can learn from artwork in the same way as tractatus, except that the artwork is not clearly defined to only be usable once for instruction in the rules. Oh yeah, and an artist will develop a reputation that could net them supernatural allies and possibly immortality. Not bad for a grog.

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Pretty much every skill falls into the skill = better source quality. Training "Master's Score in Ability +3" Training doesn't even require good communication. So almost every skill can be taught by a skill that can increase it's quality, except books.

I agree with you on tractati. A person with a 1 skill with com +5 and good teacher could write a book that teaches him more than he knows. I don't see doing away with them, but they need to be restructured. I kind of like your idea, but a I would do it that every Sumae has a source quality and a level. You can read it up to that level, then break it into it's component parts after you have achieved that level and deep read it a number of seasons = level, or = level/5 for arts at a lower quality to glean additional personal incites from the text.

This would prevent recruiting skill 3 grogs from writing endlessly good books and require a master to get a decent book out. It would also mean, since you are loosing quality on the deep read, you wouldn't be incensed to make a million level 1 books.

Training, teaching and summae all can give someone xp in an ability up to a limit defined by the teacher/creator's ability level. Tractatus and artwork can be used to raise abilities above the level of the person who created them.

Teaching yes, but summae no. Summae can teach you half the level in arts or abilities. So you are not teaching them up to your skill level. Tractati fill in the blanks, But if you read a skill 10 book from a level 20 art magi and read his 4 tractati, you still would not have a 20 skill.

summae and teaching both allow yo to teach up to an ability level based on you ability, and most significantly one which cannot exceed the ability. If I have art 42 I can read a tractatus written by someone with a 5 in the same art and improve my ability in that art. Similarly I can have a 7 ability in a craft and study artwork produced by someone with an ability of 3 in the craft in question and still learn something. The question is 1) how realistic is that and 2) how unbalancing is it. After all, as the book notes, someone could have a lower ability in say zoology than someone else but still know more about a particular animal. At least with tractatus it is limited to a total number of tractatus equal to 1/2 the ability. in the case of artwork any hack can produce large volumes of artwork which anybody of any ability can then study and learn from- which is also semi-realistic, but not in the open ended way described in the books. it does also lead to a number of related issues, like the fact that if someone does try to set up a book producing sweat shop it should raise the cost of book materials to astronomical levels, and deplete the pool of laborers doing critical work like producing food in order to write books, and from a game balance perspective can lead to inflation of abilities.

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I cannot speak much about the things in A&A, because my brief read of the book was frustrating and made me realize I don't need it in my game. :slight_smile:

The real silliness of Tractaus isn't that Author A with skill 1 can teach Student B with skill 10... it's the fact that B can TEACH A then learn from a book A wrote.

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Don't forget there are minimums to write - 5 for an Art and 2 for an Ability (First sentence of the "Writing Books" section), so a skill of 1 can't write anything even if you round up after division.

I'd probably keep any increase simple - You can apply the 2 exposure xp earned during a season of writing a book to a special ability (and only that exposure xp, never any other xp source). This ability score is added to a book's quality, at the score it was at when the book was started and you still can't exceed to normal max quality after bonuses listed in the rules. The more books you write, the better you get, no shortcuts.

The thing is that this is realistic. Teachers do learn things from papers their students write, sometimes because the students do additional research, sometimes because the student simply has a new perspective or way of putting things that makes the teacher see something more clearly. On the other hand there are clearly limits to how far this can go in the real world that are not modeled in the game. Perhaps a tractatus should have a level that only comes into play if the reader's level is higher, and then reduces quality by 1 for every level the reader is above the tractatus level, or by 1 for every 5 levels for arts.

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[quote="silveroak, post:16, topic:167205"]
The thing is that this is realistic. Teachers do learn things from papers their students write, sometimes because the students do additional research, sometimes because the student simply has a new perspective or way of putting things that makes the teacher see something more clearly. On the other hand there are clearly limits to how far this can go in the real world that are not modeled in the game. Perhaps a tractatus should have a level that only comes into play if the reader's level is higher, and then reduces quality by 1 for every level the reader is above the tractatus level, or by 1 for every 5 levels for arts.[/quote]
While your point is well taken, in real world, the student also does their own research, gleans experience via exposure or practice, then writes their papers. In Ars Magica, oftentimes Teacher gives Student a score of 2 via teaching, and immediately the student writes a book about his knowledge for teacher. That's where the unrealisticness comes in.
I did talk with my own group, and we kind-of liked the idea of tractati having levels also, and if you're over the level, you get half xp, or -3 xp (so tractatus value is 3+com instead). But my group also is deep enough into our saga that we don't want to rearrange how things work halfway through.

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The part of the book rules that bothers me most is the area of Level of the book, not the quality. Firstly any Summa must cover everything from Level 0 to its own Level, so not books aimed at already competent readers. I have insituted a lower as well as upper range for summae. Secondly, the maxium level of the book is half the author's own level. Now, for some abilities that might be reasonable, but for Hermetic Arts it seems just a little artificial. Is the author really unable to impart the harder concepts? I was thinking a limit of Art -1 (or perhaps 90% of art, rounding down). F

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I would be cautious in changing the rules for book writing. In 4th edition, the formula included Scribe skill in the quality of the book. As learning included Concentration of the student (and Intelligence too), players could combine skills to become better writers and better students. In the end, the best way to become a covenant of powerful magi was to quickly learn Scribe and Concentration (and the one who gets to be excellent in Scribe writes good books about Scribe ability, studied by the one who, in the meantime, got excellent in Concentration, who in turn writes good books about Concentration, and everyone could quickly become excellent writers and readers, which really boosts arts and abilities learning after that, considering that the other magi learned something interesting they could write about in the meantime).

The current rules do take skills in consideration : the author must be at level five in an art, or two in a skill and he must be at level five in the language used. Not written in the core rules, but in the covenants book, the notes must be given to a skilled scribe (then an illuminator, a bookbinder) to have a usable book.

If think that a very high level in bookbinder, scribe and illumination would not change quality (where quality means clarity); a book is well bouind, well written, well illuminated or is not.

Perhaps you could add to the basic formula a bonus equal to the lowest score between Teaching and (used language - 5) ? Or fix a level in Teaching and Language to allow a bonus to quality.

As for tractati, I only allow them if the author made a discovery (in twilight or in experimentation), one tractatus in only one ability or art per discovery.

I allow to write "parchments" (i.e. papers) in unlimited numbers, but those books are limited to the level of the author and the readers could not go over it when studying.

You could also resurrect "libri quaestionum" from fourth edition (with a target level but higher quality).

The idea of using extra seasons to refine a book is good, I gladly borrow it!

Don't forget glossing of texts for having a +1 quality.

You could imagine a system where the author is not himself a so good writer, but collaborates with a better writer who is not so skilled in the subject art or ability. Yiou use the Communication score of the skilled writer (note the so-called author). Then you could have high quality with high levels (and no need to change the system), without escalation in book quality.

My problem is that you cannot learn to be a better author. You can learn to be a better teacher, swordsman, artist, magi etc, but somehow writing is tied to your essential nature? This is preposterous. The only way I can accept this is if all source qualities were based of your attribute+virtues only. No More teaching skill, pure essential nature only for all source qualities. That would include art in A&A as it generates a study total. Then, only when you subtract your skill from the total level you can teach can you increase that quality, like a summa.

Every other bad attribute in the game can be overcome by learning enough of a skill you want to do well in. But not academic writing.

My current solution starts with throwing out "good teacher" and making source quality Com + Teaching + 1/2 (Scribe + Arts Lib.). Teaching is your ability to communicate knowledge, 1/2 (Scribe+Arts Lib.) simulates your ability to write academically in a way to better transmit that knowledge.

Writing, like every other activity in the game, should be learned. And since you can transmit that information to more people with less time investment, the front end investment should be greater. This would also help stop "Tactatus Mills" as the front end time investment is greater.