Books as Magic Things

Magic Book Sketch
The Magic Book: Talisman, Magic Thing, Faerie or Familiar?


Despite the importance of books within ArM5 Sagas, the books featured to date with few exceptions consist of either Summae or Tractati on the various Abilities or Arts. There are the expanded book rules in ArM5 Covenants, “Chapter 7: Library” and scattered across various supplements, but few eponymous books as individual tomes or objects stand out in the current canon as having magical power per se other than the knowledge they contain or help access such as the books that lead to the Mysteries of the Ars Notoria (RoP:DRE, pages 97-100).  There are rules for casting from text in the core rules, Timothy’s rules for “casting tablets” (ArM5 Covenants, page 89-90) and the books of Numerologists, but unless I’ve missed a bespoke talisman somewhere in the later canon there is no definite instance of a book being the actual source of magical power or the generator of a specific magical effect.

So let’s examine that for a bit…

Books As Talismans…

A large weighty tome inscribed with symbols, whether floating in front of a magus, positioned on a lectern or held in one or both hands makes for an archetypical wizard scene and a book as talisman or greater invested device may have some initial appeal. However, it’s sadly not a particularly practical choice –  wandering around Mythic Europe with an open spellbook basically screams “sorceror” and a book crackling with mystic energy floating ahead or to the side of the individual highlights the character as a wizard even more so…

Unfortunately, a standard leather bound book of vellum with wooden boards and leather stitching makes a somewhat lacklustre object to enchant as an invested device – if one counts the vellum and leather with a base size similar to a shield, the Material & Size product is only a mediocre 8 (2 base points, x4 medium size) unless one includes the simple metal clasps, bosses and corners which increases the potential to a more reasonable 20 (5 base points, x4 medium size). This limit on maximum instilled effects able to be included may be circumvented by incorporating more expensive materials such as precious metals and gemstones (see ArM5 Covenants, page 87 for a list of the various components of medieval books), but this also makes the book more conspicuous and likely to arouse suspicion from mundane scholars and thieves. Similarly, the size is unlikely to increase without making the whole thing unwieldy as a larger book is generally prohibitive cumbersome unless immobile on a lectern or levitating using simple ReAn(He) magics, which as noted previously scream “magic” to the casual observer.

Interestingly, there are no listed Shape & Material bonuses for books, papyrus, paper or vellum listed in official sources according to Erik Tyrrel’s PDF of Shape & Material bonuses, but there are bonuses for animal hide, bookshelves, Ink of Hermes, and wood. However the following bonuses are given in relation to the Numerologist’s Book in the “Arithmetic Magic” section of ArM5 Mysteries: Revised Edition, pages 91-91:

  • Book: +2 Intellego, +3 Divination, +4 Numerology
Supernatural books Part 2.JPG
Sketched Design Notes for Magic Books

To be continued…