[Veteran Insight]Libraries

Carved off from the other thread to avoid jacking...

I've noticed a couple folks say the library was the hardest part. I'm working on a Saga for a covenant that is about 50 years old, founding magi mostly gone but one. I built the library over time by trading with some faraway covenants, having the founders write a few tractatus each, maybe one or two summa from founders. Arts is fairly widespread but nothing very high, I think the highest Q/L is a Perdo Summa of Q10/14 (with scribe and bookbinder).

My theory was that they could trade and interact with other covenants to get their hands on more tractatus/summa. IMS, the exchange of vain summa/tractatus is more common since it is relatively easy to trade in. This also provides (in theory) the group with good incentive to go and meet their neighbors, interact with them etc. The covenant also has decent vis sources... 4 Tech/yr and about 8-12 Form/yr. So I also figured some judicious haggling with Redcaps and other covenants could provide them with a decent spread.

So... my question:

What about the formation of the library was problematic? Too much? Too Little? Wrong subjects?

What makes you think the library's construction was faulty? What you describe sounds fine. But it doesn't say anything about whether the library is "problematic".

When building the library, the most important thing to keep in mind is your players. Give them the Arts and Abilities, and spells, you want them to be able to have easy access to. Don't give them what you want them to work hard for, or even trade for, in-game. Don't just give the players what the characters would want the library to have.

So... does your library do that? Do you want your magi to have access to that Q10 L14 summa on Perdo? Having it around means that a starting specialist in Perdo will (probably) find it useless, but others could catch-up to about his level relatively quickly (in about 10 seasons, or less). Is that what you want? What about the other Arts? Have you, for example, considered whether you want Roots (Q15, L5) in Creo and Corpus, so that magi could learn healing magic? Perhaps also Ignem, and complement that with a Pilum of Fire lab text for basic combat competence? Or perhaps Rego Vim and a low-level Aegis of the Hearth, to make sure the covenant can whip-up an Aegis?

Of course, there is no need to fess over every choice. It's perfectly fine to just throw some "random" stuff in; just make that stuff doesn't include undesirable works.

If you enjoy figuring out the history of the covenant's library, by all means do so. ArM is a game, and games are for fun. But keep what you want the library to become in mind. It need not become so organically - a fire can chip away some "undesired" books, trade can bring in ones that there is no rationale for making locally, and so on. Do have fun constructing the library, but also make sure it serves the needs of your saga.

And don't forget that a library can pile up lots of lab texts, including some rather useless ones ("why Magus Nicratoxos thought the library should include his notes on how to make a black-goat shaped bronze statue that breathes poisonous gas is anyone's guess...").

Finally - what about all the other books? Consider what Abilities you want your characters to have access to easily - Area Lore? Order of Hermes Lore? Penetration? Finesse? Parma Magica, even, perhaps? What about spell mastery? What about Leadership? Charm? Intrigue? Or Hunt? Brawl? Swim?

Correction, I wasn't referring to my library. In the Veteran GM thread a few people mentioned the library was the problematic thing in their Saga. The library I built has a number of Tractatus for Arts, quite a few Ability tractatus and so on. Definitely quite a few Lab Texts for spells and Enchantments. The covenant ended up being about 600pts with most of it in lab texts and library.

I was just curious what, in particular, caused the library to be a problem for others...

Personally, I have trouble with libraries because I'm not really sure what ability/art levels and qualities are appropriate, what balance of summa and tractatus is good and really what the represent. I really love that Arts and Academy and The Church have sample texts and clear guidelines for certain types of books (Parish Records for instance). I would love to see something like that for Hermetic books... though I also fear it because the vague not-examples found in Covenants all seem horribly power-inflated to me.

The library is problematic because, first of all, it's a lot of work and book-keeping. This means that setting up a library can be a real hassle, and using one can be a drag as well (noting down which tractatus you've read, deciding how much maintenance is required, and so on).

This would have been just a book-keeping nightmare if it wasn't for the fact that the "wrong" choices in creating a library can "cost" you with unexpected consequences later on. Like not having an Aegis, or realizing - too late into the saga - that everyone is studying the same high-Quality books so all magi are starting to look alike.

Not having clear guidelines on what is "reasonable" is also certainly a problem, as noted by Lucius. I find the Covenants guidelines quite reasonable in general, but I'm torn on their options - they add tons of extra book-keeping, but it's nice to be able to say a certain book has good illustrations, another is written on palimpset, and so on. I think the rules there need a little streamlining, and then they'd be better.

On a personal note, I also find that books don't really work well as a means to pass down magical knowledge. If you have books then they can be copied by mundanes, leading to unlimited and extensive book circulation (and the "need Magic Theory" clause is a poor attempt to limit that circulation). I really have to suspend my belief to believe that, for example, the redcap network can't copy and deliver any book in Durenmar; which would, of course, lead to massive Art-score explosion, and won't be fun at all. I think a better alternative would be the use of magical tablets and unique mediums (such as the ghosts of the Cave of Twisting Shadows) as the only substitutes for the one-to-one initiation-style "teaching" that a Master conveys to his Apprentice; in this way magic is kept unique, magi actually do need to "waste" their time to copy books on magic, and so on. However, this is a rather big deviance from Ars Magica tradition and the setting, and harms the "wizards study books" motiff.

Well, I think this overlooks the whole "books chained to shelves" attitude of the period. Knowledge is something to be guarded, horded, protected and, at all costs, keep away from those who might misunderstand or misuse it... and I'm just talking about historical attitudes to books like the Bible. Now throw in books that literally allow people to call fire and summon storms with a few words... I see a lot of senior magi steadfastly protecting the really powerful books from those wizards who, in their view, lack the experience and understanding to use their power wisely.

:shrug: that's a solution. I just don't like my Order so paranoid and distrusting, however. And it also doesn't really explain why magi need to invest time copying books or so on, which is some magi in many sagas "need" to do.

I disagree with the idea that it's "paranoid and distrusting" and fall back on the martial arts analogy... that a high degree black belt can kill a man with his bare hands, but has learned the discipline not to. That same high degree black belt doesn't teach new students how to kill a man with their bare hands, because those students don't have the skill or discipline required. Likewise, a senior magus does not entrust a book of powerful magical secrets a newly gauntleted magus because that junior magus lacks the skill and discipline necessary to handle the knowledge within.

As for magi needing to copy books... IMO that what clerks are for. Unfortunately (IMO), the nature of the Gift means that you can entrust a clerk with copying magical texts because even if he understands enough to get it right he can't do anything dangerous with the contents of the book.

We had the possibility to copy any books from a very good autumn library for free. It was no challenge to get them which made the game a bit boring.

I would roll the arts and levels a bit randomly. Such an old covenants surely has books in almost all arts and maybe 1 or 2 great books with 30 build points.

I found it bizarre to have such books in the middle ages.

Real books on those subjects existed. Well i´m not sure about "Swim" but the others existed well enough that i´ve heard about them now in modern time.

Possibly not relevant, but in the 1400-1600 period, a number of 'fighting manuals' were written/printed (with illustration), usually describing either swordsmanship, or a multi-weapon system, often including grappeling techniques.

They are a tad later than the main Ars date, but not terribly so.

Could you tell the titles?
Or is there anywhere a good mundane book list for the game? My google fu failed to reveal. Redcap has no meaningful entry.

Leadership isnt entirely hard, i´ll just use the obvious one even if it´s not there at the time, "Art of war", Sun Tzu.
Europe had a bundle of its own books on the subject even if none(at least none known today) was anywhere near the quality.

Intrigue, well what about "The Prince"? Ok it´s a bit late, but it also wasnt the first of its type.

Ooops, found the ArM5BooksByAbilityIndex.pdf, had almost forgotten that.
Charm, The Lais of Marie de France, Q5
Intrigue, Decem Libri Historiarum, L2 Q10

Sorry i´m running out of time here, try this:
It´s too long since i read about this kind of subject so it´s hard to locate anything much.

Surely the Domesday book makes for a fine Summa on Area Lore:England?
That wikipedia list includes an 11th century work on courtly love (charm? Folk ken?) and some of the historical works could be taken as Area Lores, or Noble Lore (or organisation lore: nobility, depending on how you're running it), or Intrigue depending on how much plotting was involved.

IMS, our schoolmaster who became ennobled now writes level 2 summae of reasonable quality detailing many of the social skills - it helps with educating young boys, and the magi of the covenant find they cover over all the skills they never took as apprentices.

I'm not the type who handwaves 3 centuries.

I hoped somebody made a full list.
Such an article, real books with ArM stats would be awesome. Maybe it exist somewhere.

I did debate the whole Physical Skills and books thing.

The way I figure it, a tractatus combined with practice, can be useful for a number of skills. A practice manual makes sense... you could read a book about fighting, try out the moves, and pick up a modicum of experience with the skill. But reading a Summa on the same subject is kind of irritating. I've read a number of books on medieval warfare but I guarantee I can't fight such a war... But, if I read the book, then tried out the strategies on sand-tables, with input from advisors or military folks, I could certainly have learned something.

I haven't put together an exhaustive list but I think disallowing Summa books for many Abilities is valid. Charm, Etiquette, Area Lore, Intrigue, Church Lore etc are clearly subjects where summa can be justified. But Ride, Swim, Awareness, Weapons, Brawl and so on, I figure a tractatus (practice manual) and the person trying out the new moves during the same season, is valid. So I'm going to limit them to Tractatus and require access to the subject matter to learn. So, you need a horse in the covenant and a Ride tractatus to benefit from the season's work.

Or you could limit ALL books to tractatus. Makes quite some sense really. Make sumae just a tractatus collection (you can't keep digging therm forever if they are Q3 L20) and there you go: siufddenly getting more books for the library is VERY IMPORTANT since you do not have L15 Q15 books anymore, but 2 tractatus of Q15 each for the same price.


Well i´m ever so sorry i cant remember the earlier books... It´s not exactly something that comes up in everyday conversation. I still managed to give you a valid example of that kind of book. Which was the point as your question seemed to focus on the possibility of such books existing.

Well, the .pdf i mentioned is at least a partial such list. I think it´s online on Atlas site, well it´s online somewhere at least.


I don't think it's updated from RoP: Faerie on, though... but on the other hand, you can check Cicero's Quality ranking, for instance!

Thank you for finding the link. :bulb: