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:
Books are an integral part of ArM5 (and earlier editions), and I’ve always been fascinated by the potential story options around books and the potential flavour they create.
While working up some ideas for Andalusian Magi, I researched a load of texts written in Arabic – both original works by Arabic or Persian scholars and those Greek texts translated by the House of Wisdom I wrote up an article on the Studia Arabum, in the style of the Appendix to Art & Academeand collated some ideas on books in general.
The Studia Arabum is the corpus of books later translated from Arabic back into Latin (often via Greek by the Sephardic Jews of southern Iberia, the so-called “Toledo School”. Many of the books later considered seminal works entered medieval Europe via this process, which has just started to provide a glimpse into the secrets of the past and the polymaths of the Arabic speaking lands by the canonical starting time of a default ArM5 Saga (ie. the year 1220 CE).
I’ve begun to post some of the material in sections in the Andalusian Magi section of this site, which I hope players and Troupes will find useful not only for use in Andalusian, Levantine and perhaps even sahir led Mythic Middle East Sagas but also for play in stories involving academia, universities, books and libraries.
I’ve just posted the first supplemental material for Faith and Flame over at the relevant page.
Originally the Redcap Sicart the Leper was intended for inclusion in the book as a potentially ally of new characters, but I didn’t feel comfortable statting up various Companion characters initially (I hadn’t written my “Training Packages for Redcaps” article yet). I then ultimately ran out of time.
This character concept came from reading ArM3 A Midsummer Nights Dream, the classic “Four Seasons Tetralogy” adventure supplement set mainly in the Val du Bosque that begins with the infamous Provencal Tribunal meeting of 1207 set at the ancient covenant of Dois… oh, hang on we can’t mention the trademarks of other companies now can we? Continue reading Provencal Material – the Backstory of the Leper Herald→
So this is now readily available for digital download from Warehouse 23!
At $US 15 it’s readily affordable (and then readily accessible importantly), containing a wealth of creatures, characters, plot ideas and fully-fledged adventures.
If you enjoyed the material in The Cradle and the Crescent, “the City of Brass” adventure will hopefully provide not only inspiration but also ready to use example ‘afarit and jinn that can be used as the basis for similar creatures.
OK, so it’s always a bit variable as to accuracy but at least it’s listed now on Amazon (click on the image to the right for the link). IIRC the order link from the Atlas Games website usually follows once a more definite date is known.
I’ve seen the various maps for this and I must say that they’re looking damn fine!
I can’t say much now but the various authors are now discussing how to work up the off-cuts and some supplemental ideas for wider circulation, perhaps via Sub Rosa, so be on the lookout for further announcements soon…
I’m enjoying my recently picked up copy of Hooks, the latest ArM5 supplement released in softcover this last month.
It’s an interesting concept for a book, part a collection of starter adventures, part primer and part… something else.
I think it’s going to take a while for me to work out how best to use this from a writing perspective, although I’ve written some thoughts about the book here in the newly renamed “Reflections” tab – as I never really intended to write reviews, so this seems a better group name for the pages here.
I need to digest the format a bit more I think, but it looks like a structure I might be able to have a bit of fun with for a few projects (Provencal, Mythic Genoa, perhaps the Mythos concepts).
Now that the house is more sorted following the sale, I’ve begun to dig out some of my research material that’s been unceremoniously shoved into the wardrobes. By example, I’ve dug out this gem of a little book, which has the following blurb:
“…The dream-hunters, or mazzeri, are unknown outside Corsica and probably date from pre-historic times. At night they go hunting or dream they do so – and kill an animal, in whom they recognise a human face. The next day they announce the death, which always takes place within a year. Where the mazzeri are harbingers of death, the signadori are guardians of life – they practise folk medicine, but more importantly,they secure release from the curse of the Evil Eye…”
When I first picked this up it looked just like a resource I could mine for a large amount of interesting material about the local variant of Nightwalkers (mazzeru or in the south, culpadori) and their benign counterparts, the signadori in particular. This was to be expected, but turns out to be a somewhat limited assumption.