I am wondering if a few Quaesitores might have a high Parma Magica score, so they can extend their Parma and put mundane witnesses at ease when being interviewed.
But who teaches these high level Parma Magica?
I am not certain that you can learn Parma via normal practice, as you don't normally roll on Parma Magica.
And how many books (Summae, tractatii) of the Order's top secret are there circulating?
EDIT just realised I might be misrembering a rule from 4th Ed, that you need a certain score in PM before you can extend over other people.
As you figured out, you do not need high parma to extend it to a witness; anybody can do that, even with just a score of one. It would leave you with no MR of course, but interviewing witnesses is not the quite the situations where I would be most worried about that.
When I have the last word in the interpretation of the setting, almost nobody. The season of mature magus with a high level in Parma Magica is worth a lot of vis, and the teacher soon find themself rich enough not to care about more. Furthermore, for narrative reasons, I like advancement to be coupled with the stories, and specific treasures should require targeted effort. When teachers are readily available, and PCs can simply buy a high advancement total, advancement is decoupled from the story, and simply a matter of bookkeeping.
On the rare occasions when such a teacher may be found, my bet is on a magus from a vis poor area, trying to earn more vis than they could in any other way. This would not necessarily be a good teacher, and thus not necessarily a very steep price.
I think you can, and I do not see why a die roll would matter. We also rule that Parma Magica can be learnt by exposure, since it is, after all, used every day.
I'd say none. They would not be circulating. Magi would be afraid of being associated with a book if it were to go astray. Redcaps would not dare carry one. And it would be controversial with certain conservative factions advocating a total ban on books.
I still think a nice collection can be found in some Summer or Winter covenants. Durenmar would probably keep them in a dedicated room with extra security. Magvillus could well have a collection where any quaesitoris is invited to come to study for a pawn of vis per season.
However, any choice is arguably plausible. For me this is a narrative design choice. Being restrictive preserves the challenge and the mystery of magic.
This is the key question. If Parma books are acceptable, early on, any magi with a decent parma and adeqaute communication and/or good teacher could write a tractatus. These would be written, as they'd be incredibly valuable and worth the magi's time. This starts a feedback loop where with more tractatus, Parma improves, and the better writers could write a decent summae.
Over the hundreds of years of the Order, one would imagine the large volume of summae and tractatus would reduce what would have been a very high value at one point. This would logically mean a teacher would be unlikely as people use books.
Without books, the price for a teacher goes up. Exposure, training or adventure XP, means generally an XP progression for Parma around 5. That's very low.
Would a magi who is good at teaching look to sell their skills? Teaching 4 (focus magi) is not unreasonable, and there'd be a few people with good teacher in the order.
We have com +3, good teacher +5, teaching +5, the base +3. 16 XP for up to 5 students. 2 vis each student, is 10 vis for a season's work. Considering the students are basically getting 3 seasons of normal Parma progression in 1 season, 2 vis is cheap. 3 vis each wouldn't be unreasonable.
Canonically, I think books on Parma exist, however, I think the OP and Loke like to run a game where Parma books don't exist or are very rare, due to the secrecy around Parma, the orders big magical advantage.
Not necessarily. It only goes up to the limit of what people are able to pay, and if there are no suppliers, there be no price at all.
While this is common enough among PCs, it is not supposed to be that common in general. I'd guess at most one in all of Mythic Europe with these scores and also Parma Magica 5+. Not every good teacher would excel in Parma Magica, and many may rather want to train an apprentice.
But well, if there is such a teacher, he can 25 students. If there really is a market, he should be able to recruit a dozen students and make 36p in a season. Then they have little need to teach every year, and touring Mythic Europe, decades may pass between two classes in your own neighbourhood.
The critical point here is that when the price increases, supply decreases because nobody needs that much vis. That either makes astronomical prices that nobody can afford to pay more than once, or a long queue where only the lucky few are selected.
Characters may also have to travel to the teacher, which normally takes a lot of time, easily more than the class itself, unless they risk teleporting to unknown locations or already are globe trotters.
In short, it is not difficult to design a plausible setting where teaching is an exceptionally rare occurrence.
And this I think is where it gets interesting. If Parma books are rare, Parma will be lower across the order. If Parma is generally low, making it easy for every hedge wizard, Order of Solomon, Odin, etc out there to blast through it, Parma is close to useless. Is that desirable? Clearly not. There's the argument for heaps of books.
The counter, if the parma is leaked, the order's advantage is gone, so it must be protected.
I think a collection of parma books in most Summer+ covenants is logical, as it would take a brave enemy to sneak in to a summer covenant and steal a parma book, knowing the wrath of the order will be on them.
The Parma must be protected so no books arguments has merit, however, I think lots of books, so the order is stronger, is a better angle.
Maybe many Parma books once was the way, but after the Schism war and Tytalus dabbling with devils, the order got more paranoid and went on a Parma book burning frenzy?
You exaggerate. It is not that easy to get high penetration, so even mediocre parma will protect against most hedge wizards, and we do want some hedge wizards to pose a threat to an individual PC, even if they are no match for the Order.
The main benefits of Parma is the protection against the effects of the Gift, and the option to suspend MR. Actually adding MR is only the third most important benefit.
Score of 8 is 180xp. If you make one story (5xp) and one lab season with exposure (2xp) per year, this takes twenty-five years to reach, plus 5xp from apprenticeship. Honestly, Parma Magica 8 is not at all unreasonable for a mature hoplite even without books and teachers.
In my current saga, all the covenants are eagerly searching out any source of Parma tuition they can, and plenty of magi have a decent Parma score. My companion helped the cause when investigating a ruined covenant by going into the ruins, grabbing a book which turned out to be a Parma summa, and running out again (the magi were convinced the ruins were trapped, but the redcap managed to survive through being highly athletic).
Of course, this now leads to the situation where next Tribunal there is a motion to put all the books on parma under the control of the Quaesitors and that every covenant should surrender the relevant texts. Will this pass or will it cause endless controversy?
I agree with loke about practice and exposure both being quite reasonable sources of xp for Parma - "rolling", which is ultimately just an abstraction, is not really needed.
As for books, I do not think that Parma being a "military secret" significantly limits their number in circulation. Without the "secret key" (see Apprentices) they are almost useless; in fact, rather than stealing such books and trying to reverse-engineer Parma Magica from them, a non-Hermetic Gifted individual or organization would have a much easier time just kidnapping/seducing a young magus and having him reveal what he knows.
Now, who has high Parma, and what is "high" Parma in the first place? This is saga-dependent, but in the majority of games I've been involved in, the following has held, based on how much effort reaching a certain score requires, and how useful it is. Parma 4: extremely common. This seems to me a level of Parma most magi will reach very soon in their careers, because it's extremely easy to reach (a handful of seasons of dedicated study, or 2xp of yearly exposure over some two dozen years) and sufficient to protect a magus from common supernatural threats (particularly if combined with some Form resistance): minor faeries, hedge wizards, magical trinkets etc. The commonality of this score means that almost any magus with strong authorial talent can produce two tractatus on Parma, so there should be a fair number of sound tractatus around. Parma 8: somewhat uncommon. This seems a level of Parma that a large minority of magi will eventually reach, and a dedicated few will reach within a few decades of their gauntlets. It's not that hard to gain 180xp, even in the absence of books, Virtues etc. and fairly easy with a fair Summa and a few fair Tractatus. And this level of Parma is sufficient to protect the magus from the vast majority of supernatural threats that can be blocked by a sufficient MR, so it's quite useful. Parma 12: rare. This seems a level of Parma that in most sagas a few magi in the Order would have. It does require a significant investment in time even with good sources (390xp, slightly less than what's needed for an Art score of 28), but a senior hoplite or certamen duelist without other V&Fs who dedicates a 10xp-season to improving it every 3 years (e.g. from a tractatus), plus 1xp/year of exposure, can get to this score within 90 years. There are relatively few threats that can breach a Parma 8 but not a Parma 12, so the marginal returns of getting to this point are fairly low, but I would say it's probably worth it for the magus routinely fighting powerful supernatural threats such as ancient dragons, faerie gods, powerful hedge wizards - particularly if one has to extend the protection to a few shield grogs. Plus it can be worth it for a certamen specialist, and for the grizzled Parma instructor (I suspect House Tremere probably has one such specialist or two available). Parma 16: legendary. I think this is a Parma score that one can reasonably assume has been reached by a handful of magi in the history of the Order, but just as reasonably assume it has never been reached. It offers a magus very little more than Parma 12, and it starts to require a hefty 680xp - almost as much as an Art score of 37. So, definitely doable over a century - and as little as a few decades for the talented and sufficiently obsessed - but for almost no magus really worth it. Note that this is the score allowing one to write a Level 8 Summa, the maximum one can purchase in standard Covenant creation. Parma 20: crazy PCs only. No practical use for this, and while a sufficiently obsessed and optimized PC might eventually accrue the necessary 1050xp for the sake of it, it seems by far the most reasonable assumption to say this has never been done before.
Incidentally, that's just the level achieved by the magus I have played 25 years in-game, using only exposure and story xp. Admittedly, I am mostly SG, and with more adventure seasons, it would have been higher. I almost always spend story xp on Parma, not only due to the lack of better sources but always because he has suffered from low Parma on several occasions.
In the same game as George, with George as SG, my maga reached 4 quite a while ago and has since stalled. This was largely because she a) has more reason to focus on it and b) because we found an ancient magus hiding in a cave during an early adventure and he became something of a mentor as payment for keeping his secret (he is not a great teacher but 11/12/13 xp in a season adds up. Then, at 4, I just haven't felt the need to put that much xp into it.
And there is no reason to believe, far as I can see, that rolling is necessary for Practice. Some of the best practice qualities apply to an abilities one almost never rolls, languages. But we also see that casting a spell is not jecessary for practice either or else there would be a vis cost to practicing ritual spells or nearly assured botch chance for practicing if you have Unpredictable Magic flaw or need demons around to practice DEO or need to go on a killing spree to practice an instant death PeCo spell or etc.
Any Ability actually used as part of the adventure qualifies, as do Abilities used “off stage,” for example dur-ing travel. Experience points can only be applied to Arts which were used “on stage,” however.
EDIT: There is no requirement the ability be rolled.
As a sidenote: can one assume Parma "instructors" exist and are reasonably available, even if one assumes a reasonable abundance of books as per Covenants? This is very saga-dependent, but unless the Order is very insular, I would say yes.
In this sense, I think going by a "vis economy" can be slightly misleading. I'd rather think about a "time economy". A teacher spends seasons instructing pupils. It can be worthwhile if the higher quality of the instruction compared to what can be achieved through books saves them a sufficient number of seasons overall; because they can then "repay" the instructor by spending time for him.
Of course, one season of the instructor might be worth more than that of the pupil. But as a very rough approximation it seems a good trade for a Parma specialist teaching advanced students who are close to his ability level (others can just learn from cheaper sources) if he can extract from them collectively two seasons of non-dangerous service for every one he's putting in. At least, PCs in the sagas I've played in would consider it worthwhile.
Let's take a magus with Com+Good Teacher+Lab bonus etc. of +4 (talented, but not truly exceptional) and a Teaching score of 8+applicable specialty (something that a dedicated mundane can teach him over 9 seasons or even less). Such a magus can provide a Source Quality of 4+(8+1)+3=16 to up to 9 students. That's a pretty good Quality - if he asked them for 1 season of service for every 4 seasons of instruction, they'd still be quite better off than reading for 5 seasons from sound Tractatus (they'd also get exposure, and perhaps some lab notes during that season of service). So, the instructor can reasonably extract 9 seasons of service for every 4 taught, which again is probably a good deal for him (and let's not forget he'd get 8xp of exposure too). With a little coordination, such a class can be probably assembled once every few years.
It's interesting to note that in this sense Parma is pretty unique.
Arts require one-on-one teaching from another magus, so unlike Parma they are rarely worth to be taught if decent books are available. And other non-supernatural Abilities, including arcane ones such as Penetration or Finesse, can be learnt and thus taught by mundanes, whose time is worth much less than that of a magus - so for the organized covenant mundane teachers are almost always a better option than books.