Real Books Made Mythic

Identifying ArM5 Subjects & Specialties for Academic Books

It can be difficult to convert real books into useful Mythic equivalents, as the topics covered by a particular author do not always fit the limited list of Academic and General Abilities detailed in ArM5, p63. There is only limited granularity within the Book rules to prevent unnecessary complexity but this is a rough guide by possible specialty:

  • Area Lore: geography, history, legends, politics, personalities
  • Artes Liberales: grammar, rhetoric, logic, algebra, arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy, astrology
  • Chirurgy: diagnosis, setting bones, binding wounds, cautery, midwifery
  • Civil and Canon Lore: laws and customs of a specific area, papal laws, civil law, canon law
  • Philosophiae: metaphysics – forms / matter / substance, cosmology, causality & change; natural philosophy – geography, meteorology, living things, the human mind; moral philosophy: ethics
  • Medicine: anatomy, diagnosis, diseases, pharmacology, physician, therapeutics
  • Organisation Lore: geography, history, legends, politics, personalities
  • Theology: biblical knowledge, heresy, history

If in doubt about the appropriate Ability, a non-magical book is considered to cover Artes Liberales if it deals with a subject attributable to the liberal arts, Philosophiae if it deals with natural science or Theology if it deals with God as these are the most common book topics in the period. Chirurgy, Civil and Canon Law, Common Law and Medicine are relatively self-explanatory. Of the other General Abilities, Area Lore and Organisation Lore, including Church Lore, cover the majority of other real historical works.

Summa, Tractatus or Commentary?

The following rules of thumb have been used throughout these articles for new books on mundane topics:

  • the base Quality of a given notable text is assumed to be 8, equivalent to the author having a Communication score of +2, although less well written works certainly exist. Quality scores of 10 or greater are rare and imply the author possesses the Good Teacher Virtue for tractati and/or is writing below maximum level in the case of summae.
  • most books on a single topic are tractati or commentaries (+1 Quality) on well known summae (see Covenants, page 90 for details on commentaries). Many books referred to as “commentaries” by medieval authors are simply tractati on a similar topic to the work they are commenting on. In many cases, such a “commentary” may contain the only surviving text of the original work either interspersed throughout or with the two texts contained within the same binding. As a rule summae are more generalised, whereas tractati are associated with a specialty.
  • multi-volume works or works specifically described as introductions to a broad subject or a comprehensive dealing with a broad field of knowledge are considered summae unless specifically referred to as encyclopediae, in which case they are collections of tractati or rarely folios (as detailed in Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, pages 10-12).
  • translations retain the original base Quality of the original author, rather than the translator. In most cases, their Source Quality is reduced by at least 1, due to the translator’s unfamiliarity with the native author’s culture (Ancient Greece, Arabia/Persia etc) and/or their lack of fluency with both languages (Living Language Ability score of less than 6).

Readable, but He’s No Cicero… Quality Ranking of Books

Given the basic Quality of a tractatus is 6 + author’s Com + Virtue bonuses from Good Teacher and distilling the various example texts and authors contained in the Art & Academe appendix, a “scholastic ladder” to use as a rule-of-thumb can be appreciated. It seems like the majority of canonical books by significant historical authors have a Quality of 6 to 9, with higher Qualities attributed to such prodigious figures as Aristotle, Averroes, Cicero and Hildegard of Bingen being the rare exception.

From a meta-game perspective, the Quality of a given book provides only XP equivalent to its score and the opportunity to change specialty in a given Ability if the book has been written with a given specialty. For characters with scores higher than 2 in a given Ability, the quality of a given tractatus determines how many extra seasons of reading similar tractati are required to increase the score by one point.

Quality Author Comments

15+               God?                                                                                       Com +6, Good Teacher
14                  Cicero, Leonardo di Fibonacci                                      Com +5, Good Teacher
13                  Hildegard of Bingen, Peter Abelard                            Com +4, Good Teacher
12                  Aristotle, Donatus                                                             Com +3, Good Teacher
11                  Averroes, Avicebron, Gratian                                        Com +2, Good Teacher
10                 St Augustine, Robert Grossetest                                   Com +1, Good Teacher
9                   Adelard,  Avicenna, Beothius, Euclid, Plato etc.      Com +3 or Good Teacher
8                   St Anselm, Isidore, Plotinus, Ptolemy etc.                Com +2*
7                    Macrobius, Rhazes, William of Conches                   Com +1*
6                    Pliny the Elder, Porphyry                                                Com +0*
5                    Martianus Capella                                                             Com -1
4 or less      (none)                                                                                    Com -2 or less

*Alternatively, for Quality 6-8 an author may possess the Good Teacher Virtue but a negative Com score, which seems unlikely for mundane authors but quite possible in the case of Hermetic magi.

Corrupted Books and Corrupted Abilities

Unfortunately the term “corrupted text” can have two mechanical interpretations in ArM5. The first meaning refers to when a copyist (or translator) scribes a book without the prerequisite of a score of at least 3 in the language which the book is written as per ArM5, page 166. This meaning also covers attempts to scribe a Supernatural Ability without possessing the requisite Supernatural Ability or at least 1 in the relevant Realm Lore (or for Hermetic Arts or the Parma Magica, a score of at least 1 in Magic Theory). A book corrupted in this way is useless and grants no XP.

The second interpretation is a text so tainted by the Infernal that characters using it as a source for learning gain the Corrupted Ability (or Corrupted Arts) Flaw for the Ability (or Art) in question (see Realms of Power: the Infernal, pages 87-88 for details). This is similar to the effect of the Watcher’s power Corrupted Knowledge (see Realms of Power: the Infernal, page 68) but does not require Might expenditure.

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