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Do there exist any tools or techniques that can quickly populate a library for an Ars Magica covenant? Whenever they visit a covenant, the player seek out the library and I know of no good way to generate one quickly.

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This is for referees to know what's there, right? PCs should spend a long time looking through the library since it won't have an index, or catalogue, or organisation, or title on spines, or any of the millions of things we take for granted. Why, yes, I returned the book. Where did I put it? In the library! No, I don't remember which shelve! Stop hassling me!!" –  Sardathrion Oct 5 '12 at 9:39
    
Yes, this is for me. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 5 '12 at 10:40
    
Does it have to be specific books, already named in the Ars Magica setting, or can they be randomly generated? –  Cristol.GdM Oct 5 '12 at 19:07
    
Randomly generated, but salted with real books if possible. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 6 '12 at 0:38
    
OK, so book names generators like the one there (seventhsanctum.com/generate.php?Genname=bookspinner) won't do then. –  Cristol.GdM Oct 6 '12 at 2:11
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4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Well, officially, I can't think of one.

However, let's build you a table. Step One - look at what's most likely covered.

  • Arts:
    • 5 techniques: Creo, Rego, Muto, Intellego, Perdo
    • 10 forms: Animal, Aquam, Auram, Corpus, Herbam, Ignem, Imaginem, Mentem, Terram, Vim.
  • Abilities:
    • Talents: Finesse, Penetration
    • Skills: Certámen, Parma Magica
    • Knowledges: Enigmatic Wisdom, Faerie Lore, Hermetic Law, Occult Lore, Magic Theory, Other Lores
  • Grimoires
  • Lab Texts

We can eliminate Talents and skills, since they can't be improved by study

So, that leaves:

  • Arts:
    • 5 techniques: Creo, Rego, Muto, Intellego, Perdo
    • 10 forms: Animal, Aquam, Auram, Corpus, Herbam, Ignem, Imaginem, Mentem, Terram, Vim.
  • Abilities:
    • Knowledges: Enigmatic Wisdom, Faerie Lore, Hermetic Law, Occult Lore, Magic Theory, Other Lores
  • Grimoires
  • Lab Texts

So, I think a two-tier table is in order.

Tier 1:

1 technique
2 form
3 form
4 knowledge
5 grimoire
6 lab text
7 other

Hmm... a bit short. Let's add an extra slot each of Tech, Form, and Knowledge, and fill in the two obvious sub-tables:

Category        Techniques    Forms 
1 Technique     1 Creo        1 Animal
2 Technique     2 Creo        2 Aquam
3 Form          3 Intelego    3 Auram
4 Form          4 Intelego    4 Corpus
5 Form          5 Muto        5 Herbam
6 Knowledge     6 Muto        6 Ignem
7 Knowledge     7 Perdo       7 Imaginem
8 Grimoire      8 Perdo       8 Mentem
9 Lab Text      9 Rego        9 Terram
0 Other         0 Rego        0 Vim

So on knowledges... Enigmatic Wisdom is rare - and a Criamon thing. Skipped. Faerie Lore should be more common if there are Merinita present... The big one, tho, should be Magic Theory. Let's change slot 6 to Magic Theory, and put the others in a sub-table.

Category        Techniques    Forms       Knowledges
1 Technique     1 Creo        1 Animal    1 Hermetic Law
2 Technique     2 Creo        2 Aquam     2 Hermetic Law
3 Form          3 Intelego    3 Auram     3 Occult Lore
4 Form          4 Intelego    4 Corpus    4 Occult Lore
5 Form          5 Muto        5 Herbam    5 Faerie Lore
6 Magic Theory  6 Muto        6 Ignem     6 Member Specific
7 Knowledge     7 Perdo       7 Imaginem  7 Local Lore
8 Grimoire      8 Perdo       8 Mentem    8 Natural Lores
9 Lab Text      9 Rego        9 Terram    9 Political Lores
0 Other         0 Rego        0 Vim       0 Specific Regio Lores

Grimoires... need a table to determine type.

General Type
1-3 Private Grimoires of deceased magi
4-7 public grimoires of deceased magi
8-9 Public grimoires of members
 0  other.

Arts                                 Levels
1-2 1 form 1 technique               1-4 5 to 1d5x5 
3-4 1 technique, all forms           5-7 1d5x5 to low+(1d5x5)
5-6 1 form, all techniques           8-9 1d5x5 to low + 1d10x5
7-9 1d5 techniques, 1d10 forms        0  1d10x5 to low+1d10x10
 0  Non-Hermetic
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+1 I'd like to add I could make this into a table you could use in a program to pop out lists. The more extended the list the better the program can pump out the lists. –  Vethor Oct 6 '12 at 0:01
    
Grimoire? What edition of Ars is this from? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 6 '12 at 0:40
    
The excellent table above might want to allow for modifiers depending on the season of the covenant or its role in the tribunal. Member specific entries might include Redcap chronicles or the Enigmatic Wisdom treatise. –  committed hero Oct 6 '12 at 11:48
    
@BrianBallsun-Stanton I have 2, 3 and 4 eds. I've run mostly 3. Grimoire is just "Book of spells"... but this is as much to show HOW to build such tables as to provide some. –  aramis Oct 8 '12 at 20:16
    
@committedhero certainly could. I'd be more likely to regerate the tables for each season, instad. –  aramis Oct 8 '12 at 20:17
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Seems to me that what the players are looking for in a library isn't the whole list of spells, just new or unusual ones they don't know. This can reduce your time immensely.

Most covenants will tend to have the same basic essential spells that everyone needs and a speciality Technique or two; so all you need to do is generate this basic list of spells that most covenants will have, (maybe make a couple of items on top of this that you classify as "uncommon" with a % chance for each) then add in a half dozen or so special spells for the local speciality technique(s) depending on what they're known for.

That done, you can generate a covenants spell list with a couple of quick rolls against your list (photocopy or save it in a spreadsheet) and when you've determined the special extras just tack them on the end, job done.

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You could cheat: ask what the character is looking for, make them roll $skill.

  • If the request is infeasible, no matter the roll nothing is found.
  • If the request is feasible and the roll fails, they find nothing.
  • If the request is feasible and the roll succeeds, they find a tome containing the information.
  • If a critical is rolled, some information comes to light that generate a plot hook. Either a good one or a bad one or just something weird...

As I said in my comment, medieval libraries were a mess and required serious work to find a book even if one knew it was there. The monastery/library from The Name Of The Rose should give you a nice visual if you were looking for inspirations. This essay seems to describe medieval libraries well but I cannot vouch for its authenticity.

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For good visuals of medieval libraries it's worth googling for: Chained Library: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chained_library –  Rob Oct 5 '12 at 11:49
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Yes, Program your own google spreadsheet.

Inspired by Aramis's answer, I created a spreadsheet which, following the writing rules in the book, and a weighted random distribution (to reflect the region), generates an arbitrary number of books according to the rules in the Covenants book post-errata.

Nothing especially tedious, except managing the weighted distributions of books.

(Theoretically, you should be able to make a copy of the above spreadsheet and javascript for your own use. Please comment if this is not so.)

I then provided the following rules to my players:

So, general rules of trading "offscreen"

First, I cannot replicate your insane books using the rules in any way. That's fine. They're "maaagic" books. They also have criamon DRM. You can't copy them because the rest doesn't work. I disrecommend taking them out of a magic aura.

General rule is: covenants are happy to trade 1:1 for "better" books. Better generally being defined as "in the same category." (Forms, Techniques, General Abilities, Academic Abilities, Magic Abiltiies, Lab Texts sharing a form or technique... other is handled on case by case. Is usually plot-relevant. Tell me if you want to know what it resolves to, or suggest something appropriate.)

In terms of "trading up", Let's say that they're happy to have 3 times the build point cost in related tracticii or Lab Texts. Shitty summa are shitty.

In general, we'll use "build points" as the currency for these things, cause OMGWTF.

Bargain is actually a useful ability! (Magi only please, as most magi are snobs and won't talk to a common merchant.) for every 5% off, add 3 to a base difficulty of 3 on Presence + Bargain. If you fail, the price goes up by 10%)

You may choose to, instead of getting a percentage off, to walk away at full price but with all of the damaged books. I will determine the level of damage as a function of just how many damaged books you walk away with.

In terms of vis for books, prices are on page 95 of Covenants.

Non-Mundane Summa are worth 1 pawn (non-vim) per level with a sworn cow and calf oath. Without the oath (and therefore with unrestricted copying... books are going to be more expensive). Let's say 5 pawns per level.

Non-Mundane Tracticus are worth 1 pawn.

Everything else is by negotiation.

The actual spell on lab texts can be determined by you. Hell, I'm willing for them to be quantum-indeterminant until they're used to learn a spell from.

A lab text is worth 1 pawn per magnitude.

Glossed texts cost an extra pawn. Huge texts cost an extra pawn. The qualities have not been generated as a function of the descriptor, so you may get a deal there.

Mundane Summa and tractcii are a cash exchange, which basically means someone spends a plot token for 25 build points worth (I may tinker with this number later)

Covenants are happy to trade vis at redcap rates + 10%;

All of this is assuming that you can drop a staff who can copy books for a season. If you want books now, only look at "copy prepared" and add 20% to the total cost.

On your travels, you can totally troubleshoot offscreen. Simply provide a narrative and I'll work up a covenant library and some people.

For the sake of argument, right now you guys have three "drop off at the host covenant and let him copy" dudes. After about a year of processing (plus travel) you'll have original quality books. Obviously this can be greatly shortened through judicious use of magic.

Sample output:

  • Exemplar Summa Level: 4 Quality: 9 [Com:-1 , Res:1, AL:8 QB:0] (bp:21) on Magic Theory
  • Summa Level: 6 Quality: 16 [Com:3 , Res:1, AL:15 QB:1] (bp:22) on the Art of Intellego
  • Lab Text of a Muto Mentem Level 10 (bp:2) Spell
  • Lab Text of a Rego Mentem Level 30 (bp:6) Spell
  • Tracticus Quality: 12 [Com:1 , Res:2] (bp:12) on the Art of Creo
  • Summa Level: 2 Quality: 15 [Com:1 , Res:2, AL:5 QB:0] (bp:21) on Other
  • Huge Tracticus Quality: 16 [Com:4 , Res:3] (bp:16) on the Art of Rego
  • Treasure Bound Book Tracticus Quality: 12 [Com:1 , Res:2] (bp:12) on the Art of Perdo
  • Summa Level: 2 Quality: 14 [Com:2 , Res:3, AL:6 QB:1] (bp:20) on Finesse
  • Tracticus Quality: 15 [Com:4 , Res:2] (bp:15) on Magic Theory
  • Commentary Quality: 11 [Com:1 , Res:1] (bp:11) on Magic Theory
  • Lab Text of a Perdo Mentem Level 15 (bp:3) Spell
  • Summa Level: 2 Quality: 12 [Com:-1 , Res:1, AL:8 QB:2] (bp:18) on Philosophiae
  • Lab Text of a Creo Mentem Level 20 (bp:4) Spell
  • Palimpsest Summa Level: 3 Quality: 14 [Com:3 , Res:2, AL:6 QB:0] (bp:23) on Intrigue
  • Exemplar Tracticus Quality: 13 [Com:3 , Res:1] (bp:13) on the Art of Mentem
  • Hologrpahical Summa Level: 7 Quality: 13 [Com:0 , Res:1, AL:19 QB:2] (bp:20) on the Art of Perdo
  • Lab Text of a Rego Aquam Level 30 (bp:6) Spell
  • Exemplar Glossed Tracticus Quality: 11 [Com:1 , Res:1] (bp:11) on Medicine
  • Tracticus Quality: 12 [Com:0 , Res:3] (bp:12) on Magic Theory
  • Lab Text of a Muto Mentem Level 30 (bp:6) Charged Item
  • Lab Text of a Perdo Corpus Level 25 (bp:5) Invested Effect
  • Glossed Summa Level: 3 Quality: 13 [Com:1 , Res:3, AL:6 QB:0] (bp:22) on Code of Hermes
  • Palimpsest Summa Level: 2 Quality: 17 [Com:3 , Res:2, AL:7 QB:1] (bp:23) on Brawl
  • Glossed Summa Level: 3 Quality: 14 [Com:0 , Res:2, AL:7 QB:0] (bp:23) on Magic Theory
  • Tracticus Quality: 11 [Com:1 , Res:1] (bp:11) on Infernal Lore
  • Tracticus Quality: 10 [Com:-1 , Res:2] (bp:10) on the Art of Terram
  • Summa Level: 6 Quality: 10 [Com:0 , Res:1, AL:17 QB:2] (bp:16) on the Art of Creo
  • Lab Text of a Rego Vim Level 30 (bp:6) Casting Tablet
  • Tracticus Quality: 14 [Com:-1 , Res:3] (bp:14) on the Art of Muto
  • Tracticus Quality: 16 [Com:2 , Res:2] (bp:16) on Magic Theory
  • Lab Text of a Rego Vim Level 20 (bp:4) Invested Effect
  • Exemplar Tracticus Quality: 13 [Com:1 , Res:3] (bp:13) on Magic Theory
  • Epitome Summa Level: 2 Quality: 11 [Com:1 , Res:1, AL:8 QB:2] (bp:17) on Other
  • Tracticus Quality: 12 [Com:-1 , Res:1] (bp:12) on Magic Theory
  • Tracticus Quality: 16 [Com:1 , Res:3] (bp:16) on the Art of Perdo
  • Palimpsest Tracticus Quality: 9 [Com:-1 , Res:1] (bp:9) on Artes Liberales
  • Lab Text of a Rego Corpus Level 20 (bp:4) Casting Tablet
  • Summa Level: 5 Quality: 12 [Com:0 , Res:3, AL:13 QB:1] (bp:17) on the Art of Corpus
  • Tracticus Quality: 11 [Com:0 , Res:2] (bp:11) on the Art of Vim
  • Lab Text of a Perdo Mentem Level 30 (bp:6) Charged Item
  • Summa Level: 5 Quality: 16 [Com:2 , Res:2, AL:19 QB:4] (bp:21) on the Art of Creo
  • Glossed Summa Level: 5 Quality: 15 [Com:2 , Res:1, AL:17 QB:3] (bp:20) on the Art of Rego
  • Lab Text of a Perdo Ignem Level 15 (bp:3) Invested Effect
  • Tracticus Quality: 8 [Com:-2 , Res:1] (bp:8) on the Art of Mentem
  • Tracticus Quality: 10 [Com:-2 , Res:3] (bp:10) on Magic Theory
  • Tracticus Quality: 14 [Com:2 , Res:3] (bp:14) on Civil and Canon Law
  • Lab Text of a Creo Corpus Level 25 (bp:5) Spell
  • Commentary Quality: 15 [Com:3 , Res:3] (bp:15) on the Art of Mentem
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